Friday, April 29, 2022

Stoked and Stoned

 On Tuesday morning we started the trip down the Trent Valley. But first we used the services just in the entrance to the Caldon Canal.

Protective mum...

James Brindley, father of the canal system, who died in September 1772 aged 56 while surveying the route of the Caldon Canal.

From Etruria there are five locks to drop the canal out of Stoke, then a further one at Trentham before Barlaston where we intended to stop.

Stoke Top Lock at Etruria Junction.

The tall chimney showing above above the trees belongs to Jesse Shirley's Bone and Flint Mill.

The mill provided crushed bone and flint for the ceramics industry. It's now a working museum with a steam powered beam engine fired up regularly throughout the year.   

After Johnson's Lock, just a few yards below the top lock, the remaining three are spaced out over ¾ of a mile. We started to meet boats coming up after Cockshutes Lock where canal and rail cross.

Keep your head down!

It was a pretty uneventful 4 miles to Trentham Lock then another 20 minutes before we got tied up near Barlaston at around half-twelve.

A sunny Trentham Lock.

That's it for the day.

So Wednesday we pulled pins and toddled off the couple of miles to Meaford Top Lock.

Barlaston Boatyard is for sale, anyone got £925,000 going begging?

Dropping down the four Meaford Locks.

It was fairly slow going as we came up behind another boat at the top lock, but boats had started to come up by the time we'd done the first two so that made things easier, if not faster.

Meaford Bottom Lock.

We dropped down three of the four Locks in Stone, unlikely as it seems managing to moor between Yard and Star Locks, the most popular moorings in the town.

I had the mail to collect from the post office and some shopping to do, so we stayed over until this morning.

Under grey skies we dropped down Star Lock, filled with water then set off out of town.

The daffs are going over, but the tulips have flowered in a blaze of colour.

Aston Lock

Halfway point on the canal...

The valley widens and flattens as the river, never far away now, heads towards Nottingham.

The well-watered meadows are good for grazing, and not just for domesticated animals!

We had a bit of queue at Sandon Lock, not really unexpected, but still managed to moor up in a pleasant, quiet spot just short of Weston, by noon.

Not so quiet now though, three other boats have pulled in here too!

Locks 16, miles 18. 


Monday, April 25, 2022

Up and Over

 After the night at Rode Heath we pushed on, still climbing steadily up to the summit level.

Lawton Treble Locks were the first, just a half-hour up the canal. There's actually 4 here in close proximity, the top one is Hall's Lock. The name for the lower three is a hang over from when there was a triple staircase here before it was replaced by individual locks.

Below the bottom lock a widening of the channel indicates where the cut from the staircase emerged.

An embankment and dip in the field show where the staircase once sat...

And the entrance channel is merely another wide section below Hall's Lock.

There's little evidence of the staircase on the ground now, but from overhead the line curving to the north of the current locks, is easily visible.

After the first four Church Locks come next, two chambers with a very short pound between. The offside locks of both are derelict and overgrown.

We pulled in shortly after these. Amber and I had a couple of lovely walks up in the bluebell-festooned woods nearby.

Friday morning saw us away around half-nine. It's never far between locks up here and our first for then day was just around the corner, past the impressively flowering cherry trees.
There's a straight run of three paired chambers to Red Bull Wharf where we filled with water and disposed of rubbish and recycling.

Red Bull Lock, alongside the pub, has long since lost it's partner chamber, but Limekiln, the next one up, is still paired.
The crossing below the lock is the aqueduct carrying the Harding's Wood Branch over to join the Macclesfield Canal at Hall Green Lock.

We pulled in after another short day a couple of hundred yards above this one.

I let the stove out overnight, Saturday was the day for Harecastle Tunnel and having a lit stove in a tunnel without air shafts isn't recommended... At least it's fairly mild at this time of year.

Leaving Plants Lock, the summit lock on the northwest end of the T&M.

Harding's Wood Junction is where the branch we came under on Friday leaves/joins the T&M. It links here on the summit level, then turns back to cross over Poole's Aqueduct before heading north.

We arrived at the tunnel to find one boat ahead of us and with a wait of about 45 minutes before a couple of north-bound boats appeared. It's only one-way, organised by permanent CRT staff.

There are two tunnels, the oldest built during the initial construction of the canal in 1777 and now derelict, and the later one under the white-painted arch to the left, opened 50 years later.

And we're off, with about 40 minutes of darkness and noise to deal with. Amber wasn't happy, she spent the whole time sat on my feet on the back step.

We emerged at around 11:15 and I pulled in immediately to light the stove. The cold and damp had sucked the remaining warmth out of the cabin.

Then we toddled on for another 20 minutes to pull in on the moorings at Westport Lake.

Having moved for several, albeit short, days on the trot we took a day off at the lake. Amber had great fun chasing the Canada geese, but I had to curb her enjoyment as there were a lot of people about.

So this morning we set off along the long pond to Etruria. I had to make a brief stop at Stoke Boats to pick up a pipe fitting for the remote greaser on the stern gland. I don't want to go into why one was needed; it's too embarassing...

I had to breast up for 5 minutes as it was so busy.

I always find it a bit sad to cruise this stretch. The once prosperous potteries are mostly gone or in a state of imminent collapse. 

There are some survivors, though.

Middleport Pottery was built by Burgess and Leigh in 1889. It continued to ride the uneven economic waves until, under threat of closure due to the poor condition of the buildings, it was significantly restored in 2010 and opened to the public as a working pottery in 2014. It's a popular visitor attraction.

The site of the famous Shelton Ironworks, once employing upwards of 10,000 men in the steelworks and associated mines, is finally getting redeveloped.

  It looks like warehousing and distribution centres...

I'd intended to moor just inside the entrance to the Caldon Canal at Etruria but the moorings were all full. So I came back out and we finished up just above the lock moorings. It's all downhill from here.

 We'll be heading off down tomorrow.

Locks 12, miles 9



Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Fine Weather Cruising.

 We've had some splendid Easter weather these last 2 days. Cold nights, mind, but warm sunny days.

After waiting out the long weekend at Paddy's Wood we set off yesterday morning. There were quite a few boats about over the weekend, but not as many as you'd expect.

We wanted to make a good start, so were on the move just before nine.

Approaching Wheelock a new mum was trying to herd all the little ones away from the big noisy thing...

We topped up the water tank and disposed of the rubbish and recycling we'd accumulated since leaving Nantwich, then moved up to the bottom lock of the Cheshire Locks. So we heading up by 10 o'clock.

Lock 66, our first for the day.

The intention was to ascend maybe just 6 locks, stopping near Malkins Bank. But even though I had to empty each lock as I came to it I still made good time, and started meeting downhill boats at Lock 60 so I pressed on. 

The Cheshire Flight is a bit like Marmite; either you love it or hate it.

I quite like it, but however you feel there's no disputing that it passes through some very pleasant countryside...

In the end I finished up doing 10 locks, pulling in above the 2 Hassall Green Locks at just after midday.

Tuesday's sunset.

We had a good night's sleep, lulled by the gentle whisper of traffic on the M6 a quarter mile away, and I was up and out with Amber soon after seven.

It was pretty much rinse and repeat today; not meeting boats coming down until I'd got a couple of locks under my belt. But then they just kept coming...

Pierpoint Locks


A distant Mow Cop Castle on the horizon.

We weren't going far though, and got pulled in at a very quiet Rode Heath around eleven o'clock. 

Of course it should have been quiet, we'd seen a convoy heading north after all! 

With the fine weather continuing I'd been working on painting the steel well deck, and I got it finished this afternoon.

Pushing on tomorrow but we'll be later away. Mags has a follow-up telephone appointment with the chap who performed her ERCP last month. We'll leave after lunch I expect.  

Locks 14, miles 5½