Sunday, 9 September 2012

Back on the Trent and Mersey Canal

This afternoon we left the Caldon Canal to continue our route South on the Trent and Mersey Canal.  We’ve enjoyed nearly a week on the Caldon Canal which goes up from Stoke on Trent into the Staffordshire Hills, referred to as “Little Switzerland”.

Coming back on Thursday from the end of the Leek Branch we managed the very tight turn onto the main line of the Caldon Canal at the junction and then dropped down the three Hazlehurst Locks to go under the aqueduct carrying the Leek Branch of the canal.
Hazelhurst Middle Lock
From here the route winds round a few really tight bends and down the valley of the River Churnet.  At Cheddleton we passed the Flint Mill where two waterwheels powered the grinding of flint and bone into a fine paste for addition to clay in making china.
Cheddleton Flint Mill

Cheddleton - the canal goes under the wooden building!

Near where we stopped for lunch we spotted a tractor ploughing an amazingly steep field.

After a couple more locks the canal actually joins the River Churnet for a mile or so until a weir takes the river down and the canal continues on its own course.
Looking back - Oakmeadowford lock to left and river to right

River Churnet

At Consall Forge is a lovely remote pub, the Black Lion, where we enjoyed excellent beer and food on Thursday evening.  There is even a station here on a preserved steam railway and the platform and waiting room are cantilevered out over the canal, which like much of the last mile or so is very narrow, certainly too narrow to pass another boat.
Station platform and waiting room hanging over the canal
At the end of the main line of the canal is the Froghall Tunnel which is both narrow and very low in the middle.  We read various accounts of just how low at 5 feet, 4 feet 9 inches and 4 feet 4 inches.  Leo is around 5 feet 11 inches to the top of the cratch at the front (though we could remove the cratch).  There is a nice basin at the end of the canal but this is only 200 yards beyond the tunnel and dismantling the boat for such a short section of canal seemed silly.  So, in short, we decided against tackling the tunnel, so here are pictures of each end of the tunnel and one of where the canal ends:
Froghall Tunnel West End - note height gauges

Froghall Tunnel East End

Froghall Wharf - end of the Canal

We took our time coming back along the Caldon, spotting this lovely Victorian Waterworks at the foot of the Stockton Brook flight of five locks:
Stockton Water Works, now sadly derelict
Yesterday we cycled into Stoke and visited the Potteries Museum, concentrating particularly on their displays of items from the Staffordshire Hoard and the exhibition of, you’ve guessed it, ceramics.  The quality of workmanship in the gold and garnet pieces of the Hoard was astonishing for the 7th century.  In the afternoon we also visited the Etruria Industrial Museum where a beam engine from 1820 was working and demonstrating how flint and bone was ground in pans a bit like grinding flour in a water or wind mill.
Etruria Beam Engine - note flywheel is blurred because it is turning

Horizontal shaft drives the pan grinders on the floor above

Above Stoke on Trent we were in the Trent valley and very close to its source so we walked down for a closer look as the Trent will be our companion for most of the rest of our trip.
Infant River Trent
And finally here are pictures taken from our moorings over the last couple of days:
The horse came to watch me painting!

Splendid Sunset behind Norton in the Moors Church

So we are now back on the Trent and Mersey and we will be heading to Stone and Great Hayward.  We are nearing the end of our trip but are planning to complete the “Four Counties Ring” by turning right at Great Hayward to the start of the Shropshire Union at Autherley Junction which we passed back at the end of May.

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