Friday, August 18, 2017

Up to the Caldon summit, and what’s in a name?

Two sets of lock yesterday to get us onto the highest point of the Caldon Canal, a pair at Cheddleton and three at Hazelhurst. And is it Hazelhurst or Hazlehurst? Two and a half inch OS maps show a Hazelhurst Wood, House and Cottage just to the south of the locks, but Nicholson’s in their canal guides use the alternative spelling. I’m sticking with the local version…

The locks weren’t always here anyway. When the canal was opened the three were at Park Lane, about a mile to the west. But with the construction of the Leek Arm within a few years the locks were moved to Hazelhurst so that the new arm could feed in at the summit level.
They were also originally built as a triple staircase, but this was replaced by the current three individual locks in 1841. The elegant latticework bridge at the junction dates from this time. The earlier route below Park Lane Locks has disappeared now, in fact it’s likely that it’s under the adjacent railway line.

But our first were the two at Cheddleton, and both had to be emptied before we could use them.

Cheddleton Locks DSCF0825


The water wheel at Cheddleton Flint Mill above the locksDSCF0831

Almost opposite The Holly Bush pub, a mile or so further on, there’s a short quarry arm on the left.

Starling, on the left, is another Yarwoods boat built in 1936 for Cowburn and Cowpars of Manchester. All of their boats had bird names beginning with S.

WH Cowburn and Cowpar’s main business was in carrying chemicals for Courtaulds in Manchester. One of those carried was the volatile Carbon Disulphide, with cylindrical tanks installed in the hold to store the hazardous product. Boats thus equipped also had a flood valve installed to sink the boat rapidly in the event of a fire.
I can’t make out any detail on the other boat in the undergrowth, although she may be a Thomas Clayton motor boat.

Under the Leek Arm again at Hazelhurst Aqueduct…DSCF0835

…and back up Hazelhurst Locks


It looks like the British Waterways Board had trouble with the spelling, too!

Having not seen a boat up to this point, we were pleased to see a steady stream of boats heading down the locks, making it an easy passage for us.

It’s really rather pleasant up here…

We topped up with water at the Park Lane Bridge services, then pulled in on a pleasant sunny spot just before Endon Wharf.

Over the last few days both Mags and I have noticed that the morse control for the engine has been getting rather stiff. So I disconnected either end of the throttle cable and found that it’s very tight in it’s jacket. I’ve tried running some oil down inside the sheath but with little success so have ordered a replacement that I’ll pick up in Stoke. Meanwhile we’ll put up with the old one. It’s an easy enough swap when the new one arrives.

We decided to stay put today, I had to reassemble the control anyway. A good job really, we had some pretty heavy showers,  two with hail mixed in!

We might even stay here tomorrow, as well.

Locks 5, miles 4½

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

To the end and back again.

This morning we set off down the last bit of the canal to Froghall. Leaving Consall Forge the navigation heads under two bridges, then past Consall Station on the restored Churnet Valley Railway.

I had a walk around before we left…

Looking upstream from the bridge crossing the river channel.DSCF0775

The Black Lion, with the railway line crossing in the foregroundDSCF0777

Black-faced sheep on the line…

…and a fine looking Jacobs.

Maybe need to click to enlarge…

Three of the four kilns are bricked up for safety, but one has just railings to expose the interior.DSCF0785

We got off at around a quarter to ten, under the footbridge then the railway bridge, putting the line now on our right hand. The platform and waiting room are cantilevered out over the canal…


Flint Mill Lock is the last before the terminal basin at Froghall, above it is a winding hole for full-length boats that won’t fit through the tunnel, and below is a profile indicator to check those that are going to give it a go…

If you can get through without the suspended plastic sheets touching the roof, you’ll fit through the tunnel. No chance for us, even if I emptied the roof.

Where the channel has been cut through rock as it follows the side of the river valley, the engineers understandably didn’t do more than necessary…DSCF0793

Cherryeye Bridge has an unusual, almost Norman, arch.DSCF0795

The woods on the right bank end as the industry at Froghall appears. Or it would do if there was any left…DSCF0797


We turned around at the winding hole short of the tunnel, backed up a bit and moored so I could have walk to visit Froghall Basin.

The low Froghall Tunnel

At the basin the wharf buildings now host a sanitary station, basket maker and tea rooms.DSCF0800

I learned to drive in a Morris Minor Traveller very similar to that one…

More lime kilns

Loading docks for lime brought down from Caldon Low quarries.DSCF0802

Lock 1 of the Uttoxeter Canal has been restored, dropping down into a basin with mooring pontoons.DSCF0805


The canal goes no further, now.

Getting loaded full-length boats around the sharp bend into the tunnel must have been challenging!DSCF0808

Back at the boat we had a brew and then set off back to Consall Forge and beyond.

Back through Cherryeye Bridge.

I was tempted to stop for lunch back at Consall Forge, but the most pleasant mooring opposite the pub was taken, so we carried on. There was an ulterior motive too. On Wednesdays during the school holidays there’s a steam loco on the railway schedule, and I was hoping to catch a sight, especially in view of my disappointment at Market Bosworth a few weeks ago.

Well, I caught a glimpse…
…of the tender going backwards!

Oakmeadow Ford Lock, at the upstream end of the river sectionDSCF0816
That’s the Churnet coming in on the right.

As we headed towards Cheddleston, having ascended Woods Lock, the train returned from it’s trip to Froghall, but was too far away and obscured by trees. But finally, after we’d moored up across from the station, I got the picture!DSCF0822
The loco was built in 1945 in Lima, Ohio, and exported to China where it spent the next 40-odd years working in the coal industry. In the 90s it was withdrawn from service and earmarked for scrap, but was rescued and brought to the UK by an enthusiast. Overhauled it went back into service on the Llangollen Railway, before being bought by the CVR.
Last winter, after a full rebuild taking 4 years, it returned to the tracks.
I’m a happy bunny.

Locks 4, miles 6½

Back to the main line.

I couldn’t post this last night; Consall Forge is a black hole as far as mobile communications is concerned, or at least a very dark grey. I got an intermittent internet connection, but nothing robust enough to allow me to upload pictures. So here we go –

After the weekend spent at the current end of the Leek Arm, we headed back to Hazelhurst Junction and the main line. From where we’d moored there’s another couple of hundred yards to the feeder from Rudyard Reservoir, but it’s only suitable for smaller boats, reed-choked and with limited space to turn at the end.
The Arm was only originally intended to supply water to the summit level of the Caldon Canal (hence the convoluted junction), but the merchants of Leek insisted that it would be worth while to make it navigable, and even convinced the canal company to build a half-mile long Town Arm from the feeder confluence.

The current end of the Leek Arm, with the reservoir feeder coming in opposite.DSCF0724
To the right is an aqueduct, now filled in, which took the Town Arm over the river Chernet.

When the arm was derelict it was filled in and built over, an extensive cement works stood on the route but that in it’s turn has since been partially demolished.
The Leek Town Plan includes a scheme to open a marina on the site, but it’s likely to be a long way off fulfillment.

With rain petering out through the morning we were in no rush to get off. In fact we were the last of the weekenders to leave.

Approaching Leek Tunnel.

Towards the southern end the stone arch has been replaced with modern concrete pre-fabricated sections to reinforce a loose section.

We had an uneventful trip back to the junction, with a brief stop to pick up a bit of free fuel we’d spotted on the way up. DSCF0732
An oak had fallen across the canal recently and the remains are stacked alongside the towpath. But it’s mostly too big and heavy without cutting it in situ, so I contented myself with three manageable logs. It’ll do for a start…

A half-mile before Hazelhurst Junction the Arm crosses over the main line on a 24 foot high aqueduct. This ensures that the water running down from Leek enters at the summit level of the Caldon.

At the junction we made the awkward sharp right turn to the top of Hazelhurst Locks

Hazelhurst Locks, we’ve just come form the Leek Arm on the right.DSCF0738



Below the locks we passed under the aqueduct carrying the Leek Arm…DSCF0744


…then past the popular Holly Bush pub.

We pulled in just around the corner.

Mags decided that there aren’t enough pictures of me on here, she grabbed the camera to correct that…

Well, that Bolt fellow has just retired, hasn’t he?

A better start to today saw us on the move at 10, following a single-hander towards Cheddleton Mill.
Some nice houses along here…

…and the canal’s not too dusty either.

Cheddleton Mill was built to grind flints for use in porcelain manufacture. Originally water powered from the Churnett, a steam engine was later installed. Alongside there’s a large building that used to be a fustian mill. Fustian is a hardwearing cotton/linen woven cloth, particularly suitable for workwear.

Industry starts to intrude along the valley for a mile or so, flanking the canal as it drops down through the two Cheddleton Locks, thankfully leaving it behind below Bridge 44.

Cheddleton Locks


The canal, opened in 1797, was profitable until the railway was built alongside. By 1960s terminal decline had set in it was almost un-navigable in parts. The Caldon Canal Society mobilised  local support for the restoration, and the canal was officially re-opened throughout it’s length in 1974.

The North Staffordshire Railway Company opened a branch line from North Rode down the Churnett Valley to Oakamoor in 1849. It joined the canal in sharing the Churnett Valley from Cheddleton, continuing past the canal terminus at Froghall. Closed in 1966 (Beachings Axe…) it was subsequently bought by enthusiasts and is now restored and runs a variety of rolling stock, including steam locomotives.

It swings in alongside the canal at Cheddleton, and shadows the earlier navigation to it’s end.

Cheddleton Signal Box

Woods Lock comes next, with a short wait for a boat coming up, before we dropped down the 5’ chamber and headed down to our last for today, Oakmeadow Ford Lock, which drops the navigation to join the river for 1½ miles.

Woods Lock

Oakmeadow Ford Lock

On the river.

We pulled in for water, the only space available was alongside the tap and when you need it to be a slow one it isn’t! A hire boat just ahead was thinking of leaving in the next hour so we stayed where we were till he’d gone and we could move forward. Not that it made any difference, another hirer turned up and plonked himself right in front of the tap anyway!

Taking on water at Consall Forge.

Lime Kilns

Tomorrow we’ll move down to Froghall, have a quick gander then head back up. Not sure where we’ll finish up, we’ll play it by ear.

Locks 7, miles 8