We’ve had a glorious few days exploring the nooks and crannies of the Caldon Canal. The sun shone. The blackberries flourished. The beer flowed. The Felucca dawdled, delighting in the last days of summer.
The forecast is intimidating: tomorrow’s rain promises to be apocalyptic in nature. But we don’t care, because we have a bus trip to Stoke planned (can you imagine our excitement?!). And we have our memories of our little out-and-back jaunt along the Caldon to keep us warm.
This stretch of canal was built by Brindley (Oh yes, him again!) to provide the Trent and Mersey with extra water. Starting from Stoke Etruria, it originally went all the way to Uttoxeter but now stops short of that – just beyond Leek Tunnel on one branch; just beyond Froghall Tunnel on the other. (It’s a bit like the northern line in that it has two ends; I like to think of Leek as High Barnet and Froghall as Edgware.)
It’s a right old mix of everything that the canals have to offer. There’s the interesting architecture (Stoke’s potteries). There’s the market town with frabjous local oatcakes (Leek). There’s a crazy tunnel at Froghall, even smaller than Standedge, which we couldn’t fit through. There’s the pools and the limekilns and the ridges of limestone and the glorious trees that don’t care it’s nearly autumn, and the river Churnet. There’s the secret valley: so deep there is no phone or internet reception and barely any houses or roads – to get to the nearest pub you have to drive three miles down a private road – but it’s full of glorious game birds, sweeping fields, the sound of running water… Apparently it’s called the Staffordshire Switzerland and I can see why. And then there’s the pubs. Oh the pubs! We moored one night right outside the Holly Bush and two outside the Black Lion. The Black Lion is surrounded by the canal, the river, a mostly disused railway, some evolutionary-confused chickens and no proper roads! How on earth do people get there? How on earth was it so busy? It must have been the quality of the beer and the super bar staff.
And now the winds are starting to rise. The clouds are drawing in. The weather warning has been issued. All we have are our memories and this photo diary of the sun-that-was. (And the Trent and Mersey in a couple of days. That should be fun, too.)