Wednesday 24 August

Our morning didn’t get off to a good start as Max disturbed a wasps’ nest in a hole beside the towpath.  Thankfully he was on his lead and I managed to quickly drag him away to a safe distance before trying to waft off quite a number of wasps that had hitched a ride with him.  I don’t think he got stung but I did!  Thankfully I don’t react badly to wasp stings and once I’d treated it with my Ammonia Bite & Sting pen I was fine.  (Max is fine this evening and doesn’t appear to have suffered any after effects).

We warned other dog walkers who passed us by and one local lady admitted she’d had exactly the same experience last week.  If I’d thought of it at the time, I should have made some signs and hung them on the nearby fence.

Instead we decided to move on.   It was my turn to do the locks today and we began our climb up Heartbreak Hill towards Kidsgrove.  Thankfully no heartbreak was experienced.  One or two of the pounds were low on water but we managed to stay afloat without having to let any extra water through.

Near the top of the flight we noticed that the boat we’d been following had pulled into the side and had his weed hatch open.  He was trying to free a very long length of polythene from round his propellor, which turned out to be a CRT “Welcome to the Waterways” Banner.   Glad they’re doing their bit for the environment!

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At the top of the paired locks, Kidsgrove

Leaving the last of the paired locks behind us, we joined the queue for the Harecastle Tunnel.   The Tunnel Keeper shouted instructions to us  across the canal and advised that we would have a wait of about an hour but while we were waiting he suggested we check that our light and horn were in good working order.  This took less than a minute.  To kill time we had a late lunch and a cuppa.

At last we got the signal to prepare and once the three boats heading towards us had cleared the tunnel entrance we were underway.   We joined a procession of three other boats and the skippers were advised to maintain cruising speed through the tunnel which would assist them maintain a steady centre line as going slow apparently encourages bouncing off the tunnel walls!

The approach to The Harecastle Tunnel. Note the old Brunel tunnel entrance to the right.

The approach to The Harecastle Tunnel. Note the disused Brindley tunnel entrance to the right.

There are three Harecastle Tunnels, two of which are now disused; a railway tunnel which closed in the 1960’s, a canal tunnel built by Brindley in 1777 and  Telford’s Tunnel built in 1827.  Telford’s tunnel is still used today.

After about 50 minutes underground we came out just north of Stoke On Trent to cloudy skies in Staffordshire, having left the sunshine behind in Cheshire.

We moored up soon afterwards beside Longport Lake, on the pleasant visitor moorings there.

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