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Caldon Canal, Staffordshire, England.
We cruised the Caldon Canal and the Leek Arm in early August 2007 after an abortive attempt in late April the same year, when we found the area in the Stoke-on-Trent environs too cluttered with flotsam and jetsam, to make the trip at least enjoyable, without a number of visits to the weed hatch! Returning to Etruria Junction and speaking to a BW employee, we were told that the season's clean-up hadn't started yet and best wait till a few hire boats had been up!
In August though we found this beautiful little canal through Staffordshire to be one of England's most scenic waterways!
The Caldon Canal was built as a branch off the cross-country Trent & Mersey, originally to Uttoxeter but was overtaken by the rush to the steam railway. This picturesque waterway from Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent went right into the heart of the Staffordshire moorlands and over the years has gained the status of a canal in its own right.
The Caldon Canal covers a distance of just over 17 miles from Stoke-on-Trent to Froghall Basin, with the pretty and lockless 3 mile branch off to Leek as a bonus.
The Leek arm starts at Hazelhurst Junction and terminates at a winding hole outside Leek by the Ladderedge Country Park and Nature Reserve. The Leek Arm is fed by a spring beyond the winding hole suitable for craft under 45 feet long. Longer craft should wind at Bridge 9.
The Caldon Canal has its own charm even in the industrial environs of the Potteries with its bottle kilns and pottery factory shops along the way; the canal soon becomes increasingly picturesque as it follows the River Churnet and the Churnet Valley Railway.
A good start to your cruise is to visit the Etruria Industrial Museum - Jesse Shirley's Etruscan Bone and Flint Mill by the BW service point at Etruria Junction and then negotiate the Bedford Staircase Locks, a mystery to the new boaters coming out of Black Prince's marina at Festival Park!
Other points of interest were the Churnet Valley Steam Railway (Museum) at Cheddleton Station where our grandson delighted in the sight of Thomas and Friends making steam! The Cheddleton Flint Mill Museum, a step back in time for the canal and potteries and, of course, Froghall Basin itself with the towering Lime Kilns and visitors centre. Plus the added experience for some of being on a 'navigable river' section between Oakmeadow Ford Lock and the weir by Consall Station. (Only navigable when the gauge under the turnover bridge 49 shows green).
The Caldon can be completed easily in a week, with plenty of time to visit attractions and chill out! We look forward to returning in a couple of year’s time.
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