Tag Archives: Stoke on Trent

The Scone Chronicles – Number 5

The last scone report was a bit of a cheat because it featured oatcakes rather than scones.  However, it seemed a bit of a waste not to mention oatcakes as we were in Stoke. This one, also from Wednesday, does feature scones.

After the various trials of the day we ended up at Westport Lake. It’s not very impressive at first sight – muddy surroundings, idiots with bread and lots of domestic geese.

It was actually quite pleasant once you started looking at the birds. I don’t need rarities, I can amuse myself with common birds, and the sight of tame geese chasing toddlers for food never loses its appeal.

The cafe is in the visitor centre, which is a wooden building that looks a bit like an ark and is mainly balanced on legs over an artificial pond. I’m not quite sure why they built it on legs, but it’s quite interesting. We ordered scones and tea and sat on the balcony. The seats are a bit tight for a man of ample posterior.

The scones were too dry and crumbly for my taste, but once buttered and jammed looked OK, though one pat of butter isn’t really enough for a large scone.

The first half of my scone had a slight, though not unpleasant, tang of baking soda.  Julia confirmed that hers did too, though she thought it was a bit off-putting. By the end of my second half I was beginning to agree with her. Early in my scone baking days I made a batch where I failed to mix the baking soda in properly so I do sympathise, though it should be easy enough for a professional baker to avoid the problem.

I think we’ll be back – it’s a pleasant place to spend time and they have oatcakes in the cafe too.

 

A Peaceful Interlude

After the oatcakes we went to Dudsons, but they were shut.  It’s nice pottery, but you can’t buy it if the shop door is locked. Then we went to the Portmeirion shop, where Julia went shopping and I took a photo of the crack in the winscreen that had happened on the +way . Then I did some selfies. There was also a mural to photograph in the car park, though someone parked in front of it as I prepared to take the photo.

Here are the results.

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The cracked windscreen

I attempted to introduce a range of facial expressions – weary, downtrodden and resigned. That’s the full range of expressions for a married man shopping with his wife. Can you tell the difference?

This is the mural. It’s very close to the pattern on some of the Portmeirion pottery, which is probably not a coincidence.

After that we moved on to the Etruria Industrial Museum. It was shut. I re-read the website when I got home. It doesn’t make it obvious that it’s closed most of the time, though the sign does.

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Closed!

Fortunately we were able to do something good before we left Stoke, but you will have to wait to see what we did because it’s getting late.

 

The Scone Chronicles – Number 4

Before saying anything more, I am going to confess that this isn’t about scones. We went to Stoke-on-Trent, so we had Staffordshire oat cakes at the Middleport Pottery.

That’s a lot of links for one short paragraph.

It started badly when, after parking, we found that they’d changed the way in since our last visit.  A hearty woman redirected us, which was helpful but not what you want to hear when you are twenty yards from where you want to be but are being sent an extra 200 yards. One small step for a man with good knees – not so good when you have a bad knee and a stick.

It didn’t improve when I found that they don’t do my favourite oatcake now – no black pudding and bacon for me. I settled for sausage and cheese. Not a great combination, but the best one, I thought, for brunch. With hindsight I should probably have gone for cheese, tomato and mushrooms, but, with hindsight, I should really have gone somewhere else.

The cafe is better lit and cleaner than it used to be, so I expect they have someone new in charge. The oatcakes were a surprise. There were two of them, with salad.  That, to my mind, is how you serve trendy stuff like paninis. It’s not what I want from oatcakes, which is an old-fashioned sort of food.

To make things worse, the tomato in the salad was old and dried out, like it had been cut several days ago and stored.

The sausages were pretty average too – not actually bad, but definitely not good.

It wasn’t cheap, and, to be honest, I expect fresh salad. Mediocre sausages are, sadly, a fact of life, but there is no excuse for wilting salad.

Tea at

The tea was good, as was the pottery, which is made about 100 yards away.

 

 

 

 

More from Stoke

After a look found the shopping village, and a disappointing look round the Portmeirion shop we stuck another postcode in the satnav and set off for Dudson. (The shopping village postcode is ST4 8JG if you want it, and Dudson ST6 2BA). Dudson is mainly hotel ware and the shop can be quite good for cheap mugs. Julia bought a teapot to replace the one she bought last year, which is now chipped.

We passed Moorcroft on the way, but didn’t have time to stop (ST6 2DQ). Then it was time for Middleport (where I took most of the photographs. It’s the pottery where they shot The Great Pottery Throw Down. That’s ST6 3PE if you’re planning a trip. I’m not particularly keen on their factory shop, but they do other things too, including a narrow boat which used to carry clay from Cornwall and take finished pots to the port of Liverpool. Canals must have been wonderful things at one time.

I had to check how the canals brought clay to the Potteries, as there is no canal from Cornwall. It seems they used to bring them in via various places – first shipping the clay up to Liverpool and Hull before bringing it closer by river, then using packhorses for the last bit. You can see how the canal must have made things much easier. With the canal you can bring clay from either port to a wharf alongside the pottery.

The tearoom is quite good (though we didn’t eat this time, still being full of breakfast). It seemed a bit over-staffed for the business if was doing (three staff to six customers) and wasn’t as clean as it could be – a problem when you have an old building and tables made of old planks. There could be a solution to both problems – get the spare staff cleaning!

After failing to find anything in the factory shop we popped a hundred yards down the road to William Edwards. No postcode needed – it’s next door to the last one. Julia was happy because she bought a square plate. It seems that we need a square plate. I suppose it’s easier for sandwiches and Battenburg cake.

That left us with just one errand to do – looking for a Christmas present from Portmeirion. There are three Portmeirion shops in Stoke, which was a good thing, as the first one had been disappointing. I stuck in one of the other postcodes and we ended up at the old Phoenix Works, which was a place we’d been before. It solved the problem and produced the necessary christmas present. ST3 1EZ, for those contemplating a visit.

 

A Trip to Stoke on Trent

We haven’t been to Stoke or a while. Looking back to post links to the last visit I see it was almost exactly a year ago. We had planned to visit at least twice this year but, as usual, it didn’t quite work.

This morning Julia, who had a list of jobs for both of us, looked at the weather and said: “Do you fancy a trip out?”

I suggested Stoke and forty=five minutes later we were eating breakfast on the outskirts of Derby.

The satnav is getting more use these days as I get used to it and after taking some postcodes from the internet we were able to drive straight to the Trentham Shopping Village – a place we’d never visited before.

The parking was free and plentiful and the toilets were excellent, though The Works was the worst branch I’ve ever been in – small, badly stocked and crowded. Well, nothing’s perfect.

There’s a shop that claims to sell artisan foods, though as with all these shops the stock is a bit more industrial than the signs in the window claim. There was some good stuff there, though it didn’t really look like it had been made by sweaty men wearing bandanas and working with open pans. Or whatever your definition of “artisan” is.

I Googled for pictures of “artisan” and most of them are grubby-looking men in overalls so I wasn’t too far off. It’s a strange thing that though women surely make the majority of jams and pickles in this country we always seem to think of men when we mention the word “artisan”.

There was a whiskey shop too. We had a look in because we were looking to buy some gin for a Christmas present. At £20 for a half bottle we decided to rethink that one. They were selling samples of whiskey in medicine bottles. I can see the point in smaller bottles, and I can see the comedy potential of a medicine bottle, but it just doesn’t look right.

There’s another shop selling alcohol too – whiskey, gin and vodka. You select a bottle, then you fill it from a big container. There are many varieties of fruit-infused gin and vodka, for just £6 (plus the cost of the bottle) it seemed OK. Then I put my glasses on. I hadn’t been expecting much for £6, but I had been expecting more than 100 ml – that’s £60 for a litre, or £45 for a supermarket bottle.

No wonder they can afford staff and glitzy shop fittings.

More from Stoke, with photographs, tomorrow.

 

More on Oatcakes and Urban Decay

Stoke on Trent Part 2

By lunchtime it had been a moderate day. We had bought a few pots and photographed a bottle kiln, but the choice was poor and the cafes at two of the shops had closed down.

The success of the day trip was in the balance. Would we have to write it off as a wasted day, or could I, with the help of the trusty tourist map, pull something out of the bag?

Not far away was a group of potteries/shops that we hadn’t visited before, so now was obviously the time to change our habits. After all, we couldn’t make things worse and with satnav, what could possibly go wrong? (Note how I have swung from scepticism to over-confidence in just a few months).

The clue, I feel, is in my use of the word “over-confidence”.

Do you realise that there are still parts of the UK that aren’t accurately served by satnav. I do, because for several years navigating the new course of the A46 near the farm was as tricky as getting out of the Bermuda triangle.

If you ever enter  ST6 3PF into your satnav leave your diary free for a few days and take sandwiches. The route was populated by phantom roundabouts and one-way streets that had not been there when the satnav was programmed. I say that charitably, as the signs on the one way streets looked as if they had been there since before satnav was invented. Maybe it’s a hard life being a street sign in Stoke.

Finally, after photographing some bottle kilns, we found the William Edwards factory shop. This is a small shop on the edge of the factory. It specialises in high quality goods, and is a touch cramped for a fat man. We bought a few mugs for presents and spoke to the excellent lady who ran the shop, who told us that Middleton Pottery was just along the street, and that they had a tea room. See Pies and Prejudice for a fuller account of what happened there. Food was good, there are plenty of activities on site and I’d quite like to work there. However, the shop was even more cramped and pottery was unexciting.

We’ve been to the Gladstone Pottery Museum with the kids before. It was good, with exhibitions on toilets, a model sewer and drawers full of encaustic tiles. I’m not a great one for fine china (as if that’s a surprise to anyone who reads this blog) and if there are two things I love it’s historical toilets and encaustic tiles. I’m not sure if they are still there, and the website doesn’t seem to say, so check before visiting if that’s where your interests lie. The Middleton Pottery offers a factory tour and Victorian office but also has a few wildlife and sustainability tips. It also has a derelict factory at the end of the street.

Finally, thinking we could miss the traffic on the way home, we set off, found another deficiency in the satnav and found ourselves passing the Dudson shop. I nearly carried on, but Julia thought she’d like to look round a shop full of odds and ends of hotel ware. So, U-turn and waste time as traffic builds up…

I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s actually got loads of great (brightly coloured) stuff and it’s cheap. It also had plenty of room for fat people and a cheery woman on the till. I bought more there than we bought anywhere else (as you will see when I start photographing food seriously). No tea room, but they do have a museum on another site. They are also in sight of the Moorcroft shop (I managed to keep her out of that one!) and just round the corner from the Moorcroft museum.

The Moorcroft Museum used to be free, and I see from the website that it still is, which I find an admirable quality in a museum. We will be going back to Dudson, and will doubtless fit a Moorcroft visit in, despite the fact I needed oxygen and a bank loan last time we went to the shop.

All that and we still managed to sneak home before the traffic built up too badly.

 

Oatcakes and Urban Decay

Stoke on Trent Part 1

We’ve been meaning to go to Stoke on Trent for a while, as time is getting short for the 2016 visit.

We need more plates for our everyday service (the kids, on the few occasions they have washed up over the years have done so with heavy hands) and we often manage to find a few Christmas presents while we’re over there.

Additionally, I’ve been looking for some decent single plates for food photography on Pies and Prejudice and I haven’t had a Staffordshire oatcake for a while (about 20 years now I actually think about it). Now I have a food blog, today seemed like a good day to break the oatcake drought.

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Staffordshire oat cake

I also thought I might get some pictures of urban landscapes, as Stoke still has a great stock of old industrial sites.

For once, everything seemed to (almost) go according to plan.

Aynsley provided slim pickings, though we did replenish our everyday service. Portmeirion was also a bit flat, though we did get a few pictures of a bottle kiln.

That’s a bottle-shaped kiln, not one for making bottles, there are 47 still standing, and they are all listed buildings now, though they aren’t all actually bottle-shaped.

Our third call was also disappointing (so many places seem to be in decline or making their pots in China) so we looked at the map we’d picked up from Aynsley and typed a postcode into the satnav.

That was how we ended up at Middleport Pottery, and that’s a story for part 2.