We opened the curtains this morning to what promised to be a sunny day and I was lulled into believing that I could wear shorts for our lock-day. It went downhill swiftly and before we’d set off just after 10am I’d already changed into my jeans and UG boots! Ah well, such is life in the north west it seems …
Fortuitously there was another narrowboat at the first lock just outside Castlefield Junction, so we shared 'The Rochdale Nine' double locks with them which certainly made life more pleasant! After the first lock the canal becomes the Rochdale (thanks to Starcross for pointing out our previous error!). These locks are atrocious; many of them don’t even have any gate paddles on them, and of the ones that do most of them are so stiff I thought I’d sustain a hernia if I didn’t watch out!
The lovely little lock keepers cottage at lock 1
Interesting old architecture - row of bars and nightclubs along the canal edge
The locks were also dreadfully leaky and overflowing, apparently this is due to the water running off the Pennines into the canal and the fact that the side channels for the overflows had been built over so there was nowhere for excess water to go. At the front of the lock there's water cascading down – the driver has to be very careful not to get the front deck soaked or the boat could potentially sink. Our partner boat was quite long and they had to drive closer to the leaky end in order to shut the lock gates behind them. Of course our little Northern Pride was OK, but there were a couple of anxious moments for them …
Going under a bridge then under the building behind
We’re on what’s known as The Cheshire Ring, which many hire boats do in a week; though it’s 120 miles long with 92 locks, 2 aqueducts and four tunnels, so there’s not a lot of opportunity in that time to stop and smell the roses, never mind see the villages and towns along the way.
As we passed by the gay village (there is literally a whole area of Manchester called this - isn't that cool?), with everyone still cavorting around having a whale of a time, we drew a large crowd. Of course that gate paddle was one of the worst and I had to have help from one of the blokes on the other boat; the only way we could open it was to put two windlasses on and turn it bit by bit in unison
No towpath now, passing through the gay village
The chap with the blog card thought Sandra was trying to chat him up giving him her business card!
This is the one where Sandra almost got a hernia
The famous Canal Street and a couple of lovely ladies having a good time.
Much of the canal goes under the city
Surprisingly quite a clean canal, apart from debris from the Pride festival, especially in comparison to Blackburn!
The canal flows straight under this skyscraper emerging into yet another lock
It took us right through the city, showing the variety of buildings, old and new
Choose your lifestyle; modern but with a traditional design ...
... or maybe modern with a bizarre style??
Once we left the Rochdale Canal and entered the Ashton Canal, we encountered single locks once more – we actually can’t recall the last time we were in them. We’ve been on rivers and broad canals for as long as we can remember now.
These locks appear terribly narrow now, diligent driving skills needed in order not to scratch the boat's bottom and sides!
Leaving Manchester on the east side wasn’t quite as pleasant as the approach the other day. Here there is ‘Sports City’ where the Commonwealth games Stadium is, and also Manchester City’s football ground. However it looks as though money has been spent to try and upgrade the area due to the commonwealth games, so it wasn’t too bad.
Manchester City's football ground in the distance at Clayton Locks
The locks at Ancoats (3), Beswick (4) and Clayton (especially the 9 at Clayton I'm reliably informed), are notorious for kids running around and trying to cadge lifts on boats while running through and ‘picking things up’. All the guide books warn you to lock the boat up at the front and not to give lifts to anyone you don’t know.
We let the folks in the other boat go ahead of us as they had a time schedule, and we soon encountered a group of young boys. They were harmless enough I’m sure, but we didn’t offer any boat rides today – it was too blooming cold and was pouring with rain, never mind any other good reasons! The lads helped Barry with the locks, closing the gate after I’d driven through so Barry could run up to the next one, bless them.
Steven, Niall, Tyler & Owen (though the order may not be correct!)
At Fairfield Junction, having completed all of the locks, we encountered a larger group of kids who were quite ‘in your face’ and cheeky, and just jumped onto the side of the boat as I left a lock, saying in unison: “Can we have a ride on your boat mister? Please mister, can we have a look inside?” I’d already locked the front of the boat and had the back shut up against the rain, but we had to be a little short with them to get them off the boat rails – we were both tired and freezing by this time and had almost lost any sense of humour! It must be very tempting to them living so close to a canal, I’m sure when I was that age I’d have tried the same thing with my mates as we messed around if I’d lived in a similar place.
We finally moored up around nine hours after we’d left this morning, having stopped only once to free some mangy clothing that had wrapped itself around the propeller (poor Barry, that's one of his jobs!). Exhausted and soaked through, we had the radiators on to dry off and get warmed up! A chilled day on the canals, but not in the best of senses!
P.S. Wednesday 2 September - Sorry for the lack of postings, we've been literally 'powerless' for a few days due to various engine issues that I don't quite understand, so we're behind on the blog but will catch up over the next day or so and reveal all!