Stoke Bruerne Village at War

We visited the annual Village at War Event at Stoke Bruerne today. Lots of crowds a and plenty of re-enactors dressed the part. Working boats Nuffield and Raymond were moving up and down the locks and Sculptor, the Canal Museum's boat was also on the move.
"Walking-out" with a bobby - 1940s style

We met up with Norman Mitchell who used to more at Kingfisher Marina and had a chat. Norman was doing the commentary. He is well versed at commentating after doing the same for many years at Braunston.

Nuffield & Raymond descending Stoke Bruerne Locks

Sculptor approaching her mooring

The trip boat Charley was suitable dressed-up as a warship and the crew dressed as sailors. I liked the bit of plastic plumbing acting as a periscope.

Trip boat Charley disguised as HMS Charley

The Cheese Boat is usually found around Stoke Bruerne. They entered the spirit of the event by suggesting that their products were illicit!

Black-market Cheese Boat

Bob Nightingale, the blacksmith who operates from the forge by the tunnel portal without the benefit of mains electricity, suggested that this is because of hostilities! 

Blacksmith at Blisworth Tunnel Southern Portal

Motor Ling

NB Ling was at Stoke on behalf of the Chesterfield Canal Trust laden with bags of sand and looking very smart with gleaming brass and paintwork. We recently saw her moored up at Shugborough. 

Return to Aston Marina

NB Narrow Minded at Aston Lock

On Monday we had a good trip in sunny weather from Barlaston to Aston, arriving at lunchtime. The Meadford and Stone Locks were mostly set in our favour but there was a small queue at Aston where we again met the canoeist from Northampton. He had spent the night camping by the lock. His first reaction was "it's been like this since 7:30 - busy, busy".

Just above the lock was a boat with 17 padlocks and window covers; it also sported a very precarious motor-bike rack with a large "Fragile" sign and a very tall frame above the cruiser stern. The stern fender is under the rack - I wonder how that is supposed to work. The boat is called Narrow Minded - hmm!

We washed and packed up the boat  and returned home. Great short trip. For our first time down the Caldon we had rain. For this our second time it was cloudy and we had occasional sun. For the next time - who knows? We will certainly have to try to get to Leek.

Wedgwood, Barlaston

On Sunday morning after the mist cleared we left Milton for Etruria. It was warm and sunny and a pleasant trip  all round.

Ivy Road Lift Bridge out of action

We had heard rumours that the lift bridge at Ivy Road in Hanley was out of action (boater's pub talk). It was indeed not operating with the road cordoned off and the mechanism locked open. We wondered if this was planned maintenance or a failure. Either way, boaters were not inconvenienced.

A lonely Emma Bridgewater Mug
(and the skip where it will meet its demise!)

Kiddies fire-engine on the lock cill, Bedford Street Staircase
(Some child will be disappointed)

We got to Etruria for lunch and moored up at the same spot as our outward trip. The trip down to Barlaston (Wedgwood) was in glorious sunshine. We moored up just after Bridge ? and enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine. 
Cows taking water in late afternoon sunshine, Barlaston

After about an hour NB Blue Roan suddenly arrived after their Leek trip - we might have been able to include Leek in our travels after all. We enjoyed another convivial evening with them - this time aboard their boat. We managed to convince them to use Aston Marina to hand over their boat to the next partner in their 1/4 time share. We think the promise of good food did it!


After Friday night at the Black Lion, Consall, on Saturday morning we meandered back towards Etruria. The weather was cloudy but again thankfully dry. Alistair and Sue from Blue Roan were keen to explore the Leek Arm. We were also keen but felt that it would take a little too long to enable us to get back to Stone on Monday. We decided to leave that delight to another time.

The trip up through Cheddleton was pleasant with some sun peeping through the clouds. We stopped for lunch at Hazelhurst Junction at the top of the flight.

NB Blue Roan turning down the Leek Arm Hazelhurst Junction

Just as Blue Roan left us to go down the Leek Arm Maggie was reading a Pearson's guide when she dropped her rimless glasses into the canal. Now we have failed ton recover windlasses with our strong magnet so I was not too optimistic about recovering the glasses with a sweep net. But hey presto! - she felt them after about six sweeps and recovered them unharmed. She then told me cost of the lenses! 

Glasses recovered from the canal

We stopped for water at Endon and chatted to some canoeists. It turned out one was from Northampton. Going down the Stockton Brook flight I notice numerous interesting mason's marks and couldn't resist photographing them.

Various mason's marks - Stockton Brook Locks

We moored up for the night by one of the lift bridges near Milton. There was a lovely sunset and yet again I noticed a sun dog just before sunset.

Afternoon sun at Milton, Caldon Canal

Late afternoon sun and a sun dog 
(just to the left of the tree on the right of the picture)

"Red sky at night", Milton, Caldon Canal

Consall (twice) and Froghall

The last time we explored the Caldon we made it as far as Consall Forge and turned back in - we couldn't face going on to Froghall in heavy rain. This time the weather was much better but, as Maggie reminded me, it wasn't the predicted glorious Indian Summer.

We left the Hollybush Inn on Friday morning and made our way to Cheddleton. The weather was at its brightest and as the day progressed it got progressively cloudier. We were followed down the locks by NB Blue Roan who carried as their home registration "Wansford in England" - a familiar reference for those who know the River Nene. 

After the industrial archaeology of Cheddleton we reached the river section where the canal joins the River Churnet. Good to get a good depth of water under the keel.

River Churnet joining the Caldon after Oak Meadow Ford Lock

We got to limekilns at Consall and the famous Black Lion pub, which is not accessible by road and requires customers to walk across a railway line - the Churnet Valley Line. The canal gets progressively more tortuous and narrow after Consall and in places one is reminded of Llangollen, particularly where there are concrete-lined sections.

Another delivery across the railway tracks at the Black Lion, Consall

The overhanging platform at Consall makes for difficult navigation

At Flint Mill lock we met the last 70ft winding hole and passed through the air draft gauge that indicates if boats can safely transit Froghall Tunnel. It basically a 5ft by 5ft square. I presume it is placed after the lock (and final 70ft winding hole) because it needs to reflect the water levels in the tunnel pound - placed above the winding hole it might not indicate the air draft accurately.

Albert didn't quite make it without touching the gauge so we decided that the 65ft winding hole (quoted as 60ft in the Pearson's Guides) just before the tunnel would be our terminus. We made the turn with no problem (so I presume 65ft is correct) and had a lunch break. NB Blue Roan arrived shortly afterwards and also moored up after winding.

Passing through the gauge for Froghall Tunnel at Flint Mill Lock, Caldon Canal
(Not quite enough room to pass through with confidence)

In the afternoon we walked around the tunnel and explored the end of the canal and the newly restored basin at the first lock on the Uttoxter Canal. It was renovated in 2003. I have to admit that although the area beyond the tunnel was interesting, particularly from the industrial archaeology point of view, because the visitors centre was closed and there was no boating activity, I felt a little disappointed. There is so much that more that could be done at Froghall Wharf to interest boaters and the public in general. The famed butty Vienna that is mentioned in many guides and featured in many photographs is no longer moored at the wharf. It would have at least provided some boating colour.

Tight corners near Froghall

Froghall Tunnel northern portal complete with standard (inappropriate) CRT signage

One of the curious (silly) features of the signage for Froghall Tunnel is that despite being only 68m long boats are advised to remain 250m apart in the tunnel. I wonder how? 

More Froghall Tunnel signage

Froghall Wharf

Basin on the Uttoxeter Canal
(One solitary boat that got through the tunnel)

We returned to Consall and moored up for the night directly outside the Black Lion. The crew of NB Blue Roan kindly booked us in for dinner since it was Friday night. We enjoyed a convivial evening of curry, cider, real ale and fish and chips (not each I hasten to add) with the crew of Blue Roan (Alistair and Sue).
Outside the Black Lion


Music Night at The Hollybush Inn, Denford

I posted on Thursday about our trip down the Caldon to Denford. Since then we have been out of mobile internet range and unable to post updates.

Being on the moorings outside the Hollybush Inn, naturally we sampled their fare. Whilst we were eating two tasty goulashes and enjoying a cider and an ale, the band started arriving began to set up. Unlike our last visit, when two music acts arrived at the same time, this time only one arrived. It consisted of the classic rock band set up of two guitars, bass guitar and drums. They did an impromptu sound check that ended abruptly which appeared promising so we decided not to return to the boat and wait and see what unfolded. It was a very good decision! They started with Clapton and Hendrix and move on through Johnny Cash to ZZ Top. What a great two hours of music - full of improvisation! They were an ad hoc band of local musicians who for the night were called "Free Entertainment". They were all well known to the locals who soaked it up. They kept us royally entertained until closing and we returned to Albert with our ears ringing. What a well run and friendly pub - no wonder it is popular.

Enjoy this sample!


We are moored up outside the Hollybush Inn at Denford, a pub we visited on our last trip down the Caldon. This time we haven't got heavy rain!

Hollybush Inn, Denford

We left Etruria Wharf this morning and went up the Bedford Street Staircase locks just after nine o'clock. A narrow-beam dutch barge followed us up the flight and all subsequent locks. The weather was bright ans sunny but occasionally clouds came over. The outskirts of Hanley had improved since we last passed through with lots of new housing on former brownfield land. 

Bottle kilns and new housing

I had forgotten how many very low bridges there are in Hanley. I had to climb up onto the roof several times to lower the exhaust. I should have put on the short exhaust pipe as we left Etruria but, as always, I decided this too late. 

Emma Bridgewater Pottery, Hanley

We passed the renowned Emma Bridgewater Pottery  just after one of the most fiendishly low bridges. The factory is unprepossessing when viewed from the canal. The last time we passed by some staff we were busty smashing reject mugs. This time there was no sign of this but we could some mugs on a trolley being moved around the site. 

Emma Bridgewater mugs being manufactured

On the outskirts of Hanley there is a notorious electrically operated lift bridge, Ivy Road. We met a boat coming through the other direction which helped. The boater operating the bridge was clearly disabled and had difficulty walking. It was only wen we had gone through the bridge that we realised that he was operating the boat, Victoria Plum, alone and that it was radio controlled. He was operating it remotely using a control on a lanyard around his neck. As we left we could see him bring the boat into the bank and than walk with his stick back to the boat. It was an amazing set-up that was full of ingenuity. 
Victoria Plum remotely negotiating Ivy Road Lift Bridge
(the operator is on the bank)

We stopped for a late lunch near Endon after going up Stockton Brook Locks. The weather clouded over a little as the day went on. We dropped down Hazelhurst Locks where the countryside becomes more like the dales. Just below the locks the Leek Arm crosses over the main line. 

Hazelhurst Junction and Locks 

Hazelhurst Aqueduct

As we moored up at the Hollybush Inn we found a group of patrons outside enjoying the warm late afternoon weather. Some appeared to be walkers. As often happens one came over to ask about Albert's engine.

Caldon Revisted

In 2009 we took a trip down the Caldon. It was a very wet experience and although we appreciated the scenery we cut short the trip promising to visit again when the weather was more kind. We hope that this week is that long-awaited opportunity. With high pressure over the British Isles it looked like we might manage our return.

Today we left Aston Marina and travelled north through Stone. With the warm weather, and the canal-side windows open,  we were able to see that the former Joules Brewery building is now a high tech manufacturing facility.

Canal Cruising base at Stone

Joules Brewery Building, Stone

The Brewery is now a home for CNC Manufacturing

The weather was fine as predicted but a little cloudy. As we passed through Stone we discovered that Cutter the delightful tug that we met at Ellesmere on the Llangollen was moored up. Presumably its home mooring.

Martin Fuller's Tug Cutter
Just above Roger Fuller's Yard the butty and motor belonging to the Paramours were on their usual mooring. 

 Paramour's Boats at Stone
No matter how many times you pass along a stretch of canal there is often something that catches your eye that you wonder why you didn't notice it before. This time it was the use of side weirs inside locks on this stretch of the T&M. 

A side-weir inside a lock, Meadford flight

We stopped off for lunch at Barlaston and in bright sunshine reached Stoke. As we travelled out of Barlaston a walker inquired about Albert's engine and we promptly had a discussion about Rustons. It turned out he was planning to get hold of a boat with a Ruston engine. He appeared to like the idea of a 2VSH. 

A bad case of Japanese Knotweed on the Stoke Flight
(This alien invader needs treating!)

We reached Etrutria around 5:00 PM and moored up by the wharf. James Brindley watched over us!

Flint Mill, Etruria
Intriguing lock-side mason's marks, Etruria
James Brindley looking over Albert, Etruria Wharf, Caldon Canal