- Hits: 5169
The Caldon Canal runs 18 miles from Etruria, in Stoke-on-Trent to where it leaves the Trent & Mersey Canal at the summit level, to Froghall, Staffordshire.
The canal has 17 locks and the 69 metre long Froghall Tunnel.
The Canal obtained its Act of Parliament in 1776 and was completed in 1779.
The canal was built to carry limestone from Caldon Low Quarries.
Although the canal was never legally closed, by the 1960s it was almost unusable.
In one of the UK's first major canal restoration projects, the canal was restored between 1970 and 1974.
The summit level of the canal carries it over the watershed between the Trent and Churnet Valleys. Thereafter the canal descends through Cheddleton, into an initially broad flood plain. At about a mile above Consall Forge, at Oak Meadow Ford Lock, the canal locks down into the River Churnet for about a mile; the reason for this is that the valley at this point is too narrow to accommodate both canal and river. At Consall Forge, river and canal part company again.
The canal has one branch, the Leek Branch, which runs for 3 miles and includes the 118 metre long Leek Tunnel. The Leek Branch meets the main line at Hazelhurst Junction, after crossing the main line on Hazelhurst Aqueduct.
Currently the branch ends disappointingly some way off Leek town centre. (When it appeared that Harecastle Tunnel, on the Trent and Mersey Canal, might have to close permanently because of mining subsidence, a bypassing connection between the Leek Branch and the Macclesfield Canal at Bosley was mooted; fortunately Harecastle tunnel remains open to navigation.)
Originally, the canal also had a further 13 mile branch, which opened in around 1811. This branch, sometimes referred to as the Uttoxeter Canal, ran from Froghall as far as Uttoxeter in Staffordshire.
A large part of this branch was subsequently filled in, in 1845, and tracks were laid on it for a new railway (still open as far south as Oakamoor) which incidentally had the first automatic, train-operated level-crossing in the UK, at Spath, just outside Uttoxeter).
A few bridges from the Uttoxeter branch remain, with the occasional 'milepost', and Uttoxeter still has an area called "The Wharf".
There is occasionally talk of re-opening the Uttoxeter Branch and even of extending it as far as Burton upon Trent.
Another much shorter branch, the Foxley, ran from Milton in the north east of Stoke-on-Trent through Sneyd Green to Ford Green near Smallthorne. What little remains of the Foxley can be found in the Holden Lane Pools nature reserve, as well as alongside the footpath from the reserve to the Elizabethan Ford Green Hall. There is still a pub called 'The Foxley' close to where this branch began in Milton.
In 2003, many years of restoration work came to a close as Froghall Wharf, the southern terminus, was reopened to vessels. The work included a new wharf, an impressive lock from the canal above to the basin, refurbished toilet facilities and a brand new visitor centre.
The roof of Froghall tunnel has long be recognised to be too low for most modern boats to pass through. At the time of the 2003 restoration, the water level in this pound was lowered (after dredging), and thus the headroom in the tunnel improved, but is alas still not enough for most boats.
Much of the work was undertaken with volunteer aid, and funded in part by contributions from the European Regional Development Fund.