Monday, 15 November 2010

Caldon 2010 - Leek to Froghall pt 1

Caldon 2010
Leek to Froghall part one
Sunday 31st October

10 miles - 8 locks - 5 hours

This was a day when we journeyed to the ends of the world - well to the ends of the Caldon world anyway.

Mooring at Leek tunnel

We spent an amazingly tranquil night in the pool outside the western portal of the Leek Tunnel and, as you would expect at the time of year, our solitude remained complete. It's hard to imagine a lovelier spot anywhere on the system and it is a 'must' if you ever travel that way. It was Haloween on the night of our stay and we were presented with a distant firework display courtesy of the Churnet Valley steam railway who were running ghost train specials all evening, their booms and crashes echoing off the hills above us.

Pool to the west of Leek tunnel

We always like to reach into the far corners of the system, seeking to suck the marrow out of each and every navigable mile. So it was that we passed through the narrow Leek tunnel and  on past the official winding hole. The sign said 'turn here is you are over 45' and as we measure in at a diminutive 42' 6" we ploughed on. It's clear that not a lot of people do this - our progress slowed and smelly bubbles rose to the surface as we dug a fresh groove through the silt. We made it to the end but the problems started when we tried to wind. There is plenty of width to the water but sadly no depth - certainly not the 2 ft we needed. After much forward and reverse we prop dredged the place, churning the silt into suspension and creating something that looked much like a very unappetising bowl of cappuccino, allowing WB to reverse her direction.

The unoffical winding hole at leek

This terminus is at the site of the old Leek aqueduct which still stands - all filled with soil. The reason this arm remains is to carry the water from the Rudyard Reservoir - still a significant water source on the canal.

Feeder fron Rudyard

We moored up at the proper winding hole and cycled into Morrisons in Leek to get some emergency provisions - but more of that tomorrow.

Leek aqueduct

I would have to say that the Leek Arm from Hazlehurst Junction is spectacularly beautiful, probably the best bit of the whole canal, but the section beyond the official winding hole is not really worth the effort. Having said that, if you are a purist and like to cover every metre I recon a 50ft boat could just about wind with a bit of patience, and if you can't it's not far to reverse back.

Hazlehurst aqueduct

Then it was back to Hazlehurst under a canopy of oranges and brown before doing the loop round and descending the three Hazlehurst locks, which were being readied for closure during the stoppage season.


Nick said...

We've winded Mintball - 52' - at the end of the Leek branch on at least two occasions.

Captain Ahab said...

I figured a 50 footer could manage it with a bit of effort, so that dosn't surprise me. I suspect that anything over 52' would be problematic.
Most warning signs seem to err too much on the side of caution - especially Froghall Tunnel.