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Archive for the ‘Easter Holidays’ Category

Sunday 8th April 2012 (Easter Sunday)

Trent & Mersey, Rhode Heath to Macclesfield Canal, Hardings Wood Junction

The weather forecast for today was not good, very cloudy & light rain most of the day. That however was the least of our problems at the moment.

Anyway, we decided that nothing was going to blight our Easter week.  We left Rode Heath around 10am this morning after the rain had stopped, there are 12 locks between Rode Heath & Hardings Wood Junction all relatively close & we were fairly lucky most seemed to be set in our favour.

This is looking back from lock 45 still on the Trent & Mersey heading towards Kidsgrove, the rain had stopped but the sky remained overcast although it seemed warmer as the wind had dropped today

Any of you who have had a look around our blog so far will have read about the unexpected drive plate problems we had on our first real trip with the boat last year

This is the offending object once removed & once it had been replaced  she was running really well & alot quieter, however at about the same amount of running hours again we are hearing the familiar sound worsening every day of a potential drive plate collapse! We have made it from Aqueduct to Hardings Wood Junction & met a nice couple with nbAdventurer Joey & Carol who also have problems but theirs was in the form of a leak. They recommended Tony at Red Bull Services Ltd. His workshop is just between bridges 97 & 98 at the junction as you turn to go up the Macclesfield canal.  This is Tony’s place.

It can be spotted from the lower Trent & Mersey as you come into Kidsgrove before you turn onto the Macclesfield & go across the viaduct.

Although this will solve our problem & get us on our way it means we will not get to Bugsworth now this week, probably not even Marple, I think Bollington may be the limit if the weather allows. The other issue that is concerning us is WHY we have got through 2 drive plates in only 130hr running time. The suppliers were I have to say very unhelpful in the first instance saying that the whole episode was our fault as we must have hit something very hard, categorically not! I kept all the emails between us & them & I am determined this time to get some answers. I will keep you informed as to how it goes.

This is The Red Bull Pub at lock 43 as you come into Kidsgrove, quiz night on a Wednesday, good meal deals . I made a note of the pub so if the weather is as bad as predicted tomorrow & we are obviously stuck then it may be a pub day!!

We pulled into the 48hr moorings at bridge 97  & walked over to see Tony, obviously it is Easter so no parts suppliers open till Tuesday, but he is happy to take the drive plate out & replace if necessary once he can get a spare on Tuesday.

After speaking to Tony we decided to have a stroll into town as we needed some jam to go with the scones I had in the bread bin! On the way over the aqueduct we saw nbGemima Puddle Duck coming into lock 41, the light had somehow highlighted the rusty colour of the canal water. This colouring is caused by the iron ore from the tunnels.

Harecastle Tunnel is made up of two separate, parallel, tunnels described as Brindley (2,880 yards) and the later Telford (2,926 yards) 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.

South portal of the 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 twice the length of any other tunnel in the world.

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 construction of steam engines to operate the pumps. Stoves were installed at the bottom of upcast pipes to overcome the problem of ventilation.

The tunnel had no towpath, and so boatsmen had to “leg” their way through the tunnel, 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.

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 1960s, 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

South portal of the Telford Tunnel

Due to the amount of 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 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 the tunnel. 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 the tunnel by the fan. This allows diesel boats to use the tunnel without suffocating the boaters. Today the journey takes about 30–40 minutes.

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 of the tunnel.

A series of smaller 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 from 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.

The Ghost of Harecastle Tunnel – The Kidsgrove Boggart

According to legend a young woman was decapitated in the Telford Tunnel in the 1800s and her body thrown into Gilbert’s Hole, a coal landing stage within the tunnel. The man had hacked the woman’s head from her shoulders with a piece of slate until it was removed.

It is believed that she now haunts Harecastle Tunnel, either in the form of a headless woman, or a white horse, and her appearance used to forewarn of disaster in the local mines. Some boatmen took long detours to avoid the tunnel, and today the tunnel keepers relate tales of occasional mismatches in the number of boats going in and coming out. Such tales are, however, fanciful, as any such discrepancy would result in a major search operation.

In fact there is no record of any such murder, and the story seems to have been inspired by the murder of Christina Collins in similiar circumstances near Rugeley. The association with another canal ghost ‘Kit Crewbucket’, who haunts the Crick Tunnel, would also seem to be spurious.

So that has given you a history lesson on this area which I hope you have found interesting, we love finding out about the history of the places we visit, it somehow seems to give the visit a purpose other than just a stopping place for supplies etc.

We will be moored up until Tony replaces the drive plate on Tuesday, hopefully,  We are up above the Trent & Mersey on the Macclesfield overlooking the scrap yard, very picturesque! It’s not too bad the yard is lower down so it is not visible from the windows.

Lochaber has cooked a curry, Murgh Makhani from the Co-op it was delicious & more so cos’ Lochaber doesn’t cook often! oh, more wine I really must go!

Today 5.5hrs, 14 locks, 4 miles, 1 knackered drive plate

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Easter Saturday 7th April 2012

Trent & Mersey, Wheelock to Rode Heath

We awoke to the sound of rain pitter pattering on the roof of the boat, but it looked as if it was going to brighten up so we took time having a good breakfast before we set off. By about 10.30am the rain had stopped, the wind was light & the temperature seemed warmer than yesterday.

So we said cheerio to Wheelock, the place where last year we had to call out boat engineer Niel Coventry to replace an absolutely shattered drive plate. The story of this is on the post headed…Hooked! Now we start following the dream.

I had the incident from last year on my mind & at times thought the same problem was re-occurring due to the noisy knocking from the engine compartment, then on the other hand was it just my imagination? I decided to just carry on & see how things evolved, at least this time we know what it is, last year we didn’t have a clue what the problem was & had visions of engines blowing up, gear boxes crunching etc.

At locks 62 & 63 we came across Spey & Chance 2. This is Spey leaving lock 63.

This is the butty following, coming out of lock 62, we had to wait a while as she got stuck & needed some pushing to get her through.

At lock 60 we came across another fisherman with all his gear right on the lock moorings! We like the double locks on this stretch, it makes things much quicker when they are both working.

The rain was still holding off & only a fleece was needed today even the gloves came off! This is the view looking back from Pierpoint Locks

This is lock 54 on the Trent & Mersey still heading for Hardings Wood Junction, inside that huge willow tree is a super tree house! Have a look next time you are there.

We carried on towards Rode Heath as we have stopped there before & it is quite pretty nestled in amongst the village houses, the pub The Broughton Arms does a decent meal & a good pint of real ale & there is a small village shop.

There was a swan on its nest directly opposite our mooring & a large wild meadow towpath side which sloped down quite sharply as it used to be old salt workings & was then turned over to natural wild meadow when the salt mining stopped.

Lochaber is worn out today as he has done 14 locks, not bad for a man with a heart condition! Even Caley the mad spaniel is settling in to boat life this trip. The drive plate was not sounding great when we stopped, but tomorrow’s another day & we’ll take it as it comes.

So, off to The Broughton Arms it is!

Today 5.25hrs, 14 locks, 4 miles, dinner in the pub! 

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Friday 6th April 2012( Good Friday)

Middlewich Branch, Aqueduct Marina to Wheelock

Awoke about 9.30am still quite tired as we didn’t arrive at Marina until around 12.30am last night, we never manage to get off work early on Thursdays only Fridays!

Anyway, we are here & it is Easter weekend so we are thinking that the waterways will be busy, so a bite to eat, the rest of the stuff unloaded from the car, a top up with diesel & a pump out now we are ready to cruise.

Just out of Aqueduct Marina & this Canada goose was just posing for a photo.

We were making the most of The Middlewich Branch being fairly quiet as we knew that Middlewich itself would be busy & I would have to negotiate the dreaded bridge immediately after Wardle Lock that crushed my new chimney pot when we first moved That’s D’riculous to Aqueduct marina.

The cattle all looked well fed over the winter & happy to be out in the open again, the farmers are all busy getting fields ready for this years crops.

We love the way the cattle meander across the canal on this stretch by using the bridges, they seem to do it without a second thought & as you can see from the one having a sneaky peek over the top of the bridge at our nb going through I think they enjoy it!

Off the bridge & on to the milking shed girls! this was just before Stanthorne Lock. We carried on towards Middlewich & the canal didn’t seem too busy at all.  When we reached Middlewich I looked over to Wardle Lock Cottage as I was entering the lock & thought about the old lady that Jo, Working Boat Woman had mentioned on her blog recently as she had passed away.

Through the lock & under the bridge & the chimney still in tact! Very sharp right into Kings Lock, do we stop at the pub for a beer? would have liked to but must push on whilst the weather is ok as the forecast for Easter Sunday & Monday is terrible, with plenty of heavy rain!

Just past kings Lock the canal was FULL of swans, in fact I have never seen so many swans together, a mixture of young & adults.

As we approached Rumps Lock there was a fisherman with all his gear & umbrella right on the lock moorings, plenty of space elsewhere why do they have to be so close to the lock entrance?

The canal along this stretch from Middlewich to around Paddys Wood  is not very scenic a lot of industrial areas some now unused  but the Salt works is still quite busy by the look of things.

On towards Wheelock the canal starts to get open & scenic again. We spotted this huge broken tree that must have come down in a storm sometime.

We arrived at Wheelock around 6.30pm, a good first day, will sleep well tonite. walked along the towpath to the Italian Restaurant right on the  canal opposite The Cheshire Cheese pub & got a takeaway pizza, delicious!

Aqueduct to Wheelock 6 hrs 15mins, 7 locks, 10 miles, 2 pizzas!

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