We were up and about quite early, and set off at 7.30 in rather misty murky conditions. We had to turn the bottom two locks of the Stone flight, the third one was empty, and at the fourth one a boat was just going up; they'd moored in that pound overnight. Between locks 2 and 3 is the former Joule's brewery.
At the Meaford flight, the third lock has one paddle that doesn't work properly, so it takes an age to fill. The only way to get the gate open was to have assistance from the boat. At the top lock, Adrian said he though he felt something get stuck on the prop. Sure enough, once we were up the lock the vibration from the tiller was incredible. We stopped and went down the weedhatch, and I removed what looked like a fat bike tyre. Fortunately it came off a lot easier than I'd feared.
We went past Neil Morrisey's pub at Barlaston, past the Wedgwood factory, and up Trentham Lock. On the approach to Stoke is a huge incinerator -- and a noticed a guy working on a small scaffolding platform right near the top of the chimney.
At Stoke bottom lock we caught up with Karen and Ian on Serenity, who used to blog. There were several boats ahead of them, so it all took quite a while. It's an attractive enough flight though, especially the top couple of locks which are surrounded by old buildings.
After the very deep top lock, Adrian did the turn onto the Caldon Canal. You have to almost double right back on yourself. The boats ahead all seemed to have stopped for water there, so we took our chance and made for the Bedford Street staircase pair of locks. These are two locks joined together, which share a middle set of gates. Together they lift the canal over 19ft, so they look pretty daunting.
The last time we travelled the Caldon Canal was back in 2009, when we had a share in Debdale. There has been lots of building since then, with hundreds of new homes on former industrial land. Some of the typical Stoke bottle kilns have been preserved.
Adrian went to work the electric lift bridge, then we carried on for a few miles, through Milton. There are lots of very sharp bends and bridges which require a bit of thought. Some have been given extra protection because they get bashed so often. We've come up Engine Lock, another deep one at just over 12ft, and moored just off the lock landing. There was a grass snake swimming in the lock. The view from the galley window is rather nice.
15 miles, 18 locks. (119 miles, 64 locks)