Heartbreak Hill

I have climbed Heartbreak Hill five times and, following this most recent trip, descended it once.  The Trent & Mersey canal climbs out of the Cheshire Plain by a long series of locks to the summit-level at Hardings Wood Junction where you can continue south through the dark, dank 1.75 mile Harecastle Tunnel or choose the light and the Macclesfield Canal – on this occasion, we chose the latter. The right turn at the junction neatly takes the canal back on itself and over Poole Aqueduct – beneath you is the Trent & Mersey where your younger self travelled some thirty minutes previous.

Many of the locks on Heartbreak Hill are doubled, although not all of the parallel locks are still usable – some are filled in, some abandoned and, most alarmingly, some are accessible but too narrow. Our greatest ‘heartbreak’ was discovering that the Lock 57 Restaurant had gone the way of the adjacent Romping Donkey pub – both at Hassall Green and both closed for business. Consequently we pressed on, mooring at Church Lawton, six locks shy of the summit.  In the days when the UK boasted a mainframe computer manufacturer, I worked nearby at ICL Kidsgrove – this is familiar territory.

I have included the colour image to show the state of the water – it is Tango orange, the result of iron-rich springs seeping into the water from the nearby Harecastle Tunnel. Not a place to go for a swim, intentional or otherwise (might work as an instant tan 😉 )

TangoMilepostLock gear and WinthorpeAbandoned lockWinthorpePoole LockKidsgrove summit

Click on the images to enlarge – in particular the last to pick up on the reference to the “Kidsgrove Gas Light Company”.


  1. AnaLuciaSilva · May 3, 2014

    Lovely photos =)

  2. easyweimaraner · May 3, 2014

    Think now my mom is on the way to get tanned without sun :o) I wishe we had time to visit all that great places over the channel, there are so much historic things and places what are worth a visit.

    • northumbrianlight · May 3, 2014

      Kidsgrove is not the prettiest of places but it has character (and instant tanning facilities). Its one claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Reginald Mitchell, creator of the Spitfire.

      • easyweimaraner · May 3, 2014

        And that’s what I lov. You can find great things everywhere :o)

  3. Cate Franklyn · May 3, 2014

    It is always the out of the way and unusual places that make a trip like this so fascinating and just chock full of great subjects to photograph!

    • northumbrianlight · May 3, 2014

      I agree – I never tire of photographing the canal system – I have been doing it off and on since 1976.

  4. LaVagabonde · May 3, 2014

    It looks eerily quiet and the perfect place for a getaway. That water is scary. Is it like that in all of the canals?

    • northumbrianlight · May 3, 2014

      You are right, the canal system is a separate world, sometimes even in the heart of cities. There are a couple of other places on the system that are tango orange (for similar reasons) but generally speaking the canals are an attractive muddy brown 🙂

  5. Pit · May 3, 2014

    Excellent pictures. These plus the text make me long for a narrowboat trip again. Unfortunately, no canals around here. 😦
    Best regards from southern Texas,

  6. restlessjo · May 3, 2014

    I’m quietly envious but I have to keep it quiet because my head’s very fragile from too much Polish ‘hospitality’. 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · May 4, 2014

      Sounds like you had a great time Jo – trust you are on the road to recovery 😉

  7. Tish Farrell · May 4, 2014

    You touched on childhood turf here, Robin. The Romping Donkey – one of my father’s many favourite drinking places, and where my sister and I spent hours of our life sitting in company Austin Cambridge in the car park and nursing bottles of warm lemonade and packets of Smiths crisps. We went there again a few years ago when we were doing the Cheshire Ring. It had been much tarted up by then of course. Great photos.

    • northumbrianlight · May 4, 2014

      It is good to make connections Tish – we used to go to the Donkey quite regularly from work, in the late 70s when lunch time trips to the pub were all part of the working day. Sadly it is in a sorry state now – hopefully someone will eventually rescue it.
      I trust the packets of Smiths crisps still had the blue bag of salt. I have fond memories of the Austin Cambridge too – the parents of a one time girlfriend (from Knutsford) used to let me drive their car occasionally – very trusting!

      • Tish Farrell · May 4, 2014

        yes definitely with the little blue salt bag!

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