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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

On to the Caldon Canal

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don't they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”  ~ Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

   We spent several pleasant days moored up at Westport Lake waiting while we sorted our alternator and passing the time with friends Ken and Sue Deveson aboard NB Cleddau. Our boats were moored up bow-to-bow. They had a date for dinner aboard NB Valerie. Ken and Sue were returning from a trip up the Caldon Canal where Sue stopped at the Emma Bridgewater pottery factory for a tour.
   After mooring up near us, Sue handed me a bundle wrapped in paper."I saw this and thought to myself, 'Who uses those words frequently? Oh I know who,' and I had to get it for you." Unwrapping the bundle I found a beautiful cobalt blue mug on a cream background, the words "Big Love" on the front and around the lip on the inside! It shares a place of honor now near our other delicate treasures.
   We had a lovely time chatting over dinner, laughing at anecdotes and discussing cross-continental politics and social behavior.  Les and I introduced the Devesons to Phase Ten--an American card game that can be played with children or adults, and Sue won the game!
   Ken and Sue moved on toward the Macclesfield Canal the next morning while we waited for RCR to return our alternator. A walk around Westport Lake proved that the Comfrey poultices I've been applying to my damaged left foot have worked their amazing medicinal miracle. I can walk without pain again!
   RCR returned the alternator saying there was nothing wrong with it and recommending we not hook up the battery management system to it as it was making the alternator work harder than necessary and over heating it. Les will try it out and decide if that is in fact the best course of action. Stay tuned to future blogs for more on the alternator/battery management front.
   The next morning we pootled though Stoke-on-Trent, Les pointing out the old bottle kilns still left from a time when hundreds of those kilns were working day and night for factories producing wares for  Wedgewood, Royal Doulton, Aynsley, Emma Bridgewater, Port Meirion, Spode, and Churchill to name only a few.
Bottle kiln attached to a pottery building re-purposed as a home!
Leaving behind the abandoned factories on the Trent and Mersey in Stoke-on-Trent.
 The pottery trade made good use of canal boats as a trip by boat was a safer bet for delicate china to arrive in one piece than a trip by horse and cart over unpredictable roads.
Approaching the split: Caldon canal on the left of Etruria Service point; Trent and Mersey Canal on the right with locks. A large dragonfly sculpture greets us!
   Before I knew it we arrived at Etruria where the canal splits into the Caldon on the left or The Trent and Mersey which continues on the right. It took quite awhile to fill our water tank so I wandered down and looked at John Shirley's Etruscan bone and flint mill sight nearby.
   Remember the term "bone china?" Well yes Virginia, it did have actual bone in it to provide strength. Developed by Josiah Spode, the bone mixed in with the feldspar and kaolin gave pottery a certain translucency and whiteness with great chip resistance, allowing for the production of very delicate pieces.
NB Valerie moored up at the Etruria service point, Caldon canal, with a communication mast in the background
Etruscan Bone and Flint Mill
   Built in 1857, Etruscan was a potter's miller's works which ground bone, flint, and stone for for the pottery industry until it closed in 1972. Restored now with a working blacksmith's shop, it is an interesting stop to take in if you've the time.
   Off again, we made our way through the back side of Stoke, passing lovely parks where one dare not moor for the drug trade and drinking going on in plain sight during the day--which left no doubt how hazardous it might be in the area after dark. The canal sides offer a mix of waste ground from the demolition of many, many old potteries and bottle kilns, abandoned warehouses and sections of brick walls covered in graffiti, and new canal side housing.
Vandalized glass bridge panels and graffiti on the brick walls.
This looks like a war zone...
...but it's a fenced in section of pottery waste ground attached to old buildings re-purposed for today.

A pair of bottle kilns on the waste ground site of a former pottery; the kilns are protected for their historical significance.
Across from these kilns are new housing!
   Some of the bridges on the start of the Caldon canal are low--very low! We stopped just before one to give Les time to remove the tail on the wind Genny and the stove pipe.
Ooh I don't think we will make it under this bridge!
So....Les is removing the tail on the wind genny...
...and the stove pipe!
Okay! Here we go...
...with barely room for the wood!
Aaahhh! Now this is more like it! Plenty of head room; forlorn waste land framing city ghettos give way to countryside.
   I enjoyed these back gardens on the canal. Some folks go all out with great floral exuberance; others like a more sedate setting for a contemplative seat along the waterside. Still others prefer a minimalistic approach to back garden life!
Woven cat tails as garden art...

gravel gardens with a back yard pool...
Back garden as jungle!
No matter how small every back garden has a style all its own.
Chickens in the back garden!
This planter is a novel means of keeping one's car out of the canal.
Minimalist back garden. A waterside place to relax and entertain.

Looking back at the back gardens of Milton as we travel onward.
   We moored up for a few days overlooking a field with pheasant and horses enjoying the sunshine. We walked into Milton and visited the greengrocer for radishes, eggs, mushrooms and green pepper, and stopped at a local butchers for some course ground beef mince. Spaghetti for dinner with tossed green salad and crostini topped off the day.
I love this picture of the underside of a bridge roof. The texture, shape and colors are amazing!
   Les did a bit more DIY, preparing the right front corner of the saloon where the wood stove sits, for the next stage of our remodeling. I started reading a book picked up at the Trading Post on the Maccie: Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland, a historical mystery novel set in 1209 in Great Yarmouth. I devoured it in twenty four hours!
   Springs floral fulgency and early summer's exuberance have passed; late summer is upon us now. The narrow leaf Plantain wear a final wreath of tiny white flowers. White Yarrow, pale lavender Scabiosa, and pink Marsh Mallow bloom now along the towpath. 

 I am drunk on the scented air; intense green under notes with a sweet licorice top note make me feel woozy with every breath!
  Dragonflies skim the surface of the water and geese cry out as they head south. Leaves have begun their turn toward autumn. Blackberries ripen on the vines, hawthorn berries blush red now amongst the hedgerows. Rowan trees are hung with plump clusters of berries for winter bird feed. Rose hips are turning orange with anticipation of cooler weather.   Bright yellow clumps of sneeze weed bend in the wind, which also stirs the cotton wisp seedlings from spent flowers, spinning them into intricate air ballets. Leaf confetti swirls in the water as we cruise along.
   A fat, furry bumblebee takes a great interest in me, flying up and hovering in my face, sussing me out. "Fall is on the way," the little sister seemed to say, "and I am looking for sweetness wherever I can find it!"
   I smelled fall in the air two nights ago despite the hot embrace of the sun today. The gentle wind caresses my face as I look out upon a world mellowing into another season.
   On the eighth of September I too will pass a personal seasonal landmark: I will have lived in England, aboard a narrow boat with my beloved for one year.


Mike Griffin said...

Happy 8th September - time goes very quickly.

Have a good day.

Mike Griffin - Cowroast.

Andy said...

Happy 8th September also...

But sitting here i nearly fell off my chair laughing as i saw that low low bridge and remembered that day texting Sarah and looking round as my head made contact with that very solid bridge much to your amusement .... Ouch indeed

Les Biggs said...

Thankyou. This past year has flown by. See you some time, we might be south towards the year end.

Les Biggs said...

That bridge you assaulted on the Llangollen was not low. YOU were up high sitting on the roof.

nb Chance said...

Hi Les and Jaq, we passed you today, but sadly didn't see you both, it was early! Glad to see you are into Phase 10 as we are, everyone seems to enjoy it when they play it! Great pictures especially of some of the gardens, Regards Doug and James

Andy said...

Ha ha anyway that knock on the head done me the world of good in the end...... I think !! Lol

Anyway happy cruising you two....


Charm said...

Jaq and Les, I love reading your blog because of the incredible world it opens up to me: such fascinating detail and so compellingly described. Jaq, I am continually amazed at the intuitions that brought you to wear you are right now, experiencing true happiness in a world of your dreams. I am so happy for both of you.


Charmaine said...

I can't believe I misspelled "where" as "wear." There are many differences between British and American English, but that is not one of them.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs