You’ll also come across a lot of cows, chickens, goats, horses and a lot of dogs walking their owners.
Around Brick Kiln Bridge (number 33) there’s lots of pretty open farmland and what appear to be geese fields. We don’t know an awful amount about geese but certainly a large population of these birds appear to favour one particular spot in this area. The canal itself is now more gently meandering, not as tightly twisting as previously.
A waterway flyover
On arrival at Hazelhurst Junction the Caldon Canal splits with the main Froghall line dropping down three locks and the Leek branch crossing over the top. Take time to take in the ornately decorated Hazelhurst Aqueduct, built in 1841; it is a rare example of a waterways ‘flyover’, an aqueduct carrying one canal over another. Be aware of a very tight turn to the left at bridge 3, it’s a sharp one.
The short branch of the Caldon Canal to Leek is a beautiful and peaceful stretch of canal that now finishes just outside the town, the original canal basin having been filled in long ago.
You’ll start appreciating the touches of the Peak District as you travel further along towards Leek, with attractive stone cottages revealing a typical Peak District character. The banks to the canal climb steeply and are dotted with beautiful looking cottages and houses, all having spectacular valley views.
Along this stretch heading towards Leek you’ll find that the canals are narrow with more tight bridges and some shallow water; you may occasionally feel the silt bed through the tiller.
Turn on your boat lights as you approach the 120 meter Leek Tunnel. It’s a narrow waterway with steeply inclined roof, making it easy to imagine through here the old ‘leggers’ lying sideways pushing their commercial boats through the darkness.
The end of the line
As you approach the end of the Leek route be careful not to miss the official end of navigation at the Leek Winding hole – the last winding hole for full-length boats. There is a large sign to warn you so it’s fairly hard to miss, but carry on any further and you’ll find yourself stranded with no where to go…
The original length of the canal, extending to a basin on the south side of Leek Railway Station, was filled in in the late 1950s / early 1960s to allow for the building of the Barnfields Road Industrial Estate.
It’s just a short walk to the end of the canal navigation and then probably another twenty-minute walk into the center of Leek itself. You’ll have to pass through the aforementioned industrial estate but Leek is not a bad market town. If you like antiques it will be your thing as this market town is full of them with an antiques and collectors market each Saturday.
In summary the Caldon Canal makes for a lovely short canal boat break, offering a nice combination of town and country together with some interesting locks and lift bridges and nice sections of lock-free cruising. The best moorings are around Milton and near the end of the Leek section, giving you easy access to local shops and friendly pubs.
Good for families of all ages or groups holidaying together, the Caldon offers a fantastic narrowboat holiday, being said to be one of the most picturesque parts of the canal network.
Do you have a favourite route on the canal network?