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.


  1. Yes , we share your concerns about the 'Rochdale Nine' into Castlefields there were shady goings on when we went through. I compared it to travelling through a sewer, which it was in places, not nice at all.
    nb Oakfield

  2. Ali has blasted off an E-mail to all parties with an interest in the area. It was truly disgusting and the blog only skims over just how gross it really was!


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