7. Jun, 2019

WHERE HAS THE SUN GONE?

After last year’s glorious sunshine and barmy temperatures we are back to normal for dear old England, with changeable weather, sunshine and showers have been the recipe for the last few days.

After our amazing time at the 1940’s event, we moved off in the rain, and made our way back to Cheddleton and moored once again outside the flint mill there.

It was bank holiday and the flint mill was open to the public, so of course we had to go and have a look round. It is unique, in that it has 2 water wheels to power the grinding pans, and both of these where running.

History time folks.

The earliest reference to milling at Cheddleton dates back to 1253. It is possible that the foundations of the South Mill date back to this period. Another document, dating to 1694, refers to corn milling at the site. In the late 18th century the complex was converted to grind flint. The North Mill was built specifically for that purpose and the South Mill was converted to grind flint instead of corn. About the same time, the Caldon Canal was built making transport of heavy goods to and from the mill easier. The ground, calcined flint produced by the mill was becoming a very important ingredient in earthenwares being produced in the nearby Potteries. Josiah Wedgwood had successfully marketed a new product called "creamware" which was becoming very popular. Calcined flint is white and thermally stable, making it an excellent ingredient in the new light-coloured wares that had become fashionable.

It was very interesting, and the water wheels were amazing to watch and hear.

Being bank holiday Monday it was also the Championship playoff’s, and much to my amazement my team Derby County had made it to Wembley and were facing Aston Villa. The Black Lion had the match on so, I got to watch their unfortunate defeat, it ended 2-1 to Villa. So it’s another year in the Championship for the Rams.

To end a very enjoyable day I treated the Captain to tea in the Red Lion, chicken and chips in a basket, and a pint of Hobgoblin, what could be better.

Our next destination was Leek, which is at the end of the Leek branch, (of course). The trip there was hairy in places as this part of the canal was very narrow and shallow, but we made it, and moored up with the help of a friendly boater called Richard on Beryl of Bridgwater. He was a local, and very knowledgeable. He explained that the town centre was quite a walk, but well worth a visit, and that Morrisions was only 10mins way, which was handy. The best bit of info he gave us, was it was worth using the local taxi to get into town, at amazing price of £4.00, cheaper than the bus.

We also got chatting to Pat and Ste off Nellie who were lovely

Although it threatened rain next day we decided to go into town, and we weren’t disappointed at all. It is a fascinating, with connections to William Morris of the arts and craft movement, and was the home of the great canal builder James Brindley. I had used google to check out what was worth seeing, and firstly we made for the 13C church dedicated to Edward the Confessor, lovely. The town is full of interesting buildings. The most notable building is the Nicholson Institute, it was built in 1882 in the Queen Ann style, and is home to the library and the local museum. It is tucked behind a 17C building, which the architect  Larner Sugden refused to demolish to make way for the institute, as he had great respect for old buildings. The front gate to this house is an amazing example of the arts and craft movement. Leek also boasts the Nicholson War Memorial, dedicated in 1925 and said to be the largest in the country.

Then the rain started, so we had to find a pub. I had found a couple of micro-pubs on Google, but we never made it to them, as the Captain spotted a Titanic tap house, The Roebuck Inn. I can highly recommend this pub, the food menu looked interesting, and the choice of beer was brilliant.

After a couple of days travelling along the shallow, narrow canal we made it back to Etruria, and the junction with the Trent and Mersey, this time without any mishaps at the locks. It was busy at the junction where the Etruria flint mill and museum is. This was because there was a festival on at the weekend, and the steam engine which powered the mill was in steam. Of course we had to stop, but we moored away from the junction, as quite a few boats were jostling for the closest moorings to the festival.

Unlike Cheddleton, flint mill Etruria actually prepared the flint and bone before grinding, by heating them in huge kilns to make them easier to grind. Before grinding the flint and bone are crushed. The grinding process is wet pan grinding, which stops the production of a fine dust, which caused the early death of many workers due to “Potters Rot”, or silicosis of the lungs. Flint and bone were used in the pottery industry, flint added to clay produces earthenware products, it gives the ware strength, whiteness and prevents shrinkage during the firing process. Bone is added to clay to produce bone china, it  gives it its translucent quality, and makes it whiter than any other ware, and its high strength allows it to be finer.

The mill is powered by “Princess”, a double acting condensing rotative beam engine to the design of James Watt. She was purchased second hand and installed when the mill was built in 1856, and is believed to have been built in Manchester in about 1820.

Right enough history. The day of the festival dawned, and luckily it was going to be fine and sunny, so after a hearty brunch off we went. It was a great event, and well supported by the local and boating community. There were a number of old historic and working boats in attendance, and a few trading boats including the Staffordshire Oat Cake Boat, Que Sara Sara, and the “Barge in Booze”  beer boat. We had a walk round the event field, which had loads to see and do, there was live music and of course a bar. After a pint we headed back to the Oat Cake boat, as I was determined to try this local delicacy, but I wasn’t in luck as they had sold out and shut up shop.

We took the tour round the mill which was very informative, and got to see Princess in action, and for you of those who know me, this was the best bit for me, I love steam engines, and there is something about the smell of the boiler, the smoke , the oil, everything really.

To finish of a perfect day we headed off to find a pub, I had found one on Google called the Holy Inadequate. It was anything but inadequate, with a wonderful selection of beers, and pork pies for only £1.80.

Our final night in Stoke was spent at Westport Lake, we took a walk round the lake and put our bird song app to good use.

Next challenge, the Harecastle Tunnel, and then the Macclesfield canal.