Boat Hire

Market Drayton and return from Gailey Base - 4 Nights

Cruising Time Per Day 6.5hrs • Total Locks 4


Gailey to Market Drayton – through Autherley Junction, Brewood, Norbury Junction, Woodseaves Cutting and back

A lazy, leafy, mostly lock-free journey along the canal that refused to climb hills. Your route will lead you through unusual canal cuttings, over bridges and aqueducts and take you on a deliciously green tour that merely skims the distant outskirts of the urban Midlands before bursting into the tranquil haven of the Shropshire countryside.

The 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 a perfect way to start your journey. Heading southwards from the marina at Gailey Wharf your route sweeps you away along the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal. You'll duck under pipe bridges and slip past a chemical works that will huff and puff at you as you cruise off into the distance. As the canal wiggles along you'll get plenty of practice with your tiller skills, until the route straightens out just after travelling under the M54 motorway. Your brief encounter with the hurried world of cars is a solitary clue to your proximity to the city of Wolverhampton.

This canal is a relaxed affair for navigators, but the very narrow cutting through the rock called Pendeford Rockin' will keep anyone at the tiller alert! The canal builders didn't allow room for two boats to pass easily, and if you meet a boat coming from the other direction you’ll need to use one of the special passing places. Shortly beyond this cutting, another steering challenge awaits as the route turns sharply on to the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction. Here the route leaves the canal built by James Brindley and carries on along the canal built by Thomas Telford. Both canal engineers preferred to avoid locks, but Brindley's plans followed the contours of the land creating notoriously charismatic and winding canals, whilst Telford's tactic was to storm a straight course with ferocious determination and a fearless will to take on whatever rock cuttings were necessary.    

There is a lock at the gateway to the Shropshire Union Canal, but it promises a lazy 8-mile pound with no locks after until Wheaton Aston. Because your route is heading northwards you meet the M54 again, but peace is resumed swiftly and the countryside is blissfully uninterrupted with villages scattered only occasionally for added interest. Just beyond the ancient village of Brewood, Stretton Aqueduct takes the canal over the old Roman Road, now the A5. Keeping on Telford's unswaying straight course the canal crunches through another wooded cutting before reaching the lock at Wheaton Aston. You won't bump into another lock now for 17 miles, but there are plenty of canal features to explore. Cuttings, embankments and the short Cowley Tunnel (81yds/74m long) spice the route and wide-stretching views make a fresh and uplifting journey. From the water level, many of the bridges over the canal seem extraordinarily high since the canal cuttings created a dramatic landscape. The route oozes the perfect arrogance of a magnificent canal engineer who believed nothing was impossible. And in this tranquil cruise today there secretly lie the stories of not only Telford, but also the remarkable achievements of navvies in the 1800s who cut through rock by hand without powered machinery.

With less energetic thoughts in mind, Loyton Moss is a floating bog with interesting plant life that can be explored on foot from a footpath just north of bridge 39. In this quiet corner of the world you can expect to commune with nature and meet plenty of wildlife if you take time to sit and stare for a while. Given the rural surroundings, and tranquillity of the water, it is ironic that the canal was built as a transport route to carry industry at the 4mph top speed of the canal era. Occasionally the canal hints at its original purpose and at the edge of Shebdon Embankment is the living site of the old chocolate factory that once sent goods to Bournville by narrowboat.

Pubs have served canals from the days of thirsty navvies to today's leisure boats, and waterside beer gardens are one of the frequent attractions of canals all across Britain. But few pubs have remained as unspoilt by progress as the Anchor at High Offley, sitting canalside at Anchor Bridge. This little pub is truly traditional and well worth a visit.

Just past bridge 59, there’s a winding hole at Tyrley Wharf before the 5 Tyrley Locks. At this point you can choose to turn and moor up in preparation for the return journey, or alternatively you can work through the locks and moor up to explore the town ahead. Market Drayton is a black and white timber-frame town with its own noble claim to be the home of gingerbread. With two bakeries in town the inevitable is expected. So, after you've nibbled the last crumb of your gingerbread man, you’ll be ready to retrace your route back to Gailey.

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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