Tuesday, April 15, 2014

(Almost) there and back again…

Since Sunday we’ve had no phone or internet connection. This is the first time 3 has let us down, but we were in deepest, darkest Staffordshire. Now we’re back up onto the summit level I can catch up on voice mail, missed calls and emails. It’s amazing how much we’ve come to rely on technology. And a little worrying…

So since Monday morning…
We left Cheddleton at around 10:00, a fine but overcast morning, cool in the breeze. Just around the corner is the bulk of the Victorian fustian mill, built on the base of an earlier malthouse. It overshadows the much earlier buildings of the flint mill.

Crossing the canal, just above Bridge 42, is a wooden structure linking opposing buildings.

No Bridge of Sighs, this..

The two Cheddleton Locks follow almost immediately, dropping the canal 16 feet from the summit level.

Cheddleton LocksSAM_8981

The canal follows the Churnet river valley as it slowly descends to the south and east. The valley floor is initially quite wide, easily accommodating the canal railway and river, leaving room for grazing on the water meadows.

Across the valley, river and rail on the leftSAM_8991

Plenty of these guys strutting around, looking for a good time…SAM_8988

Below Oak Meadow Ford Lock the canal joins the river for a mile, down to Consall Forge.

Oak Meadow Ford Lock, the river coming in from the rightSAM_8993

From this point on the valley sides start to narrow, squeezing the canal/river and railway together.

The banks are heavily wooded as the channel winds it way, but it’s deep and generally fairly wide.

On the River Churnet

The river and canal part company at Consall Forge, the river disappearing over a weir, although the canal can still be affected by heavy rain down to Flint Mill Lock.

Consall Forge and the weir bridgeSAM_8997

We stopped for lunch here, then decided to drop down to Flint Mill Lock, wind and return to below Woods Lock where it’s a lot more open.

There’s not much room under the bridges…SAM_8999

Passing under the platform at Consall Station, cantilevered out over the canal.

Looking back at the station

The reason we decided to turn back rather than going right down to Froghall was two-fold. We know we can’t get through the tunnel to the basin at Froghall, it’s too low. And mooring this side is a bit grim, it’s a mainly industrial area. So we’d have had to come back anyway.
So we turned in the tight winding hole above Flint Mill Lock, and retraced our route.

The Black Lion had a few customers for lunchSAM_9005
There’s no road access to the pub, shanks’ pony, bike, the canal or the railway are the options. I wonder if they get their beer in by rail?

The lime-kilns at Consall Forge look splendid now the sun’s made an appearance.
The kilns produced slaked lime from the limestone brought down to Froghall from Cauldon Lowe quarries. The lime was then shipped by boat down to the rapidly expanding Five Towns of the potteries for use in building work.

We returned upstream, mooring up near Cheddleston Station below Wood Lock.

Moored below Wood Lock

I hope local gardeners had their delicate plants well wrapped up last night, we had a cracker of a frost. But it was well worth it to get such a corker of a day. Wall to wall sunshine all day, warm with just a light breeze.

By 10:00 we were already on our way up Wood Lock.SAM_9009

Cheddleton signal box just across the waySAM_9010

One of the steam locos, this is one of a pair of S160s, built in the 1940’s in the States.SAM_9014

The station building, partly obscured by treesSAM_9015

Cheddleton Locks were reached and dealt with quickly; the bottom one was empty and a boat was coming down the top one.

The by-wash below the bottom lock is fierce when the top lock is emptied…SAM_9016

Swapping locks on the flight

We passed the flint mill without stopping, wiggled along past the moored boats at Denford, then ducked under the Leek Branch at Hazlehurst.

Hazlehurst Aqueduct, with moorings above


A better shot of The Jammy Dodger and The Jammy Butty

Another good run saw us up at the top of Hazlehurst Locks in good time, back on the summit level, and back into phone reception!

Up Hazlehurst LocksSAM_9025

Top Lock, lock cottage and iron towpath bridge.SAM_9026
I like the ornate railings around the disused side-pond. The Leek Branch comes in from the left just beyond the bridge.

Fine views as we head along the summitSAM_9029
We stopped for the “domestic facilities” at Park Lane Bridge, then, filled and emptied, we motored around the corner and moored where we had on the way up, near Endon Wharf.

A splendid day’s cruising. There are a few boats about now, I expect it’ll be quite busy when we reach the Trent and Mersey again later in the week.

Locks 11, miles 11 (two days)

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