Go to Allan's Page Part 1, MK to Leek Canals Home Page Part 3, Gloucester and Sharpness Go to Deb's Page
Spring 2007, the Black Bottom trip Spring 2007, Thrupp View Slideshow Late summer 2007, Birmingham and the Shroppie Autumn 2007, Aylesbury

Via Leek and Froghall to Gloucester

Part 2 - Leek to Froghall (the 'Leaky Cauldron' canal)

After a good trip from Milton Keynes to Leek, we made surprisingly quick progress back to Hazlehurst junction, travelling with the current. The scenery was beautiful, so it's a good thing we'd had plenty of time to enjoy it travelling upstream. Passing Hazlehurst we continued back to Endon (where we could buy the much-needed pump-out card) and in fact we stayed there for several days enjoying the fine weather and the beautiful countryside.

 

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Endon again
The aqueduct at Hazlehurst where the Leek branch crosses the main line
Fascinating buildings at Flint Lock
The wharf at Flint Lock

Now it was time to drop down the Hazlehurst locks into the stunningly pretty Churnet valley. Half way down we said hello to our friend Neil of the intrepid Tuesday Night Club, who was crewing for Tony Haynes of NABO. After the locks we passed under the aqueduct which carries the Leek branch where we had been a few days before, over the top of the main line that we were now on. All at once the railway made its presence known, as it competed with the canal and river to occupy the narrow space at the bottom of the valley. The railway was in steam that weekend, and made a most impressive sight as we headed down to Consall Forge together.

 

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The beautiful Churnet Valley
The Churnet Valley railway in full steam
The valley is so narrow that the platform at Consall Forge Station ...
... had to be built out over the canal ...
... together with the signal box

After leaving the river at Consall Forge, we soon passed down the last lock and encountered a dangling height-gauge. This was a big improvement on our last visit in 1996, when we had had no idea whether or not we would fit through Froghall Tunnel. This time we knew we could pass through the tunnel, because not only had we passed through it in 1996, but also since then the water level had been lowered by several inches. The new height gauge is actually ridiculously pessimistic, because it showed that we were at least an inch too tall for the tunnel, so we ignored it and carried on anyway.

 

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The height gauge below the lock.
We can't clear the height gauge, even though we can fit through the tunnel
We can't clear the height gauge at the entrance to the tunnel ...
...but we can fit through the tunnel ...
... although there is not much spare headroom

When we reached the tunnel there were quite a few people around so we reckoned that we could always conscript them as human ballast if we needed a bit more headroom. We'd already removed the TV aerial. the two radio aerials, and the chimney cap, and filled the water tank, so the boat  was as low as possible. The trip through to the other end was really easy, we didn't touch anywhere and emerged at the other end completely unscathed except that I got cobwebs all over my hat (I can recommend wearing a hat through the tunnel, especially if you've got a bald head like mine!)

The same people were waiting at the other end of the tunnel, and we emerged to a barrage of flashes from their cameras. It made me feel like a celebrity! Naturally we carried on right to the end of the canal, where several people told us we'd gone the wrong way - but I don't reckon I can say I've reached the end of a canal until you could jump ashore without getting wet. After taking a couple of pictures we reversed back through the bridge and passed through the restored lock number one of the Uttoxeter canal into the newly-opened basin beyond. Unfortunately there's nowhere else to go apart from back up the lock to return (incidentally with a long boat it's really difficult to turn left after coming up the lock).

 

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At the very end of the canal
Debbie on the gate of lock #1 of the Uttoxeter canal
In the basin; the Uttoxeter canal may one day continue this way ...
...but we can only turn round and go back up the lock
We emerge from Froghall tunnel coming back again

And so we set off back towards Hazlehurst. In the sunshine, the lazy trip up the river Churnet was just idyllic. Soon we were back at Hazlehurst, where we moored outside the Holly Bush pub for a superb meal while we thought about where to go next. Click to Enlarge The rivers Severn and Avon were still in flood, and the Thames was open but not recommended because the ground was saturated so that it would flood immediately if there was any rain. We didn't have enough time to explore the Pennine waterways as we had originally planned this year, so where should we go? While we were still talking about it, we had a message from a friend that he was setting off on his holidays from Kidderminster on the Friday evening, and could we meet him in Stourport. Hmmm, Hazlehurst to Stourport in 4 days? Well that would be a challenge, but we love challenges so we sent him a message to say we'd meet him there. We'd have to make an early start in the morning though ...

 

 

Spring 2007, the Black Bottom trip Spring 2007, Thrupp View Slideshow Late summer 2007, Birmingham and the Shroppie Autumn 2007, Aylesbury
Go to Allan's Page Part 1, MK to Leek Canals Home Page Part 3, Gloucester and Sharpness Go to Deb's Page

 

All pictures on this site are Allan Jones unless otherwise stated

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