14 September 2014

Serving Up... Stoke-on-Trent, England!

Ey up mi ducky? Stoke-on-Trent, the world's ceramic leader took me by the hand to teach me a thing or two. Don't you go about breaking any dishes! Oatcakes were on my mind the whole time until I got my hands on one! Trentham had my attention also but let's be serious, I don't appreciate posh, I wanted nothing but Stokey realness! Somehow, Stoke's still got something!

Pottery has been a part of Stoke-on-Trent's soul for thousands of years, making the most of the rich source of clay, water and coal sparked the early Pottery trade. Established in 1774 the Gladstone Pottery Workshop worked through a thousand arduous days until 1970. Thankfully the 17th Century site was saved from demolition to be preserved as a working museum. Located in Longton, one of the five towns that historically made up the city of Stoke-on-Trent. If you couldn't stand the heat you wouldn't make it as a pottery worker, all 700 degrees in that kiln! It's believed that half of Stoke's population made their money in one of the pottery works, it was a family affair! The Gladstone Pottery Workshop boomed through the late 17th century through to the industrially rich 18th century period. Gladstone Pottery Museum tells the truth, celebrating the legacy. Let's bring more pottery back to Stoke-on-Trent! 

Stoke had some bottle! I mean the bottle chimneys that once littered the skyline of that North Staffordshire city, but the pollution plagued the people of the city with health problems so eventually newer equipment was used during the 1950's and beyond. Call me crazy? I wanted to learn something about the pottery works in Stoke because it's rare that positive things are said about the city on the Trent river. Have you heard of Josiah Wedgwood or Henry Doulton? Josiah and Henry paved the way to become two of Stoke-on-Trent's most famous produces of fine bone China. Several top ceramic works have been commissioned to make products for the British Family to serve Great Britain and the Empire. Keep your opinions to yourself because they won't make a difference! Hanley, Burslem, Fenton, Stoke and Longton now work as one, things haven't been rosy for the Potteries but demand for British made ceramics is picking up now. Stoke-On-Trent, you better well work it mi ducky!

What's up Hanley? Stoke-on-Trent has an unusual layout but I made it to Hanley after I learnt about the city's pottery legacy. Not being a bus person I put bigotry aside for the day because I didn't fancy walking from point to point! Hanley, you have such a personality! I wanted nothing but an oatcake! Stoke does them best, like a pancake but made with oaty goodness! Choosing a catering van outside the Intu Potteries shopping centre I indulged in a cheese and bacon whopper Oatcake! Duck, it was great! I didn't have time for clothes shopping, I just wanted my Oatcake from Hanley! If the truth be told I randomly decided to visit Stoke-on-Trent, I didn't take anything seriously. You already know that I appreciated the uncomplicated vibe that Hanley had that Friday afternoon, I should really look North more often. I have to eat an oatcake when I'm in Stoke-on-Trent! Oh no ducky, Hanley hadn't changed one bit!

Making sense of Hanley's city centre amenities I could tell that a few things had changed since my last visit some years ago. Hanley kept me on my toes! Well apart from the new bus station that served me well with my onward connections. My aunties both lived in Stoke-on-Trent for a number of years so it meant several visits to North Staffordshire. Throughout the years I had the chance to see Sneyd Green, Burslem and Talke, all showcasing something completely different. Sneyd Green and Burslem serve straight up realness with a no hold attitude about anything, both colourful neighbourhoods to say the least! Talke offered a slice of calm with the green fields and scenic views that I had the opportunity to witness. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, there's always time for an oatcake in Stoke-on-Trent! Not wanting to make any negative swipe at Hanley but after living in Newark, NJ I don't mind these places! Stoke in general has an edge to it, that's for sure! Just truth. 

The Trentham Estate took me by surprise! From the Gladstone Pottery Museum and Hanley City Centre to then end up surrounded by the grandeur of Trentham Gardens, I was very impressed! The formal Italianate gardens are set within a three hundred acres estate of parkland that dates back to 1758. Part of the wider city of Stoke-on-Trent the suburb of Trentham plays as the perfect contradiction. To the left stand the well manicured gardens, standing from the viewpoint gave me a whole new perspective on the Potteries. Aside from the grand gardens there's plenty to get up to around the Estate, shopping can be enjoyed at the Trentham shopping village that borders the garden's entrance. I took the 21B bus from Hanley bus station that took around thirty minutes give or take some traffic. I had seen the Monkey Forest on a previous occasion so I chose to visit the Gardens entirely. All good ST!

Summer, Winter, Spring or Autumn I can be assured that the gardens at the Trentham Estate look amazingly regal! Trentham definitely has gardens to envy but what's going on with that five star hotel? Don't take this the wrong way, I always notice that there's a dreary look to the sky in Stoke, but as negative as that may sound I saw it as a benefit during my Stoke day! Don't judge a book by its cover because Stoke-on-Trent deserves respect for all of its industrial advances, it was just dealt a bad card. Word on the street is that the pottery trade is filtering back into Stoke-on-Trent, so far so good! Wedgwood, Royal Doulton and the rest of you pottery works, keep working on your grind! The Trentham Gardens give the perfect opportunity for rest, relaxation and a pleasing view. Like I previously mentioned I endorse the Stoke Oatcake, its best served with cheese and bacon! Hanley's city centre keeps its hustle true to the mark! Make no mistake, Stoke-on-Trent served me something!

Don't Go Breaking Any Dishes!

Joseph Harrison 

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