Harecastle Tunnel Heading South – But Lockdown No2!


Coming to the end of the Harecastle Tunnel and exiting after a 40 minute journey.

  Our tunnel booking was for 12 noon on Sunday 25th Oct,  so we meandered round to the holding moorings, arriving at about 11.00 a.m. We needed to take the roofbox and coal off of the cabin top, and lower the solar panels – Harecastle Tunnel is very low in places – and the towpath had been on the wrong side to ensure safe removal back where we were moored. We had everything off and stowed safely inside by 11.30, so the tunnel keeper sent us on through, with instructions to keep central and travel at cruising speed of between 3 & 4 mph (we were the only boat going through at that time). I sat down inside on the back step with Sal so that Tony could also step inside if needed in the low parts. She was as good as gold – she is used to being out on the back deck but settled down with me without any protest and just relaxed for the whole way through – it took us 40 minutes to get through. (Harecastle Tunnel is 2926 yards long so just shows you how slowly the boat was going when we got stuck behind it in Preston Brook Tunnel – that is 1239 yards long and took us 25 minutes!!). We emerged at the other end and Tony said that he didn’t think it was as “Scarecastle” as people make it out to be! We stopped and put the roofbox on top again and repacked it, then continued our journey towards Stoke-on-Trent. We cruised for nearly another four miles and moored in Etruria, near to the junction with the Caldon Canal. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to cruise the Caldon Canal at this time, due to having to get past the closure on the 2nd Nov.

On Monday, 26th Oct, we went down through the flight of five locks which took us into the more industrial part of Stoke and through to Trentham, where we moored for two nights. We left Trentham on the 28th October – after having a roast dinner takeaway from the local Toby Carvery. It wasn’t quite the same as eating in the restaurant, but it was still very acceptable! We also did an Aldi shop, which was quite a trek away, much further and it would’ve been an expedition! We had a fairly long cruise of 5 miles and 9 locks, but we cleared both of the locks which were due to be closed for winter maintenance, so it was a good effort. We  moored on the Visitor 5 day Moorings in Stone. We intended to stay for a couple of days to have a bit of a rest and the weather certainly wasn’t very good to be moving – wet and very windy on Friday and Saturday 30th and 31st. On Sunday, 1st November, we decided to go to the nearest marina to have a pump out, to fill with diesel and to buy coal, as Boris had made the announcement that we were going into a second lockdown on Thursday 5th Nov and that our movements would be restricted to essential journeys again. We looked at our route and decided we were better off staying where we were, in Stone, as it had a good range of shops, a launderette, a water point, refuse disposal – and a chippy. (Two in fact!) Had we moved, we would’ve had to go quite a way, in three days, to get to anywhere as good, in terms of facilities and shops – and running the risk that those spots would be full with other boaters! So having emptied one tank and filled another, we returned to Stone, managing to get on the mooring right next to the water point and nearest to the shops, with good solar (not that that’s very effective at this time of year, but every little helps!) and no overhanging trees (in case of high winds) – the perfect spot! The towpaths are good in both directions for doggie walks and even the coal boat is due to visit – couldn’t be better really. So, we are here for the duration, until we need another pump out, at least. We will carry on and do a few maintenance jobs – still working on our leaky porthole – although that is getting more and more tricky with wintery weather now. There’s always knitting and reading!

The only problem we will have is whether we can still get to the Lengthman’s Cottage we have rented for a long weekend in December. We had planned to have a family get together before Christmas – if the restrictions are lifted on the 2nd Dec and we are still able to go to the cottage, it’s a fair distance for us to get to in 9 days! If the restrictions aren’t lifted, we won’t be able to go there anyway, so it won’t matter!