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Saturday 23 October 2021

Getting some sun and steps in!

 The sun didn't rise until about 0800 and we were off by about 30 mins later. We had an appointment to keep.

I have always loved autumn and I'm sure it is something about the light that just makes things so beautiful, almost soft focus. I took several pictures just to capture the light on the scenery, but I'm not a good photographer. Mind you I have it in my minds eye and I can remember walks and trips at this time of year when despite the cold, the sun on your back is really warming.

Helen was m not quite at maximum levels of tog and layers but she was taking no risks!

The wind picked up a little and another layer came out. Look at the sun on that tree!

The light reminds me of an African twilight and manages to make a canal and a few hedges look romantic.

Great Hayward Junction was the point that we started to meet more boats but nothing too bad at all. Wouldn't it look much better if the structure was painted white?

There were four boats waiting at the bottom of Colwich Lock, our last of the trip. Obviously Helen's computer thing had been talking to her as she decided to go off for a walk along the tow path to get her 'steps in'.

She walked to Wolsey Bridge and just through the bridge and along side the big house the River Trent was easy to spot now that the scrub has died back a bit and the leaves have fallen a little.

As  the canal approaches the Taft the trees hold sway until the disappear and the horizon open up to the railway and the hills of Cannock Chase.

And here she is with a cup of tea and my birthday cake, Victoria Sponge, as requested, made by her own fair hand. When we were in Morrison's in Stone they had a Victoria Sponge with real cream, and twice the diameter for £4!! That is ridiculous, and Helen's was absolutely superb too. It is a good job it is not your birthday every day whilst Helen's computer would be working over time telling her to get her 'steps in'.

This old wooden cruiser at the bottom of a garden on the outskirts of Rugeley is pulled up almost out of the water. The graveyard of the church is next door. Some who appropriate.

She is off again! You can see right to the end of the tunnel travelling in this direction, but coming the other way there is a bend before you get to the tunnel. That watch is at it again and she was off to get the 'steps in'.

I wanted to get back to Kings Bromley in good time to ensure I could fill up with fuel. As it turns out we had few delays and there were less boats moored than normal. Pearson's says it takes four hours from Great Hayward, but our experience is it is closer to five. As it was there were two other boats waiting for fuel so it was 1500 by the time we were back on our moorings. I decided that I would then wash the boat before it got dark as it was such a good afternoon. That is another property of low level sun light, it shows all the much on the boat up. It certainly looked loads better for doing. We then hopped into the car to Alrewas to meet our favourite Lock keeper and his Mum for a meal at the George and Dragon. It was lovely catching up and seeing his Mum so well too. I got birthday presents too!! Did you know that the volunteer lock keepers finish for the winter soon. He had been on at Fradley in the morning and only had two boats come through. He went home at 11am. All in all a very satisfactory birthday, and another years boating done I suspect.

Friday 22 October 2021

Sunshine and Showers from Stone.

 It rained in the night but was a nice if blustery day when we got up. We went for a walk into Stone to go to the local 'stack it high sell em cheap' shop. We had called as we passed the evening before but it was closed. And it was closed again. They had big packets of Garibaldi biscuits and it is something our son likes so we were going to get him some to take away to sea with him when he goes away again next month. We will have to think of something else now.

As we lowered down Limekiln Lock, I think it was, the bridge had a roller like this on each corner of the bridge. They are in disrepair and it wont be too long before they drop to pieces. Do you think the C&RT would replace this sort of thing? If it isn't Listed, and it no longer serves a useful purpose to keep the waterways running why would then. However I think that this sort of thing is important to preserve as it is entirely in context and once gone will never be the same. I love to see the rope scars on the rock of the bridges and on the iron protectors too. I suppose there is the argument that if they replace the stone work they wouldn't be expected to put false rope cuts in the new stone. Mind you plenty of people pay good money to have false rivets on their modern boats! I have never understood that myself.

I have always assumed that weed in the water is a sign of good water quality. I'm not sure if that is true but some of the Stone Locks have plenty of it. I wonder if a survey has been undertaken to see what the habitat of a lock includes. It must be fairly specialised as it is alternatively submerged and then dry. Like the inter tidal zone. I took the photo really to show that the sun had been shining, just in case it was the last we saw of it. It wasn't. I also noticed that the statue of Cristina Collins at the bottom of Yard lock is falling to bits. As it was wood it is hardly surprising really. The death of Cristina Collins was exceedingly big news in 1839 when she was raped and murdered by the crew of a fly boat on the way to London. She told the lock keeper here in Stone that she was cared of what may happen to her, but she was told to report the crew when she got to the other end. Her body was found by the Trent viaduct just before Rugeley. I wonder if the statue will be replaced?

As we approached Aston the storm clouds in the distance contrasted nicely with sun shining on the bridge and the trees.

The nice white cottage just before Aston Lock was part of a Flint Mill in 1880. There was another building at right angles to the blank walled on closer to the camera and leading away from the canal. It was disused by 1900.

Helen was doing the locks again, despite them bring 'down hill' as her Fitbit wrist thingy was telling her she needed to do more steps. I have caught her pacing up and down the boat just trying to satisfy this inanimate object she can do another 70 steps in the hour! It is weird how addictive it seems these things can become. It helps me to understand how some get radicalised as terrorists, as repeating the message often enough seems to cause you do some thing that you wouldn't normally do. Not quite a perfect analogy as Helen would normally do exercise, but maybe no be bothered about exactly how many steps. Why is 10,000 steps that much better than 9,999? Yes, I know you can change the targets. The photo was taken as Helen was having to do high hurdles as well as walk as when the gets at Aston Lock are open they are pretty high and the handrails stop you walking round the beams. There is no option to haul yourself over them, or close the gate again.

There were lots of groups of Canada Geese along the canal today. It seems that in each big group of these geese resided one or two other species. In this group it was a lone grey lag goose, in another it was a lone Aylesbury type duck etc. Does this mean that the Canada geese are very inclusive and tolerant of outsiders, or that the loner has perpetrated some heinous crime in their own community and is seeking protection from their own kind among these thugs? I also wonder what proportion of the Canada geese now reside in the UK and how many still commute to foreign climes.

The old station at Sandon is a private home, but still has the large covered area at the front, or porte cochere where the folk from the big house could drive their carriage under and alight in the dry. I noticed the diamond patterns in the brick and thought they look a little random and not really adding to the whole. It seems this type of brickwork is called 'diapering'! It comes from the Greek dia for cross or diamond

We are a week or two early to get the best out of the trees, but along this stretch by the railway and Sandon Park the trees are very varied and provide a good mix of clours already. They also give a mix of textures too. I suppose this will be down to the mix of trees planted for the family of native and foreign trees.

Just another photo showing off the the dark clouds ahead against the sunlight on the trees and boat. I only had to put my coat ion once and as I could see it coming I had plenty of time to don it. It didn't last long either.

By the time |I had got to the end of the moorings of the last photo the black clouds had blown away and we were back to the sun once again. I think the Union Flag should be flown more, but I suppose when we lose Scotland and possibly Wales we will have to design a new flag. Any ideas?

We moored up at Weston on Trent, not the one towards Shardlow, that would have been a good days run. As soon as we slowed down these cygnets were begging. These are obviously the offspring of the pair that can be seen opposite the moorings taking food from the low hung bird feeders holding fat balls. I wonder why Mum and Dad haven't taught them that skill yet? Maybe they are still a little short of neck just at the moment. When does a cygnet become a swan? It takes them 4 to 10 months to learn to fly well enough to leave their parents. They start out grey and slowly turn brown over the next few months by the time they are one year old they are white but still have the grey/pink beak. They go off and live with other swans until they reach maturity at about 4 years old and then find a mate.

We went for a meal at the Saracens Head which is just by the moorings. I hadn't been for a few years and the last time it was a bit of a run down pub that sold larger and fizzy beer, and not a place to linger. It has changed, a lot! It was steak night so Helen had a gammon and I a sirloin that was lovely, arrived quickly etc etc. We really enjoyed the night, and the food and wandered back to the boat to watch a bit of tele, well contented.

Thursday 21 October 2021

Soggily from Stoke to Stone.

We were going to stop for the next night around Barlaston, or the Wedgewood Factory, but we decided to go through to Stone as if it was going to be wet we may as well get it done when wet anyway! 

We set off fairly early but a boat had already gone down, however we did meet boats at all of the other locks so it was a busy ole day on the whole. It actually never really threw it down just 'heavy' drizzle every now and then. But once again it was warm with no wind to speak off, so not a bad day.

I'm sure I take this photo every time we come through Stoke Locks. This is Cockshutts Lock with the railway bridge right next to it, just up from Stoke Station.

Again an old favourite photo, of the River Trent as it passes beneath the canal on its journey to the Humber. We have been on every navigable bit of it too.. More water in it today than when we passed heading north. Not many photos today as it was a bit wet and we have been this way a fair bit recently it seems.

Just by Sideway Bridge is this winding gear stock from a colliery nearby. In fact it was on the other side of the canal and was from one of the two pits that formed the Stafford Coal and Iron Company works at Great Fenton. It was started in 1885 and finally closed in 1969. It had an explosion in 1885 when seven were killed and it was used for training 'Bevin Boys' in WWII'.

It had the most elaborate square profile chimneys and engine house buildings in brick and stone. Where the complex was is now where the Stoke City Ground, Britannia Stadium is today.

This is what remains of the Trentham Branch Line bridge that  was a short line that went to Trentham Gardens. It was opened in 1910, but by then road traffic was taking the passengers away from the rails. However it was at its busiest in WWII as the Bank cheque clearing house was moved to the ballroom at Trentham Estate and many timetabled trains ran to the station there. After the War excursion trains ran from the West Midlands occasionally, the last one being 1957.

We moored up for the night above Limekiln Lock in Stone and later went for a walk to find the Borehole Brewery Tap for the Lymestone Brewery that is just in the Mount Industrial Estate by the pub. This mini pub has been created from an old office building on the original site of the Bents brewery and is over the borehole used to make that beer. Hence the name. It had been a music school at one time too.The Lymestone Brewery is on the industrial estate behind too.

We had the stove lit and the TV on for a nice lazy evening, what could be better after a couple of pints.

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Raining on Both side of the Hill.

 We set off about 0830 as we had a tunnel passage to sort out. The weather was dry, but once again really dull.

At Kent Green there is a swing bridge that seems to be always left open. Just opposite is a cottage that is called Toad Hall or something like that. The boat, called 'Rosie' externals the merits of finding Jesus and this is where they live. They continue a history of boats on the cut spreading the word of Christ and missionary boats. The Boaters'Christian Fellowship and the Canal Chaplins are also spreading the word in their own way.

We arrived at the tunnel entrance about 1020 and were told that we would have to wait about an hour as there was one southbound over half way through, then there was one to come north and then us. We set off at 1125 and we were just over 30 mins to the other side.

There were four boats waiting at the south portal, and the first one heading in now. It was drizzling at both ends of the tunnel!

Westport Lake is natural, and not due to subsidence or similar. It is the largest body of water in Stoke on Trent. It was developed into a pleasure resort in 1890 but fell into wasteland. It was one of the first regeneration projects in the city and it re-opened in 1972 as a recreational and conservation area. The visitor centre is run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and the Stoke on Trent City Council, but interestingly it is owned by C&RT!

Top Bridge Works was a pottery that started in 1793 for Davenports who had other works in the area. In 1891 it was taken over by W & E Corn, who in turn were taken over by Price Bros. They merged with Kensington Pottery and became the Price and Kensington Pottery in 1963, and later they were subsidiaries of  Arthue Wood and Sons. The main product here was tea and coffee sets and novelty tea pots. In 2003 the company went into administration and production stopped here. The factory follows the development of the compan'ys as extra buildings were added as they were needed so the development from 1793 to 2003 can be seen. It may not look it but this very important site is Grade II Listed and has even had money spent on the chimney and bottle kiln to help preserve it. Something will have to be done to preserve this site by re-purposing it. It is a massive site and would make incredible mixed use in my opinion, but it will take lots and lots of money and somebody with a vision.

Further round to Longport this artist was just starting out with his latest creation. The concrete fence painted blue has many beautiful art works on already. What will this one become?

This is one of those already on the wall.

Rather than another photo of the Middleport Pottery I thought I would take one of the chimney pots of the terrace of workers houses that are opposite the factory. It seems that they are being done up.

Next to Middleport Pottery is the old Anderton Co. Warehouse with the date 1890 above the name. It was a canal carrier but the warehouse has been taken over by the pottery for storage.

We headed to Etruria and topped up with water and dumped the rubbish. However there was no room before the staircase lock of the Caldon Canal. So we winded and headed back up towards the Toby Carvery. We winded at the wide there and moored up back towards the locks, near the 'gas place'. Passing the Toby Carvery put the idea of a 'Sunday dinner' in our heads, so we walked up and indulged ourselves. No starter, no pudding and as many vegetables as you can eat. It was a nice enough meal, and more so as it was not planned.

Monday 18 October 2021

Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill.

 We set off a little earlier than normal to get to the top of Bosley Locks about 0930. It was raining when we set off, but we were banking on the forecast saying ti would soon stop. And by the time we got to the locks it had!

The lock keepers were just coming on duty, but they were walking down to the bottom as a hire boat had requested assistance to come up. Helen normally works the windlass on the way up locks and I do them down hill. Here is Helen with her usual pose of watching the cill like it was going to bite her!

I wonder if this Macclesfield Canal boundary stone is in its original place at the off side of the lock, by the lower gates.

Here is Helen on her way to the next lock and looks like a Tuareg nomad dressed up with scarf etc. It was a little cooler than the last few days but there was no wind again.

We passed six boats coming up and some of the pounds were a little low, and Helen grounded in one of the pounds for a short time.

About half way down there was a few red painted sheep in a a field of 'normal' sheep. I wonder what that was about?

Here is Helen at the bottom about to make a turn into the last lock, No.12. There were a few delays on the way down as we waited for up bound boats. The hirers were first timers and they didn't want to upset anybody so had asked the volunteers to help. It comes to something when people new to the canals are so worried about getting aggro from other users. On their way down the keeps had opened the top gates on the full locks which sped us on a little. In the end it was 1hr 45mins top to bottom.

Crossley Hall Farm House has been upgraded and the farm buildings have been changed into rental properties. The Hall is Grade II listed and was built in the late 16th or early 17th Century. It certainly looks pretty flash now. The cow that graced the wharf by the farm buildings seems to have found a home in the garden of the hall itself now.

The gloomy day was enhanced by the trees enclosing the cut. Things were enlivened by a few patches of colour in their leaves.

Just before the Shaw Brook Aqueduct is Vaudrey's Wharf. Charles Vaudrey built the wharf at the time the canal opened in 1831 to service his silk mill in Bath Vale. Soon afterwards the railway came to the valley and it became a useful transhipment and merchants wharf. Cheese, timber, coal, sugar cotton and pottery etc was handled here. It had been leaking and there were worries that it could breech and would need blocking off. I'm not sure if this has been resolved or not.

At the aqueduct there are several of the sandstone two hole fencing posts that are very similar to those listed at the Styperson Aquaduct. They even have oil and grease marks where the old redundant wires from pit winding gear has been used. In the distance is the River Dane railway viaduct from 1841, well at least some of its 23 arches.

We moored up in a quiet spot near to Bridge 81 as we had a mission to undertake. We were going siteseeing.

We were going to climb up to the ridge line to visit Mow Cop. We chose a route that didn't go straight up but angled up the steepish side. The west side of the hill has been extensively quarried and the evidence is there to see. As we cleared the tree ine we trained to follow this curving path, that very much looks like a plateway that would have been used to move the stone about. This was built about 1807 but didn't seem to last very long at all. Due to the dip of the rocks the coal seams were more easily worked on the west side of the hill. A 'railway' was built with a tunnel to take coal down to the Macclesfield Canal near Kent Green. I will have to explore that the next time.

Just near the ridge line is Corda Well. There were several wells along here, but this one was never known to go dry and was used by folk from all over when the others did. In the early 1900's the land owner, Lord Egerton, leased the the well to the Congleton Water Authority and it was piped down following the route of the plateway to a tank near Lime Kiln Farm. From there it was fed to a water tower to feed the town.

Once on the top we were back on the Gritstone Way long distance footpath, and it soon had us at the Old Man of Mow ad stands 65' high. It is most likely just a bit of poor quality gritstone that was left when the better stuff was quarried from around it. Some say that is was left on purpose as a nod to the ancient cairn that stood at the high point before it was removed by the quarrying. Who knows. By the way it seems that non locals call the place Mow Cop as in mow a lawn, where as locals can is Mow as in cow. However both are also correct as the name refers to a local name for a mole or mo.

Mow Cop Castle was built by the Wilbraham's of Rode Hall in 1754, as a summer house type folly that could be seen from the hall. It had a room with in it too where they would boil a kettle for tea! It has been a place of great dispute as it went to court as another local landowner took the Wilbraham's to court as part of it was built on his land. The court decided that he had a claim and they should share ownership and costs of repair. Later in 1923 the land and the castle were sold for quarrying and the public were up in arms.  Solicitors grew rich on the dispute as it dragged on until 1937, when, despite quarrying all around the site, the rest was given to the National Trust and it was saved. Mow Cop is also the place where Primitive Methodism was founded. Hugh Bourne was a Methodist but when the church was full he decided to hold a Camp Meeting at the Castle. It was poorly organised but many came for the 14 hour service. Subsequent meetings were held with larger numbers. The official Methodist Church frowned on the camp meetings and when William Clowes, who also held camp meetings was band from the Methodist Church, they clubbed together and formed the Primitive Methodist Church.

The walk back down to the canal was following the South Cheshire Way, and was through an old wood that was a bit muddy underfoot. It was quite dark when we got back to the boat, not as we were so late but as it was so overcast and dull. It was another 6 mile walk under the belt.

The stove was lit and Strickly results put on and a bottle of beer broached as a reward!