Day 11 Pottering though the Potteries

With Premier Inns you get what it says on the tin: a supremely comfortable king sized bed, a room large enough for you and the bike, an in bath shower and food for the masses.  The receptionist booked me in very efficiently, gave me a chit to present to the Table Table restaurant next door which would allow me a two course meal and a drink of choice( I chose a bottle of Doom Bar as there was no draught on offer) and unlimited breakfast in the morning and all for £72.99.  Food choices are not exciting and there is a distinct lack of fresh vegetables available. In the event I went for mushroom soup and Beef and ale pie with mash and green beans. I had some garlic bread and another pint of  bottled Doom Bar and paid an extra £9 or so.  The pie was disappointing with rather tough pastry but it filled a hole and I decided against a pudding and went blogging. As there was a fan in the room I washed my kit and stuck the fan on full blast and it was virtually dry by the time I went to bed.  I turned the fan down to low overnight and this morning it was ready to wear.

Breakfast this morning was good: help yourself to cereals, yoghurt, croissants, fresh fruit etc and a fried breakfast of choice. It was all nicely cooked and presented and I set off with a full stomach at about 0930. Annoyingly I have left my 4 foot bungee that doubles as a washing line somewhere.  I know that I had it at Lockerbie but, as I did no washing at Ings I can’t remember if I had it there.  Anyway it’s missing and so, as I was going through the middle of Warrington I dropped in at Toolstation and bought a replacement.  Going through almost any major town nowadays is easy: cycling on pavements is almost universally allowed and you can dodge traffic lights and queues with ease.  I made my way through the town and crossed the Mersey by a new and almost imperceptible bridge and, shortly afterwards, the Manchester Ship Canal by something that looked as though it came out of a  Meccano set

and which had a nice cycleway.  I made my way out of town and branched off towards Hatton where I was threatened with road closures. As these seldom refer to bikes I plugged on and found myself in the middle of the Creamfields music festival which is an electronic dance festival that runs for four days over the bank holiday weekend.  If you’re into Carl Cox, Deadmau5, Chemical Brothers, ANNA and dozens of other EDM luminaries this is where you should have been.  The same 3m green walls as at Reading surrounded the site and there were a lot of yoof with packs on their backs on the roads.

It was overcast with not much sun all day but the wind was light and cycling through the Cheshire countryside was enjoyable.  I cycled past some very des res’s and an intriguing and unexplained major construction project that had the road closed to most traffic, round Cuddington and Winsford where the geese and swans were enjoying the Bottom Flash

and shortly afterwards joined the Shropshire Union Canal for a short section of well surfaced towpath. 

Round Sandbach the Wheelock Rail Trail provided more well surfaced off road cycling though the pedestrian traffic slowed me down somewhat. 

At Rode Heath I joined the Trent and Mersey Canal past locks

for about ten miles of slow and bumpy progress, mainly downhill with some steep drops under low bridges.  This was taking me through the Pottery towns of Tunstall, Burslem and Stoke and Midleport Pottery

Shortly after passing Etruria, famous as one of the sites of Josiah Wedgwood’s potteries. I hit a large tree root and there was a bang and splash as one of my panniers parted company with the bike and ended up floating in the canal.  Fortunately this proved that the panniers are largely waterproof and they float! In the panic to retrieve it I missed the photo op! I repaired the damage to the fixing but this was the last straw and as it was already past 5pm I decided to abandon the canal and make for my destination on the roads. 

I made my way out of Stoke on the London Road, making for the A34 which gave me the most direct route to Stone and Stafford.  I had no idea what it would be like but almost anything was better than the canal.  In fact it proved excellent, a wide dual carriageway with relatively little traffic, most of which is taken by the M6 and I made very good time to Stafford even though the gearing on the bike has gone awry and I can’t get the two highest gears which means I can’t get up to maximum speed though I had sufficient battery to boost me a bit.  As the route was largely downhill I was going well until I hit Stafford and lost my way badly.  Having described a circle around the town I eventually found the Wolverhampton road that took me to my destination The Spread Eagle pub and hotel at Gailey, owned by Marstons after nearly nine hours on the road, the longest day so far. The map below misses the first 5.5 miles because Rita was playing up and Gary Garmin ran out of battery before the journey ended. I can’t, this late at night be bothered to stitch the two together. Anyway the best part of 77 miles, a mixture of enjoyment and frustration.

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