Familiar places, familiar faces

Sometimes, however early you start, you are not ‘the early bird that gets the worm…’

There were lots of other boats moored between Barlaston and Wedgwood on Thursday evening, the majority with bows pointing northwards, towards Stoke-on-Trent.

As the Captain untied the ropes at 0810 on Friday morning to head the quarter of a mile or so to Trentham Lock a big boat chuffed by.

Cleddau cruised under Bridge 104 at Wedgwood – and all three of the boats that had been moored there the previous evening had gone…

There was the Wedgewood factory on the right     – and ahead, in an orderly queue, were two other boats.

It was a slooooow process, the Big Boat chuffing into the lock and rising very slowly, while the rope-holding lady from the second boat felt embarrassed that she couldn’t go forward to the lock to speed things up as her husband had taken up residence in the bathroom.

Eventually, eventually, it was Cleddau’s turn for Trentham Lock,   then to chug towards Stoke, knowing that at least four other boats were ahead.

You cannot help but look at and admire the back gardens in Trentham and in Stoke. Many gardens and houses show signs of improvements – and this was the first of two back garden bars that were spotted.

Had the locals at Trentham lost their battle to save their meadow?     A couple of years ago there were signs here proclaiming something like “Hands Off Our Field”. Now it is surrounded by construction work fencing…

The familiar shapes of Stoke-on-Trent hove into view – the incinerator,  the city road intersections and the remains of old wharfs and workings.

Glimpsed through the trees were stockpiles of train wheels. A little further on the initials DB were seen on a warehouse: DB for Deutsche Bahn, a German railway company.

Along the towpath there seems to have been a proliferation of new signposts: it might be possible to find Trentham Lakes from the canal these days – and several miles and many more signs later this name (Chatterley Valley) appears. (Surely this was not DH Lawrence country…?)

Onwards past very familiar sightings: the baby River Trent, the concrete sides of the repositioned and rebuilt Stoke Bottom Lock,   a pair of bottle ovens in a residential setting, the Etruscan Bone and Flint Mill…  

At Etruria is the Top Lock of the Stoke flight – and wow, it does always feel pretty deep. (Research shows  that at 13′ 2″ it is the tenth deepest lock in England and Wales).  The Stoke five locks completed, it was on past the houses near Etruria where there’s another back garden bar … then the all too familiar sight of Middleport Pottery before Westport Lake.

Between Westport Lake and Harecastle Tunnel there are new mountains of rubble. What has been demolished here…?

At 1pm boat and crew arrived at Harecastle – and the Captain had booked a northbound passage for 3pm.

“You can go through now,” said the duty tunnel keeper. “It’s all clear. We’ll just check a few things.”

Tunnel lights working… Horn working… Roof cleared of obstructions…Waterproof jackets on…Life jackets on… Cabin interior lights on…

Away then at 1.10pm, through the tunnel, all alone, no boat to follow and no boats following. Was the water level lower than usual as the low sections of the ceiling seemed not quite so low.

North portal exit;   here the waters, leached into by iron ore, were as orangey-brown as usual.

Two blasts of the horn were sounded at Hardings Wood Junction to indicate a left turn.

For the first mile the canal is still part of the Trent and Mersey (Hi, Flirty Gertie) and still on this stretch, just beyond Red Bull Aqueduct, (at the fourth attempt) an overnight mooring was found for Cleddau. The view was familiar and good (Mow Cop folly)  but the wildlife was desperately new. On her evening stroll back along the towpath to check the next bridges Boatwif narrowly avoided stepping into something brown.  Brown with bits of yellow. There was a clutch of tiny ducklings (mallards?) tightly packed together, 11 of them, their mother watchful from a grass clump below.

During Saturday, back in Cheshire, (photo taken underneath the Poole Aqueduct in Kidsgrove) there was a boaters’ reunion! The fellow 2014 Wash Crossers on nb Chouette had returned from a trip down to the Bridgewater Canal. Patrick has in the past masterminded the Macc Canal Society Have A Lock On Us events at Bosley   There he was at Hall Green Stop Lock providing a free passage to Cleddau, raising  her the mere foot of water required to get through the lock.

(Photo taken by Angela from the footbridge).

In slow convoy the two boats wended their way from Hall Green to Scholar Green, to find a sunny spot and while away the afternoon with chat and tea and cake. 

Familiar indeed is the canal northwards from here.  Sunday saw Chouette tied up on her mooring, the visitor moorings at Ramsdell Railings empty    (no walking across the fields to Little Moreton Hall  this time). The day was heating up and young bull calves were quenching their thirst at the canal edge as Cleddau passed en route to Congleton.

Were these giraffes in a back garden thirsty too…?

The collapsed wall at Congleton Wharf has been rebuilt since last year. There was a chance meeting with familiar faces on the Wharf, fellow members of the Macclesfield Canal Society. And then the Cheshire Three arrived, reporting for an afternoon of steering practice. Lunch over, once the tricky trio of Congleton railway and road bridges had been negotiated, Cheshire Mum took first shift at the tiller.

Along to Dane Aqueduct at the bottom of Bosley Locks Cleddau cruised, under bridge after bridge, catching glimpses of familiar views,   (all at a far slower pace than seen in Techo Son-in-Law’s time lapse video, see it below)

The Cheshire One steered too before going below to work on exam revision.

Once at Bosley Techno cycled back to collect the car while the others walked up the flight to meet him at the top. The paddle gear at Locks 11 and 1 were chained to conserve water supply and to prevent usage outside of the current 0830 – 1300 operating hours.

In such familiar territory was Cleddau all but home? Just the flight of 12 locks, two movable bridges, the repaired leaky culvert at Macclesfield and 13 miles lay ahead. Experience has taught, though, that being on the home strait is never a guarantee of an incident-free onward journey…

Wedgewood (Trent & Mersey Canal) to Dane Aqueduct, Bosley (Macclesfield Canal):                                        20¼ miles, 7 locks,  1 tunnel

 2021 Monkton Moments*- 6

(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)

  1. Passing boaters on Audlem Lock flight: “I’m from Hav’fodwest…”
  2. Nb Serena crew at Market Drayton: spent winter lockdown with family in Narbeth
  3. Towpath walker above the Bratch Locks: “I’ve got a house in Freshwater East – the best beach in the world…”
  4. Towpath walker at Stourton Junction: “Ah, Pembrokeshire…”
  5. Not really /strictly a Monkton Moment* – a boater at Kidderminster Lock said: “If you put ‘Aber’ in front of your boat name it would be Milford Haven…”
  6. Boater at Bosley: “Did you name this boat or did you buy it with the name on?” He had sailed off the Pembrokeshire coast and remembered the Cleddau King car ferry.





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1 Response

  1. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    Everyone looks hale and hearty, thank goodness! My heart leapt at each picture with the oh so familiar faces, locks, buildings, moorings, and countryside. Cheshire in late spring and summertime is such a beauty!! Please give my best to Patrick and Angela, and Martine, Abi, and Tasha when next you speak with them.
    Love Jaq xxx

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