Saturday 24 August 2019


Today's Canals - Rochdale, Calder and Hebble

We awoke hopeful and set off before - no showers and little washing as a result of the water shortage. Actually we had plenty of water in the tank but just could not access it! We had identified the next available sources of expertise at Hebden Bridge so, as Mike and Andrew started off down the locks, Christine rang and had a hopeful conversation. 'The' engineer  turned out to be the company owner) at Bronte Boats would be available at 10:30 after having set off the two day boats. A later phone call was even more helpful and he thought that he would have us going again by the end of the day, but he did have another call booked first.

Although today was expected to be one of the hottest this year with wall-to-wall sunshine, it began in mist, albeit the sort that quickly burns off.

Alongside Lock 13, these extensive cobwebs amongst the plants, covered by the condensation from the mist, make a most unusual sight.

Above Rawden Mill Lock there is the first of the long stay communities living on boats that probably rarely, or never, move far. However, they did seem, on average, to be in better nick that those we recall seeing before. Quite a few are wide beam.

On the outskirts of Hebden Bridge the cottage at Stubbing Upper Lock has a sticker that remembers a former lock keeper. Anyone know what he was famous for?

At Black Pit Lock a day boat was coming up and Christine was approached by the person instructing the hirers. Turned out that he was also the engineer and at this stage agreed that a repair would be possible, sometime today.  He would phone when he had finished his other call and meet us wherever we then were.

Below Black Pit Lock we were in the centre of Hebden Bridge where we pulled onto the offside service mooring. Whilst Mike and Andrew organised the usual servicing, Christine popped to the adjacent town centre mainly for a paper and bread. On her return she realised that she should have picked up something else for tonight's meal so dispatched Mike to get it!

Some of the buildings on these northern towns  can be really imposing - this is Hope Baptist Church.

After some confused communication between the three of us we eventually set off, aiming to meet the engineer at Sowerby Bridge

A significant project but we could not work out what is planned.

Another phone call fixed a meeting with the engineer at the Sowerby Bridge Locks, a former wharf between the two.

We continued in really hot sunshine and interesting, often beautiful, countryside, arriving at Tuel Lane Lock just after 2. In the restoration, two locks were combined with the result that this is a very deep lock with a blind tunnel immediately below. As result, boaters are not allowed to self operate and can only pass when there is a lock keeper present. Today there were two very friendly and efficient volunteer lockies on duty - the days of a paid keeper are now a distant memory. There was no queue of waiting boats when we arrived but it still took almost an hour before we were through.

Christine received a call as we [prepared to descend the big lock to tell her that the engineer was now awaiting us between the next two locks and we duly met up when we were down. The engineer's diagnosis was the same as ours - simply replace the pump and fortunately he came armed with a suitable substitute.

Overall it took about an hour (including paying) - we were well pleased with the reasonable charges that they made. With the new pump installed we had water in the taps once more. Great! Good to find such helpful and efficient service on the canals - not easy on the remoter parts of the canal system.

That said, after days of meeting barely a single moving boat each day, we were now in the very popular reach of Shire Cruisers, made better known by their involvement in such TV programmes about the canal as those made by Tim and Pru. Most of the crews were very new to canal boating - one had clearly not to pass another boat yet and obviously did not know on which side to pass. The first day out is a steep learning curve - we still remember ours!

We still had some cruising time left so continued, quickly moving on to the Calder and Hebble Canal. The Stoodley Pike memorial is 37 m tall and stands on a 400 m  hill overlooking the valley. It was completed at the end of the Crimean War and commemorates several British victories in war.

Well - that is what we were told locally but later we realised that Stoodley Pike is on another hill - this is the Wainwright Tower, much taller at 84 m. It was the result of a long feud between top wealthy  neighbours about whose estate was the more private.

Unless anyone knows better . . .  (That's what comments are for!)

At this stage of work, this row of new houses look rather out of style for the area but as the outside is only the insulation around a timber frame, no doubt the finished article will blend in better. But what is the canopy for? Or is it the ubiquitous decking? Will there be private moorings included!

As we neared Salterhebble the scenery became more wooded, providing a green umbrella to the canal.

We moored just before the Salterhebble Junction where the very tight top lock awaits us in the morning. We have ascended before but some of the locks on the next part of the Calder and Hebble offer a challenge to a 60 ft boat.

Separately we all walked up the Halifax Arm, now truncated but originally much longer. It now ends in a pleasant basin alongside Premier Inn hotel.

10.6 Miles - 14 Locks

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