Drolysden Marina to Telford Basin
The aim was to push off at 7:30, but we finally made it just before 8am, managing to avoid the majority of the rain. Our stop off here had been very useful and the people around the basin were very friendly, another place to add to our list of handy moorings.
As we reversed out of our space, Mick remembered one thing he hadn’t done yesterday, he’d forgotten to clear the prop, there was something down there but luckily not too much to inhibit steering Oleanna. So once we were out on the towpath at the top of the locks I went ahead to set the lock and Mick undid the weedhatch, a small collection of stuff was retrieved.
I’ve been down these locks once and on that occasion we had the assistance of Anne, Mick’s sister. Having two crew made a big difference, no need to walk back to a lock after setting one below. Mick has also single handed the flight six years ago, texting me after every lock was successfully descended. On this occasion he met several boats coming up hill and also let one go past him. Back then the Cheshire Ring was in full swing, now it’s possibly just waking up from a long slumber!
The top lock is covered in a memorial to a young chap who had tried to jump the lock, hoping to impress some young ladies. Sadly he hadn’t make it, hitting his head and ending up in the water face down. The lock beam is covered in messages to him, someone has even covered it in sticky backed plastic to help preserve it.
As we worked our way down the flight Mick made notes of what wasn’t working at each lock. A note taken at each lock to start with, but thankfully things improved as we worked our way downhill into Manchester.
Monty’s sat by the canal. A rainbow Monty, is he celebrating Pride or the NHS? I suspect Pride. The other chap was actually about to dive in with a snorkel on his head (not visible in the picture) even though it looks like he’s about to do something else!
We ducked under trailing willows yet again. The first swing bridge now held by a C&RT padlock not just a handcuff key. Then on a touch further to where the second swing bridge should be.
On our Waterway Routes map it suggested that normally the bridge is left open, but something was definitely across the cut, but not a swing bridge. A zoom in on the camera showed that the footbridge just beyond it was having work done to it, so maybe this was a temporary bridge?
I hopped off, this was a scaff type bridge, nothing I was willing to move myself. I went in hunt of a banksman and found a chap sat in a welfare pod, just about to tuck into some food. I explained our problem, so he came out to see what he could do. The only words he said, ‘You only need it moving a little bit?’ Well sorry no, it needs to move right out of the way for us to get through.
I could see the cogs going in his head as he tried to work out how to move the bridge. He slid it towards himself, the scaff hand rail not fixed in position, which didn’t help trying to pull it across the gap. Once it was off the far bank it sat at an alarming angle, just ready to fall into the canal and become more of a problem.
After he pulled and tugged, I helped swing it out of our way, one thing the chap hadn’t thought of, to me it was obvious. We were soon through and the chap could get back to his food. The bridge stayed well and truly on the bank.
A while further on a football shirt required removing from our prop, so Oleanna sat in a lock whilst Mick cleared the prop with our prop mate, a very handy tool.
At Lock 13 The Strawberry Duck pub looked all boarded up, but out the back in their beer garden things looked very inviting. We refrained as it was only 9:50!
Locks lined up with the Etihad Stadium and as we worked our way down towards all the sports venues I could hear the rumbling of a Fountains team following us down the flight.
All the winding of the hydraulic paddle gear was starting to take it’s tole, my arms ached.
These are meant to make it easier to lift the paddles, but the repetition of winding them round and round gets to your arms after a while, at least my arms should be slightly more toned when we reach Manchester.
The National Cycling Centre, the Velopark sprawl out on both sides of the canal, followed by circular blocks of flats.
Beswick Top Lock has an interesting bridge configuration. There is a road bridge and canal bridge, but between the two is a curving metal bridge that carries the towpath from one side to the other, not a snake bridge as the tow rope from a boat would have to be disconnected from the horse.
Across some waste land we could see the white structures, tents of a covid testing centre, more and more people on the towpath were now wearing masks. We carried on with the job in hand, locks, more of them.
In one of the bridge holes Oleanna managed to pick me some buddleia, the off side very overgrown in places.
Between Beswick Bottom Lock 4 and Ancoats Top Lock 3, I caught a ride, this being the longest pound on the flight.
We now passed old warehouses and factories, and very soon we were surrounded by new tower blocks, more being built in every direction.
Sitting between the last two locks is a rather lovely looking lock cottage, this sits with it’s new lawn tucked behind the wooden fence, one tree and tower blocks looking down on it’s history.
At Ancoats Bottom Lock Mick pointed out that this was likely to be our last narrow lock this year. Our travels will see us staying in the north for sometime. The Ashton Canal is the northern most narrow canal, so from now on we will now be in the land of wide locks.
Working through the lock I was reminded of when we came this way on Bergen Fjord in 2008 with Anne. As we’d just started to empty the lock Mick’s friend Mark was just crossing the road bridge in a car coming to meet us to help with the Rochdale 9 through the heart of Manchester. Back up crew were needed on that occasion, today we’d be stopping short of the 9. Five hours top to bottom, all but three needing to be filled, thankfully without much rain.
A glance back as we passed under the road bridge, the bottom of the lock showing the worn steps down from the bottom gates and the water rushed round the bywash on the offside. I wonder what the area looked like when the lock was first built.
A short distance on and we reached todays destination, Telford Basin. A small basin that we used last year, on that occasion we tucked three boats in amongst the flats. Access to the basin is through a keycoded gate, today we weren’t bothered about this, a late lunch and a rest were more on the cards than an explore.
A Downing Street briefing was held today, announcing the next stage of lockdown easing. Gyms and Leisure centres will be able to reopen in a couple of weeks and from this Saturday night outdoor performances will be allowed. This means that the season of outdoor concerts and operas that Glyndebourne have planned will be able to go ahead, just as well as the £100 tickets have already sold out! I suspect other theatre companies will be giving the idea some thought. Organising such events and selling tickets are likely to take that bit more time than just two days. It’s a start, as is the funding but neither mean the sector is safe. But then no sector is safe.
18 locks, 3.64 miles, 1 right, 1 swing, 1 slide, 3 weed hatch visits, 1 diver, 1 last narrow lock, 1 tight turn, 2 pooped boaters, 1 stove lit, 27 items of washing dry, 1 empty wee tank, 0 code required, 2 days to mount a show.