Cruising the Caldon
Wren is now exploring the Caldon Canal - a little detour before rejoining the Trent and Mersey through Stoke and up to Middlewich - we're getting closer to Shropshire every day. This part of the journey is a trip of reminiscence for Peter as he was born and brought up in the Potteries so he's been busy taking photographs of places he remembers - his old college which was actually being demolished as we cruised by! Tomorrow we'll carry on up the Caldon either by boat or bike before turning round and heading back to Etruria. Wren has to be through the Harecastle Tunnel (2926 yards long) by Thursday evening so that Peter can keep his musical date with Roger and Mirjana at the Blue Bell in Kidsgrove.
Over the last few days we've started seeing familiar names and places - boats from Ruyton X1 Towns, Market Drayton and Audlem, some Salopian beer at the Old Peculiar in Rugeley and the original Joules Brewery building in Stone (a very handsome canal side structure). From Fradley Junction to Stoke the Trent and Mersey Canal runs alongside the River Trent for much of the way and Peter has taken advantage of this by having a couple of swims near Shugborough where we spent a pleasantly hot Sunday afternoon and evening.
On Monday we took a lunch time break from the blazing sun in Stone before finally reaching our mooring at about 7pm in Barlaston, a village Peter knows quite well from his days of playing hockey for Michelin. After a good meal at the Plume of Feathers we took a walk uphill into the village to search out the village cricket club where the hockey matches were played, traditionally on a succession of freezing cold Boxing Days. There's still a cricket club but no longer any sign of hockey. We were then directed by a friendly local to take a circular route back to the canal via Barlaston Hall, the home of Josiah Wedgwood, another wonderful architectural gem which was made even better by being illuminated by the full moon (see the photo).
The trip from Barlaston into Stoke was fascinating moving from the rural to the urban and back to rural with distant views of the Staffordshire Moorlands - it all looked delightful in the morning sunshine! I'm really glad we decided to take this little trip up the Caldon even though we've encountered a couple of extremely low bridges (everything off the roof again) and one malfunctioning electric lifting bridge which had expanded in the heat - Peter and a passing cyclist jumped up and down on it a few times and that seemed to release the mechanism. Let's hope it works properly on the return journey.
As soon as a suitable mooring was agreed Peter began preparing the necessary equipment for a BBQ - something that's only happened once so far on this voyage. However, there was no cold beer on board so I had to go off in search of a shop which took a little time so the cook was a little thirsty by the time I returned. After that we spent a very peaceful evening reading and chatting to passing walkers and cyclists.
This morning Wren has continued as planned to Cheddleton where the winding hole was navigated and a mooring secured for the return journey. This really is a delightful canal - it meanders through farmland which rises slowly on each side. It's now lunchtime and the crew are now sitting in the Black Lion at Consall Forge - an archetypal riverside pub with beer, food and wifi!
Just one more thing, there's another Kingfisher sighting to mention - we saw one sitting on top of a No Fishing sign - he obviously couldn't read! Unfortunately the camera wasn't handy.