This Way Out, Me Duck. 27th April

Between Locks 44 and 45 to Barlaston Winding Hole

No need to be up at the crack of sparrows to be through the tunnel at the first opportunity to get to see a matinee or catch the gas suppliers in Etruria, both these had been sorted on Thursday. However we were wanting to cover some miles. Our schedule had us mooring below Stoke Bottom Lock, not the nicest of places. Plus if we wanted to have some time with friends on Sunday it would be worth cracking on today.

Artwork on the hut between the paired locks at Plants Lock

Just as we rolled up the covers a boat came up the lock behind, it would be very rude to pull out infront of them, so we took our time and followed. Both of the paired locks were empty so the lady opened up the offside lock for us as she waited for her boat. Not many of the Cheshire Locks you can do this on at the moment as so many of the pairs are reduced to just one working lock.

We pulled in at the services, water, yellow water and rubbish dealt with before walking up to the next lock. A single hander was coming down with the assistance from another single hander, a young lady who was headed for Chorley and was covering as much ground as she could in a day. She asked how many more locks there were on the T&M, Thirty odd not a problem. I suggested she made that cuppa she’d planned on making before she got too far down the locks.

Last lock up to the summit of the Trent and Mersey

Up the last two locks to the summit. As Oleanna got within stepping off height for Mick I headed to Lidl. A few things required but mostly a copy of our Saturday newspaper as we needed to check if Mick’s letter regarding the Fund Britain’s Waterways had been published. I’d timed things very well, one copy left in Lidl and when I got back to Oleanna Mick had moved her out of the lock so an oncoming boat could use it, then he’d backed up to the towpath entrance to pick me up, he’d not even had to step off with a rope to wait.

Straight on! We passed a boat coming from the tunnel. The helm said we might be lucky as two boats had been waiting, we might be able to tag onto the back of the south bound passages. I put Oleanna into tunnel mode. All cabin lights on, curtains open, life jackets and waterproofs on, torch to have at the stern.

Is that a Keeper waiting for us?

As we approached we could see no waiting boats, just a C&RT Tunnel Keeper. As he looked up I beeped our horn and turned the tunnel light on, A quick chat with him to make sure we remembered the horn signals should we breakdown, we’d obviously been through before and a warning to mind our heads. Straight in, another bit of perfect timing.

Thank you

Into the tunnel at bang on 11am, following two boats ahead of us. Wet and chilly in there today. As navigator I make sure that we know which way is the closest should we need to get out of the tunnel ( a game really). In most tunnels this is just conveyed to the crew with ‘That way Out’ behind us or ‘This way out’ ahead of us. Mick confirms that he has heard, which means he is still stood behind me at the helm and hasn’t fallen off. But Harecastle always deserves the recognition that we are passing between the north and the south, after all the River Trent historically marked the divide between north and south. So here my wording is that bit different. ‘Tha’ knows!’ to the north and ‘This way out, me duck’ to the south.

At about 1km still to go we could see the doors at the southern portal open up to let a boat through. Harecastle has no ventilation shafts, so to deal with the fumes that modern boats produce there are doors closing the entrance at the south end. Then big fans are used to suck the air and fumes through the tunnel. As they kicked in the atmosphere in the tunnel became foggy and very noisy. At about 100m to go the fans were turned off and the doors opened letting light flood in.

Cup of strong tea? Or Heinz Tomato Soup?

Lots of people don’t like Harecastle and it seems to have been given a nick name, which we don’t really understand, Scarecastle Tunnel. It is one of the few tunnels were someone actually knows you are in there. If you have probelms you beep your horn once every 30 seconds and they will come and rescue you. You just need to face forwards so you know when to duck.

I do NOT like tunnels, stop it!!!

Onwards past Westport Lake, Stoke boats, and Middleport Pottery. Maybe one day we’ll have time to moor up and have a look around the pottery, on our way back? A pause for lunch on some handy rings and then onwards towards Summit Lock.

The mural starting to weather

We’d thought about mooring at Festival Park when we’d wanted to go to the theatre the other day, all moorings were full today. Inside the pub a lady was waving with great enthusiasm, Mick waved back. A minute or so later I got a message, it was Helen from NB Avalon 2, she was the waving lady. Hello!

Going down now

As we approached the lock someone was opening the top gate, no boat in the lock, how nice of them. Then we realised their boat was coming from the services, Mick backed away and let them come round the steep bend and into the lock. We helped them down and then followed on after them. I went ahead and helped them to close up at the lock below, then lifted a paddle to start filling it as Mick lifted a paddle on the top lock.

We worked our way down the Stoke locks. Some new graffiti and wall art to look at as we went. Not much was new until we came to Goods Yard. Here a new neighbourhood is being developed, 174 homes, hotel, workspaces, bars, shops and a green public space. The building closest to the canal looked like it had been an old warehouse and behind it a new build in rusting metal had echos of a red brick mill. The site used to be a goods warehouse where goods were craned between the railway and canal. For more info go here.

Getting greener

Past Shuffelbottoms, past the shingled boat which seems to becoming greener every time we pass, then the shooting range where you can see all the dints in the metal surround created from people missing the targets!

At Trentham Lock a couple were walking their parents dogs, they were walking as little as they could, so the chance to help with the lock was a good distraction. Rain was forcast for 5pm and sure enough just after we’d pulled in before Barlaston down it came. It wasn’t too much to put Tilly off a good explore. This is where I rounded up a fox once, they don’t think I remember places, but I do!

click photo for a nosy

Some baking preparation for tomorrow was needed, a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a little while, required a rest in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight, perfect. We settled down to Turkey Schnitzel and tomato spaghetti infront of the stove. Quite a long day, a bit reminiscent of our boating holidays and shareboat days.

10 locks, 11.9 miles, 1 tunnel, 1.65 miles underground, I hate tunnels! 3rd boat through, 1 letter, 30 minutes lunch, 1 damp descent, 1 waving woman, 1 hour only! 0 fox, 0 time to find one! 7.5 hours cruising, 1 bowl of lemony mix, pair 17 cast off.

2 thoughts on “This Way Out, Me Duck. 27th April

    1. Pip Post author

      Thanks Debby. The original article got me so annoyed I felt I had to respond.

      Not sure I can compete with the prolific NB Gordon Bennett. πŸ™‚


Comments are closed.