7th September 2014
To B404, Trent & Mersey, near Trentham
13 Miles, 15 locks
Once again today was all about having fun with friends - Cal and Bri who live in Stoke. This was a repeat journey of the one we made with friends, Jane and Chris, last Saturday 30th August – just in reverse. Having had a few grey days Cal & Bri brought the sun with them – we had blues skies and a very warm sun shining on us nearly all day. As with Jane and Chris this trip allowed Cal and Bri to see their home city from a different perspective and it made it all the more interesting for us.
They both got stuck in leaving Monty and I to supervise! Chris and I could get used to the idea of having ‘staff’ to do all the work!!
We were lucky at quite a few locks today with boats coming out of quite a few locks as we arrived and no queues
This is Cal snapping me, snapping her!
I was very glad to have Bri to do this lift bridge – he made it look so easy, but it had been a real ‘work out’ for me on 30th August!
Cal reliving her youth taking a trip down the gunwhales
All too soon we were at Ivy House Lift Bridge which was open again. When we came down this way another boat had opened it and let us through, but this time it was up as the road was closed due to road works! I had been looking forward to stopping the traffic, but it was not to be.
Maybe this is the time to admit what happened to us when we were last on this canal some 27 years ago. There was a crew of 6 on a hire boat – Chris and I, our children aged about 11 and 9 and Chris’ brother and partner. It was April and very cold. At one of the locks in the Stoke flight a paddle would not shut. BW had to be called and a large pound drained. It transpired that it was a motorbike that was blocking the paddle – it was jammed fast. As you can imagine it all took a long time to remove it and refill the pound before we could go on our way along with quite a few others in the resulting queue. In some ways it was fortunate as when we were talking to the BW men they mentioned that we needed a BWB key to open Ivy House Lift Bridge – something the boatyard had failed to supply us with despite the fact that they knew we were going up the Caldon. Thinking back we are wondering how we managed to get water – maybe less things were locked in those far off days? Anyway we made a diversion up to the Black Prince boatyard to buy a key and then headed back to the Caldon. It had been a long day, but we had been warned not to stop in Stoke, so continued on despite it getting slightly dim. Chris was left on the stern whilst the rest of us sat down to dinner (we did keep some for Chris!). Suddenly the engine was thrust into reverse, but too late – we hit Ivy House Lift Bridge! There were so many very low pipes across the cut from one factory to the other that Chris just assumed it was another low bridge! Not too much damage was done and the boatyard had to accept liability as they had not even provided us with a key never mind given any warnings. In those days I very much doubt that we had a Nicholsons to follow. I always try to remember how ‘green’ we were when we come across hire boaters in a spot of bother.
Monty always has a bowl of nice fresh water on the boat, but I guess if someone is willing to ‘hand feed’ really fresh water it would be churlish to refuse! Thanks Bri!
We had intended stopping in Etruria, but the weather was so good and we were all having too much fun to stop, so we turned back into the Trent and Mersey to find someone coming out of the top lock, so off we went.
When we got to the bottom lock, Bri jumped ship to walk back up to Etruria to rescue their car.
Do you remember the ‘Tacle shop’ from our journey on our way up?
I got a picture of the spelling error this time
When we arrived at B104 Bri was waiting for us.
They went off to rescue the other car, pop home to change and then we all went out for dinner at their local Harvester.
A rather appropriate thank you card was left behind (Cal and I met through card making, so it had to be done!). Good photo Cal! Now I wonder where she got it from?
A quick update with some of Cal's photos taken on the day and some prove that I do sometimes take the helm!
Today we went to the Wedgwoo Visitor Centre – I wonder where the ‘d’ has gone?
It was worth the trip. From the sign by bridge 104 that says it is a 30 minute walk it took us 20 to get there and 17 to get back and we were stopped at the level crossing both ways. We are not fast walkers (well I’m not which keeps Chris in check!) and we had time to stop and look, listen and take photos.
Over the level crossing past the house with the recycled gates
up the hill (well slope) past Wedgwood cricket ground
Turn left by the new David Wilson homes and then follow your nose around the car parks.
There is a lot of construction going on, but everything is accessible. We decided to add a guided factory tour to our trip and we would both say it is worth doing. One tip – we went on the 3pm tour (the last one is at 3:45) and there was just the two of us. There must have been the full 15 on the tour before ours. The guide told us that the last two of the day are usually very quiet, so aim for one of them. We would advise arriving quite a bit before then as there is a lot to look at in the museum.
We were taken around by a man called Ian after the obligatory H & S talk ‘stay within the black lines, don’t touch anything and no taking of photos’. All sound advice. As with all industries they have their own language. We learnt about ‘fettlers’ and ‘spongers’ (they trim off seams and rough edges and then sponge the item ensuring it is all smooth. The insides of, for example, teapot spouts are sponged with a sponge on a stick called a ‘diddling stick’. Finally we met some ‘wet wagglers’! They are people who create the decorative parts that are put onto Jasper Ware (think the classic blue and white, but they do a lot of other colours as well of course). The clay is pressed into a plaster cast mould ensuring no air is left, they are smoothed off and then the wet waggling comes into play – it is the art of removing the piece from the caste. They make it look so easy. We both knew it was a very high skill factory – we only saw one machine (apart from the ovens) and that is pretty much the same as the one in the museum that is 250 years old. It enables the craftsman to produce stripes on Jasperware. Check this out to see an example. The craftsman we saw has been doing this for 40 years – he has a plug on his machine, but he has never used it preferring to use the original hand operated wheel.
There is a large section of very skilled craftsmen and women working on the prestige pieces – all hand painted and most with a fair amount of gold. The 22 carat gold comes in liquid form at £28,000 a kilo! We were not tempted.
After the tour we visited the demonstration area where you can talk to the craftsmen and women and get a really good view of what they do.
We finished the trip with a little shopping – we treated ourselves to a new wine bottle holder for home
It is amazing what sort of instructions they have to add these days – surely no one would use this to store food whether it is hot or cold?!
and a couple of replacement mugs for the boat. What better way to try them out than with a nice cup of tea and a slice of apple and cinnamon cake.
As we were about to leave the lady who had served us was talking to us about the financial troubles they have been suffering – she seemed fairly positive that they will make it. Certainly the amount of construction and plans makes it all look very hopeful. We mentioned that we had been before about 27 years ago when we last came past on a boat and that the children had been given a very small demonstration pot each. We had taken them back to the boat and put them in a very safe place only to forget them and go home without them! She immediately picked up the phone and a very nice gentleman came over to give us two more!! At least if we leave them on the boat this time we can go back to get them! So Mark and Sarah you have a gift to look forward to!!
All in all a very good way to spend an afternoon. The factory tours end on 31 October each year and I am not sure when they start again.
Time for a few stats:
Totals to date since leaving home on 23 May – 568.25 miles, 311 locks
To Tardebigge top lock 60.75 miles, 47 locks