Canal Holiday: Four Counties Ring
Coven to Stoke-on-Trent

6 to 8 June 2007

On Wednesday morning, after a few lock-free miles, we reached Gailey. The Round House here was originally a toll clerk's office, but is now a splendid canal shop, with an excellent range of books on the first floor. We filled up with water here, and Stephen picked up a few more books, and several of the other members of the crew made purchases, so it was a good early morning for the canal shop.

Alan watches Maria coming out of the lock as Helen and Merry wait to close the gates

Sheila and Helen taking a walk between locks

Before Jane left us to go back to London, we stopped for a day-early fifth anniversary cake for Lucy and Stephen - much appreciated.

Stephen and Alan as we get ready to set off again.

Mary, Stephen and Helen all looking cheerful

Having said a sad farewell to Jane, we reached Milford Bridge, where Stephen, Sheila and Helen jumped ship to do a bit of photography. The bridge is a turnover bridge where the towpath changes sides, elegantly designed to allow a horse with a towrope to cross without having to cast off the rope. The most elegant examples of the type can perhaps be found on the Macclesfield Canal - one day we may see them ourselves.

The main reason for jumping ship was to attempt a photograph of our boat crossing the Sow aqueduct, so here it is. Unfortunately the intervening vegetation rather obscures the arches of the bridge, but you do get a sense of the huge size of the structure for such a modest width of canal.

The River Sow from the aqueduct

Lucy at the tiller as Maria descends Tixall Lock.

Waterlillies starting to come into flower

The impressive Elizabethan gatehouse of Tixall Hall: the Hall was demolished long ago, but the gatehouse is available for let.

At Tixall Wide, or Broadwater, the canal opens out into what is, by narrow canal proportions, a veritable lake. It is uncertain whether the canal was widened into this artificial body to placate the owner of Tixall Hall, or whether the lake predates the canal and was naturally formed. Whatever, it makes an interesting change.

Our second river aqueduct in quick succession - this one over the River Trent.

At Great Haywood junction, we turn left towards the Potteries, a literal sign that we are heading towards journey's end.

Helen watches for the boat to come into the lock.

Merry, Helen and Sheila - hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Apparently they got bored waiting for the boat!

Dinner at the Saracen's Head in Weston-on-Trent - definitely recommended.

A heron takes flight in what is a common but pleasing sighting on the canal system.

Making our way through the canal town of Stone, once the headquarters of the Trent and Mersey Canal, we pass what used to be the Joules brewery.

A hotel narrowboat by the tail of lock 29.

Ilford, an old butty boat, moored by a signal box, presumably translocated.

Merry, Helen, Alan and Sheila empty the water from the deep Trentham Lock ready for the boat

Coming into Trentham Lock

And here we are, in the Potteries once more, with a surviving bottle kiln perched by the canal edge

Mary on lock duties

The two Helens waiting for the lock to fill

Helen watches the boat go out, while the rest of the crew go on ahead to prepare the next lock.

Helen watches from inside

Helen and Lucy as we ascend the five Stoke Locks

Lock working

Just one more lock to go

Stephen steers Maria towards the final lock as Helen and Sheila close the top gate

Stephen from above

A glimpse up the Caldon Canal

An incomplete group as we serve dinner on the final night.

And so another great holiday - a bit tiring perhaps, but a wonderful break. Plans are already being developed for next year - perhaps the Llangollen Canal.


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson