Selfridges Isn’t Just For Footballers! 13th April

Thomas Telford Basin to Stretford Marine to Trafford Centre Visitor Moorings

Last night was nice and quiet in the basin. Only one goose sitting on a nest so there wasn’t another goose to squabble with and the human residents were quiet too. Before we headed to bed Mick logged onto our C&RT account to book our Bridgewater passage. The Bridgewater Canal is run by Peel Holdings therefore not covered by our C&RT licence. There is an agreement where boats can transit the Bridgewater Canal to reach C&RT waters, Leeds Liverpool, Rochdale or Trent and Mersey. It used to be that you could just enter their water without booking, so long as you only stayed 7 days. Now you have to book this via the C&RT website. There is also an option to extend you visit by 3 days. This is intended to be used within 28 days so boats can visit Liverpool and then return without having to stay off the Bridgewater for several weeks before booking again. This may come in useful for us, so Mick ticked the 3 day extra box.

Breakfasted, and wrapped up reasonably warm we pushed off, thanking the residents for our peaceful night. The entrance in and out of the basin is a tight one, but we know Oleanna can manage it, it just takes a bit of patience to get round.

Time for the Rochdale 9. I’m not sure how many times we’ve done these locks, maybe four times? Dale Street Lock 84 was surrounded by rubbish this morning, a council worker arrived to pick everything up from those who’d sat on the benches drinking last night. Water flowed over the top gate by several inches, not unusual for the Rochdale 9. Some of the locks have bywashes, others don’t.

I lifted a paddle to bring the water in the lock up to match that above. We brought Oleanna in and I lifted a paddle to empty it. Over the top gates there are handrails on both sides. These are very narrow and the hoik up onto the lock beam is quite high. Sixteen years ago I sprang up onto the beam and crossed over without thinking about it , today my knees make me nervous of such things, but both paddles were needed to level the lock with the water below. I crossed the gates twices then realised I should be able to walk round over the road bridge. This made me happier.

Piccadilly Lock

Now down into the depths for Piccadilly Lock 85. Today it was dark, relatively clean and we were on our own. I wondered if the top gates when they were replaced had been made higher, they certainly looked it. Climbing up to get over to the other side was not appealing, could I manage to empty the lock using only one side?

I lifted the paddle and watched as the water emptied. Gradually Oleanna descended. The bottom gates here have a windlass operated chain to open them as the building above has encroached on the space. This is usually quite hard to operate. I waited, worked out which way to turn my windlass. Water still rushing over the top gates, would it ever level out? I waited for the water below the lock to calm, tried the gate, waited some more. Then I could feel the gate just giving a little, phew I wouldn’t have to climb over the top gates.

Only accessible by canal

Access to the next lock is only by boat, sixteen years ago I remember climbing down some steps to it, but this route has now been blocked off, I suspect to keep people from the pubs on Canal Street away from the waters edge. Here I made a mistake, in that I lifted the bottom paddle on the offside. This ended up not being enough to empty the lock fully. Mick climbed the ladder, lifted the other paddle, my gate now opened. Maybe if we’d left it a few more minutes it would have obliged. If I’d started on the other side it maybe would have been easier as I needed to be that side to get back on the boat anyway.

Under bridges and buildings

Back on board we headed to Princess Street Lock. Here rainbow planters cheered up the banks, it was starting to rain. Several runners ran up the towpath and wanted to continue along the canal, only to find they were running onto a pontoon that led nowhere! Then more runners came, and more, and more! How many? I asked one chap if he was the last, no reply. When Oleanna was out of the gates Mick warned me that there were more runners to come all wearing kahki.

A C&RT workboat appeared to be on the lock landing at Tib Lock 89. Some helpful person had however untied it’s mooring lines and possibly had a rifle around in a cupboard. Only brooms to disturb in there. I retied it to some railings and a mooring ring, hopefully leaving enough room for a boat on the lock landing. Not sure how long it will last before someone else decided to untie it though.

Blossom instead of graffitti

Trees on either side of the lock were filled with pink blossom. The flag stones on the offside covered in a layer of slippy green that even my anti slip trainers couldn’t cope with. Working carefully we descended.

Very very high!

At Albion Mills Lock the building work we’ve been under has now finished, the tall building stretching high above the canal. Panels stand out from the building looking like someone has stuck sheets of steel deck haphazedly onto it. Here I ended up having to enlist some one to help with the lock gate, we’d waited quite a while for the level to equalize.

A good place to shelter from the rain

Tunnel Lock 91. Here a chap had made himself a home tucked up by the gate chain mechanism, well under cover of the building next to it. The offside here looked even greener, serious lack of footfall to keep it clear. The top gates were also high and very green too! I hoped that one paddle would do the job, it maybe had, but would the gate open!?! I asked the chap if people had difficulty with the gate and he said most did, it was rare for this gate to be opened. The chain slipped rather than doing anything productive. I’d have to walk round, climb over the beam, be hissed at by a goose to open the gate.

The End

Just before Dukes Lock 92, who should we pass but the boat from Littleborough. Had they come down the locks last night or early this morning? They were making use of the last moorings before reaching the Bridgewater Canal.

If only the sun had been out!

The top gates were open so Mick sailed straight in. Here there is no bywash, apparently it was bombed in WW2 and never replaced, so excess water comes over the top gates. Gongoozlers who didn’t mind getting wet loitered on the bridge to watch our progress. Paddles lifted and then patience was needed for the levels to equalise. The first time we ever did this lock was on NB Bergen Fjord and the bottom gates really didn’t want to open, we ended up with two windlasses on the chain gear. Now I know to wait for the water below to calm right down, take the strain on the chain. My first go had a small amount of movement, maybe if I adjusted my windlass to give me more umph then it would open. I took the strain again, one extra turn had the gate open just that bit, the levels equalised and I easily opened the gate. Looking back at the amount of water still coming over the gates I was surprised at how easy it had been.

Maybe one for a painting

Should we stop or continue? We continued in the rain, we were wet now anyway. A cuppa and some flapjack as we cruised our way out of Manchester as another huge running club ran the towpath. ‘Come on guys lets see if we can beat the boat!’


The Bridgewater is very familiar water, the sights in the rain were passed easily. At Waters Meeting a narrowboat came past, pram hood up as they do round here. We followed it to the left. He pulled over just before Stretford Marina so we could pass, only to find out we were pulling in to the services.

A flat cap wearing chap in a blue coverall took our ropes and asked what we were after. Diesel and coal please. The chilled medication cabinet was empty despite all the adverts outside! He pulled the long hose out and topped up our tank whilst I topped up our water. He chatted away to Mick. There were comments about having to stay alive as the state pension keeps going up, but how anyone actually spends it all puzzled him. He’d been to buy himself a new fountain pen, spent over £800 on one with a pot of ink. The shop assistant in Selfridges had seemed a bit off with him, ‘I brush my cap every day! Anyhow Selfridges isn’t just for footballers you know!’ What a character, he plays the flute and owns two baroque flutes.

A roaring trade

We winded Oleanna, time to head north. Left at Waters Meeting, we pulled up on the last rings outside the Trafford Centre. After a late lunch with the last of the flapjack we headed into retail hell. A Saturday afternoon at the Trafford Centre not my idea of a good way to spend our time, but a neccessary one. At John Lewis we waited and waited to be served. Numerous shop assistants walked past, none asking could they help or that someone would be with us soon. Eventually Mick managed to get someone to go into the back room for my laptop which was now mended with a new hinge, Hooray!

A new SD card for my camera was required, but despite there being numerous staff about the place none were available to unlock the rack so we could purchase one. I felt that MIck was on the border of a Geraghty strop, we left the store. Game had what we were looking for, it took some time to pursuade the staff that it would work in a camera and they weren’t just for games consoles. A very quick visit to Primark for a couple of t-shirts and we were out of there.

But it looks so good!

Time to sit down at last.

It’s nice to have my laptop back, I don’t keep aiming for the delete button and turning it off!

9 locks, 6.3 miles, 5.35 miles walked, 2 lefts, 1 extra bum, so much water, 91 Locks of the Rochdale finished, 32 miles traversed, 1 bored cat, 63.7 litres, 40kg coal, 1 laptop, £800 pen! hope the ink was free, 1 immaculate flatcap, 1 Bridgewater licence, 1 SD card, 0 flapjack left.