I have chronicled in past blogs how I generally dislike going through tunnels, though I thought I had that licked after last year when we spent dozens of hours in the subterranean splendour of our waterways system, drips n’ all.
But when it came to the thought of negotiating the Harecastle tunnel again, on the northern edge of Stoke-On-Trent, I became a little anxious, not helped by the fact that an experienced boater was knocked off his boat going through it a few days earlier and drowned. Evidently the sudden changes in the roof height caught him out. It’s easy, even at speed, to get bumped around in the Harecastle. The walls seem to close in, and last time through we lost a navigation light. Well, this time our headlamp failed half way through...oops. Bear in mind this tunnel is a mile and half long and although we had torches as a standby, I scratched some of my lovely blue paint trying to see where I was going. Double oops. And then on emerging at the northern end the skies opened and we both got soaking wet. Now I am reliably informed, that I am grumpy at times! For the next couple of hours Pat kept her distance and ignored me, while I stomped around shouting and swearing at nothing in particular. Not a red-letter boating day.
|About to enter from the Southern end|
|If you can get under the dangly bits, you should be all right|
|Just before the headlight failed.|
Since then it’s been a mixed-bag weather-wise, but generally it’s been dry and cloudy, despite Shefali, who does the BBC Midlands Weather, telling us it should be raining on us, almost continuously. However she has got it right today and it is sheeting down outside, so we might stay put, unless it improves.
Last Saturday evening we said goodbye to Paul & Carolyn, who live in Stoke and who had entertained us at Stoke City F.C. at the beginning of the month. We wanted to return the favour, and between us, we had lined up two good drinking pubs that also served decent food in the Burslem area.
|Pat & Carolyn enjoy some "Plum Porter" in the Titanic Brewery Tap|
Both pubs had good beer, however both were non-starters when it came to food, so we had a few pints and ended up in a very good Indian restaurant called Kismet, evidently the first one to open in Stoke in 1968.
We are now making slow progress north-west and dropped down 24 locks on Bank Holiday Monday before arriving at Wheelock, which is a little village, about a mile from Sandbach in Cheshire. We walked into the town yesterday, ostensibly to purchase a “litter picker” so I could remove a piece of plastic I have dropped into the bowels of the boat’s bilge and Pat purchased some rather “flashy” shoes. We also found another Waitrose, which are as rare as “hen’s teeth” around here.
|Just a few feet away from the thunder of the M6 at Rode Heath|
|Pat's new shoes, with lots of "boaty" grip.|
Now here’s a thing. Both of us read a daily paper, watch the news and keep ourselves abreast of what is going on, though draw a line at “trashy TV”. Perhaps if we did we might have known what a “Body Transformation Centre” was. I thought it was where you took your Citroen if you’d had a knock, but evidently it’s what they call “A Gym” round here. Fancy that.
|Seen at a converted car showroom in Wheelock|
Tomorrow we push on into Middlewich, where we will stay for a day or two. We need to fill up with diesel and visit the chandlery there. Then it’s on to Northwich and the excitement of the Anderton Boat Lift at the weekend. Really looking forward to that experience.