Wednesday, 19 August 2009


Heading south from Harecastle you're soon in Stoke. The city has a mixed reputation with boaters and those who prefer rural moorings and pretty views are usually quite vocal in their condemnations and attempt to get through the place as quickly as they can.
I used to be in the other camp. To me, the Trent & Mersey through Stoke was second only to the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations) for what is politely called "industrial archaeology" or, "grot", as we used to term it. Back in 1970s the canal passed through a thriving industrial landscape, most spectacularly running right through the middle of the steelworks at Shelton and passing a never ending series of potteries and factories. These days its a very sanitized environment and although nothing like Birmingham's waterfront - or even Manchester's - modern residential buildings predominate which makes it look just a little bit more like "everywhere else". Apart from Middleport Pottery, rescued from the receivers in 1999 and

still a going concern, there is very little of historic interest.

Stoke Locks bring some relief. The first time I negotiated these, back in 1970, was during a great thunderstorm when we were under instruction to bring a borrowed boat back to Stoke Boat Club for the night "at all costs". Having got soaked and, frankly, frightened stiff doing so, surprise was expressed that we intended to sleep on board. "Oh, If we'd known that, you could have kept it out....."

This time, the passage of the flight was undertaken in brilliant sunshine, although the five locks took us just an hour due to the number of other boats about. In Stoke itself (one of the "five towns" that make up the city of Stoke-on-Trent) the canal has been moved twice in recent years. Once in the 1970s to accommodate a new ring road and again a few years ago to make way for the "improved" ring road - which saw the canal back on its original course, albeit underneath a huge flyover. We stopped under said flyover so that Martin could shoot off and do a bit of shopping in the town and were just about to untie when we were passed by another boat that we then proceeded to follow for the rest of the day all the way to Stone, where it promptly dropped into the last available mooring that was anywhere near the pubs!

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