Friday, 26 June 2015

Sunshine, hayfever and a lot more boats!

The weather has certainly warmed up since we left our last location at Moore. Both Ali and me are past sufferers of hayfever. Since I pased my 4th decade, this seems to have moderated. But not now! The hot weather has really brought on pollen bloom and both of us are suffering with Sneeze's, sniffles and sore eyes. At least it has been warm.

We had an agenda of sorts as we have booked into the Nantwich canal centre for a service on Friday. Having travelled through the three tunnels and back onto the T&M, we moored for the day at Bramble cuttings, a short way out of Middlewich. Time to get the whirly gig out and finish drying the washing on what was a fantastic summers evening.

The next day soon saw us in Middlewich. Watered up below big lock and then up we went. Many a boat travelling down, less going up so it made an easy flow, aided by some friendly "Volockies". Once past the hire base, time for the turn onto the Wardle canal and Middlewich arm. We fully expected this to be busy, but no, a boat exited the lock as we approached and so we were straight in and up. That must be a first.

A shop stop completed and we bimbled on in glorious sunshine. It is so nice to see once again, boats moving. I think we have seen more in the last few days than throughout our Pennine travels. We moored up for the day just before Aqueduct marina. This really is a beautiful stretch of canal. In fact we like this area so much that we may well tarry a while.

Thursday saw us complete the arm, then turn at Barbridge south. Chatting, we have decided that once the service is completed, Chester and Llangollen really do need revisiting. Yes, we know it will be busy, but after our splendid isolation, we will enjoy that. After all, most people are on holiday, so a great atmosphere.

So we moored just short of Nantwich marina at lunch time and while Ali went shopping, I got the fishing rod out for the first time this year. Quite productive, several good sized Perch, roach and a Moorhen chick!

Not as bad as it sounds. The little blighter swam over the line and got its legs tangled. I managed to haul it in much to its mothers chagrin and untangle it without injuring it. It was soon swimming off none the worse for its adventure, being soundly scolded by mum!

The weather breaks somewhat on Friday, so after the service we may not travel far. At least this gives us the opportunity to make use of the on site launderette and have a supermarket delivery of the more bulky items.

It is so nice to be back on canals with more traffic and narrow locks.

15.5 miles.
8 locks.

Monday, 22 June 2015

It all went downhill, quite literally and figuratively!

Friday was to be our penultimate day on the Rochdale. When we first planned this trip and decided to go clockwise from Waters meet on the Bridgewater, we suspected that the last few days covering our return to Manchester, would be somewhat urban and challenging.

We were correct...

We left our mooring just above the River Irk aqueduct early, at 0630 to be precise. It was a chilly day. Our plan was to hit the twenty locks down to the junction with the Ashton as early as possible. We had also hoped that after contacting Red Bull for the services of a volunteer locky (volocky), one would appear. No such luck. Neither did the volocky who offered his services whilst we were moored in Littleborough turn up. Hey ho, not a problem.

Short chug to the first lock, then the rather strange Grimshaw lane vertical lift bridge. This is key operated, the road bridge lifting on four hydraulic pistons. Of course we reached this at rush hour, much to the chagrin of local motorists. Ali was not fazed one jot!

Another chug and we were in for the relentless slog down the locks. The water quality was by now awful, more like a plastic soup!  Ali fished out numerous items from the locks, including cones and 2 plastic barriers (which we are sure were back in before long). The ubiquitous shopping trolleys we felt rather than saw, mostly.

Failsworth. What can one say. Deals were going on at each lock. We were not in any way threatened, but it just felt rather sinister. On the face of it, quite tidy away from the actual water, but an aura of unpleasantness pervaded, it was not a good experience. This continued all the way down to Dulcie street junction, which we reached by mid afternoon. We were physically, but more so mentally exhausted and so very sad that our entry and introduction to Manchester could be so dispiriting. A left and a short journey up the Ashton, brought us to the peace and security of Telford basin. As this is enveloped by a gated development, after obtaining the code from a resident, we felt safe to leave the boat.

A walk into Manchester enabled us to collect a parcel from Piccadilly post office, containing the ANL fuses for the bow thruster. Well it did when we proved that the package had been signed for at the branch and it was finally "located"...
We deserved a meal out and a drink, so we enjoyed a pizza then back to the boat for a relax.

Saturday dawned wet and cold. We had rather indulged alcohol wise the previous night and so it was not an early start. We didn't even make the locks before we came across a group 'shooting up' under the last bridge on the Ashton Canal.  We arrived at lock 84 as a hire boat was just about to exit. They must have had an early start, perhaps that is why they looked so fraught?

We soon found out just why they did, Piccadilly lock is beneath a building. It is dark, somewhat fetid and thoroughly unpleasant on a good day. With a male prostitute " at work", with a line of customers in the shadows, it is disgusting. They did not miss a stroke as we negotiated the lock, we were invisible, apparently. At the far end the drug dealers and their red eyed customers were evident, it was 10:15 am.  Needless to say, our impression of this end of the Rochdale was not enhanced by this experience. We are broad minded, but, come on, there are boats with children on board, the hire boat we had passed being one, no-wonder the children were inside.

Further down, a rough sleeper had been using the towpath under a bridge as a shelter and someone for their toilet!

We descended the rest of the locks despairing of the future of this part. No wonder so few boats venture up or down this section. Once down, we found a mooring in Castlefield basin. This part of Manchester has a totally different feel. Non threatening and cosmopolitan, world's apart from what is only a few hundred yards away. To sooth our frazzled nerves, we went to for a drink (or two) and a meal.

Sunday was a day of rest. Ali had slipped opening one of the latter gates on the greasy cobbles and injured her arm. After a late start, we walked to the marvelous museum of science and industry and then back to the Wharf for Sunday lunch. The last 29 locks over two days and the environs had really taken it out of us!

Look closely - a different boat causing a bit of a stir

and the one at the back waved as they went past ... 

new signs around

Today, we have bimbled out of Manchester. No locks, fields and trees once out of the urban area and something more, birdsong.

A boat across the cut today, we went to haul it back in and pin it back to the bank, but were surprised to find the owners on board, they were so engrossed in their books they hadn't noticed they had come adrift 

The circuit is worth doing. The scenery cannot be beaten, the payback is the grittier areas dropping into Manchester.  A crew of three (or more) or travel with another boat so the locks can be shared may have made it easier as it is hard work.

So now heading south.  Hoping the weather perks up.  Moored just short of Moore on the Bridgewater.

28.5 miles.
29 broad locks.
1 moveable bridge.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Rochdale

What do we think of it so far?  Beautiful. Truly a gem bypassed by many. The scenery is stunning, the canal so quiet that to see another boat is an event.

Thus far, we have had no problem finding a prime mooring and services have been well placed, clean and tidy. Today we have moored up at the Irk aqueduct, ready for the descent into Manchester which we will start bright and early tomorrow morning.

So what is it like? We have tackled all bar two of these broad locks alone thus far. On the ascent, it took us a while to work out the best method, but when we did, we breezed up them. I suppose it is similar to doing other broad locks, but with a twist. We found that entering the lock and opening the paddle on the same side as the boat in the lock, tended to throw the bow across severely, before it eventually swung back to the side when a third or so full, after which it sat pinned to the side.

To counter this tendency, we found that putting the bow against the preferred side and the stern virtually touching the opposite bottom gate, by the time the lock was a third full and the swirling motion had ceased, the boat was drawn gently to the side and then remained there. Made life a lot easier. Coming down is a doddle.

Had their been other boaters about, sharing the locks on the the way would have made life far easier, but there are so few boats on this canal. Possibly a good thing as mooring would then be a challenge in the honey spots and the available water around the summit would soon run out. Water is still one of the limiting factors on this canal. We only had thus far one pound near the summit which needed topping up to proceed, but with greater boat movement, this would become problematic.

But for a canal to get away from it all, with fantastic scenery, this is the one. Local boaters seem to have a very relaxed attitude, as seemingly does CRT. It appears common practice to moor on lock landings and water points without any fear of retribution. One boat had a garden, bird feeders and a paddling pool set out on the service point. Anywhere else it would have caused outcry and mayhem, but here, life goes on, there is not the traffic for this to cause a real problem.

The infrastructure is in good order and up to now, with the notable exception of Rochdale, has been clean and tidy. It really is a pity that Rochdale has not got its act together, as it could be wonderful without the litter.

We have thus far taken four days to travel from Sowerby Bridge to our present mooring. Yes, it sometimes has been hard going, but only because we pushed ourselves. We have stopped at some lovely places. On Monday we left Sowerby Bridge and we made Todmorden, a gem, so clean and tidy.
Sowerby Bridge Locks 

Tuel Lane tunnel

and the deepest lock 19' 8" (6" deeper than Bath apparently)

On Tuesday we ascended up and over the summit pound, then moored just below at the quaintly named  "Summit".

Leaving Todmorden

Great wall of Tod - apparently 4 million bricks

Back to back houses with the washing out along by the locks

East summit lock

 Crossing the summit

Approaching the West summit


Wednesday dawned wet and misty. Before the heavy rains, we dropped down nine locks and moored at Littleborough by 1030 am and sat the rain out before, having a wash fest in the launderette. I went for a hair cut and ended up with a skin head and Ali went to the hairdressers as well, but no skin head!

not much room, so just chop the balance beam off

no water shortage today

weather closing in, the hills were disappearing under the cloud

Today we made the run from Littleborough on what turned out to be a cloudy, chilly and windy day. At least it remained dry.

under the M62

Anyone know what/who this is?

Only 29 locks left to complete our Rochdale adventure...

24 miles.
62 broad locks.
3 swing bridges.