1st to 3rd September 2014
Monday 1st September
3.25 miles, 3 locks
I am afraid last night’s sunset gave us false hope for a good day. It rained a lot in the night and was chilly, damp and miserable when we set off. We did not, however, get really wet and the day cheered up as it went on.
We knew there were going to be work boats about and the signs were not wrong. There is a huge project under way to improve the tow path and also a lot of much needed dredging.
This is the old towpath - In places it is a lot worse
And this is the new. Not seen by all as an improvement. One lady we met was concerned about ‘men in lycra’ (her words not mine!) speeding along on bikes. Whilst I can see her point I would prefer the new – much less mud and more accessible to wheelchairs and prams/buggies.
Soon we were going under the Leek Arm
This really is a charming canal with very little traffic and when you do meet a boat coming towards you, you hope are in parts that are wide enough and deep enough for two boats! We have scrapped along the bottom more than is seemly, but no groundings – well not yet!
For the most part it is rural and peaceful
We did come across one very long stretch of moored boats with only room for a single boat to pass. We were committed and lo and behold there was another boat heading our way. Thankfully there was a gap on the tow path side just big enough for his boat and he kindly pulled over to let us through, so no reversing necessary this time.
We moored by the Flint Mill before B42 in Cheddleton.
We thought a swift drink might be nice, but be warned – do not be late in Cheddleton – the Red Lion closes at 2pm and when did we arrive? Yes 2pm on the dot! We had not intended eating out which was just as well as the restaurant at the lock (Castros) is closed on Sunday and Mondays. So it was back to the boat via the Flint Mill.
This was also supposed to be shut, but it is run by volunteers who were about and we were able to have a look around.
One of the ladies saw us and very kindly started up one of the Milll wheels.
It is a fascinating place with a huge amount to look at and information to read. We think it is worth a stop.
I do rather like this notice!
There is a double sided bench outside in memory of George Edwards, the last Potters Miller at Cheddleton
But look underneath – so sad that the only way to keep it safe is the addition of a huge weight attached by strong padlock and chain.
On our way back to the boat we were looking for nb Vienna (built in 1911) that is mentioned in Nicholson’s but sadly it is no longer here. It was acquired by the Cheddleton Flint Mill Industrial Heritage Trust in 1973, but had to be sold in 2008 due to the escalating insurance and maintenance costs.
Back to the boat for a quiet evening and an unexpected pleasure for our ears – Monday night is bell ringing practice.
Tuesday 2nd & Wednesday 3rd September
To Froghall and back to Cheddleton
11 miles, 10 locks
What a difference a day makes – summer was back! This was the view from our mooring on Tuesday morning
And this behind us
Before we set off we needed supplies. There is a very small post office near the Red Lion, but it has virtually nothing, so we went on up the hill. The first shop is a Bargain Booze shop, which does have basics, but go just a little further and there is a larger One Stop Shop. Monty came with us – he is not keen on road walking (note the flat ears), but has learnt to cope with lorries thundering past him at speed.
Then we were off and into the first lock at Cheddleton – just as someone came out.
On the outskirts of Cheddleton you need to take care not to upset whoever lives here
Or you might get more than you bargained for!
And this is one fisherman that will not raise his fist at you.
After B44 there are very helpful signs that warn you of an obstruction under the water, but no real clue what or where! We had met this boat owner (one of my readers will smile at the name!) that is moored on the offside of the canal. ‘Aim to miss my boat by a foot and you will be all right’ was his advice and it seemed to work.
The next lock (Woods Lock) our luck continued – there was a boat coming up.
On we went past these curious onlookers
It is very narrow in quite a few places
Through Oak Meadow Ford Lift Bridge which seems to be permanently open
After Oak Meadow Ford Lock (no one coming this time!) the River Churnet joins the Caldon Canal
It is very peaceful and pretty
It does get a bit wider at times
But it soon narrows again
We stopped for water at Consall Forge lime kilns
Where we found this rather charming bench made by local children
It is worth a stop here to view these alone, but the tap is a must as it has very high pressure!
The Black Lion opposite looks a good place to visit and there are some 48 hr moorings both sides of the bridge (49).
If you eat there your eggs should be fresh as there are chickens running loose, but I wonder if they have goat meat on the menu?
It is a very long trudge for delivery men to the pub
I am sure this man was glad he was delivering sundries and not barrels of beer!
The time was not right for a pub visit on either trip, so we can only assume it might be a good pub to visit.
On we went past Consall railway station. Thankfully the way ahead was clear.
Once again our luck was in – this boat was just coming out of Flint Mill Lock
Where we found this very sage advice
We were sure we wouldn’t and we were right!
Round a corner there was another dredger with a working boat for the sludge loose alongside him. He very deftly moved it out of the way with his digger arm.
We winded (turned round) before the tunnel
And moored up.
It is not pretty with plenty of reminders of it’s industrial past.
We were the only boat there. Would we moor there again? Probably not, but it allowed it to say we had been to the end! We also wanted time to walk to the basin and have a look around.
The tunnel is indeed very low and very short
This plaque gives some interesting information about the opening of the basin
There are plenty of moorings, but probably not many boats who can get down here. If you can it is definitely a better place to moor.
At the end of the basin this is all that remains of the Utoxeter Canal.
Across the road is a rather nice picnic site
With a board outlining some interesting walks
We also visited the visitor centre which is compact, but does have few bits and bobs to look at and several boards to read about the industrial past. They do make a visit worthwhile, but I have to say that we were expecting more. They used to have a plate railway from the wharf to the quarry which initially had horses pulling the trucks up to the quarry and they then ran back downhill with men using brakes to try to control the speed!! There were more than a few accidents.
Whilst Monty and I were out on the towpath Wednesday doing what all good dogs have to do first thing in the morning there was a sound that was music to my ears, a smell quite unmistakeable and plumes of smoke in the air. Yes trains are running today.
Before we left nb Migonette came to join us – they were just stopping to take photos and have some breakfast. We met them many times on the journey back to Cheddleton. They are off up the Macc and then heading for the Weaver, so nb Cleddau you may cross paths!
I missed the Cherry Eye Bridge on the way to Froghall – I think I was hanging out the washing! The name, it is said, recalls the inflamed, bloodshot eyes of the neighbourhood’s ironstone workers.
The work boats and crews work long days – This boat came and moored behind us after 6pm last night and was off again at 07:30 this morning. When we got to it this morning it was tied by the stern only with the bow right across the cut.
We managed to creep past without touching and then saw the crew were taking a well-earned rest on the welfare boat.
We had got past Consall Forge when we first saw one of the trains.
Just as we were coming up to Woods Lock the world exploded. There was a shooting party out. Note the cordite in the air.
We stopped before B44 at Cheddleton and went to The Boat for lunch – it was not wonderful, so we decided to move back to The Flint Mill and go to Castros for dinner tonight. No catering for us today – a belated birthday treat - we were nowhere near anywhere to eat on the day itself. We both had the seafood in a crisp tortilla shell – cod, tiger prawns, mussels and scallops – in a white wine sauce with rice on the side. Really delicious and highly recommended.
The two boats in front of us at the 48 hr Cheddleton moorings on 1st September where still there when we left this morning (4th September)!! There is more space further along, but they are taking up the prime spots with rings.