The Churnet Valley - News and Views
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The progress report from the liquidators of Thomas Bolton Limited, owners of the copper works at Froghall, makes depressing reading. It's nearly all over for a company that traded for over 200 years and once employed hundreds. The "secured" and "preferential" creditors have been paid off, leaving the "unsecured" creditors to take their share of what's left. Principally, this means the pension fund, which is owed about £10-million but will be lucky to see £500,000. This means the Pension Protection Fund will have to step in to save the pensioners from poverty. The liquidation process is now almost complete and final axe will fall in the next few weeks, probably in January.
Technical updates update! Everything I mean to keep on the site now conforms to Google's multi-device layouts guidance and passes the checks in their online testing tool. I've also laced the site with some microdata, to help the search engines with their classification of the contents. That only leaves the old Valley Galleries, which I now intend to retire. I've moved most of the decent content to other pages, with newer pictures where I've got them. It is, therefore, time for them to go.
That doesn't mean the tech. updates are finished. In fact, I'm already considering a radical restructuring of the site to make it more data-driven via an object model. This would more-or-less complete the separation of style from content, while increasing the level of meaning, both by formalising the structure of the data and by integrating better with microdata.
Site Clearance at The Cottage I took a trip up to Froghall, this weekend. On the way, I drove down through Whiston, where excavation of the pinfold was well underway. Also notable was the clearance at "The Cottage" (pictured), a derelict farm next to the Foxt road near Froghall Wharf. I can find nothing online to indicate that anything profound is taking place, such as redevelopment, but it would be nice to see the place brought back to life.
Work is about to begin on the excavation and restoration of the pinfold in Whiston. Pinfolds were used to contain stray animals, which were released back to their owners on payment of a fine.
South Portal of Leek Tunnel This weekend, I made my first visit to the Leek Canal for years. This was brought on at least partly by my work on site upgrades, which highlighted to me how few good images I've got from there. So, after parking the car at Deep Hayes Country Park, I took a wander. The results have been added to the Caldon Canal page.
The most obvious change, since I was last up this way, is the on-going upgrade to the tow path, on both the Leek Arm and the main line. This should be more weatherproof for walking and should make cycling and jogging easier, too.
Uttoxeter Canal Embankment at Jackson Wood More woodland exploration this weekend. There is a lot of open-access woodland in the Churnet Valley, these days, so I decided to visit some of it. I started out in Oakamoor and headed into Carr Wood by the public footpath from Churnet View Road. There are a number of well-worn paths through the wood, including unofficial ones, many of which pre-date the open access legislation. One of these paths leads to the western edge of the wood, by the old sand sidings, where generations of trespassers have flattened generations of fences to stray onto the railway line. The track, here, has now been lifted and the railway stock, which suffered from theft and vandalism, removed.
Neighbouring Carr Wood is Key Wood, which I have visited before by using the public footpath by Little Eaves Farm. This time, I battled my way in from the side and on to one of the forestry tracks. With any luck, if the Moneystone Quarry redevelopment goes ahead, there will be a few new footpaths around here in the future to make things easier. Key Wood is a plantation of dull conifers, some of which have recently been cleared. The main point of interest is a surviving section of the Uttoxeter Canal, including an in-situ milepost, Morris's Bridge and California Lock. When I first visited, about nine years ago, making my way along the old towpath wasn't too difficult. This time, however, it seemed to be very much more overgrown with quite a few fallen trees which made finding the milepost, especially, hard going.
Heading on past California Lock, my next target was Jackson or Jackson's Wood. A couple of years back, the Waterways Recovery Group was down this way uncovering the remains of Jackson's Wood Lock. I was keen to have a look but the combination of a barbed wire fence and regrown vegetation put me off. Jackson Wood, itself, was a pleasant-enough little walk but not really worth the effort without better access. Getting out of the far side of the wood was certainly not easy but, once I'd escaped the trees, I was able to walk along the well-preserved canal embankment (pictured) towards Ross Bridge. All that remained, then, was to cross the little stream that runs into the Churnet at Ross Bridge and return to civilisation via Ross Lane.
Memorial to Major General W. Reid Martin I returned to Gibridding Wood, this weekend, to do a bit more exploring. The first objective was the memorial to Major General W. Reid Martin, which sits on a shoulder of land next to the public footpath that climbs the valley-side by the edge of the wood. It appears that the unfortunate Major General died here, in December 1892, while out shooting. Its not clear, from sources online, whether he died of natural causes, fell off his horse or was accidentally shot. It's also not clear to me why such an unknown figure came to merit a memorial stone.
With that objective achieved, I set off into the wood, to explore the path network. There appears to be one circular path with one or two others radiating off it. I'm not sure that the paths marked on the Ordnance Survey map reflect what's actually there but it's easy to get disorientated when you're in the trees. There are no public footpaths, as such, but the wood is owned by the National Trust, which is why it is open to the public. Visitors are advised to stick to the paths, because of danger from old mine workings, both known and unknown. The area was worked for coal, up until the early 19th century, and some of these later workings are clearly visible from the footpaths. The early history of the area, from the post-mediaeval period, however, is poorly documented and unmapped. There was certainly coal mining, at this time, and possibly also ironstone mining for the bloomery furnace at East Wall.
Inclined Plane on the Woodhead Tramroad in Gibridding Wood These last two weekends, I've been exploring the valley between Froghall and Oakamoor. I've been down this way a few times before but it seemed to me that I'd never explored properly. The two subjects I had in mind were the Ross Banks area below Whiston and Gibridding Wood at East Wall. Both targets were successfully reached, including the difficult-to-follow footpath from Ross Road into Clewlow Sprink, some mining remains by Ross Road and the embankments and inclined plane (pictured) of the Woodhead Tramroad around Gibridding Wood.
On Friday 11 September 2015, stage 6 of the Tour of Britain bike race is returning to the Churnet Valley. The stage starts in Stoke-on-Trent and takes a long loop north through the Staffordshire Moorlands and the Peak District, going through Leek, Buxton, Chesterfield and Matlock, on the way to the finish in Nottingham.
It's new technology time. This site was first developed when the main challenge was to be browser-safe across the various badly-implemented box models. The mobile internet was a relatively minor concern. Nowadays, smart phones and tablets are everywhere, so any site worth its salt has to be readable on a wide range of screen sizes. That means an end to fixed-size elements and letting the box model rip with stackable columns and the like, now that we no longer have to cope with old rubbish like Explorer 5. Google has been pushing this quite hard, recently, so I'll be using their multi-device layouts guidance to re-engineer the site, starting with this page.
The N7 69621 is to return to the East Anglia Railway following the expiry of its boiler ticket.
A tearoom is to open at Endon Station. There's currently still no sign of any trains getting there, but the site has been tidied up to improve its appearance.
The diesel multiple unit 50455/50517 has left the railway. It's been a mainstay on the CVR for several years but, after some kind of falling-out between the CVR and it's owners, it's gone to the East Lancs Railway.
A "Notice of move from Administration case to Creditors Voluntary Liquidation" for Thomas Bolton Limited has appeared on the Companies House website. From trawling the internet, it seems that the administrators were unable to sell the company: "... several interested parties decided not to make an offer as a result of the age and condition of the site, the plant and machinery, as well as levels of working capital and the amount of investment required".
The railway track between Froghall and Oakamoor has been lifted. This section of the CVR was little-used, in poor condition and attracting vandals. Some of the lifted track is to be reused elsewhere on the CVR. The rest is to be sold for scrap to raise funds for the Cauldon Lowe Branch purchase and the Reconnect Leek project.
The Polish shunter TKh 2944 'Hotspur' has now been restored and is ready for service.
Bolton's Copper Works in Froghall has gone into administration. It would appear that the explosion, a few weeks ago, was the last straw for a company that was already in trouble. Approximately 110 jobs are now under threat.
There's trouble on the Cauldon Lowe Branch. The merger between Lafarge and Tarmac has prompted a Competition Commission inquiry, so the track relaying scheme, from Ipstones to the quarries, must be put on ice until the uncertainty is resolved. The Churnet Valley Railway is now looking to buy the remaining track, between Leekbrook and Ipstones, to safeguard it. The development emphasis will now shift to restoration of the line into Leek.
There's been an explosion at Bolton's Copper Works in Froghall. It doesn't appear that anyone was hurt but two of the three furnaces have been knocked out and there's a hole in the roof!
Whiston Dog Academy formerly The Sneyd Arms The Sneyd Arms in Whiston, which closed down at the end of last year, is to become a dog training centre. The main building, originally built as a farrier's shop, is to become a house. The single-storey extension will accommodate the business. All being well, "Positive Pet Training" should open for business in the summer of 2015.
As part of plans to develop new cycle paths linking Staffordshire with the Peak District, the National Park Cycle Fund and local authorities are providing cash to upgrade the towing path of the Caldon and Leek Canals between Stockton Brook and Cheddleton and Leek. According to the Canal & River Trust, this ... will see the historic towpath of the Caldon Canal improved to provide a link connecting the Potteries through the Staffordshire Moorlands to the Peak District. The project will see £2m spent on improving the towpath for both walkers and cyclists. The project is the largest investment in Staffordshire's canal network in recent years and will provide visitors the opportunity to access this green, wildlife-rich gateway into both the Churnet Valley and Peak District National Park.
The run-round loop has now been installed at Ipstones on the newly-truncated Cauldon Lowe Branch. The Ipstones station site is to be cleared and partially restored.
The Leek Post & Times has reported details of the proposed return of the railway to Leek. Plans include a new station near to the cattle market in the town and another just north of Leekbrook Junction. The latter, subject to planning approval, will be part of a new housing development on surplus M.C.R. land, the sale of which will fund the project. The scheme will be known as the 'Reconnect Leek Project'.
Added Lambton Tank No.29 to the Steam Videos.
There's going to be an art festival in Foxt on Saturday 21st September. It's going to be a free event, involving exhibitions and demonstrations at venues around the village.
Added a section for Lambton Tank No.29 to the Steam Gallery along with some pictures of Beyer Peacock 1827 in steam at Cheddleton.
Lambton Tank No.29 has arrived for a loan stay on the railway. I will add photos to the steam gallery, shortly.
The railway has announced that the part of the Cauldon Lowe Branch, between Ipstones and Cauldon Quarry, is to be closed, so that the track can be replaced. "Cauldon Low" services will then terminate at the recently-cleared Ipstones Station site, where a run-round loop will be installed and the platform will be reinstated to allow de-training. The new track should be in place some time in 2014.
The ultimate intention, for heritage use, is to reopen the Waterhouses Branch, from Cauldon Junction down to Waterhouses Station. There is no track on this line, at the moment, and some of the track bed has been affected by quarrying but this is considered to be the best option for a permanent terminus. Waterhouses is a substantial village, with pubs, a shop and a chip shop. The station is largely intact and, unlike most of the former stations on the line, it's close to the centre of the village it's named after. It is currently used as a car park and cycle-hire centre for the Manifold Way.
The railway and the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust are combining forces to clear and conserve Jackson's Wood Bridge on the railway and the remains of Jackson's Wood Lock on the Uttoxeter Canal.
TKh 2944 'Hotspur' at Cheddleton I walked along the canal from Consallforge to Cheddleton, today. The first thing of note was the towpath reconstruction work at Cheddleton, including new moorings at Basford Bridge, near The Boat Inn and the Cheddleton Station. This is another project being done under the banner of the .
On the railway, a Polish shunting engine, TKh 2944 'Hotspur', has arrived for restoration. It was originally imported from Poland by the Spa Valley Railway in Tunbridge Wells in the late 1990s, where it hauled passanger services, for a while. It has been out of service, awaiting overhaul, since 2000. 'T' stands for 'Towarowy' meaning freight, 'K' stands for 'Kusy' meaning 'short' for a tank engine and 'h' indicates a 0-6-0 wheel arrangement. One of its sister engines, 2871, has also been purchased and is due to arrive soon.
Spring Lambs at Quixhill Spring has finally sort-of sprung! A bit of sunshine and some half-decent temperatures tempted me away from the central heating to explore the country around Quixhill and Prestwood. Despite the relative warmth and strong sunshine, there was still snow on the ground, in places, including one massive drift completely blocking my intended route along Broomfield Lane. Nonetheless, it was a good morale-raising day out after such a long winter.
Heading back towards Alton, it was nice to see the tree cutting around Seventy Bridge. This has been done under the auspices of the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership, to preserve and show off the remains of the former Uttoxeter Canal.
Staffordshire County Concil has rejected the "village green" application at Endon. This was an attempt to block the reopening of the railway. It was rejected on the following grounds:
  1. That the land is still part of the railway network, owned by Network Rail, classed as "out of use" and so that the usage would be statutorily incompatible.
  2. That any usage would be contrary to statute constituting a criminal offence and thus not capable of being lawful sports and pastimes.
  3. That any usage that has been shown has been in the nature of use as a footpath and not as a village green.
  4. Consequently the Application cannot succeed as the Applicant cannot establish the necessary 20 years recreational use by people of the locality or neighbourhood "as of right".
There is no appeal mechanism for this decision, other than a judicial review. With such a firm rejection, one would expect Ms Birks to pack it in. The weight of opinion is firmly against her, including that of the local parish council, of which she was once a member.
Alton Mill The BBC's "Who Do You Think You Are" today featured actor Bill Roache, a.k.a. Coronation Street's Ken Barlow.
It turns out that his grandmother, Mary Zillah Waddicor, ran the cafe in the old main house at Alton Towers and, later, "Ye Olde Mill Cafe" in the former Alton Mill (pictured). She achieved this in her own right, independent of her husband, who was, apparently, a violent drunk.
Tour of Britain changes made, with 2010, 2011 and 2012 pictures added, although 2011 didn't warrant a page to itself for the lousy photos I had available, so the link goes straight to the picture gallery page.
It's Tour of Britain time again. This year, stage 5, based in Stoke on Trent, cut through the Churnet Valley at Oakamoor and I was there with my camera. I won't be putting the pictures up straight away, because I think the existing page isn't up to the job. The 2009 stuff needs to be demoted into a sub page hanging off a new root page, with additional sub pages for 2010 and 2011 content, that I've not used before, as well as this year's stuff.
Rail Ale Trail It's the end of July and the summer weather has finally arrived, just in time for another Rail Ale Trail. Once again, this was held in cooperation with local pubs and the . That meant a selection of real ales available in the pubs, in the stations and on the trains. The highlight, rail-wise, was the trip up the incline to Cauldon Lowe, which was only slightly delayed by the sheep that insisted on walking in front of the train, for a while. Sadly, the N7 was not operational, so 33021 'Captain Charles' was handling traffic on the C.V.R. and the DMU was taking the trips to Cauldon Lowe. My highlight, beer-wise, was Titanic's Plum Porter, which, handily, was available on the DMU.
With the technology changes in place, I've trawled through my picture collection to add some more to the steam and diesel galleries. I've also added pictures of remains of the 1778 tramroad to the Caldon Low Tramroads page.
Good news from the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership. The Heritage Lottery Fund have awarded them £1.89 million towards the conservation and sympathetic development of the Churnet Valley and surrounding areas.
See for details.
The C.V.R. has had terrible luck trying to organise a steam gala for the weekend of 25th/26th February. The intention was to run five locomotives but negotiations for one broke down, the restoration of S160 6046 couldn't be completed in time and Black 5 44767 'George Stephenson' has suffered a serious failure. That has left GWR Large Prairie 5199 and Black 5 45231 'The Sherwood Forester' to run 'The Cauldon Lowe Steam Weekend' as a two-train service up to the newly-completed run-round loop at Cauldon.
See for details.
More technical updates. The Railway Steam and Diesel Galleries are now XML-driven and use the enhanced picture display mini-gallery format. As a result, the pages are now shorter with less supporting text but I think it's worth it for the cleaner layout.
It's time for some major technical updates:
  1. The "Walks" and "Events" pages are now XML-driven through a common PHP page.
  2. The "Walks", "Events" and "Places of Interest" pages now link to an enhanced picture display page that allows navigation to related pictures via a thumnails bar.
These changes are aimed at simpifying the process of adding new pages, improving navigation between pictures and, potentially, de-cluttering the likes of the railway pages, where pictures will be accessible without the need for a thumbnail on the calling page.
Good news from the railway: Moorland & City Railways' project to create a 30-mile sustainable rail network has been awarded £1.65 million in the second round of the Government's Regional Growth Fund initiative.
Repeated the walk from Stoke to Kingsley Holt. Nothing in particular to add to the site, except to mention the clearance of the Stoke to Leekbrook Railway, which has now progressed as far as Endon. All things being well, trains may be running down from Leekbrook early next year. A Green-party campaigner, who lives in Endon, is trying to spoil things by having the line declared a "village green", but the general opinion is that this is unlikely to succeed, since the railway never ceased to be a railway and anyone using it for leisure purposes is, in fact, trespassing.
New Towing Path Bridge I took a trip up to Consall Nature Park today and went for a walk along the river. In recent years, the canalised section through the woods has suffered badly from failed drainage and towpath collapse. Now, a programme of repairs is in progress: clearing vegetation, digging new drains and repairing the banks.
The improvement is immediate. The water level on the neighbouring land, that used to overflow the towpath, has now sunk by about a foot and the towpath itself is now mostly dry and level. They've even added a small bridge (pictured), to cross one of the main drains.
Rail Ale Trail After eight years of prowling round the valley on foot, I finally got round to using the railway. Uncoincidently, they were holding a "Rail Ale Trail", in cooperation with local pubs and the Titanic Brewery. That meant a selection of real ales (and cider) being available from the pubs, in the stations and on the trains. Needless to say, I didn't drive up, which meant getting up rather early for the three-hour journey by public transport. Nevertheless, it was worth it, and I had a great day. The highlight, rail-wise, was the trip up the incline to Cauldon Lowe. The views across the moorlands from the high parts of the line were well worth the extra £5 for the supplementary ticket. The highlights, beer-wise, were Titanic's Plum Porter and Shugborough's Lordship's Own and Mi'Lady's Fancy. I also enjoyed the hog roast at the Black Lion Inn and a pint of Bombardier from the newly-reopened Railway Inn, while I was waiting for the bus home.
I've added a Rail Ale Trail page to the Events part of the site with a few photos.
Laver Leisure are pushing ahead with proposals for the redevelopment of Moneystone Quarry as Moneystone Park, A high quality sustainable leisure resort focussing on outdoor activities, wildlife, the environment and the quarry's heritage". Proposed activities include: boating, diving, rock climbing, adventure play, BMX, skate park, horse riding, paintball, walking, cycling and various 'woodland activities'. Proposed facilities include: cafe, bar, restaurant, visitor centre, indoor activity centre, market square and hotel spa. There could be a new station on the Churnet Valley Railway, linked to the site by a funicular. If it gets the go-ahead, the development will cost around £50M. Quarrying on the site is due to end this autumn.
The website for the project is at .
The C.V.R. has announced another gala involving the recently-reopened Cauldon Low Branch. It will be held on the weekend of the 26th and 27th of March and will be a diesel event, involving the CVR's current on site Diesel Loco's 37109, 37075, 33021 & 33102. More and final details to follow....
Running on the Cauldon Lowe branch will now become a regular event, with services on roughly one weekend per month through 2011. Check details at the website:
Running in parallel to the CVLLP is Staffordshire Moorlands District Council's Churnet Valley Masterplan. The "key opportunity sites" are listed as: Bolton Copperworks, Froghall; Cornhill, Leek; Alton Towers; Consall Hall Gardens; and Moneystone Quarry. The plan is in its early stages but the "Bolton Copperworks Baseline Report" is available to download, containing an extensive assessment of the site and its development potential. The gist of it is that the site has lots of potential for residential and leisure development but has limited commercial prospects (other than Boltons itself, which will remain).
I've just found out about the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership, which is a bit poor on my part because it was announced months ago. This is a hugely-important development for the Churnet Valley, with the potential for £2,000,000 of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help to both preserve and revitalise this area of the Staffordshire Moorlands. I've included a couple of quotes below, lifted from the website, which explain things nicely.
Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership (CVLLP) is a major project which aims to conserve, enhance and celebrate the special landscape fringing the Peak District in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
There are currently a number of pressures on the area which, if action is not taken, will result in damage to or even loss of its special character. Low farming incomes, a decline in the condition of attractive features such as old bridges and dry stone walls, and a shortage of young people entering land management are just a few examples of the problems facing the area. The aim of the CVLLP project is to tackle these threats and reverse the rate of decline across the landscape.

Churnet Valley, lying to the north east of Stoke-on-Trent, has an interesting mixture of rural landscapes and industrial quarries, limekilns, canals and railways. The scheme aims to improve land management and encourage better transport links so that visitors without access to cars can fully enjoy the 20,000ha area, which includes Weaver Hills and Ipstones Edge. Local people will learn new heritage skills such as dry stone walling and hedgelaying with the potential for both paid and voluntary job opportunities.
Went back for the Cauldon Lowe Branch Line diesel gala. The weather was snowy and bitterly cold, which restricted the numbers attending and played havoc with the schedules as equipment and locos froze or broke down. Nevertheless, I got some decent video and snowy photographs of the Caldon Canal, which will surface on the site at some point.
This was the first weekend of the Cauldon Lowe Branch Line reopening gala. I spent Saturday driving and walking around the newly-reopened line and Sunday on the existing C.V.R. Both days were busy but Saturday, in particular, was busier than I've ever seen before. The trains were packed, the stations were packed and every car park and side road with a view of the line was rammed with parked cars and people. Altogether a very successful day for the C.V.R. And the hog roast at the Black Lion was pretty good too.
It was also good to se a good old vegetation bash going on around Froghall Wharf. Since it reopened, in 2005, the basin and surroundings have been steadily reverting to overgrown jungle but Sunday's pruning and tidying should go a long way to bringing it back into order.
The Caldon Canal is closed again. A retaining wall and part of the tow-path has collapsed between Bedford Street Lock 2 and Planet Lock 3 in Shelton. The canal has not been breached but has been drained as a precaution.
The collapse is next to a site in the early stages of redevelopment. I suppose it's lucky that it happened now, rather than after completion when it might be occupied, or someone could have been killed.
Churnet Way Sign These signs, for "The Churnet Way", have been appearing all over the valley but, so far, I can't find a reference to it on-line. From what I've seen, there are no new paths involved, so I don't know what it's meant to achieve. In my experience, grouping some paths under a nice-sounding name doesn't guarantee a good walk. A few years back, I wasted some hours of my life trying to follow the "Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk" over stiles buried in hedges and across trackless fields. It started well, between Ashbourne and Longford, but further on I got lost several times and eventually gave up and took to the tarmac at Lees. To be worthy of the name, I'd expect, at the very least, a firm, all-weather surface, kept tidy with regular maintenance, but that's probably wishful thinking.
The C.V.R. and Moorland & City Railways have announced, subject to inspection by the Office of Rail Regulation, that they should be in a position to return the Leekbrook to Cauldon Low line to passenger traffic for a celebration event on the 13th of November 2010.
The breach in the Leek Arm of the Caldon Canal has been repaired and the canal is now open.
Repeated the walk from Stoke to Kingsley Holt. Nothing significant to add to the site, since I've done it all before but it was as good a day out as ever. The food and beer in the Hollybush were particular highlights.
The Railway Inn at Froghall looked like it had reopened but I didn't think I had time to go in, as I was trying to catch a bus. This was a pity and I might as well have stayed, as I missed the bus and, when I eventually got back into Stoke, my train was cancelled.
I've been wandering around Alton in the past week, exploring the old lanes to the east. I'm thinking of starting a new page on old roads and trackways through the area.
First on the list was Saltersford Lane. The bridleway, which was previously a dead-end, has now been extended to meet the Oakamoor to Denstone greenway. It doesn't follow the more-recent footpath towards Denstone but takes the original route into the valley towards Salters Ford or Bridge. Sadly, the last section from the greenway across the river to Quixhill Lane is not to be reinstated.
My second target was Wheel Lane. I hadn't explored this before as it's only marked as a footpath on the OS map. When I came across its junction with Saltersford Lane, though, it was obvious that this had been a substanitial road, too. Close to Alton, it's just a farm track leading to a collection of buildings called "The Wheel" but, beyond this, it's a muddy lane with a line of causey stones, very much like Saltersford. It's in worse condition than Saltersford, with stones lying at all angles and uncut hedges sprawling everywhere. It obviously hasn't had the maintenance that continued horse traffic would have brought. Perhaps it should be upgraded to a bridleway and tidied up.
Finally, I wandered back into Alton via Alton Station. There has been a lot of tree felling over the winter, revealing the down and bay platforms and some passenger walkways running up towards Alton Towers. I have no idea whether this effort is part of the restoration of the railway or just a tidy-up for the station.
Repairs to the breach in the Leek Arm are underway.
New year, new camera (FinePix J210). Smaller, more pixels and more zoom but still the same idiot taking the pictures. Took it for a road test to the Churnet Valley Railway Winter Steam Gala with results added to the Railway Page. One new feature for me was the ability to zoom while recording video. Unfortunately, the zoom is much too fast and the autofocus can't keep up, so the results can be jerky and blurred. Otherwise, it performed well, despite grey and gloomy conditions. Also had a very welcome, enjoyable day-and-a-half out in what has been a hard winter.
Noticed that the Railway Inn at Froghall was boarded up. I spoke to one of the previous landlords a year-or-two back who reckoned that, although they did OK during the summer, they always struggled for trade during the winter.
Replaced the old 'Bibliography, Links, etc.' page with something a bit better.
will reopen next year, after all. William Podmore, its nonegenarian owner, is handing over some of his responsibilities to an assistant. The site is to be developed further as a wedding venue.
The breach at Barnfields is being blamed on a failure of the embankment. Originally, it was speculated that a previously-unknown culvert under the canal had collapsed but this has been found to be in good condition and not to blame.
My camera's bust! It lost power, suddenly, just after I replaced the batteries. I think a microswitch in the battery compartment has disintegrated. The internet consensus seems to be that getting it fixed out-of-warranty is uneconomical, with high up-front fees being charged just to look at the thing. It's a Fujifilm E900, that I bought in 2006 which, therefore, was beginning to age but, I think, would have been adequate for my purposes for a while, yet. I suppose I'll just have to look for a bargain in the sales, come January. In the short term, I have dug out my old Kodak, which is the size and weight of a small brick and has only a one-megapixel CCD and 2x zoom. It cost me £500 in 1998 and was one of the first "low cost" megapixel cameras.
The full results of the Uttoxeter Canal restoration feasibility study are on the Caldon and Uttoxeter Canals Trust website.
The restoration is feasible, from an engineering point of view, but could cost somewhere around £90,000,000.
The Leek Arm of the Caldon Canal has breached near Barnfields, on the edge of Leek. At around 5:30 in the morning, a 15m stretch of bank collapsed into the valley, draining the Leek Arm and the summit pound of the Caldon. The breach has since been isolated, so that the rest of the canal can be refilled, but the main historic purpose of this canal was to channel water to the summit pound from Rudyard Reservoir, which is now cut off. The BBC has the story here.
After months of rumours, the Churnet Valley Railway has confirmed its expansion plans. Over the next four years, the C.V.R., in conjunction with Moorland & City Railways, will reopen the line form Stoke to Caldon Low and extend the C.V.R. to a new station in Leek, to the North, and to Alton, in the South.
The BBC reports that Consall Hall Gardens is to close for good at the end of October, due to falling visitor numbers bringing in insufficient revenue.
Added an account of the Tour of Britain stage 5.
Repeated the Stoke to Froghall walk. Another cracking day out but I don't know if I need to add anything to the site, seeing as it's a repeat.
Took a little walk (17 miles) from Stoke to Froghall along the Canal. Pictures added.
Consulting engineers Halcrow Group Limited have been appointed to carry out an outline feasibility study for the possible restoration of the Uttoxeter Canal.
Moneystone Quarry is set to close in 2010 after expansion plans were refused planning permission. After closure, it will have to be landscaped and/or restored to some other use. Some kind of leisure park has been proposed and I should think both the Churnet Valley Railway and the Caldon and Uttoxeter Canals Trust will be interested.
12/02/09: goes live.
Purchased domain name and hosting package from
Site will relocate when the domain is confirmed as registered.
Lycos have announced that they are shutting down their web hosting, including Tripod, as of 15th February.
So, this site will have to move!
Cherryeye Bridge is an icon of the Caldon Canal. Popular wisdom has it named after a disease of the local ironstone miners, especially those at Cherryeye Mine, nearby. This has always struck me as a strange thing to name a bridge after.
I have a hypothesis, however. According to "Churnet Valley Iron The Mills & The Mines", by Herbert A Chester, the nearby Riddings Farm used to be called Cherry High Farm. Also, the Peak District Mines Historical Society Ltd. record at lists "Cherry High" mine and the Moulds Pits list of "Collieries of the North Staffs Coalfield", at records "Cherry Eye or High" mine. It, therefore, seems reasonable to me that the bridge might originally have been "Cherry High" as well. At some time around 1900, the mine name began to be contracted to "Cherryeye" and the bridge probably followed suit.
After a year-or-so of thinking about it, finally got round to adding a Caldon Canal page.
More salmon have been released into the river at Consallforge. See for details.
Added Stoke to Leek pictures.
A 15-mile stroll from Stoke railway station, up the Caldon to Hazlehurst, up the Leek Arm to Barnfields, then in to Leek. Pictures to follow.
Lycos have changed the way adverts work on the site, so it's time to re-format everything and restore some order.
Churnet Valley Railway Diesel Gala.
Churnet Valley Railway Winter Steam Gala. One of the last appearances in steam of 4771 "Green Arrow", plus various other visitors.
Added a new YouTube video for 5197, which was pulling a "Santa and Steam" train. Unfortunately, the weather turned foul and the video is short and a bit blurry, because of the low light levels. It still beats Christmas shopping, though.
Revamped the Churnet Valley Railway page by dividing it into sub-pages and incorporating links to my YouTube account. I've incorporated more new technology to reduce the amount of HTML, which seems to work OK.
Uttoxeter Canal page added along the same lines as the Caldon Low tramroads page. Some weaknesses are evident in the new approach, such as the lack of supporting text for the images and obscuration of the HOME button by the annoying Lycos adverts.
It's been a while, but I'm finally ready to add some new stuff to the site. The weather this summer was the wettest on record but I have a modest backlog of images from the few rain-free days when I made it up to the valley. The first addition is a page on the Caldon Low tramroads, which also features some technology I'm trying out.
Some spring-like weather tempted me into a marathon stroll from Denstone to Endon. This wasn't the original plan, but the bus from Uttoxeter to Alton, where I intended to start the walk, was a figment of the internet's imagination. Never trust anything you read on the internet, except in this site, obviously.
A visit to Tittesworth Reservoir. Popular with O.A.P.'s who filled the restaurant and kids on a school trip who loved the adventure playground.
Went for a stomp round the lower valley in the snow.
It took a month to get round to it, but the December gallery is now in there.
A sunny Saturday in December and a new (second-hand) Alfa, so how could I resist an afternoon out? The days are short at this time of year, so I didn't venture far: from Froghall Wharf just as far as the Black Lion at Consallforge. It was interesting enough, just the same. The bare trees let the light in to places obscured by undergrowth and shade in summer. The Churnet Valley Railway was running, which allowed me to add to my little collection of videos on YouTube, under the name churnetvalley. Another, odder visitor was a soviet-era Russian Antonov An-2 biplane, which rumbled slowly overhead in the late afternoon. I've got some decent pictures, including the Black Lion and the Antonov, which I will turn into a gallery shortly.
Due to personal and work commitments, I haven't been up to the valley much recently. I put that right last Saturday with a stroll around the lower valley between Alton and Rocester. Unfortunately, the photographic record of the trip was a bit shoddy so I won't be putting much of it online. A black swan at JCB lakes and Rocester Mill were the dubious highlights, though the Saltersford Lane view of the Weaver Hills was adequate enough to update the index page. On top of that, I crashed my Alfa Romeo the other day, so for the time being I'm rumbling around in a wretched little Ford Ka hire car which I really don't want to drive any more than I can help. For that reason, the weather and Christmas shopping, I suspect that's it for this year. I have some technical updates in prototype, but no time to take them forward.
The Churnet is to become a salmon river after more than 100 years absence. More than 10,000 baby salmon have been released into the river at Consallforge. The BBC news website has the details.
Added "Summer Flowers and Fruit" gallery.
Created a new format for the railway gallery which allows more stuff on the page. This may form the basis of a revamp for some of the other galleries, too.
Found a picture of the DMU at Kingsley and Froghall Station that I forgot I had, so added it to the railway gallery.
More video added to the railway gallery.
The E900 has been for its first outing, rearmed with a 1Gb picture card which can hold around 450 pictures or a mix of pictures and video clips. Things started encouragingly, with many photos being taken in bright sunshine. Then, whilst fumbling around the menu system, I managed to reformat the picture card and lose the lot. Never mind. A pint in the Black Lion restored my mood and allowed me to take a video clip of a steam train from the beer garden. The results are a bit wobbly, due to the lack of a tripod, but I've added it to the Churnet Valley Railway section of this site. I have a small plastic tabletop tripod that I will carry in future which should help, given a convenient fence post. Later, the weather turned cloudy and hazy, ruining my attempts to recreate the shots I'd lost earlier. The low light levels spoiled the colours and made camera shake an issue. The biggest issue of all, of course, is the talent of the photographer (although there is a bit of chromatic aberration to contend with, too).
One Fujifilm E900 Zoom arrived in the post today: 9M pixels and 4x optical zoom. A beautiful little thing with lots of potential, just as soon as I replace the puny 16M memory card. At maximum resolution, this can store only half a dozen images or so and I haven't even attempted movie mode.
Added a bit more to the railway gallery - last outing for the old Kodak, probably.
I'm trying to increase my coverage of the Churnet Valley Railway. I'm not the world's greatest photographer but the limits of my old Kodak digital camera definitely show when I try to shoot moving targets. Nevertheless I've added a gallery of my semi-successful efforts so far. I will be acquiring a new camera soon which will make everything from then on purely my fault.
Added Spring Flowers section.
Updated various pages (including this one) to replace the old green and yellow colour scheme with pale blue and black with new title format.
Added "California Easter" section.
Added contents for "Winter Days Out" section.
Hello new front page and goodbye green and yellow mess. The old front page was getting cluttered and downright ugly so I've replaced it with something cleaner and simpler. Maybe I'll make this my new "corporate identity" - ha, ha.
It's the back end of February and it's still very much winter but today I braved the seas of mud and took a walk along the canal from Froghall to Consall Station and back. On the way, I climbed up the valley side from Cherryeye Bridge to look for Cherryeye Mine (failed) and further on I took a look at the remains of Crowgutter Mill (a pile of rubble). It was good to be out, though, and the BR Standard Tank 80098 (it has no name, apparently) was steaming up and down the Churnet Valley Railway all afternoon, giving me several opportunities for photographs, one or two of which came out OK.
Finally Fully Fixed For Fantastic Firefox Features and corrected some speeling and gramir mistaks too hav I.
Mostly Fixed For Firefox - but the images in the galleries need some work to stop the navigation controls clipping the images. D'oh!
It's St Andrews Day and it's winter. A combination of work, Christmas shopping and the weather mean that I've not been to The Valley since The Walk in October. Time to cuddle a radiator and dream of better days.
Added Leek to Froghall Gallery with improved style sheet.
Reorganised the galleries into river-flow order, i.e. starting from the source in gallery 1 and running down the valley to Denstone, with a few diversions on the way.
The next step will be to redesign the whole lot to make it more maintainable. Then, I hope, I will be able to concentrate more on the content than fiddling with the HTML.
Added Travel section.