Wood Anemone The Churnet Valley - Snow and Ice on the Caldon Canal
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December 2010 was the coldest for 100 years. Temperatures around the Churnet Valley reached -12°C and snow and ice coated everything. Despite this, as long as the sun stayed up, the conditions were good for walking.

Click the images to enlarge.

I started at Froghall Basin, where a recent major vegetation bash had improved the look of the place considerably. Unfortunately, though, no boats had chosen to stay there this winter.

To get to the basin, which is actually on the Uttoxeter Canal, first leave the Caldon Canal at Froghall Junction.

Then head down through Lock 1, currently the only lock on this stump of a canal.

Back on the Caldon, above the lock, a boat was iced in opposite Foxtwood Holiday Cottages.

The trip boat at the Corn Warehouse was also going nowhere.

Setting off along the canal, I met this duck enjoying its new camoflage.

On the other side of Froghall Tunnel, nothing was moving either.

Over on the Churnet Valley Railway, the Cauldon Lowe Branch Reopening Gala was continuing to run, despite technical troubles caused by the conditions. This part of the gala was meant to be a diesel-only weekend but steam locos where needed too, just to heat the carriages.

Heading off down the canal, I came upon one of the two sites where an original milestone survives, alongside a copy of the later milepost. The milestone gives distances from Etruria Junction to Froghall but the original milepost was put up during the few years that the Uttoxeter Canal was open, between 1811 and 1849.

A bit further on I came to one of the signature features of the Caldon Canal: Cherryeye Bridge.

High up on the far side of the valley from here is Kingsley Bird and Falconry Centre, which, given its aspect, mustn't see much sunlight at this time of year.

Further on towards Consallforge, I crossed this turnover bridge, added by the railway company after it took over the canal in the 1840s. Evidence of its origin can be seen in the bridge deck and railings which consist partly of bits of rail.

Nearby Trickle Ridge wasn't trickling in the freeze.

But a retaining wall at Consall Upper Flint Mills was dripping so much water that it formed a sheet of icicles.

Nearer Consallforge, London Bridge used to carry a tramroad over the canal and railway, which brought ironstone from local mines to a wharf on the canal.

On such a cold day, Consall Station was lucky to be in sunshine.

The hamlet of Consallforge is isolated and mostly quiet at this time of year. Certainly, no-one was swimming in the river today. The canal joins the River Churnet here and the flow prevented the water from freezing.

The Black Lion Inn overlooks the river, railway and canal here. On a normal railway gala day, the beer garden is a popular vantage point but, on this day, it was just too cold to hang around.

An early sunset and increasing cold meant a prompt return towards Froghall. Approaching Consall Upper Flint Mills, the light was beginning to fade.

Flint Mill New Lock sits between the remains of the original lock, in the undergrowth on the left, and the former mill, now converted for housing. The building nearest the lock is the oldest on the site and dates from around 1680. It started life as a water-powered slitting mill, where sheets of iron were slit into long strips for wire making.

Getting back towards Froghall, in the gathering gloom, a mist was forming on the surface of the canal.

Finally, back at the rapidly-emptying car park, my flask of hot coffee attracted its usual envious looks and comments.

And that was it for 2010. Time to concentrate on Christmas and making plans for the new year ahead.