Tuesday 17 October 2017

Caldon duck

Today we came through a stretch of the Trent and Mersey in the southern reaches of Stoke-on-Trent which was completely devoid of wildfowl. It isn't just that they don't like urban environments – they appeared elsewhere in what seemed to be the most unlikely of places. Ducks, in particular, in an assortment of varieties, including the slightly larger black and white splotchy sort that seem to be some farmyard breed escaped and gone native. But, in this stretch, not a moorhen, duck, swan, goose or anything else was to be seen. It was quite nice, when we moored up at Milton on the Caldon Canal this afternoon, to be greeted by the usual little flotilla, including this chappie.

The Caldon Canal branches off the Trent and Mersey at Etruria Junction. The unusual name for this area was given by Josiah Wedgwood when he established one of his major pottery centres here – it comes from the Etruscans of ancient Italy who apparently were known for their artistic flair. Wedgwood was himself one of the major players in the building of the Trent and Mersey – it was to save (and build) him a fortune by providing a way of moving his wares without half of them breaking en route. Today the junction, with its museum and events, celebrates canals rather than pots, and has a statue of James Brindley, the engineer for the T&M and other canals.

The first part of the Caldon goes through a very mixed part of Stoke. This was where we came on our very first cruise on Erin Mae in 2011, and the initial mile was throughly depressing and a bit scary. We were pleasantly surprised two years ago to discover all sorts of urban renewal projects underway, including a new housing development along the canal.

This has now been expanded to the other side, and one new estate has a very striking tribute to the city's past, with a couple of kilns left in place.

With these suburbs straddling the canal bridges are constant – including one electric lift-bridge where you try not to hold up too many cars as you pass sedately in front of their noses. But the one we always remember is NÂș 9, because that's where we lost our chimney on that first cruise.

It's the lowest bridge we've encountered anywhere on the network. The sharp-eyed will note that I detached the chimney this time and laid it flat. It's only 12 inches, but it would have gone!

You can imagine what the girder might do our heads if we weren't careful. Now that's what I call a Caldon duck!


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