Sunday, 3 April 2022



In October last year, Jason Gallop, Four Counties Fuels Limited, asked me if I fancied loading Darley to help him out with deliveries.  Canal and River Trust had a scheduled stoppage for work on Longford Lock, Penkridge.  This meant he would not be able to complete his usual deliveries between Longford lock and Audlem locks as part of the four counties ring, where another stoppage was also due.  Upon telling Dawn she spoke to Jason with some proviso’s

1.    1.    He had to make sure that I ate regularly ( due to my Diabetes).

2.     2.    He had to make sure I did not drink too much (I don’t know what ‘too much’ equates to).

3.     3.    I was not to lift any bags of coal (Due to my medical conditions).

Of cause I said yes, any excuse for boating.  As a result, we had to load Darley before the stoppage came on and get her north of Penkridge and so the plan was hatched

On the 3rd November 2021, I moved Darley from her mooring at Great Haywood down to the services at the junction to await the lorry.  At approximately 10.00am it arrived and Jason, Kat and the two lads from the Bryn Coal Company proceeded to load the first 9 tons onto Darley which put her down in the water a bit.

Kat, Jason & Bryn Coal Co lads lo         (copyright J Gallop)
 Darley's bow empty 
     (Copyright J Gallop)
 Darley's bow with 9 ton on
         (Copyright J Gallop)
Upon completion of this, I reversed Darley back to her mooring but, as I expected, it was a struggle to get in on Darley’s mooring with this weight on.  Jason followed up with his boat, Bargus, and between us we put the side cloths up to reduce the amount of rain and also for security.

 Darley loaded with 9 tons and clothed up on her  mooring. (Copyright Blossom)

A week later I again moved Darley down to the service point to await the arrival of the coal lorry.  After unfastening the side cloths and loosely rolling them up, again Jason, Kat and the two boys from Bryn Coal loaded a second 9 tons onto Darley, making a total of 18 tons and putting even further down in the water.

Again, I reversed back to the mooring but this time I couldn't get Darley anywhere near her mooring and so I pulled her alongside Chris Shenton's boat Dubhe on the next mooring.  Upon securing Darley alongside Dubhe we fastened the side cloths back up. Darley was going to stay like this until the beginning of February. During which time several trips down were made to pump out rainwater.

 18 tons on and sitting level
            (Copyright J Gallop)
 Moored alongside Dubhe
(Copyright blossom)
On the 1st Feb Both Darley and Bargus left Great Haywood made the tun at Haywood junction and headed off up the Gailey cut heading for Penkridge. Even with only 18 tons on Darley was struggling dragging here arse all the way until we got to the wides at Tixall when with a bit more water under her she motored on normally that is until we reached Tixall lock.  As we approached the lock, Darley came to a halt with her bows in the lock tail. With Darley at full chatt and sequenced flushes from Kat we slowly inched our way into the chamber.  In fact, we struggled into most of the locks all the way up to Gailey.  As we approached the aqueduct over the river Sow a familiar figure appeared on the towpath.  Armed, as always with his camera, my good friend and photographer, Kev Maslin
Approaching the Sow aquaduct
(Copyright Kev Maslin)

 Darley crossing over the Sow
               (Copyright Kev Maslin)

 Darley at Baswich with Bargus following
(Copyright Kev Maslin)
 Darley other side of Baswich bridge
(Copyright Kev Maslin)
We finally tied up above Penkridge lock for the night.  We walked down the town to the re-opened Horse and Jockey only to find they were not doing food but we stauyed for a few pints before returning back to the boats and a delivery order of burger and fries.

 Bargus with Darley behind at Penkridge
(Copyright J Gallop)
Next day (Wed 2 Feb) saw us heading off towards cut End and on up through Filance, Otherton, Rodbaston, Boggs, brick kiln and finally Gailey top.  I can honestly say of all the canals I’ve travelled, I hate the Gailey cut for just as you get going, you reach the next lock.  It was not long before we were heading through the chemical works at Four Ashes where the canal is straight and quite deep (compared to the Gailey cut)  Dawn always calls this factory the ‘Sonic the Hedgehog factory because of all the pipework.  With that past we were making the turn at Calf Heath, whenever I pass the club house here I always think of Ernie Thomas, his hire fleet and trip boat. 

We were soon going under Forster bridge and into the Autherley narrows where although not dragging the bottom progress was slow due to width restricting the flow of water past the boat.  Luckily we did not meet any boats through the narrows and were soon making the tight turn at Autherley Junction and onto the Shroppie.  Had to lift the back button to get through the stop at Cut End as the foot board is on the wrong side of the gate reducing the lock length considerably.

 Autherley narrows
(Copyright J Gallop)
 Making the turn at Cut End
(Copyright J Gallop)
Going to be quite a short day today as only going as far as Stretton and leaving Darley there for a couple of weeks. After an uneventful three hours boating saw us tying up at Industry Narrowboats at Stretton wharf.  Jason and Kat carried on with Bargus. On the 4th Feb, Jason transhipped 7 tons of coal from Darley to Bargus(now 11 tons)

Monday 7th Stretton to Wheaton Aston. March saw me setting off from Stretton as I was meeting Jayson and Kat at the services at Wheaton Aston.  They arrived by van at about 12 noon and worked me down the lock to the services where the van was parked.  They then proceeded to load 1000 litres of diesel in 20 ltr containers (1 ton) Logs and Kindling (another ton) and about 30 gas cylinders (1 ton) and about another ton of aged coal. (4 Tons total making load now about 15 tons).

After loading and with the van now empty, Jason took it round to the Hartley Arms and left it, with the Landlords permission, on the car park for the week.  I moved Darley to the other side of the bridge and moored up in readiness for the pub.  Went to the Hartley Arms and had a lovely meal (Butchers faggots mash, chips peas etc) and a few pints of Guinness to swill it down.

Tue 8th.Wheaton Aston to Gnosall We had originally planned to get to Norbury, but the Junction Pub at Norbury is closed on a Tuesday so we decided to go to Gnosall instead. This is normally a 2 ½  hour journey but having to stop every 10 minutes to serve customers  with three or four bags of coal here a cylinder of gas there made the journey a lot longer.  Tea time saw us tying up on the services at Gnosall and a trip up to The Navigation pub where fter ordering beers were told they were not doing food so we left and walked down through the village, past the open chip shop to another pub recently re-opened The Royal Oak who made us very welcome but were also not doing food.  We stayed and had several pints  planning to walk back and collect fish and chips.  Not to be as they were shut.

Wed 9th Gnosall to Market Drayton.  Much the same as yesterday with deliveries every 10 minutes or so.  One of the problems with delivering to boats tied up on off side moorings such as at Shebdon and Soudley is that over the years of boats passing at tickover the mud has build up alongside these lines of moored boats making it difficult for loaded boats to get alongside.

 Darley Northbound on the Shroppie(Copyright Kat McCullough)
Soon we were at the top of Drayton locks (Tyrley)so a break in the proceeding for Kat and Jason to set the locks.  About 40 minutes later we were at the bottom and heading for Market Drayton, tying up at the services opposite Talbot Wharf where photographer Stuart France was moored.  An evening walk up the hill to the town and a visit to Joules brewery pub The Red Lion where we had a nice meal and a few pints of Guinness.

 Darley descending Drayton locks
(Copyright Kat McCullough)

 Moored in Market Drayton
(Copyright S France)
Wed 9th Market Drayton to Norbury. Left Market drayton and we had one customer north of here and as a result had to travel to the winding hole at the top of Adderley to wind and return.  As we had served customers on the way up there was little to do except a couple of boats at Market Drayton visitor moorings then a clear run back to Norbury, arriving there in time to tie up on the services and use the showers before going to the Junction Inn for a tasty Junction steak pie and chips swilled down by several pints of Guinness.  We were joined by Dave and Sarah Ray owner of Norbury Wharf and a good catch-up evening was had.

 Darley coming up Drayton locks
(Copyright S France)
Thur 10th. Norbury to Stretton. A late start as today is only 3 ½ hours away and with no customers it made for an easy day.  We stopped at Wheaton Aston to load the diesel, logs and gas back into the van which frog hopped up to Stretton to help tie up and cloth Darley.

 Daley after all coal was removed
(Copyright J Gallop)

On 30th April Jason emptied the remaining coal off Darley onto the passing Bargus as he made his deliveries back as normal with the stoppages lifted.  On the whole I enjoyed my little ‘delivery trip’ although I was surprised with how I struggled even with only 18 tons on compared to back in the 70’s.  I also managed not to :-

Bang ‘em about