#38 Trent & Mersey Canal – South. August 2016

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Wednesday 17th August 2016      We have bid our friend the Macclesfield Canal a fond farewell this morn. Up & cruising pretty early, as recorded in the ‘Ships Log’. No you can’t see it. Just for crews eyes. We is turn-ed East swinging through

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Hardings Wood Junction, now swimming through strange  coloured waters, passing moor on-line berthings, Kidsgrove Railway Station

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& there she is. The Harecastle Tunnel, which is actually two tunnels – though only one be navigable today. Just sitting there, side-by-side. Both are nearly 3000 yards long. The first Harecastle tunnel, engineered by James Brindley took eleven years to construct. Twer completed in 1777, and were more than twice the length of Britain’s longest tunnel at that time. The second tunnel required to relieve congestion in the first twas built by Thomas Telford. Advances in engineering meaning it took only three years to complete, opening in 1827. In recent times, water entering the canal from the Brindley tunnel has been blamed for much of the prominent iron ore responsible for the rusty colour of the water in the canal. Just like Worsley water.

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Bart moors & receives advice from the Tunnel Keeper. Pleasant chap. Very helpful. The tunnel is very low through the middle sections so we need to be careful during transit. A few items are removed from Bart’s roof including the chimney’s cooly hats. Francis proudly sits at the fore ready to light Black Bart’s way & the magnetic work light is positioned on the stern roof hatch to light the tunnel’s roof for the crew to see where the tunnel roof drops down. Life Jackets on & Cap’n Bart shouts the order to enter the northern portal of the Harecastle Tunnel. Ending with a Very Strong Aaaarrrggh !!!!

2,926 yards (2,675 metres) of darkness lie ahead. As tunnel cruising goes, this were quite an enjoyable forty five minutes of chugging. No scraping of Bart of crew’s heads.

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As we approach the southern portal tunnel keeper No.2 turns off the powerful fans that suck diesel fumes out of the tunnel & opens the ‘air-tight’ gates allowing Bart to escape the long black hole. & what a fine black hole it were. Still is too.

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We is travelling in a southerly like direction gliding the still ‘colourful’ waters of our new guide through the countryside, the Trent & Mersey Canal.

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Tis only aboat half & ‘ere or so and we is pulling over mate. Mighty-Fine moorings by the Wonderful Westport Lake will make a perfeck location for some much need rest-bite. Yes Lunch is what we is fancying. Foraging for tasty grubs in the (slightly flat) grassy knoll . What better way is there to spend a warm sunny summer a’noon. What indeed ??

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Thursday 18th August      Off to local Tunstall to check the place out today. A few handy suppliers of various useful items for our quartermaster  are hunted down & bartering of acquisitions are relatively successful. Upon our almost trouble free, & eventual safe return to Cap’n Bart & 1st mate, stores are stowed. Skippet is off to investigate the large open waters to starboard with 1st mate. They is gone ages. Tis almost darkness by time of their safe return.

Friday 19th August      We is ‘aving a wet soggy time this summer August day. Not quite like yesterday. Not sure what Skip is ‘up to’ but

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Skippet is working her usual magic, rubbing down red borders on inner wood panels of side hatches. Following prepping works, borders are beautifully refreshed.

Now the inner ‘window’ frames are prepped & stained, and even finished with the delightful liquid protection that be Epiphanies. Looking blooming Marvellous again.

Dodging the sum-tyms heavy showers, 1st mate, Roxy is off for a tittle canter roand Westport Lake, through the surrounding woodlands. Absolutely Marvellous. Wet under paws it might be but our girl has a whale of a time. Nearly manages to catch a couple of ducks & a Canadian goose for tonight’s ‘Pie of the Day’. Better luck next time. Oh Well !!  Back to that grassy knoll again for us then. That includes you Roxy. Even though you have been Such-a-Good-Girl !!  Apparently.

Saturday 20th August      The soggy-ness is starting to dry out. Not sure if that be by method of Drip Dry &/or Air Dry. Lister is chugging & ready.

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Lines are reclaimed from kindly supplied mooring rings & nb:Black Bart is off….

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Middleport Pottery looks an interesting visit & even provides visitor moorings for passing boats. Should have stopped. Will definitely pay a visit next time we swim by. Bart & crew be in proper pottery country here. Stoke-on-Trent is not far away.

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The surrounding countryside recedes as we is now within the grasp of the famous city.  It has become apparent of our being tracked.

P1160042 Not sure if they be

pirates-de-friend or foe.

No battle ensues.

It be Cap’ns A&NB Fettler.

Tis OK. they be a fine crew,

though many t’ousands of miles away

from waters they usually be sailing

& hunting for treasure. Aaaarrrggh !!!

 

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Now in the land of Etruria, we crouch low, staying undercover from large dangerous prehistoric critters that be on the wing, during our expedition to

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neighbouring Etrurian lands. We be saved from almost certain terrible eventualities by local forces providing exceptional protection to visiting friendly pirates like Cap’n Bart & crew. Thank goodness !!   That could have been messy. After we find the most tastiness of scrumptious roasties, crews are back to the safety of our floating crafts.

Sunday 21st August      nb:Black Bart makes a break for it, briefly entering the Caldon Canal to take full advantage of services supplied by the Etrurians. Thankyou kind peoples.

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There be a fine statue celebrating the Fantastic Canal Engineer Mr. Brindley, to whom we all owe a great debt. Not just us narrowboat peoples, but the country has a whole. Thankee Sir. A Fine fellow you indeed where.

Suddenly it be like Charing Cross roand ‘ere. Bart is ‘aving to wait patiently as boats aplenty suddenly appear from all directions. This is ridiculous. Finally, we manage to reverse back from the Caldon into T&M waters to continue our journey South, descending the five Stoke locks, lowering Bart many toes (fifty feet for those that does not know) into the ‘Plains’ of Stoke-on-Trent. The be closing in, becoming sum-wot unpleasant. Stoke will wait for another day. Cap’n Bart orders ship & crew to cruise on.

This looks a-bit awkward. Cannee get through the obstruction ahead. Tis OK, we jump down the water-chute after this very helpful chap advises the best passage through. Cheers Mate !!  Aaaarrrggh !!!     The soggy city slowly creeps behind us.

Bart cheats, taking the train for a wee while (via the highlands) & eventually rests at fine moorings, in the shadow of a famous pottery.

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Before we’ve even had a chance to take breath we have caught again. That Pirate Fettler doesn’t know when one is beat.

Monday 22nd August      Crews of twos take a walk to check out the potteries.

The Great man is taller than we thought. Even Skip struggles to look ‘im in the eye. Fine cells aplenty in that mind & muchly talent in those hands & fingers.

We have to make tracks. Need to swim our way to a rock or was that pebble ??

Not sure. Will hopefully find out later. After struggling through the under(over)growth & swishing down the rapids we is nearly there.

(Slightly) Worried aboat that dark hole down there, but tis OK, in t’end. Bart manages to creep through & out tuther end. Stone. That’s the place. Made it safely. T’were a smight ‘hairy’ on a few occasions during today’s cruise. Being pirates, skippered by Cap’n Bart, we is ruff & tuff. No-ting stopped us for long. Can tell you that right now.

Tuesday 23rd August      Yesterday had it’s trials for crews of twos so relax we shall. The loce-al is checked out & store facilities are inspected after a much needed coffee break. Soonest, our pirate chums are on their way. Aaaarrrggh !!!  Mayhaps see you’ll agin. Or were than just gin. Or even rum. Even, both. Bye-zee Byes…….  Tis a pleasant warm sunny day. Bart & Lister is resting for sum ‘ers.

Tis way over the yard arm. Decision made, we enjoy a tittle cruise finding Upper Burston waterside accommodation with friendly neighbours. This will do us nicely.

Wednesday 24th August      Lines slipped, Lister & old Prop propels Bart further South.

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Many furlongs we travel, via Weston-upon-Trent, passing through delightful green countryside passing wondrous rolling hills to

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Great Haywood Junction where we be turning West (initially), leaving the Trent & Mersey, joining the flowing waters of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.

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Black Bart has cruised South East to Great Haywood from Hardings Wood Junction, swimming 25 miles of the potteringly splendent Trent & Mersey Canal, crawling through the low dark & very long Harecastle Tunnel, descending 18 narrow lock chambers, sailing over aboat zero strange channels called aqueducts & Swimming slowly, carefully under 75 bridges.

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