No Ducklings Harmed 29th April

Littleborough to Slattocks Top Lock

The voice of Houdini (our emergency phone which acts as an alarm) wasn’t required this morning as both of us were wide awake due to the bickering of the Canadian Geese. Blimey they were noisy. But it did mean that we were up and ready to set off ahead of time along with Clare and Graeme.

Heading out with NB Mr Blue Sky following

The sun was out and the hills glowed around us as we pootled along the long pound towards Rochdale with Oleanna taking the lead. Two swing bridges to negotiate before we reached any locks.

Swing bridges

I hopped off to do the first, Clare who’d been walking came and helped, they would do the second one. A couple of ladies were picking up rubbish and warned that the bridge landing would be too shallow at the next bridge so to carry on before picking crew up. They were doing a good job as once we passed them the rubbish started to build up.

Grand buildings

Views stretched out across the valley. Large red brick buildings with clock towers upstaging the terraced houses. But soon these vanished and barbed wire took over as we came into Rochdale. Graeme and I went on ahead to set the lock, Clare needed a push off from the side once the lock was full the bow having grounded.


Today we would start to get our rhythm at the locks worked out. The next few days we’ll get plenty of practice to hone our method. With the next lock within reach, once the paddles were lifted I walked down to the next lock to set that ready, leaving Graeme to close up.

No ducklings today

When I arrived at Moss Lower Lock there was one chap sat watching, by the time we left there were another three plus one man and his dog. Five years ago we’d had very helpful advice from the chaps drinking cheap lager here, they were most worried that we didn’t harm the ducklings. Today there were none, so the chaps kept quiet and chatted amongst themselves, maybe it takes a few cans to get them to be more vocal.

Going down

Mick left the lock first, Graeme and I closed up behind, I walked over the road bridge to follow the towpath under it. The wide bridge an ideal place to stop and pick up crew. But Mick had headed on, to leave space for NB Mr Blue Sky, he was on the off side some distance away. How on earth did he expect me to get there? There was no obvious means. so it was decided that I’d get a lift over by boat.

Easier said than done, a bywash made positioning that bit harder and submerged obstacles clanked at the prop, but we got there in the end and I stepped back onto Oleanna. Mick all the time stood patiently with a slight look of bewilderment on his face. He’d abandoned me! But then he pointed out the bridge now behind us. The wide bridge was infact two. The modern road bridge with an old canal roving bridge right up against it. Yes, I could so easily have wound my way up and over the bridge to reach him. In my defence this was not evident in the slightest from beneath the bridge.

Ahhh, it’s a roving bridge!

NB Mr BS went on ahead to the next locks. We soon had to stop. At Bridge 62 I hopped off with the centre rope, the engine was turned off and the weed hatch cover was undone. Our first collection of rubbish! Coming the other way five years ago, dealing with low pounds we would have been able to furnish a whole house and have quite a good wardrobe from what came off Lillian’s prop, so we know this won’t be the only time the weedhatch cover has to come off.

At Blue Pits Higher Lock Clare and Graeme were waiting patiently for us. As we descended we discussed only opening one gate to leave, that would be the one in front of NB Mr BS. Graeme would then either head off to set the next lock or get on board, Mick would bring Oleanna out of the open gate and I would then close up behind. This makes less work closing up, that is unless a gate opens itself again!

New houses

New houses sit alongside Lock 52. This is where there used to be a glimmer of a view across to where Mick’s sister Anne lived at Buckley Barn Cottage, known as BBC in the family. Today the trees have grown blocking the view totally. We still waved.

Five years ago, BBC with the blue windows
It’s still there somewhere!

Below the lock a long jolly mural covers the wall. Cats, boats, chilled medication it’s all there.

One last lock before we reached Slattocks. As we pulled in just after the petrol station (handy for a jet wash) there was a really tantalising smell of toast and cheese. A roadside caravan food stall was doing very good business and nearly had our custom too. But we were good and retired indoors for our lunch.


The towpath was at a suitable height for me to have a go at the gunnels. Last year I’d only managed to attack the starboard side before winter hit. This now shows as the scrapes along the gunnel on the port side have allowed water in and rust has done it’s thing, now being chipped off at ease. So I set too with a scraper, followed by sand paper and then a coat of fertan. Clare was also out touching up their gunnels so we managed to have chats to break up the sanding back. Next opportunity I’ll do a coat of primer where needed, this may well not be until we get to the flashes on the Trent and Mersey where the towpath is good and low. But at least the fretan will stop the rust from progressing.

Happy to have company down the locks

5 locks, 6.57 miles, 2 swing bridges, 0 held up, 1st trip down the weedhatch, 0 ducklings harmed, 12 at our mooring, 5 old soaks, M62, 1 wave, 1 huge patch of rust, 1 hour sanding, 1 coat fertan, 1 lasagne, 0 shore leave, 2nd amendment of 4ply sock pattern looking hopeful.

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