Well, the weather forecasters got it wrong last night – it was supposed to be dry with sunny spells here today! A few minutes after we set off this morning – early (for us) at about 7.50, it started to ‘mizzle’ – that horrible, fine but heavy rain, and that’s how it continued on and off all morning. We got to Harecastle Tunnel south portal about 20 minutes later.
First in the queue, with a boat already in the tunnel heading towards us, we decided to fill with water while we waited. Nb Holly, and then the hotel boats, Duke and Duchess, soon joined us in the queue, and before long we were away. It’s a spooky feeling, when the doors clang shut behind you, and the extractor fans roar into life, causing an instant fog, and a howling, freezing cold Force 9 gale! The tunnel is 2926 yards long, and takes about 45 minutes to navigate. As the tunnel roof gets lower and lower towards the middle, you begin to wonder whether you will ever see daylight again.
If you are ready with your camera, you can catch the skeleton of The Kidsgrove Boggart, Kit Crewbucket, as it tries to escape from the tunnel wall and get you!
Rog had to duck down and steer the boat for quite long stretches before he could stand upright again. Then suddenly, in the far distance, a pinprick of light appears as the tunnel keeper at the other end opens the doors. There is still a long way to go before you exit, but it doesn’t seem quite so far any more. I don’t mind tunnels one bit, but I have to say I was glad to get out of there this morning, into what felt like warm, tropical rain!
We continued on to Hardingswood Junction, and the start of the Macclesfield Canal. It’s unique, I think, on the system as it goes of to the left, then turns 180 degrees and is carried, via an aqueduct, over the T & M which has descended a couple of locks.
The Macc is a bit wild and woolly, with serious undergrowth which is desperately in need of cutting back.
Both of these photos show the towpath side – the towpath itself is barely visible.
Next comes Hall Green stop lock, just a foot in depth – we had our first ‘weed hatch moment’ of the trip just afterwards, as we managed to pick something up on the prop on exiting the lock.
This pretty cottage stands beside the lock. Not quite as pretty as it would have been in sunshine, but still pretty, with roses round the door.
I disappeared inside to make bacon butties after the lock, and Rog continued on the tiller, rain and all, until we decided that enough was enough. We were both wet through, and were fed up of waiting for it to brighten up, so we moored up, in the long grass and called it a day, near Watery Lane Aqueduct, a little way short of Congleton. It’s still raining now.
7.2 miles and 1 lock (and one bloody long tunnel)