Everybody told us, “Don’t do it!”. Eyes rolled and various cheeks were sucked in as boaters, walkers and locals agreed that cruising the Caldon Canal, a 17-mile stretch of mainly very rural waterway, was a challenging prospect.
“How bad can it be,” I said to Pat. Our pals Fred and Lisa, had cruised it, and there is nothing in any of our guides to suggest it is any more difficult than any other waterway. But the blank looks and expressions of surprise, still kept coming. “There’s no water: you’ll be down your weed hatch three or four times a day: it’s not maintained: it’s all overgrown, and there is few places to moor safely.”
|Traditional pottery kilns stand alongside new development as we leave Stoke on the Caldon Canal|
Well, I am pleased to report that we are now back on the Trent & Mersey, after spending four days on the Caldon, and we were not eaten by bears or hi-jacked by Somali Pirates. It was a pleasant, though sometimes challenging journey, but we found moorings OK and there is no more rubbish in the Caldon, than anywhere else we’ve cruised. And although we didn’t see any (they only run at weekends at this time of year), the thought of a steam train running alongside the canal, was quite evocative, and I have included one of the said preserved railway as proof it exists.
|Could be a scene from 70 years ago. Taken near Consall on the Caldon|
The journey was helped, of course, by the weather, which over the last few days has been warm and settled. I think it was a lot hotter in the south, and we did get a fair bit of cloud, but we did break out the shorts and sunglasses on several occasions.
We liked Leek, where we visited to stock up on essentials last Friday. A new Waitrose had opened the week before and as we still get a good discount in Waitrose and John Lewis, it was worth the journey. I enjoyed the fine architecture, much of it Georgian.
Our first guest of 2014 arrived on Monday afternoon. Pat’s sister Monica, who lives on Vancouver Island in Canada, visits the UK every three years or so. The last time she visited us and saw The Cat’s Whiskers, it was a few days old and didn’t have a roof.
|Monica gets a conducted tour of an old working boat, moored at Etruria|
|Our very attractive mooring at Etruria, opposite the Brindley Statue|
We met Mon at Stoke-On-Trent station and after another evening in Etruria (and a very nice visit to the “Holy Inadequate”) we cruised south and moored beside the Wedgwood factory and visitor centre, where we had a really good day. We signed up for the full factory tour, and although there is still no trace of the three generations of Pat and Monica’s descendants, who worked at Wedgwood, it didn’t spoil our enjoyment of the Wedgwood experience and Monica bought some small pieces to take back to Canada.
|The girls check out some of the "Jasper" in the Wedgwood Shop|
|Monica earns her passage from Stoke to Stone|
|Dropping down into the outskirts of Stone|
We are now back in Stone, right opposite the railway station where we drop off Monica tomorrow (Friday) lunchtime. We are just yards from Roger Fuller’s boatyard – yes, that’s right Roger Fuller. We met him fleetingly last night and he seemed as bemused by the co-incidence as me, but he let us wind in one of his moorings in a little basin almost opposite us.
|One letter in it. Mr Roger Filler admires Mr Roger Fuller's boat|
We then head north again, through Stoke to Longport, where we are meeting some pals for dinner on Saturday night. Then it’s Hardcastle Tunnel and foot down as we hurtle further and further towards the North-West and Liverpool. We have received our permission to enter the docks for six days towards the end of June, so we have plenty of time to make the journey.