I was up as the sky just started to lighten, Meg wasn’t too keen on a walk that early either. But needs must; we had to be on the move by 8 as we were booked to go through Harecastle Tunnel at half-past.
Just after 8 and we’ve a red-ish sunrise.
Arrival at the tunnel portal, spot on time…
…but there’s no sign of any CRT chaps.
I dropped the chimney in preparation, the stove was already out so we were running on the central heating, fitted the LED worklight on the hatch frame to illuminate the back end of the boat, checked the function of the front lamp and horn. And still no sign of anyone. So we filled the water tank and Meg and I had a walk around.
The original tunnel, opened in 1777, took 11 years to complete.
It was a major bottleneck so, 50 years later, Thomas Telford undertook the cutting of a new tunnel alongside. Improvements in techniques over the intervening period meant that this bore took only 3 years to cut. Both tunnels carried traffic, in opposite directions, until early in the 20th century subsidence in the original tunnel caused it to be closed. The “Telford” tunnel started out with a towpath, but horses were reluctant to pull boats through though the 1½-mile hole under the hill, so electric tugs were used, pulling trains of boats, sometimes 20 boats long. At busy periods 200 boat transits per day were recorded!
With the demise of commercial carrying maintaining the electric tugs became uneconomic. By this time almost all boats were diesel powered, and with such a long tunnel without ventilation shafts fumes were a problem. So in the 1950’s the original south portal was extended by the addition of the fan house, containing large fans which draw fresh air through from the northern end.
Anyway, it got to 9 o’clock, so I rang CRT to find out what was happening. Apparently there was a problem at Bosley on the Macclesfield Canal and they’d had to divert resources there. But someone would arrive soon...
They did, around 10:15. Another boat was heading through, coming south, so it would be a little while. I wasn’t ready else I’d have taken a picture, it was John Jackson who sells solid fuel from NB Roach.
So we were in at just before 11, and out the other end at 25 past. No pictures, I was concentrating on making some time up.
Out of the northern portal at Kidsgrove
Another 10 minutes and we arrived at Hardings Wood Junction and Lock 41, which heralds the start of the long descent to the Mersey Valley.
Mags is still barking so was under strict instructions to stay inside, so I worked down the handful of locks past Red Bull to Church Lawton single-handed. With muddy lock ladders miring the ropes and my hands, the camera didn’t get much of an airing, I’m afraid.
Coming out of Lock 44, below Red Bull
Deep tow-rope cuts on the copings at Lock 45
Apart from Roach at the tunnel we’d not seen another boat on the move. So it was a pleasant surprise to see a chap appear on the lockside at Lock 46, windlass in hand. He was off a boat coming up, and invited me to stay on board while he emptied the lock, an offer I accepted with alacrity!
This was the last lock for today, too. We pulled in on the good moorings below Bridge 135, near the church.
While we’re both struggling with this bug we’ll only be doing short days, tomorrow I think we’ll be stopping at Rode Heath. We’d like to be at Middlewich by the weekend, though.
Locks 6, miles 3¾