Day 26

Stone to Kidsgrove – 14.8 miles (414.9 total)

Once again I was blessed with a dry morning and the weather stayed like that the whole walk. Stone was really quiet on a Sunday night. It turned out that my hotel didn’t do food so I was forced to eat in Wetherspoons. Don’t get me wrong, Wetherspoons is great when you’re on your own and it is cheaper than all the competition, and it sells good real ale, but I was ready for a change – I know their menu off by heart.

A nice hotel breakfast, everything packed and I set off at exactly 10am. The Trent & Mersey Canal was easy to find so I started off in a positive frame of mind. The main railway line kept me company for the whole day and a busy line it is too. Virgin, Cross Country and regional trains whizzed by at regular intervals.

Stoke-on-Trent

After about 5 miles I reached Barlaston then Stoke. The walk through Stoke on Trent took up most of the remainder of the trip. Like Gloucester, I found the journey fascinating. Stoke is/was the world-renowned centre of pottery manufacturing with a history going back hundreds of years. The banks of the canal, as they are today, reveal little of what must have been a thriving commercial and industrial centre.

The Wedgwood Estate
Britannia Stadium, home of Stoke City Football Club

A very few old factory buildings remain, mostly derelict, but for the most part you have to search for signs of foundations or rubble to guess what the banks of the canal would once have looked like.

A reminder of the past

I did see lots of ducks and geese along the canal, they are obviously quite comfortable in this, sometimes busy, environment, sharing their space with barges, cyclists, dog walkers and me.

Duck, duck… goose?

My journey on the Trent & Mersey Canal came to an abrupt end, for me anyway, at the entrance to the Harecastle Tunnels. Two tunnels were constructed at different times the length being an incredible one and a half miles. Only one tunnel is still navigable, the Telford Tunnel, but, sadly, neither of them ever had a towpath. The barge journey today takes 45 minutes.

Harecastle Tunnel

I transferred to road at this point, for the short remainder of my walk, to meet up with Pete at our hotel. Pete is joining me again for the West Highland Way section of my walk and possibly even more as I head further north. We haven’t seen each other in a while so I’m looking forward to planning ahead and talking about my adventures so far.