Friday 23 September 2011

Chance encounters

The Churnet is Staffordshire's "hidden" valley. So hidden, said an elderly man we met today, that "when Jerry wanted to bomb the copper factory in Froghall, he couldn't find it." Bolton's made the first transatlantic cable (said our informant), and that was a nice link to Valencia on the coast of Kerry, which was our holiday spot three years ago. We walked down to the tea rooms at the railway station in Froghall only to find that, like the flint mill yesterday, opening is restricted to weekends once the school holidays end. But the walk took us through Froghall wharf and basin, at the junction with the old Uttoxeter canal, brilliantly restored and a treat in the morning sun. There, among the ubiquitous ducks (and occasional goose or swan) was a shag. Our bird book says they can occasionally be found on inland water, and here was the evidence.

Froghall is the end of the line. On the way back, we chatted to three walkers clambering on to the towpath after something of a diversion, we gathered. They watched as we came up the next lock, and then joined us on board for the next part of the journey. A cruiser stern is not everyone's cup of tea, but for this it was ideal. One after another, Rebecca, Pete and Viv tried their hand at the tiller, with no great calamities, and we suddenly spotted the Consall Forge Pottery. By mutual consent we stopped (mooring up a communal affair and no mean feat) and, as chance would have it, Nigel Williams (the potter) arrived at just that moment and opened up. He took time to talk about his approach to his craft and the glazes he uses. We bought a couple of mugs for the Erin Mae, and a new salt pig for home – all very satisfying.

Pete, Viv and Rebecca got off at Consall Forge, though we ran into them again returning from a late lunch at a pub in Cheddleton. Really good to meet you, guys – hope you got home all right! Meanwhile we've moored up outside the Hollybush at Denford. Pudding calls again!


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