Sunday, 10 August 2014

Friends (and light) at the end of the tunnel.

We left our lovely little mooring at Barlaston early Saturday morning and were soon cruising through the shady delights of Hem Heath where the gardens, which back onto the canal, can always provide some interest ……
….. so too can the occasional narrow boat on its private moorings.  The owners are obviously fans of that great film -“Priscilla Queen of the Desert”!
Soon we were on to shady delights of a different sort through Stoke and Hanley – there’s a lock in here somewhere!
Oh, here’s the lock.  Actually, it’s nowhere near as bad as it looks. In fact it’s quite peaceful passing through ……
….. and a bit further along, in the early morning sunshine, the cemetery looked quite welcoming too (in a strange sort of way).
This is one of James’ delights – Etruria Junction and the Etruscan Bone and Flint Mill of 1857 …….
…. you couldn’t invent the name could you?
As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog Etruria Wharf, situated at the junction of the Trent and Mersey and Caldon canals, was a busy and important point in the system and not only home to a boatmen's’ church but chosen by Wedgwood for his first famous factory next to the canal. 
As we left Etruria Junction we could look back to see the Caldon canal branching off on the left and the old ‘gauging’ lock that we’d just come through on the right.
Travelling along through “the potteries” of Middleport and Longport there are still a number of iconic old yards, some in better condition than others, which provide atmospheric glimpses into their once busy industrial past. 
We had a very slow journey through the  2926 yard Harecastle tunnel due to a very stupid bunch on a hire boat who decided to stop three times to take photographs. Cold, through spending twice as long in the tunnel as we should have done, we came out of the north portal and back into the heat of the day and the very orange looking water associated with this part of the system.  The walls of the locks are coated with this strange smelling orange slime but, as always, there’s something interesting to see – this time it’s a date brick reminding us of the precious antiquity of this little ‘parallel universe’ we enjoy.
After the tunnel experience we achieved the delight of our day and met up with friends with Les and Chris on nb “Eleventh Heaven”.  We’ll be enjoying their company for the next few days and our combined continuing journey soon brought us to the Red Bull and Lawton Treble lock flights.  Some of these locks are still working duplicates so, side by side in some cases, we made good and rapid progress down the flights.   Here “Eleventh Heaven” and “Chance” are on the starting grid for the one and only next lock (as Les was steering “Eleventh Heaven” it was ‘ladies first’!).
After the locks the boat keys were put into a bowl and the “women” ended up on “Eleventh Heaven” …..
……. and the men took control of “Chance” and had a good “engineering” talk for the short way to ……….
…… Rode Heath where we found a couple of spaces in these very good moorings.  The ground proved to be very hard and stony though which gave Chris and James a good old workout banging in the pins.
It wasn’t long before Les provided a wonderful cheeseboard, nibbles and a bottle of bubbly for the starving crew members which were enjoyed immensely in the sunshine.  Several towpath walkers wanting to join us (until they were told the entry price!). 
In the evening we had a charming meal of egg and chips on board “Eleventh Heaven” before which Chris and James enjoyed a pint of gin and tonic each.  Very tired, we parted company to hunker down for the night and contemplate the onslaught of the tail end of hurricane Bertha which was due on Sunday.

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