Thursday, 30 June 2011


A real lie in! We did not have a challenging target for today, although the unknown was how long it might take us to prepare the boat for its re-paint. Anyway, we did not set off until 10:30 . . .

Haywood Junction

It was generally pleasant day - when sheltered from the breeze it was a warm and sunny. Before long we reached Great Haywood where the Staffs and Worcester branches off from the Trent and Mersey.

Tixall Gatehouse from Tixall Broad

Tixall Broad - a wider 'lake' which offered a feature to the views from Tixall Gatehouse, now a Landmark Trust property - is the notable start to this canal before beginning to make its slow ascent and journey around Stafford.

Tixall Broad

A notice on one moored boat - Support the Stafford Riverway Link - caused us to look up details of this restoration project which we had not heard about before. It seems it is a plan to connect the centre of Stafford with the main network near Baswich, which once existed. It will only be a short arm, however, using part of the River Sow. It was not obvious that this is likely to happen any time soon! we identified the junction with some difficulty.

Start of Stafford Branch - towards left

At the main road bridge between Stafford and Baswich we moored up for lunch and a quick dash to a nearby Bargain Booze (actually as fuel station shop) for some milk and today's newspaper.

Approaching Deptmore Lock we could see that not only was a boat coming down the lock but that there was an unusual number of people in his-vis jackets. It turned out that the they were from Community Payback, painting the lock gates. several of the men seemed to enjoy being given the opportunity by Christine to help operate the lock and wind the paddles!

After passing Acton Moat Bridge a bright yellow helicopter noisily landed on the grass outside a hotel and took off again a few minutes later. We wondered what might have been taking place that justified such an expensive way of arriving or departing.

We found it hard to sort out a good mooring for our last night: not only is the M6 motorway well within view (and hence noise) but also a local road passes close to the canal just before Teddesley. Despite looking rather harmless on the map, it turned out to be a busy commuter road. However, it was Hobson's Choice . . .
The rest of the day was committed to sorting out breakables and stowing away safely for when the boat is lifted out of the water next week.

7.9 miles - 3 locks

Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Today Andrew was due to leave us.We had a short ride down to the next bridge at Barlaston where he had left his car overnight. Whilst he loaded the car with his belongings - including the kit he had brought to mend the pipework - Mike went to the Londis shop alongside the canal bridge.

Bridge at Barlaston

He was not only looking for a paper - but also a treat for coffee but was disappointed not to find any croissants. Instead he opted for some donuts. As he was about to pay, he discovered that five croissants had just been been baked and were still warm - so he took the lot!

With Andrew on his way home, we continued the remainder of our journey with our next target being Stone. Two locks down and we stopped at the sani station and water point. A few metres on and we bought a replacement piling hook - and another as spare. One of the breweries that once made Stone prosperous still stands but is today home to a firm of CNC machinists.

Former Stone Ales Brewery

After passing Canal Cruising and the next lock, Christine went to look for a shop whilst Mike worked down the next lock and moored temporarily (OK there was a boat coming up so it was not too difficult!)

On the outskirts of Stone we moored for a long lunch break before setting off once more - a day of long stops as you will see!

A couple of locks and a few miles and a tea break stop! Those donuts came in handy after all!

It was almost six o'clock when we moved on - the evening was very pleasant, the sun was warm and the cool breeze had died down. After Hoo Mill Lock we were looking for a mooring but it proved a little trickier than we had envisaged since there are quite a few boats around, more moored than seemed to be on the move! Not wanting to reach Haywood Junction tonight we pulled in to a rather overgrown bank but at least underneath it was good piling (a chance to use the new hooks!) Although it had not looked promising, with too many trees in the appropriate direction, to our surprise we did actually get a satellite signal so we can watch the Apprentice tonight, having missed the past couple of weeks!

14.6 miles - 12 locks

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


It was a pleasant, sunny and breezy day as we set off from Stanley Junction - a change from the rain yesterday evening as we moored. The day gradually clouded but remained pleasant although the breeze strengthened and made slow approaches to some locks rather tricky.

After a quarter of an hour we arrived at the top of the Stockton Brook Locks - a flight of five which we polished off in 35 minutes, despite four of them being set against us. Locks like these are a pleasure to work! The building alongside the top lock looks as if it was originally stables for canal horses or perhaps a store.

We continued back down the Caldon, gradually approaching the built up areas to the north of Stoke on Trent. As we found on the way up, it is now largely very pleasant along the canal, with new housing, or the occasional office block, replacing most of the industry. One footbridge has been rebuilt in a designer mode, with glass panels for the sides. Not only does it look incongruous - there is not even another development nearby to harmonise with it - but it has proved wholly impracticable with some panels missing and many smashed or crazed.

Andrew bailed out at Bridge 3 to walk down to Stoke station to take a train back to Northwich to collect his car from Anderton.

At the bottom of the staircase locks we met a boat waiting to come up but which reported that it had lost all power. Fearing that they might have had the same coupling problem we had last year, we helped them move back onto the same mooring where we planned to have lunch. After they established that the engine would drive the prop, they examined their weed hatch only to discover that they had a badly bent blade - the result of an encounter not doubt with something unwanted in the water below the lock. A stature of James Brindley stands proudly at the end of the Caldon Canal.

Christine went to set the first of the Etruria locks - the boat coming up was very slow, not helped by a single hander on the way down.

All in all, it took us over an hour and a half to clear the flight of five and we began to work our way out into hthe countryside around Trentham. Before we completed the last of the Stoke locks, Andrew called to say that he was already at Trentham but where were we? As it happened, there was nowhere for him to park overnight at that bridge so he went in search of somewhere better towards Barlaston.

Near the site of the former Hem Heath colliery the only sign was a couple of decorative structures constructed from old mining equipment.

As we were beginning to fill Trentham Lock, ready to descend (it seemed a very slow lock, but that was because a bottom paddle had been left a little open!) Andrew arrived up the towpath and rejoined us. At least this meant that he had already studied the available mooring spots. The bank is generally quite good but also, by this time of the day, well occupied. We opted to pull in just after the Wedgewood factory.

12.8 miles - 15 locks

Monday, 27 June 2011

Froghall and Leek

It was a little later than usual when we set off today, just after nine o'clock! We continued down towards Froghall - just after leaving the river, the canal is overshadowed by the Churnet Valley Railway station where one of the platforms overhangs the canal.

At the last lock there is a warning that craft over 65 feet have to turn here whilst below the lock there is a profile gauge for the short Froghall Tunnel, just before the final basin. Unfortunately, although we would be able to turn, we would not pass the tunnel.

We moored at the final winding hole and walked down to the basin. As we remarked in our blog four years ago when we last visited here, it is puzzling, to say the least, why so much effort was put into restoring the first Uttoxeter Lock and making the mooring basin since so few boats are able to access it. Amusingly, the mooring pontoons are marked 24 hours only!

After looking around - there is a restored boat that operates trips (presumably at weekends) and is sufficiently low to pass through the tunnel. The former warehouse is a reminder of how important this place was at one time, limestone and coal came down from the quarry at Caldon Low and nearby mines.

We retraced our route back up the locks to Hazlehurst Junction where we made a sharp turn onto the Leek arm. This arm is much shorter and has no locks, but is very green and rural.

However, just before the end there is a short tunnel. This tunnel collapsed not long ago and the new section can easily be seen as distinct from the original stone lining.

Christine and Andrew walked to the end whilst Mike turned the boat around. Andrew continued into town to look for a paper but found all shops were by now closed for the day.

At Endon we stopped to use the services, including filling our water tank before continuing back towards Stockton Brook. After extended discussions we finally decided on a plan that will deliver Andrew to Stoke station tomorrow so that he can recover his car parked at Anderton whilst we continue down through the city to meet up with him later. This meant that we could stop for the night with still a reasonable run into Stoke tomorrow morning.

16.1 miles - 9 locks

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Consall Forge

We were not the first boat away from the moorings - those heading north were perhaps keen to arrive early at Harecastle!

After passing though the old Potteries area,with just one or two still in operation, we arrived at Etruria Junction where we stopped to fill up with water and use the other services.

Out next destination was to be somewhere up the Caldon canal. At this stage we set off aiming for an easy run and to be at the Leek end for tonight - but see later. After all, this was to be the 'heatwave' and certainly the hot sunshine was a marked change from what we had become accustomed to.

The start of the Caldon is a two-lock staircase. For some reason, it was built with a larger capacity in the upper lock and, as a result, water overflows a special spill way when the lower lock is full.

Very little of the former industry remains alongside the canal - a couple of bottle kilns have been preserved so that the once dominant sight will not be entirely forgotten. However, new housing is being built in place of the recovered sites - although a construction problem on one such site over the winter led to an extended closure whilst problems with the bank were corrected.

There are three movable bridges on this stretch - the first of them is mechanised but the other two require many turns of a windlass to raise them.

Shortly before arriving at Hazlehurst Junction, Christine asked whether we could make it tonight to Consall Forge - we had a meal at the isolated Black Lion pub when we were last here four years ago. A quick calculation suggested that we might make it between 7 and 8 so Christine was tasked with checking that they are open tonght! yes was the response and so we took the alternative route at the junction, so passing underneath the Hazlehurst Aqueduct which carries the other arm of the Caldon up towards Leek.

After a while we passed the former Cheddleton Flint Mill where there are now several well-preserved old buildings and cottages.

Cheddleton Flint Mill

As we neared Consall, the canal joins the River Churnet for about mile - they separate again just at the point where we wanted to moor for the night. as it happened, the moorings were quite busy and we found one of the few remaining spaces. The Churnet valley Line keeps very close company with the canal - after all, it was largely responsible for the demise of the canal. One of the platforms is built out over the canal - which we shall see better tomorrow.

The pub is across a weir, canal bridge and rail crossing from the nearest road access - about 200 metres - which means so effort for beer and food deliveries!

A quick change and we were ready for the meal - the pub had changed hands since we last visited and is now clearly much more popular, with a menu list to suit. Nevertheless, the steaks and cajun chicken were tasty and well-presented with huge portions of salad and chips to accompany. Two of us took the opportunity to try out several of the special ciders on offer!

15.9 miles - 16 locks

Saturday, 25 June 2011


It was a cold - sometimes quite cold - day, overcast and occasionally rainy. Difficult to imagine but the weather forecast for tomorrow is a heatwave!

Boseley Top Lock

As soon as we set off we were immediately into the Bosley flight of twelve locks. Apart from one short pound near the top which was so low we had to run some water down, the locks were all full and boats coming up arrived at opportune moments. As a result we cleared the flight in just under an hour and a half.

Andrew was concerned about making sure that we arrived at Harecastle with enough time to pass through: mooring anywhere near the Kidsgrove tunnel entrance is not recommended - and it is almost underneath a main railway line! As a result we did not stop for lunch but pressed on.

Hall Green Stop Lock

The only other lock for the day was the Hall Green stop lock where we had to wait a few moments whilst the previous boat 'fished' out its magnet which had been used in an attempt to locate a dropped windlass. In the process the magnet - a much treasured possession - came off the end of its string but was eventually located by dropping a mooring pin on the end of the same piece of string.

Great Haywood Junction

After joining the Trent and Mersey and turning right at the junction, we arrived at the tunnel entrance where we checked in with the tunnel keeper. There would be a wait of around and hour as two boats were about to be set off in the opposite direction. In fact it was well over the hour before we were given the go ahead to follow the boat waiting ahead of us, with one to follow in the convoy. The older tunnel can still be seen alongside the present entrance.

Harecastle Tunnel North Portal

Chatting whilst waiting, it seems that the owner of Invicta is a keen cruiser of the Huddersfield narrow and has been putting pressure on BW for some time - including the decision to move to owner-steer through Standedge Tunnel.

Harecastle Tunnel

After our previous experiences, Harecastle seemed quite a spacious tunnel! In any case, Andrew steered through without adding to the side scratches.

Harecastle Tunnel South Exit

At the other end we were surprised to see a long queue of boats waiting their turn, some eight all together.

Looking Back to Harecastle Tunnel - Boats Waiting

When we arrived at the Westport Lake moorings (where we stopped on the way up, back at the end of April) we opted to pull in and stay the night. It was a possibility that we might go in search of a small water pump to empty the remainder of the water in the bilge and mooring in the centre of Etruria is not really recommended (or so we recall from four years ago when we last went up the Caldon canal).

14.2 Miles - 13 Locks

Friday, 24 June 2011


It was a generally sunny day - although the rain could not keep away and returned just before we moored for the night.

This was also a day without going through a single lock! Apart from the final stop lock, all the locks on the Macclesfield are grouped together at Bosley and it was marginal whether we would have time to reach them today.

We set off and it was a steady cruise - bridge after bridge. Mid morning we called at Lord Vernon's Wharf, home of Braidbar Boats to fill up with fuel. We also replaced the lost windlass, with Christine telling Mike, "Don't lose this one" and Andrew responding that, "They are a consumable item!" We also replaced the gas bottle which ran out during the cooking of dinner a few nights ago.

On again - passing through Bollington we saw the well-photographed former mill building, now converted for various uses - including a community radio station.

Yet another pretty bridge approach:

By one o'clock we pulled into Macclesfield and moored by bridge 36 and had lunch.

When we went shopping we recognised the road from two years ago when we changed over with Andrew after his Pennine exploration with friends. As we approached the town centre we could hear the sound of bells ringing at the parish church - and outside a large and posh wedding party were posing for photographs.

Satnav assured us of a butcher's shop but it was a little elusive, eventually tracked down in the indoor market! Mike was pleased to find a Julian Graves, having set off on this trip without stocking up on after dinner treats.

Sun was still shining as we continued - a couple of swing bridges lay ahead, the second is mechanised but the first was reluctant to release itself.

By the time we were within sight of Bosley top lock rain returned, light at first but gradually set in. We wanted to make it to the top lock in order to use the sani station but a line line of permanently moored boats left us worried that there we not be any space left. In the event we managed to find just sufficient space after the last boat and before the lock landing.

15.5 Miles - 0 Locks