Navigating the Harecastle Tunnel.
Written April 20, 2023, at Stoke on Trent, England.
The experience of traveling England’s canals that date to the 1700’s is unique. But there are aspects that go beyond unique, and in yesterday’s case are otherworldly, or better yet “underworldly”.
Our 2019 travels on the canals included traveling hundreds of yards across valleys, our vessel elevated over 100 feet above the valley floor in a trough of water with no guard rails. Beyond unique.
There were also tunnels that we navigated, also hundreds of yards long. Again, beyond unique.
Before us today was the Harecastle Tunnel. Not just unique, not just beyond unique, but like traveling the legendary River Styx to Hades. Again, otherworldly and “underworldly”.
The Harecastle Tunnel is 1.6 miles long and for nearly 200 years the longest tunnel in the United Kingdom. It is actually two tunnels. The first, built in 1770 and its parallel twin built in 1824 served commerce on the canals with one dedicated to southbound traffic and the other dedicated to northbound traffic.
The canals are extremely tight with very low overhead. There is no walking path inside the tunnel. If one were to fall into the water it would be a very bad day for that person. The older of the two tunnels could not be economically maintained and has been closed since 1914.
The remaining tunnel now alternates traffic direction approximately every hour. It takes about 40 minutes to transit the length of the tunnel.
Time and limited Internet cell service do not allow me to go into detail about the history of these fascinating tunnels. I invite you to read about The Harecastle Tunnel on Wikipedia.
Below are images, some with captions.
Peace Everyone. Pete