It didn’t take us long to get back to Hazelhurst junction his morning. We stopped just short for the bridge and had some bacon sarnies, then it was time to make the slow progress through the 3 locks. As what would become the “norm” today, we were following a boat down and it all takes time. However, passing under the aqueduct and seeing the Leek Branch above us was great and all the time thinking “we were up there an hour ago”!! As we descended further into the Churnet Valley, the scenery became more and more amazing- so many trees! We caught up with a single handed boater that REALLY slowed progress, but we helped out as much as we could. As we neared the Churnet Valley Railway Stations, we could hear the “choo choo” of the trains whistles and then the trains themselves. Also, sometimes we could only see the smoke from the steam train- through the trees it was really “Railway Children” stuff! The canal seemed busier that we remember, but we still have the lovely quiet Montgomery in our memories, so perhaps the comparison did the Caldon no favours. For a short while, before Consall Forge, the canal joins the River Churnet and makes for a really pleasant cruise and then Consall Forge takes you back in time as the railway crosses the canal and the steam off the trains adds to the ambiance.
Flint Mill Lock has the gauge for measuring whether the boat would fit through the tunnel. When the gates first opened and I saw the gauge, my first thought was “no way” but we did actually fit under!! Marcus had read some reports on the internet and the general consensus seemed to be that the gauge was short by about 5 inches, so we were very confident …..and excited!! We took everything off the roof and had a few minutes of glum faces when we realised that the chimney pot was housed on a cast iron upright and was quite tall! However, Harebell, not minding at all that we were on a potential collision coourse with an ancient low tunnel, cruised ahead and and very quickly, it was the moment of truth- we were at the tunnel entrance- it looked very low!!
James and I went inside and Marcus indulged in some “crouching down steering” and we fitted through with quite a bit of room to spare!! What a truimph!! In no time were in the lock, technically the first one on the Uttoxeter Canal and numbered “1” accordingly, taking us down to Froghall Basin- What an achievement!!
There were 3 other boats there and we had plenty of moorings to choose from, so we took a middle one. Soon after we were joined by another boat and the club, for the night, was sorted!!