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Posts Tagged ‘Harecastle Tunnel’

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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Here are some of our favorite pictures of 2011 on our trip around the Four Counties Ring

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Autumn 2011

We had a few more weekends down on That’s D’riculous during the autumn just taking short trips to Nantwich. We love the chandlers at Nantwich Basin & the coffee shop is good too.

Nantwich Basin

You can also take an easy walk into the historic town which is full of independent & unusual shops rather than the everyday group/chain shops. A lot of the buildings are very old & look as if they are leaning towards the street but are also very pretty with the old oak beams & leaded windows, we like having a wander & a couple of the pubs do very good real ale & lunch.

The Millenium Clock in the centre of town is worth a look.

Millenium Clock

Some history on Nantwich, Cheshire

SALT – THE `OLD BIOT` – brine pit

Walking down High Street we come to the bridge over the river. A few yards to the right along the new road (?Fairfax Way) just off the pavement on the riverside is the `Old Biot` or the site of the brine pit, centuries old.
There is a plaque on a stone which tells how this area was laid out in the 1990s as a gesture to recognise the significance of salt in the history of the town. We could say that Nantwich exists because of the discovery and exploitation of salt.

Some time in the distant past we think that a person – Roman or earlier man – must have noticed that a spring on the bank of the river was running salt water. How to get the salt from the brine by evaporation must have been known as common knowledge. Likewise the uses of salt for preservation, for taste and other purposes must also have been understood

The discovery attracted a few people to settle near the banks of the river and before long a business or trade evolved into the exchange, barter or sale of salt for other commodities which the people needed. As may be learned at Middlewich, the Romans were in barracks and they also produced salt. A Roman road extended from Northwich, another salt town, to Whitchurch, passing near to Nantwich at Reaseheath.

According to experts in the origins of names, the Roman word for a place which had some special significance, not necessarily salt but other activities, was vicus. We see at once how this suffix became vic, wic and wick found in the names of very many places. Popular misunderstanding has thought that wich must mean `salt`

In 2002 and 2003 first time excavations in land behind houses on the north side of Welsh Row have revealed a great many artefacts and evidence of extensive salt making activities. The full report is awaited but it would seem to suggest that there was much more Roman presence in the town than had been thought.

The brine pit on Snow Hill was about 6m.deep. Leather buckets were used to carry the brine to the places – salthouses – where it could be stored in barrels until required. The salthouse was a simple construction of a roof on six or more poles with lengths of wickerwork for low walls or other division of the workplace.

A lead pan, almost a metre square, was placed on stones. Wood was fed into the space below and lit. In this simple way the heat turned the water to steam and left the salt crystals behind. The moist salt was put into wicker `baskets` to drain. Strict rules on how and when `boilings` could take place, inspection and control of sale were enforced.

Such was the importance of salt that it is easy to forecast the growth of a hamlet, a village and a small town as the beginning of today`s Nantwich. The industry grew and grew, until there was a time when there were 216 salthouses on both sides of the river, mostly in the area of First, Second and Cross Wood Streets off Welsh Row.

West Row Nantwich

THE GREAT FIRE 1583

Leaving the brine pit, returning to the crossroads and then crossing over, we can keep alongside the river. In a few yards there is a place to stand, or sit, and look at the river more closely. There may be a fisherman or boy, with a huge umbrella against the rain or wind.

Here is a plinth with a large plaque attached. In brief it summarises the events of the night of December 1583 and after. The wording reads “near this spot…” So we must start by imagining that the road(Water Lode), the traffic and the people nearby, do not exist. Instead we are looking back towards the crossroads and can see the righthand traffic light. This, roughly, is where the fire began. In place of the tall buildings we must imagine a row of single storey cottages, timber-framed and thatched.

Since there exist first hand accounts of what happened we can find them: “Nicholas Brown was brewing ale” (the common drink then) and somehow set his kitchen on fire. With so much wood in the building: furniture, kindling, utensils, beams, walls and roof, plus thatch, the fire soon spread. It was pushed by a strong westerly wind, taking the flames up High Street, through Oat and Swine Markets to Beam Street and along Pepper Street. The other way, it travelled along all of High Street, into Pillory Street, a bit, and along Hospital Street until it reached fields near to Sweet Briar Hall. The parish register recorded:

“…fire consumed in 15 hours, 600 bays of buildings” A bay was the common width of one house among its neighbours.

The people were helpless in trying to put the fire out. Women fetched pitiful quantities of water from the river in little leather buckets, until they heard that the landlord of the Bear Inn, nearby, had released the four bears which he kept for bear-baiting. The women were obviously afraid and refused to get any more water unless they were protected from the bears. Bear baiting was a form of entertainment in which huge brown or black bears, on a chain, were either teased by dogs or otherwise made to stand up on their hind legs.

The Wilbraham diary account says 150 buildings were destroyed, 30 shops, 2 barns,etc. Seven inns disappeared.

The riverside plaque says “almost all buildings were destroyed” This is an exaggeration. Nobody or building on the other side of the river was harmed. Others in Hospital Street and Beam Street were also unaffected.

To see impressions of the fire, go into the post office in Pepper Street and at the far end is a fine mural of many of the major buildings in the town. You will find the four bears, the women and their buckets and their protectors with muskets!

Upstairs in the Museum is a fine woven tapestry. This tells some of the history in symbolic form. The central feature is the Great Fire. In the Library and in the Museum can be found a full description in J.J.Lake`s Great Fire 1583 (1983) or in James Hall`s History of Nantwich (1883).

In 1983 a week`s events took place to mark, as does the plaque by the river, the 400th anniversary of the Great Fire of 1583.

High Street, Nantwich

THE BATTLE OF NANTWICH AND THE WICKSTED FAMILY

In Mill Street is the Wicksted Arms public house. Recently it has acquired a new inn sign, The scene on it is an artist`s impression of what the Battle of Nantwich on January 25th 1644 may have looked like. There is much colourful costume and banners and prancing horses!

Like the Wilbrahams, the Wicksted family were also landowners and interested in the activities in the town. Some of them lived at Townwell House, Welsh Row. This is the three-storeyed house, next but one to the timber-framed cottage which projects on to the pavement at the widest part of Welsh Row. Townwell also reminds us that here was one of the town`s five public wells.

Richard Wicksted(1543-1623)was a churchwarden and a member of the leet or court. He was one of the salt Rulers who determined when the boilings of brine should take place and who set the strict rules governing the salt-making processes and the sale of salt. He helped to make or amend the `Town Rules`(like bye-laws).

John was a mercer(trader in silks and fabrics)and a constable(one of the three main officials in the town at that time). Thus he was involved in the notorious case of Roger Crockett of the Crown Hotel,who was murdered in 1572.

Richard the younger(?1613-52)was a Royalist and had some of his property confiscated, only to be forgiven later. Thomas a freeholder in 1666 was a treasurer for the town and a royalist. A later Thomas was a lawyer and,in 1732, appointed as one of the trustees to manage the Wright almshouses, once in London Road, but moved stone by stone to a position at the rear of the Crewe almshouses in Beam Street.

John Wicksted gave some money for a south gallery in the church in 1730. The principal families then sat in this gallery until the 1850s. He helped to amend the Town Rules in 1834. He and a successor, Thomas, tried to get an act passed in Parliament relating to the town but were unsuccessful.

A Richard Wicksted(1750-1810) was a doctor and in 1779, a shareholder in the new Workhouse off Barony Road.

A burial stone can be seen in St George`s chapel in the North Transept of St Mary`s church.

Going back to the 1640s when England was up in arms regarding who should rule – King or Parliament. The dispute led to skirmishes and battles in many parts of the country. One small battle took place in fields between Nantwich and Acton, approximately where the canal passes today. Nantwich decided to support the Parliamentarian cause and set up local headquarters in The Lamb Hotel in Hospital Street.

For three weeks the town was under siege but in January 1644 a movement towards oncoming Royalists near Dorfold Hall resulted in the Battle of Nantwich. It started in the afternoon of January 25th, a cold wintry day and early dark. The Royalists.sought to capture Nantwich by a pincer movement and met much frustration in crossing the river Weaver at a point near today`s Beam Bridge. The Parliamentarians advanced towards Acton, defeated the Royalists and set them to flight.

The leader General Thomas Fairfax is now recalled in the name of the new bridge over the river near to the swimming baths. And again in the re-enactment of the battle which takes place on the last Saturday in January each year. This is presented by 300 or 400 Sealed Knot actors, dressed in the costumes of the time together with their very long pikes, muskets and canon, but no horses. The event is a great attraction. Many people watch the men and women march from the Square, down Mill Street to the Mill Island where there will be seen much preparation, advances, great pushing at close quarters, several `dead` , and earth-shaking sounds from canon fire!

The Museum has a detailed account with maps, diagrams, and a copy of the Fairfax letter. Upstairs is a woven tapestry of a scene from the battle – snow on the ground and a church in the background. Although the battle is often omitted in full written accounts of the Civil Wars, a long account is reprinted in James Hall`s History of Nantwich,1883, and the full story in R.N.Dore and John Lowe`s Battle of Nantwich 25th January 1644 in Nantwich Library.

Thomas Fairfax Bridge, named after the English Civil War Parliamentarian Army hero who lifted the siege of Nantwich in 1644. Erected in 2003, it carries the Waterlode over the River Weaver near to the Swimming Baths.

Sir Thomas Fairfax Bridge

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