Day 38 T&M

It’s an interesting contrast going back via the T&M rather than the SU. The Shroppie is beautiful in places and deservedly popular, but the T&M has it’s charms too. The rural sections are as pretty as the SU and the industrial sections are interesting. The T&M was largely financed by Wedgwood and his Etruria Works were right by the canal in Stoke. There are still some modern potteries near the canal and an old bottle kiln, though sadly it has weeds growing out of the brickwork.

South of Stoke city centre there are suburban developments that really make the most of the canalside. Some older houses with large gardens leading down to the canal. And some new developments set just three or four metres back with room for a patio/deck. I passed one expensive looking house with a nice garden, plenty of parking, and it’s own little branch off the canal with a 70′ boat in it. It even had a replica canalside crane to lift out the ‘stop planks’ isolating the arm from the canal.

You do get the impression at times though that the T&M is the system’s poor relation. Many of the locks are in a poor state and hard to operate. Some gates have been replaced with BW steel ones that rattle and clang. A few though have recent CRT traditional style wooden gates and they are great.

Many of the locks are doubled, ie there are two side by side but in some cases one is out of action, apparently long-term, and in a few cases one has been infilled or converted to a weir. That’s a real shame because having a spare lock should enable traffic to continue when one needs maintenance, filling it in, or just neglecting it as it falls apart is a lost opportunity. Budget issues I suppose.

Most of locks I passed today were as deep or deeper than yesterday. I was trying to estimate one, the rungs on the lock ladder are about a foot apart and the falling water exposed 12½ of them. It’s a long way down climbing back into the boat. But better than twice as many 6′ locks.

The summit level of the canal passes through the Harecastle Tunnel which is about 1½miles long. Since I last came down here 35 years ago the towpath has been removed making it much easier to steer through without bouncing off the sides. It’s still one-way though with keepers either end controlling batches of boats. Harecastle marks an East/West divide. Rain falling west of the tunnel ends up in the Mersey and the Irish sea. That falling to the east makes it’s way to the Trent and the Humber estuary.

I’ve stopped for the night just north of Stone before the next flight.

About 2 more days to reach Fradley Junction where I will join the Coventry canal.

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