Victor feels sorry for a couple

Published: Thursday, 20 September 2018

IT WAS 25 years ago that an Australian couple hired the then new narrowboat Angela from the Canal Cruising Co in Stone for their honeymoon.

They then cruised the boat up to the Caldon Canal and down to Froghall. So to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary they managed to hire exactly the same boat to take on a journey of remembrance once again up to the Caldon and down to Froghall.

HazelhurstOverfloBut alas Canal & River Trust prevented their long looked forward to plans, closing the Caldon Canal at Hazelhurst Locks, and it was there I met them where they told of their disappointment.

Yet walking along the closed locks there was plenty of water coming over the bywash as can be seen from the picture, so obviously all the water is not needed to feed the Trent & Mersey as Cart would have us believe.

Acquaint them with boating

There was enough water to fill quite a few lock-fulls to allow the locks to be open for say just an hour each day with notices to that effect. To save Cart having to supply staff to unlock and the lock the flight again, there is a nearby services that provides the necessary toilet for volunteers to help and make sure the time scale is not abused.

HollybushOr better still let those newly appointed directors take turns to work the locks to acquaint them with boating and show them what the canals are really about, as from the information we were given of their subjects, they know very little.  But I expect that is too much to ask.

Anyway, does Cart really care?


We have had a few 'misses' with meals in pubs, but those at the Hollybush (pictured) along from the bottom of Hazelhurst Locks were exceptional. Regular readers may remember the disaster with a pasta-less lasagna at a different pub, so this time our Thomas attempted another.

And it was fine, with the correct  amount of pasta and beef as it should be. This time it was offered with both salad and chips—the double cooked ones, that were a delight. So though situated down on the Froghall section, it was well worth the climb down the steps.

CounterWith a very extensive menu to boot, I can well recommend it.


I expect some of you will have learned of the counters that Cart have installed by the canals to register and further its visitor numbers, that are usually in places like Manchester where people to and from their work places use the Rochdale Nine towpath. But here was one by Stockton Brook Locks on the Caldon, which was very much in the country.

Mind you the sensor was well down and registered both us, our boat and our dog!  The latter quite a few times!

Unlike others I do not make corny jokes, enough to refer you to a statement by Mr. Tesco...

Bad conditionWill have to be replaced

Those of you who don't stick to your boats like glue but get off and enjoy the many countryside walks will know of the disused railway that runs by the side of the Caldon heading up to Leek.

I understand that the actual rails and sleepers of one of the tracks of the double track railway were left in situ with the possibility of a future restoration.

But alas, though the rails are in decent condition with some sections not at all worn, the track is in a terrible condition having had no attention whatsoever allowing trees to grow in between the sleepers, and in many sections the sleepers, as seen in the picture, having rotted away.

With the railway obviously having had no attention over the years, I can't see the authorities ever allowing it to be used as it now stands, so I believe it is now lost, as the cost of restoration would be astronomical, which is a great pity.

In the wrong place

Many, many moons ago there was a website that portrayed the many mistakes in each and every issue of Nicholson's waterways guide, that eventually was packed full of such errors. I thought it gave an excellent service, as there is nothing worse when boating to follow the instruction in a guide then find it is incorrect, but for some reason the website disappeared. We too have from time to time pointed out its mistakes, yet some are still there.

Our version puts the Stoke locks and the winding hole above the Caldon Junction in the wrong places—the latter we found to our cost as we chased it to turn back, and it was certainly nowhere near where Nicholson's would have us believe.

BottomStoneLockBetter condition

We really though that though the lack of dredging on the Caldon was a bind, the upkeep of the locks was better than is now general, with the Stockton Brook Locks well holding their water and fairly easy to operate.

Dropping down the Stoke locks however that had obviously been left full, all but one that was just 'a foot down' had the water leak away.

One thing about the bottom lock however that was fairly deep having had a new road take away a lock thus making it the depth of two, its extra long bottom gates were a joy to operate being so well balanced.

Why can't they all be like that?

Going to lose it

I just cannot remember how many times we have moored just before Stoke on the long straight opposite Stoke City Football Ground, with its wide open spaces and many long paths.

OpenSpaceSidewaysWe stayed there on the way out and discovered another walk of over two miles as far as can be seen in the picture then over to the right, back along a ridge then down back to the canal, should any of you fancy it.

On the way back through Stoke and just missing the rain with our usual early start we took a different path, but then to our horror found a Notice of Application for full planning permission on this ground for exactly 500 houses, a school and God knows what over a vast area right up and alongside the waterway.

Of course I realise that there must be houses, but more and more of our waterways are just becoming built-up zones that is certainly taking away their biggest attraction.

There is something that bothers me about all these many thousands of houses that are being built, all needing electricity and water, yet we never hear of any new power stations, just wind farms that stop working when the wind dies.

And dare I mention it? Of course I will—the anglers able to stop the installation of turbines on such as the Trent, whose water could be used time and time again to produce power.

WetBlackPrinceAnd certainly no mention of any new reservoirs to supply the extra needed water...

Sorrya bit of a soap box!  And perhaps I should apologise for Rusty (the dog) who manages to get on so many of the pictures.

Getting wet

Having no urgent destination and aware that a great deal of rain was imminent we stayed for the rest of the day, but alas there were those who had an urgent destination as there were no less than six Black Prince boats heading for Stoke locks in the pouring rain.  Obviously back to their base by Festival Park in Stoke, but having to tackle the five locks in the rain.

We all know that with so many waterways closed the Trent & Mersey is for some now the only available canal, and hirers, wherever they cruise have to get their boats back to base.

Mind you, at one time or another I expect we have all had to do the same!

Victor Swift