The Trent and Mersey Canal

 By: Chris Scenic
We continue our series this month with a look at the Trent and Mersey Canal

A little History

In 1761, Josiah Wedgewood showed an interest in the construction of a canal through Stoke on Trent, the location of his Wedgewood pottery. His business depended on the safe and smooth transport of his pots which - by road - were liable to be damaged and broken.

Six years before the complete opening in 1771, Wedgwood built the factory village of Etruria on the outskirts of Stoke on Trent, close to the canal.

By this time, much of the canal had been built towards Ellesmere Port. The only obstacle that still had to be tackled by the canal company was the hill at Kidsgrove, through which a tunnel was being dug.

Up until 1777, pots had to be carried on the short journey from Etruria, over the top of Kidsgrove Hill, and to the other side.

Look out for...

The canal is known for its tunnels, at Harecastle, Barnton, Saltersford and Preston Brook.

Saltersford has a kink because tunnelling started at different points and didn't quite meet in the middle.

Preston Brook has a large central chamber where a collapse was repaired, and cruising through the pitch dark confines of Harecastle tunnel is an experience nobody forgets.

You won't want to miss...

On the Cheshire stretch of the canal, between Middlewich and the Northern end of the canal in Preston Brook Tunnel, is the Victorian Anderton Boat Lift, which lowers boats fifty feet from the T&M to the River Weaver.

The lift has two large watertight tanks, which can each take two full length narrowboats.

It was restored to full operation in 2002 after twenty years of disuse, and at that time was the only operational boat-lift in the United Kingdom until the construction of the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland.

Interesting place name....

Built in the 1770s, Heartbreak Hill (or the Cheshire Locks as they are also known) raises the Trent and Mersey Canal from the Cheshire Plain at Wheelock.

Heartbreak Hill was how old boaters christened the five miles stretch and its 31 locks

Did you know....

Just North of Harecastle Tunnel, the T&M features one of only two "flyover" junctions on the English and Welsh network.

Anything else?

The campaign to restore all the mileposts on the canal was launched by the Trent and Mersey Canal Society in 1977.

Original mileposts removed during the war were found, cleaned and painted before being reinstalled. Thirty-four new mileposts were cast and the final one was unveiled in October 1985.

The original mileposts are now grade II listed.

Right then, off to the pub..

This month we are stepping a little way from the canalside to the fabulous Woolpack, situated on The Green in Weston, Staffordshire (T: 01889 270238 )

The Woolpack is a fantastic traditional village pub, full of history and character, with low beams and real fires - and was originally built back in the seventeenth century.

They have a separate restaurant and we recommend you book a table, although it's not always essential as they serve their full menu in the bar and garden areas as well.

Check out the specials board for Jakey's special creations - his black pudding fritters are a well known favourite - and leave some room for Mandy's homemade desserts which are also worthy of a mention.

Last time we looked the daily food offers included;

Monday - Half price steaks and grills
Wednesday - Curry with a free drink
Thursday - Buy 2 main meals and get a free bottle of wine
Friday - Half price fish and chips
Sunday - Lunch and any dessert for •£8.85

There is also a regular offer for two meals for •£10 on selected dishes from Monday to Saturday.

To find them from the canal side, follow the path past the cottages and take a right over the bridge, and then right again into the village of Weston.

Follow Green road until you reach the Village Green and you will see the Woolpack on the left.
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