1st Below West Summit Lock to Bent House Lock 46
Another morning trying to beat the elements, well the rain had already started and stopped a few times as we got up and had breakfast. The plan was to not go far, but close to Littleborough where we could hop from one mooring to another topping up with water and shopping over the weekend as the weather allowed.
As I set the first lock a chap walked past in shorts, I bet he’d wished he’d put his long trousers on, it was blustery and starting to drizzle. By the second lock it was time to change my long trousers into waterproof ones!
The next six locks are all close together, so it’s not too far to walk ahead to lift a paddle on the next chamber so that it fills itself as you come down the one above. As Mick brought Oleanna into a lock a passing Postman in his van beeped his horn, ‘How far you going?’ ‘The canal’s empty down there!’ At least we were warned.
I’d go ahead to lift a paddle and check on the next pound. One persons version of empty is not the same as anothers. But as I reached Lock 43 to lift a paddle I could see that the Postman had used the term ’empty’ as I would have done. Between 43 and 44 you could make out the deep channel very clearly, the bottom of lock 43 along with it’s tyre was also very visible, no danger of getting stuck on the bottom cill here as you’d never get anywhere near it.
A phone call back to Mick, I walked down to Lock 44 to check on the paddles. All were down. Mick called C&RT to discuss what to do, we were happy to let water down but the length of pound would almost certainly mean that we’d just be moving the problem up hill, possibly emptying two pounds. We were told to go ahead if we were happy with what we were doing and the local team would be informed. At least we’d be leaving the problem behind us, not taking it with us as you do when going up hill.
With all gates closed we opened a paddle at each end of 43, 42 where Oleanna was sat and 41. Keeping the gates closed as you run water through means that no silt or other larger items will get caught on the cill stopping you from closing the gates, this is what Lockies have told us.
The pound between 40 and 41 was quite short, so we lowered this to a couple of feet from being empty, 41 to 42 was left with enough water to navigate through. All the time as we ran water down Oleanna sat in Lock 42, the level here dropped to about halfway, one of us stayed with her all the time whilst the other checked the level either below or above. A large Mink scurried along the bank as I kept an eye on things whilst the rain kept falling. Why do these things always happen when it’s p**ing it down?!
Mick called from Lock 43, he thought the level below was now navigable, so had closed the bottom paddle to start to fill the lock. I did the same at 42 to make getting back on board easier, we didn’t want any slipping in the rain.
Leaving two pounds behind that we hoped would only take a lock or two of water to be deep enough we descended 42, Oleanna crawled along to 43 where the lock was already full. Then down 43 and into the pound that had been empty. Mick had made a note of where the channel had been deep and we avoided using the offside gate to leave as we knew there was a lovely tyre lurking in the depths.
We’d made it through to 44, redistributing the water to aid us and hopefully leaving it in not too bad a state for the next boat.
Earlier I’d walked to the next lock to check on levels there too, this had been fine. I was going to walk it again, but our lock full of water (and possibly more) had brought the level up over the overflow that runs across the towpath. Here there was no raised walkway, but luckily Mick managed to get the stern into the side for me to hop back on board.
Should we stop? We were both hungry, I needed the loo and we were both soaked despite wearing waterproofs. Our chosen mooring was still one lock away, there we’d be nearer shops, the last water point before Manchester and hopefully a nice mooring to while away Storm Hannah, we carried on.
Alongside Lock 46 is a short arm, long enough for us and possibly wide enough for two narrowboats. According to Pearsons guide it was an old dock, the stump of a crane still here, which was used for loading stone quarried at Blackstone Edge. That looks like a challenge.
This evening we have sampled my first go at Gluten Free Sour Dough Pizza. As most things without gluten they behave differently so instead of kneading the dough and shaping it, you push it into shape, then cook it for a while before putting your topping on it. We had tomato, ham, mushroom, olives and mozzarella and cheddar. Verdict tasty, crunchy edge but the centre could have done with a few more minutes baking first.
8 locks, 1.36 miles, 4 miles walked, 1 very empty pound, 1 hour 20 minutes to fill, 4 low pounds when we finished, 1 mink, 2 drowned boaters, 1 drowned deer, 1 Postman, 80 ft 10 inches down, 258 ft 11 inches above Sowerby,1 branchless tree stump, 1 volunteer booked, 1 very wet morning, 1 drier than expected afternoon!