Friday, 17 July 2015

Through a Dark Place and down Heartbreak Hill

We reached the summit level of the Trent and Mersey on Wednesday and, having come through the Harecastle Tunnel, we are on our way down the Cheshire Locks towards Middlewich.

On Tuesday we left Stone where we had stayed while David and Victoria went back to Yorkshire for a couple of days.

Here you can see Leo coming through Stone passing Joules Brewery Warehouse.  Stone is very much a 'canal town' with locals using the towpath regularly.

We came up the pretty Meaford Locks and moored close to the delightful village of Barlaston which even has a useful shop.  Barlaston Hall stands on a hill above the canal with fine views.

Here Helen is opening the bottom gates of the second of four Meaford Locks to let Leo in.

And this is the third lock.  The locks are close together and you get a real sense of climbing into the hills.

Coming into Barlaston we passed this house (called Barlaston Quay) with its own dock with two narrowboats.  Just what we need for Leo and Pas Mèche.

On Wednesday we came up six deep locks to Stoke on Trent.

Leo is waiting in a short queue for Trentham Lock which is the deepest we had come across on the Trent and Mersey this far at 12 feet.

This gives you some idea of the deep and dark hole of Trentham Lock.

This seems an amazingly broad business model.  It covers: "Tackle and Bait, Air Guns, Archery, Boats and Engines, Country and Western and Line Dancing"!!  From the sound of it and another notice nearby there is a shooting range here as well.

Stoke is of course famous for its potteries and bottle kilns, like this one, were once present in their hundreds.  Only a few remain.

And here is another at Middleport Pottery, which is now open to visitors.

We moored on the North side of Stoke at Westport Lake, a fine mooring right by the Lake with plentiful wildlife.  In the picture you can see Pas Mèche arriving at Westport.  Our two boats met here last year.

Here is a team photo at Westport Lake with David, Victoria, Helen and Ian with our two boats behind.

On Thursday we cruised a further mile or so along this summit level of the Trent and Mersey at around 400 feet above sea level.  We then came to Harecastle Tunnel, one of the longest on the system at around a mile and two thirds.

The tunnel goes through the square building and into the hill.  We were one of four boats waiting for a boat coming South through the tunnel which is not wide enough to allow two boats to pass.

Here you can see 'Mollie' coming out of the tunnel.  Then it was our turn.

Here's Leo going into the dark.  The chains hanging down give an indication of the low parts of the tunnel inside.  Mostly the roof is high, but in places it has subsided so that boaters have to be careful and duck.

Here is Pas Mèche following us into the tunnel.  Once all boats are inside the fans are turned on to suck air from North to South to provide ventilation as there are no vents to the surface as there are in most tunnels.

And here is Pas Mèche coming out of the North Portal around 40 minutes later.  The curious orange colour of the water is characteristic of this part of the Trent and Mersey.

From the summit we came down six locks to Church Lawton.

These locks are called the 'Cheshire Locks' but this is also sometimes called 'Heartbreak Hill' because of the number of locks.  Many of them are in pairs which speeds up the passage of boats.  Here you can see Leo in one lock and Pas Mèche coming into the other.

Here you can see a paired set of locks from below.  Helen is just closing the gates of the left hand lock after Leo has come down.

In the church at Church Lawton (perhaps this is Church Lawton Church!) is this memorial.  It records the death of a 41 year old Assistant Surveyor with the Trent and Mersey Canal Company and says "As a record of his zeal in the discharge of his duties the company have raised this stone".  Perhaps this was an industrial accident and the Company felt partly to blame.  It was interesting that he was a long way from home as he came from Truro.

We had a lovely walk yesterday evening passing Lawton Hall (in the picture) on the way over to the Macclesfield Canal which turns off the Trent and Mersey just beyond the tunnel.

This photo is a bit hazy because it was taken on extreme zoom.  Above the Macclesfield Canal is a very prominent hill called Mow Cop which we can still see from where we are moored this evening.  The hill is topped by a strange folly which you can see in the picture.  We walked up there last year.

Today (Friday) we've come down a further 12 locks and crossed the M6 (there was a bridge).  We are moored near Hassal Green.

In the wall of one of the locks today was this stone recording when the lock was restored.  It's not doing too badly at 120 years since this stone was added.

These pretty cottages are just above Thurlwood Lock.  A red boat is coming up the lock and Leo is waiting patiently for our turn.

We are enjoying these locks and the fine rural Cheshire scenery.  We will continue our descent tomorrow and will soon be in Middlewich where we will turn left towards Chester.  For that Northern part of the Shropshire Union Canal we shall once more be on broad locks and then we will really see the benefit of travelling with two boats as we can share locks.

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