Today has been a day of two parts. Yesterday's rain continued through the night, finally petering out by mid morning. The clouds started to break up by noon, though, and we’ve had a fine sunny afternoon.
We waited for the rain to move off before we followed it, getting away at around half-nine. Just around the corner was our first obstacle, the two-rise staircase locks at Bedford Street.
(No, it’s not your eyes. It IS out of focus!)
Leaving the locks it soon becomes apparent that this canal was surveyed by the redoubtable James Brindley, who’s statue stands near the junction. His technique was to follow the contours of the land as much as possible to avoid having to build costly embankments, aqueducts and locks. With this canal sitting above the Trent valley, that means that the navigation follows a sinuous route to stick to the 430 foot contour.
With the channel being often narrow and overgrown it would make for some interesting encounters if it were any busier. As it was we met maybe half a dozen boats heading in the opposite direction, all at convenient places.
Planet Lock is about half a mile up, then there’s another half hour to Ivy House Lift Bridge.
The canal twists and turns on it’s way out of town through Hanley passing the fine but rarely used moorings near the park, and new housing developments on the left facing semi-derelict industry on the right.
Hanley Park moorings
A pair of preserved bottle kilns sit incongruously among modern housing units.
Keep your head down under Bridge 9!
The mechanised Ivy House Lift Bridge
We just missed out on a free passage here, a convoy of three boats had just come through.
From here the canal passes out into the countryside, heavily wooded banks rising to the left and falling away down on the right, with glimpses of the flat bottom of the river valley.
Bridge 14 is on the apex of a tricky right-hand bend, and has the scars to prove it!
The Trent and Mersey-style mile posts indicate the distance from Etruria and Uttoxeter.
The navigation terminates at Froghall, 13 miles short of Uttoxeter, the remainder to the town being more properly known as the Uttoxeter Canal but both sections were built by the Trent and Mersey Canal Company, hence the mileposts. At Froghall tramways linked the limestone quarries at Cauldon Low with the canal, and at Hazlehurst a branch was built to Leek, primarily as a feeder to supply water from Rudyard Reservoir.
The canal passes through Milton, with another low and awkward bridge to negotiate, but there’s good moorings on the north side and the village is useful for shopping.
Away from Milton and the canal opens up a bit to Engine Lock, and this is where we called it quits for today.
We’ve a good day on the cards for tomorrow, so we’ll head towards Leek I reckon.
Locks 3, miles 5½