Getting into Manchester was relatively easy, even though I did have to do it under the radar. At least I hope that I went under the radar, you see I had used up my allowance (seven consecutive days in a four week period) for travel on the privately owned Bridgewater canal. So I set off early (7am) and arrived at Castlefield and the start of the Rochdale by 11am. What a beautiful and well kept canal the Bridgewater is probably because it was never privatised, though not having any expensive locks to repair helps. An idyllic way to cover 13 miles in four hours.
I had been warned about not stopping in Manchester and wanted to break free from the city centre before stopping again. There are locks on the Rochdale, and lots of locks just getting out of Manchester. The area around Piccadilly was particularly unpleasant with hooded loiterers and a supply of used and new needles on one of the lock arms. That, of course, was where the lock gate refused to open easily.
I stopped at New Islington marina for lunch. Sadly it was being refurbished and I couldn’t stop there longer. It will be a nice stopover when it is finished in the summer (2019). That was only 10 locks though and I pushed on hoping to find somewhere safe looking to stop. Sadly that wasn’t to be. Although I met many people who were friendly and helpful, including a volunteer lock keeper who had just finished helping two boats out of Manchester. He gave some sound advice (keep going) on where to stop and where to avoid and assisted me though three locks. The most demoralising part was when the landing lock for lock 66 was blocked with submerged shopping trollies. Unable to land I had to put the bow end to the lock and climb the lock gate.
If throwing things in a canal were an Olympic sport then surely Manchester would send a team and win gold!
Swearing and cursing I continued until 8pm when I found the first safe looking spot outside the Boat and Horses pub almost under the M60. At least here the locals were interested in getting rubbish out of the canal. The boat already moored there came out to help me moor up and assured me that the beauty of the canal increased heading north and that he and his wife liked it so much they had spent the winter there. Once again meeting nice people helped my cheer, along with a pint in the pub.
So today I spent 12 hours travelling 5 miles and 27 locks. Clearly I need to forsake any ideas of working as the boat people did when goods were transported by canal. That would have been a normal days work for them.
Note for boaters wanting to travel the Rochdale in Manchester.
1. Travel down hill into Manchester – the water levels were high and virtually every lock was set against me
2. Use the services of the volunteer lockies if at all possible.
3. Allow plenty of time.
The next day I only had a short trip to my next mooring spot. This was just as well as the steering developed a serious judder and I had to open the weed hatch (giving access to the propeller) to see what I had tangled around the prop shaft. Amongst the usual plastic I had somehow managed to tangle up some ladies underwear. It took ages to cut it off (the propeller).
I’m pretty sure that I would have noticed running someone over if this is what they were wearing.
At least now I was in the countryside, and picturesque countryside at that. But the Rochdale had another spanner to throw into the works (and into the canal as well I suppose). Two locks ahead the bottom had fallen out of the canal and the pound (stretch between two locks) was drained while the CRT worked on it.
I was quite happy to sit tight and enjoy the countryside.
The cruise through Rochdale was largely uneventful. Not as bad as Manchester, but Rochdale wasn’t somewhere that I wanted to linger for any time. Seeing graffiti is unfortunately common along the canals and is a way of judging how safe an area is. Rochdale has the honour of being the first place I have watched the people responsible. Midday and in broad daylight. Just the other side of the bridge that they were decorating were two unsavoury characters hanging around on the lock landing. I even too a surreptitious photo in case they tried something on.
The push through Rochdale as worth it when I arrived in Littleborough. Here I was joined by several vintage working boats who were on their way to a rally in Hebden Bridge on 25th May. They headed off the next morning but I am going to hang around here for a few days.