Monday 18th May
Piccadilly Village (Manchester) to Chadderton (Rose of Lancaster pub)
Imposing warehouse buildings line the canal in Manchester – I can only imagine the bustle of business that must have thrived here….
The nice thing about cruising a linear canal from one end to the other is that you know exactly where you are – on the Rochdale you just navigate by lock number. Yesterday we started at Duke’s Lock, number 92, yet it’s only around 30 linear miles to our first major destination, lock 1, at Sowerby Bridge – it’s locks all the way 🙂
Today we tackled the “Manchester 18” (plus a couple of extras), starting at Lock 83. Our target for the day were the first “safe” moorings between the Angel Marina and the top of the 18 – the “Rose of Lancaster” pub in Chadderton (about half a mile above lock 64).
We had hoped that the weather might be a little better than forecast, but it was persisting down, with the promise of more persisting until late afternoon. However, we couldn’t delay our start so we cast off soon after 8:30am. Our lovely guests, Sue and Ken, were planning to spend the morning locking up with us, but we had a look at their clothing and sent them home! It was a full waterproofs day – from boots to hats and everything in between.
They did come round to the next lock, where we were able to drop them off much closer to the car park so they could de-camp without getting too wet. I was sad to say goodbye, but they live in North Wales and it’s likely that we’ll see quite a bit of them as we traverse the North over the next few months 🙂
About three lock worth’s of rubbish (fished out before it found the prop) – Herbie got off his bed for the spacehopper – he sincerely wanted to shred it 🙂
With our guests gone, we started our locking in earnest. Richard got the bike out for lock-wheeling and I tended the helm. Although we’d had dire warning about this stretch of canal (especially through the back end of Failsworth), we hardly saw a soul all day – it was just so wet I suspect that any potential mischief-makers had taken to the malls instead! Sadly the few people we saw were hard-eyed and disinterested, apparently weighed down by the obvious deprivation that surrounds the canal.
The miracle of the Rochdale Canal is that exists at all – it has been restored from almost total dereliction into a functioning navigation. The infrastructure is sound, the locks are all beefy deep doubles and are in reasonable repair. We didn’t see another boat all day, so we were a single boat in these sizeable locks. We took it slowly, bringing the boat up on one paddle while Richard lock-wheeled. We didn’t rope up – the locks were too deep to rope up conveniently and they weren’t that turbulent. We got into a good rhythm, and although we’d never match our BCN Challenge locking speed, we made steady progress.
Note: the locksides are generally paved with large uneven cobbestones – they are extremely slippery when wet – take care!
Rainy day – and that horrible concrete ledge which makes mooring impossible (even if you were inclined to stay in such a dismal place)..
But this is not an inspiring stretch of waterway – I can live with the dereliction of housing and lost industry that surrounds the canal; but the dereliction of mind that leads to locals using the canal as a midden got me down. We cleared the prop five times between locks 83 and 65; I fished out some larger bits of rubbish before they got wrapped round the prop. As the back deck filled up with rubbish, I quipped that “CRT had better give me a skip so I can get rid of this crap” and, fair play, there was one at Failsworth Top Lock! There were locks where I couldn’t let the hounds out because the towpaths were strewn with broken glass. There were suspicious looking deals taking place under some bridges. There wasn’t a single moored boat on the stretch, and, in many places, it’s impossible to moor because of ugly concrete ledges that stick out several feet from the edge of the canal. As grateful as I am for the canal’s existence, it doesn’t encourage one to “stand and stare” – it feels likes a means to an end! I’m writing this retrospectively so luckily I can say that the “end” is really well worth it!
But I’m ahead of myself….
I have very few notes from the day (too wet for a notebook on deck!) but I have a few recollections to record….
Richard and I play a game at locks, trying to guess their depth. I have the better view, sitting at the bottom of some very big holes, but, as an engineer, he has much better spatial awareness. Anthony’s Lock (No. 77) challenged us – it is very deep indeed
“15 foot” I reckoned,
“Nah, 12 foot” countered Richard
We checked the Nicholson’s – 9′ 7″ – no way!
Cue the tape measure (we take this game very seriously!) – 14′ 9″ – yes! Apparently the lock has been affected by subsidence and is considerably deeper than the original. That’s worth thinking about for a second: All the locks were intended to be identical with a 10′ rise so that means that there has been close to 5′ settlement . . . .
Anthony’s Lock – all 14′ 9″ of it! It wasn’t that turbulent, though it did take an age to fill – it’s a lot of water…
There are some fierce bywashes that flushed water through at pace, pushing the boat to the opposite side of the canal – not a huge problem, but Richard had to play fair and open the gate opposite the bywash to give me some chance of coming in smoothly 🙂 We came up on one gate, the locks here are proper doubles – this saved a lot of to-ing and fro-ing.
The other game I enjoy on urban canals is “guess the industry” – when we came down the Ashton I spent some time researching the fishy amine smell emanating from a canalside factory. This time my nose was enticed by the far sweeter, but equally potent, smell of esters or was it ketones, in the vicinity of Lock 74 (Drunken Bridge Lock). There is a massive canalside foundry (Mathers Foundry) here, though I wouldn’t associate a foundry with esters – hmm, more research needed 🙂
There are some interesting lock mechanisms hereabouts…
Funnily enough, where there is living industry, the canal perks up a bit, but once we got back lock 71 (Shears Lock) we were back into “civilisation” and the locks gradually filled with rubbish again.
The stretch through Newton Heath/Failsworth is difficult – although there was plenty of water in the canal, the channel between the wide (signposted) shoals on the offside and rough concrete ledge on the towpath side made the canal feel narrow and shallow. It was hard going in these sections as there was barely enough water to allow the boat to move. Simple physics I’m told – in order to move, Indigo Dream has to displace 17 tons of water front to back….
However depressing the main Failsworth section is, we got a nice surprise when we got to lock 66 (Tannersfield Highest Lock), the rain dried up (at last!), the canalside walkers became more engaged with the canal (in a good way!) and the view opened out to reveal a modern retail park. Now, that’s not everyones cup of tea, but just to see some regeneration was so very welcome after the dismal rise we’d just experienced.
Beyond Failsworth, the canal feels less miserable, though it’s still suburban and no-one has paid much attention to the beauty of the infrastruture. The tunnel under the M60 couldn’t be more functionally unattractive – the low headroom reminds you that this canal exists as a grudging favour to modern transport. It could so easily have been blocked here…
A little further along though, the canal has its way – there is an unusual vertical lift bridge at Grimshaw Lane. It’s electrically operated using a BW key (the control box is on the left a little below the bridge – coming from Manchester..). I found it a little bit fiddly – I wasn’t sure whether to just press the buttons once or press and hold. Oh dear, I hate holding up the traffic but we’d still be there if I hadn’t!
We got to the Rose of Lancaster mid-afternoon – someone on the end of the phone at CRT had suggested that we might find it hard to get a space. Well, we needn’t have worried – there were only two other boats there – one obviously on their way to Manchester and the other, we found out later, had come up from Manchester just a few locks ahead of us, with assistance from CRT. If only we’d known about each other. Local dog-walkers seemed to regard THREE moored boats as an armada, so it seems that we were never going to struggle for a space 🙂
We toyed with the idea of driving home, but it had been a long day so Richard took the train back to Manchester for the car and I did the usual packing up ready for the morning. When he came back, we went off to the pub for supper – it is not dog-friendly and the weather was too unpredictable (we’d had some savage showers) to sit outside. The food and service were indifferent, but it sure beat doing the cooking myself!
The following morning we had a bit of fun getting the dogs to the car – the pub’s handyman was busy repairing the pub’s concrete steps and had put in a new step at the bottom of the flight between the towpath and the pub – there is no other access. The logistics of moving car and boat was as nothing to getting four hounds up the stairs without leaving a signature in the wet cement, but we managed it 🙂
Herbie’s take on boating….
Boating Herbie style…
Herbie’s dedication to his sofa is legend!
Boating Herbie style….
Tired puppies – well, Herbie must have changed bed three times – it’s exhausting!
Nature always finds a way – old industrial wastelands don’t stay that way forever…
Although the locks are full-size doubles, I would not want to bring a wide-beam down here – in fact, I was very glad that there weren’t any passing narrowboats!
Post-industrial landscape at Failsworth – there’s a lot of restoration here though – mainlly housing and retail…
The M60 tunnel – it’s a miracle that this canal exists – they didn’t spare it much headroom!
Grimshaw Lane lift bridge – unusual to see a vertical lift bridge. (There is loads of headroom, this is just Richard squeezing through as quickly as he could)
The liftbridge is electrically operated and a bit fiddly (do you just press or press and hold) – I don’t think the car drivers were too impressed with my button pressing technique!
There were three of these fences panels in the lock – I managed to get one out before it got wedged in anyone’s prop. The other two sank out of sigh as the lock filled and I couldn’t get them – sigh! We put the recovered panel back in the towpath fence where it belonged – I expect it will be back in the lock come nightfall 😦