Thursday, November 22, 2012

Stoke to Stone

One letter different, but a world apart. Stoke is a place to pass through, Stone is a spot to linger. Unfortunately, not for me this time.

Mags didn’t have a very good night last night. Plagued by her cough and worried about how I’m coping, she was very unsettled. I’ve spoken to her several times today, assuring her that I’m OK, and the cough seems to have eased a little with liberal doses of buttercup syrup (thanks Val). She’s been dozing most of the day, trying to catch up.

I was up before the sun again this morning, and Meg and I were suited and booted and in Stoke Top Lock by just after eight o’clock.

Stoke Top Lock….SAM_4307 Stoke Top Lock (1)

….is very deep!SAM_4308 Stoke Top Lock

The top two locks are close together, so I was able to set both filling before I brought the boat up.

Between the two sits the grandly named Etruscan Bone and Flint Mill.  Crushed bone and flint were essential ingredients of tough ceramics (bone china) and the mill was built to provide the raw material.

Etruscan Bone and Flint Mill, Etruria
SAM_4310 Flint Mill
SAM_4311 Flint Mill
The J.S. refers to Jesse Shirley, builder and owner.
The mill is part of the Etruria Industrial Museum complex, which stands at the junction of the Trent and Mersey and Caldon canals.

 The five Stoke Locks cover a distance of about a mile, all with their own unique characters.

Twyford Lock has a very low bridge directly belowSAM_4312 Twyford Lock We lost our “coolie hat” off the top of the stove chimney here once…. And that’s why John Sage is hiding inside again today.

Cockshutts Lock is a Mecca for trainspotters (and graffiti “artists”) SAM_4313 Cockshutts lock

The bottom lock was rebuilt during a road widening scheme (along with a few hundred yards of canal) and is a concrete chamber that is maddeningly slow to fill and empty.

Stoke Bottom LockSAM_4314 Stoke Bottom Lock
I’d pulled out and was struggling to tie up again to go back and close the gates when a woman up on the lockside shouted that she would shut them for me. I expected her to be off a following boat, but she was from the house alongside the lock and had noticed I was single-handed. What a nice person!

After this lock you slowly start to leave the Five Towns behind, until the new Bridge 109 is reached, with the wonderfully gothic Municipal Incinerator sited alongside. I wonder if the architect realised how much it would look like an open-mouthed horned monster?

Stoke Municipal IncineratorSAM_4318 Incinerator

From here it’s a rural run to Trentham, through Trentham Lock and to the Wedgwood factory, where we stopped for an early lunch. Although the rain held off, the wind was cold and brisk, making mooring up difficult, so we decided to have a half-hour break.
We would normally call it a day just below Bridge 104, but, as this trip is far from normal, we pushed on.

Just outside the next village, Barlaston, there’s a splendid row of cottages facing the canal.

Canal CottagesSAM_4320 Barlaston
I guess they must have canal-related origins.

The old power station at Meaford has long gone, beyond the fence is a substation and a mass of brambles. Opened in 1948, upgraded in 1957, it closed in 1991. Although built alongside the canal, it was never supplied with coal by boat. An extensive network of rail spurs and sidings serviced the boilers for the turbines. I reckon this would have been the furthest upstream of all the power stations built along the Trent Valley.

Meaford Locks is a short flight of four, the top one being just above a road. Unfortunately this means that you have to cross the road to get back on the towpath. I’m normally quite happy for Meg to mooch about on the lockside, but here it’s too risky with the traffic. So she had to stay aboard alone while I dropped the boat down the lock.

Not a happy bunny, our Meg!SAM_4322 Meaford Top
You can just see her head poking up out of the hatch. “Where’ve you gone, Dad?”

Last one for today, Meaford Bottom LockSAM_4323 Meaford Bottom

It’s less than a mile to the first moorings in Stone, and we were tied up before the heavy rain showers broke.

Ta lotsSAM_4324

Lots of fine boats in Stone….SAM_4326

Although all the locks have been against me today, we’ve made reasonably good progress. Should be better over the next couple of days. Simon off NB Le Grand Bleu is coming up to Stone in the morning to help me on to Great Haywood, and then Ray off NB No Direction will meet me at Woodend Lock on Saturday to help me down Fradley Locks. Isn’t the boating community fabulous. I’ll have some favours to repay at the end of this trip….

All’s going well with the schedule, I’ll have no problem getting through Barton and Tattenhill Locks before they close for maintenance on Monday.
If…. I can get through the river section just below Alrewas. If that’s closed due to the Trent being in flood, then all bets are off. It’ll be Plan B, then.
Does anyone out there know the current state of the river there?

Locks 10, miles 8½


No Direction said...

Hi Geoff, I'm cycling down to Alrewas on Friday so will check the river level, I'll also see whats happening with the lock repairs at fradley will call when I know.

Geoff and Mags said...

Ok Ray
Thanks a lot,

Graham Budd said...

Hi Geoff, you must remember what comes around goes around, you were there to help just after Jill had her TIA.
Wish we were nearer to be able to help.

Becca@Locksmith Adelaide said...

It's worth trying to see if you can have an "unofficial" tour of the works. Well you did it, and the highlights of the cruise was pretty good one.