On the last day of my holiday from work, I thought I would tick off station number 44 on the East Midlands Ranger Area list. I’ve mostly been doing stations in Nottinghamshire recently, so I decided to go west and tick off Longport in Stoke-on-Trent.
The journey began at Burton-on-Trent. I had just six minutes to make my connection to the Crewe-bound service at Derby, but I managed to get from platform 1 to 4 in just a couple of minutes, by using the pedestrian subway which runs between platforms 1 and 5 at Derby.
The train journey to Longport takes about an hour from Derby. In that hour, I saw the weather change from sunshine, to rain, back to sunshine and then rain again. I arrived at Longport and took a couple of pictures of the station before I headed off to the canal towpath.
Longport railway station was opened in October 1848 as “Burslem“. It was renamed Longport when Burslem got its own (now closed) station in 1873. It is unstaffed and has the usual basic amenities (help point, waiting shelter and bicycle rack). It looks to me like it used to have a level crossing, but this was closed off at some point, and access to the platforms is via a footbridge. The station sits on the line between Crewe and Derby, although some trains on the route between Stoke and Manchester call at Longport in the mornings.
The former station buildings are privately-owned, although I don’t think anyone uses them at the moment. The windows are boarded up, and fake windows have been painted on to the boards.
I left the station and crossed over the busy road. I went down a side street which leads to the Trent & Mersey Canal towpath. The canal towpath in Middleport is a conservation area, as it contains several old pottery factories, some of which are in better condition than others.
The first pottery is Middleport Pottery. It was built in 1888 and was bought by a conservationist company called Re-Form Heritage in 2011. They oversaw the regeneration of the site, which still produces pottery and also operates as a visitor attraction. It was the filming location for the BBC’s The Great Pottery Throw Down, a pottery-themed show in the style of the Great British Bake-off.
The next major industrial building along the canal is the Calcining works on Milvale Street, a former mill which produced flour and other materials for the pottery industry. It is in a serious state of disrepair at the moment.
I crossed over the canal bridge to have a closer look at the building, and spotted an installation of decorated tiles on the walls near the road.
I re-joined the canal and kept walking down the towpath. The canal was fairly quiet, with the odd walker or cyclist passing by, as well as a few people fishing. The next old building was Oliver’s Mill, a bottle oven which was built in 1909 and used until the 1960s. Parts of the mill were repaired in the early 2000s.
I wasn’t just here to look at derelict pottery sites, though. I was headed for Festival Park, which was the site of the 1986 Stoke-on-Trent Garden Festival.
The National Garden Festivals were an idea by Conservative environment secretary Michael Heseltine in the 1980s, to regenerate derelict former industrial sites. The first was held in Liverpool in 1984, with others held every two years in Stoke (1986), Glasgow (1988), Gateshead (1990) and the final one in Ebbw Vale (1992). I actually went to the one in Glasgow in 1988, and you can see pictures of that here.
I left the canal towpath at Forge Lane, and headed over Festival Way towards the park entrance. Most of the former festival site is now occupied by leisure and retail parks, including a dry ski slope and Waterworld, an indoor water park.
The park is largely overgrown with trees, and the pathways can be quite confusing. It’s easy to walk round in circles and get lost, as I found out myself. After finally getting my bearings, I headed up the park to see if I could spot some of the relics left over from the festival.
I wasn’t really expecting much from the park, but I still left feeling a bit disappointed. It could do with some signage, and maybe some plaques explaining what the sculptures are. It seems to be well-maintained, though. There was a group of kids (possibly Scouts) and their leader who were going around picking up litter. There is more to the park further north than the part I visited, but time was getting on and there wasn’t time to explore further.
Outside the park, across Festival Way, is another sculpture of a man’s head made out of bricks.
I headed back to the canal and retraced my steps back to the railway station, from where I got the train back to Derby, and then the train back to Burton. It was a good day out, and there looks to be a lot more to explore in the area, including Grange Park and Westport Lake, so I may return one day.
Thanks very much for reading.