|Saturn Horsedrawn - Frankton to Queens
Head, 17 September 2002 - Norman and Judith Stainthorp
The day dawned dry and mild. Many onlookers,
together with Representatives from BWB and WREN, gathered at the top lock at
Frankton as Saturn waited to began her historic journey towards Queens Head,
on the Montgomery Canal.
Harry Arnold welcomed all those present and
explained the programme for the morning.
Julie Sharman, BWB Waterway Manager, said that
it was a proud day for all partners involved in the Saturn Project. She
explained that this was a significant last run for Saturn in her ‘old form’
which marked the start of the restoration at Malkins Bank.
She also expressed particular thanks for the
support of The Shropshire Union Canal Society, The Waterways
Trust, WREN and other private donors, and thanked everyone else concerned.
Richard Smith, WREN Project Manager, also
expressed his satisfaction at being involved with the Saturn Project and
endorsed Julie’s comments.
The speeches over, Saturn then began the descent
of the locks.
After the double drop of the staircase, the tow
line was attached to the hook on the spreader bar at the rear of boat horse
Geordie, led by Duncan Knapp, and after 60 years of waiting, the iron bar
over the flight of steps to the former ‘Canal Tavern’ did its job of
preventing the tow line from snagging on the steps.
(There was a moment’s pause for lightning
repairs when mallet and clout nails were brought from a support craft to fix
a sprung guard from Saturn’s side!)
Below the locks Saturn took the turn to the
right through the junction with the unfinished main line to Shrewsbury,
later known as the Weston arm as the canal construction petered out in a
field just beyond Weston Wharf.
The short length of the arm still in navigable
water was crowded with moored boats, many of whom came especially to witness
Saturn pass by.
Along the next section, is the site of the
infamous 1930’s breach, restored some years ago by the local authority.
From the support boats, led by Paul Mills, there
was time to view the interesting edge detail whereby sedges are grown in
submerged hollow blocks, thus softening the edge line of the canal whilst at
the same time preventing them spreading across the navigable channel.
We asked Paul the derivation of his boat’s name
“Exelbee”, thinking perhaps it was from a long line of famous boat names
such as “Monarch” or “Searchlight” but no, he said it was an acronym of the
registration letters of his first car!
Saturn then reached the left hand bend before
the rebuilt Perry Aqueduct.
The original 3 arch brick aqueduct was
demolished by the Water Authority. Fortunately, at that time someone ensured
that they promise to reinstate the Aqueduct if the canal was ever restored.
They readily agreed, never suspecting that they would one day be held to it;
hence the steel trough structure we see today.
Saturn’s voyage continued, Geordie being
followed by a group of pedestrian enthusiasts.
Perhaps in future though, horse followers could
kindly stay back towards the stern of the boat at least while amateur ‘David
Bailey’s’ such as ourselves are let loose with cameras!
At Graham Palmer lock there was a few moments
pause in memory of that pioneer of volunteer canal restoration. His hirsute
bobble capped effigy gazing at us from his memorial alongside the lock.
After a further long straight stretch, the canal
bore to the left, past the cast iron towpath swing bridge installed in 1902,
over the entrance to the former Rednal Interchange Basin.
There were once extensive railway sidings here
to transfer goods to boats for delivery to Welshpool and beyond, before the
railway was extended in the 1860’s.
By 1884 all the tracks had been removed,
although the Arm continued to serve the Rednal Fertiliser Works, using
Shropshire Union Canal Co boats until as late as 1921.
Saturn then passed below the railway bridge
close to the site of Rednal West Fenton Station. Ahead was the Rednal
Interchange Warehouse and packet boat terminal and the only towpath
turn-over bridge on the whole of the canal.
This Warehouse described in the previous issue,
was saved from demolition by BW who did extensive works to prevent it
continuing to slide into the canal. The famous ‘Stop’ board slid out of the
wall instructing, again, for the first time in over 60 years, the passing
horse drawn fly boat to stop.
BW invited the group to inspect the restored
building and demonstrated the system of ropes and pulleys that slide the
restored “Stop” board in and out of the Warehouse.
When Saturn restarted it was interesting to see
Geordie ‘hanging in the harness’ which is a method of overcoming the inertia
of a stationary boat that has to be taught to canal horses.
All too soon Saturn reached Queens Head, once a
big interchange point for goods between the boats and waggons on Telford’s
Shrewsbury-North Wales A5 road.
Geordie was led to his horsebox and the rest of
us repaired to the pub.
After an excellent lunch and some more speeches,
we went outside in time to see that Saturn was already winded and ready for
the motorboat tow back - as Temple Thurston wrote, ‘along those water roads