Wednesday 9 August 2017

Hebden Bridge

Today's Navigations - Calder and Hebble, Rochdale Canal

We only had a short distance to go before we completed the Calder and Hebble and joined the Rochdale Canal instead. The forecast was for a cloudy morning with bright sunshine from midday onwards. The first part was correct but blue sky was very patchy well into the very late afternoon.

At the junction we saw the first of the characteristic distance posts for the Rochdale - they were put in place as part of the modern restoration of the canal.

A couple of unusual boats moored just after the junction.

As soon as we joined the Rochdale there is a flight of three locks. The top lock was originally two but a road widening scheme resulted in the huge Tuel Lane Lock with an approach tunnel underneath the roads. Because the lock is so deep and the tunnel very narrow with no boat crew access, boats can only pass the lock under the control of CaRT staff. The arrangements for this operation change every year and so we carefully checked the CaRT web site. This said that the summer arrangements from April onwards were that the locks is available 7 days a week with no booking required. Mike tried the telephone number listed but it was no longer operational.

As we arrived at the bottom lock we discovered that it was locked. An initial call to Customer services stated that Tuesdays Wednesdays and Thursdays are now pre-booked only, 24 hours notice required. Having said that the information on the web site was different, Mike was connected with another person who agreed to book us for today but not until 1:30.

A little later a member of staff from the Red Bull Office to explain the problem - although by then Mike had worked it our for himself. The part of the web site he consulted pulls information from the stoppages and notices database but is not very clever in how it does it. Nor is the maintenance of the database very clever either. The notice regarding Tuel Lane opening was originally posted in 2015 but updates are posted every time there is a change, Normally these updates come through to the Boaters Guide but in this case what we were seeing was the original 2015 information which is now out of date!

He very kindly did point us to another page for information about other services, including water points but it turns out that this is a special just for the one region. Other regions do not post the same

Leaving Mike to await these phone calls, Christine and Jess walked into Sowerby Bridge town centre for a little shopping. They found it somewhat disappointing with many of the traditional units either closed or devoted to hairdressers and beauty salons. Even the good butcher that Christine discovered in 2011 was closed and the fishmonger nowhere to be seen. They bought what they needed from a small Tesco store but failed on one item: Jess really needed some more trousers, especially as the weather has been wet. They ended up being rather more successful at a charity shop where they bought two pairs for the price of one! They looked unworn.

Mike also walked to the shops and bought a coupe of books at a charity shop - nowhere else to buy books that he could see. Above the town stands the huge Wainhouse Tower. Completed in 1875 is is said to be the tallest folly in the world and resulted from a spat between two adjacent landowners. One boasted his lands were private so that the other built a  tower that could look out over all of them!

Eventually 1:30 arrived but we did not see any lock keeper. Mike walked up to the lock (from which the other two locks are hidden from view) and found the lock keeper already letting down the first two boats. He had not been told about our booking from Customer Services! Anyway, he told us to come up he first two locks straight away and then come into the big lock as soon as the first two had emerged from the tunnel.

Mike returned to the boat as quickly as possible and he and Christine set off - although the first lock was quite difficult. Also, Mike had set the middle lock on his way down but the other two boats had buy now unset it so we had to wait for them. Christine walked to the big lock to check that we were still OK to enter the tunnel and shortly after she gave him the message by phone.

In the lock we were instructed to attach ourselves to two risers, bow and stern. Mike managed to get both ropes around and Jess did a great job with the bow one. The lock has to be filled very gently and so it takes a considerable time - perhaps as much as 20 minutes - to fill. Eventually we we able to leave the lock and be on our way! Sadly we were so busy with the lock operation that we failed to take any photos.

As soon as we had left Sowerby Bridge we were into a very pretty section with great views of the hills that tower above. The canal, along with later railway and road, share the valley with the river, all within a very short distance of each other.

The bottom paddles have a distinctive mechanism that takes over 30 turns to fully open.

We had a slow cruise - the water depth on this canal is never much for speed - which gave us time to enjoy the scenery after the efforts earlier.

We nearly blurred out this photo as it looks as if it is a Stealth spy ship!

Just over two miles along we came to the next locks, two close together. We swapped locks with a boat coming down which saved us both a little effort. These locks have no way across the top, just a small footbridge over the tail, the opposite to the Calder and Hebble locks which often only had access across the top gates. Certainly makes for plenty of walking! Most of the lock operation we found fairly easy but some of the top ground paddles were exceptionally difficult to move and looked as if they have not seen grease for some time.

A section of the bank wall is being rebuilt - the works ave to be passed very carefully.

A family of three sat and watched us at Mytholmroyd - at least we got to hear how it should be pronounced. An information board told us that this was the home town of Ted Hughes, one time poet laureate.

Just beyond the lock is the sculpture The Hawk by Kenny Hunter, installed in 2013. It was inspired by some of the poems by Ted Hughes.

Falling Royd  Bridge turned out to be quite a tunnel, curved so that it is not possible to see though - boats enter into a dark abyss! The explanation was given on the earlier information board..

We had hoped to moor well before Hebden Bridge but a very long line of boats moored permanently on the off side, together with quite a narrow section of canal, meant that we had to continue, pass through Mayroyd Lock and look for visitor moorings in Hebden Bridge itself.

There were plenty of mooring rings on the approach but we found that we could not get near enough to the bank to moor. Just around the corner were the designated moorings - we managed to find a space just before the basin - the next bit is not to be used for moorings as it is really a winding hole.

By the time of our evening meal a clear blue sky provided a splendid backdrop to the buildings around the wharf. A couple of unusual boats moored just after the junction.

6.7 Miles - 7 Locks

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