Well the forecast said that today was going to be fine, and it was. Decidedly chilly first thing, though, down to 8° before the sun came up over the hedgerow.
We were on the move at half-nine, just a couple of minutes to Engine Lock.
Over to the west, near Ford Green, there were several colliery shafts. It’s likely that the name of the lock derived from a pumping or hoist engine house nearby. Gone now, of course. There was also a dry dock at one time, just at the head of the lock.
Following the lock there are two small lift bridges to negotiate, the first with a pleasant surprise…
The second took us back to using a windlass though. No access to power there, I would guess.
Between the two the canal crosses a small aqueduct just labelled “4”.
This is the River Trent, still merely a stream, only a couple of miles south of it’s source up on Biddulph Moor.
We pulled in below Stockton Locks for half an hour or so for me to nip up to the Post Office in Stockton Brook for a package that was waiting there. Walking up the locks I spotted a boat coming down, leaving all the locks empty ready for us. Unfortunately, just as I arrived back home, another boat came around the corner and started up the flight. So we had all the locks to turn as we went up, which made for a seemingly slow ascent.
In Lock 5, Stockton Bottom Lock
Above the lock, on the offside, sits a Victorian pumping station.
Built in 1884 for the Staffordshire Potteries Water Board it originally housed 2 steam powered pumps, later replaced by electric pumps. Now redundant, it’s been sold into private hands but is looking a bit dejected, with broken windows and overgrown grounds.
The next lock up has a sculpture alongside, depicting the various industries in the Potteries area.
Tributes to ironworks, collieries, quarrying and of course ceramics are included and also a representation of a Supermarine Spifire. This aircraft, which performed a key role in the latter half of WWII, was designed by local man R J Mitchell, Kidsgrove born and Hanley educated.
The five locks are fairly evenly spaced, the middle one sitting just beyond a pipe bridge and disused railway crossing.
The railway bridge still carries the lines, unusual for a disused line…
We left the top at midday, just an hour after starting up.
Stockton Top Lock, Lock 9
The boat-horse stables alongside are now a private house.
I was thinking, as I waited for the lock to fill, that it’s unlikely that anywhere else on the system, on a sunny mid-August day, you could do a flight of five locks and not meet another boat. It is pretty quiet on here.
A mile or so above the locks there’s a curious island in the middle of the navigation, the swivel of a long removed swing bridge. The bridge carried a rail spur from the North Staffs Railway to the Victoria Flint Mill.
The canal makes a sharp right turn just beyond the the white bridge, straight ahead is the old transhipment wharf now occupied by the Stoke on Trent Boat Club. We pulled in for water at Park Lane services a little further on, then finished the day’s trip at Hazelhurst Junction, where the Leek Branch heads off.
The main line drops down the locks ahead, while the Leek Branch goes off to the right.
We were lucky to drop onto a mooring on the piling just past the junction. Nice and open, with a field of sheep on one side and looking down onto the Hazelhurst Locks on the other.
It looks like the weather is returning to wet and windy again tomorrow, but we’ll head off to Leek anyway. No locks or bridges to deal with, so Mags can stay inside if she likes.
Locks 6, miles 4½