Caldon Canal to Froghall
5 to 7 June 2010
For our 9th annual bellringers' canal trip, we started like three
years ago at Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent, this time starting the week on
the Caldon Canal.
The first few yards of the Caldon Canal, today home to a small canal festival at
the industrial museum here.
Past all the bustle of the festival, Merry and Stephen watch as our boat climbs
the first lock of the holiday, the lower of a staircase pair.
Helen looks down as the boat passes through the electrified lift bridge
Next morning, a sculpture to celebrate the local pottery industries, including
elements from old factories.
The railway line from Stoke to Leek and beyond has been unused for some time, as
can be seen here. The track itself is still in very good condition, but some
vegetation clearance is needed. While Stephen gets wet taking this photograph,
Sheila is preparing the lock for the boat.
An obstruction unhelpfully located just before a bridge, which happens to have a
boat coming through it.
Etruria 9 miles, Uttoxeter 21 miles proclaims the milepost - rather out of date
in some ways as the Uttoxeter branch of the canal was closed in 1848.
Around here the bridges changes from brick to stone, a hint that we are getting
closer to the Peak District, and feeling that we have crossed an invisible line
between the Midlands and the North.
The (new) Hazlehurst Junction: for the moment our course lies to the left, down
the first of three locks in succession which will take our route under the level
of the Leek branch, which initially heads right.
Hazlehurst Aqueduct carries the Leek branch (and its vital water supply for the
summit level of the Trent and Mersey Canal) over our route to Froghall. It was
built when the original staircase of three locks was replaced by the three we've
just been through.
From the aqueduct, a view of what appears to be half a tug-of-war competition -
in fact this is all of the people since they are practising, pulling a hay bale
up a pole.
Meanwhile, Lucy steers our boat under the aqueduct
On the left, our boat emerges from the aqueduct - back here tomorrow to cross
over on the upper level.
We stop at Cheddleton for a little re-provisioning, and to catch the 1447 train
from Cheddleton to Froghall.
The Churnet Valley Railway currently runs trains along 5¼ miles from near
Leekbrook Junction just north of Cheddleton to Kingsley & Froghall station to
the south along the river Churnet.
Ice creams waiting for the train to arrive.
Our locomotive is LMS 8624, an 8F class 2-8-0 locomotive designed for heavy
freight, which was brought back to life in 2009.
At Kingsley & Froghall, a few minutes to look around
Looking down on 8624 from the road bridge
Approaching Cheddleton again, our maroon boat can be seen just to the right of
As we make our way down the Caldon Canal, at this point just starting a section
running along the River Churnet, the next train back from Froghall passes us
heading for Cheddleton.
The River Churnet as it joins the canal which has just descended through a lock.
At Consall, we stop to take on water, so time for a look at the weir which
carries the River Churnet down away from the canal - the canal continues with
only one lock to Froghall, gradually higher up the valley side as the river
From the level crossing, a look along to Consall station
The view from our mooring spot for the night: 8624 has come light engine to pull
the DMU back to Cheddleton. We had originally intended to eat at the Black Fox
here, but they changed their minds about being able to accommodate us.
On Monday morning, we continue along the canal towards Froghall. The platform
and waiting room are cantilevered out over the canal, which has been pushed
sideways and lost land to give room for the railway to be built.
Below the last lock is a plastic height gauge which shows that we aren't
considered big enough to fit through Froghall Tunnel. There is a little leeway,
but probably not that much, and not in someone else's boat. The other problem is
that the winding hole this side of the tunnel is only rated at 65 feet, not
enough for a 69-foot boat, and so we would probably not be able to turn round
either - but the enthusiastic members of our crew decided to proceed anyway.
We tried turning but couldn't, so tied up the boat and walked to the tunnel with
its low profile.
On the other side of the tunnel, the first lock of the Uttoxeter Canal has been
...as has the mooring basin beyond it, but probably sees relatively few boats
because despite some slight improvements, most boats can still not fit through
the tunnel to get here.
The trip boat at Froghall Wharf
So, time to starting heading back, literally...