This was in 1971, three years before the canal was officially re-opened. The boat was "Gardenia" a partially-converted working boat that was being used by Stoke Boat Club as part of BW's "Keep the Channel Clear Campaign". Our first job had been to remove most of the concrete slabs from the hold that were there to replicate a load of about 15 tons as the theory was that in absence of dredging the passage of loaded boats would maintain enough depth of water for pleasure craft. Even so, our draught was rather more than 2ft and I recall an epic struggle over several days to reach Endon Basin and even that involved the use of a winch on occasion.
It was a lot easier this time and I found the Caldon fascinating. The lower stretches, around Hanley, are reminiscent of the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations) but whereas much of the industry that formerly lined the Black Country canals has been replaced by housing and retail sheds, the factories along the Caldon are still functioning, which, combined with some modern development leads to an intriguing mixture of old and new.
|Old and new on the Caldon. These potbanks aren't still working, but plenty of the canalside industry still is.|