|Stoke's bottle kilns are still crumbling away|
Well that's what it feels like to be back on this stretch of the Trent & Mersey. It's five years since we were here (on our old boat, Star) and nothing really seems to have changed. The canalside through Stoke is still a wasteland – the buddleia on the ruined buildings has grown thicker, the acres of rubble are now covered with a thick fuzz of weed - and that's about it.
Back in 2011 I said this about the place: "I always find Stoke a fascinating but sad and sorry place to boat through. Fascinating because there are so many remnants of its old industries - the bottle kilns, the wharves, the ruined brick warehouses. Sad because that's all they are - remnants.
People have told me of cruising through the town when steel furnaces spat fire along the canal and the kilns belched smoke. What a sight that must have been!
All that has gone, the warehouses are deserted ruins, the kilns silent museum pieces and for nearly a mile the canal runs through a wasteland; a bulldozed desert of nothingness."
|A sign and wasteland with no past and no future|
Even the town centre was an unappetising blend of a modern 'intu' mall, some '70s developments that were looking tired to the point of exhaustion and a few old buildings that had somehow ducked generations of wrecking ball. On the way from the canal we passed two casinos and the HQ of Bet365 in a mile. Says it all, really.
|My favourite boatyard: a one-stop shop for all your needs|
After a day of rain yesterday, we woke to sun and nurdled slowly south, passing the Wedgwood factory at Barlaston. Josiah Wedgwood was one of the principal movers behind the creation of the T&M Canal. These days, after going more or less bust and being bought by a private equity firm it is now in the hands of Finnish home goods makers Fiskars. Apparently they plan to expand the limited production still at Barlaston. Here too is the museum where the huge collection of 80,000 items was rescued from being sold off to pay the firm's debts when it went bust. Fiskars plan to turn this into an 'experience' which is how we Brits can discover what it was like to actually make things here.
|Coming down through the Meaford locks towards Stone|