Monday, 20 August 2012

The Harecastle Tunnel

The little fleet has done well since it arrived on the Trent and Mersey Canal and this evening we find ourselves at the moorings beside the urban nature reserve of Westport Lakes, just north of Longport, Stoke-on-Trent.

Though the weather this morning at the place we were moored last night, close to the top of Church Lawton Locks, was overcast with a grey mist-like rain falling, we felt we had to get on. We didn’t want to waste yet another day doing nothing just to avoid getting ourselves wet.

It was such a good job we did too, for as we travelled up through our six locks, the Sun soon came out to warm us and we enjoyed another glorious hot day.


005  The North Portal  of Telford's Tunnel

The North Portal of the Harecastle Tunnel


006  Inside the entrance

….. and just inside. No convenient lights further in.


007  'Futurest' awaiting transit

‘Futurest’ awaiting transit


008  Brindley's first Tunnel now disused

Brindley’s Old Tunnel entrance, now disused


Soon we entered the rust coloured brown waters always associated with the entrance to the Harecastle Tunnel and soon we were with two other narrowboats and two small cruisers alongside the quay awaiting the arrival of a convoy of boats travelling north through the tunnel.

About three quarters of an hour later, very conveniently allowing us to eat some lunch while we were tied up, we started on our way south through the tunnel, watching the pinprick of light at the end that for a long time never seemed to grow any larger. It was two thousand nine hundred and twenty six yards away.


012  The pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel

Inside the tunnel with the pinprick of light at the end


I had had to remove all my chimneys for the passage and in parts I had to duck my head, as well as bend my back to get beneath the arch of the tunnel which was very low. With darkness all around me and cold dripping water on my head and back, I experienced what cavers must feel when they go underground. With just the sound of the Russell Newbery and my headlight softly illuminating the way ahead I felt as if I was journeying along the River Styx to meet Poseidon in his ancient kingdom.


013  Getting larger towards the end

….. getting larger


But it was pleasantly cool with a faint breeze following me through the tunnel. I concentrated hard; I had to and managed to cover the one and a half miles without scraping the sides.


014  'Roots abnd Wings  exit-ing the tunnel

‘Roots and Wings’ returning from the Underworld


It took forty minutes to transit the tunnel and the daylight was dazzling as I came out. It took some minutes to re-accustom my eyes to the bright environment but it was good to feel the hot Sun on my face again. The experience had been exciting and I enjoyed it immensely.

Half an hour later we came upon the visitor moorings alongside Westport Lakes and we decided to stay here for the night. The rings were just the right distance apart for the length of our ships and as we walked around the lakes later on, we watched and listened in silence to, the myriad of wildfowl for a long time whilst they dived for a late supper amidst a loud cacophony of quacks, honks, hoots and hisses.


017  Sunset over Westport Lake

The setting of the Sun beyond Westport Lake


We watched the Sun go down with the promise of another beautiful day tomorrow and we were glad to be so alive and part of it all.

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