Sunday, December 18, 2016

Pottering up through Stoke

This cold we seem to be sharing doesn’t want to let go, Mags is still hacking and coughing, but I’m not so bad. I wasn’t sure whether to move on or not, but we’ve a booking to go through Harecastle Tunnel first thing tomorrow and if we miss that it’ll be Wednesday at the earliest before we can get through. So, with a promise from Mags that she would stay inside near the fire, we decided to head off up to the summit.

Last night was very foggy, but it had cleared by the time we got going.

The Wedgwood factory

First lock of the day, Trentham.

We met two fishing matches today, one at Trentham and another in Stoke.IMG_2993
I take delight in shouting a cheery “good morning” to those miseries who won’t catch my eye as we cruise past.

It’s a straightforward trip from Trentham to Stoke Bottom Lock, mostly open countryside, but with new warehouses and distribution centres being built south of the Five Towns it’ll soon be built up.

The municipal waste incinerator marks the start of the conurbation.IMG_2996
It’s alongside the A50 and A500, on the way to the M6. I reckon we must have passed this way almost as often by boat as by car, now!

Just past Bridge 113 there’s a small boatyard, with a bricked up arch leading to a short factory arm.
It led to a small basin surrounded by railway sidings. All gone now, basin and sidings buried under industrial units.

A last look at the Trent, it doesn’t look much this far upstream does it – IMG_2999

but it’s definitely the Trent!
Here we’re only 7 miles from it’s source up on Biddulph Moor.

It’s not far from here to Stoke Bottom Lock, the ugly concrete one that was built when the roads were re-aligned.

Stoke Bottom Lock

The locks heading up to the summit level come steadily now, good job there’s only 5 of them…

Cockshutes Lock sits just above a low railway bridge
I’ve a technique that works well when going uphill on these narrow locks. I tie up on the lock landing and walk up to check for oncoming boats and to lift the paddles. Then I walk back and bring the boat up to the bottom gates, by which time the lock is usually empty. A gentle nudge with the bow fender opens the gates and in we go. I’ve seen some single-handers hop off just before the boat goes in, leaving it in forward gear, but I don’t do that. I climb up the lock ladder after taking the boat right up to the top cill, then run the centre rope to a forward bollard to prevent it going back when I lift the first paddle. As soon as the water starts to run in it tends to send the boat forward anyway, and it rises with the fender against the cill.  It’s not so simple going down…

Admiralty Class motor Lindsay and butty Kepple moored below the flint mill at EtruriaIMG_3005

Stoke Top, or Etruria Lock is deep and forbidding.

A long way down…

I had to go up, then down and up again. I’d forgotten that this lock needs a handcuff key to release the top paddles!
You’ll notice that the boat is in gear, too. The centre rope wasn’t long enough in this deep chamber. Note also the tiller string to prevent the tiller from swinging out and catching the lock wall.

Out of the top lock, the Caldon Canal on the left and the old dry dock in the middleIMG_3012

We pulled over for a sandwich and a brew above the lock, before setting off again on the last leg, past all the old potteries. We’d made good time even though I’d had to empty each lock as we came to it. Just over 3 hours for 5½ miles and 6 locks single-handed. Mags did as she was told – for a change!

Bottle kilns are a bit like people; some are tall and slim…

…others are shorter and more plump.
And also like people, some are in a better state of preservation than others!

I’m pleased to see that Middleport Pottery have achieved their ambition of restoring the steam engine that powered in the factory.

A jet of steam rises from the engine shed as the restored engine is run up.IMG_3021
I should really have pulled in to have a look, but frankly I was starting to flag a bit…

Stoke Boats at Longport Wharf
Unusually quiet on the water, but there are several boats up on blocks. The Mersey, Weaver and Ship Canal Company warehouses at the back of the wharf date from around 1840, and were used to store goods from Runcorn Docks on the Mersey.

Another ten minutes saw us at today’s destination, Westport Lake. Plenty of mooring space here today.
It’s been a long day, certainly by our standards, but we’re only 20 minutes from Harecastle Tunnel.

We need to be there at half-eight in the morning, so an early start, I guess.

Hi Chas. I've tried to de-fluff it, but without taking the motherboard out you can't do a thorough job. A step too far...
Thanks Carol. I think we're on the mend now. Another couple of days should see us back to our normal happy, healthy selves!

Locks 6, miles 8

1 comment:

KevinTOO said...

Glad to hear that both of you are slowly on the mend. Sorry that I'm in Northern Ireland and unable to crew for you to get you up through and down past Stoke. Look after yourselves and keep the fire going 😃