Sunday 9 October 2016

Tunnel vision

We visited St Thomas's church in Kidsgrove again this morning. This time we made use of our bus passes to avoid a long walk in, but came back along the tow path – the church building is very near to the entrance to Harecastle Tunnel. By the time we got back to Erin Mae, it was also time for a quick lunch, and then we untied and said farewell to the Macclesfield Canal.

It's been a very nice few days re-visiting the lower part of this canal, and the weather has been kind. Coming out onto the Trent and Mersey and turning right for the tunnel, however, everything seemed to get a bit gloomier. Perhaps it's just the cutting in which the tunnel entrance sits.

We didn't have to wait long for the single boat coming in the opposite direction to emerge, and there were just three of us in our own convoy. As ever, CRT Derek was very friendly and helpful, for casual visitors as well as boaters.

He made sure we'd get through the tunnel without damaging anything on the roof, asking us to take off Erin Mae's chimney. I think we'd have probably been OK, but it's as well to be sure. He also asked if we'd enjoyed the tunnel on the previous times we'd been through. Hm … not sure "enjoy" is quite the right word. 40 minutes in a small hole underground is not really my idea of fun. I've never minded the London tube, but canal tunnels seem different. I lock the panic away in a deep pit somewhere inside, and concentrate on not hitting the walls – or the roof with my head.

We've lived to tell the tale, and have tied up in virtually the only remaining space at Westport Lake. It's a good local resource for Stoke-on-Trent, but you get the impression that boaters don't linger – it's more of a stopping point as you go somewhere else. Yesterday we were persuaded by one of Mr Tesco's offers to buy the wherewithal for a cream tea, and we might have had it on the grass or nearer the lake. However, it's just begun to drizzle, so we're inside for the duration. Erin Mae's interior space is considerably smaller than that of a tunnel, of course, but it's cosy not claustrophobic.


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