Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Down and down we go

On our way - heading across the summit pound of the canal
We are on our way down. The man from CaRT came round this morning and told us that the summit was suitably refreshed overnight and we could be on our way so somewhat nervously we headed out along the three quarter mile stretch, knowing that if we did get stuck then we really were stuck.
The hills have very quickly given way to canalside mills and factories
We had teamed up with a couple on Nb Sentosa who had come up the locks behind us and agreed to stick together for the dozen locks down to Littleborough. If only it had been as straightforward as that.
It really is remarkable how quickly the canal changes after one has crossed the summit. The glorious hills of Yorkshire vanish abruptly and we are straight in amongst the 'dark Satanic mills' of Lancashire, the smoke stained gritstone of the canalside buildings emphasising their foreboding appearance.
Things started to go wrong almost straightaway. Harry went aground on a shallow stretch of the second pound and only a lengthy combination of pulling, poling and me running up and down between the locks flushing more water through got us free and into the next lock.
More problems after that: the next two locks had been narrowed by subsidence and could only take one boat at a time, rather than the normal two at a time, meaning each needed two lockfuls of water to work us both through. And two lockfuls out of a short pound means the second boat – us – goes aground. Cue more rushing about flushing more water down.
And a couple of locks later we were both in trouble again: I emptied the lock and discovered that both boats were sitting on the bottom and couldn't move. So...more flushing of water to get them away.
Fortunately that was the end of our issues for a while and we locked on down to Littleborough where we stopped for water and the others carried on to moor up. In the end, they struggled to find one and ended up sat out from the bank on the edge of town so we decided to carry on.
It's a long – by Rochdale standards – three mile lock-free stretch after Littleborough that ends at two locks in Rochdale. Lock-free it might be but it was still shallow, narrow and slow, with the odd shopping trolley and three piece suite for local colour.
Foreboding derelict industrial buildings line the canal in Rochdale
Rochdale is not an encouraging spot to pass through. The towpath is awash with litter, despite the best efforts of a CaRT volunteer who was doing his best to clear it, and the large,  derelict red brick mills and factories that surround the canal highlight the immense regeneration problems areas like this face. The old manufacturing industries are dead or dying and nothing yet has satisfactorily replaced them. On the edge of town we saw some regeneration, with tidy new houses being built on a cleared brownfield site, but so much still waits to be done.
And rubbish litters the towpath and the locks
On the positive side, the local people were universally friendly to what must have been a rare sight of a boat on their patch - kids, youths, pensioners and everyone in between had a cheery word or a  question to ask.
The first of the Rochdale locks gave us more problems as we found ourself once more sitting on the bottom of the emptied lock but by now we were getting practised at sorting this stuff.
You're never far from a decaying factory through Rochdale
Another slow run took us out of town, through a short tunnel under a motorway and then to the three Castleton locks. After the second of these we went through the skeleton of one of the original canal locks, now replaced and then under the M62 motorway. This M-way was built when the canal was derelict and no provision was made for the waterway: the solution was to re-align the waterway to make use of an existing culvert which now provides a narrow channel under the road to emerge into a new lock.
A clever re-design takes the canal under the M62 motorway
From here we found ourselves quite startlingly back in the countrside with cows in the fields and deep water beneath us. This took us to the top of the six Slattocks locks where we knew there was a mooring – and more importantly, a pub! It was a mooring but not for deep boats like ours: we are parked up with the bows three feet out from the edge and the stern ten feet out. But at least we got to the pub for pies and pints – after 18 locks they were much deserved.

1 comment:

  1. That was an endurance run without a doubt. The dark satanic mills are of course permanently entwined with canals and if folk cared a little more they and the canals could be an 'attractive' part of our heritage instead of litter bins, broken windows and rubble. There must be opportunity there or should we just bite the bullet and 'clear fell' the mills!!!