Thursday, 3 May 2018

Trentham (why are Brits obsessed with the weather?)

Sign welcoming canal users to Stone - our home for the last two days


As expected it poured with rain from about midnight on Tuesday, but I’ve mentioned before that we like listening to the rain when it’s coming down hard on the roof - we find it soothing.  We sleep at the front of the boat and have one of the front doors open all night for fresh air, so we also get the sound of rain falling on the canvas cratch – the same sound as if we’re in a tent 😊

It was still pouring in the morning and not due to stop until lunchtime, so we decided to stay in and cruise in the afternoon.  Writing this blog entry and talking about the weather has reminded me how easy it is to get obsessed by the weather; I seem to have mentioned it every day for weeks as it has been so variable so please accept my apologies

We had our usual salad for lunch followed by fresh fruit salad.  When Karen was working I made her a packed lunch of salad and fruit salad every day and had the same myself.  We have carried on with the tradition and for variety Karen generally makes soup for weekend lunches.

The rain did stop during lunch and we set off from our mid-town mooring at Stone at one.  We were straight into Yard lock which, with all the rain, had water flowing through it and over the bottom lock gates.

Karen off to get Yard lock set

It was windy, and I struggled to get the boat over to the lock landing but finally managed it without embarrassment.   Just above the lock is the impressive looking bottle warehouse that used to house bottles of Joule’s Stone ale prior to being shipped all over the world.  This is the building depicted on the welcome to Stone signs as you enter the town by canal – see picture at the top.

The old Joule’s bottle store

Before the next lock we pulled in at the boatyard to fill up with diesel and buy the necessary consumable for the next engine service.  Their pump out truck always brings a smile to our faces:

 
We left the boatyard and went straight into Newcastle Road lock which is unusual as it has separate tunnels for the towpath and boats under the road.

Newcastle Road lock with separate tunnels under the road for boats and horses

One more lock and we were out of Stone and after a mile or so were going up the four locks on the Meaford flight.  The first three locks on the flight were installed in 1831, 60 years after the canal was opened.  They replaced a staircase of three locks, the remains of which can still be found by lock 33 and parts of it act as an overspill channel.

All rather overgrown but the entrance to the staircase was on the right and yes, by pure coincidence, that’s another stanking plank shelter 😉
The overspill weir

The replacement locks were built at a later date so are of a different style to others on the T&M.  For example, they have split walkways like those on the Stratford canal that enabled the horses to lead boats into the lock without having to be unhitched.

Split bridge at lock 33
The towpath was closed just before the top lock; clearly there had been a vehicle collision with the bridge parapet.  Judging by the state of the fallen masonry it looked to be fairly recent.  Also, the bricks and coping stones etc. are usually tidied up pretty quickly so they can be reused:

  
The towpath crossed to the other side half way up the flight but crosses back again about a mile later at bridge 100 which is called Turnover bridge.  Turnover bridges are fascinating as they’re designed to allow towing horses to cross the bridge without being unhitched from the boat.

If a horse was towing us it would walk up the ramp on the right, cross the bridge, come down the spiral path on the left to then go under the bridge – ingenious 😊



 

The next village was Barlaston but before getting there the canal runs as close to the railway line as seems possible, probably only rivalled by the railway on the Caldon canal where Consall station platform was built half over the canal (click here for our visit there in June 2015).  

The train driver tooted and waved😊

After passing the Wedgwood factory, at Wedgwood funnily enough, we approached Trentham lock, our last of the day.  This is on the outskirts of Stoke on Trent and a 'welcome' sign appears by the lock:

   

It was really rather windy approaching the lock and as I thought it was emptying I hovered around rather than mooring up and waiting (hovering is not a clever thing to do in the wind).  As it happened the lock was being filled but the guy operating it hadn’t dropped one of the bottom paddles fully, so some water was still coming through making me think the lock was emptying.  I decided to moor up rather than fight the wind, but Karen caught me having a moment when the tail end got caught in a sudden gust…

 
…but I soon straightened her up as if nothing had happened 😉

 
After going through Trentham, we moored up at the last bit of countryside before Stoke and enjoyed wonderful sunshine for the rest of the evening.

Moored up on Wednesday evening


Our view across the Trent valley

We cruised six miles and up eight locks during the day.  Tomorrow we will go into Stoke as we need to pick up some train tickets from the station.  If we have time we will then carry on to Harecastle tunnel, and if we get there by three, we will go through.  You have to arrive by then to be guaranteed passage as it’s a one way only tunnel.  It doesn’t matter if we don’t make it as it’s nice and quiet with plenty of mooring at the tunnel entrance.

Our journey since leaving Flecknoe ten days ago


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