27th August 2020
After hunkering down for a few days at the top of Engine Lock we continue our journey up the Caldon Canal. We pass through two lift bridges and navigate the 5 Stockton Locks which raise the canal up to summit level, 484 feet (147m) above sea level. It was a cool and overcast day but still a pleasant cruise. The first lift bridge (Norton Green Lift Bridge)that we encounter is described in the Nicholson guide as requiring a windlass but at some point it has become electronic and now requires a BWB key which of course I didn't bring so Pat had to throw it to me from the stern of the boat! On arrival at the second bridge (Long Butts Swing Bridge!) a young lad from an approaching boat had already opened the bridge and kindly motioned as through. It was then a really pleasant cruise up to the five Stockton Locks with plenty of wildlife nestling in the reed beds.
As we ascend the locks there are a couple of interesting sculptures here, a reminder of both the pottery and spitfire industries in this region. The monuments are made up of a collection of ceramics and a spitfire fighter plane funded by the City Museum and Art Gallery to celebrate the career of a locally born designer R.J. Mitchell.
We moored at Park Lane Visitor moorings which are near Endon village, there is a small shop here, just a few minutes walk from the canal. which we walked to but they didn't stock the item I wanted so we ended up just buying an ice cream for the walk back.
We travelled just 2 miles today, with the 2 lift bridges and 5 locks in 2.5 hours.
After spending the night at Park Lane moorings we use the boaters facilities before moving on to Hazelhurst Junction. Here the main line falls through 3 locks towards Froghall, but we bear right and take the Leek Branch and moor for a few days just after the bridge. I must say this has got to be one of my favourite mooring spots, surrounded by countryside with some amazing views. We take a walk across the bridge and up onto the hillside looking down onto the boat nestled in the valley. We walk through the gate at the farm, cross some fields before finding the road that takes us back to the canal at bridge 31and return to the boat. A rather pleasant evening stroll!
30th August 2020
Leaving Hazelhurst Junction we cruise the 3 miles to Leek. We cross the main line over Hazelhurst Aqueduct, which carries the Leek branch over the main Froghall branch line and is a Grade 2 listed building. We pass a number of lovely canal side cottages before entering a wooded valley, and soon approach Leek Tunnel which was engineered by John Rennie, built in 1801 and is 130yds long (118.9 m). There is a lovely lagoon area just before Leek Tunnel which provides the opportunity to wind, however we pass through the tunnel, wind just after the tunnel and reverse into the last available mooring space. Surprisingly there is no restriction on mooring here so effectively could stay for two weeks, however there are no boaters facilities so any restrictions would be down to water and elsan capacity. We have travelled 3 miles today and it has been rather cool for August but we have had some sunny spells. Everyone passing on the tow path spoke to us and seemed really friendly.
Leek was approximately a 30 min walk from the canal with a Morrisons just 20 mins away.
30th July to 23rd August 2020
Our last video left us just before Fazeley Junction and since we have already filmed this part of the Birmingham and Fazeley, Coventry Canal and Trent and Mersey, we decided to have a break from filming and just enjoy the cruising. We were on our way up to the Caldon Canal as we had arranged to meet Pats sister and brother in law who were bringing their caravan down to Ashbourne. We have passed the entrance to the Caldon Canal twice, last May on our way up to the Ribble Link and then again in January this year when the Canal and River Trust were repairing the staircase lock so we were unable to access the canal. We were really excited to be going at last!
We have had some of the best of the weather in this last month and for several days we were on the look out for some shady mooring spots. We had the advantage of keeping the boat cool but the disadvantage of no, or very little solar, we ended up having to run the generator on some of the hottest days of the year!
We also managed to catch up with( or rather they caught up with us) our lockdown buddies, Andrew and Julia on NB Lingalonga.
24th August 2020
So, after making our way up the Trent and Mersey Canal to Etruria, we have turned onto the Caldon Canal. The area here is seeped in history and the figure of James Brindley stands tall and proud. However his association with the Caldon Canal was not a happy one. He was out surveying the route for the Canal when he was caught in the rain, a chill ensued after sleeping in his wet clothes and he died in September 1772. It was also interesting to see the development in the area with lots of new housing but a shame to see some of the old warehouses being replaced.
We had intended to stay at Etruria for 48 hours, so that we could take a trip into town. I needed to visit a fabric store here at Hanley and there is a large Tesco store about 15 mins walk from the canal. However storm Francis was due to hit the UK and we didn't want to spend more time there than was necessary, so we decided to visit the town in the morning and do the 4 hour cruise to Engine Lock that afternoon
So, after stocking up on provisions and a quick lunch we negotiated the staircase lock, and navigated our way through to Hanley Park. The local council have spent millions of pounds on this lovely park which spans both sides of the canal, it has a man made lake, band stand and some lovely gardens, and there is some lovely mooring here. Unfortunately, though the park has become a hang out for the local addicts and overnight mooring here is discouraged. We soon approach Planet lock and cruise through a mix of urban and industrial landscapes. Just as we approached Ivy House Lift bridge Pat was pulling into the bridge landing when we heard a thud and the engine cut out. We were stranded in the middle of the canal and drifting over into the reeds on the opposite side. We tried to use the barge pole to push us over but it didn't reach the bottom of the canal, in the end we had to use the bow thruster to move the bow over enough for Pat to jump off with the centre line to pull us over. On investigation of the weed hatch we discovered a large piece of wood empaled on the prop which had caused the engine to cut out! Pat removed the wood but it had slightly damaged the prop which Pat managed to bend back into place. We have already had one new prop, we really didn't want to have to get another!! He really wasn't very happy!
Once we got going again, we passed through the swing bridge uneventfully until I tried to close it. The bridge closed and the safety barriers lifted but the warning sirens wouldn't shut off and I wasn't able to remove my key. I tried resetting by opening and closing again but nothing was happening and after what seemed an age Pat moored up and managed to get the barriers to close and reopen. (even though I had already tried to do this )
We continued our journey and as we were passing through Milton there was a group of boys on bicycles, one of them was hanging on the railing on the canal side of the bridge, the others were shouting out for him to jump onto the boat and another threw a stone at us as we passed under! We didn't record this on the vlog but we were really not enjoying this journey today. I have to say that in the 2 years and 4 months of continuously cruising this was only our second experience of dealing with troublesome youths.
It wasn't long before we left the urbanism behind and we entered a pleasant cutting, it was here that we moored up after passing through Engine Lock! Phew, it hadn't been an enjoyable start to our Caldon Canal experience, lets hope things improve!