|Heading towards Victoria Mill on the way into Manchester|
I'm pleased to report that, fortunately for us, the Rochdale's 19 locks didn't live up to their notorious reputation. We just had seven hours of tough locking work through some admittedly ropey looking areas and a depressing amount of rubbish to arrive at Piccadilly Village in Manchester.
The day started early – we were up at 5 a.m! Part of the reason was that 'official' advice is to be finished with the 19 lock flight by about 3pm – before the scrotes have got up and about. But I had also been reading the blogs of the canny Kiwis behind us who had stolen a march on the others of us planning to cross the summit level from Yorkshire by sneaking off at 6am. Time to get our own back.
Seriously, I was worried that with rumours of water shortages, I wanted to be first into each pound rather than second when a lock's worth of water had been drawn down by the boats in front. So 5a.m., cuppa in bed, 5.30 breakfast and 6.15 fire up and off we went.
|Early on the journey and alongside M-way traffic in a new concrete channel|
It's a scruffy, typically urban canal here but soon we were in a long, deep stretch of concrete channel built for the restoration and running beside motorway traffic. Them twisted under the m-way and were back into familiar urban canal.
|Out from under the motorway and back into traditional canal|
|Lock 65 and the start of 'bandit country'|
|Marooned in shallows under the bridge at Failsworth|
But the canal itself here was desperately shallow at the edges – deliberately so to help the ducks according to one old lady – leaving us to prod cautiously for the narrow deep-ish channel with the aid of the boat pole. When I wasn't locking, I was depth sounding from the bows with a pole as if we were threading through a minefield.
Lock 69 was a bit of fun. Water was leaking out the bottom faster than it was coming in the top so the gates wouldn't open. "It usually takes three people to open that" said a watching girl, helpfully. She reckoned without the Tug Harry crew – Mrs B and me heaved and eventually the gate budged.
By now the locks were getting closer together so I didn't do much boating but I did do plenty of walking, walking to set the next lock then back to see Mrs B out of the previous and back again to the next lock and on to the next and so on and so on. No wonder I was gettting a blister.
By now the canny Kiwis had caught up – and revealed their master plan for these locks. They had press-ganged some extra crew! The country that invented bungee jumping and the Zorb seems to have got the hang of canal boating too, dammit. But they were happy to help us keep moving along as well and with Leonie from Nb Firefly NZ on bicycle-mounted forward patrol setting the locks well ahead we were fair whizzing along. Thanks Leonie!
|No shallows here! Water flooding across the towpath|
|The culprit – a by-wash blocked with rubbish and undergrowth|
|Rubbish is a too-familiar sight, unfortunately|
Beyond this lock water was again spilling over the canal and onto the surrounding park – another piece of attractive canal-focused restoration. Unfortunately the big estate round here is also scrote central but there were only a few skiving schoolkids and hoodie wearing yoofs hanging around as we went through.
|The canal's rebuilt channel is the centrepiece of a new park|
|Arriving at Lock 83 and almost there now|
|And then we arrive at our final lock, No 82 and a well-deserved rest|
But let's not end on a negative note: the Rochdale Canal has defied its reputation. It's a tough canal but a perfectly do-able one even in a boat like Harry with a three feet deep draught. But after 82 locks we are tucked up in the quiet Thomas Telford basin at the start of the Ashton Canal and taking a well deserved weekend off. When we return, the final Rochdale Nine will take us down to the centre of the city and the very end of the canal.