|Something old, something new on the Ashton|
We left the centre of Manchester yesterday on the famous – or more accurately the infamous - Rochdale Nine. These are the nine wide locks that take the canal up through the centre of the city to its junction with the Ashton Canal, where we would be going.
|The Rochdale Nine start badly and get worse|
The locks themselves weren't too bad: bad but not too bad. Few of the double gates opened fully but I'm getting used to that on the big locks. The real issue was the mess - dirt, litter and broken glass everywhere. And it got steadily worse. After a couple came one where a bunch of derelicts had clearly been camped in makeshift tents. Halfway along another where a gang of noisy (but cheery) drunks had been joined at the lockside by construction workers on their lunch break - the litter just piled up around them.
But for sheer nastiness, Lock 85 can't be beaten. It runs underground and in its catacombs all manner of 'lewd and obscene' acts regularly take place despite a police notice declaring them illegal. Worse, though, were the dozens of discarded syringes and needles that you literally tramp through to operate the locks. Bet that wasn't mentioned in the holiday brochure.
It seems so easy to prevent – lock the towpath and only allow boaters access.
|Will Alsop's wacky New Islington block by the canal|
Today we tackled the 18 locks of the Ashton Canal - and at long last we were back on a narrow canal. Three cheers. It's another whose reputation for being in 'bandit country' where feral scrotes hide ready to disembowel captured crews is well known.
We saw none of that, just an urban canal that starts in the architectural bling and fun of redeveloped New Islington but soon gets back into the wastelands of disused mills and dog and goose poo strewn towpaths.
|Ashton industry with the Etihad beyond|
|Now this is a tough way to go canal boating|
|Nearing the top into one of the Ashton's old twin locks|
|Dukinfield Junction and WCBS wooden boats|
The pretty, tree lined Peak Forest quickly deludes you into forgetting that you are boating on the fringe of Manchester, offering only occasional glimpses of roads or industry. It is, sadly, a sludgy soup of silt and leaf mulch that brought our progress to a crawl at every bridge (some of them very low too).
|Mind your head, Brian! Low bridge on the Peak Forest|