Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Stoke-on-Trent to the Taft

Tue 2nd September

Stoke-on-Trent to Stone

James had a chat with the guys on Milly B III. They had a very friendly dog.

We used the facilities by Etruria Industrial Museum before leaving the Caldon Canal and turning sharp left to face the first of the five Stoke locks. 

Stoke Top Lock

Yarn bombers in Stoke – better than graffiti

Etruria Industrial Museum

A chap on a bike said he would help us with the locks, and he cycled to the next one to set it for us. It turned out his name was Rob. “Rob the Lock” they call me. After the five locks, he said “I’ll see you at Trentham Lock in an hour”.

Rob the lock in action

Interesting product range

 Modern incinerator at Stoke

The waterway is quite wide and deep on this four mile section, and almost exactly one hour later, at Trentham Lock, Rob was waiting for us with the lock ready. He had helped two other boats through in front of us.  We stopped for lunch just after and Rob joined us. We were on the moorings for the Wedgwood museum and factory.  Wedgwood had just announced an appeal for a few million pounds to purchase their collection of pottery to avoid it being sold off.

The Wedgwoo Factory

 Rob the Lock

We continued south to the four Meaford locks, where, once again, Rob was waiting. 

Heron posing

 Autumn colours at Meaford Bottom Lock

Stone welcome

As we went through the final four locks, in Stone, we spotted Stronghold moored up.  We said to Ray that we would walk back and talk to him. Rob left us to cycle back to Stoke-on-Trent, and we moored up near the playing fields.

Stronghold in Stone

We arranged with Ray to meet him at the Star Inn later on.  We had had a very disappointing meal several years ago at this ancient historic pub which overlooks the bottom lock.  We decided to give it another chance, but we still were disappointed. Hazel’s risotto consisted of a very small portion, with nothing else to go with it. It should have been a starter. The choice of cider was limited to Strongbow or Bulmers.  It is another case of prime location establishments not having to bother too much, as the customers change every day.  However, it was good to catch up with Ray.

14 locks, 9 miles, 4hr50

Wed 3rd September

Stone to Lower Burston

We visited the chandlery at Stone Boat Builders for some toilet blue, and picked up the monthly freebies Towpath Talk and Tillergraph.

We then found our way to Morrisons to stock up.  We were sad to see that the shoe shop had closed.  They had been very helpful in there, and we had made several purchases over the years.

We decided to reverse to the water point before setting off. This is fairly easy to do now that we have a bow thruster. 

Just over a mile further south is Aston Lock.  As we rounded the final bend and the lock came in sight, a boat had just left, and they said: “We knew you were coming so we left the lock open for you” “How did you know?”, we asked.  “Walkie talkie”, they said.

An old hut by Aston Lock

We only travelled another two miles, where we found a pleasant and peaceful mooring, with a wide towpath, at Lower Burston Bridge.

Moored at Lower Burston

Stronghold went past later, and so did Twelfth of Never.

1 lock, 3 miles

Thu 4th September

Lower Burston to Tixall Wide

As we left our mooring and went under bridge 85, we found some boats from Stoke-on-Trent Boat Club. Among them was Val, whom we had met at Endon Methodist Church on Sunday.  We gave her some BCF literature.

The Stoke-on-Trent Boat Club boats

Sandon Lock

The very ornate Salt Bridge

We passed through Weston upon Trent, and realised we had never stopped there to explore.  Next time.

We had a lovely view of a kingfisher which flew very close to us, and then we arrived at a lock queue at Hoo Mill Lock – four boats.

Great Haywood Junction

We turned right under the bridge at Great Haywood, and cruised slowly past the many moored boats boats at Tixall Wide, including Mistol, before finding a place near the end.  Rob had been doing some painting on his boat, and was now setting off on his bike to do grand parenting duties in Stafford.

A beautiful evening.

3 locks, 8 miles, 1 mouse 3hr 50

Fri 5th September

Tixall Wide to The Taft

Leaving Tixall Wide

We turned round and passed Mistol as we made our way to Great Haywood.  The water point was occupied with a boat waiting so we moored up south of the junction, and went to visit the farm shop.  This had some beautiful looking produce, and lots of staff, but very few customers. We soon discovered why: the prices were far too high.  We bought some milk but nothing else.

We needed to reverse to the now vacant water point. As we passed Great Haywood Junction, another boat was starting to come out of the Staffs and Worcs Canal. They didn’t seem to slow down until the last minute, and they almost collided with us.  There was also another boat coming down the Trent and Mersey from the north which made it all the more complicated.

We filled our water tank, and emptied our cassettes into their disgraceful hole in ground, for which they request payment of £1.  The first time we came here was in 1997.  They must have had quite a lot of pounds by now, and they have not made any improvements to this facility, which is one of the worst on the system, dark, damp and smelly.

Haywood lock was set for us by a boat leaving.  Colwich lock had no queue this time.

We stopped at the Taft to unload our PA system onto the quayside, and we had lots of help to achieve this. 

Sola Gratia and Maid of Oak at the Taft

We then proceeded to our mooring by bridge 79, where Hugo is in no danger of disturbing the wildlife at the Taft.  We moored by Hugo’s Tree, so named because in 2005 Hugo learned to climb trees here, with encouragement from Biggles, Roger and Mirjana’s dog.

2 locks, 4 miles, 1hr15

The rest of Friday 5th September is continued under “BBQ weekend at the Taft”

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