A booking has been made.
Tomorrow morning, Friday.
That meant that the Cardinal and I had to get ourselves within hailing distance ready for the appointed hour, and that meant not just moving, but moving through the lovely human space that appears, so far, to be Stoke on Trent.
Six miles, six horrid locks – but at least at the end we found some decent moorings. There are five moorings tucked on the end of the Caldon Canal (it begins/ends in Stoke, joining the Trent & Mersey) at Etruria near the junction/services/Etruria Industrial Museum. The Cardinal and I hove up and got the fifth such, the last vacant.
There was a little ice on the canal as we set off from Barlaston, a light skim but enough to make that “SONAR” pinging sound as it broke up in our (gentle) wash. To wit, it was bloody freezing all day, and the day was a good five and more hours including servicing and
farting about turning twice and mooring at Etruria. In spite of the constant sirens and traffic and foot-fall of the area, I slept rather well last night, once my brain had stopped gibbering.
Brain was gibbering the moment I made the booking for the tunnel. What didn’t help was the journey through this, the first part of Stoke. Gordon Bennet, it’s ugly. Doubtless there are nice places, and doubtless some folk love living in this …in this… this. I don’t. I don’t even like travelling through it. Knowing some of what was to come I locked the Cardinal fore and aft – a lot of the lock landings are in areas where the SAS only go in pairs, well out of sight of the similarly-placed locks themselves. All of the locks are deep with a capital “eep”.
The water level in one of the short pounds between two locks rose so much (unexpectedly) while I was preparing the lock that the (hitherto nicely loose) centreline that I had the Cardinal moored on became too taught, jammed solid and began to give him a list – the only way I could free the Cardinal was to cut the rope… [Yet] Another obscure lesson learned – some lock pounds have a ridiculous rise and fall. Thanks be to my trusty knife, and apologies be to the dead rope, and to the Cardinal who, thankfully, lives on.
The last lock of the set, the deepest by far, I now know has a vicious undertow even with only the one paddle working. The Cardinal rammed the top gate and managed to get his front button fender jammed as well for good measure. All safe now, but my boxer shorts will need to fly from the main mast to air out until at least autumn before they are wearable again. All within the boat that was hitherto loose and upright remained loose but become horizontal – a world of canted-over books and canted-over candelabra.
I must, at this point, extend my thanks to the chap from the CaRT yard who was working me through that last lock of the flight. The CaRT yard is right alongside, the lock is as good as in the yard.
Stoke, from the canal, offers a welcome similar to that offered by Tolkien’s land of Mordor.
A country mouse such as I entering this territory is filled with nought but horror. The air is thick with thundering traffic noise and with screaming police sirens (both police and their sirens scream, this is that sort of a neighbourhood). There seems to even be a helicopter hovering overhead constantly, presumably using high-tech cameras to look for people issuing offensive tweets or for folk using the wrong personal pronouns. I am sorry, Stoke, but I loathe spaces such as these.
I have tried with these photographs to show Stoke’s best side.
The Cardinal looks distinctly unhappy. Say “cheeeeeese”… and I’ll be back for you in ten minutes after I’ve walked up and set the lock.
The view back towards the Cardinal as I neared one of the locks…
…and, yes, that is the what passes for a towpath around here, and that is the canal.
Would you be bothered by badgers in the night here? No. Rats, possibly, two-legged rats, certainly. Chuffin’ Nora, how we have improved upon Father Nature’s work (not).
The guidebook maps are a little free with the truth at this stage, where I thought that it would be lock – service area – final lock, it was in fact lock – final lock of the flight – service area. The service area and these moorings are on the beginning of the Caldon Canal, a 180° turn immediately after the last lock.
Today is what we Ingurlish chaps call “murky”. It’s not misty exactly, it’s not drizzling as such, but it’s doing a lot of both. Everything is grey and dull and damp. Lovely. I shall be foregoing my customary walkabouts, out of respect for both the weather and the neighbourhood.
We’re turned and moored in the direction we’ll need to take tomorrow for the tunnel (north). That’s about a three mile trip, but thankfully free from locks, so I’ll allow a good two hours to get there and find out where I have to be, where I need to report to and where the safety briefing is given &etc &etc.
Today I’ll spend digging out the life-jacket, removing all that may be lowered and removed from the roof, checking over the engine and wotnots, and really doing sodski allski elseski to the best of my ability.
This isn’t the tunnel. This is the view looking back after that first major road-bridge on entering Stoke.
There really ought to be a sign above it.
‘Abandon hobbits all ye who enter here.’
If you do a search on ‘Stoke on Trent’ there’s a website suggesting “the ten best things to do in Stoke”.
I have compiled my own list.
I commend Stoke to you. May someone (else) find its good side, for it is certainly well-hidden when approaching from the canal!
Honestly, I am sure that it’s a lovely place. There must be nice parts.
Ah well, that was yesterday’s cruise that was, and unless I want to re-trace the last hundred miles or so, the tunnel beckons tomorrow.
I must away and gird my loins.
[Emits mouse-squeak, and exits stage left.]