Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Any port in a (snow) storm.

There’s been plenty to choose from as we headed through Stoke today. Newport, Middleport, Longport and finally Westport where we washed up for the night. And as you may have guessed, we’ve been dogged by flurries of snow all day.

We left our mooring at around quarter past ten, under Bridge 104 and past the large Wedgwood factory.

Wedgwood at Barlaston
SAM_4829 Wegewood
The Wedgwood Pottery story started in 1759 in Burslem, but soon outgrew the initial premises so Josiah built a state-of-the-art factory (for 1766!), house for his family and cottages for his workers and called the area Etruria.
He came from a family of potters, but his innovative methods developed a business that is world renowned.
The Etruria factory was abandoned in 1940 in favour of this new facility at Barlaston, and the old one demolished. The house, Etruria Hall, still stands and is a Grade II listed building.

Our first lock of the day was round the corner, on the edge of Trentham.

At intervals along the canal through The Potteries are steel information boards, specific to the location. There’s information about the particular area on the panel.SAM_4830

Leaving Trentham the canal winds steadily northward, through an area apparently untouched by industry but blighted by subsidence from local coal extraction. The canal here is deep, the banks built up repeatedly to contain the water.

Between Trentham and StokeSAM_4835 Out of Trentham

Soon the town starts to make it’s presence felt, the large waste incinerator dominating the view ahead, with the spire of All Saint’s, Boothen on the horizon.SAM_4838 Sideway and Incinerator


Under the A500 link to the M6 there’s a short section that’s almost rural, but the town’s industrial past is always evident.

Overgrown remains of old factories along the canalSAM_4839
The towpath, on the left, climbs up and over a short factory arm.

Just north of Bridge 113 there’s a widening of the canal which marks the junction of the long-lost Newcastle Under Lyme Canal.

Newcastle Canal Junction, the branch went off to the right of the picture.SAM_4841 Newcastle Canal Basin
This 4 mile branch canal was built to service the Spode, Minton and Wolfe potteries at the Stoke end, and to bring coal into the town. It was abandoned in 1935 and is now completely filled in.

From here it’s only a short distance to the first and worst of the Stoke Locks.
Bottom Lock was rebuilt in concrete during road improvements in the 1970’s.

Stoke Bottom LockSAM_4843 Stoke Bottom LockNot only visually unappealing, it’s also inefficient. It takes ages to fill and empty, due to the poor design of the paddle culverts.

Confused water spits and gurgles it’s way into the lock chamber
SAM_4844 Stoke Bottom Lock
There’s some interesting “before and after” pictures here.

Cockshutes (Cockshutts?) Lock is next, intimidated by the adjacent railway bridge.

The lock is in there somewhere…SAM_4845 Cockshutts

Mags waits patiently for the lock to fill while Mr Branson heads south
SAM_4847 Cockshutts

Twyford lock hasn’t much to commend it, then around the corner are the last two, at Etruria Junction.

Etruscan Flint and Bone Mill at the junctionSAM_4849 EtruriaThe ground products from the mill were essential ingredients in the manufacture of fine bone china.

Mags waits in Lock 39, while Moore2Life ascends the top lock.SAM_4850 Etruria

When we got into the top lock we had a bit of a problem; the nearside bottom paddle gear was slipping. I got the chamber emptied using the offside only, then went and got an engineer from the maintenance yard alongside the lock. Handy, eh.SAM_4851 Etruria
It appears that a key which anchors a gear to a shaft had come adrift. He did a quick fix to get us through, then carried on when we pulled out.

Both boats reversed into the entrance of the Caldon Canal, to access the services there, then pulled back onto the main line to head on to Westport.

M2L watered, we’re pulling back for our goSAM_4852 Etruria Services

Mr James Brindley regards the proceedings from his pedestal.SAM_4854 Mr Brindley
The celebrated canal engineer died after catching a chill while surveying the Caldon Canal. He was buried on 30 September 1772, aged just 56.

His contemporary epitaph reads:-

JAMES BRINDLEY lies amongst these Rocks,
He made Canals, Bridges, and Locks,
To convey Water; he made Tunnels
for Barges, Boats, and Air-Vessels;
He erected several Banks,
Mills, Pumps, Machines, with Wheels and Cranks;
He was famous t'invent Engines,
Calculated for working Mines;
He knew Water, its Weight and Strength,
Turn'd Brooks, made Soughs to a great Length;
While he used the Miners' Blast,
He stopp'd Currents from running too fast;
There ne'er was paid such Attention
As he did to Navigation.
But while busy with Pit or Well,
His Spirits sunk below Level;
And, when too late, his Doctor found,
Water sent him to the Ground.

Another widening of the canal a little further on gives access to a marina, but this was formerly the site of Shelton Bar ironworks. The complex consisted of 5 coal mines, a steelworks and rolling mills, blast furnaces and a by-products factory. In 1960 10,000 people were employed here.SAM_4855 Festival Basin
In 1978 the main works was closed and the derelict site redeveloped in 1986 for the second National Garden Festival. Festival Park, as it is now known has gone through a final transformation into a retail park.

Another two miles through the previously named ….ports (and snow flurries) saw us arrive at Westport Lake.

SAM_4858 Newport
Guess!SAM_4859Still producing, this one.

SAM_4860 Longport

And a potteries icon, a bottle kilnSAM_4861 Bottle Kiln
The few remaining are listed structures, not so the surrounding buildings…

A bit tired tonight, 5½ hours is a long day by our standards…

I was making ready to join Ann, Molly and Meg in a stroll around the lake when a local council pickup pulled up alongside and the driver proceeded to unload a heap of cut branches. He told me he does this when they’ve been trimming trees around the lake, knowing that boaters will soon find a use for it.

Needless to say, they were soon re-housed!SAM_4863
OK, it’s light stuff, but it should save us a couple of days of coal. Unfortunately they hadn’t cut any trees down recently, or they’d be some logs to be had.

Tomorrow the hole through Harecastle Hill, then round the corner onto the Macclesfield Canal. (Or not, strictly speaking. More on that tomorrow…)

Locks 6, miles 7¾

1 comment:

Nev Wells said...


I really enjoyed reading that post. It is a stretch of canal we have often done so enjoyed the vicarious cruise and the information was very interesting. Enjoy the Maclesfield

Nev nb Percy