Day 4 – Red Bull to Barlaston

Hours Cruised – 6

Interesting people met – 4

Idiots encountered – 1 

Pubs visited that we won’t be going back to – 1

Classic Album – Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

Today’s big feature is the tunnel. In canal terms, on the Trent and Mersey, the Harecastle tunnel is the manifestation of the North South divide. You  enter the North Portal (after the extensive safety briefing) surrounded by the grim industrial wasteland that is the North and emerge 38 minutes later into the leafy paradise that is the South.

After doing all the canal necessaries (emptying toilets & filling water tanks), we set off. 3 locks of Red Bull, and then on to the tunnel.

Arriving, we were met by a cheery CRT operative, who took our particulars and gave us the safety briefing, now 50% longer thanks to the tragic accident that happened there last year. Don’t remember much of it other than “if you fall overboard, stand up, it’s only 4 feet deep”. Classic!

Entering  the tunnel, we negotiated the new profile boards (highlighting how low the tunnel gets, and probably the most tricky maneuver of the passage) we set off. 38 minutes later we emerged the other end. 

Whilst the Harecastle tunnel has a fearsome reputation it is, in my opinion, one of the easier tunnels to negotiate. It’s straight as a die, and for most part (apart from about 100m in the middle) is wide with plenty of headroom.

Once through the Tunnel it was on to Stoke past a mixture of post industrial wasteland, 70s office blocks. and working potteries with “Bottle kilns”, “slip rooms” and “firing chambers”, a magical world!

It was now getting on for lunchtime and we were still yet to encounter an idiot. I would like to have added the guy who turned out of the Caldon and cut in front of us entering the locks in Stoke, but fair dos he did get there first. Furthermore, if he had not done so, I would not have had the pleasure of hearing a youth worker explaining the difference between graffiti and “street art” to a group of youth volunteers he was wrangling by the lock. The world needs more people like him – great job!

5 locks, and a number of very low bridges later, we met today’s idiot.

 In fact, he had entered the story at the top of the locks in Stoke, but didn’t show his true colours until his idiocy revealed itself when he caught up with us about a mile before Trentham Lock. Rather than politely keeping a distance, he proceeded to tailgate us to the extent I could smell his southern arrogance!

At the lock, he moored up, and proceeded to “Help” impatiently  asking if we were “out for the day” or “doing a ring”. When asked where he was heading, he replied “I’m out till September & heading for London”. On which basis, I am not sure why he was in such a hurry!

Today’s mooring was at Barlaston. A lovely sunny spot, despite being 20 yards from the west coast mainline. 

It is here where we enter the pub to which we will not be returning (more later), and we meet today’s interesting people. 4 New Zealanders, on an Anglo Welsh hire boat spending 2 weeks doing the 4 counties ring ( lucky they didn’t meet Arsey Southerner, as his scorn would have been unbearable!).  We spent a fun hour discussing the wonders of the British waterways and does and don’ts of canal etiquette. 

At the point when they went to eat, we decided to do the same ( we had only come in to look at the menu whilst walking the  dog ( remember her, she’s called Boo. Day 1 featured a picture of her looking cool!).

We ordered 2 steaks ( they were practically the same price as burgers, so it seemed only sensible) and sat down. 40 minutes later ( having a discussed the facinating Neil Morrissey related trivia covering the walls – did I mention the pub was owned by Meil Morrissey) no sign of the food. On enquiring, I was told, very apologetically, that their ordering system had gone wrong, and they had lost our order. They would send out complimentary garlic bread & nibbles to tide us over, whilst the food would be given the highest priority, and would be with us shortly. 

15 mins later the steak arrived ( no sign of the promised garlic bread and “nibbles” ) but thankful for the fact that we had food, we did not complain! And credit where credit is due, the steak was pretty good.

Needless to say, we will not be going there again! Just so you don’t confuse it with any other well organized eating establishment, it is “The Plume of Feathers” at Barlaston.

At 9:30 (having ordered dinner a little after 7:30) and fed (eventually) we returned to the boat to write the blog, and listen to days classic album.

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