Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Harecastle Tunnel

Today's journey was short but exciting. Neither of us has been through Harecastle before. I had planned to in the 1970's, but the week before our trip, when leisure boating on the canals was very different to how it is now, the tunnel collapsed and remained closed for the next 5 years whilst its viability was assessed before its repair, which included removing the towpath to enable increased headroom and ease passage.

First we passed through the last of the potteries, passing the Royal Doulton factory, as well as Middleport, where Burleigh Ware is still produced. There were also some building relics to study on the way past.

The tunnel is now manned, and equipped with a crewed safety boat just in case. On arrival a C and RT staff member meets you to take boat details and give a quick safety briefing.

And after a short wait for south bound traffic to complete their transit it is our turn.

As you enter the southern portal airtight gates are closed behind the last boat in, then huge extractor fans are turned on to make motor boat passage possible without suffocation.
The tunnel in use today is the more modern early 19th century one, built over 3 years by Thomas Telford. The original 18th century tunnel, built by Brindley is now disused due to subsidence. The tunnel is just shy of 3km long and around 12 foot wide now there is no towpath to contend with. Headroom in places is below 5' 9", with water pouring from the ceiling in places. The passage is also done in pitch darkness with only the boat headlamp for illumination. Up until around 1914 horses could be used through the modern tunnel as there was a towpath. the old Brindley tunnel had to be 'legged'. Then, up until 1954, traffic was towed through using an electric tug. In 1954 extractor fans were installed so diesel powered craft could now use the tunnel, as it is today. The 1973 collapse could have put paid to it, but luckily the powers that be decided to fund its repair. A very interesting experience.

This is the lamp of the following boat.

After 40 minutes underground the exit portal appears ahead.

Looking back from where we have just been.

We then did the one lock at Hardings Wood Junction, now in pairs, before mooring for the night just prior to Red Bull flight, which will be the start of tomorrow's trip.

Locking down simultaneously side by side, taken from the cockpit of K-L.

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