Friday, 29 January 2016

The lunch that kept on giving

First, more on the Harecastle Tunnel towpath.  Blog reader Bill sent me an email with his theory which I post here in full.

How about this for a theory about the towpath over the tunnel.

First there would be no paved path, so during the summer and dry times the horses would have used Boathorse Road, but when that gets chewed up and muddy, and it does not take many horses to churn a path up, they follow an easier and possibly drier route, horses need a rest so a gentle walk may have been useful to them.

The question is how hard a slog and how wet the direct route is, it would take longer to walk a boat through the tunnel than walk over it, so time i think is not a big issue, and it would have been the children who would have walked with the horses,

Well this is only a theory but I like it.

Wikipedia states that Brindley’s Tunnel didn’t have a towpath and the horses were walked over the top using Boathorse Road.  Telford’s Tunnel was completed in 1827 and did have a towpath.  Both tunnels continued to be in use until the early 20th century when Brindley’s tunnel was closed due to subsidence.  So horses from boats using Brindley Tunnel would have been walked over or around until the early 20th Century. 

alt routesThe above map shows the Boathorse Road route in blue and the current official towpath in red.  I think the clue to what has actually happened here are the railway tunnels. Wikipedia was my friend.  There are were three railway tunnels constructed here in 1848.  They were named north, middle and south.  The latter two were abandoned and the north tunnel was opened out (ie, the roof removed) when the line was electrified in the 1960’s.  You can see the route of the north line to the left of the red line (towpath) in the above map.   Opening the north tunnel created a more level route avoiding Harecastle Hill.

Paul Balmer (Waterway Routes) also sent me an email with relevant information.

You were lucky with your walk over the top of Harecastle Tunnel.  There is no right of way through the “caravan park” and both times I have tried to walk the way you did I was turned away with a very polite explanation from people holding the leads of snarling dogs who would probably have used them to make a point if I hadn’t turned around promptly.  The local authority subsequently confirmed there is no right of way. 

I have now checked the OSM and OS maps.  The former shows a path between the two ends of Boathorse Road whereas the Ordnance Survey map (the official map) does not show them linked.

This suggests to me horses from boats using Brindley Tunnel were taken over the top via Boathorse Road.  This ceased when the tunnel closed in the early 20th century.  The rail tunnel wasn’t opened up until the early 1960’s so the towpath couldn’t have been there until after that date.  My guess is for some reason a break was made in Boathorse Road and the towpath was subsequently re-routed to the “new” railway alignment.

Today Jan and I walked to the retail park at Freeport Talke.  It’s to the SW of our current mooring and slightly more than 5km away.


Our mooring top arrow and the retail park at the bottom arrow.

This was a first visit for Jan and a second for me.  In 2014 I walked to the B&Q here from our mooring near Rhode Heath.  Just the usual retail shops, however Jan did managed to buy some coloured kitchen knives and two new leather purses (in case we win Lotto).  By then it was after noon and we were feeling peckish.  There are two coffee shops and a Burger King in the centre which resulted in both of us filling a large hole with a burger filled with ammonia washed water inflated beef pattie and preserved iceberg lettuce in a twice baked soggy bun. 

However we both agreed the burger was filling as it kept repeating on us during the walk back to the boat.  No wonder it was so expensive.  Never again!

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