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Friday 30 April 2021

Had a look round Hanley.

It was a lovely sunny morning, but still with the cold wind. I got up to make the tea after the second boat had gone past, Stone bound, about 07:30!

We passed the Wedgewood factory. There was some talk of a factory shop visit but decided against it in the end. Soon we were up through Trentham Lock and heading towards Stoke.

Just before passing the incinerator and Stoke City FC's ground and under the road there are these bogie wheels that form seating. The Michelin Tyre plant is near by so I wonder if they were for moving heavy things around the plant.

This squirrel looked well fed and was not shy as we passed

There is along wharf with brick and door with occasional windows. It was the Colonial Pottery that was built in 1885 by Winkle and Wood. By 1890 Winkle was on his own, and then in 1900's it was sold on to the Hewitt Bros., but they continued to trade as F. Winkle and Co. They later moved from general earthen ware to sanitary products and by 1949 were part of the Doulton Group. The factory was demolished in 2000.

It certainly was a big place. You can see a narrow boat and horse just coming through the bridge.

Just a little further on, on the tow path side is this cross over bridge over a short arm. This was to another pottery that was set up in 1912, Gray's Pottery, set up by Albert Edward Gray. From wholesaling pottery he moved to buying white ware and then hand decorating. He sourced the best designers and artists and his wares were well sort after. He set his factory to make his own pots and made and decorated just about everything. The business was bought by Portmeirion Pottery in 1962 and the name was lost. There was another arm a little further on, on the off side where Dolphin cruisers, line dancing, air rifle range etc is situated. It was called Stoke Basin.

Just a little further on is the Trent Aqueduct. Not quite as impressive as those passed over earlier in the trip. The Trent is almost culveted as it passes on its way to Trent Falls. After starting out on Biddulph Moor it is a bit unglorious for it to be squeezed like this near the start of its 185 mile journey to the Humber.

These are the only bottle kilns that are left of the Cliffe Vale Pottery. The factory was built in 1887 by Twyford's, and it was here that the world's first flushing toilet was manufactured. It closed in 1994 and moved to Alsanger. It looks like student accommodation or flats now.

You cn see the last two bottle kilns next to the canal on the left.

We had help up the Stoke Locks by a couple of blokes who style themselves as 'unofficial' voluntary lock keepers. They were competent and said they were around most of the day. They didn't want to join C&RT as they wanted to please themselves about coming and going, shifts etc. With their help we were soon up at the summit level and making the turn into the Caldon at Etruria. We stopped to fill up with water as we had put a wash on as we headed up the locks.

James Brindley was watching as we topped up the tanks, and as we moved round the corner to find a mooring.

After a bite of lunch we decided to head into Hanley as we had stuff to buy from shops not found by canals. We walked up the towpath of the Trent and Mersey and saw the Round House. This is the only part of Joseph Wedgewood's original pottery built in 1769. Over it's life it was used for grinding colours and materials, a stables, a fire engine housing and a counting house. It was restored in 1885 and there was one on each end of the front of the building.

This old postcard shows the same round house in it hey day. It also shows how there has been a fair bit of subsidence as the roundhouse is now largely below the level of the canal. It is used for exhibitions today.

The municipal Hanley Telephone Exchange was built on four levels in 1900 and was not just thrown up. It has towers, scrool work and wonderful windows. It has escaped unaltered externally by the look of it. Lets hope it survives a bit longer.
On the corner of Foundry and Trinity Streets is this building that looks quite Art Deco but it was the offices of the local newspaper the Staffordshire Sentinel that was built in 1849. However it must have had a face lift later or more likely was rebuilt in the 1930's. It looks like it has been a night club more recently. There can't be too much Art Deco architecture left in the area, so I hope this survives.

This Victorian building is distinguished with it name in Minton Tiles. The building has raised in the 1880's and housed a Repertory Theatre, dance school, iron mongers and Liberal club before hosting Webberleys printers, stationer and booksellers in 1924. The business survived until 2016.

The Bethesda Methodist Chapel was known as the Cathedral of the Potteries. It was built in 1819 and replaced an earlier chapel. It was designed by a local architect in the Italianate style and is one of the largest outside of London. It was Listed Grade II* in 1972, but deteriorated, especially when it closed for worship in 1985. Luckily it is now in the care of the Historic Chapels Trust.

This building has more of the Minton Tiles and stands on the corner of Albion and Bethesda Street and was built in the 1850's It was abandoned in 2005 but was restored in 2018, but it still awaiting a tenant to bring it back to Life.

Outside the Civic Centre were statues of  novelist Arnold Bennet and Reginald Mitchell the designer of the Spitfire plane, both local worthies. But I was struck by this stainless steel statue that represents the workers of nearby Shelton Steel Works that are no longer. It was designed and built by Colin Melbourne.

There aren't too many of these back street pubs left now. This one was closed for a long time, but opened again some time before COVID. It looks like it still has separate entrances to the bar and lounge and still has a window with Worthington's Ales etched in it.. The I in Inn looks like it was painted gold at one time. I wonder if all the letters were.

Hanlet may not be the first place on the agenda of visits when you get out and about, but like everywhere there are plenty of things to see if you look. 

Thursday 29 April 2021

Gassed and Stoned.

 We had a lazy start today. What's new I hear you say, but today we were going no where until lunch time as we were heading to Canal Cruisers to have our gas checked. Helen went off doing some shopping for wool and some fresh food and I got on with a few little jobs about the boat. First the bracket on the TV aerial was so stiff I couldn't tighten it up. I worked the nut and bolt and added a little spray of WD40 and it was fine. I then screwed the plaque for the fuel cocks and battery cut offs to the new deck boards.  I then gave my self a pedicure. (Okay too much information I'm sure).

About 11:30 we moved off and went to the water point at the foot of Star Lock to fill up. As we were waiting for it to fill a guy came down from the road and offered some COVID test kit sets. Helen has to do test for her inoculation work and I picked some up from our local chemist and take them when ever Helen does hers. We are both getting to the last few, so it was a timely gift for us both.

The Star Inn after, which the lock is named, was probably built around 200 years before the canal. It had been a butchers and a slaughter house. It could care for 15 horses during the early canal era up until the 1950's. When the canal was opened in Stone cannons were set off with such abandon that the new Stone lock was badly damaged and had to be rebuilt. It became a pub in 1829

The next lock is named Yard Lock for obvious reason. When the canal was built Stone, which is almost half way between either end, became the HQ of the Grand Trunk Canal Co. They also had yards in this area too. The engineer didn't get round to us until after 14:00 and we were on our way just after 16:00. They are ordering a new regulator, hoses, and a thermo couple for the grill. Whilst they are at it I said to fit a bubble tester in the system too. We are booked in for a week on Monday on our way back.

Here, in the background, are the new buildings for Joules the brewers. There is their tap house and a theatre. They hve even bought the old fire station, but not sure what they are doing with that. I like the detail of the red crosses at eaves and the finials on the roof ridge. Apparently they are the same as the old Joules buildings next door.

Just around the corner are the old brewery beer stores with the same finials, red crosses and the sign writing too.

We dropped off our rubbish at the foot of Newcastle Road lock. The old Stone Boat Building chandlery has been taken on as a bike shop. Once in the lock this mallard hitched a ride as we rose up before flying off just as Helen get her phone out to take a photo. She did leave a massive calling card though. Not Helen, the duck!!!

About a mile further on you come to the Meaford flight of four locks. The bottom three used to be a staircase and the route ran to the west of the present locks. This is the bottom lock.

The pound between lock 2 and 3 is a little longer than the first, but not long enough for me to moor in it I think. The road bridge just before the last lock has had a belt and half the parapet has fallen over on to the canal side. I assume that any debris has been cleared from the water. At least we didn't touch anything.

The railway from Stone to Stoke runs just by the canal but you can't see it in this picture. It makes me think of a horror film. A could just see this lit for scaring you on a dark night!

Barlaston Boat yard was a going concern in 1879 with a timber yard. However the little arm is drawn in a dashed line which makes me think it was been dug at that time.

A little further up was a row of workers cottages, a little ruined by the addition of the garages on this end. I wouldn't say that if I lived there though I'm sure.

We passed the Plume of Feathers pub where there were several people under the massive awning in the garden and were soon at Barlaston. As we approached the winding hole it looked like all the moorings were taken so we just tied up before the winding hole.

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Burston and Beer.

 It started to rain about 21:00 last night and stopped around 02:00. It decided to start again about 08:30 so we were 'forced' to sit tight until around 11:00. It was quite amusing to see the faces of those steering the boats that passed as they got nearer and near due to being pushed sideways on to our mooring. That is one of the perils of mooring an a wide open spot, the wind was blowing strongly on to us. However the canal is pretty wide and should not cause a problem, even at tick over.

The usual thing  thing happened as I was ready to get underway as another boat came along going our way. I waited and paused a little before starting to get the ropes and fenders in and pushing off. Helen was aft to put the power on before we got blown back alongside. We were soon approaching the first corner and could then see the boat that had passed us on the side. They had obviously misjudged the wind and had got pushed alongside just clear of the last moored boat, so we got in front of them in the end.
In the 1860's William Simms Bull moved into Burston Hall. He was the eldest son of an Iron master from the Telford area who had followed the money and moved to Manchester. There he got into warehousing and invested in the new railways. He then bought land and built a house for himself near Newcastle, near the Potteries. The younger son took over the iron business but William, the eldest son styled himself a gentleman and seemed to own land and moved to Burston Hall. He later moved to Wales where he owned a slate quarry. His son, also William was born at Burston Hall in 1866. He went on to perform with the D'Oyle Carte Touring Co. between 1892 and 1900. He was later the stage manager for the touring company and by 1919 became the business manager until a new company was formed in 1927.

After passing Bridge 86 you pass Burston Villa that just peaks over the wall. The building closer to the bridge was an old mill.

Next time we pass we should stop and have a look round the village as it could be very nice with the mill pond having houses around it, and there is a pub in the village.

We then passed Aston Marina where we had 'Holderness' for a winter a few years ago. The boat that had got blown on the side had been right behind me, but as we approached the marina exit they had disappeared. I was going to let the overtake us at the lock.

We saw out first Canada geese goslings, but they wouldn't have been relishing the weather today.

The lock was our way and we were soon rising up and go a view of the original mile post. This is not only special as it is Listed Grade II, but it is the halfway marker of the Trent and Mersey Canal.

We found a spot on the end of the 5 day moorings that had a bit of access to sun, if there is any in the morning and after a bite to eat, went for a walk into town. It was very quiet. Helen went for a poke around the Charity shops and came a way with a new book. Meanwhile I ventured into W.H. Smiths. The shops never look as if they are open these days as the lights seem to be off somehow. They were open, and I got an OS map for part of our route that I hadn't covered with one. 

I had never noticed that the B&M on the High Street had be Joule's Brewery Offices. Along with Bathams bitter of Dudley, Joule's pale aleis a favourite beer of mine. It used to be brewed in Stone and was bitter rivals with Bass of Burton on Trent. Joule's started brewing in Stone in the 1840's I think. Before them Monks brewed a beer at the nearby priory until 1767. They blessed each barrel of beer. When John  Joule started brewing he took the red cross as his trade mark. It was the 6th oldest beer trademark. You will see the red cross always had the words Trade Mark on either side, and not on a white background as it is the same cross as the Red Cross used to indicate aid. No.1 is the Bass red triangle, No.2 the Bass Diamond and No.3 the Guinness harp. Joule's pale ale was exported before Bass's pale ale to Indian and America. Bass got controlling power over the Joule's brewery by buying shares from a dotty wife of a relative and promptly closed the brewery in Stone down! It was a major employer, and there was hell on. Years later Molson Coors owned the recipes and trademark and in 2008 these were taken under licence and brewing started once again. The brewery is now in Market Drayton and well worth a visit, as is the brewery tap. In 2017 and half a million quid secured the complete rights to the trade mark and name and is once again fully independent

They have bought Crown Wharf from the Canal and River Trust and are building a new pub and venue. This is above Yard Lock and next to Canal Cruising's yard. There will be a theatre and they have even bought the old fire station. All much delayed due to COVID, but I will be back.

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Walking with Stiles.

 It was 10:30 we we set off for another walk this morning. And of course it had started to spit with rain just after 10:00. Luckily it never got any worse than that and I haven't had a waterproof on at all today.

Today we turned in the opposite direction on the tow path and headed towards Stone. We turned off at Bridge 86, Upper Burston Bridge, and headed off to the south west. First there were two bridges to negotiate and then find the correct path. 

There was a good flow on the Trent in this area, and some of the farms in the area are owned by the Severn Trent Water Co.

Our route today was right on the edge of the map and this bit looked a bit complicated, and it was on the other map!! We managed to get the right on and headed on up the gentle side of the valley.

There are plenty of fields to cross on this walk and that means plenty of stiles to cross. Some were fine, some were falling to bits and wobbly and some had either a very high step up or a very high bar to get your leg across, and some had both! Mind you it does do for an all over work out after a day of hoisting your self over them. Oh yes and many of the fields had sheep and lambs in them. I think these three all belong to the ewe. I wonder if one was adopted?

As we climbed gently up the valley I was struck by this tree not far before we arrived at the hamlet of Marston. It seems in England the difference between an hamlet and a village is a hamlet does not have a place of worship! And is generally smaller. In that case Marston is a village as there is the church of St. Leonard that was built in 1794. Apparently Marston means marsh/farm settlement. I wonder if Bass Brewery know that?

The path takes up to the fence of an obviously government/military depot with some very large buildings. There was no sign of life, or cars etc so must be inactive at the present time. Stafford seems to have a lot of military depots and camps and even an RAF Stafford. Hopton, or more accurately Hopton Heath, was the scene of a battle of the English civil war. In 1643 Sir John Gell for the Parliamentarians, fresh from the capture of Lichfield, decided he would take Stafford that protected the supply routes for the Royalist. He met up with reinforcements from Cheshire led by Sir William Brereton at Hopton Heath. Meanwhile King Charles had sent the Earl of Northampton had been sent to control the midlands for the crown. He met up with the forces led by Henry Hastings at Tamworth and arrived at Stafford on 18th. On the 19th the Battle started in the afternoon. There were 1200 Royalists and 1400 Roundheads. There was a artillery barrage from both side and after initial skirmishes the Royalists mounted a cavalry attack but were repulsed. They tried twice more and even lost The Earl of Northampton when he was unhorsed and refused quarter. In the end the Roundheads left under cover of darkness. Both sides claimed victory, however the Parliamentarians lost 500 men and the Royalist 50, largely due to their use of cavalry.

The undulating countryside gives views across the valleys and makes for interesting walking.

There were some lovely paths through woods and thickets that broke up the field walking too.

This was the view from when we had our lunch sitting on a sandstone rock.

We started to use old tracks that had loads of wild flowers bringing colour between the hedges.

As we descended Pea Hill into Enson there was this old trackway that had been cut through the sandstone. At one time there had been a small quarry up the hill. It was very atmospheric as the trees nearly grew overhead. On the side of Pea Hull in the 1960's motorbike scrambling used to take place.

We have noticed on our couple of walks in the area that there seems to be lots of property that would make lovely projects. This is the Zion Chapel at Enson built in 1833. It doesn't seem to be used at the moment, but the door is freshly painted. I suppose that means that Enson is also a village rather than a hamlet!

From Enson we cut across the fields and through farms to get back to the River Trent and were soon back at Bridge 86 and heading back down the towpath to 'Holderness'. It was once again good to get the boots off and sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit. Once Helen had a look at her fit bit thing we realised why? It was another 8 mile walk!! Mind you I didn't sit for long as I couldn't remember whether I had changed the oil in the gear box so just to be sure I did it. It looks like I had done it as it looked quite fresh oil, but n o harm done. Helen even managed to stir her self and baked some scones.