Friday, 21 September 2012

Going All The Way at Leek

Cheddleton Flint Mill
Just along from last night's mooring is Cheddleton Flint Mill, a classic example of early canalside industry now a museum. The Caldon Canal is now down in the Churnet valley and in fact joins the River Churnet for a short while between Oak Meadow Ford Lock and Consall Forge, although it's a mere trickle compared to the Severn and Trent that I've experienced this summer. It was still too early in the day to stop at the Black Lion, the pub at Consall Forge famous for having no road access (so how do they get the beer there?!).

Just before the terminus at Froghall comes Froghall Tunnel. This is equally famous for being one of the lowest and most restricted tunnels on the system. Many narrowboats are too big to get through and a gauge is provided at the last lock before it .for boaters to check I'm told by others who have attempted it that the gauge is unduly pessimistic and on that basis Starcross might have got through, but only by unscrewing the vent for the water heater from the roof and the bell terret from the pigeon box. Even then the handrails would probably have needed repainting afterwards, so I'm afraid I wimped out and we winded and the walked the last few hundred meters to Froghall Basin
Froghall Tunnel
Moored at Froghall - as far as we could go. The black pipe on the left centre
of the roof would have to be removed to get through the tunnel
After that we retraced our steps back up the Churnet valley all the way to Hazelhurst Junction. Just before the junction is a flight of three locks and just before that comes Hazelhurst Aqueduct that carries the Leek Branch over the main line.
Hazelhurst Aqueduct - we'll be going over the top in about half-an-hour
At the top of the locks boats bound for Leek turn sharp left and then run parallel to the locks but 25ft above them and in the opposite direction before crossing the aqueduct.
For a short branch of only three miles the Leek arm is not short of interesting (and expensively maintained?) structures. Just before the end comes Leek Tunnel where a huge portal is pierced by a tiny bore.
Leek Tunnel
You could go to Leek by canal and never see the town. At bridge 9, when you are still in open country, a sign instructs boats over 45ft to wind. But the canal continues enticingly round the bend and for another quarter-mile to the terminus. As I had failed to go all the way at Froghall I felt compelled to continue to the very end here. It seems at first sight that it should be possible to turn at the terminus using the mouth of the feeder that brings water from Rudyard Lake, but the feeder has deposited a bar where it enters the canal and Starcross will have to reverse out in the morning.
Moored for the night at the very end of the Leek Branch


Kevin said...

Hi Jim,
I seem to recall reading somewhere, on a web site, that the pub has it's beer delivered by train!

Captain Ahab said...

If you are still there Jim, there is an excellent walk along the feeder to the Rudyard Reservoir - about three miles each way.

Halfie said...

When we were there, in 2005, we, too, ignored the winding advice and continued to the very end of the Leek branch. Well, that's not quite true. We did wind, and then reversed to the end as we wanted an early start the next day and didn't want to disturb other moorers too much. I have since learned the error of my ways, and would now always steer towards a dead end slowly in "ahead" so as not to risk damaging the prop. On the same trip we managed to get through Froghall Tunnel by loading the boat down with as much water as possible. It was easier on the way back - we picked up a few passengers!

Halfie said...

Nice big photos, by the way. Have you recently changed some settings?

Jim said...

I did think about the walk to Rudyard Lake today, but it's been such a awful day I decided to stay in and clean and tidy the boat instead!

No change to the settings, I just select "extra large" when I insert a photo. Glad you like them, I've never been sure whether or not they are too big.

Captain Ahab said...

I think extra large does the photos better justice.