Sunday, 28 July 2013

Westport and the Harecastle Tunnel

The moorings beside Westport Lake are very pleasant.  They’re also very popular.  When we moored at noon there were just four other boats but by late afternoon that had tripled. 

Being a mild sunny day I took the opportunity to check everything was well in the engine bay.  We have gone through some battery water using the automatic watering system and doing a visual inspection of the domestic bank was high on the ‘to do’ list.  The battery terminals looked to still be in good condition after petroleum jelly was smeared on them six weeks ago.  However I noticed there was a significant build-up of crystals on the aluminium buckles that tension the webbing retaining straps.  It obviously been caused by the batteries gassing hydrogen during the recharging cycles.  Access to the batteries is very restricted which is why the automatic watering system was fitted!  The crystals need to be removed before they cause any damage.  That’s when I discovered the crystals had been corroding the aluminium buckles.

Only two of the four buckles have been affected.  There are the two buckles on top of the batteries.  The plan is to replace them with plastic buckles thereby eliminating a repeat occurrence.

In the early evening I walked around the lake and then down to the southern portal of the Harecastle Tunnel.

The walk took me under Bridge 128 where construction of the Trent & Mersey Canal commenced with Josiah Wedgwood turning the first sod.

We’ve been through the Harecastle Tunnel on three other occasions when hiring a boat.  However this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to walk around the southern portal.

The mouth of James Brindley’s original tunnel can still be seen.  It looks very low and one of the reasons for it’s closure was apparently subsidence.

I assume water is still running out of it because there was water running out of the sluice in the entrance pool.

Thomas Telford’s tunnel is now the only one in use.

There are stone stairs immediately below the Tunnel Keeper’s white cottage.  If the flight to the left are taken it’s possible to walk around the left side of the cottage to a track behind.  This leads up the hill to a busy public road.  Nothing is signposted which makes it difficult to identify the towpath….. Actually the track the horses would have used…….

The room above the tunnel portal contains the electric motors and extractor fans which are used to remove boat engine fumes.

Telford’s original tunnel included a horse towpath which was subsequently removed.  During the first half of the 20th century electric powered tugs were used to tow a convoy of boats through the tunnel.  The extraction system was then built to allow powered boats to navigate the tunnel.  At the same time the tunnel towpath was removed to provide a greater air draft.   

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