From the south, Stoke on Trent itself isn’t the prettiest of places to cruise into. It suffers from the typical neglected backsides of light industrial units, security fences, barbed wire, graffiti and litter entangled in overgrown vegetation. But it is what it is, and it isn’t the worst we’ve seen. At least here the town planners have realised what an asset the canal can be and the towpath is in good condition.
But there are some major highways that run close by so the mooring is either noisy, undesirable or non existent, and with 5 locks within the centre of town, it means that we have never stopped to explore the centre of Stoke itself. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I took the time to explore, Stoke could be a fascinating place with a strong industrial and creative heritage. However, we carried on cruising until we got to Etruria junction and the canal regains its prominence.
Many of the old wharfs have been repurposed to serve as CRT yards and workshops for the benefit of boaters and gongoozlers alike. And although many of the heritage buildings which were once a hive of activity for the canal traffic have been allowed to fall into disrepair.
At least one gem remains, the Middleport Pottery has thrown open it’s gates to the tourist trade and despite still being a working pottery, it welcomes visitors.
Although we were a bit concerned about it’s health and safety notices warning people to be careful near the canal
The abundance of coal and clay meant that Stoke was ideally placed for entrepreneurs and innovators such as Wedgewood and Spode to create a world famous industry here and why in the mid 1700’s Brindley’s team began to dig the canal where bridge 128 now stands.
100 years after the canal had been in existence Westport Lake was created , although not for the benefit of the local industry, Brownhills Colliery hit the water table and flooded both the mine and surrounding land. Nowadays its a local beauty spot along side the canal.
We were lucky enough to moor opposite the pottery and spent a few days walking around and enjoying the sights. (Middleport have daytime only mooring for visitors)
We would have loved to have done the factory tour, but it is still waiting for it’s release from Covid restrictions. We were allowed to walk around the site though, and it’s very atmospheric.
Most of Stokes bottle kilns have been dismantled now, although some just appear to have been abandoned.
As I looked opposite this decay I wondered if our descendants will feel the same nostalgia for the current factories if they are still standing in 50 years time.