Saturday, 13 August 2011

A long day - South of Stone to well past Stoke on Trent.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Cath)

The Star pub at Stone.

I woke up with a pain in the neck - I could barely get out
of bed. I suppose that I had pulled a muscle in my neck or shoulder yesterday,
which had then stiffened up overnight. It was agony, so I knew I'd be doing
very few locks. I started taking painkillers to allow me to move about a bit.

Tow-path tunnel at Stone.

Family of ducks who insisted on sharing the lock.

We had a plan to get up to Stoke on Trent, and then moor
below the staircase locks at the beginning of the Caldon branch of the canal,
quite a few locks, but we ought to be able to do it by about 5:30 or 6:00 pm.  The locks are scattered along the whole of
the route, in some small groups, but also lone locks.  Then there is a flight of five up into Stoke,
and the beginning of the Caldon branch.


Passed very nearby by a Virgin express train.

Etruria Bone and Flint Mill.

Near the top of the
Stoke flight we passed the Bone and Flint mill at Etruria, outside wasa
pair of Admiral class working boats, "Lindsay" and "Keppel".

The staircase lock at Etruria.

We made good progress, and found ourselves at Etruria a bit
earlier than expected. I suggested that if the others were OK with the idea, we
should press on up the Caldon branch for an hour or so, to be out of the main
town. So we turned right and headed for the staircase locks.

View of the gates between the two chambers from the lower one.

Passing from lower to upper lock of the staircase.

The staircase locks are quite deep, and there are big drops
from the locks onto the parkland around, which has resulted the in the locks
being surrounded by white painted railings, making them look rather like a
water treatment plant.

Charlie helps David look at his paw.

Soon after this Charlie began limping very badly. He was
very patient while we checked his paw, although we couldn't find anything. He
relished the attention, and seemed OK after a while, although we don't know
what had caused it.

Charlie always enjoys any excuse for attention!

When we had proposed going up the Caldon branch, we had been
told, "You'll like the Caldon", but also, "don't stop at Hanley
Park". The park is not far above the Planet Lock, and in the early evening
there were families out enjoying the park. Then we came around a corner to a
group of perhaps 25 young men, standing around, leaning on walls or bikes,
chatting. Seeing us one of them leaped over a small wall and ran up to the
boat, waving his arms and shouting, "Scrapyard, Scrapyard".  "Where I find scrapyard for dis boat?" 

Bottle kilns stand alone - a likely feature in a new housing estate ?

It wasn't clear what he was asking, as he was heavily
accented, was he saying that the boat should be scrapped?  Was he thinking that he could buy a second-hand
boat from a scrapyard? The other men watched intently, some laughing.  If I had been alone it would have been quite
threatening, as we had to go through a very narrow gap at that point, and if
any of the group had decided to board the boat there would have been little we
could have done, fortunately we were all outside, and after a brief interchange
with the young man, we carried on, and they ignored us.

I didn't like the beginning of the canal a lot, obviously it
wasn't going to be rural immediately, and we've seen a lot worse. It was a mix
of very new housing estates - quite large and imposing houses - and urban
dereliction: abandoned factories, graffiti and razor wire.  It was also quite badly overgrown at the
bridge holes, with quite large bushes or trees scrapping the paintwork as we
passed.  There was also, even in quite
green bits, quite a bit of rubbish floating on the canal. Then, after a couple
of miles it began to get more rural, and I began to think that I might get to
like it after all. 

We moored just below Engine Lock, very rural, and with a
really nice walk for Charlie through the fields - however, the local populace
don't appear to have bought into the idea of picking up after your dog, and the
towpath even in this area was covered in dog poo - despite warnings of a £1000

Because of my neck I had worked very few of the locks, Alan
really knew about the 19 locks at the end of the day.

Weston on Trent (Trent & Mersey) to Engine Lock (Caldon Branch)
Miles: 21.1, Locks: 19

Total Miles: 147.0, Total Locks: 79

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