Boat Hire

Great Hayward and return from Gailey Base - 3 Nights

Cruising Time Per Day 5.5hrs • Total Locks 22


Gailey to Great Haywood – through Penkridge, Acton Trussel, Stafford and back

Secret stories lie hidden in the landscape of this route as it skips through sheep-filled countryside with idyllic locks and charismatic red-brick bridges. In only three nights away on the water, you’re treated to unforgettable days full of tranquil drama. You’ll meet wildlife, cruise a parallel world that brushes aside the evolution of transport, and be entertained by the story of a posh rebel who insisted this canal should be carved into an unusual shape especially for his whim.  

Setting off from Gailey Wharf you leave the hurried way of the old Roman Road, now the A5, behind. The commanding tower-shaped building that sits next to Gailey Top Lock was once the old lock keeper's cottage. Today it houses a small gift shop that is worth lingering at the lock for. Heading northwards through another couple of sleepy locks you soon reach Rodbaston Lock which jolts all your senses as it lies right alongside the M6 motorway. In the flash where two worlds meet, the canal simply scoops you up with all its grace and slips away again into the silence, following the water road.

The canal branches left into Penkridge, a little town with a locally renowned weekly market. The names of the many pubs in Penkridge manage to tell the town's history in a nutshell. The Littleton Arms dates from the 18th century and the Littleton family who dominated the locality for generations. The building once held great balls for local aristocracy, and less salubriously took taxes from villagers and held criminals to justice. Progressing from the golden age of coaching, the Railway Tavern was named after the railway that arrived in 1837. But, just around the corner on the A449, the Horse and Jockey reminds visitors that over 400 years ago the town was most famous for racehorses and its annual horse fair.

Leaving Penkridge behind, the M6 crosses the canal again, but it scarcely notices the boats below as it races onwards to somewhere else. Your route ambles on peacefully alongside Teddesley Park. Although the building has now been demolished, it is thought provoking to remember that Teddesley Hall was used as a prisoner of war camp during World War II.

Once the canal has climbed through Deptmore Lock, there's a four-mile stretch without locks to relax and enjoy the journey towards Great Haywood. You may choose to moor between bridges 98 and 99 and hop on a bus along the A34, to visit the county town of Stafford. The canal travels alongside the River Sow for much of the way, until just beyond bridge 105 where it crosses over the river on the aqueduct built by James Brindley.

Any canal lock along this route can be described as attractive, but Tixall Lock near Milford is particularly pleasing. Perhaps the charms of this lock are stirred by the quintessentially pretty lock cottage and views towards the castellated entrance to Shugborough Railway Tunnel to the south. Any modern man, in his right mind, would see this stretch of canal as deliciously scenic, but in the 18th century one powerful local man wouldn't have agreed. Clifford Thomas occupied the once nearby Tixall Hall, and when canal builders first arrived to bring one of the ugly water-motorways of the era, he was unimpressed. To disguise the sweaty haulage route, he insisted that the canal builders widen the water where it could be seen from his home. So as you pass through a short tree-lined stretch don't be surprised when the canal bursts open into the full drama of the lake-like widening, known as Tixall Wide. The meadow alongside the water is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and home to a variety of nesting birds. Linger here as long as time allows to steep in the ambiance.

Narrow normality resumes as the route turns under Swivel Bridge, then crosses the River Trent on a small aqueduct. At Great Haywood Junction the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal ends where the water meets the Trent & Mersey Canal. Turn round at the junction and moor up to explore before retracing your route back to Gailey. This halfway point holds one of the most gripping highlights of your cruise. Shugborough Hall peeps over the canal and calls you with panache that you can't ignore. The mansion dates back to 1693 and history lurks under every frill and doily. Shugborough Hall is now a National Trust property, but the estate was once the ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield. The 5th Earl of Lichfield, Patrick Lichfield, the photographer, was perhaps the most well-known. As well as sightseeing, don't miss out on the Canalside Farm Shop & Café or a visit to the Clifford Arms pub before you set off on your return journey.


The following are examples of the boats that you can hire from ABC Boat Hire at Gailey Base:


Viking Soar Class - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 48ft, Cruiser Stern

Viking Soar Class - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 48ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Grebe - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Cruiser Stern

Viking Nene Class - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 42ft, Crusier Stern

Viking Nene Class - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 42ft, Crusier Stern

Viking Medway Class - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 57ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Dove - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 60ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Dove - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 60ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Gull - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Viking Derwent Class - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 60ft, Cruiser Stern

Viking Derwent Class - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 60ft, Cruiser Stern

Viking Wye Class - For a maximum of 8 people, 6+2 Berth, Length 68ft, Cruiser Stern

Viking Wye Class - For a maximum of 8 people, 6+2 Berth, Length 68ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Goose - For a maximum of 8 people, 6+2 Berth, Length 69ft, Semi-traditional Stern



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