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News article created on 30 September 2014

A good time to be Leek...ing

Back to cruising, Trustee John Dodwell shares his experiences on a nostalgic trip up the Leek Arm.


We got the train to Stoke-on-Trent - after I'd been at a meeting of CRT's Pension Fund Trustees - and so back to HELEN at Hazelhurst on the Caldon where we had left her at Rupert and Alison Smedley's place.  By chance, her father and mother were there and he reminded me of his work for the 1970 Inland Waterways Association's National Rally at Guildford where my elder brother had been Treasurer. David Struckett is still a very active IWA member, now chairing in the West Midlands. Also there was Bob Keaveney who  with his parents was much involved in the campaign to save the Ashton and lower Peak Forest Canals in the 60s and 70s.

So we swapped nostalgia before starting up the Arm to Leek. It was one of those delightful evenings with the setting sun's rays shining on the trees as we journeyed along the northern side of the Churnet Valley. Bridge 6 was a problem as HELEN draws 3 feet (but no problem in the way back) but the views across the valley made up for it. Definitely one of my favourite canals.

We went through Leek Tunnel before tying up for the evening. That evening we joined other IWA and Caldon Canal Trust members watching old films of the struggle to save the Caldon. These included pictures of volunteers digging silt out of lock chambers by shovelling the mud into buckets which were then hauled to the top.


We walked into the attractive town of Leek - there's a Morrisons about 10 minutes away. The indoor market has three butchers, a fishmonger and a greengrocer among the clothing stalls;  one of the butchers makes it clear his idea of locally raised meat  means within a 40 mile radius. We left for another time a visit to the Nicholson Museum of William Morris inspired embroidery; also the Brindley watermill.

We left in the late afternoon and came back along the Leek Arm to Hazelhurst Junction. This area is a bit like where the Macclesfield and Trent and Mersey join. The Leek Arm crosses the Froghall Arm (the aqueduct is stunning) after the latter has descended three locks - which we went down. We were in the bottom lock when we heard the distinctive noise of the single cylinder Bolinder engine of CACTUS in the top lock. CACTUS is a 1926 built unconverted working boat in Fellows Morton Clayton colours which had operated as a trip boat during the Caldon struggles . We tied that night at Cheddleton. 

About this blog

John Dodwell

John Dodwell is one of our 10 volunteer trustees, who carry responsibility for the charity’s policies and strategies. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.

John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!

See more blogs from John Dodwell