Thursday 10 August 2017

Heptonstall and Eastwood

Today's Canal - Rochdale

Today turned out as promised - bright, sunny skies with enough breeze and fluffy clouds to make it very pleasant indeed. We had already decided to spend the morning in Hebden Bridge and set off after lunch for a shorter cruise.

We walked across the footbridge to the town centre and discovered that the next bus to Heptonstall was due any moment - so we opted to make this the first part of the day. Six years ago we walked up to the old village above the town, but alas time marches on and this time we were glad of the bus (especially as kit was free with our bus passes!)

Heptonstall is much older than Hebden Bridge which really only developed with the mills. It was an important stopping point on the ancient pack horse route to Halifax. It is today popular with film companies for location shoots as much of the narrow cobbled streets and old weavers' cottages remain, not quite as they once were but the intrusion of modern convenience is less than it might be.

The old churchyard has a large number of gravestones - mostly dating from the mid 18th century - some of which have very little information (never seen ones with just initials before) as well as poignant reminders of the frequency of death at a very young age.

The medieval church suffered serious problems in the nineteenth century and it was decided that a new building was preferred to repairing the old one, which now stands as substantial ruins alongside the 'modern' church, which opened in 1854.

Thanks to a substantial bequest from a wealthy bachelor who died in 1956 extensive changes were made which created a layout more reminiscent of medieval than Victorian ideas for church design. This bequest must have been welcome indeed to the church authority as they were facing a huge challenge from dry rot to the church timbers.

Unfortunately we could not re-visit the Methodist Church as it is currently a building site as it undergoes extensive repair.

After completing a walk around the village - with some marvellous views across to the hills of the opposite aide of the valley - we happily visited the small tea shop where the excellent cakes and hot drinks were very welcome indeed.

Whilst we resorted to the bus up, we opted to walk down the old packhorse trail which is very steep and probably rather difficult after a rainfall.

Back in town we called at the market square - a 'proper' butcher shop, not in view but next to the green shop on the left, provided us with meat for a couple of meals (and a pork pie at Jess's request) whilst a fish stall on the open market yielded some hake for tomorrow night's meal.

Back at the boat we next had lunch before moving across to the service point a few metres on the opposite bank. Alas, just as we prepared to set off a boat came down and occupied most of the landing as well as the services!

We noticed that there was a supply of gas bottles alongside belonging to the nearby boatyard and, as we had to change a bottle last night, we replaced it. We also topped up our fuel tank. It was not down to the usual level for re-fuelling but we are not sure where we can get diesel again for some distance - certainly nothing on the approach to Manchester or through to the other side. Eventually the other boat completed its tasks - the water tap is exceptionally slow - so we could move up to fill our water tank. However, yet another boat was patiently waiting on the opposite side and so we moved off well before we had a full tank. It would probably have been another 20 minutes. We just have to hope that our information from CaRT is correct this time and we can full at Todmorden. There is one more service point after that but nothing on the run into Manchester, as the chap at the Red Bull office kindly reminded me yesterday.

Eventually we could start some cruising today with a popular lock just ahead of us (plenty of gongoozlers ready for when we make a mistake!) Here, two CaRT representatives had a stand to recruit Friends - alas they did not volunteer to help us with the lock! A quirky bench end alongside the lock caught our eye! However, this was the first time we have come across  a proper handcuff lock for some time.

We continued out of the town. Various mills were constructed alongside the river and canal. In some cases, rows of cottages were built to house the workers in the mill. At least they did not have far to go each morning.

The river and the canal are very close at times - this was one of the issues with the flooding of 2015 and protection work, to avoid a recurrence, was taking place on dome scale at one point.

Our final lock of the day, Callis Lock, has a cascade overflow (quite busy at the moment despite stoppages for water shortage at the summit) which looks better than merely functional. We had planned to stop in this pound for the night - coincidentally it had a much better edge to the towpath than many places so we just had to ignore the adjacent sewage treatment works close by - at least there was no noticeable odour, unlike the one we passed at Salterhebble.

Moussaka tonight - not on our menu plan but that's what happens when you go shopping in small towns!

1.8 Miles - 5 Locks

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