Thursday 22 August 2019


Today's Canal - Rochdale

We were off just after nine on what turned out to be a generally grey, sometimes very wet day, but still warm enough to remember that it is still August!

The first lock was only a few metres ahead and we could easily see that there was plenty of water cascading down the overflow channel.

At the second lock, because the canal had come around a long bend at Irk Aqueduct (where we moored overnight) we unexpectedly saw Malta Mill - we had passed it late yesterday afternoon. Malta was a cotton spinning mill opened in 1902 and lasted until 1963. According to one web site it is today used by many businesses; including for document storage and as a bonded warehouse.

We were not so conscious at this stage but note the quite light colour of the stonework to this lock. Later, closer to the summit, they became much darker.

Just before Scowcroft Lock we passed under this railway bridge - the line it carries will be a close companion until, shortly before the summit, it dives into a tunnel at a slightly lower level than the canal finally reaches. In fact this is one of two bridges alongside each other. Later review of aerial images seems to suggest that the one in this photo is the newer bridge and replaced the other, rather than ever having been a four track line. Intriguingly, the trains on this line run to various destinations but the more frequent is between Blackburn and Southport, passing through Burscough Bridge where we caught a couple of trains earlier in the summer.

After about an hour we began to get glimpses of the Pennine hills in the distance, for most part either shaded in clouded or covered by them!

We now ascended the Slattocks, a flight of six locks close together, the canal now very much enclosed by trees and shrubs.

On the end of one of the balance beams at the top lock we spotted this large sticker. A bit surprising in its image as we thought that the whole point about cbd is that it is nonpsychoactive and used for pain management. However, although the web site comes up in a Google search it is no long accessible so perhaps it overstepped the mark? Oh well, we will just have to cope with our aches as best we can . . .

The next pub offers three particular features - we can only hope that the first two are more exciting than the third on the list.

Suddenly a very heavy rain shower arrived and it was so wet that we pulled in to the lock landing just above the first of the Blue Pit locks until it passed over. The Met Office radar pictures suggested that it was just a shortish burst but we did have a longer break than expected. Pity it was a little too early for lunch.

As soon as we set off we immediately went under the M62 where, during restoration, a short diversion was made to the canal to use this culvert but it was not wide enough to take a towpath as well as the broad beam boats for which the canal was specified. It probably does not happen very often but in theory it is possible to request the temporary removal of the pontoon to allow a wider boat to pass through!

A little further and this brightly coloured mural proudly proclaims that it was the work of a local school.

But this one, at the next lock, wasn't!

In Rochdale, alongside Lock 50 we spotted this - another 'verse' appeared a little later.

Lancashire Farm web site proudly proclaims the healthy credentials of its free range milk yogurt - we guess that the cows don't live here, then!

Clegg Hall (17th century and reputedly haunted) - and a widening vista of the Pennines.

We were now clearly in the upper reaches of the Rochdale Canal and at Bridge 50 we arrived at the final flight of 12 locks to the summit. Note how dark the stonework is from here upwards.

We could have moored overnight just a little earlier but really wanted to get at least to Durn Services, two locks up the flight. Alas when we arrived there we found that although we could fill with water, the elsan facility (the more urgent need) was closed. Our camera was now struggling in the gloomy conditions so you will have to take our word that the grubby sign on the door matched the intention of the piece of wood used to block all entry . . .

It was now 4.30 and with 9 more locks top the summit 48hr mooring we were unsure about where to aim for, especially as the upper pounds are very short and notoriously prone to running short of water. We agreed to review our position at 6 o'clock.

All was going rather well until above Lock 41 we saw this rather askew moored boat, somewhat loosely connected to the towpath and seemingly with no-one on board. As we worked up the next lock we could see that the boat was no longer attached to the bank and gradually turned itself around through 180 degrees - the pound was just wide enough to allow this to happen. It came close to the bank below the lock and eventually, after several attempts, we were able to get hold of its stern rope and attached it to some railings. Hopefully the owner, when he or she returns, will not be too puzzled to work out how their boat managed to face the wrong way!

Eventually we reached the last lock at 19:00 and quickly moored at the designated offside moorings!

10.3 Miles - 26 Locks (That's why the blog is late!)

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