Friday 23 October

Apart from a couple of dog walks, a thorough internal boat clean and tidy, a Morrisons’ supermarket shop and Storm getting his drawing done, nothing exciting has happened today, so we’re treating ourselves to a evening in The Swan.

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Thursday 22 October

Our day began with a lovely Skype call to Laura and Summer. After that it was breakfast, a quick trip to the village store in Barlaston before heading for Stone, a distance of 3.5 miles and 7 locks.

After a breezy start to the day that carpeted the canal with leaves, it turned into another warm sunny day. Knowing what to wear and how many layers varies from hour to hour.

Carpeted canal

Carpeted canal

We followed a sole boater and he and Storm had a good chat as they worked the locks.

We arrived into Stone at lunch time and passed the Mikron Theatre boat that looked quite at home here as it’s surrounded by many other wooden working boats. We assume it’s going to spend the winter here. Mikron travels the canal taking theatre performances to canal side venues.   I’ve known of Mikron since it was first established. Long before then, when I was a child I used to play with one of its founder members, Sarah, at my grandparents house near Halifax and as I grew up they used to enjoy telling me of her success with Mikron way back in the early 70’s.    I came across Mikron again when I worked at Hull Truck; the only shame is that so far I haven’t managed to see any of their performances.

We’re staying in Stone for a couple of days to stock up at the nearby Morrisons and to let Storm get on with some drawing work. No doubt we’ll be visiting The Swan again too.

Wednesday 21 October

It was raining when we got up this morning – what a surprise!

We headed off as planned to the World of Wedgwood – a very impressive place once we’d walked around the outside of an enormous building site, following signs for the entrance (signs that were intended for motorists, as that seems to be how you’re supposed to arrive everywhere these days!)  The wicker tea service outside the museum will look amazing once the plants grow through!

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Wicker work outside the museum

Sadly, once inside, photographs were forbidden!

Wedgwood has had a factory on the site since 1940 and it has recently moved into a new building on the site with the old factory now being demolished with areas of the original Estate being sold off for housing.   The new complex opened in April 2015.

We’d read the Stoke on Trent Tour Visitor Guide for 2015 which states:

“The World of Wedgwood is a brand new £34m development at the Wedgwood Estate. The inspirational new complex combines a modern factory tour, the Wedgwood Museum, a state of the art Visitor Experience including design workshops, and a flagship retail store with a signature restaurant championing local produce.”

We paid for the Factory Tour & Museum Experience.

The guided factory tour lasted an hour and was very informative. We watched both bone china and Jasper pottery being made, glazed and decorated by all manner of means. We were quite surprised at just how many of the processes are still done by hand although the workforce has reduced from thousands to hundreds since the 1980’s.

Whether you like Wedgwood or not, it is worth visiting to study their business model and to find out why the company is still so successful today despite an ever changing market place. There are some very lavish designs in their ‘flagship retail store” where you can pay several thousand pounds for a teapot decorated with gold leaf.

If you fancy working at Wedgwood then you had better apply now as their staff turnover is extremely low and most of the people we’ve spoken to today have been there over 25 years.

Apparently Wedgwood tried moving part of its pottery operation to Indonesia but  brought it back to the UK as sales fell dramatically when it was no longer ‘Made in England’.

The Wedgwood archive is vast and the museum covers the history of the Wedgwood family and the company’s designs over four centuries. There was too much information for us to take in in just one afternoon.

We would recommend visitors take the factory tour and look round the store, and if you want to know more about the family or the pottery, then buy one or more of the many books available and study them at your leisure.   We did suggest they introduce a ticket that is valid for a year, rather than just a day, as there was too far too much to see.

Tuesday 20 October

The rain forecast for tomorrow prompted us to make the most of today’s fine weather.

First of all we wanted to visit Maplins in Stoke as Storm had picked up their Christmas ideas catalogue yesterday and had since seen a couple of potential ideas for presents.

Before we went shopping though, Storm took Max for a walk around the park and bumped into one of the locals who kindly told him about all the places worth visiting in the area and about some events happening later in the week. The local then must have spoken with one of the park volunteers about us as she came to chat with us as she’d heard we were from Yorkshire, like her! She was from Halifax. I told her my Mum came from a village near there and she said she used to pass through on the bus to Brighouse in her youth. She then went on to tell us about the exciting changes planned for Hanley Park as they’ve just been awarded £4.5million.

So with our best-laid plans for an early start delayed it was nearer to lunch time by the time we finally got back to the boat. We left our peaceful and pleasant mooring in the Park and headed back to Etruria. We used all the facilities at the wharf there before we went in search of coal, gas and diesel before winding and heading back towards Stone.

Etruria Wharf

Etruria Wharf

We’re heading towards Chester for Christmas but are going the long way round via Wolverhampton to allow us to keep motoring as long as possible (weather permitting) without getting stopped by the essential canal winter maintenance planned by the CRT that begins on 1 November.   We’ve studied their plans and, provided we’re on the Shropshire Union for the beginning of November, we’ll be OK on their until the New Year.

This evening we’ve made it as far as Trentham Lock as we hope to visit the indoor World of Wedgwood tomorrow. This way we’ll avoid the rain!

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Wedgwood at Barlaston

Monday 19 October

Catching a bus to Leek from Stoke on Trent was easy, once we’d worked out by comparing posters in different bus shelters on different sides of the road that ‘City Centre’ meant Hanley and not ‘Stoke’!   So once standing at a bus shelter on the opposite side of the road to where we started from, we caught the correct bus and a “Potteries Rider” meant that I could travel all day around the Staffordshire area for just £4. Amazing value!

The bus ride was fascinating as we kept recognising short stretches of road we’d walked along earlier in the last week, from our visits up from the canal in search of civilisation when we’d thought we were in quite remote areas of countryside whereas riding on the bus confirmed that really we’d been passing through quite built up areas and if only we’d walked just another 250 yards each time, we’d have discovered a whole lot more! We also hadn’t realised that we’d been following the same main road – the A53.

At Morrisons I was soon reunited with my misplaced bank card and after a coffee in their café we caught the bus back again.

After lunch we walked towards ‘Stoke Station’ somewhere we’ve passed through many times on the train. The station buildings were built in 1848 and have a strong Elizabethan and Jacobean influence and are said to be one of the best examples of formal-grouped railway architecture remaining in the UK.

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From there we walked towards Stoke Minster where Josiah Wedgewood is buried and from there we picked up part of the heritage trail that points out other places of interest such as the old Market which has recently been converted into the library, and the former white tiled Co-operative Building that is now a bargain basement type shop that sells anything and everything.

The Market - now a library

  The Market – now a library

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The former Co-op

We decided that Stoke has more places of past interest than current interest although the Portmeirion Factory shop was well worth a visit.   We began our Christmas shopping today!

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We also spotted this interesting Fiat 500 that was proud to display how much its grown!

Sunday 18 October

We were woken at 8am by the phone ringing. After a chat with Laura, who’d expected us to be up, we had a coffee in bed before getting up. After a slice of toast, spread with our rather good ‘hedgerow jelly’ we set off through three lift bridges and one lock to Stoke on Trent.

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I wanted to pop back to Debenhams to buy something I’d spotted last week. At the till though I couldn’t find my bank card. This triggered mild panic but I had sufficient cash on me so I paid for my goods and then we headed back to the boat so I could check pockets etc. As we walked, I re-traced in my head where I used it last, and decided that it had been in Morrisons in Leek on Friday lunch-time.

Google came up with their phone number and a quick call later determined that Morrisoins did have my card and so tomorrow we’re heading back to Leek to pick it up, but on the bus this time.  It’s only 8 miles.   At least Storm can use his new free bus pass again. We’re moored in Hanley Park this evening, and I’m feeling a little foolish.

Saturday 17 October

A cool and damp morning didn’t encourage us to rise too early.

After a late breakfast we trekked across the field to the nearby garage for the Saturday papers and we had another coffee while we browsed the headlines and waited for the weather to decide what it was going to do today.

By 11am patches of blue sky looked promising and we decided to move a mile and a half and down five locks to Stockton Brook.

A kingfisher taunted us as we motored, just staying out of clear camera focus as he flew off when we got near.

At the penultimate lock I spotted some windfall apples and a heap of brambles and having gathered two pounds of each I set about making some “Hedgerow Jelly”.   The jam bag was put to good use and we now have six pots of wonderful seedless jam.  Free food tastes so good.