A look at Harecastle Tunnel

A look at Harecastle Tunnel


Posted 13th February


In the next of our History of the Waterways features, courtesy of Insure4Boats and the Canal and River Trust, we find out about Harecastle Tunnel

Harecastle Tunnel is not one, but two parallel tunnels on the Trent and Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, joining Kidsgrove and Tunstall.

The two tunnels were built separately, some 40 years apart, by two famous canal engineers, James Brindley and Thomas Telford, the Telford tunnel is still used to this day by canal boats. At 1.5 miles long, it's still one of the longest canal tunnels in Britain, taking around 40 minutes to navigate.

Due to its narrow width, there is only space for one boat to pass at a time, so you could be waiting for a while when you get there - however, it's certainly a unique experience.

Did you know...

- Back when the Harecastle Tunnel was first built, it didn't have a towpath. This meant boats were 'legged' through. This involved a plank of wood being laid across the bows, with people lying across it pulling the boat along by literally walking on the walls.

- While the first tunnel took eleven years to build, the second one only took three years, due to a leap in engineering technology.

- At the time, no-one had ever seen a canal tunnel that was so long, prompting one writer to dub it 'the eighth wonder of the world'.

- It may look muddy to the naked eye. However, the canal water is actually a rusty orangey-brown due to the iron ore from the tunnel discolouring it.

- There are rumours of a ghost haunting the tunnels - keep your camera close, in case you happen to see her.

Information and images courtesy of Insure4Boats and the Canal and River Trust / Image credit: Bartosz Pietkiewicz / Google





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