At the start of Summer 2012 (commencing Saturday 21 July!) I visited the Trent and Mersey from Harecastle Tunnel to the Stoke Locks then next day the Erewash from Sandiacre to the Trent Lock. The weather was superb – very sunny and hot. On the southern end of the Harecastle Tunnel I met tunnel keeper Bryan Evans (of the C&RT). Quite obviously an enthusiast and enjoying his job he gave me some interesting facts about the tunnels – there are in fact two. The original was built by Brindley around 1777 and a second one to reduce this bottleneck by Thomas Telford around 1827. The Brindley tunnel collapsed in the middle of the last century. The Telford tunnel is single width and controlled by tunnel keepers at each end – they open the doors to the tunnels for boaters after they’ve scheduled a slot in the one way traffic afforded. The journey through the 1.3/4 mile tunnel takes about 1/2 hour. I also talked at length to a camera shy boater who I persauded to let me photograph him facing away from the camera! (Click on an image for a larger view.)

Moving south to the Stoke Lock Flight I chatted and joked with a very friendly lady who was working Lock 40 while her husband worked the tiller. This is in the Etruria district of Stoke, the site of an annual canal festival at the beginning of June and at the junction with the start of the Caldon Canal leading off the the north-east. This area has been smartened up considerably in recent years and is a very pleasant place to visit with a marina overlooked by a giant waterside Toby Tavern and some historical buildings.

The next day, also hot and sunny, I wandered down the Erewash Canal from Sandiacre to the Trent Lock. The latter is at the junction of the Erewash from the north, the River Trent from the east, the River Soar from the south and the Trent and Mersey canal leading off to the west. The junction is a very large area of water and, I guess, a challenge for boaters in bad weather and high flows. I met continuous cruiser Mike coiling his front rope in preparation for the crossing from the north side of the junction across the widest part to the Soar. He navigates his boat single handed – brave man! Later he set off across the water, as can be seen from the final photo below which shows 5 of the 7 cooling towers of the enormous Ratcliffe Power Station across the Trent.