Monday, August 21, 2017

Steadily down to Stoke

We spent the weekend on the bank near Endon. The weather wasn’t particularly good to cruise, or in fact to do anything much outside, but I kept myself busy…
Bacon butties on fresh-baked bread for lunch, followed by a slice of chocolate cake. Lovely.

So yesterday we set off back towards Stoke under grey skies but with the promise of a little brightness later.

Past the pivot for the old rail spur to Victoria MillDSCF0861
The area to the left was a small marshalling area for wagons waiting to cross the canal to the main line to the right of the navigation, or to be shunted up to the mill. The mill produced glazes and ceramic colours for the pottery industry. There’s a lot more info here.

Another 15 minutes saw us arrive at the top of the five Stockton Locks, to find a boat just coming up.
This set the pattern for the rest of the flight, boats coming up left all but one of the chambers full and ready for us, and we were often able to leave the bottom gates open for the next one.

Mason’s marks on the stonework in Lock 9.

A stonemason had his own unique identifying mark, and used these to indicate his work. These, likely to be banker marks, would demonstrate to his employer the extent of his labours and used to calculate his pay.

With boats coming up we had a quick run down, and were actually locked down the bottom lock by two guys waiting to come up.

Mags waiting above Lock 5

Last lock on the Stockton flight

The two lift bridges were passed without incident, then we were on our way down the last lock of the day, Engine Lock.DSCF0877

We’ve moored below here in the past, but today we carried on into Milton, mooring on pins to the south of the bridge.
There was plenty of space the other side of the bridge but it’s a bit wooded there and you’re right opposite people’s back gardens.

This morning was another grey start, but today it stayed that way.  We were off just before ten, following a couple of boats that got away earlier.

It’s pleasantly bosky until the industrial fringe starts near Bridge 14…DSCF0880

…a little too bosky at times!


Bridge 15 has taken a bit of punishment from passing boats…DSCF0881

Mags negotiating Ivy House Lift Bridge

The Eastwood Pottery, established by Charles Meakin in 1883, is still in business alongside the canal next to Bridge 8

Loading at Eastwoods, 1952

Long views to the south-east over the Trent valleyDSCF0890

We had a short wait for a boat coming up Planet Lock, but had a longer one at the double staircase at Bedford Street. There were boats waiting to come up and one ahead of us to go down, and the slow progress clearly demonstrated why most of the original staircase flights on these Midlands canals have been replaced by single chambers.

But we got down in the end, mooring up outside the museum.DSCF0893

I’m waiting for a couple of items to be delivered to Argos at Festival Park, so we might be here tomorrow, too.

Locks 9, miles 7½

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