To Hassall Green (2 April)

We left the Westport Lake mooring at Longport under cloudy skies and said cheerio to our mooring neighbours from NB Zygnema. They are also Maggie and Steve. We first met them (briefly) at Hillmorton Locks but yesterday evening we had a long chat.

The clouds soon rolled back and by the time we reached Harecastle Tunnel we had bright sunshine. This continued for the rest of the day.

Entering Harecastle Tunnel southern portal

The tunnel keepers leaped out as we arrived and indicated, politely, that it would help if we didn't take on water as we intended to do but went straight through the tunnel. We duly obliged. Although we have been through the tunnel before, it was still an adventure. Coming from the south they open the portal doors and once you are in the tunnel they close the doors behind you and turn on the ventilation fans. This sucks the smokey air from the tunnel passed you. We got an immediate "white out" and Steve couldn't see more than a few metres. Luckily the smoke soon cleared and we able to see the "light at the end of the tunnel". Our passage through was uneventful but although Albert has a lower air draught than our previous boat, Bertie, the low headroom towards the northern portal was still a concern. You certainly have to stick to the centre of the channel.

Leaving Harecastle tunnel northern portal

After 35 minutes we emerged from the tunnel and made out way through the ochre coloured waters to the BW yard at Red Bull where we used the handy self pump-out. The yard also boasts washing machines, showers, a bath, and toilets (all mod cons). We went down Lawton locks and had lunch just before Church Lawton. There were fine views of Mow Cop. This area has particular significance to Steve since his father's family have strong connections both to Hall Green and Rode Heath.

Red Bull Wharf

Descending Lawton Locks

Mow Cop

Maggie stopped off to buy an excellent fruit cake from a cottage by Thurlwood Top Lock. She took some time returning to the boat because the cook's husband plied her with damson brandy. She was offered such a large glass that she had to take some back to Steve in a plastic beaker.

We moored up for the night just above Hassall Green and had a delicious meal at the Lock 57 Brasserie which has to be one of the best canalside restaurants in Britain. It shouldn't be missed if you are tackling "Heartbreak Hill".