The Caldon Canal

The Caldon Canal in Staffordshire is a 17-mile long canal that runs through the heart of the Staffordshire Moorlands, connecting the industrial wharf of Froghall to the Trent and Mersey Canal at Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent.

The Caldon Canal branches off the Trent & Mersey at Etruria Junction in the Staffordshire Moorlands

Some of the notable features of the Caldon Canal include:

  • Contrasting Scenery: The Caldon Canal winds through reclaimed industrial heritage out into the most picturesque countryside, the Staffordshire Moorlands, offering stunning views of rolling hills, valleys, and forests.
  • A ‘potted’ History: The canal is lined with relics of the pottery industry the area is famous for; historic features such as kilns, works, stone bridges, locks, and aqueducts, providing a glimpse into the engineering and architectural heritage of the region. Visit Etruria Industrial museum, the Two Potteries, and Cheddleton Flint Mill.
  • Wildlife: The Caldon Canal is home to a variety of wildlife, including otters, kingfishers, and herons, making it a popular destination for birdwatching and wildlife enthusiasts.
  • Quiet and peaceful: The Caldon Canal is off the beaten track, branching from the often hectic Four Counties Ring at Etruria Junction, south Stoke-on-Trent. It is quiet and peaceful, offering a serene and tranquil environment for boaters and walkers alike.
  • Attractions: The canal is close to a number of popular attractions, including the historic market town of Leek, the Churnet Valley Steam Railway, and the Trentham Estate.

These are just a few of the many features that make the Caldon Canal a unique and rewarding destination for boaters and walkers alike. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful and scenic canal holiday, or an easy rural hike, the Caldon Canal is definitely worth a visit.

History

The canal has a rich and interesting history, dating back to the late 18th century. 

Summit Lock or Etruria Top Lock, the point of convergence of the Caldon canal with the Trent and Mersey canal in Etruria, Staffordshire
Also known as Etruria Top Lock on the Trent and Mersey canal at the point the Caldon Canal branches off. Once used as a Toll booth the shed also sheltered boatmen from the elements. Photo credit Stoke Sentinel/Bert Bentley archive

The Caldon Canal was built by the Stoke-on-Trent Corporation in the late 18th century. The canal was built to transport limestone from the quarries at Froghall to the Trent and Mersey Canal at Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent. It was constructed as a narrow canal, with 17 locks and several aqueducts, and was completed in 1797. The canal was built by a team of local workers, using traditional hand tools and techniques, and was one of the first canals to be built in the Staffordshire area. The Caldon Canal played an important role in the region’s industrial and commercial development, and remains an important part of the area’s heritage and cultural heritage today.

Once pottery kilns were a regular backdrop to the Caldon canal at Stoke-on-Trent and synonymous with the Pottery industry which makes this area world famous
The Seven Sisters kilns part of J&G Meakin Ltd Eastwood pottery works as viewed from the Caldon Canal. Although long demolished the original works is now home to Emma Bridgewater.

In its heyday, the Caldon Canal was a busy commercial waterway, with a large number of narrowboats and barges transporting goods such as limestone, coal, and pottery along its length. The main users of the Caldon Canal were local industries such as quarries, mines, and ironworks, which relied on the canal to transport raw materials and finished products. These industries were mainly located in the Staffordshire and Derbyshire regions of central England. Additionally, farmers and merchants in the area used the canal to transport agricultural goods and other products.

With the rise of rail transport in the 19th century, the Caldon Canal’s commercial importance began to decline, and by the mid-20th century, it was largely disused. 

Decline of the Caldon canal

The decline of the Caldon Canal was a result of several factors. Firstly, the increasing popularity of road and rail transportation led to a decline in commercial traffic on the canal. This was partly due to the faster and more convenient transportation options offered by road and rail, as well as the greater capacity of these modes of transport greatly reducing costs.

Like many inland waterways in the late 1950’s, economic decline had set in in favour of the railways. The Caldon canal fortunately was kept open as a supply source for the busier Trent and Mersey canal

Additionally, the canal suffered from a lack of investment and maintenance. With declining use, the canal fell into disrepair and became increasingly difficult to navigate. This further reduced the appeal of the canal for commercial traffic, as well as leisure users.

Finally, the expansion of the canal network in other parts of the country, along with the advent of larger and more efficient boats, also contributed to the decline of the Caldon Canal. The canal was eventually reduced to a minor commercial waterway, used mainly by local boats carrying raw materials between the Pottery towns.

Revival and Restoration

In the latter half of the 1960s, the Caldon Canal was subject to a major restoration effort, led by a group of local enthusiasts.

One of 3 Gateway signs at the canal entrance points to the City of Stoke-on-Trent, funded by the Stoke-on-Trent Canal Partnership Group (City Council) at Norton Green on the Caldon canal. The group also has been involved in, among other things, the reviews of Caldon and Trent & Mersey Canal Conservation Areas (2012), development of the Canals Management Strategy (2014) and the Canal Opportunities Study (2014).

The restoration of the Caldon Canal was a long-term effort aimed at preserving and revitalizing this historic waterway. The restoration process involved several key steps, including the repair of damaged or silted-up sections of the canal, the dredging of the canal bed, and the improvement of lock and bridge structures.

Additionally, much of the surrounding land was cleared of debris and overgrown vegetation, and new towpaths and access points were built to make the canal more accessible to visitors.

The restoration of the Caldon Canal was – and continues to be – a collaborative effort between local organizations, government agencies, and volunteer groups. The Inland Waterways Association North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch and the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust volunteers are active on the Caldon canal and within Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership. Between them they undertake a range of activities including towpath improvements, repainting structures, hedge-laying and undertaking small repairs to structures.Significant funding was secured through grants, donations, and other sources, and many volunteers worked tirelessly to bring the canal back to life.

Today, the restored Caldon Canal is once again a popular destination for boaters, anglers, and walkers. It serves as a key tourist attraction and a reminder of the region’s industrial heritage, and is widely valued for its scenic beauty and peaceful atmosphere. Efforts are ongoing to maintain and improve the canal, ensuring that it will continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

In 1991, the Caldon Canal was awarded Heritage Status, recognizing its importance as a part of the county of Staffordshire’s industrial and cultural heritage.

Churnet Valley Railway

The Churnet Valley Railway is a preserved railway line in Staffordshire, England. The line was originally built in the late 19th century as part of the North Staffordshire Railway. It was used to transport goods and passengers between Stoke-on-Trent and Uttoxeter until the Beeching cuts closed the line in the 1960s.

In the decades following its closure, the Churnet Valley Railway remained largely disused and overgrown, until a group of local railway enthusiasts formed the North Staffordshire Railway Company (NSRC) with the goal of raising funds and restoring the line. The NSR worked tirelessly to clear the line and restore the track, rolling stock, and infrastructure, and the Churnet Valley Railway was eventually reopened as a preserved railway in the 1980s.

Today, the Churnet Valley Railway is a popular tourist attraction, offering regular steam and diesel-hauled train rides through the picturesque Churnet Valley. The railway is also home to several heritage railway museums, including the Froghall Station Museum, which showcases the history of the North Staffordshire Railway.

In addition to its tourist appeal, the Churnet Valley Railway also plays an important role in preserving the railway heritage of the region and educating future generations about the history and significance of the railway. The railway continues to be operated and maintained by volunteers and is widely supported by the local community.

Some notable features of the Churnet Valley Steam Railway include:

  1. Historic locomotives: The railway operates a collection of historic steam locomotives, many of which have been restored to their original condition.
  2. Scenic routes: The railway operates a scenic route through the Churnet Valley, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Picnics, amateur photography or just a chance to show the grandkids what a real train is like, the Churnet Valley is an unrivalled backdrop to showcase this bygone locomotion.
  3. Special events: The railway hosts a variety of special events throughout the year, including steam galas, heritage weekends, and themed events such as Santa specials and Easter egg hunts.
  4. On-board facilities: The railway’s carriages are equipped with comfortable seating, and there are refreshment facilities on board, including a bar and a restaurant.
  5. Visitor center: The railway has a visitor center at Froghall Station, which houses a museum, gift shop, and refreshment facilities.

Full details including timetables and special events can be found here at the Churnet Valley Railway website.


It’s a 10 day round trip to Froghall at the end of the current navigable Caldon canal. Take 2 weeks and allow yourself time to visit the museums – including Josiah Wedgwood’s Pottery on the Trent and Mersey canal.

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