Sunday, 25 January 2015

Starting at the beginning

The iconic Clock Warehouse that straddles one of Shardlow's basins
We are off. We left Shardlow this afternoon on what I am calling the 'official start' of our 2015 cruising. I know it's not not January 1st but if The Queen can have an official birthday then I can have an official start to the year's boating.
And Shardlow seems a very good place to start. It's the southern end of the Trent & Mersey Canal and the most complete example of what the canals were all about – a magnificent inland port that was dubbed 'rural Rotterdam' in its heyday.
You can't be in Shardlow without giving a respectful nod to the bold and brave entrepreneurs who came up with the idea for a 93 mile canal driven across England to link the Trent with the Mersey way back in 1766 when roads were mud tracks and the only JCB was a bloke with a pick and shovel. And credit to James Brindley who took the task on and got it built in only 11 years. A 93 mile motorway would probably take us close on 11 years these days!
The old salt warehouse that houses the Heritage Centre
Sad sight: the canalside warehouses slipping further into decay
Broughton House, looking out on the river was home to the wealthy Sutton family
Shardlow is a marvellous relic of that period, with its famous clock warehouse (now a pub) that straddles one of the old basins, canalside wharves, warehouses, a proliferation of pubs and a variety of substantial houses. The whole village, which spreads a mile up the road from the river and canal, has numerous large Georgian and Victorian houses, emphasising just how much wealth surrounded the canal and the river before it, which had a historic crossing place close by. Remarkably there are more than 50 listed buildings in this small place. Find out more via Wikipedia.
This handsome grain barn is one of several around the village
Unfortunately, a relic is what Shardlow is these days. It was sad to return after a few years to see the canalside warehouses near the lock and main road bridge still empty and even further decayed. Sad, too,  to discover the Heritage Centre was shut until Easter and in its absence absolutely nothing to inform the passing boater or walker about the historic importance of the place. Astonishingly, there are no interpretation boards, no plaques on houses, nothing. That's unforgiveable. I remember visiting a tiny village on the Fossdyke in Lincolnshire where the local history society had put an information plaque on every interesting house. If they can do it, surely Shardlow with so much more history, can?
Rather more modern, the elegant footbridge across the Trent
We spent a couple of days here – there are lovely walks along the canal and riverside, the footpath looping over the river on a magnificent modern bridge – but a couple of days was enough. We were running short of food! Seriously, the tiny village shop and PO is a 20 minute each way walk from the canal. That's a long trip for a bottle of milk and a paper.
Hopefully next time we are there, things will have brightened up. Shardlow is a wonderful piece of our history that deserves to be looked after better.
Photos of Clock Warehouse, by Shaggy359; grain barn by Russ Hamer. Both licensed under CC  via Wikimedia 

No comments:

Post a Comment