Setting out on a trip to Newcastle today, with no time pressure, I chose what I hoped was the flattest possible route. There were some pleasant surprises along the way. Taking the Canal towpath from Alsager and heading East it’s an easy ride to Kidsgrove. The picture below is barely a hundred metres from Kidsgrove Tesco and its constant traffic:
The towpath along here is a good hard surface, and soon you arrive at a strange pair of bridges where the original towpath bridge has been squeezed by the much newer railway bridge. I like the improvisation involved in fitting the railway line through the existing infrastructure:
I waited about two minutes for that train to come by. But this is just a foretaste of Victorian engineering, because a little further on you get to the mouth of the Harecastle Tunnel, one of many masterpieces by my alleged great great grandfather-in-law James Brindley.
I waited about twenty minutes for that narrowboat to emerge. Adjacent to the tunnel mouth is the entrance to the former tunnel, the one which had no towpath and through which barges were ‘legged’ by boys lying upside-down on top and ‘walking’ through – a three hour trip.
Eventually the tunnel sagged in the middle so that the headroom disappeared! This is in fact happening to the new tunnel – did you notice the chains hanging down at the entrance, to warn of the reduced headroom in the middle! Kids love this sort of thing. My own three children have reached the age where they go meh to stuff like this, but for a family with younger kids this is a fabulous bikeride. There is even an educational sign with facts and pictures:
From here a short stretch on the road gets you to Bathpool Park and its newly installed cycle path. Getting back to those families with young appreciative kids again, this would be a good extension, and there are fun bits of gym equipment to play on:
The bike path carries on past one more marvel of Victorian engineering, the reservoir itself. Kids (though definitely not their parents) would love the story of the murderer Donald Neilson who is still in prison for a murder committed here in 1975.
If I were here with children or grandchildren I’d turn around at this point and head back. Going on, it’s possible to get back on the canal towpath and take an easy ride into Stoke on Trent. I’ll cover this in a future post – To Festival Park by Bike….