At the end of April we had left the boat in New Islington Marina in Manchester, and we were pleased to see that she was safe and sound when we got back after a few days at home. Perhaps we should have had a bit of a rest whilst at home, but as always when we are home, we filled the time completely. We may have needed the rest as we were now setting out over the Rochdale Canal.
After turning right out of the marina there is a length of canal and locks that are hemmed in by mills and buildings, but after a while the canal seeks the daylight and it is found when the canal seems to pass through a park. I think this is more due to the buildings being knocked down around the canal, but luckily the 1869 to 1873 built Victoria Mill was saved and stands still majestically over the flight of the Coalpit locks
The Rochdale locks are wide beam and seem to be rather heavy. Everybody seems to say that once leaving New Islington you should not contemplate mooring and leaving your boat until you have reached Chadderton, a long 17 or 18 locks further on. To be honest we didn't really see anywhere that we would have stopped until well after Failsworth. We think that often the advice as 'never' to moor in a place is largely spread by word of mouth after an event and mainly not by folk who have experienced any problems themselves. I think you can use your own common sense on where to moor, and by ruling certain locations out you will miss a fair bit of what the canals have to offer. Just after Coalpits locks we came to this bridge with loads of school kids loitering. It makes you very suspicious but in actual fact they were quite chatty, but did not wish to help out with pushing a beam.
We moored that night just before the River Irk aqueduct and the next day, in the beautiful sun, we realised that we had left the Manchester conurbation largely behind. The setting of Walkmill lock is lovely but in 1927 there was a breach in the canal by the aqueduct and millions of gallons of water flooded down the valley and three people were drowned. A little further south in 2005 another breach occured but nobody was lost that time. There was a fulling mill by the lock that was called The Walk Mill that was used to finish the woolen cloth that was hand weaved in the area. I believe a walk mill was one that was driven by a horse going round and round rather than a water wheel.
This is the bridge at Walk Mill Lock with Helen just bringing 'Holderness' in to the chamber, the first of what could have been another 15 or 16 lock day, but we decided to stop after just 10 and go for a walk up into the hills. It is always better in the sun rather than in the cold and rain. I love these stone bridges that show the workmanship of a past age and the materials that were just standard in those days and now are almost classed as luxury.
Helen is just bringing 'Holderness' in to the Laneside or Slattocks top lock and doing the shuttle with the only moving boat we passed all day. I think the sheave on the bridge parapet was to loop the tow line round so that the horse can pull the boat into the lock by heading back the way it has come. (Am I right?). As the boat would never get enough speed up in the short pound after leaving the last lock the boat would need assistance to get it into the lock. Would this have been quicker than hand balling it into the lock?
We are now back in Yorkshire, so everything is right with the world. The sun was shinning and the scenery is spectacular. We stopped for a couple of days at Littleborough and had a very nice day out in Rochdale before making for the summit and staying for the night just after the summit pound that we thought may be prone to draining over night. It was strange to be going down hill again after our climb to the summit.
As you approach Walsden the canal opens up and seems as though you are on a navigable river once again. I'm not sure just how much you can stray of the line but there is a winding hole here. I expect that it was a way to have a ready supply of water to supplement the reservoirs for this lock heavy canal. the In a couple of locks time there was a dry pound and we had to wait for the C&RT lads to come and sort out. We were right outside Pollard's Chippy, but it was closed!!!
As the canal approaches Todmorden the valley sides close in a fair bit and the railway crosses, and re-crosses the canal. Why would they have built a bridge like this? Why would they have such aesthetic ideas as this in the past, and put their money where their mouth was, rather than just build a less pleasing bridge that would be cheaper. I suppose it was to generate a sense that the company was powerful etc. Much like a present day company would build a very grand headquarters building. One has to remember that the canals were built by private company's. These days infrastructure is built by Government agencies and they have to justify the spending of tax payers money.
The last hurdle to entering Todmorden is the Library Lock. The bottom gate is a guillotine gate. The good thing is that this one is electrified, unlike the one on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal near Slaithwaite that takes so many turns you continually need to check that it is still moving. I think that I have only worked that lock in the rain too!
As we got close to Hebden Bridge we passed through Rawden Mill Lock. In the floods of a few years ago the flood waters were right up from the river Calder next to the canal, over the canal and up to the bridge level. The tow path cum back had only recently been refurbished and the canal opened by the time we arrived.
The Calder Valleu opens up after Hebden Bridge and the wooded hill after Mytholmroyd. The strange name is said to stem from the Old English Myth that means river mouth and Royd that means field or clearing. No kidding but the canal in this section does remind of sections of the Thames!
This is a lovely, typical Yorkshire, canal scene with the stone cottages and bridges seem to just be part of the natural landscape and blend in and look as if they have always been there.
We had a night in Sowerby Bridge as Tuel Lane lock has limited opening times as it is the deepest on the system as it is 19' 81/2". We couldn't have progressed any further as there was no water in the pound under the road bridge. There is now a Weatherspoon's just by the lock so not too far to go for a drink after a walk round the town. Sowerby Bridge is also where the Rochdale Canal ends and we descend on to the Calder and Hebble Navigation as we continue our journey east.