Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Tuesday 20th September
We woke up to rain – that nasty sort of heavy drizzly rain and soaks you :-( We debated on what to do but decided to go for it and hope that the rain would stop. There are 2 locks at Cheddleton which we sped through - we really could have done with Robert and Laura when we did Tardebigge! After Oakmeadow Ford Lock the canal merges with the River Churnet though it didn’t really seem much different to me. The guide book says that Haematite iron ore and limestone were mined in this area and there were also several coal shafts and flint-grinding mills. At one stage, in the 1860s, an average of 30 boats a day were carrying ore out the Churnet Valley. Going down through Flint Mill Lock there is a “profile” which if you can fit under it means that you can go through Froghall Tunnel – needless to say we wouldn’t fit. Bridge 53 is called Cherry Eye Bridge and has a peculiar point to it and is thought to get its name from the inflamed eyes of the local ironstone workers. The canal then goes through a very wooded valley and was very narrow in places. It was pouring with rain most of the way to Froghall and it really wasn’t a very attractive place to be. However when we reached Froghall the rain stopped and the sun tried very hard to come out but didn’t quite make it! Froghall has a very low tunnel which we couldn’t get through so we turned the boat round and tied up for lunch and a walk to the other side on the tunnel. It is a shame that the tunnel is so low as beyond it lies a short length of canal, a lock and a very nice basin with decent pontoons – only I don’t suppose they get much use as not many boats can get through to them. The canal used to go on to Uttoxeter but it was closed and a train track built over the course. Along the valley are a number of kilns where lime was smoked out of the limestone and then carted off along the canal. At the top of the Caldon is the vast site of the Thomas Bolton & Sons copper wire works. Most of this has now been demolished but there is still a small part standing and continuing to work and still has Bolton emblazoned on it. My good trusty guide book gives two interesting facts about this site. One is that during the Second World War the factory was turned over to munitions and apparently the Luftwaffe tried to bomb it but they couldn’t find it! The second is that another Bolton factory just down the valley made the copper cable which was laid across the ocean bed to form the first Transatlantic telegraph in 1866. Heading back down the canal without the rain was a much better experience than earlier. When we got to Flint Mill Lock Robert, Laura and I got off to do the lock and saw a brown, what we assumed to be, crayfish about 8” long sitting on the cill of the lock gate! We were soon back at Consall Forge where there is a station on the Churnet Valley Railway. One of the platforms is built out over the canal and you have to mind your heads as you pass. The railway only runs at the weekends at this time of year and I did suggest that we stay on here until Saturday so that Richard could go for a ride but he declined! The local pub, The Black Lion, was recommended to us so we moored up outside for the night however when we got in there we were extremely disappointed - the welcome we received was pretty sour and when we started to look at the menu the barman said that he wasn’t cooking though he was cooking for some people who had booked. I said to him that it didn’t say on their website that they didn’t cook on a Tuesday and his answer was that we should have booked – but we’ve never had to book at a country pub in mid week in September before. I explained that we didn’t have food on board and he suggested that, as we were on a boat, we move on to the next pub!! We walked back to the boat and I raided the cupboards and fridge and we ended up with a lovely meal, mood lighting (candle), music and champagne!! So stuff the Black Lion!! I will be writing a letter of complaint and certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone to set foot in the place – which is a shame as both Richard and Robert said that the beer was good!