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The Odyssey 2015 – Day 8

Posted by indigodream on 26 June, 2015

Monday 25th May

Littleborough to Todmorden

Tandem manouevres - short pounds are the norm here so we may as well :-)

Tandem manouevres – short pounds are the norm here so we may as well 🙂

It was a fine morning and we had planned to start out at 9am. This gave us plenty of time to give the hounds a walk – but they weren’t that interested! The long journey to the boat and a couple of days’ locking had worn them out.

We found that our locking partner had been up since 6am and had walked up the flight cracking open paddles so that the locks would be set our way. We felt a bit uncomfortable – it’s one thing to get a lock ready when you’re around to supervise, but quite another to leave them unattended and draining – hmmm…..

Still, it made for smooth locking at first, though later on, a combination of leaky gates and either CRT or other boaters reversing the flow meant that we didn’t gain much, especially at the “single” locks. Watch out for them – they look like doubles but have been narrowed by subsidence – just by a few inches but enough to catch an unwary pair.

I really enjoyed this stretch of canal – the steady rise towards the summit is thrilling. There are new views at every lock and the far mountaintops, with wind turbines swaying like dreadlocks on their otherwise bald heads.

The view back from the summit (West side)....

The view back from the summit (West side)….

It’s a landscape that demands superlatives – love it loathe it, it could never be just “nice”. I imagined that the Pennines allowed this canal to be built, grudgingly yielding to the men and women who were hard enough to take them on. But the Pennines were never beaten, and the summit that we’d worked so hard to reach did not offer the soaring views that would have a sense of victory. The canal’s summit is a notch between peaks, but beautful enough to feel like a worthy reward.

The summit pound is only half a mile long, so you don’t get to enjoy the sense of achievement for long! It’s a shallow stretch, so mooring is nigh on impossible. However, go down one lock and there are useful 48 hour moorings – we stopped for lunch and enjoyed chatting to passing walkers and boaters.

Having hardly seen a soul for days, it was a shock to suddeny see the waterway so busy – where had all the boats come from? We hadn’t realised that many hirers (and other boaters) start out from the Sowerby Bridge end, work their way up to the summit, then turn back.

Along the summit - but mountains still looom above the cana has been allowed here but it hasn't won!

Along the summit – but mountains still looom above the cana has been allowed here but it hasn’t won!

Although we were now starting the long descent, the canal didn’t disappoint – the landscape has an austere beauty, enhanced by its distinctive black stone-built buldings and industrial remnants. I did some research into why the stone structures are so sooty – have a look at today’s trivia” at the end of the post – it’s fascinating! The black buildings are stark and harsh, especially the old chimneys and towers that stand proud in defiance of the mountains.

A few locks down, we lost our locking companion – he’d reached his target (and the chippie) for the day. But we wanted to carry on and had a fine few hours locking down to Todmorden. We’d never been particularly short of water at any point, but, quite abruptly above Todmorden, the canal was awash, with pounds full to the brim and overflowing at the locks – curious.

There was plenty to see coming in to Todmorden – the impressive castellated railway bridge and, of course, the “great wall”, looming solid above us. It all looks very spectacular and is a really nice town – well worth a stop. There are moorings on the cut under the great wall, but we didn’t fancy them so we moved down through the final locks of the day, which has an interesting electrically operated guillotine gate. As Richard closed the lock behind me I was surprised to find myself in a broad basin with ample visitor moorings and a service point. We dropped off some rubbish then moored towpath side.

Hound-friendly thai restaurant - Todmorden is welcoming place :-)

Hound-friendly thai restaurant – Todmorden is welcoming place 🙂

It was early enough for Richard to take the train back for the car. I mooched around the boat and was alarmed when Archie suddenly started barking – a full-on hackles up alarm – I dashed to the back deck expecting to see a husky (or similar dog on Archie’s mysterious hit list) but there was just a man, walking away from the deck and looking through the cabin window. I apologised for Archie’s bad manners but the man made strangely placatory gestures and I realised that Archie had spotted a wrong-un. We met the chap the next day – terrorising his dog and “admiring” Richard’s bike as he cycled past – hmmmm..

When Richard came back we started the search for dinner – a lot of places are shut on a Monday night! In the end we wandered around, minus the hounds, and plumped on a tiny thai restaurant and bar not far from the boat. The downstairs bar, where they do a super-cheap buffet is dog -friendly – that’s worth knowing. However, we chose to eat in the upstairs restaurant and enjoyed a fine thai meal, though the service, while friendly, was a little slow.

It had been a good day – I reckoned we’d done 227 locks (or was it 27?) but maybe only four or five linear miles and NO prop clearances – very satisfying!

Today’s Trivia:

On the black stones….

The Pennines' traditional industries have left black skeletons on the landscape...

The Pennines’ traditional industries have left black skeletons on the landscape…

The few stone-built structures along this stretch are interesting – they are mainly built of a soft, pale sandstone, reminiscent of Lechlade (at the far end of the Thames) – but here the stone is stained a sooty black, giving structures a forbidding air. I had assumed it was literally soot, from years of heavy industry, but whatever industry there was is long gone – would the soot not have washed off by now? Time for some research! This report gives you chapter and verse on Yorkshire Sandstones and I was surprised that they said “……the new sandstones are, hopefully, unlikely ever to become encrusted with the industrial soiling and pollution blackening that once characterised even the remotest of the sandstone buildings of west Yorkshire and which obscured any minor colour or textural variations”.

Another learned report said that black “crusts build up in sheltered areas that are exposed to moisture in the form of fog, mist, or dew. This moisture is known as ‘occult deposition’, and contains pollutants in much higher concentrations than normal rainfall. This aids the production of gypsum,which crystallizes on the surface, binding any particles that have blown, or washed onto the stone. Diesel engines are one of the most damaging particle sources, but fossil fuel combustion also produces tiny particles (known as flyash) which can adhere to buildings. Street or airborne dust may also become trapped on the stone surface and ultimately bound in as part of the crust”. It seems as if the black stains will never wash off unless it’s grit-blasted!

On pronunciation…

When visiting the far-reaches of England, I often think “We’re not in Kansas any more Toto” because it’s nigh on impossible to work out how to pronounce place names. I had thought that you couldn’t beat the river Nene (Neene or Nen!), where my diction was corrected more often than on trips to foreign lands. However, Yorkshire is well-ahead on points. The jury’s still out on whether you pronounce the “D” in Todmorden, though there seems to be a consensus that the accent is on “mor”. Some cruising days later I was assured that Sowerby Bridge is pronounced “Saw-by bridge” not “Sore-by bridge” and never “Sour-by bridge. If you’re from “dahn saff” just bring a translator!

Photoblog:

This plaque commemorates the achievement of the Rochdale canal, which crosses the

This plaque commemorates the achievement of the Rochdale canal, which crosses the “backbone of England” . Before the canal, cargo crossed the Pennines by pack pony, yet one canal barge could carry the equivalent load of 450 pack ponies….

The views just get better and better...

The views just get better and better…

Descriptive lock names :-)

Descriptive lock names 🙂

More views from the summit...

More views from the summit…

Approaching the eastern end of the summit - it's only half a mile long but such a rich reward for all that locking :-)

Approaching the eastern end of the summit – it’s only half a mile long but such a rich reward for all that locking 🙂

Looking back from Longlees Lock - I had a pang of regret, but there was plenty of stunning scenery to come..

Looking back from Longlees Lock – I had a pang of regret, but there was plenty of stunning scenery to come..

Love it or loathe it? Love it of course!

Love it or loathe it? Love it of course!

Road to nowhere??

Road to nowhere??

Interesting mechanism for opening the lock gate...

Interesting mechanism for opening the lock gate…

Views to throw, as they say in Wales :-)

Views to throw, as they say in Wales 🙂

This part of the Rochdale pays for Manchester many times over :-)

This part of the Rochdale pays for Manchester many times over 🙂

The descenet is even more scenic than the climb to the summit...

The descent is even more scenic than the climb to the summit…

Travis Mill lock - with its attendant mill buildings - remnants of a long gone industry...

Travis Mill lock – with its attendant mill buildings – remnants of a long gone industry…

Craggy landscape ahead...

Craggy landscape ahead…

Some of the bywashes are quite lively:-)

Some of the bywashes are quite lively:-)

What a structure - castellated railway bridge crossing the canal at Todmorden...

What a structure – castellated railway bridge crossing the canal at Todmorden…

One Response to “The Odyssey 2015 – Day 8”

  1. Debby said

    We had a tremendous amount of water too as we descended to Todmorden, as well as strong winds! But we’d had heavy rain the day before we crossed the summit so assumed it was still coming off the moor. But we agree with you, it’s a beautiful canal if you ignore Manchester and Rochdale!
    Best wishes
    Debby

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