Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Ninety one locks in thirty three miles

In Tuel Lane lock, deepest in Britain
Well, we are finally here. At the start of what you could call the canal boater's Everest, the Rochdale Canal, the toughest of the three trans-Pennine canals; no summit tunnels, just endless locks up one side and down down the other.
The canal lay derelict from the early 1970s and only after a huge restoration effort was it brought back to life for boat traffic in 2002.
Base camp, as it were, for us was at Sowerby Bridge where the Rochdale branches away from the terminus of the Calder & Hebble. And what a magnificent terminus it is, too, surrounded by massive old stone warehouses that once dealt with the trans-shipment of goods between the two canals, all regenerated now into bars, restaurants and offices but still alive with boats and the base of the Pennine hire specialists, Shire Cruisers.
Leaving Lock One to begin the assault on the Rochdale
After travelling the length of the A&C alone, we met up with Nb Naomi May at Salterhebble for the last two locks on the A&C. In the morning sun the basin was even more charming and kept trimmed and litter free by volunteers, one of whom helped us through the lock.
Last lock on the Calder & Hebble and the first time we've had a travelling companion
One of the unsung volunteer heroes who keep Salterhebble so smart
At Sowerby we fuelled up in the basin while our travelling companions went onto the Rochdale – but not very far. When we arrived they were still puzzling over the padlocked gates of the first lock. Lock Three, Tuel Lane, on the canal is the deepest in Britain – 19ft 8.5 ins (three more than Bath deep lock) - and it's also approached through a short, curved tunnel under a main road. When the canal was restored this arrangement replaced two locks.
The magificent and bustling canal basin at Sowerby Bridge
There's a lock-keeper to operate things. He's not full-time so you have to book which we did, for 2pm. Then you wait for him to arrive and unlock the gates into Lock One and Two just below it. By 2.30 we were making phone calls and by 3.00 we were thinking of giving up. Finally at 3.30 a lockie turned up. "Sorry, I think someone possibly forgot". Never mind, it was a lovely sunny afternoon, time for teas, beers and a chat.
Tuel Lane lock is, indeed, deep – and even deeper if, like Mrs B you are way down in its depths – but with two boats in it and the lockie filling it steadily, the pair of us rose steadily up toward the surface.
Our companions pottered away out of Soweerby but we tied up on the first available rings after the lock.
Let the assault begin tomorrow; tonight it's to the pub! We headed off to the highly rated Navigation, a tucked away pub just back beyond the canal basin where we enjoyed one of the best pub meals we've had in a long time – and at a 'tenner for main and dessert' a delicious bargain too.

1 comment:

  1. Have a great time on the Rochdale. I thoroughly enjoyed it when we did it in the other direction to you a month ago.