Lock 1 to Hebden Bridge Wharf, Rochdale Canal
A visit from Sharon started off the day. Sharon is an old flat mate of mine from York in the years just after school, she thought she wanted to be a nurse and I didn’t want to go on to further education so sold books and maps instead. We had a good year in our flat and have kept in touch since. Unfortunately last year I missed her 50th Birthday as we were busy celebrating Mick’s 60th, so it was lovely to be able to spend a couple of hours catching up this morning. It also gave me an excuse to do some baking, chocolate chip and almond biscuits, Yummy!
A crane was moving boats around on the hard standing across the way and three boats came past, all booked into Tuel Lane Lock at 11am. A chap from a cruiser in front tapped on the roof and said that he’d be coming up the locks with us at 1 pm. A busy day for the volunteers in Sowerby today.
We rolled up the covers and pushed off before 1, the Lockie heading down to give us our instructions. Tuel Lane Lock would be ready for us, they were dropping the 134,250 gallons of water which was flowing over the top of the lock gates and keeping the bywashes very busy.
We worked up Locks 1 and 2 with Summer Breeze, he went ahead whilst Frank and I were picked up. As we entered the tunnel a blast of horn announced our arrival to the lockies and we turned under the road and popped out into the light at the bottom of Tuel Lane Lock.
Here you put a rope, stern and bow, around risers to hold you steady, hopefully keeping us away from Summer Breeze as we didn’t want to crush it. Gates closed behind, ropes passed round, I took a deep breath (risers and me don’t go together) and the chaps way above started to gradually fill the lock.
In front is a sheer cliff of concrete that angles away just below the lock gates a bit like the bow of a nuclear submarine sitting waiting below the level of the canal. Tuel Lane is 19ft 8 inches deep, the deepest working lock in Britain. It replaced two locks which when the canal was derelict had a road built over one of them, so the new lock was built to bring boats back up the full level.
It takes some time to rise the near 6 meters, flicking your ropes up the risers. Keeping away from the cruiser meant I didn’t get many photos, Mick managed a few at the back.
A pause for lunch and then we were on our way, four more locks to do to get us to Hebden Bridge. Immediately the canal showed us it’s character, narrow hugging the valley sides and stone bridges similar to those on the Macclesfield, they just don’t quite curve inwards at the bottom.
Blue bells amongst the trees shone out in the sun light, geese sat on their nests, ducks taking their new offspring for swimming lessons and the odd butterfly darting through the warm air.
We passed several hire boats due back tomorrow and came across Nb Adagio a Carefree Cruising boat based up at Sowerby for the summer. The ladies weren’t too enamoured with the locks, they looked glad to be heading back to base. I then in turn was glad to have Frank with me, heavy gates and stiff paddles to lift.
There were plenty of people out on the towpath and it turned out they were doing a sponsored walk. 70 Wigan fans were walking 58 miles to Leeds. A fan had promised to walk the 58 miles if his team beat Aston Villa in January, if they beat them by three goals he’d do it backwards. There he was walking backwards, 40 miles already done the remainder they hoped to achieve in time for their next match in Leeds tomorrow.
Lock 8 was a b**ger. Empty when we arrived the near side gate opened easily, but trying to close it was impossible. With both Frank and myself heaving on the beam we succeeded only for it to open itself again by the time we’d walked to the other end to start filling it.
This second time Frank held it closed until I’d opened a paddle. With all the heaving and cursing under our breath I hadn’t noticed the big signs asking you to leave the lock empty, but a chap walking by pointed it out to us. If left full the lockside buildings get flooded. So we happily lifted the bottom paddles.
Under Princess Bridge and we were back where we’d moored Lillian for the Tour de France in 2014, we had a yellow boat so had to take her to watch the cycling. Frank had helped us up from Piccadilly Basin, the two of us walking most of the way from Manchester. So now the only locks he hasn’t done on the Rochdale are the Rochdale Nine, big brutes of locks. Unfortunately today the pound was quite low, so trying to pull in where we wanted to be wasn’t possible unless we wanted to put the gang plank out.
Across the way was a familiar face, Diana from the local IWA, she’d organised the moorings for the Tour de France. She and her husband suggested to try nearer the footbridge where the canal would be a touch deeper. We pulled up in front of the three boats that had come up the locks before us today, no wonder the level was down if everyone was staying in Hebden for the night.
Tilly was allowed to make her own mind up about Hebden. Too many people, that whistling man here too, but one very very big tree that had to be climbed. As Tilly worked on her climbing calculations I dug our yellow bicycle out and popped it in the window, not quite the same as when it was in Lillian’s porthole.
7 locks, 19ft 8 inches, 5.5 miles, 1 school friend, 1 easter egg, 8 yum biscuits, 3 before us, 1 plastic to share with, 134,250 gallons, 2 lockies, 1 tunnel, 58 miles backwards, 0 pipe bridge, 0 winding hole, 1 not so sure cat, 1 cat not a woofer! 1 vat of chilli, 1 bottle of English bubbles, 1 new camera in action.