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The 1997 Mega Cruise


15. Stoke on Trent to Wolverhampton. Trent and Mersey, Staffs and Worcs Canals and B.C.N Wolverhampton Flight.

 Sunday 27th July we left Etruria at 9.05, heading south to Birmingham. Alan was dropped of below Lock No36, after a hour stop for breakfast. We unfortunately sent Alan off on the wrong side of the canal for the station! Lock No36 is the 1960's concrete one in the centre of Stoke. This was resited due to road realignments. Off we went again at 10.30. Bridge 109 was a long rebuilt affair, the other side of which was a new incinerator plant. Up on the valley side on a reclaimed site was the new Stoke City football ground. Beyond here the country side opens out. Just before the Meaford Flight of locks the power station that used to dominate this area had been totally flattened. 
There was quite a lot of activity at the locks, we had forgotten how popular this canal is. Stone flight of locks came next. The second lock and bridge down has a separate towpath tunnel. Below this is the old established hire boat firm of Canal Cruising Co and some old dry docks. This area does not seem to have changed throughout all the years we have been cruising. At the bottom lock is the famous "Star Inn", which is right beside the lock. Being a sunny Sunday afternoon, many drinkers were gongoozling all around the lock. 
We exited here at 14.00. After this the locks are all spaced out, right down to Great Haywood Junction, where we turned right onto the Staffs and Worcs Canal at 18.00. Just round the corner is the Anglo Welsh hire base, another boatyard which has been here since the 1960's After passing over the wide Trent Aqueduct you are soon in Tixall Wide. This was absolutely packed with boats, some cruisers were even anchored in the middle. Beyond here and the pretty Tixall Lock No43 you pass over another aqueduct, this time over the River Sow. 
From here on the canal skirts the bottom of Stafford, with it never becoming too built up. Since the aqueduct the canal is closely followed by the West Coast Main Line, so we did not want to stop here!. At the point where the canal meanders of to the south of Stafford the railway passes over. Here there was some extensive bridge strengthening going on. At this point we looked back, surprised to find that a canoeist had probably been following us for miles! It was a Canadian type canoe and he was not in a hurry and did not want to pass us. That night we stopped just before Radford Bridge No98 and went to the wacky warehouse type "Big Steak" pub, "The Trumpet". 

Monday 28th July we started fairly early at 7.15, with the pretence of getting ahead of the many boats now moored here for an overnight stop. We immediately caught up with another boot at Deptmore Lock No42, so our early start had really been pointless. This had been the first traverse over this section of the Staffs and Worcs Canal in "Beatty", so much video was shot. Below Shutt Hill Lock No41 is the familiar section where a road parallels the canal. At the end of this pound is Park Gate Lock No40, above this is the Midland Chandlers head office and The Teddesley Boat Company. This sports its smart new office building and was the start point of the 1982 and 1984 hire boat holidays in "Evelyn". 
Not far below here the M6 screams over on its ugly squat concrete bridge. Soon we were held up by traffic through Penkridge, the last night destination of the 1982 and 1984 canal holidays. Coming out of Penkridge you pass "The Cross Keys" pub, another waterways classic. Just beyond is the new Otherton Marina basin and Otherton Lock No36. The M6 comes very close, beyond, but it is mostly shielded by recent tree planting. Next four spaced out locks (just too far to walk between!) end with the Gailey Lock No32, bridge and wharf. The bridge carries Telford's up rated A5. Gailey Marine hire base has its office in the surviving Staffs and Worcs round house. 
We have met many hirers who swear by this tidy hire company, whose fleet has recently all been replaced. Next the old Croda Inks works sprawl in a triangle of land between the canal and Railway, and has begun to migrate over the canal into Calf Heath Wood. I say old Croda Inks works, because that historically is how we remember it, now it seems to have been taken over by another firm. The canal wiggles around a lot around here. At Calf  Heath Marina, another old established mooring place, the moribund Hatherton Branch branches off. The two bottom locks of this still exist, being used as dry docks. Not far beyond the abandoned canal is sliced through by the M6. In our youth we attempted to navigate up here, but there was a boat using the lock as a dry dock. 
We had to content our selves with a walk up to the M6. There are no more locks before Autherley Junction with the Shropshire Union Canal and the canal continues to wiggle around until the M54 Bridge. Beyond here there was a change of tack during construction and the canal straightens out, going through some low, narrow rocky cuttings. These are single file and predictably we met someone coming the other way. We passed in the wide section near Forster Bridge No68. Soon we were at Autherley Junction (15.35). 
Here there was a lot of activity, with the most popular route being the Shroppie. At 15.45 we branched off at Aldersley Junction, going up the Wolverhampton 21 Locks to Wolverhampton and Birmingham. There were a few boats in front and Neil's lock wheeling was beginning to hassle them. We stopped at the water point just above Lock No15 for half an hour, but quickly pushed off when nearly full, as someone was coming up behind us. Off we shot again, catching up the stragglers at the top lock. Taking off the water stop we took a fairly respectable 1 hours. At the top (18.05) we found one mooring left in the basin. With our long hose we finished filling up with water. While plumbed in everyone took turns in the shower as it had ended up a hot and sticky day.

Etruria, the drydock on the junction peninsular between the Caldon and Trent and Mersey Canals.

Etruria, Lock No39, Trent and Mersey Canal.

Etruria, Lock No39, Trent and Mersey Canal.

Etruria, Lock No39, Trent and Mersey Canal.

Etruria, the museum below Lock No39, Trent and Mersey Canal.

Lock No37, Stoke. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Arty welded date on Lock No37 top gate crash board.

Stoke Lock No36. This is a 1960's re-sited concrete affair, due to road improvements. 

The concrete Lock No36 and bridge. Stoke, Trent and Mersey Canal.

General view through Stoke-on-Trent. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Recent road improvements, new Bridge No109 and incinerator, Stoke. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Meaford Flight Top Lock No34 and Bridge No98. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Meaford Flight Top Lock No34 and Bridge No98. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Meaford Flight, Trent and Mersey Canal.

Meaford Flight, Trent and Mersey Canal.

Lime Kiln Lock No33, the top lock of the Stone Flight. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Newcastle Road Lock No29, note separate towpath tunnel. Stone Flight. Trent and Mersey Canal.

The old established Canal Cruising Co's site. Stone Flight. Trent and Mersey Canal.

The old Joules Brewery, now just used for storage, lets hope it survives. Stone Flight. Trent and Mersey Canal.

The old wharves, warehouse and dry dock in Stone. Trent and Mersey Canal.

The famous "Star Inn", right beside Star Lock No27. The bottom lock of the Stone Flight. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Narrowboat seen below Stone Flight, bet that is a bugger to touch up!

Aston Lock No26. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Sandon Lock No25. Peter seems to be adjusting the fender.

Exiting Sandon Lock No25. Someone waiting to come up. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Malcolm Braine's retirement cottage. It does not seem much of a retirement! The motor boat out of the water is getting a new Elm bottom. Just above Weston Bridge No80. Trent and Mersey Canal.

We have just left Weston lock No24, yet another boat going up. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Hoo Mill Lock No23. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Great Haywood Junction, we have just turned onto the Staffs and Worcs Canal. Anglo Welsh Hire base to left. 

The River Trent Aqueduct, Great Heywood, Staffs and Worcs Canal.

Tixall Wide, heavily patronised. Staffs and Worcs Canal.

Just leaving Tixall Lock No43. Staffs and Worcs Canal.

We have just passed over the River Sow Aqueduct. Milford, Staffs and Worcs Canal.

The West Coast Mainline Railway Bridge just before Stafford. The canoe had been following us for miles! Staffs and Worcs Canal.

The road that follows the canal above Park Gate Lock. Staffs and Worcs Canal.

Park Gate Lock No40. Staffs and Worcs Canal.

Park Gate lock No40 and the Teddesley boat Company, the start of  a couple of holidays in the 1980's.

Waiting for Penkridge Lock No38. Staffs and Worcs Canal.

The "Cross Keys" pub Penkridge.

The new Otherton Marina, just below Penkridge.

Gailey Lock No32, roundhouse and Gailey Marine hire boat base. Staffs and Worcs Canal.

Calf Heath Marina, up here are the first two locks of the abandoned Hatherton Branch. Staffs and Worcs Canal.

Tow path overbridge for the Hatherton Branch. 

The narrow rock cutting just before Wolverhampton at Ford Houses. Staffs and Worcs Canal.

The narrow rock cutting just before Wolverhampton at Ford Houses.  Here there is a passing place by Forster Bridge No68. Staffs and Worcs Canal.

Autherley Junction, the lady seems to be struggling to get into the Shropshire Union Canal. Note the sad "Snowcem" 1970's painted bridge. Staffs and Worcs Canal.

The tour continues...

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