Friday 21 October 2011

Caldon 2011 Froghall to Endon

Caldon 2011
Froghall to Endon
12th September 2011

9 miles - 8 locks - 5 hours

Today was never about setting any records in terms of distance or time. The objective was to be well placed for a descent into Stoke and on towards Stone tomorrow.

Entering Froghall Tunnel

We woke in the splendid isolation of Froghall Basin, the wind sighing through the trees backed by a tinkle of water going over the weir and a faint him from the nearby industry. We had time to kill this morning as we were being joined by Belle's friend Louise who she hadn't seen for about 30 years so I set off to have a look for the remains of the Uttoxeter Canal - abandoned in the mid 1800's. The start was promising - a clear exit from the basin but with no prior research I soon got lost. I thought I found a canal bed near the River Churnet but a later look on the web showed that I was way off the mark. I had crossed its path several time but there are no tell tale traces in the first half mile or so beyond the A52. It just goes to show the necessity of planning these things in advance.

 Scenes near Froghall on the Caldon Canal

Louise arrived at 10.30 and off we went, filling with water from the tap by the lock and then back through the tunnel making a much better job of it that I did on the way in. Somehow, it is easier going north. Don't ask why but that's the second time I have passed through without touching.

Consall Forge Station

There were gale force wind today and all the trees on the high ground were bending and thrashing. We, however, were tucked away in the depths of the Churnet valley where geography and vegetation took the sting out the wind. There were a number of fallen branches in the cut and we were periodically showered with acorns, clanging off the cabin roof.

 Chedderton Mill

It was too early for a pint at Consall Forge's Black Lion, but our schedule did offer time to pause and saw up a big load of timber which was laying felled on the river bank. Whilst I was wielding my Stihl the Ward's arrived again and we chatted for a while (I think it may have even been bantering) and Brenda left me with six back copies of the Boundary Post for bedtime reading on the way back to Birmingham.

The canal back to the summit pound was very quiet with hardly a boat moving, maybe four or five all day. The wind did play its part, particularly for a hippy boat which was caught in a strong side blast and ended up alongside some moored craft. I didn't see its name - maybe it didn't have one - but those of you from the north Birmingham area will recognise it, the one with a polystyrene skull on the front with a mohecan of feathers over the top.

Louise stayed with us till the Boat where she jumped ship and sought passage back to Froghall by taxi (sorry about the puns!). I was rather surprised to see the Chedderton Flint Mill museum open for business so, with Bell off for a sleep, I wandered over to take a look. There was no one there so I made my own way round, stopping here and there to touch the machinery which was so familiar from my family mill in Norfolk back in the 1960's.

 The Black Horse at Endon

Belle was still asleep when I reached the three Hazelhurst Locks which offered a bit of a surprise (more of that tomorrow).  Beyond the junction we really started to feel the impact of the storm, the boat crabbed its way along the summit pound and we were pleased to moor at Park Lane Wharf at Endon. We fancied a meal out so took a walk along the main road to the Black Horse Inn, an honest and homely pub who served us with a generous portion of burger and chips washed down with a couple of good pints of beer from St Austel Brewery - total bill £23 for the two of us. The pub is clean, the bar staff attentive, the toilets clean but the downside was the Sky Radio station which played away and a general lack of atmosphere. All in all "OK if you want to eat out but dont expect anything very memorable". 

Full moon at Endon

In contrast to a bit of a run of the mill pub, the back end of the Caldon is something special. It has a certain other worldlyness about it like you are stepping back several decades in time. Facilities are few and far between but if it is peace and isolation you like, this is the place for you. This us particularly surprising given its proximity to Stoke - a secluded corner of the canal network which calls us back time and time again.

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