Wood Anemone The Churnet Valley - A Walk from Stoke to Kingsley Holt
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On the 25th of July 2009, the British weather cleared up long enough for a long day out. My aim was to walk the whole of the Caldon Canal from Etruria to Froghall.

Click the images to enlarge.

I was constantly pressed for time on my last visit, so I took an earlier train, this time. Thus, it was barely past 9am when I was wandering up the Trent and Mersey towards Etruria. Even derelict industry can look good on a sunny summer's morning.

Turning on to the Caldon, I passed the Bedford Street double staircase, which is the biggest lock on the canal, nowadays, before coming to Planet lock, which is the smallest. This lock was added to the canal in 1909 to compensate for mining subsidence, which is why it has such a small fall.

At that time in the morning, Hanley Park was quiet and peaceful. The park officially opened on Jubilee day, June 20th 1897 and this ornate bridge is one of two added to the Caldon Canal at this time. Despite its pleasant appearance, it has a "mixed" reputation as a mooring, being a city park with its share of morons.

Last time I came this way, the North Staffordshire Canal Corridor Regeneration project got in the way. This time, the upgraded towing path was open, as was the new Bridgewater Bridge, named after the nearby pottery and designed to compliment new canal-side development. Sadly, the bridge has since been heavily vandalised and had to be closed.

The new towing path is an improvement, but we may need to wait a while before the old dereliction is replaced by new development. Canal-side developments have suffered badly in the recent slump.

The Foxley stands on the junction between the Caldon Canal and the Foxley Branch, which was built to serve the Ford Green Ironworks. It was also used by a number of local collieries and it was this trade that kept it open until around 1934. After this, it fell into disuse and has since been filled in with colliery waste. Despite this, it may be restored someday.

The Norton Green branch is also a restoration candidate. It was originally built in 1778 to carry coal from Cockshead Colliery. Although no-longer navigable, it remains open as a feeder channel, bringing water from Knypersley Reservoir.

By the time the canal passes Long Butts, it's getting very rural. The drawbridge here carries a footpath that leads to Long Butts Farm.

By the time I reached Stockton Brook, a hot sun was blazing down, so it was nice to get into the dappled shade around the Stockton Brook Locks.

The heat also made me thirsty, but the Sportsman in Stockton Brook wasn't open, yet.

So, I walked on to the Hollybush at Denford, which was open but too busy for the one poor girl behind the bar taking the stream of food and drink orders.

By now, the thirst was really upon me but, bravely, I continued on to Boat Inn at Cheddleton. Two pints of pedigree with a sausage and cheese baguette and chips went down very well.

Refreshed and happy, I now wandered into the familiar territory of the Churnet Valley. I was now in such a good mood, that not even the terrible state of the towing path on the river section bothered me. At Consallforge, it was time for another pint and a sit-down at the Black Lion. This being Saturday, the railway was running.

Wandering on towards Froghall, I came upon this grass snake in the canal. Grass snakes are harmless and, apparently, very good swimmers.

Not long after 4pm, I reached my goal at Froghall. I'd now covered all 17 miles of the canal and it was time to go home. To catch a bus, I had to climb out of the valley to Kingsley Holt.

And that was it. The climb and walk to the bus stop at Holt Lane used the last of my energy and I was pleased to get straight on the bus to Hanley.
It had been a great day out. The early start had paid off: I was never under any time pressure and probably saw Stoke at its best, early in the morning. The weather was good, the scenery was good, the people were friendly and the beer was good. I'll be back.