Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Up to Stoke, with a bit of assistance.

We left Barlaston yesterday, after a quiet weekend. A few boats about, but not as many as expected. Maybe the weather’s putting a few folk off. You’d hardly think it was August, would you. Daytime temperatures rarely get above 18°, the nights are often quite a bit cooler. And I don’t want to mention the rain…
Still, we at least chose a dry day for the run up Stoke Locks.

We got away at around a quarter to ten, past the Wedgwood factory and up to Trentham Lock.DSCF0618


There had been two or three boats heading off before we were ready, so we expected the lock to be full, but it was actually nearly empty. Good timing as well as we’d arrived just before a boat heading down so we could leave the lock ready for them.
Then followed the steady run into Stoke. The canal runs past Trentham, generally in a tree-lined cutting so you only get to see the housing estates on the north side of the village.DSCF0620

Not really graffiti, actually a project by the local Scout Group about helping hands, I think.DSCF0621

The exhaust stack at the recycling centre’s incinerator is having a bit of work…DSCF0622

…I bet it’s good views from up there!

From here the canal is still leafy for another mile or so, but the city makes it’s presence known in the form of the busy A500 just beyond the screen of trees.
North of Bridge 113, a wider section of the navigation marks the site of the junction with the long defunct Newcastle Under Lyme Canal.

Somewhere near that moored boat…
The canal ran about 3 miles to a terminus to the south of Newcastle Under Lyme’s centre. It was a bit of an ill-fated venture, never returning the shareholders much in the way of dividends due to constraints placed on the type of cargos that could be carried. In 1776, four years before the NUL Canal had been completed, Sir Nigel Gresley opened a short private canal from collieries on his estates into the town. The Enabling Act included a proviso that restricted the price of coal supplied via the canal, but also effectively created a monopoly, preventing the Newcastle Under Lyme from carrying coal. They were restricted to far less lucrative cargos of limestone and farm produce.
The NUL Canal fell out of use by 1935 and was abandoned. Most of the route has subsequently been filled and lost, up until the early 1970s a short stub at the junction was in use by the Stoke Boat Club, but this also fell to the developer’s axe when the A500 was built.

Back on the T&M, and a short straight section of canal leads up to Stoke Bottom Lock, the ugly concrete monstrosity that replaced the original during bypass scheme. I tied up and headed up onto the lockside to find a boat on the way down and Rob the Lock assisting. Rob, and now his son Liam, is available to help boats up and down the Stoke Locks, and further afield as well. If you need his services just give him a call – 07999426005. Anyway, he didn’t have anyone scheduled to take back up so he agreed to do us. Mags could have a sit down and with me closing up and Rob cycling ahead we made short work of the first three.

The wheels came off a little at Etruria. We caught up with the preceding boats here, the one directly ahead being the ex-GUCC motor Lancing.DSCF0635
Built in 1936 by Yarwood’s in Northwich, she was commissioned into the Grand Union Canal Carrying Co’s fleet until the 1960’s then became a passenger boat on the Kennet and Avon before being restored to her original condition.

He was waiting for a boat coming down Etruria Lock, the summit lock, so we had a bit of a pause. But we finally left the flight at around half-twelve.

Coming up Johnson’s  Lock, the last but one on the flight.DSCF0637

We were heading onto the Caldon Canal, a sharp right turn above the last lock, but first had a call to make so carried on towards Festival Basin. We pulled in just before Bridge 117 for a gas bottle…DSCF0638
You can’t really read the sign, but it says that 13Kg propane will cost just £21. That’s several £s cheaper than marina prices. Well worth the short diversion.

We turned around in the basin and headed back to the junction, passing a nervous-looking family about to embark on their first narrowboat holiday on a 60’ Black Prince hire boat. I hope the weather improves a bit…

Back to Etruria Junction.


Filling up with water at the services.
Topped and de-rubbished we pulled along a bit and moored just past the museum.

Even if we’re passing through we try to moor here, below Bedford Street Locks. It’s a lot quieter than on the moorings above the top lock on the main line. But this time we won’t be turning around, instead we’re going on and up the Caldon.
But not today. The forecast was for rain most of the day, and so it has transpired. We stayed put, apart from a brief foray up to B&Q for me.

On the way again tomorrow.

Locks 6, miles 5½

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