We knew today was going to be quite long so pulled pins and got away before 9 o’clock.
Josiah Wedgwood was the driving force behind the construction of the canal. Along with 2 other local businessmen, Erasmus Darwin and Thomas Bentley, he recognised that a canal from the Trent to the Mersey would enable him to ship his pottery products more quickly and safely, as well as bringing coal and raw materials in to the factories.
20 minutes took us to Trentham Lock.
These are known as “pissers”.
I wonder why?
While we were in Trentham Lock I tried to remove the chimney from roof collar, ready for Harecastle Tunnel. I knew it was a bit dodgy….
That’s why I made a dash into the chandlers yesterday, for a new one. We might need one again, yet.
From the lock the canal cuts through Trentham itself then heads for the southern outskirts of Stoke.
Not just from the canal; it also stands alongside the A500 link road to the M6 from the east, a route we often used to drive. Don’t know what it makes but I’d guess it’s pottery related.
There are 5 locks through Stoke to the summit level, the last one being the very deep Summit Lock next to the Etruscan Bone and Flint Mill.
The first time we came up this lock I raised the paddles too quickly, the boat shot forward and stopped with a jolt against the cill. Unfortunately quite a bit of the glassware didn’t….
Needless to say I take it very gently, now.
We’d done well with the locks, either they were in our favour or a boat was on the way down. Often there was another waiting as well, so we didn’t even have to close the top gates.
The canal winds around the cleared area where the extensive Shelton Steelworks once stood.
In it’s heyday Shelton Bar employed 10,000, and had it’s own collieries and railway system. Closed in 2000, it has now been completely demolished.
We arrived at the south portal of Harecastle Tunnel just after 1 o’clock, joining a Black Prince hire boat waiting to go through. They’d just picked the boat up from Festival Park Marina, and were taking it around the Four Counties Ring. With 10 on board, they’ve plenty of lock wheelers, anyway!
There were 2 boats in the tunnel heading south, and as it’s one way working controlled by tunnel-keepers, they had to be out before we could go in.
This is the “new” tunnel, completed in 1827 to a design by Thomas Telford. It was needed because the old Brindley tunnel, also being one-way, caused a major bottleneck as the canal got busier. For a time both tunnels were in use, one northbound and one southbound, but in 1914 the old tunnel had to be closed due to a partial collapse, believed to have been caused by vibration from the adjacent railway tunnel.
There are two more bores through Harecastle Hill, carrying railways. The first was built in the mid 19th C, and ran parallel to and slightly above the Telford canal tunnel. This was closed in the late 1960’s when the line was diverted around the hill, with just the short 243 yard Kidsgrove Tunnel at the northern end. There’re some pictures and info about the railway tunnels here.
We were in the tunnel after an hour’s wait, and emerged into the sunshine 1¾ miles and 40 minutes later.
The ochre colour of the water is caused by iron ore deposits in the hill washing out into the tunnel.
6 hour’s cruising today, but it’s been very enjoyable. A day off tomorrow, though.
Locks 9, miles 11½