Friday, 16 November 2018

Etruria (and a quick foray onto the Caldon)

Wednesday sunset and visitor at Etruria

We left just before eight on Wednesday morning as we had to be at the entrance to Harecastle tunnel by half past for our booked passage.  It was just as well we had to get up early as soon after seven a noisy dog came past the boat barking very loudly.  It was obviously only walked a little way beyond the boat as it then came back about two minutes later doing the same thing.  We would not have been happy if the alarm hadn’t already gone off by then.

We had been moored a few hundred yards before the top lock of the Cheshire locks (aka Heartbreak Hill) and once through that lock were on the summit of the Trent & Mersey canal.

Early morning locking in Kidsgrove on Wednesday
Just above the lock the Macclesfield canal heads off to the right whereas we went straight on, staying on the Trent & Mersey, towards the tunnel entrance.

Macclesfield canal heads off right then loops back round over the Trent & Mersey on its way north
We were the only boat booked in to go south that day and we arrived dead on 8.30 and after a quick reminder of some safety instructions from the CRT guy were soon on our way.  It’s a fairly tight left hand turn into the tunnel and for the first time I just bumped the edge of the boat as we went in but as I had practically stopped, no damage was done, inside or out.  (Moral: make sure I have had at least my second breakfast before cruising, especially if I have been down the pub the night before)

Heading into the tunnel (original tunnel portal can be seen straight ahead of the boat)
It takes up to ½ hour to get through the 1 ¾ mile long tunnel and when we came out the other side, there were two boats waiting to come in.  We were now in the outskirts of Stoke and after three miles were approaching Etruria junction where the Caldon canal heads off towards Froghall.  Click here to read about our visit to the Caldon canal in May 2015.

At Etruria junction – Trent & Mersey straight on, dry dock in the middle and we’re turning left onto the Caldon canal
Having turned onto the Caldon we moored up just below the bottom lock.

Our Wednesday night mooring at Etruria with the city centre behind us...
...and looking the other way
I’ve discussed bottle kilns before and that there are only 47 of the original 4,000 or so remaining.  Purists divided the bottle-shaped kilns into different types: potters ovens; calcining kilns and enamel kilns.  The potters ovens seem to be the ones that generate excitement; there are 29 remaining and they were used for firing biscuit or glost pottery.  To me, all 47 are bottle kilns and I wouldn’t know how to differentiate them.

The figure of over 4,000 kilns in Stoke in its heyday is also controversial and nowadays the experts think the figure was half that with the other half being factory chimneys for boiler houses, steam engines and other types of kiln.  Whatever the true figures were it’s no doubt that the awful smogs of the time came from these chimneys, but it must also have been an awesome sight to see across the city.

Three of the ‘bottle’ kilns we passed on Wednesday in Longport (Olivers Mill, Middleport Pottery and Top Bridge Works)
In the afternoon we walked down to Stoke station to pick up Karen’s tickets for her trip to Edinburgh over the next few days.  We also picked up our tickets ready for travelling back up to Yorkshire in December to pick up our car for the Christmas period.

Buddy and I walked Karen to the station on Thursday morning which is a pleasant walk of just over a mile down the canal.  We took a long detour on the way back looking for VR boxes but alas found none.    It seems the good people of Stoke aren’t into letter posting; I only found two and they were both quite rare George VI boxes.

I spent Thursday afternoon doing all those fiddly things around the engine bay and cratch that always seem to get put off.  Things like putting all the unused plant pots together, neatly stacked, so they don’t take up much space and it’s easy to see what we have spare rather than searching in several different places.

Another job I got on with was chopping more kindling or rekindling the kindling bag.  I know it’s the time of year where most people keep a stove on 24 hours a day on their boats but I like to let ours go out once a week so that I can give it a good clean and remove all the clinker that has built up.  Of course, letting it go out means relighting and the easiest way to do that is to use kindling.

More bottle kilns from our walks on Thursday (Cliff Vale and Dolby Pottery)
I heard from Brian and Ann Marie from fuel boat Halsall today and they are ahead of schedule and heading straight up the Trent & Mersey past Etruria junction tomorrow.  This means I will miss them unless I move off the Caldon and back to the Trent & Mersey.  That’s my Friday morning planned then 😊

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