Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Through the Pennines

For the last two days we’ve been in an internet black spot, so I’ve not been able to post. Sorry about that. I have, however, written the posts so they appear independently in order.

Today dawned gloomy, damp and dull. It had rained overnight and it was still wet this morning. We got a knock at 08:15, “Ready when you are”. Well we weren’t, quite. I was only halfway through my bitesize shredded wheat!
Anyway, 10 minutes later we pulled up to the tunnel mouth to fill with water while Terry and Brian, our chaperones for today, got out the measuring stick to make sure we’d fit through the narrow bits.

Do we measure up? Meg looks on with interest.SAM_3916 Measuring up
With the top-box, solid fuel, trolley and aerials removed the highest bit on the boat is the kingfisher tiller pin! Lots of clearance, no need to take down the cratch board, for which I was thankful.

Last look at daylight for a bit, Tunnel End Cottages….SAM_3918 Tunnel End Cottages
….and looking back to the visitor centreSAM_3919 Tunnel End

The first few hundred yards is brick-lined, built when the latest railway tunnel was cut in 1893. The earlier two, built in 1849 and 1870, run on the eastern side of the canal tunnel. The are now disused since closure under Beeching’s axe in the 60’s and the closest is used as maintenance access. The twin-track newest bore starts on the eastern side but crosses the canal tunnel at either end to run on the western side through the hill.
All three railway tunnels run slightly higher than the waterway route, and the entrances at Marston and Diggle were extended to carry the new line above.

Extended section at Marsden end.SAM_3922 
I tried, and failed, to get more pictures of the interior, especially the rock-cut sections. But too much concentration was required to avoid the sides (and the roof) in places. But there are some good pictures here.

Terry was our pilot, and very informative. Not only did he advise when to slow down, watch out for lumps and bumps on the walls and the ceiling and warn of bendy bits, he gave an interesting commentary on the construction and history of the tunnels.

Ninety-five minutes after entering the Marsden portal we emerged into daylight at the Diggle portal, 3¼ miles on. We’ve also switched counties; starting in Yorkshire and finishing in Lancashire.

Thirty-five years ago I walked across the top of the tunnel, on the Pennine Way. At that time of course it was closed to traffic, as was the canal.

Standedge Tunnel, Diggle endSAM_3928 Diggle End Quite unprepossessing, isn’t it. You never think that beyond that arch lies the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in England. It runs at 645 feet above sea level, through the 1300 foot high Standedge. So there’s another 650 feet of rock above you in the middle. Food for thought…

Our guide for today, Terry, with his survival kitSAM_3929 Terry and survival kit
The box contains skid-lid, high-vis vest and lifejacket for the steerer, gas detectors and spare lighting. His mate, Brian, shadowed us through using the maintenance tunnel, popping up at the cross adits built to aid construction of the rail tunnels.

I mentioned on Saturday that we were in the unique position of being the highest narrowboat in England. We had to share that accolade today; waiting to head north was NB Moon Shadow.

In goes Moon ShadowSAM_3931 Moon Shadow goes in

Brian closes the gates to prevent anyone sneaking in, before setting off on his way back.SAM_3934 Diggle Tunnel End

We moved a little further along, mooring just above the first lock on the downhill stretch. We’ll be counting down, now, this one is 32W.

It’s been a fascinating trip through and, thanks to Terry’s timely warnings, we didn’t touch the sides! That’s right, no paint scrapes at all! A close call a couple of times, though. We did get a little heap of mortar on the cabin top alongside the hatch, but that was when I stood up too soon in one of the low bits and banged my helmet on the ceiling!

A little souvenir of Standedge Tunnel. SAM_3930 Concrete lining

I’ve put the top box back up so the cabin looks a bit tidier now. The next job is to move the solid fuel out of the cratch back onto the roof. But it’s raining at the moment so that will keep.

Locks 0, miles 3½, long deep hole in the ground 1.


Adam said...

This is a tunnel I'd love to do. One day...

Geoff and Mags said...

You've just got to do it....

BigJohn said...

So that's another of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways ticked off for you as well. A wonderful experience isn't it? Enjoy going downhill now. Let's hope no emergency stoppages get in your way and there's enough water!
Best wishes
John & Fi
nb Epiphany

Geoff and Mags said...

Thanks, John.
Really enjoyed the experience. Looking good so far on the downhill side.
Cheers, Geoff

Mike, Mags, Poppy and Abbey said...

I had this picture in mind of you and Mags legging on boards with Meg on the tiller. But it looks like you chickened out... ;-)

Our turn next year although we did set off to do it this year. But the unfinished stoppages put paid to that.

See you on the Cut next year.

Mick n Mags

Geoff and Mags said...

Hi "The Rosies"
Meg couldn't see over the roof....
Looking forward to seeing you some time next year. Have a good winter.
All the best, Geoff