Monday, 10 August 2009

Call of the Caldon


I knew I would love the Caldon from the moment we came out of the staircase lock at Etruria and started around the first gradual left hand curve. On one side the narrow waterway was edged by a solid limestone wall, worn and green with age. A row of terraced houses looked on. Across the water sat a substantial old red brick industrial building.
We seemed to have slipped back a hundred years.
All that changed rather quickly as we wound through Hanley under elegant iron bridges and past a busy park, then along a partially regenerated section, where good looking modern houses and new canalside moorings mixed with still active pottery works.
The Caldon is all about history, being built to bring limestone from the hills around the Churnet valley. As we dropped steadily down into that valley, open views gave way to glorious steeply rising forested slopes. The canal is narrow, shallow – we had to drag a reluctant Star through the summit section before the Hazelhurst locks – but always rewarding. We visited the ancient, waterwheel powered flint mill at Cheddleton - restored, working, preserved and supervised by enthusiastic volunteers. And, amazingly, free!
And the canal's full of pubs! We overnighted at the excellent Holly Bush at Denton (two big pie dinners and a couple of pints of Theakstons Old Peculier for eighteen quid) and planned to stop the next night at the famous Consall Black Lion. Unfortunately we hit it on a sunny Saturday afternoon when the whole area teemed with visitors; kids jumping off the bridge into the river, the pub awash. It was far from the remote canalside pub of legend. (We walked back from Froghall a couple of nights later though and discovered its quieter side. You couldn't ask for a more picturesquely set boozer.)
We managed the traditional snap of boat, boozer and steam train too -- but why did all the trains have to be decorated with pink Thomas the Tank Engine faces? Can't kids enjoy a steam ride without this? I'm afraid grumpy old man got his Photoshop out and obliterated it!
The last lock (17) on the canal has Blackwall Tunnel style dangling flags to deter the too-high from tackling the short but low – five feet maximum – tunnel into Froghall basin. We clipped a couple but (like Blackwall Tunnel lorry drivers) decided to have a go anyway.
And we got through with the merest scrape of paint off the front of the handrails, edging our way like a blind man with Starwoman easing the cabin away from the walls as we went.

1 comment:

martha, max and me said...

Good Photoshop work, I'll give you C+ at GCSE!