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Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Diary Day and Natural Wonders.

Today is Diary Day and the Mass Observation are looking for the days diary entries. Mass observation started in 1937 and they are collected and all available to inspect. If you look at the link below it will tell you all about it.

I wonder if they will take the days blog as they will take all media, poems etc.


Helen popped to M&S to see if here were any bargains to be had and then we were off.

We were soon at Aston Lock and the sun was glinting on the ripples on the water. When we had lowered down I saw a boat leave the exit of Aston Marina in the distance. It turned towards the lock so we left the gates open. Just as we were clearing the lock landing he swung back into the entrance of the marina. I wish he had indicated he was going to do that. Full astern and back to the landing to run back and close the gates.

I really enjoy this stretch of canal between Aston and Sandon Locks. There is plenty of mooring, no offside moorers, but bends and bridges and views and enough to keep you alert.

It is nice and quiet too at the moment Just peaceful and quiet.

There were eleven goslings in this brood. I don't think I have seen so many, and they are not newly hatched either. They obviously do a good job in cutting the grass for C&RT. Has anybody seen a Fountain's crew out this year? I haven't as yet.

These guys were also well impressed with the gosling numbers too.

I wonder if HS2 went through the land of some Earl or Marquis would they agree to make it more attractive. Maybe they would shield it from view or plant trees etc. Mind you by the looks of it they are trying to do the same where ever there are houses about. Cutting the canal  must have made a massive scar on the land, as did the railway lines. However we all love the canals now and disused railway lines have been purloined as roads, cycle routes or walking routes or reclaimed as well as making green corridors for the wildlife. HS" will make a real mess of the landscape where it goes, but eventually it will become accepted and in a generation it will be just normal!

On this stretch of canal there are these signs, mainly on the offside, that seem to enumerate cloughs, sluices and weirs. Obviously they are to identifier them, but I would love to know why are they numbered north to south when the bridge and locks are numbered south to North? Or is that the reason so that the numbers of these does not coincide with the bridges??

At Hoomill Lock the newly burst leaves on the trees were golden green, and very bright in the gloom before a shower. The colours of the trees are so vibrant when they just come out.

Great Haywood was extremely quiet, as we approached the bridge from the north I saw two boats turn down the Staffs. and Worcs, but otherwise nothing. There were notices on the tow path saying the moorings were temporarily closed. I couldn't read why but I expect there will be a floating market of something coming along soon.

The sun really came out at Great Haywood after a shower and once moor the green in the sun were a joy to behold.

We were going to moor near Taft Farm but there was no room, then there was no room before the Trent Aqueduct and so we went across and found some where to moor before the middle of Rugeley. We were secure and kettle on when the thunder and lightning struck. I then heard what I thought was a train on the line nearby. However it became obvious that it was hailstones. As the time went on it got louder as the size of the stones got larger. I was wondering if there would be any paint left on the roof!

These were the size of them at the end. They have been up and down in the thunder cloud to get that size. I remember when I was very young that we had hail stones that were like golf balls!!

Once I had a cup of tea and a biscuit in me I got on blacking the stove and now I think I am going to light it too!

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

It's a Gas.

 Today we were off a little early as we were only going to Canal Cruises yard as were having some work done/

They has asked us to arrive between 10 and 1030 as Monday is the day they change over n the dry docks so there was a lot of boat shifting to do. We edged our way past  Fullers yard and to Limekiln Lock and then down Newcastle Road Lock.

I was trying to catch the drips from the weed that were glinting in the sunlight, but still it looks okay.

We moored up at 1015 and reported in to be told that the gas engineer was off at an appointment. He got back at 1215 and started on the work.

The gas regulator was not functioning correctly apparently and I had asked to have fitted a bubble tester. To be honest I only went in in the first place as I smelled gas in the gas locker. Everything was cropped out

The new regulator was fitted in the seat locker and the bubble tester too. The other job was to fit a new thermocouple for the grill.

Once all was installed he tested it all and found it was leaking. So everything was taken out again and it was found the olive on the bubble tester had got damaged! It was 18:30 when we left and alot of money lighter. Hey ho!!

I was able to have a good look at the new Joule's Brewery tap. You can see the finials that are the same as on the old brewery as well as the initials in the peaks and even the Joules cross in the veranda supports.

The sheds and dry docks are old and make a great ensemble for the yard. a little like that at Braunston.

We managed to spring off into the strong wind and get round to head into yard lock after 1830. We then went down Star lock and took some water before carrying on to find a mooring for the night. Near the end of the moorings was a space that we just fitted in and settled in.

Monday, 10 May 2021

A bit of a beer and Wedgwood Walk.

 It looked like there would be a dry day on Sunday so rather than head off we decided to have another walk. We were off by 10:00.

We crossed the canal on the bridge to the Wedgwood visitor centre and carried on up the road through an avenue of trees. We then branched off to Barlaston Hall that over looked the lakes below.

Barlaston Hall was built 1756/58 in the English Palladian style.The octagonal and diamonds in the sash windows is characteristic of the architect Robert Taylor. In 1931 the whole 380 acre estate was purchased by the Wedgwood Pottery to build a new factory, model village. The hall housed the Wedgwood College. When it was found to contain dry rot they moved out. Although they continued to maintain it, when it was vandalised and the lead from the roof stolen it deteriorated quickly, especially as it also suffered from mining subsidence. By the 1980's it was nearly pulled down but the 'Save Britain's Heritage campaign moved in and bought it for £1 from Wedgwood. They set about restoring it on a concrete raft and completed it by the early 1990's. They sold it before the interior was done and the Halls completed it and put it on the market for £2.3 million in 2014.

The lodge at the Barlaston village entrance to the estate is octagonal to compliment the theme in the windows etc.

After rounding the village cricket ground we headed over fields and green lanes towards the hills. There were bluebells and other wild flowers aplenty.

The path rose gradually to the Downs Banks National Trust Land. We visited on a fine Sunday and it still wasn't very busy, despite a car park at the other end of the land. The tracks are well made and despite plenty of recent rain were not too bad at all.

We walked the length of the property, descending gradually, to the car park and then a short stretch of road to get to another path. And there, by the ford was a van selling hot drinks and ice cream and doing a roaring trade. It would be rude not to, so an ice cream was purchased each. The first of the year I think.

Just across the food we re-entered the Downs Banks land and headed steadily up hill again. The land was purchased by John Joule and Sons, the brewers of Stone, topped up with public subscriptions. It was presented to the National Trust in July 1960 to act as a thanks offering for victory in WWII and as a memorial to those who fell during it. Much better than a statue I'm thinking. Not just great beer Joule's either!!

The track is along the spine of a ridge on the edge of the NT land with views down the slopes. There are wild flowers and the leaves are just coming out now.

When you reach the top you get some good views.

The National Trust use cattle to graze the land here so you have to watch your feet in some areas. One you leave the Open access land the track gradually descends to the village of Barlaston again.

Overlooking the village green is the village war memorial that was designed free of charge by Frederick Landseer Maur Griggs from Chipping Camden. He was instrumental in founding the Camden Society in 1925. The unveiling was 1926. There is a very comprehensive list of what you are not allowed to do on the Green posted around the place too.

The path leaves the road at the gatehouse/lodge and passes through the fields letting you have a great look at the rear of Baralaston Hall and another good view of the fantastic sash window shapes. There is even a private church, St. George's attached to the hall.

Below the hall are the lakes that seem to have been let for fishing. The lowest of the three, and smallest, seems to have silted up and got quite overgrown.

We got back and had a spot of lunch before setting off for a couple of hours. Mind you we got to the next bridge and the Plume of Feathers where I just let Helen off in the bridge hole so she could head up to the very handy shop for milk and a paper. I just held alongside and then headed off.

These were our first cygnets of the season, and it looks like there are nine.

We pottered on to the Meaford Locks that were largely our way, and we even had a boat at the bottom to leave the gates open for! We stopped for the day above Stone top lock. A nice walk of 6 miles and a potter down the cut to make a pretty good Sunday, and the weather played ball too. It did rain after we had tied up though.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Dead Greeks, bodies, potteries and canals.

 As predicted the weather was wet this morning. It started at 0430 and continued through until about 12:30. We decided to stay put and just pottered all morning. It was very pleasant, especially as I lit the fire. We were warm and snug inside with the rain coming down. 

By one o'clock we had had lunch and decided that as the rain had stopped, and the forecast was for occasional light showers we would set off. I got every thing ready and then just bow hauled 'Holderness' to the water point to top up with water. Frustratingly the skips here do not have recycling which I found a little strange with it being a place where folk will be about most of the time to prevent people abusing it. Just as we were taking water a boat arrived at the lock heading down and we were to follow them all the way to Trentham.

As we rounded the bend between the Caldonand Trent and Mersey Canals the other boat was well on the way down the lock. I had time to take a picture of the gauging dock that is on the knuckle between the two canals. This is where new boats were checked to see what their displacement was empty so that they could then assess whet tolls could be charged by adding weights to see how the draft of the boat increased. At one time it was covered. The other buildings behind the dock was the toll office and also a warehouse.

photo: 1961 © Copyright Robin Webster and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Here is the top lock in 1961. As you can see it was also covered so that the toll staff could check the drafts of the vessels and work out their due tolls in the dry. The roof was lost later in the 1960's.

The new sign posts at the junction are not quite the match of the old black and white ones, but the addition of a dragonfly atop the pole would not have been countenanced in the 'good old days'. 

The Etruscan Bone and Flint mill was built by Jesse Shirley and Sons in 1857. Bone was milled to provide fertilizer to agricultural, but it was also added to china clay and stone from Cornwall to make bone china. Flint was doused with water to reduce the dust and then crushed to the size of sand particles between mill wheels. This crushed flint was then placed in a a vat that had steel balls with in it. The drum  was then rotated by waterwheel, or in this case a steam engine. It was a local man Thomas Astbury who is said to have first used flint in pottery in 1720. It was used to add strength and resist cracking.

Helen was wrapped up as useual against the rain and the cold. The rain had stopped and it is certainly much warmer than it has been of late. Maybe that is why she is smiling?

As we had to wait a short while at the bottom lock I saw the top of Twyford's Cliff Vale Pottery factory building that I referred to in my blog 'Had a Look Round Hanley', 30th April 2021.

After the bottom of the five Stoke Locks you come to a cemetery on the east side of the canal. It looks very well laid out and spacious. The cemetery was a municipal one provided by Hanley Council soon after it had become a Borough. It opened in 1860. At this time private companies were providing burial sites as church yards became over crowded. This spacious site was laid out as to serve the public as a type of park to walk through. It still looks a nice place to wander. The cemetery was split into dissenters, C of E and Catholic. 6.5 acres for the dissenters (eg Mehtodists) and Church of England, and 2 acres for Catholics! There were over 3750 plots laid out! Class even got you in death as there were four classes of plot. The most expensive and for the prominent folk were on the high ground close to the chapel. 2nd class were a little further down the slope and 3rd class were down at the bottom and close to the canal, where it was badly drained. For the first two classes there were three different sizes of plot, at different prices. A first class plot 9' x 4' with a vault for 3 bodies cost £14. In second class the same size was only £9 12s. In third class you could not choose the site and it was less. Of course a parish burial was paid for by the church and would not have had a headstone.

The Chapels and the lodges were designed and built by Henry Ward and sons. In the centre the spire towers above the central arch that was for carriage access for funerals. Either side are smaller arches for pedestrians. Either side of the arches are two identical chapels. To the left (north) was the one for the dissenters, and to the south for the Church of England. Not only were they segregated by faith, but also class. The chapels had Minton and Co. encaustic tiles on the floors.

On the tow path side, close to Bridge 113 was the junction with the Newcastle under Lyme canal. It was where the garss edge comes down to the water. This canal opened in 1800 and was 3.6 miles long, but was hampered in being profitable as Sir Nigel Gresley's Canal opened in 1776. It came from the north east to Newcastle and was built to bring coal from Cresley's mines. He had secured the rights to import coal to Newcastle or 21 years, so long as it remained under 25p per ton! The new canal was able to carry coal, so long as it was only for the pottery industry. It therefore carried much more limestone than coal. The most money made for the shareholders was when the company was sold to the North Staffordshire Railway Co. in 1863! The northern part was closed in 1921 and the full length in  1935 and was filled in.

In this 1922 OS map you can see the junction of the canal and that it just heads to the north of the old Town Hall (bottom left hand corner). The new Civic Centre must be in roughly the same place and can easily be seen from the canal.

The rain started to fall a little more steadily for about 30 mins, so there are no more photos. We made steady progress meeting only one boat coming the other way. When we got to Trentham Lock we caught up with the other boat and he was waiting for a boat to come up. After the lock we moored up just past the winding hole for the night and settled for the night

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Ended up in Etruria.

 There was a little rain through the night but we woke up to sun after a good sleep. As the weather was nice we decided to go for a walk after breakfast.

We were moored just up the cut from Endon Basin which is now the home of the Stoke on Trent Boat Club, who worked hard to get and keep the Caldon Canal open. It was opened as late as 1904 and was a transhipment basin. Limestone was brought down from Caldon Low quarries by railway and put into narrow boats at this basin. It closed in the 1930's.

From the transhipment basin there was a little spur that crossed the canal and headed for Victoria Mill. The well known 'roundabout' was a swing bridge that carried the line. I had thought it was a narrow gauge line, but no, it was full size. You can see another short siding that was laid to a short wharf by the fixed bridge.

When excavating the lines they also turned up the locking device for the bridge etc. and they can be seen in this photo.

Victoria Mill was one of many and as we walked past the building we could see the old mill pond that had been beautifully landscaped as a garden.

We walked up to the smallish Stanley Reservoir. It seemed ominous that there was no water coming over the spillway! How empty would the reservoir be?

Stanley Sailing Club have a lovely setting for the wind powered sport, and the reservoir looks to still be almost full.

The climb to the top of the hill today was nice and gradual but we still had a great view of the distant hills beyond Endon.

The walk took us into the village of Bagnall which has some attractive buildings. The house nearest the camera is St Chad's House and is thought to have been built in 1603. It was the rectory at one time. It was remodelled in the 1800's and is Listed. The pub is the Stafford Arms and may have been built in the 1500's. It seems to have a good reputation and may well be worth the walk up here just for a pint and a lunch. Maybe next time we pass this way.

Outside the church, which looks older than its 1834, is this gold painted post box that represent a gold medal winner at the London Olympics in 2012. (Remember them?) It is for Lee Pearson a gold winner at the Equestrian Paralympic team, Open class.

The walk brought us round again to the reservoir where the upper  section is crossed by this causeway.

Rising up the valley side again we got to the village of Stanley that was nice and quiet with some lovely homes. There were also some that, in my opinion, shouldn't have got planning permission as they just looked very alien. There is plenty of money though. I didn't see a shop, but there was a pub, the Travelers Rest.

We did a little over four miles and were back aboard before mid day. We decided to get off and have coffee and cake after the Stockton Locks. We met a couple of boats coming up the locks and were behind a single-hander going down. At Lock four he let us go ahead as he said that he was waiting for a friend to come and help him. Thank you very much for that. We met a few boats coming the opposite direction. One of them we met at a bit of a bend and with a fisherman too. The other boat was honking his horn and then waving his arms. There was plenty of room for him, but he seemed to panic a little. I could go no further over as I was ducking through the trees!

We made good time and ticked off the milestones that we had passed on the way up the canal. Once through the Ivy Lift Bridge and back into the built up area, I was impressed with this view of the new housing that he been erected on old industrial land. Just round the corner is where the two bottle kilns had been preserved.

Hanley Park is a great example of a revitalised Victorian Park. The Pavilion is a special building and it over looks the band stand. The canal bisects the park and adds character to it.

Planet Lock was largely our way but the staircase only needed the top lock filling. It was just over four hours from Endon  that we moored up before the water point on a beautiful sunny evening. We had a cup of tea and then decided to walk up to the Tesco's to get stuff for the next few days before I did the checks for the morning and did a couple of little jobs whilst Helen made some potato scones for tea.