Thanks jcusey, manton, and clarinetplayer.. I am very happy that the shoes are satisfactory to gentlemen as discriminating as yourselves. About the channel:
The English makers do a better job than either JM Weston or Vass in closing the channel so that it's invisible. EG does a slightly better job than C&J, and Vass does a better job than JM Weston.
If I am not mistaken, Lobb and Edward Green cover the closed channel with a layer of leather, that makes it invisible.
Re: channelled stitching on the soles - according to Gabor, EG puts layer of leather over the entire sole to hide the stitches, whereas Vass takes a sliver of leather around the edge of the sole which gets placed back once the stitching is done.
There is a difference in the channel on a Vass or Weston shoe and an English shoe. The difference lies in the direction that the channel is cut into the sole. On an English shoe the channel is opened horizontally (imagine the shoe upside-down in your hand, with you looking at the sole,) the stitch is made, and the channel is closed so that the seam is around the outside edge of the sole (it might be visible with you standing in the shoes if it were not for the dye used to color the sole edge.) On a Vass or Weston shoe the channel is opened vertically (viewed from the same position,) the stitch is made, and then the channel is closed so that you see the seam on the bottom of the sole. The English method looks cleaner when the shoe is new but does not wear nearly as well - the flap of leather covering the stitching has a habit of coming loose with wear. More later...