Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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

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