Vlog 195: Taking a Leek

Having stopped overnight at the end of the Froghall arm, I turned the narrowboat and headed back the way I’d come, up to the junction where the Caldon canal had split into two. One very sharp left turn later and I was going down the Leek branch through heavily wooded sections and a very narrow tunnel indeed, emerging at the navigable end of that part of the canal.

Start point: https://goo.gl/maps/buUCCcRaeq4cRekK7
End point: https://goo.gl/maps/HkDG1sPTUucfCnVo9

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  1. When I did the Caldon in 2003 with a group of friends we found that the boat was half-an-inch too long to turn in the winding hole before Froghall Tunnel. At that time there wasn’t the clear notice at Flint Mill Lock, just a rather confusing A4 typed sheet stuck on a pole, there was no red and white plastic height gauge over the lock exit, and the Nicholsons’ Guide had a misprint by the winding hole reading “6 ft max”.

    Mind you, we were trying to turn a 68 foot boat in a winding hole that I understand has a 65 foot nominal maximum. We nearly got round, and would have made it except for the fact that the people who had laid the coping stones along the towpath edge hadn’t done as good a job as the original engineers would have done, and the edge of the coping stones diverged from a true arc of curvature by about an inch towards the canal when we had only to get the back of the boat about 10 feet in distance further along the towpath to get clear.

    So we had to reverse the boat the mile-and-a-half back up the canal to turn at the winding hole above Flint Mill Lock, including going through Cherry Eye Bridge and the lock backwards. With me and three other blokes on board we set up a system where one of us was on the bows with the boat pole, steering by pushing against the bottom of the canal, another was on the stern with the boat hook to fend off as necessary, and the third operated the throttle. The tiller was of decorative use only. With a bit of practice we cracked along at a fair old pace and probably did the journey in about an hour. Ah, boaters’ tales eh?

  2. Great Vlog. Really nice part of the network. We’ve asked our UK family if we can do that stretch when we visit next time.

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