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Maverick's Big Adventure Penkridge village centre, Staffordshire, England
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August 2019

Penkridge, a lovely market town in Staffordshire

Well, here I am in the village of Penkridge. It's the halfway point, more or less, of the noisy section that runs close to the M6 motorway.

Penkridge is a place of relative peace, a haven of calm, the canal being separated from the motorway by several rows of houses. You can still hear it when the wind is in the wrong direction, but it's not too bad.

Boats on the Staffs & Worcester Canal passing through Penkridge, Staffordshire
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See more pictures of boats on the Staffs & Worcester Canal passing through Penkridge.

The name is interesting. I assumed it meant the ridge on the River Penk. Wrong! Apparently the river was named after the town.

The Celts called this place Penn-crug, meaning "the head (or end) of the ridge", or "chief hill or mound".

Later the occupying Romans had a fort near here which they called Pennocrucium.

After they left and the Anglo-Saxons invaded the inhabitants of the town became known as the Pencersæte. A 958 CE charter called the settlement Pencric.

Today they call Penkridge a village but it's really more like a town which supports several pubs, an imposing church called St. Michael and All Angels, a bowls club, a heritage centre and a library. There are some quaint old shops, as well as the modern ones.

St. Michael and All Angels church, Penkridge, Staffordshire
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The Penkridge Heritage Centre, situated in the old gaol, is briefly open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. It's staffed by very friendly and knowledgeable volunteers.

Penkridge Bowls Club, Staffordshire
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The Doomsday book records that most of the farm land at Penkridge was held by the nine priests of St. Michael's, who owned six slaves and employed seven villeins.

Saint Michael and All Angels Church is grade 1 listed building. It's known that there was a church here in Saxon times.

The Saxon King Edgar the Peaceful (959-975) issued a royal charter in 958, describing Pencric as a "famous place".

Around the same time Wulfgeat, a Shropshire landowner, left bullocks to the church at Penkridge, so the church must date from at least the 10th century.

The old council offices, now used as a Civic Centre, occupy an impressive grade 2 listed building. This is where I went on my first Sunday here.

Come here on Sunday they said, they'll be a band they said, it'll be fun they said.

Turned out to be the Burton Concert Band, a mixed woodwind, brass and percussion band. It was like watching paint dry or rather listening to paint dry. Have you ever listened to paint drying?

Burton Concert Band conducted by David Haines and with David Matthews on keyboard were actually very good, if you like that sort of thing, but it's not my personal taste. Silly of me bit I was expecting a rock Band.

David Haines conducting the Burton Concert Band, Penkridge, Staffordshire
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See more pictures of the Burton Concert Band.

The raffle was drawn by Councillor Isabel Ford of South Staffordshire council.

So on my way back to the boat I thought I'd console myself with a Sunday roast at The Boat Inn. Now, I would never be any good as a food critic, or restaurant critic. I'm far too generous far too easy going, I eat anything and enjoy it. Well, almost anything.

Maybe I should start keeping scores of all the different Sunday roasts I have as I travel around the country in my boat. I've never done so far but I'm trying to think back over all the different Sunday roasts I've had over the last seven years in this country, and I can't think of a worse one.

Okay so it's pub is not a restaurant. But they sell themselves as a gastro pub. They have a separate restaurant area. That was empty when I arrived yet still they kept me hanging around for 15 minutes before they let me sit down. While they organised their bookings.

Well they finally found me a nice little table and I sat down at it.

I do get cross with restaurants and hotels and cafes and different places where single people don't seem to matter. They think they can stick a tiny table just anyway and we have to put up with it. Well I never put up with it. If I don't feel comfortable I walk out.

To their credit The Boat didn't fall into that trap. They found me a quiet table in a secluded elcove where I could sit with my back to the wall. I have had my back to the wall all my life but that's another story. I just hate having people milling around behind me where I can't see them.

So 10 out of 10 for seating. What a shame I could only give the food 3 out of 10.

I've taken a photograph of my meal. I don't normally, but I'm trying to do a blog here so I suppose I really ought to. And I wanted to be able to look at the picture again another day and just see whether it really as bad as I remembered.

Sunday roast at the Boat Inn, Penkridge, Staffordshire
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The few vegetables were over cooked. These were like school dinners when I was a kid, chopped up into tiny little cubes and so soft that there was nothing to chew on at all.

So I wasn't content, I thought, Okay, this is the best it's going to get. But I thought I'd throw more bad money after bad money and have a dessert so I had a slice of brownie cake. I had to send the girl away to get me some ice cream to have with it. You shouldn't have to ask.

Anyway I may try again neet week. It's been dull weather so it will take my electric boat another week to recharge before I can move on

The next part of my journey is going to be difficult. The motorway runs right next to the canal for the next mile or two, never been quite so close before, and I'm going to have to do that in one hit. I can't stop halfway for the night. No chance of sleep that close to the motorway.

It's not normally a problem for diesel boats but l my solar powered electric boat doesn't have much range and it's going to be a push, but I shall have to do it.

But anyway, that's not for another week, so we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

My second Sunday here was so very much better. The sun had come out, it was a lovely hot day and The Boat Inn held its annual Party In The Carpark.

It's mini-festivals like these that make summer on the canal so much fun.

I missed the first band but the second act was fantastic. A young lady with the voice of a nightingale called Nikki Rous. If only the amps had been turned up higher. I would have loved to have heard her without the constant background chatter.

Nikki Rous at the Party In The Carpark, Boat Inn, Penkridge, Staffordshire
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See more pictures of the Party in the Carpark.

Nikki was followed by a breathless young man who modelled himself on Ed Sheeran. Not being a Sheeran fan I went off in search of food.

Next was a very talented guy called Paul Gibbon who sang a versatile set of 70s and 80s rock tunes. He then ended with some more recent material.

At this point I had to return to the boat to recharge my camera battery but I returned in time to end the evening listening to an interesting band called Herbaceous Borders.

On the following day, Monday, there was a special bank holiday market which was good fun. The weather held out but unfortunately I got a bit of sunstroke so spent most of the day hiding from the sun in the pub. That was my excuse anyway. Every cloud has a silver lining.

As well as bank holidays the market runs every Wednesday and Saturday. The Saturday market is the bigger, with more stalls but on Wednesdays there is also an auction and livestock market.

There's a very nice little cafe on site as well as a couple of vans selling bacon sarnies and burgers.

There's also a covered area inside a large barn where everyone crowds in when it rains.

Adjacent to the market, the Penkridge Viaduct takes trains over the River Penk.

Now forming part of the West Coast Main Line, this Grade II listed building was constructed in 1837 on what was then the Grand Junction Railway.

The engineer was Joseph Locke and the contractor was Thomas Brassey.

The viaduct consists of seven arches built in red brick and engineering brick with ashlar quoins and dressings.

The first train crossed the viaduct on 1st June 1837 although the official opening was not until 4th July when a train called Wild Fire pulled eight first class carriages across the viaduct.

So despite a few minor disappointments I am crusing off into the sunset with very positive memories of this lovely market town of Penn-crug / Pennocrucium / Pencric / Penkridge.

Wishing you love, life and liberty
Maverick Jack

Penkridge and Brewood in Old Photographs
by Adrienne Whitehouse

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