Sunday, 14 June 2015

Harecastle Tunnel

After a final walk around the lake with Dudley we set off just after 9am for our short trip to the tunnel. When we arrived the tunnel keeper said it would be about an hour wait as there were still a few boats going through our way and once they were through we had to wait for the ones coming from the other end. It was perfect for us as we were able to fill up with water whilst we waited. Sandra on Golden Boyz wasn't far behind. 

Dudley sunning himself on a clear roof

This family had 16 goslings

Keeping a lookout

Harecastlle Tunnel southern portal

The old Brindley Tunnel

We had quite a wait for the boats coming through, there were eight of them and the tunnel keeper closed the doors two or three times between them as they were about ten minutes apart. Finally it was our turn, Sandra preferred to go first then we followed on with another behind us. When we got to the other end we could see Sandra had stopped and wasn't exiting the tunnel, the keeper at that end hadn't lifted the barrier and she had nearly crashed into it. The people waiting at the other end apparently were shouting across to him that the boats were waiting to come out. He had been having a quick lunch break in his van. 

Sandra disappearing into the tunnel

The headroom gets a bit lower here

Out into daylight again, this is the northern portal 

Dudley can make it to the front without the roof boxes on

Then it was down through a few locks before stopping at Church Lawton. I walked back up and helped Sandra down the last couple.

Another lovely sunny spot

4.5 miles and 6 locks
Total 241.5 miles and 214 locks

Info on Harecastle Tunnel taken from Wikipedia
Harecastle Tunnel is on the Trent and Mersey Canal at Kidsgrove in Staffordshire. It is made up of two separate, parallel, tunnels describe as Brindley (2,880 yards or 2,633 metres) and the later Telford (2,926 yards or 2,675 metres) after the engineers that constructed them. Today only the Telford Tunnel is navigable. The tunnel is only wide enough to carry traffic in one direction at a time and boats are sent through in groups, alternating northbound and southbound. Ventilation is handled by a large fan at the south portal. 

Brindley Tunnel
The Brindley tunnel was constructed by James Brindley between 1770 and 1777. Brindley died during its construction. At the time of its construction it was one of the two longest canal tunnels in Britain, together with Norwood tunnel its twin Brindley bore on the Chesterfield Canal.

The tunnel had no towpath, so boatmen had to leg their way through, lying on the roof of their boat and pushing on the sides of the tunnel with their feet. It could take up to three hours to get through the tunnel. The boat horses were led over Harecastle Hill via Boathorse Road. A lodge (Bourne Cottage) was built by the side of the squire's drive at the point that the boat children crossed it to prevent them straying up towards Clough Hall. To construct the canal, the line of the tunnel was ranged over the hill and then fifteen vertical shafts were sunk into the ground. It was from these that heads were driven on the canal line. A major problem was the change in the rock type which ranged from soft earth to Millstone Grit. The construction site was also subject to flooding regularly, a problem which was overcome by the contruction of steam engines to operate the pumps. Stoves were installed at the bottom of the upcast pipes to overcome the problem of ventilation.

The tunnel was twelve feet tall at its tallest point and was nine feet wide at its widest, which proved to be too small in later years. The tunnel suffered subsidence in the early 20th Century and was closed after a partial collapse in 1914. Inspections of the disused tunnel continued until the 1960's but since that time there has been no attempt to investigate the interior of the tunnel at any significant distance from the portals.

The gated portals can still be seen from the canal, although it is no longer possible to approach the mouth of the tunnel in a boat.

In recent times water entering the canal from the Brindley tunnel has been blamed for much of the prominent iron ore (responsible for the rusty colour of the water) in the canal, and there are proposals to install filtering (possibly using reed beds) at the northern portal.

Telford Tunnel
Due to the amount of the traffic and the slow process of legging the Harecastle Tunnel was becoming a major bottleneck on the canal. It was decided to commission a second tunnel to be built by Thomas Telford. Due to the advances in engineering it took just three years to build and was completed in 1827. It had a towpath so that horses could pull the boats through. After its construction it was used in conjunction with the Brindley tunnel, with each tunnel taking traffic in opposite directions.

Between 1914 and 1954 an electric tug was used to pull boats through the tunnel. In 1954 a large fan was constructed at the south portal. While all the boats are within the tunnel an airtight door is shut and all the air is pulled through by the fan. This allows diesel boats to use the tunnel without suffocating the boaters. Today the journey takes about 30-40 minutres.

In the late 20th Century the Telford tunnel also began to suffer subsidence and was closed between 1973 and 1977. The towpath, long disused, was removed allowing boats to take advantage of the greater air draft in the centre.

A series of small canal tunnels are joined to the Telford tunnel. These tunnels connected to coal mines at Golden Hill and allowed both the drainage of the mines and the export of coal directly fro the mines to the canal tunnel without the necessity of first hauling it to the surface. Small boats of ten tons' capacity were used in this endeavour.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Rugeley - Westport Lake, Stoke-on-Trent

Rugeley - Shugborough
Going back to last Monday, after a final visit to Tesco we left Rugeley with full cupboards. It was drizzling most of the way so no photos. We made our way through Colwich Lock and moored up shortly after outside Shugborough Hall just in time before it poured down.

5 miles and 1 lock

Shugborough - Stone
We just stayed the night here, it was windy and raining and we had no phone or internet signal. The forecast for early morning was best and as we wanted to get to Stone we set off early to avoid the worst of the weather. It was so still and sunny when we left but the wind was gradually picking up throughout the journey.  We went through the four locks at Stone and moored up on the visitor moorings at the top.

10 miles and 9 locks

Stone - Westport Lake, Stoke-on-Trent
We have been lucky and have had a few sunny days, although a bit of a cool breeze. It's been great having the lakes on the doorstep so we've been doing lots of exploring around them and Dudley had his first paddle. I needed to pick up a few bits in Stoke-on-Trent so as James was still catching up with the pen making I walked to Longport and got the train into Stoke. We have now removed the roof boxes again and the roof has had a good clean ready to go through Harecastle Tunnel tomorrow.

12 miles and 10 locks

TOTAL 237 miles and 208 locks