Saturday, 15 September 2012

Stoke on Trent and Heartbreak Hill

Thursday 6th September Today was a lovely day weatherwise and very hectic and enjoyable although to start with we weren't looking forward to it. We set off at 7am and soon got to Stoke on Trent which wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be. Obviously people who say Stoke on Trent is grim have never experienced some parts of greater London. We had to stop at the station, which conveniently is next to the canal, to pick up some prepaid train tickets we have bought to get us from Market Drayton to London to go to a party in Teddington at the end of the month. It was the first time we had got prepaid tickets and we must have looked a bit doddery trying to work out how to extract them from the machine. We got them in the end and feeling pleased with ourselves we carried on through Stoke. We were stunned by all the beautiful old ruined buildings along the canalside - hopefully they will be preserved in some way - there are quite a few bottle kilns, which we know are being protected.
We passed the Middleport Pottery, a modern pottery works in a very old building, got through Stoke and to the Harecastle Tunnel where we had to wait an hour and three quarters said the friendly tunnel-keeper – there were 5 boats coming the other way through the tunnel. The friendly tunnel keeper told us stories of boats being stuck in the tunnel, running out of diesel and having to be rescued. When the 5 boats finally emerged one boat owner got told off by the keeper for being too slow. He said his headlight wasn't working properly. Anyway we started into the mile-long tunnel - it was very cold and dark in there and Molly got scared - she was shaking. We got through in record time - frightened of a telling-off - 40 mins (average is 45). Dale drove really well. It was lovely to come out into the warm sunshine.
We went through Kidsgrove then a long flight of 17 locks which is part of 'Heartbreak hill' or the Cheshire locks, and were helped by some youngsters on a boat following us through. At the last few locks a kind man whistling a Glenn Miller song opened them for us in advance and helped us get through – he said he often brought his windlass on his dog walk and helped people because they were worn out after all the locks. We ended up in a beautiful village called Rode Heath which has a post office/shop and a nice pub called the Broughton Arms which was friendly and busy and shabby and we loved it. We are in Cheshire now!

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