Sunday, 24 May 2009

Churnet Valley Railway.

2 Locks, 1 Mile. Now moored opposite the Cheddleton railway station.

On Friday afternoon after we had thoroughly explored Cheddleton village we pulled the pins and moved down to the other end of the village below bridge 44. This would have to be one of the best moorings we have had where we could sit and watch steam trains (Derek mainly) pottering about preparing for the forthcoming week-ends scheduled service.A short visit to the station on Friday afternoon just to check everything out for the following day and that was Friday done & dusted.

Saturday morning we caught the first train of the day at 10.30am thinking that not many people would be around at that time of day. How wrong we were because there were already two tour coaches in the car park having offloaded 80 odd passengers plus many private car loads. It was probably this highest amount of passengers on the train all day but with 5 carriages there were plenty of seats available.

Initially we took the train all the way to Kingsley & Froghall where the canal also terminates. Our main objective was to check out the Froghall tunnel and the basin on the Uttoxeter canal. The latter is a lovely mooring with floating pontoons below lock 1 on the Uttoxeter canal but due to lack of use is getting a lot of weed growth. It’s a real shame that only a small percentage of boats can use this basin because of the restriction on the Froghall tunnel which unfortunately will preclude us.

After checking out the canal we wandered across to the Railway Inn for lunch which was probably the best value for money we have ever had, ham steak, egg and chips (which were enormous) with 2 drinks for ten quid. While at the pub we enquired about Kingsley Bird and Falconry Centre. We were told that it was half a mile up the hill so we thought “why not”. Well the half mile turned out to be just to the top of the hill, the centre was at least another half mile or so down a country lane after that. Ah well, we’ve come this far might as well carry on. Thankfully the effort was worthwhile as we had a personal guided tour of the establishment and a very informative one it was too.We even got to stroke 2 very wide eyed baby Owl’s. As it is the breeding season quite a few birds were in their nesting boxes sitting on eggs so not a lot of bird handling is taking place at present.

We left the centre just before 3pm and the next train back to Cheddleton was due at 3.25pm. As it was mostly downhill we strode it out and arrived on the station platform just as the guard was about to wave the train away.Phew, that was lucky! We only travelled as far as Consall Forge and alighted there to investigate the canal at this point. After a few more photo’s we still had 25 minutes before the next train so we wandered into the Black Lion pub for some liquid refreshment after all our rushing around earlier. This pub is quite unique in that it can only be accessed by boat or train. The lane on the other side of the railway and canal which leads to the village used to be privately owned and the owner used to charge sixpence for access. These days it brings cars down to a car park and then patrons have to cross the railway and canal to imbibe in their favourite tipple. Even so it was a busy little pub.

Suitably refreshed we decided that we would catch the train back to Kingsley & Froghall and then do the full 5 1/2 miles back to Cheddleton on the last train of the day. Here again we were in for a surprise as the train didn’t stop at Cheddleton but carried on to Leekbrook junction which at the present moment is the end of the Churnet Valley Railway. Here there is a boarded up signal box and what remains of the station platform. The engine then ran around the train and took us back to Cheddleton.

After all this sight seeing and walking all we wanted to do was get back to the boat, put our feet up and have a cup of tea or coffee. Boy, what a day.

As we had returned on the last train of the day we presumed that the ongoing shunting over at the station was just in preparation for tomorrow. While writing this mammoth blog the steam engine has now done two return trips with the Kitchen car and Dining car attached to the train, a regular or a special feature, either way they are working very hard.

1642 locks, 3474 miles, 61 Tunnels, 45 swing bridges and 42 lift bridges since Nov 2006

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