Up with the lark this morning ready to go through Standedge Tunnel. At 5686 yards long (3.23 miles), about 637 feet above sea level and passing under the moors which at their highest are 630 feet above you as you pass through the tunnel it is the longest, highest and deepest tunnel on the canal network. There is a railway ttnnel whuich runs beside and slightly above it and a maintenance tunnel which I thnk serves both the canal and the railway.
Before you can go through the tunnel the boats are measured as the tunnel is very narrow in places and also very low at times. Once measured a 'chaperone ' comes on board, the steerer is provided with an inflatable lifejacket, a high viz vest and a hard hat and you can get on your way. Unfortunately because the chaperone was on the back with Ray and they only provide one hard hat for the steerer I had to stay inside the boat for the journey.
Most tunnels are brick or concrete lined but most of the Standedge is bare rock so there isn't a nice even arch to steer through. It is so rough hewn and isn't a nice straight tunnel, so much of the steering was guess work as to where the tunnel went! I think the narrower bits were probably easier! At times there seemed virtually no space between the boat and the tunnel walls. In some places it opens out so much that it is like being in an underground cavern. The boats are checked through the tunnel at about four points by someone who goes through the maintenance tunnel, I suppose this is to make sure you haven't broken down and also to keep a good distance between boats. Ray managed to bang his head twice on the way through and anyone who knows him knows he isn't particularly tall.
It was strange for me to be looking out from the boat instead of being outside, the bumps sound a lot worse inside the boat too!! It took us about an hour and three quarters to complete the journey and I think we were both glad to see daylight again. Would we do it again? Probably. Would we want to wait at least a couple of years before doing it again? Definitely!! I have generously siad I will steer through the next tunnel (it's only 205 yards long).
Even though we had only done two hours travelling we decided to take the rest of the day off, So did the otherr two boats who had come through behind us. We are moored at Diggle, at the western end of the tunnel and will probably start the journey down towards Ashton under Lyne tomorrow.
Today's journey 3.3 miles and 1 tunnel
So far this year we have travelled 458.2 miles, 334 locks, 43 swing bridges, 2 lift bridges and 14 tunnels
In 2011 we travelled 461.4 miles, 444 locks, 3 swing bridges, 34 lift bridges and 15 tunnels
During 2010 we travelled 740.3 miles, 642 locks, 53 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 25 tunnels
Since Ray retired we have travelled 1659.9 miles 1420 locks, 99 swing bridges, 40 lift bridges and 54 tunnels