A trip down memory lane
Harry Arnold takes to the towpath for a New Year expedition
UNSEASONALLY fine weather, combined with virtually a week’s holiday for some, brought out many more towpath walkers and quite a number of boaters over this Christmas and New Year holiday.
The Trent & Mersey through our village of Alrewas often had almost a continuous queue of towpath trampers, so the Arnold family, including dog, decamped to our daughter’s home waterway – the Caldon Canal – this New Year.
One of the most attractive canal walks close to her house is a figure-of-eight route around Denford, with the historic ‘waterway fly-over’ of Hazelhurst Aqueduct at the centre of it and the adjacent Holly Bush Inn conveniently placed to provide welcome sustenance, including real ales and food, for the possibly weary walker and passing boater.
We chose to climb the steps up on to the aqueduct and first head along the Leek Branch in the Hazelhurst Junction and Stoke-on-Trent direction which gives a tremendous view of the three-lock flight down below you and on across the valley.
Nostalgic for me, as this was one of my first views of this canal on May 19, 1963 while engaged in the photographic part of an engineering survey for the original Caldon Canal Committee, which fortunately made some small contribution to the eventual restoration and reopening. The locks below were dry and disused then of course.
At Hazelhurst Junction, with its elegant cast iron bridge, we turned and strolled back down the lock flight – meeting a number of other families and their dogs – to climb back up on to the aqueduct again and head for Bridge 4 on the Leek Branch which takes the lane downhill and back to the pub. On the way, another small aqueduct crosses what has been for years a closed railway line.
As we are all railway enthusiasts as well, it was great to see this section of track already cleared as part of the Moorland & City Railway project. The scheme has already reopened the section from the junction with the popular Churnet Valley Steam Railway at Leekbrook to the quarries at Cauldon Lowe and is now progressing along the length into Stoke-on-Trent and a link with the West Coast main line. The aim is to run both freight from the quarries and passenger commuter trains and we are all looking forward to the test runs; hopefully later this year.
Back at The Holly Bush, we just got the drinks in before the place started to heave. If you do this walk, be warned, it is a very popular pub. You may wonder what the range of massive silver cups are for (a bit more elaborate than the usually darts competition trophies) this country pub is internationally famous for its Tug-of-War team. Waterway enthusiasts might also spot the secretary of the Historic Narrow Boat Owners Club and her family in there too, as it is her local.
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