Monday, April 11, 2016

An interesting trip through the tunnel

“Interesting” in the terms of the old Chinese curse – “May you live in interesting times”.

We left the moorings at Red Bull at 10:00, straight into the first lock of the day No 43, alongside the Red Bull Inn.

Meg and I walked up to the next, variously known as Red Bull Lock 42, or Poole Lock for the aqueduct that runs over the canal just below. The aqueduct carries the Hall Green Branch up to the stop lock at Hall Green, where it makes an end on connection with the Macclesfield Canal.

Looking down from the footbridge over the Hall Green Branch.Panorama_0
The main line, with Mags in the left chamber of the paired Lock 42, on the left, the Branch on the right. It leaves the main line just above Lock 41, runs parallel and above before crossing over on Poole Aqueduct. The devious route ensures that it joins the main line on the summit level, and means that it’s almost at the same level as the long level pound of the Macclesfield Canal up to Bosley Locks above the stop lock.

We’d expected to have to empty each of the three locks up to the summit level as three boats had gone up ahead of us. The first two met that expectation; the third and last had an empty chamber, strange until I realised that a paddle was part-way up. It must have taken the preceding boat some time to fill it!

In Lock 41, the last in the haul up from the Cheshire Plain.IMG_9159

Hardings Wood Junction, and the link to the Macclesfield Canal, is to the right. Straight on is Harecastle Tunnel.

Empty holding moorings at the north end of the tunnel. IMG_9163

The tunnel keeper came around to tell us that we would be able to go straight in as soon as he had checked us out. Testing the horn and tunnel light he commented that the former was too quiet and the latter a bit dim. Hmm, odd. I’d wired in a new horn alongside the existing one so it should be louder rather than quieter, and the light hadn’t been touched since it was fine in Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels the other day.
Anyway, in long tunnels I always mount another light on the edge of the hatch, and he said we’d do with that as a back-up. He lent us an air-horn though.

Off we went into the gloom at 11:00, and it was gloomy. I though it was merely my eyes taking a while to adjust, but no, the lamp on the front was dim, in fact it barely illuminated the tunnel walls! Seeing where the fore-end was, was a little tricky…IMG_9164
Once I’d got the hang of guessing where I was I got to thinking what was wrong. I must have wired the new horn in to the wrong connections, I think. The lack of power of both units points to an earth return fault. I should have got the meter out and checked…
Mags, inside with the lights on, was wondering why we were sashaying from one side of the tunnel to the other!
I was very pleased to see the sliver of daylight around the door on the south portal, it gave me something to aim at. With 100 metres to go the door was opened and we steamed out into fresh air. Deep joy.
I don’t mind tunnels, in fact some are almost fun. But this was the toughest passage I’ve made. I was pretty frazzled.

Looking back at the south end of Harecastle Tunnel
The low arch of Brindley’s original tunnel can be seen to the left. Construction techniques had improved to such an extent in the 50 years separating the opening of the bores that although Brindley’s took 7 years to dig, Telford’s was done in three. Initially both were in operation, allowing two-way traffic, but as the earlier tunnel slowly subsided, it became unnavigable. Now only the later one allows passage, and that is pretty low in the middle…

The summit level is just under six miles long before the descent into the Trent valley begins. As nearly a quarter of that is spent in the dark, we had around 3½ miles to go through the Five Towns to Etruria and Stoke Top Lock.

The good moorings at Westport Lake were almost empty this morning. We usually stop here on the way north.

The passage through Stoke doesn’t seem to alter much. The odd bottle kiln still lurks amongst the old pottery buildings…IMG_9170

Longport Wharf is still in business…

As is Middleport Pottery.

The derelict factory buildings are looking just a little more shabby.IMG_9174

I wonder why some bottle kilns are short and stout, while others are tall and skinny?IMG_9175
There used to be hundreds of these scattered throughout the Five Towns, the few that remain are now protected as listed buildings.

A little over an hour after leaving the tunnel we had crossed the summit level and arrived at Etruria.IMG_9180

We followed our normal practice of turning into the Caldon Canal at the junction, intending to turn around and moor near the museum. But the moorings were stuffed with boats, so we came back out again and moored just above the lock landing. It’s better around the corner, here you have to look both ways for speeding cyclists before stepping off the boat. But it’s only for one night.

Hi Ade. John Sage took up residence on the roof while we were on the Leeds and Liverpool. He’s a bit vulnerable in the L&L locks as they are only just long enough for us. One thing less for Mags to worry about. I’ve not put him back in his normal place yet, the rear end is pneumatically challenged until I can get a new tube. Then he’ll be back on the stern.

Hi Mike. Sorry, just picked up your comment and it’s too dark outside now. I’ll put a couple of photos on for you tomorrow.

Locks 3, miles 6½

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