Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Kidsgrove to Stone

Sunday saw us leaving our Kidsgrove mooring crossing the aqueduct over the Trent and Mersey Canal, which apparently is one of only three such aqueducts in Britain. I'm guessing the other two must be the ones on the BCN, we passed over and under the one on the Birmingham Level Mainline and the Wolverhampton Level Mainline, and the other on the Engine Arm going over the the Birmingham Level Mainline.  

Macclesfield Canal over the Trent and Mersey
We turned a sharp left bend and ran parallel to the Trent and Mersey for about 600 yards, as that rose through two locks two meet the Macclesfield level, where we had another left hand bend, under the bridge and at the junction we turned right heading for 'the' tunnel. Just before the railway bridge was the queue where the tunnel keeper was and he informed us we were boat number eight, which was lucky as they only allow eight boats through at once, three other boats arrived after us to join the queue. It wasn't long before the five boats coming the other way passed by and we were on our way last in the convoy, the tunnel keeper had told us this was the best position heading south as the extractors were at the other end drawing all the fumes away so we should have a clear passage.

Entrance to Harecastle Tunnel 

Entrance to the original tunnel

Tunnel keeping waiting to close the barrier behind us

This was one of the low places

And out again in the sunshine, looking back
It took us just over 50 minutes to get through and at a couple of places it was really low. Once out, squinting in the bright sun, it was just as busy the other side with about 12 boats waiting to go through, some of them were going to have a wait of about two hours.

There are three tunnels through Harecastle Hill with only one remaining in use. The first was completed in 1777 and took 11 years, it was 9ft wide and one and three quarter miles long, there was no towpath and boats had to be legged through, as it was slow going it become a major bottle neck with huge queues and long waiting times, and in those days 'time was money', so a second tunnel was constructed in 1827 and took three years to complete, this time there was a towpath, but due to subsidence resulting in it being more than a foot under water in places, it was removed. Each tunnel become one way until 1918 when the original tunnel bore had sunk too much from mining subsidence. The third tunnel was a railway tunnel and runs 40ft above the canal tunnels, this was closed in 1960 and the railway now goes round the hill and through a much shorter tunnel.

We continued on to Etruria, where we moored near Festival Park for Morrisons which was a walk through the lovely wooded park to a massive retail park. We got the solar panels back on the roof which kept the batteries happy in the nice sunshine.

6 miles



Moored near Festival Park
Tuesday we set off through through the Stoke lock flight, which is made up of five locks and a drop of 50ft. At the top lock we met a hire boat just entering the lock, there are anti-vandal locks here, unfortunately they dropped their key into the water, I worked the lock for them as they attempted to get it back with a large magnet borrowed from the CRT maintenance yard next to the lock. We got LJ through the lock and left the hire crew still fishing for their key, hope they were successful.


I spotted this building along the road look over from the second lock
We carried on through Stoke-on-Trent and past the Stoke City football ground, which we could just see through the trees, then through Trentham lock with a drop of 11'11", past the Wedgwood factory and moored in a nice open stretch near Barlaston.

5.25 miles and 6 locks

Moored at Barlaston
Yesterday we set off just after lunch, after all the rain had passed by and were soon at Meaford Locks, where there are four locks with a total drop of 32'5". It was good going through these locks, with one in front and one behind us and passing a hire boat from Mercia Marina with a lovely couple and their daughter along with two dogs, which were in disgrace as they had rolled in something nasty.

Extreme measures to get a TV signal

Waiting for the lock, which is just behind me

Bottom lock and fisherman taken up residence on the landing
We carried on for a little while longer and moored up a couple of hundred yards from Lime Kiln Lock, just before Stone.

3.75 miles and 4 locks

Moored near Stone
We had a wander into Stone to suss out where the train station was so we knew where to go to meet our visitor on Wednesday. We found the great chippy and as time was getting on treated ourselves, would definitely recommend it, on our stroll back to LJ we passed by a Pub Boat and then found a shortcut to the station!


Enjoying steak and kidney pudding, chips and mushy peas

Inside the Bar Boat



Total 378 miles and 333 locks