Here is our itinerary
Saturday - After loading and stowing away all of our luggage, instruments and provisions for the trip, hopefully, we will get an early start away from the boatyard. Setting off as early as possible is essential to the success of our first day on the boat. During our first afternoon travelling we will head up The Trent And Mersey Canal in a north westerly direction. We will travel through a broad valley, briefly interrupted by our first lock of the week at Hoo Mill Lock. Although roads are often close by, the atmosphere is one of remoteness and peace. The canal passes the small village of Burston and on through the quiet water meadows of the Trent valley. The tower of Aston Church is prominent throughout much of this stretch of canal. We will be mooring close to the centre of Stone, a very busy but pleasant town with strong canal associations. A three or four minute walk will take us to our venue for the evening, The Crown.
Sunday - The availability of moorings will have determined whether or not we have already passed through the locks in Stone on our journey the previous day. We will soon come across another flight of four locks climbing up the valley to Meaford. A railway line accompanies the canal as it approaches and passes the straggling village of Barlaston. We will then come to the site of the renowned Wedgewood Pottery. Continuing north we will approach the outskirts of Stoke where the canal replaces rural tranquillity with a more urban landscape. Signs of the pottery industry still survive with several bottle kilns visible. Just above Stoke Top Lock we branch off The Trent And Mersey Canal and onto The Caldon Branch Canal. A statue of the famous canal engineer, James Brindley, stands near to the junction. The Caldon Canal is featured heavily on Channel 5's current series 'Celebrity 5 Go Barging'. The first two locks on The Caldon Canal are combined in a staircase lock. Despite being surrounded by urban Stoke, much of the journey to our destination for the evening, The Millrace at Milton, is surprisingly pleasant as it passes along a 'green' corridor between the urban sprawl.
Monday - Shortly after leaving Milton a flight of five locks will lift us up to the summit level of the canal. As we pass Endon we will leave behind any vestiges of industrial Stoke. At Hazelhurst the canal divides into two. One arm heads off towards Leek, we will descend down a flight of three locks to go towards Froghall. An aqueduct carries The Leek Branch over the part of the canal that we will be travelling along first. The canal and the River Churnet now run side by side for the next seven miles. In fact they are one and the same between Oakmeadowford Lock and Consall Forge. Our boat is too long to cruise the final mile and a half of canal. Therefore, we will wind (turn round) just before Flint Mill Lock and make the journey back to Cheddleton to spend the evening in The Red Lion. For most of this section the Churnet Valley is enclosed by steep, thickly wooded hills. It has been described as a superlative landscape, seeming to be almost untouched and unspoilt by the incursions of man.
Tuesday - This will be a very easy going and relaxed day with options to leave the boat whilst the rest of the crew visit the Leek Branch of the canal. From Cheddleton we will make our way back to Hazelhurst Locks. After negotiating the locks we will turn left and cross over the aqueduct that we have just cruised under. Two more aqueducts, one over a railway line and the other over the Endon Brook, will be encountered until eventually the canal reaches the north side of the narrow valley. We will pass through the short Leek Tunnel before winding the boat just before the next bridge and then return to Denford to spend the evening in The Hollybush Inn.
Wednesday - Our journey on this day will take us back down the Churnet Valley and through Stoke on Trent. We will pass through the five locks at Stockton Brook, and the splendid Victorian waterworks at the bottom of the flight, Baddeley Green, Milton and Hanley. Hanley is one of the six towns that were amalgamated in 1910 to form the present city of Stoke-on-Trent. The other towns being Burslem, Fenton, Longton, Stoke and Tunstall. Turning left to go back down The Trent And Mersey Canal we will retrace our steps as far as Trentham. We will spend the evening in The Trentham Hotel, locally known as The Toby Carvery.
Thursday - Shortly after leaving our moorings we will arrive back at the site of the Wedgewood Pottery. On a relatively short boating day, if it is of interest to anyone, we will have plenty of time to visit The World of Wedgewood. The Wedgewood Group is the largest china and earthenware manufacturer in the world. It was started in 1759 at Burslem by Josiah Wedgewood. By 1766 he was sufficiently wealthy to build a large house and factory which he called Etruria. In the 1930's the company Josiah founded decided to build a new factory close to Trentham Lock, as mining subsidence had made Etruria unsuitable. The Etruria site was subsequently demolished. The urban surroundings of the city are soon left behind as we leave Trentham to be replaced by far more rural countryside until we arrive back at Stone. At the southern end of Stone is Little Stoke and our venue for the evening, The Three Crowns.
Friday - Our last full day on the boat will take us back down the Trent And Mersey Canal to Weston. We will spend the evening in The Woolpack, but I doubt that we will meet Amos or Mr Wilks! After a fairly early start on Saturday morning, we will cruise back down to Great Haywood. We have three miles to travel and we have to have the boat back to the boatyard by 9am. Once we arrive at the boatyard, collectively we have to clean the boat and disembark all of our belongings and unused provisions. Leaving the boat in the same condition as we found it.