Friday, 19 November 2010

Caldon 2010 - Froghall Wharf

Caldon 2010
Froghall Wharf
1st November 2010

Today was an 'off boat' day which included a trip to Alton Towers, which is only six or seven miles away down the old Utoxeter Canal. I know that boating and theme parks make for odd bed fellows, but I happen to like both.

Froghall moorings

Before we set off I took a wander around Froghall Wharf and its canalside visitor centre run by Staffordshire Council. The centre holds a good display of archive photos showing the canal basins in their heyday - all a far cry from the bucolic silence which hangs over the place like a thick blanket today. These weedy ponds once reverberated to the sounds of industry, the huge lime kilns which flank the site bearing silent testimony to a busy past. Where these was smoke, noise and massive enterprise now there is wildlife, tourists and an other worldly calm.

 Froghall inclined plane basin

Froghall Wharf and trip boat

The plan was to cycle to Alton Towers but no sooner has we climbed a steep mile up from the Wharf but Jeff remembered his forgotten padlock - and back we went. Maybe it was a sign or maybe we were just lazy, but instead of setting off again we packed the bikes away and called a taxi. £10 each way which was a bit of an extravagance but those hills are high and the drizzle was getting heavy.

Still 13 miles to go to Uttoxeter and Froghall lime kiln

It's odd how things come together. Call it serendipitity, fate or chance, but what are the odds of the taxi driver owing a narrowboat and not just any narrowboat. His boat was built and fitted out by the same company as  Wand'ring Bark. Rob and Gail of Oakamoor Taxis (0781 823 8356) previously owned a ferro concrete boat but recently bought a beautifully appointed 40 footer which is now moored at Mercia Marina.

We invited Rob to take a look inside WB on his return and it was no great surprise to see Gail his wife in the taxi when he picked us up at the theme park gates. There is a great common bond between boaters, and we spent a happy half an hour comparing boats and considering the pro's and con's of stretching versus sale and purchase. A lovely bonus at the end of the day.

Froghall trip boat - curently up for sale

As for Alton Towers, you get what you expect. Massive rides and a special pass gave us immediate access to all the main attractions without the normal waiting. This meant that we did all the major rides at least twice plus the Haunted House shoot em up where Jeff displayed his prowess and beat me three nil. A sign of things to come I suspect.

I'm not sure I have a favourite ride - they all have their specialities, but Nemesis probably holds the crown for the scariest. I have ridden it several times but that pause looking down, hanging in your harness then a vertical plunge into a black abyss takes my breath away every time. 10:10 for thrills but maybe I am getting a bit old for all this. I'll give up roller coasters one day - but not just yet.

And so back to Froghall Basin and another night of splendid seclusion in the mooring beneath the first lock of the Uttoxeter Canal. This really is a most amazing and under used site.

The one and only operational lock on the Uttoxeter Canal

Don't be put of by the gauges. If WB can get in with her 6' 4" internal headroom so can many other boats. The process of getting in reminds me of the Bible story where they had trouble getting a camel in through the Eye of the Needle (a particularly low gate in Jerusalem). Its a bit tricky, but with patience and a bit of faith it can be achieved.

I wouldn't necessarily compare Froghall Wharf with the promised land, but it is certainly a destination not to be missed.


Halfie said...

Thank you for this excellent write-up of Froghall. I didn't even have a camera, let alone a blog, when I came here in 2005. You've brought it all back vividly. Five years ago we bought ice creams from the shop at the wharf. I don't suppose they were selling them on a cold drizzly autumn day!

Brian and Diana on NB Harnser said...

I hope the Taxi ride was free, we would do the same for a fellow boater, wouldn't we?

Starcross said...

Well done for braving the tunnel! I'd love to give it a go in Starcross but when I had a new water heater fitted last year I had to have an external flue which has added a couple of inches to the air draft and I suspect this would make all the difference.

Adam said...

Enjoying your trip up the Caldon, which went straight into my list of favourite canals last year. The satellite dish meant we had no chance of getting through the tunnel.

We're on board Debdale from tomorrow, so keep and eye on the blog and let me know if you want to come and say hello.

Captain Ahab said...

No chance of ices in November!
No chances of freebies!
No chance with a fixed flue!
Every chance of a get together. All the Black Country ring is accessible to be (I live exactly in the middle)Have a great time and I will see you soon.