CALDON CANAL FROM MIDDLEWICH
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The Caldon Canal is widely seen as one of them most interesting waterways in the country.
The canal was built to carry limestone for the iron industry and flints for the pottery industry. It is still steeped in history, with fascinating industrial buildings visible along the Stoke section. Further along, you may see a steam train chugging along where the Churnet Valley Railway passes close to the canal.
The outstanding scenery along the route means there is lots to see for boaters, walkers and cyclists. The unusually low Froghall Tunnel may be a challenge for boaters, but beyond it, you will be rewarded by arriving at the tranquil and secluded Froghall Wharf.
It is very much a canal of contrasts, beginning in the centre of the Potteries but also passing through remote countryside on the summit level and the Churnet Valley, often called 'Little Switzerland' because of the lovely unspoilt landscape.
Take a Steam train ride through the beautiful countryside on the Churnet Valley Railway.
Alton Towers is only 6 miles from Froghall Wharf at the end of the Caldon Canal.
The canalside area of Middlewich is a haven of peace below the busy streets. The town has been extracting salt since Roman times, and there is an interesting town trail north of Bridge 172. There are various pubs canalside along this stretch.
As you descend into Middlewich there are 3 locks to be negotiated before you reach a canal junction, and Kings Lock just after the junction.
Ignore the Middlewich branch canal to your right, and continue south down the Trent & Mersey Canal past several salt works, which shows this areas industrial heritage. The Rock salt mining that has gone on since Roman times has resulted in severe local subsidence, and the canal has had to be banked up in some stretches, which makes it much deeper than normal. There is a chinese takeaway west of bridge 166.
Occasional locks mark a quiet and unspoilt area, the town of Sandback is away to the left, as the canal reaches the village of Wheelock. This busy little village has a stores and fish & chip shop., and 3 pubs, 2 near bridge 154, and one Canalside- the Cheshire Cheese- with moorings outside.
It is 3.25 hours to here and a good place to moor for the night
Sandbach is 1 ½ miles north of Wheelock, and is an old market town that has retained its charm. In its old cobbled market place stand 2 superb Saxon crosses, there are 7 pubs to choose from around here.
After Wheelock the first of 26 locks called Heartbreak Hill will have to be negotiated before you get to Kidsgrove and the junction with the Macclesfield Canal,. First pass the village of Hassall Green, the village has a stores and a canal shop within the canal Centre, which also houses a cafe beside the canal, there is lockside seating.
You then negotiate 5 locks and pass the village of Rode Heath to your left, there is a canalside pub here and it has a useful shopping area.
There are another 10 locks before you get to the junction with the Macclesfield canal,
Moor here for the night near Hardings Wood Junction as its 7.5 hours to here and you have done 26 locks, well done!!
Cruise straight on the Trent & Mersey canal and then to the start of the 1.75 mile long Harecastle tunnel.
According to legend a young woman was decapitated in the Telford Tunnel in the 1800s and her body thrown into Gilbert's Hole, a coal landing stage within the tunnel. The man had hacked the woman's head from her shoulders with a piece of slate until it was removed. It is believed that she now haunts Harecastle Tunnel, either in the form of a headless woman, or a white horse, and her appearance used to forewarn of disaster in the local mines. It takes around 30 – 40 minutes to cruise through the tunnel. You need to find out the opening times but currently they are
Summer opening hours
8am – 5pm from 1st March to 17th May
8am – 6pm From 17th May to 6th September Last craft in the Tunnel at 5.15pm if the Tunnel is free both ways.
8am – 5pm From 6th September to 31st October. To be guaranteed a passage, craft must arrive by 4.00pm.
For any enquiries call 03030 404040 during office hours.
Winter opening hours
By appointment only – Telephone 03030 404040 giving at least 48 hours notice.
Mondays & Wednesdays - 8.30pm to 12pm (last passage 11.15am)
Fridays - 11.30am to 3.00pm (last passage 2.15pm)
Saturdays - 8.30am to 12.30pm (last passage 11.45am)
Closed: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and Christmas day, Boxing day and New Years day.
The Harecastle tunnel is only one boat wide, so you need to consult the friendly lock-keeper before you join the convoy of boats through the tunnel.
Once you reach daylight again you soon pass the Middleport Pottery on your left, with its attractive red brick & slate buildings. There are a few pubs just before at Bridge 126.
Signs of the pottery industry still survive as you pass the heart of Stoke on Trent, which was the centre of the potteries, the 30 foot high brick furnaces still stand, and although they are no longer used, they are being preserved.
At Etruria near the marina there is a useful Toby Inn with its lovely carvery on offer, and within a short walk is a retail shopping park, including Waterworld an indoor tropical aqua park, a cinema, & Ten pin bowling & many high street stores. Also Pizza Hut & other eateries.
Just past the British waterways Yard you turn left up the Caldon Canal.
At the Junction is Jesse Shirley's Etruscan Bone & Flint mill
It is open 11-4.30pm every day, and the beam engine and mill are in steam at various times during the day.
This is a Victorian steam powered millers works built in 1857 and which ground bone, flint and stone for the pottery industry, and there are plenty of moorings here.
Soon you cruise past a statue of James Brindley, the builder of the Trent & mersey canal. The first 2 locks you reach are combined to form a staircase. There are shops & pubs close to Planet Lock, and at Hanley park are good moorings.
There are a few lift bridges along this stretch so you will need your BW key, also be aware that some of the other bridges are very low, so if you have bikes on the top of your boat you may have to take them off.
Walk north from Bridge 8 along Lichfield street and you will find the Potteries Shopping Centre, with over 80 shops it is the premier shopping destination in the heart of Staffordshire.
To the left off Potteries Way you will find The Potteries Museum & Art gallery where the history of the area is brought to life. Just north of Bridge 8 is the Bridegwater factory shop.
Further on the village of Milton is on the side of a hill to your left, there are a couple of pubs here, & stores & take-aways.
The Fine Feathers farm shop near bridge 28 offers tea & coffee & some supplies, and the Spar mini supermarket here sells BW swipe cards which are needed for the Park lane bridge showers, pump out and laundrette.
5 locks at Stockton raise the level 484 ft above the sea.
The Five locks here have a charming position with views back down the headwaters of the River Trent. There is a splendid Victorian waterworks at the bottom of the flight, and pubs and shops near the middle.
Moor after Lock 6 and between bridges 24 and 25 .
It is 7.45 hours to here
There is a friendly farm shop near Bridge 28, and shops 250 yds north west of bridge 28 .
At Hazelhurst the canal divides and the Leek branch goes away to the right before crossing the mainline on an aqueduct and going away to your left. You can make the small detour up here if you wish to its terminus about 2.5 miles away carrying on up to Leek and visiting the Antique shops (approx) a mile from the mooring point at bridge 9.
Carrying along the main line along the Churnet valley accompanying the River.
Deep Hayes Country Park is off to your right, access from Bridge 39. It is a delightful mixture of woods and meadows, and was orignially an industrial area where coal and clay were extracted.
Another 2 locks bring you down to the village of Cheddleton and you can moor here for the night, it is 6.5 hours from Hanley Park.
There is a charming flint mill by the canal, and you can watch 2 water wheels driving the flint grinding pans in a picturesque setting.
The Red Lion pub is back at the locks by Bridge 43, The Boat Inn is canalside at bridge 44.
Churnet Valley railway is by bridge 44- a preserved standard guage railway running steam trains along the 10.5 mile of track .The Churnet Valley Railway takes you on a journey back to the classic days of railway travel on a rural line that passes through beautiful countryside known as Staffordshire's "Little Switzerland". It runs weekends and bank holidays, but look on their website for full details.
The canal continues its pretty journey and the canal shares the same course as the River Churnet for some distance.
At Consoll Forge by bridge 49 is a hand thrown pottery & craft centre & ceramics, especially tea pots.
The Black lion pub here is in a splendid setting with a fine garden.
Beyond Consall Forge the canal gets very narrow , so make sure nothing is coming from the other direction as you may have to reverse. The Canal is enclosed by steep and thickly wooded hills, almost untouched by mankind. You pass old limekilns on the way to Flint Lock, the last lock before the end of the canal. As you exit the tunnel there are plastic strips which mark as a gauge to let you know whether your boat will fit through Froghall tunnel or not.
The dimensions of the tunnel are only 4ft 4in high and 5ft 6 inches wide and the water levels can fluctuate so all of our boats should turn just before the tunnel and moor up and walk to the very pretty village of Froghall.
It is 3.5 hours to here from Cheddleton and 9.5 hours to here from last nights mooring at Hanley Park.
Froghall these days comprises almost entirely of factories and dwellings associated with Thomas Bolton's copper works.
The tea rooms at Kingsley & Froghall station are worth a visit.
Froghall basin just beyond the tunnel has a picnic area and shop and limekilns.
Once a hive of industrial activity, this old canal-side wharf is a lovely tranquil picnic spot alongside the terminus of the Caldon Canal and Uttoxeter Canal Basin. There are way-marked walks that lead from the site onto the rights of way network and canal towpath. This is a popular spot for walkers to begin exploring the Churnet Valley and there are grade 2 listed Lime Kilns on the site and other remnants of the industrial past can be found in the wooded valley beyond.
It is 6 miles from here to Alton Towers, see here for local taxis companies http://www.thomsonlocal.com/Taxis/in/Froghall-Staffordshire
Turn here and moor for the night at Consall Forge - At Consoll Forge by bridge 49 is a hand thrown pottery & craft centre & ceramics, especially tea pots.
The Black lion pub here is in a splendid setting with a fine garden.
It is 7.45 hours to here
Days 5 6 7
It is 23 hours back and 3 full days left, so just under 8 hours cruising per day back to the marina
NB: This route has been provided as a guide only. Information may become inaccurate or out of date. You should always check with the marina that the route is possible within your time frame, current weather conditions and canal stoppages etc.
Maps and Guides
Sorry, we don't have any maps for this route currently
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