After a weekend of wet and windy weather we set off early to tackle the Harecastle Tunnel. We had already stripped the roof of the boat of items that may have caused a problem due to height. We were met by a very friendly tunnel keeper who gave us written instructions and went through the emergency procedure. We were the first to venture through, with one boat behind us.
Once in the tunnel the light fades quite quickly, and we were glad our tunnel light lit up the whole area in front of the boat. The fans start their droning noise, and the whole place takes on an eery feel.
There were originally 3 tunnels built. The first by James Brindley that took 11 years to build and was finished in 1777. There was no towpath in the tunnel so horses had to go over the top, and the boaters legged the boats through. This proved to be a slow process and caused a bottleneck of traffic so in 1822 the T&M canal company called upon Thomas Telford, who recommended a second tunnel be built alongside. This took 3 years to complete and opened in 1827. It originally had a towpath, but this has since been removed. It is the tunnel in use today. The third tunnel was for a railway line, but was closed in the 1960’s. The tunnel is 2926yds long and it took us 37 minutes to get through.
The experience of the tunnel was not as bad as expected, though wouldn’t want to get stuck as some parts are very low.
The weather forecast is dire for the next two days with strong winds forecast. Did some top up shopping in Tesco’s. We plan to stay here (no restrictions) until the weather improves; meanwhile have contacted Cornwall to get some post sent whilst we wait.