For the first time in nearly a year we are cruising on new territory for Firecrest. Now that we don’t have any deadlines or commitments to meet, we are free to meander and explore again. It feels a bit like we are going on holiday, which is saying something, as a lot of people think life on a narrowboat is one long holiday. The Caldon Canal joins the Trent and Mersey at Etruria Junction. And is marked by a statue of James Brindley the engineer responsible for building of this Canal.
The potteries needed lime for their kilns, and a canal was the most efficient way to transport it from the quarries at Caldon Low, (which is the area to the east of Froghall). The proprieters borrowed some £25000 and completed it in 1778. The milemarkers measure all the way to Uttoxeter. But the section between Froghall and Uttoxeter only opened in 1811 and was closed within 40 years in order to built a rail track along it’s route.
The first few miles of the Caldon pass through the outskirts of Stoke, where the 2 bottle kilns from the Johnson Brothers pottery have been preserved as part of a modern residential area.
The canal also runs through the centre of a very attractive Victorian park, complete with bandstands and fountains. You’d think it would be an idyllic place to moor for the night but a local boater warned us against it.
But it wasn’t long before we were out in the open country side surrounded by noisy birdsong. We couldn’t resist going for an evening stroll along the disused railway through the cow parsley, it felt like we were in a different world after the expanse of the Trent and Mersey.
Our cruising took us on a twisting windy route through bluebell woods
And buttercup meadows
Some beautiful old stone bridges
And some frustratingly awkward angled bridges that you didn’t stand a chance of getting through unscathed if you met someone intent of getting to their destination.
There were a few swing bridges that still required a bit of effort, but they are so much quicker than the automated ones.
And some that had been partially removed, this one had a central pillar still in the canal, but at least we knew which way to go.
But despite the sections which needed a lot of concentration, this Canal has been a breath of fresh air and a real joy to cruise, made all the more enjoyable by some summer sunshine at long last. And we are in no hurry to complete this journey.