Thomas Telford Basin to Staffordshire Arm, Bridgewater Canal
We were awake before Houdini spoke this morning, are we getting used to these early mornings? Maybe tomorrow we’ll get chance to have a cuppa in bed again.
Mick lifted the weedhatch to see what goodies had been caught yesterday. Our steerage hadn’t been inhibited, but it was worth a check anyway. He found quite a lot of urban jelly fish (a Tom term from Waiouru), with them removed we were now ready for more as we made our way down the Rochdale nine.
There being three boats going down, 2 in one lock and one in the other, we aimed to leave a lock in between. This would mean that as the boat in the lower lock emptied their chamber it wouldn’t be filled up by emptying the one above.
Each boat turned out of the basin in turn, NB Lottie Jane leading the way, followed by NB Mr Blue Sky then us. There seemed to be only just enough space to get round out of the basin, Oleanna touching the edges on two sides whilst there were a few inches spare to pivot round until the next bit touched.
Turning back out onto the Rochdale we could see that NB Lottie Jane had already set off down the first lock on their own, leaving us to share with Clare and Graeme. We filled the chamber and I walked down to help Sue at the second lock.
Lock 85 Piccadilly Lock, sits underneath 111 Piccadilly a tower block. A walkway across the water leads you to the lock where Sue was stood on the off side the lock still emptying. I helped open the bottom gate and dropped the paddle. Once they were clear I lifted the paddles to fill the chamber for us.
As I stood waiting for the lock to fill, two chaps climbed over the top lock gates. They didn’t look like gongoozlers, boats were the last things on their minds. One chap headed off again almost straight away, the lock was now nearly full. I made a call up to Mick as they obviously couldn’t see that they were clear to empty the lock, I then headed up to open and close a gate, not wanting to be on my own kicking around used needles.
Back at 85 I crossed over the top gates and opened it whilst Graeme made his way down from the previous lock. The chap who’d disappeared came back, climbed onto the still closed gate and very nearly carried on crossing, just stopping in time before he ran out of somewhere to put his feet. ‘Sorry you’ll have to wait for the boats to come in’. I said morning to the other chap as the two of them exchanged looks. There was obviously something that couldn’t wait for the boats, so whilst standing on the bottom lock gates they passed a thin 10 inch silvery object between them.
Mick was bemused, what was Graeme doing? He hadn’t realised that the chap climbing the gates wasn’t him, why wasn’t the second gate open? As both boats came into the lock I decided that nobody should be on the off side. We should leave the two fellas to do what they were doing. So I said we’d only be using one paddle and one gate. This would mean that we’d be in the lock longer, but neither Graeme or myself would have to walk past two men rolling their sleeves up, shooting up, throwing up and what ever else was going to happen. I suspect they were far too occupied to have harmed us, but I still didn’t know what had been passed between them. Better to go slower but safely through the lock.
The chamber took forever to empty. As it got close the amount of water coming over the top gates was going to make it hard to open the bottom gates which are moved with a windlass, pulleys and a chain. Both Graeme and I put our windlasses on, our combined effort got the gate to move enough to help equalise the water. At last we were good to go.
We hopped onto our boats as there is no access to the next lock from land. I remember managing to walk there eleven years ago whilst on a hire boat holiday and squeeze through a gap in the wall, clamber down stone steps to the lock. But that entrance has long since been blocked off.
Waiting above the lock was an old college friend of mine Doug. He is currently the Lighting Designer for some plays at HOME, he’d taken the morning off to come and meet us, see Oleanna and ask us questions about life on board as he’s considering downsizing to a boat. Quite fortunate that we happened to be here whilst he was.
All he could do was watch from on high as we worked our way down to the next lock where he was handed a windlass so that he could learn the ropes and lend a hand.
Manchester then started to do what it does best, Rain, quite a lot of it. Doug had no waterproofs so quickly popped his bag inside Oleanna meeting Tilly and retrieving a brolly from our bathroom. This did though mean he got chance for a little ride into the lock before helping with paddles and gates again.
Lots of catching up to do, questions about boats to answer whilst we worked our way down the locks. The sun would show it’s face just long enough to consider taking a layer off, but then the heavens would open again. Well it is Manchester!
A wicker sculpture of a horse sits by a bridge, floating flower beds line one pound. At one lock we gained some shelter as a new building straddles the canal. Will this be an attractive section of the canal, redeveloped, shiny and new or another dark hole for the druggies to inhabit away from sunlight?
Ian the Volunteer yesterday had suggested that if there was more than an inch of water coming over the top gates on the bottom three locks, then we should lift a paddle at the bottom of the lock to lower the level of the pound above. This would mean we’d have a fighting chance to open the bottom gates.
At Lock 92 NB Lottie Jane was just exiting. We’d not seen them since the top of the flight, so hopefully the water we’d been sending down hadn’t caused them too many problems with gates. Another boat waited to come up and swapped with them. One paddle only wound up by a couple of turns, the other went all the way. Gradually they rose and it was our turn.
As we entered the lock I lifted a paddle to help reduce the level above. This is when the heavens opened. Torrential rain slammed down on us, Doug managed to find cover at the canal side pub whilst the rest of us got a very good drowning of water. You could tell it was the last lock of the Rochdale, we all showed signs of fatique. The boats took longer to bring in and as we dropped it soon became evident that the sticking paddle at the top was still open. This wouldn’t help open the bottom gates.
On our hire boat we’d had great difficulty opening these gates and I was prepared for a fight with them. Doug once the rain had stopped was on hand with a second windlass should it be needed for extra umph. But Ian’s handy hint had helped, the gates opened with hardly any straining. We were down, off the Rochdale , the 7 day clock now ticking on the Bridgewater Canal.
Clare and Graeme were planning on carrying on out of Manchester today with NB Lottie Jane, we planned on finding a mooring. So it was time to say our farewells. Hugs all round in our soggy water logged waterproofs. It’s been a great few days of hard locking with great company. Our paths may not cross again this year, but hopefully they’ll be back from New Zealand sometime and we’ll meet up again.
We pulled over into the Staffordshire Arm where there were a few spaces. We’ve not stayed on this arm before, but decided to give it a go. Once all our wet layers were off we could sit down for a cuppa with Doug and chat boats. There is a lot to take in, he’d got his eyes on a lovely 10ft widebeam down in Oxford, but we pointed out that he’d not be able to cruise it up to Liverpool as it would be too wide. But he quite fancies the idea of being able to cruise up and down the country. He left us to head to work with plenty to think about.
Now (as the sun came out!) Mick headed off to catch a train to Scarborough. We’d not managed to register for a proxy vote in the council elections, but could turn up in person. With a special ticket for over 55s and his OAP railcard he could make the journey for a fraction of what it would cost me. So off he went to cross back over the Pennines, passing through Leeds 45 minutes after leaving Manchester, it’s taken us four weeks!
At the polling station Micks name was eventually found, not alongside our address there, but at the end in a list of Special People. He made his crosses, popped the ballot paper in the box and left heading back to Manchester on the next train.
This outside was deemed not suitable! Why had they tied it up? Rubbish!!! I had to spend the afternoon watching tasty looking yellow fluffy things walking all around everywhere. She took over the table and spent the afternoon listening to music and drawing lines all over this big white board. Something to do with a Puss, but I’m the only Puss in her life and she gave me no attention all afternoon!
9 locks, 1.77 miles, 3 miles walked, 62 ft 9 inches down, 164 ft lower than Sowerby Bridge, 2 lefts, 3 canals, 3 boats, 2 druggies, 2 windlasses, 1 college friend, 1 boat coming up, 4 drowned boaters, 1 soggy lighting designer, 2 farewells, 10ft, 1 parcel returned, 1 stroppy email, 2 trains, 1 tram, 1 bus, 1 special person, 3 crosses, 4 hours tech drawing, 1 bored cat, 3 games of paw ball, 1 dish of chickeny pasta ready on Micks return.