But it did improve, when Pete and Dawn (NB White Atlas) got away there were signs of thinning cloud, and by the time we were ready to move out (nearly two hours later!) we even had a glimmer of sunshine.
Leaving Church Lawton moorings
There are the two Church Locks just around the corner, but only the original chambers are in use here.
Dropping down Church Locks
James Brindley had the original line constructed between 1766 and 1777, but by 1820 the canal had become very congested. Thomas Telford was appointed consulting engineer to find a solution (Brindley had died in 1772, not seeing the completion of his great project), he decided to duplicate the locks from the summit level to Wheelock, cut another tunnel through Harecastle Hill to reduce waiting time (each tunnel was then able to carry traffic in opposite directions) and remove any other bottlenecks.
The Church Locks are back to JB’s plan, TT’s locks have fallen into disrepair.
Church Top Lock, looking a little forlorn
One of the bottlenecks to be dealt with was Brindleys triple staircase at Lawton. A staircase of locks, where one chamber leads directly into the next, is a great solution for rapid changes in elevation, but is inevitably slower in operation than individual locks.
Below Hall’s Lock, number 49, the original route swung in a short arc to the north to drop down the staircase. Under Telfords direction this was bypassed by three duplicated individual locks. The staircase has been demolished, but there is the odd bit of brickwork to be found in the shrubbery.
Below Lock 49, the line went off to the right, and dropped down the staircase amongst the distant trees.
The group of trees alongside the canal mark the site of a carpenter’s shop and blacksmith’s forge.
The three Lawton Locks are a delight to work, well built and well maintained.
Twin bridges below Hall’s Lock, Brindley’s on the left, Telford’s on the right.
Often to be met on the flight is Mary, who has been baking, and pickle and jam-making for several years to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital
Mary and her produce
Just a glimpse of Mow Cop as we drop down the locks
On the left is where the Brindley line rejoined the later Telford route.
The canal skirts the village of Rode Heath, with the wooded valley of Rode Heath Rise on the left.
Rode Heath Rise
Now landscaped and returning to nature, it used to be blighted by a salt works.
Further along, the next lock at Thurlwood had suffered through subsidence caused by brine pumping. As an alternative to continuous rebuilding of the locks as the ground shifted, an ingenious solution was devised, the Thurlwood Steel Lock. A rigid, self-supporting steel tank with guilotine gates either end was built into lock site. This resisted the damage caused to conventionally constructed lock chambers by ground movement and was mounted on jacks for adjustment.
Thurlwood Steel Lock
“This unusual structure was built supposedly to be able to accommodate subsidence due to salt extraction in the area. It was in practice slower than the conventional lock it was meant to replace, and the remaining adjacent conventional twin lock and was notoriously unreliable. This picture is a rare scene of a boat actually using the structure. It lay disused for many years until it was finally cut up for scrap in 1988.”
© Copyright David Stowell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
“One of the pair of Thurlwood Locks was selected as the subject of this experiment in modern lock construction, but it was not successful; the prototype remained the sole example, and by 1981 the steel lock was not in use and the parallel conventional lock had to be used. The steel lock was removed and cut up for scrap in 1988. There is an excellent and very rare photograph by David Stowell showing the steel lock actually in use.” [above]
© Copyright Dr Neil Clifton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons LicenceThurlwood Lock today The buildings alongside the lock, visible on the Clifton photo, are still there, though roofless and derelict.
It came on to rain again as we left Lock 54, so we decided to call it a day before Pierpoint Locks. It’s a pleasant spot here, nice and quiet.
From the side hatch this afternoon
We were sat this afternoon when we heard a haloo from the water. It was Kev and Anne, new-ish owners of George and Carol’s old boat NB Rock’n’Roll. They’re heading the opposite way to us, back to Great Haywood. Sorry, no photo. Glad to see everything is going well with you two and the boat.
I had a sudden rush to the head last night, got up at 02:45 and put my entry in for next year’s London Marathon. I’ve always vowed I’d do a marathon before I gave up running, and if you’re going to do one it might as well be the best…
Why that God-forsaken time? Well, it’s such a popular event that the entry is always massively oversubscribed. It reached 125,000 in just over 9 hours, after opening at midnight. Getting on at that time at least meant that the website was quieter…
Of course, there’s still no guarantee of a place, there’s a limit of 40,000 runners, chosen by ballot from the entries. Wish me luck… I think!
Locks 8, miles 2¾