Todmorden to Lightbank Lock 31
Chores first thing. Water, rubbish, yellow water, Tilly’s pooh box and a loaf of bread that we’d forgotten yesterday, then we were ready to push off.
Mick untied whilst I went on ahead over the busy road to get the guillotine lock ready for us. Here a key of power is required to power up the bottom gate, but a windlass is also needed to empty the lock. The gate wouldn’t lift so a few turns of the crank on the other side lowered the level, once this was done I could lift the gate. There is a level switch on this gate which played up when we were on a hire boat years ago. This necessitated our first call out to British Waterways, who sent a chap who knew just where to poke and prod to get it to work again. Today it all worked as it should and the ground paddles to fill the chamber were quite restrained compared to most on the Rochdale.
This was Lock 19 and we have so far travelled 10 miles along the canal from Sowerby Bridge. The canal being 32.3 miles long, so we’d just about reached a third of the distance, but there are 92 locks (if you count Tuel Lane as two) so we’d done just over a fifth of the locks. From here on the locks will keep up a steady pace and often it’s not worth getting back on board. When we headed to The Tour de France five years ago, Frank and I joked that we’d walked all the way from Manchester to Hebden Bridge. This was almost true, certainly walking round the locks adds to the steps you do, making up for the distances you ride.
Round the bend is the expansive wall known as The Great Wall Of Tod, said to contain 4 million brick. This brings the railway out from Lancashire into Todmorden high above the canal.
Soon follows the first batch of locks, five close together, but one just out of view round a bend. The fourth lock was over flowing with water so I suspected a boat was coming down and soon they came into view, this saved me emptying one of the locks as we rose. It’s amazing how much water can come down with a boat, flowing over gates and keeping the bywashes going. I walked up to help them down a small top up of water for the lock to be in their favour. Once in and descending, water was still coming over the top gates and they were concerned that the level would never equalise. So we walked back up and closed the gates they’d left for us on the lock above. I suspect this had little affect as we still needed Mick to help open the bottom gate.
We swapped locks and we started to rise, it’s amazing how much water one lock can take out of a pound. The level dropping by several feet. We could of course have emptied the lock and used it ourselves, filling it with the water coming from the emptying lock above, but they had already started to empty the lock before I got there, so the water was going to waste anyway.
We were soon up and crawling along the next pound to the next lock. Once up Gauxholme Highest Lock we pootled on towards the next lock, where we pulled in for lunch, refueling halfway up todays locks.
Smithylane Lock needed emptying and the level in the pound above did not look good. A very large bubbling up from under the top gates looked like it was causing the problem. We rose up the lock which brought the level in the pound above down by about four inches. I stayed to close the gate instead of leaving it for Mick. Oleanna cleared the top cill, but the water in the pound was bubbling, shallow water which was very obvious to us.
With the gate closed I walked to the next lock and emptied it. A phone call from Mick, he was stuck mid channel, I’d need to let water down from above. With the lock gates still closed I lifted both bottom paddles and opened one at the top, hoping not to have to send too much water down as the next pound looked a touch low too. After four inches had gone down Oleanna was moving again, I closed the top paddle.
Oleanna rose in the next chamber, a leaking bottom gate not helping matters as the pound above started to bubble as it got shallower. Mick got off to open the gate, taking his time, I could see the cogs going and chivied him along. The longer it took to get out of the lock the less water we would have in the next pound as the one below was now taking advantage of being topped up.
I closed the gate again and let Mick slowly bring Oleanna up the straight to the next lock. No extra water needed this time, just a bit of a lumpy bottom. The next pound was just below the bywash so there’d be no trouble filling the lock.
Quite a bit has changed around Hollings Lock 27. New houses are being built where a car park for Grandma Pollards was five years ago, a textile mill before that, a lady was watering her new grass at her newly purchased house right by the lock. I nearly asked if the main attraction for buying the house was the canal or Grandma Pollards opposite.
Grandma Pollards is a well renowned fish and chips restaurant, some would say the best fish and chips ever. A double decker bus sits out the back where you can eat and alongside the canal there are benches for walkers and boaters to use. This is our fourth time passing and it still wasn’t the right time of day to stop, only having had lunch a short while before hand. One thought was maybe we could catch a bus or train back in a couple of days to finally sample them.
The next couple of locks had flowing bywashes as we approached them, the last lock full to the brim and overflowing, a welcome sight. Our chosen mooring for today was between locks 30 and 31. Here there is a longer pound that curves around a hill. We were surprised at there not being any other boat moored as it is a lovely spot, we could get into the side too! This will do for a couple of days as tomorrow rain is forecast.
I decided to see if I could find the opening times of Grandma Pollards so that we could plan our return. The first things that came up on Google was that after 70 years of frying up the best fish and chips and homemade cheese and onion pies Tony the owner had decided to retire. What!!!! None of his children wanted to take on the business so the shop had closed shortly after Christmas. No more Grandma Pollards and we’d never managed to sample their wares.
12 locks, 2.12 miles, 4 miles walked, 119 ft 9 inches rise today, 289 ft 11 inches up from Sowerby Bridge, 2 lumpy pounds, 1 loaf bread, 1 empty wee tank, 1 full water tank, 1 clean pooh box, 1 guillotine, 23 years of SJT, 0 fish and chips, 2 disappointed boaters.