Category Archives: Rochdale Canal

Hong Kong Phooey. 11th April

1st Laneside Lock 54 to Irk Aqueduct

Last night we’d decided to give ourselves a bit of a lie in today as the next few days will require early starts. However we were both awake early so no point in just lying there thinking about sleep. We didn’t rush to get moving and pushed off around 9:30.

1st Laneside Lock Cottage

Lock 54 needed topping up. Whilst that filled I walked down to the next lock which was just about full, topped that up, opened up the top gate then walked back to the top lock to open it for Mick and Oleanna. The bywash was running like a good un so I decided to save my legs the walking back and forth to set ahead, hopefully the locks would mostly be full by the time we got to them.

The towpath wasn’t too busy, walkers, runners, dog walkers. It was a touch chilly. A chap walked past me with hood up, a scarf or black mask over his face. The next lock was full and I noticed this chap pause to open the gate for us. Not an unusual thing to happen. I waved to thank him, he carried on walking away. I wondered how any more locks would be sat with their top gates open for us.

Thank you!

At the next lock down I lifted the paddles to empty the lock. I looked down to the next lock. The same chap was there. He was looking back towards us with either a camera or binoculars. Now hang on! Your average towpath do-gooder opening lock gates for us was one thing, but checking back on our progress?! Nowadays you don’t often see white men out in the open wearing masks. Who was this masked super hero?

Sarge? No.

Rosemary, the telephone operator? No.

Penry, the mild manoured janitor? NO!

I walked back to mention my suspisions to Mick, I was fairly sure we knew this chap. Mick poopood my idea, no it couldn’t be. I zoomed my camera in to the next lock, if he could spy on us, I could do the same back. No hood or mask now. Glasses, the profile looked right. It had to be.

It has to be

When I spotted the windlass I was certain of it. But would we catch him up? Or would he continue on down the towpath ahead of us setting locks and then don his disguise again and vanish?

I knew it!

The next lock was taking some filling so he was still there when we arrived. Yes my suspisions were correct, it was Paul Balmer, come to lend a hand a day early. A while ago Paul had offered to lend us a hand into Manchester if he was available and he’d pencilled in today and tomorrow as possibles. With the weather being bad yesterday he’d though that we might have added two days together avoiding getting a soaking, but we’d battled onwards leaving only 10 locks for today.

Paul, mild mannered map compiler and lock wheeler

After we’d both lifted paddles, Paul walked on down to set the next lock, leaving me to close up behind Oleanna. Quickly into a routine ready for even more locks tomorrow.

All that stonework revealed

Below Lock 60 a chap was being very busy clearing away earth, grass and allsorts. One patch remained a very neat rectangle of turf. Around the lock there had been various bits of dayglow tape and large numbers on the bottom gate. The chap was very proud of his efforts and didn’t understand why C&RT had been round some of the locks and repainted the tops of the bollards back to white from the yellow he thought was better for the cyclists to see. I thanked him for his works on clearing the mud and reexposing the stonework, not sure I agree with him about the bollards!

Railway Bridges 69 A and B

Below Scowcroft Lock 61 two railway bridges cross the canal. The original bridge had to be replaced as it couldn’t take the weight of modern trains. According to the chap in Littleborough Museum you can feel the train adjust to the side for the new bridge when you are on a train. The old bridge appears to be held up with colourful strops.

Oleanna following Paul to the next lock

We were soon pulling in below Walk Mill Lock 63. There was enough depth for us just before the River Irk Aqueduct, no other boats, we’d still not caught the boat ahead of us that had been in Littleborough. A busy towpath, but once a dash had been made to the otherside Tilly was in the friendly cover and left us humans to enjoy a cuppa on board.

Arrangements were made for tomorrow as Paul would be returning to join us in the morning at Failsworth Top Lock. He headed off to walk the next section of the canal that he’d miss tomorrow, all the time checking on his map data for Waterway Routes. Every three years Paul aims to walk, cycle or boat the whole network himself checking all the information is correct on the maps. People like us assist by informing him of changes we notice as we travel the network, accuracy is very important, 5 digit grid references are required before new bins, water points, moorings etc can be added to the maps.

Fuel to get us into Manchester. Click photo for recipe

Some baking was required to help with energy levels tomorrow, so I made a batch of flapjack with a layer of bramley apple in the middle. Hopefully there’d be enough sugar to help keep us walking on to work the next lock on our descent into Manchester.

Ten years ago when we brought Lillyanne out of Manchester we’d missed food at the pub and ended up having an Indian takeaway, no-one had the energy to cook! Tonight we decided to see if Modhubon was as good as we’d remembered it, or do we only remember it being good because of all our hard work that day. We chose a couple of dishes, one we’d not heard of before, Chicken Akbori Chum Chum, it was very tasty.

10 locks, 1.6 miles, 1 mystery helper, 1 busy playground, 6 hours shore leave, 0.75 stamp of approval, 2 many woofers, 1 motorbike, 3 peacocks, 3 papadoms, 1 chumchum, 1 dansack, 1 mushroom bhaji, 2 very full boaters, 1 early night.

A Wave To BBC. 10th April

Canal Wharf, Littleborough to above 1st Laneside Lock 54, Slattocks


Alarm set for before 7am! All because of the weather which we were hoping to beat today. No time to lie in bed with a cuppa, we were up and having breakfast, listening out for our Sainsburys delivery between 7:30 and 8:30. The beep beep of the van reverseing towards the canal caught our attention at 7:45, time to stow our purchases.

Goodbye Littleborough

By 8:20 we were ready to push off leaving the squabbling, nest sitting geese to it, time to head to the next mooring in towards Manchester.

New houses look like they will be going up soon along the south east bank heading to Smithy Bridge, two geese stood guard ontop of the earth works. Apparently there are plans to build 1000 new homes around Littleborough. Past Clegg Hall with a terrace of workers cottages, a long line of windows on the top floor for good light in the work rooms.

Stopped these two chaps who didn’t understand why the bridge went nowhere

This must be the longest pound on the Rochdale, around an hours cruise with no locks. But to keep you on your toes there are a couple of swing bridges. I went with my handcuff key and key of power just incase, just as well as they both got used.

Propmate kept out should we need it later

The canal at times was shallow, aided by supermarket trolleys, eroded banks, picking places to pull in took a bit of time. Then picking up some plastic on the prop required a stop. We tried pulling into the side but didn’t succeed, electing to just pause in the middle to get the prop mate out and clear the prop. No passing traffic so we weren’t in anyones way.

For the last few miles I’d been spotting what look like metal flowers attached to the off side. Outlines of three white petals with a yellow centre, at one lock this was accompanied by some leaves. On one of the bridges there is a mural of the same flower. Maybe a canoist has put these up where the plant growns?

Hello Rochdale

Just as we pulled in towards Rochdale, our slightly slower progress then planned, meant we got the first rain drops falling, we’d not beaten the weather! The empty lock looked to have wet sides, were we following that boat that had been on the water point? How much further had they got yesterday before they gave up? Would we catch them up and maybe have a partner for the rest of the locks into Manchester? We’d see.

I filled the lock, spotting that a bottom gate paddle had been left slightly up. Gongoozlers came and watched, three young chaps asked Mick for a lift. I think this is just a standard thing to say for youngsters, a little like when I’ve got my painting clothes on and people say ‘You’ve missed a bit’. Very original! They helped with the gates though.

Another chap arrived at the next lock promising to help with the gates, which he did. Well he helped with the top gates, not the bottom cranked beams! He was wise in this decision. Wet underfoot there was nowhere to push your feet against. Despite my slip resistant shoes it took forever to push the bottom gate open and then close it again behind us. There obviously used to be some other means of opening and closing these gates as there is a curved track in amongst the stonework.

Below Moss Lower Lock

Just below the lock there is an arm heading off to the north. This led to Drake Street where three arms were kept busy. In it’s hay day the Rochdale Canal saw around 50 boats a day transporting goods to and from the mills. I wonder how many boats cross the summit in a year now? On the Rochdale Canal facebook group there seems to be a campaign to pursuade the council to redevelope the warehouses and arms and get them reconnected to the canal. This would be wonderful, but would need to get an instant good reputation as somewhere to moor. It would be nice to feel you could explore Rochdale.

Culvert to the left, new tunnel to the right

Another longish pound. Some of this is a new channel. The canal had been built over and culveted for road building, so a new course was required along with the roundabout having to be rebuilt when the canal was restored. You can see where it used to go before you head into Edinburgh Way Tunnel. Mick remembers the road works lasting forever, the route to Anne (his sisters house) from the M62 affected for months.

Artwork alongside the lock

As we came into Castleton the lock ahead was just about full. Either the top gates leaked masses or a paddle had been left up. This is lock 51, the Lock Keepers had been called to it the day we crossed the summit. The offside gates are worked with your windlass and chains as a carpark for a mill now gets in the way. This does mean that access along the off side of the lock is for very skinny people or those who don’t mind limboing! I am neither of those. I closed the near side paddle and then noticed the rack went a lot further down than the one on the off side. If the offside paddle was still up by what might be inches then we’d be waiting an age to empty the lock.

I hopped onto the bow of Oleanna and Mick moved her up to the offside gate, here I could step off. Sure enough the paddle was up by a good few inches. I hopped back onto the bow and we headed for the lock. The lock beam has notches cut in it so that it goes over the top of the ladder handrail. We’d nudged the gate coming in, it needed to be opened again and then things aligned properly once more. With one bottom paddle lifted it was taking an age to empty, time to try to access the offside paddle. I managed to position myself in amongst the beam chains and lent over. I could have engaged the pawl if I’d flicked it with my windlass, but then there would have been no way of taking it off. So I just wound it up and held it until the lock levelled.

Hello somewhere over there

At Blue Pits Middle Lock I waved to Anne’s old house. Ten years ago you could just about see it, five years ago new houses blocked the view, now trees hide everything. I waved none the less.

Under the M62, the pontoon towpath was in situ today. This is also a new channel, the original used to pass a little further west with the Heywood Branch heading off to the west. If you look behind you you can see the way boats used to travel. Blue Pits New Lock 53 is a concrete affair, nothing old about it. It takes ages to fill and it’s surroundings were very bog like, I was quite glad the gates didn’t leak at either end which meant I didn’t have to wade through to operate the paddle on the off side. Puzzling why the bottom gates have these signs on them, they are usually on top gates.


A boat was moored on the next bend, a perfect mooring for spotting trains as the line sits at a height a field away. If we’d been half an hour earlier we’d have been treated to a steam train!

Not much further we reached Slattocks, bollards marking our destination for the day. We quickly unrolled the covers, headed inside to give Tilly the disappointing news that there’d be no shore leave today, but more importantly it was time to dry off.

Tension ans stitch swatch

The last pair of socks I’d frogged were finished off this afternoon. A swatch was knitted with the new blue yarns for the next pair. I was considering giving Broken Seed Stitch a go, but I think that would be better suited to two solid coloured yarns rather than varigated. Instead they will end up being very stripy socks.

5 locks, 6.6 miles, 2 swing bridges, 1 man and 2 dogs held up, 1 almost tunnel, 4 boxes wine, 1 pork joint for the weekend, 2 hours early, 1 orangutan, 0 shore leave, 1 annoying towpath cat, 14th pair started, 12 meatballs, 2 soggy boaters yet again, 1 boat ahead still not caught.

Soaking Kathleen. 7th April

There was time for MIck to whip up a cooked breakfast before the Geraghty zoom this morning, it did mean that we’d be eating it whilst we chatted to everyone. Subjects covered, canvasing, folk, endive and sparkling ash leaves.

Zooming breakfast

Late morning we pushed Oleanna back over to the other side of the little notch as we were expecting little legs again this afternoon. It was hard to move across as the wind was pinning us to the side. I managed to get a rope around a bollard at the bow, then we used the Andy method (springing off) to force the stern across against Kathleens best efforts. We soon discovered that on the east side of the notch we’d managed to get ourselves tied up so as not to be buffeted about so much, the west side we’d not been so sucessful!

I think it’s stopped raining

We pottered away the morning and by mid afternoon squally showers were whisking around. Mick confired with our prospective visitors who’d planned on a visit before we all headed out for Sunday lunch. Instead we’d meet a car at the next road bridge and get a lift.

Soggy sponsored walk

Full water proofs didn’t manage to keep us dry for the five minute walk to meet Anne, sorry for leaving you with soggy seats! The Moorcock would have only been a 20 minute walk according to Google, although it would all have been uphill, glad we’d not done that in the rain!

A large table had been reserved for us at the end of the pub and we were soon joined by Ruth, James, Penelope and Daphne. There was Vocation beer on tap, so for the second Sunday in a row I had a pint of Heart and Soul a nice GF brew. Roast pork, beef, sausage and chips plus a chicken nuggets and chips were ordered.

Nice pint

The pork almost certainly didn’t come off a joint, most probably steaks roasted in the oven. Crackling had been mentioned on the menu and this was brough on a seperate plate. I suspect this had been cooked in an air fryer. It looked like it should be good, but I have to say it was a chewy disappointment. However we were there to enjoy being with family which made for a lovely late lunch.

Disappointed Ruth

James offered to do bathtime and leave us to chat for longer. This meant that some of us, Mick and myself could have pudding away from younger eyes who’d already had some chilled medictaion at lunchtime. A huge slab of chocolate fudge cake each. Ruth ordered an expresso martini for her treat, but they were out of these! She was very disappointed.

Mick, Ruth, Anne, Pip

There was a little lull in the rain, just long enough for a Sunday selfie before we climbed back in the car and made it back to the canal. Goodbyes and hopefuly it won’t be so long before we see everyone again.

Rain set in on our walk back to Oleanna. We decided to push back over the notch and whilst doing so we got another very good soaking! The stove was lit, coats and jeans hung up to drip dry.

Earlier in the day a message had been put on one of the facebook groups, a boat was looking for someone else to share the journey into Manchester. I made contact, a second boat with crew would make it a lot easier even though we may have extra crew for the final push. They have yet to cross the summit and our current schedule will mean we are still ahead of them. But with the current weather forecast, we may not be moving very far due to another storm. If they’ve any sense they won’t move either.

I wonder who will win this time?

Today marks the seventh anniversary of moving on board Oleanna in Sheffield. Oleanna was very shiny and new then, she’s showing her age now, still in desperate need of a wash and polish, the rain isn’t helping this. Time for a toast to mark the occasion.

0 locks, 2 pushes across the notch, 2 car rides, 2 very soggy walks, 1 last bag of coal, 4 pork, 1 beef, 1 sausage and chips, 1 chicken nuggets and chips, 2 slabs of chocolate fudge cake, 2.5 pints, 1 lovely meal with family, pair 14 finished, 50 years since Abba, 7 years onboard Oleanna.

28th Heel turned

Whilst Kathleen Blows Away. 6th April

Lock 46

After breakfast and writing the blog, on what feels like the smallest keyboard ever, we headed into town to do a bit of shopping, find a newspaper and have a look round.

They are rather fine

Two fine front doors stood out, one house for sale. You get quite a bit of house for your money in these parts. We’ve been spotting a lot of places named Royd recently. Old Royd Lock, Royd Street. Looking the name up it turns out that Royd is local dialect for ‘cleared land’ especially in a wood.

The centre of Littleborough has a mix of shops, not many unoccupied. Some smart clothes shops, a couple of butchers, a discount hardware shop and a knickers shop! Just who had the money for the fancy grave?

Who was so important to have such a grand grave

We got a newspaper, some thick cut bacon, a disappoinitng pork pie and a few bits and bobs fom Sainsburys before heading to the Co-op to see if their cat food was cheaper. It was, especially with a members card which we applied for whilst stood in the pet food isle.

As we headed towards the canal we spotted signs in the station window for a museum. Well that needed looking at, so we made our way up onto the platform where a chap asked if we knew there were no trains today. Yes, but we were looking for the museum. ‘Round the corner, there’s three chaps in there’.

No trains today

The main waiting room/old ticket office is now a museum for Littleborough Historical and Archaeologocal Society. We were welcomed in by a chap who immediatley mentioned about their flint collection and Roman coins. Flint is not found in the area, so was imported from other parts of the country. He also appologised that their main computer was broken so he wouldn’t be able to show us much from their archieve. This however didn’t stop him from chatting away to his hearts content.

As it says on the door

The chap chatted on for ages, he could have carried on for hours. Don’t get me wrong he was interesting, possibly being shown images and maps would have been even more interesting, but when someone wanted to show him a recent find that was almost certainly Roman we were quick in heading for the door. More a place for serious research on the local area than just a browse around.

Back at Oleanna we had lunch and enjoyed the last Hot Paw Bun of the year. These were the best I’ve made by far and Mick doesn’t see why they should just be for Easter!

Tilly came and went, then as the winds increased into the afternoon she was grounded. Kathleen was showing her force. Thankfully our mooring means Oleanna’s bow faces into the wind and with a few extra fenders out we are held into the side, so no bumping about.

Plans for the next few days were discussed. How long it will take us to get down into Manchester, which moorings to stop at, will the wind have died down sufficiently to make this all possible?

Tilly slept the afternoon away. The yellow water tank was emptied, Tilly’s pooh box refreshed and quite a bit of knitting done. I should just about finish pair 14 by the end of Sunday, Hooray!

Our evening meal was accompanied by growing winds and torrential rain. Really! Surely there can’t be anymore rain!!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 windy walk, 1 puzzled baker, 9 rashers bacon, 1 pie, 1 paper, 0 knickers bought, 1 very knowledgable man, 0 wedding ring, 1 very blustery afternoon, 2 salmon steaks with red pepper sauce, 13.5 pairs of socks knitted so far.

Nieces. 4th April

Warland Lower/Upper Locks to Bent House Lock 46


A drier start to the day, but chilly! We had our breakfast then started to make ready to head up Lock 35, swing the bridge and enter Lancashire ready for 11am when our booking was to cross the summit. As we were rolling the covers up a CRT chap walked towards us, windlass in hand. It was only 10am, but they were ready when we were. Brilliant.

Getting close to leaving

We both stayed on board and let Billy and Richard work the locks for us. Up Warland Upper Lock, we then crossed the border, Billy welcoming us to bright side! Oleanna has been in Yorkshire for just over six months and now finally we’ve escaped, a few weeks later than originally planned.

Up ahead at Longlees Lock 36 another chap emptied the lock and pushed open the bottom gate for us whilst the other two chaps closed up behind and walked up to meet us.

Richard to the left, Billy the right, Summit straight on

Up we rose to the 600ft that the summit pound sits on. Grey overcast, slightly damp in the air, gloves a necessity, we could see our breath! Brrr!!!

Lancashire ahead

As we pootled along the summit pound, streams cascaded off the hillsides. A toot of a horn as the CRT chaps passed us in their van waving, they’d reach the other side before us to unlock West Summit Lock 37.

Mick and Yorkshire behind

Currently to help reserve water you have to book to cross the summit of the Rochdale, there are slots for 2 boats each way, today we were the only boat to cross. Billy said they’d been at the summit from 8am, sorted water levels out down on the west side so they really didn’t know why there was the 11am time to cross. An hour to sort levels would be sufficient. So those boats we’d seen yesterday had most probably come over the summit early on.

The western end of the summit pound

I stayed on board to go down Lock 37 then stepped off when we reached 38 time to warm up and lend a hand, Billy and Richard would be with us for a few more locks yet. Ahead of us down the big hill into Manchester there is a section that earlier this week had been emptied by vandals, a group of CRT employees were busy running water down to where it needed to be, hopefully by the end of today it would be back in navigable order.

The three of us leapfrogged each other, one going ahead to set the next lock leaving two to lift paddles and open and close gates. Time to chat. Richard used to work as stage crew at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, his son works on Coronation Street in the props department and Billy had a nice holiday in Scarborough last year.

Top gates

Locks 40 and 41 have narrowed so will only take one boat at a time, no problem for us today as we were on our own. The intermediate pound I remembered from five years ago was low, we’d cautiously let water down to enable our crossing. As 41 filled the chaps confired, Richard ran water through 40 to help the low pound. It still seemed very low to me when he lowered the top paddle, two huge blocks of stone lower than where the water mark suggested normal height was. It was easily passable.

I wonder how this is pronounced?

Our last passage down here we’d encountered another low pound, well more like an empty pound! Today we were told we’d be fine, the levels would have sorted themselves out by the time we got there. The chaps helped us down 41, they got a call, they were needed at Lock 51. We waved goodbye and thanked them and off they went in their van to help someone else.

A few days ago they’d been called out to help a boat heading up from Manchester. They’d found them a pound to moor in and told them to stay put overnight and they’d return in the morning to sort the levels out ahead of them up to the summit. That same day they were called out at dusk as the boat had continued uphill and had run out of water. If only the boat had stayed put, it would have only meant sorting the levels out once not twice.

How much water?!

Considering we’d not had enough water in a pound behind us, we all of a sudden had too much. Water flowed over the top gates straight to the other end and over the gates there too. So much water! This made opening bottom gates a hard job, patience for levels to equalise required. Maybe another bum against a lock beam would have helped, but despite there having been several walkers now there were none! We waited and eventually I could feel a touch of movement, phew!

We carried on down the next few locks. Billy had said that our preffered mooring near Littleborough was occupied by two boats this morning. So we tried pulling in before we reached there on a nice wide stretch the railway set back from the canal. Sadly there was not enough depth even at several feet away from the bank, we carried on resolving ourselves to mooring below the next lock, close to the railway where Tilly would have to stay inside.

Pushed over to the lock side

But hang on! I zoomed in on the little notch by Lock 46. Unless the two boats were very short, they must have left this morning. Brilliant! Our chosen mooring was available, we pulled in on the far side from the lock, a field, geese and leaves from a cauiflower for company. Tilly approved and vanished for quite sometime.

Skin *ed!

A grade three hair cut was long overdue, so we set up the towpath barbers making use of the bench by the lock. There he is again! Smart once more.

Messages were sent to Ruth, Mick’s niece, who gathered her daughters together to come and find us. With little legs expected we decided to push over to the other side of the notch making getting on and off the boat safer. Tilly was called back onboard and we pushed over. A quick tidy up and then a peek over the bridge to see Ruth, Penelope and Daphne walking up to meet us.


Penelope isn’t quite 5 and Daphne just under 2. It was quite exciting to be on the boat, Tilly was spotted in the hedgerow and then we did a guided tour. Of course rocking the boat was an exciting thing that had to be explained, especially why Penelope couldn’t make it work but Mick could. We had a lovely hour with them all and look forward to seeing them again in the next few days. You might be looking forward to it! I’ll be behind Tom’s pillow if anyone wants me.

Once they were gone we decided to push back over to the field. Tilly having just claimed the tree by the lock hopped on board, then hopped off again just as we pushed off. Panic! Why were you moving the outside with me in it !!?!! Only one thing for it. Speed maths, correct footing and ‘Don’t you DARE Tilly!’ laaauuuuuunch! Plenty of spare leapability, maybe even a cats length.

The best mooring in Littleborough

A mousakkish was put together from some bolognaise sauce we had left over, the stove lit. The second sock that I’d frogged was finished and the first toe of pair 14 was cast on, it’s a bit wierd knowing how far into the year we are by weeks.

11 locks, 2.54 miles, 2 helpful CRT chaps, 1 helpful volunteer, 600ft, 45ft lower than the Huddersfield Narrow, 2 much water, 3 foot down, 1 notch, 1 happy cat, grade 3, 1 niece, 2 great nieces, 1 hiding cat, 27 weeks 2 days in Yorkshire, 1 long leap, 10 years to the day of owning NB Lillyanne, 10 years of being boat owners, 2 glasses of wine each to celebrate.

One Last Night. 3rd April

Lightbank Lock 31 to between Warland Lower and Upper Locks 34, 35

There have been Facebook tales of empty pounds on the other side of the summit on the Rochdale, one of these pounds did have a lack of water five years ago. The tales have come from those heading towards the summit from the west as we did ten years ago. We’ll see what we face when we get there, at least we’ll be taking water with us.

Two boats came past, were these the boats that had been helped across an empty pound at dusk yesterday? It was too early for them to have crossed the summit this morning, the top locks unlock at 11am. We waited hoping for a lull in the rain. One came and went followed by another, it didn’t seem like we’d get a suitably long gap to cruise in, so we just set off knowing we’d get wet.

I don’t think I’d mess with this goose

The geese are squabbling. Canadian Geese disagreed with a White Chinese Goose. Blimey they are worse than Seagulls! We pushed off leaving them to continue with their argument.

Round and round and round

Lightbank Lock has short beams on the bottom gate requiring the use of a windlass to open and close them. This is most probably due to a house having been built in the 1990’s on the offside here that required road access, so space was lost to have full length beams. The lawn seemed ever so green and well kept, until I walked on it, perfect grazing for Reindeer as it was soft squidgy moss. The views up the valley would be breath taking on a sunny day, no sun for us however.

Quite a soggy landscape

At the next lock a line of CRT vans were parked, a very soggy Sheep dog trotted back and forth from buildings to vans. We carried on with our soggy mission to moor below the summit today ready for our booked passage tomorrow morning.

The railway now vanishes underground, far more trains on the line at the moment due to line works in Huddersfield, so trains have been diverted along this valley instead. The river also has wound it self away from us and the road now a field away, would this be a good mooring for Tilly? We tried pulling in, but the now peaty water hides shallows, beware streams entering the canal, here they deposit silt enough to halt progress if you get too close. Another lock was ascended.

Warland Lower Lock filled, the pound to Upper Lock dropped by a good foot. Here would be a good place for Tilly. I walked up to see if I could empty the next lock to help fill up the pound. Boats moored on the offside were still level, the lock only had a couple of feet of water in it. I headed back to help bring Oleanna into the side.

What’s that little white dot on the bridge?

The top lock beam has instructions to help retain water in this pound. The offside gate requiring to be closed last, the mitred gates sealing better this way. There are even instructions on how to close the gates if you are a single hander. Push the near side gate with force, which pushes the offside gate away, it will then come back and close second keeping the water in the pound.

As we tried to moor up, spikes resistant to the bank a chap walked along. He’d emptied the lock above and was coming down to check the lock gates had been shut as instructed. Mick had succeeded, following the instructions, the chap said we’d be surprised at how many people didn’t do it.

Someone scouting for a suitable nest sight

A white dot on a pipe bridge up ahead on closer inspection turned out to be a Canadian Goose. The chap said they had two pairs trying to find somewhere to build their nest, he spends his mornings doing his best to dissuade them as they leave such a sh**ty mess everywhere!

Our mooring for tonight would just still be within the boundary of Yorkshire, one last night for us, one last afternoon of Yorkshire playtime for Tilly. She spent quite a bit of time out in the field despite the rain. I suspect on a sunny day here would have received a stamp of approval.

The stove was lit, time for us to dry out and have a late lunch. It carried on raining, we pottered away the rest of the day. The next sock was frogged back and by the end of the day I’d knitted back up to the cuff. Sadly I have another pair that require something similar, but maybe I’ll knit pair 14 first.

4 locks, 0.8 miles, 2 to the summit, 1 last night in Yorkshire, 1 very soggy day, 1 soggy moggy, 1 sock frogged, 1 duck hash, 1 stove lit, 1 quite good field.!1m17!1m12!1m3!1d2400.4512833377053!2d-2.087134758571627!3d53.67933433140286!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m2!1m1!2zNTPCsDQwJzQ0LjQiTiAywrAwNScwNi44Ilc!5e1!3m2!1sen!2suk!4v1712237215619!5m2!1sen!2suk

It Was Us What Did It. 2nd April

Holmcoat Lock 14 to below Lightbank Lock 31

Just how far to go today. The forecast was for dry weather, the locks would come thick and fast, plus we’ve got a booking to go over the summit. The latter could be moved if needs be, but we’d see where we got to today. Mick popped a load of washing in the machine and we pushed off.

Lots of water

Plenty of water coming over lock gates today, there were also a few bywashes that could compete with those at Tyrley. Last time we were here we’d moored above the next lock just as a stoppage notice came in that closed the canal behind us due to low water levels. Today we’d end up being the cause of a stoppage notice!

I’m so growd up I can preen myself!

As Oleanna started to rise in lock 16, we both could hear a noise, it made me wonder when we’d see our first ducklings. The answer was right then and there. In the lock with us were two little souls, bobbing about in the water. Had they been in the empty lock for some time? More importantly where was Mum!? Normally when ducklings cheep cheep you hear Mum somewhere trying to lure them to her, but no quacking could be heard. Were our first ducklings of the year also orphans?

Be careful!

As the lock levelled out the two little ones started to peck at our water line, then they made their way to the bottom gate. Here they preened themselves frantically, still unsteady on their webbed feet I reckoned it was only a matter of time before one if not both of them wobbled off the gate on the wrong side.

Just so lush today

Lush green hillsides accompany you up towards Todmorden. Houses sit high up making the most of views and day light. Old Royd Lock 17 had a Mum and her babies swimming away from it, had they been in this lock? Was she the Mum of the ducklings below? Just how long would they last for?

Old Royd Lock 17

We worked our way up the lock. As we near the top Mick hops off to open the near side gate and lower the paddle, leaving me to lower the off side and walk round to close the gate behind Oleanna. I wound the paddle down. It kept going for what felt like too long, I soon stopped and looked at the gear. Oh B**er! The toothed bar which you wind up and down by use of cogs had gone too far and now was no longer attached. I tried to push the bar inwards to see if I could catch it in the cogs, but it wouldn’t budge. We wondered would the lock now level with only one paddle available? As I walked back over the bridge I could see the amount of water gushing forth through the bottom gates, no wonder it had been empty when we arrived. It would be touch and go on the levelling front, time to ring C&RT. I got through to someone quite quickly and explained what had happened, if it hadn’t been me it would almost certainly have happened to the next person. The lady said she’d pass it onto the local team. After twenty minutes a stoppage notice arrived in our inbox.

Oh Bum!

We have received a report that the paddle has detached from the mechanism, a navigation closure is in place until the local team have been to investigate. Sorry everyone!


Onwards up into Todmorden. We pulled in on the service mooring, topping up on water, setting another load of washing going. The yellow water was emptied, elsan made use of. Have to admit to also having an early lunch so we could top up after the washing had rinsed. No boats came so we weren’t in the way.

Todmorden Lock paddle gear

The other side of the bridge sits Todmorden Lock this has a guillotine gate raised and lowered by the key of power, however you have to raise the paddle gear on the gate with a windlass. The top gate paddle gear were stiff as a Rochdale Canal paddle can be, I ended up walking round the lock hoping the water pressure had dropped enough so that I could lift them just a touch more. Gradually we made it.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall of Tod greets you at the next bend of the canal. The railway high above running on top of the 4 million bricks.

Now the locks come thick and fast. Once Oleanna was rising and Mick was near the top I’d walk up to the next lock to empty it giving us enough water in the pounds between locks. A Dad at one lock asked if I’d like some help lifting a paddle that was being a ‘Rochdale!’ Why not I’ve still plenty more to deal with. He managed to lift it with quite a bit of umph as his kids watched on gleefully.

This one or

Round the other side I set to lifting that paddle. Another ‘Rochdale!’ Positioning my windlass to make the most of my umph, I turned the handle. It stopped then gave just that little bit catapulting me to the floor! Thankfully just the floor. I checked myself over and stood up, a possible grazed knee. The paddle now wound up, behaving itself!

this one?

Onwards and upwards, under Gauxholme Viaduct. I hope I got a suitable photo to do a painting from. I identified the pound where a certain vlogger had to wade off his boat wearing wellies as there wasn’t enough water for him to get into the next lock. Just a short pound which could have been sorted without the need to fill his wellies with canal water.

Robbie’s wading pound

A chap came to watch us at Gauxholme Highest Lock, supping on his can of beer, he’d not seen any hot water in a while. ‘Good things are always worth taking time over’. How right he was.

Do we stop somewhere or carry on to where we knew we’d be able to moor? I opted to carry on even though I was feeling a touch weary. Using the more modern paddle gear as often as I could helped avoid too many ‘Rochdale!’ paddles and the going was easier.

A boat!

No low pounds today as there had been five years ago. No Grandma Pollard Fish and Chips, the old outdoor seating area now signed as a picnic spot. Then, there coming into view was a moving boat! The first since being in Hebden over Easter. Time to chat. The chap had managed to break a windlass on a lock up ahead and he’d almost done what I did at Lock 17 several times on their way over.


We made it to the wide part of the canal. Here we joined two narrowboats that had come over the summit a couple of days ago. We pulled in as far away as possible, a good distance away from the railway to give Tilly some shore leave.

Someone must have known I was coming! I considered getting a marker pen out and refreshing the writing but the owner came and reclaimed their sign shortly after we’d moored up. Too many people in the outside. I demand you move it! Not a chance today Tilly. Maybe tomorrow.

16 locks, 4.1 miles by boat, 6 miles by foot, 1 full water tank, 1 broken lock, 8 monkeys, 2 loads washing, 1 moving boat, 1 scuffed knee, 2 jacuzzies, 2 pooped boaters, 1 mardy cat, 1 sock improved, now to the next one, 1/3rd of the way to Manchester.!1m17!1m12!1m3!1d2746.2054656760665!2d-2.099722280195804!3d53.68839984892905!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m2!1m1!2zNTPCsDQxJzE5LjciTiAywrAwNSc1MC4yIlc!5e1!3m2!1sen!2suk!4v1712139593986!5m2!1sen!2suk

12 Stamps And Some Of The Good Stuff! 31st March

Hedbum Bridge

The towpath was a touch quieter this morning, were people still in bed having not put their clocks forward? We got cuppas ready and settled down for the Geraghty zoom. At 10:05 no-one had showed apart from us, 10:10 still no-one else. Were we the only ones to have sprung forward? No last week when we’d only bobbed into the zoom they had decided that as so many people would be away doing other things today there was little point, they’d just omitted to tell us. Oh well!

Easter breakfast

Before Mick was allowed to get the bacon and eggs out I needed certain things from the galley. Time to make some Hot Paw Buns. I tried a bit of an experiment and added a couple of extra grams of yeast and a teaspoon of Psyllium husk to see what effect that would have. The gooey mixture was left on the top shelf to rise for an hour whilst we had breakfast.

Tilly had another go at liking Hebden Bridge, but it didn’t last long and she resigned herself to sleeping for much of the day.

With a duck race on Monday …

I also decided to take one lot of rising out of the process of making Hot Paw Buns. So I mixed the fruit and spices into the gooey mass. Prepared the marzipan balls for inside and then rolled out a long sticky sausage to cut into twelve which in turn had their centres added and were rolled up into balls. All popped on a baking tray to rise again. Sadly the top shelf isn’t big enough for the tray so they took up space on the table.

Yesterday we’d omitted to buy some potatoes to go with our duck this evening and a visit to the cheese shop had to be made. Mick stayed onboard to hang up some washing. The Co-op was closed, the bakers open (however no queue today), Nisa and One Stop shops were both open and so was the cheese shop!

Cheese cheese cheese!

Now what on earth to buy? I chose a couple and then a third as the lady started to serve me. The third wedge of cheese I required a bit of assistance with. I wanted some proper Wensleydale cheese. In the 70’s Mum used to buy whole Stilton and Wensleydale cheeses, wrapped in their muslin. The top would be sliced off and kept to act as a lid and WO betide anyone who went in for a scoup! Slices cut into wedges were the only way cheese was consumed from these huge beasts of cheese. They kept exceptionally well. For a few years Father Christmas used to give me a small version wrapped in muslin, creamy but rather crumbly, my favourite cheese long before Wallace and Gromit were even a glint in Nick Parks’ eye.

…there’s a duck window display competition

This last Christmas I bought a small muslin wrapped cheese from Hawes dairy, sadly it was the modern version of Wensleydale, a disappointment to be honest. Today I wanted some of the good proper stuff! Yes they had Hawes, then there two more to choose from. I asked which was the better one. The mature one was wrapped in plastic, not a good sign so I opted for the other (when I get them out to eat I’ll let you know which one it is). This one had dark muslin, it’s been aged and turned and turned. The lady offered me a taste, but there was no need I could see this is what I was after. She agreed with me and commented about how so many people thought that Hawes Wensleydale was the true cheese, ‘but that means there’s more of the good stuff left for those who know!’

Back at Oleanna, marzipan paw prints were cut out and added to the buns. Mick was sent off for a bottle of cider to make gravy for the duck and some red cabbage had cinnamon, cloves, balsamic vinegar and sugar added to it to slowly cook on the stove top. The buns went in the oven with a tray of boiling water on the shelf below for the first ten minutes, covered in foil for the last ten minutes, then were left to cool having a sticky glaze added. The smell far better than the previous buns I’d made. Once cool enough we both enjoyed one with some butter melting into them.

Hot Paw Buns cooling just enough to eat

A much better bun, even Mick said they were better than the Bakery bought ones. My tweaks to my recipe had improved them and omitting a third rise I think had helped also. I’ll have to find time to amend the recipe page.

Late afternoon we had someone to meet. Alexandra Mathie is an actress I’ve know since the mid 90’s and she was one of the first people to be a lodger in our house in 2021, she lives here in Hebden Bridge. She has just returned from Sheffield having played Rebecca Nurse in The Crucible (review here). We sat and caught up on news of mutual friends and future plans over a pint at The White Lion for an hour. I’m not sure how long she and Angie have lived here, but she says that it simply isn’t the same. The town has become a destination for hen and stag does and on summer evenings the town isn’t somewhere they’d choose to go anymore. We’ve certainly heard the rowdy lads heading to the station over the weekend. It was so lovely to see her and there was an added bonus of gluten free beer on tap!

The lovely Alex

This evening we’ve enjoyed our Lidl duck. Not as good as those we buy for Christmas, but that was to be expected. A very full plate of food followed by a few chunks of Easter Egg. Tomorrow we’d best start working off the calories and carry on climbing up the valley.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2kg potatoes, 3 treat cheeses, 1 bottle cider, 12 paw stamps, 1 snoozy cat, 2 chocolate eggs, 1 Alex, 1 changed Hebden Bridge, 1 duck, 2 very full boaters.

Smiles All Round. 29th March

Salter Hebble Bottom Basin to Hebden Bridge, Rochdale Canal

Heading ton the top Salter Hebble Lock

A boat was coming down the middle Salter Hebble Lock as we were getting ready. Mick walked up for a chat and got them to leave the gates open for us. These top two locks are the shortest of the Calder Hebble Locks. On NB Lillyanne we had to come down these two locks backwards just so that we could get out of the bottom gate, we only had an inch to spare. We must have been so careful back then working these locks.

Sunny morning and smiles

The lock cottage alongside the top lock was fairly recently for sale, it’s certainly in desperate need of some tlc the roof couldn’t even be considered to being classified as a sieve! The last use of the Hebble Spike to get us up to the top and then the turn towards Sowerby Bridge.

Is that this outside?

We’d called ahead to Shire Cruisers to see if they’d sell us some diesel, so we carried on into the basin ready to back up to their pump. All the hire boats were lined up, front doors open and some engines running. A chap popped his head out of a door, ‘Are you wanting the services? The hire boats are about to go out, maybe you should come back after lunch’ I relayed this back to Mick. We reversed back out of the basin and pulled into the first space on the Rochdale Canal. Mick walked over the lock and went to see the people in the office, they of course said just come in and reverse up to the pump.

Topping up the tank the first time this year

We reversed back to the junction, and headed back to the pump where a helpful chap was stood waiting to grab our stern line. He filled the tank up then Mick went into the office to pay. We both remember the slightly stern lady here from when we’d hired from them years ago, she rightly wanted hirers to listen to her instructions on how to work a lock!

Another reverse back out of the basin. We discussed what we should do, maybe have a quick lunch and try to get going before all the hire boats came out and grabbed the moorings in Hebden Bridge, or maybe we’d be able to join the first one going up in Tuel Lane Lock. Three quarters of an hour later we pulled back out, no other boat had come along to share with so we’d be on our own.

What a pretty view

Spring blossom brought a smile to my face framing the scene below Lock 1. People stopped to watch, a couple of gents tried to open a gate for us but failed, they did help close it. Oh how stiff the paddles are! Am I out of practice? Or are they worse than five years ago?

Crossing the pound between 1 and 2 was very slow, it took a lot of effort getting into the lock, Oleanna sitting on the bottom! The paddles only just opened, one click on each side and then no amount of adjusting the windlass helped they simply wouldn’t budge. By now we had one of those silent crowds watching us. Thankfully some water was going into the lock and Oleanna was afloat again.

I walked up to Tuel Lane Lock to let the Lock Keeper know we were wanting to come through. You shouldn’t enter the tunnel below the lock as it may need to be emptied of it’s 130,000 gallons of water first! The Lock was full, thankfully the extra water would help us get over the cill at Lock 2 as the level looked quite low. We were instructed to sound our horn as we entered the tunnel. We paused to let the initial wave of water coming from the lock to settle, closed Lock 2 behind us, Mick had only just managed to raise one of the paddles when the water pressure had reduced. We sounded our horn on entering the tunnel and got three whistle blows back, not sure what that meant, the chap hadn’t told me.

Coming into the lock

The lock was waiting, all grey, dripping wet. It’s a modern interior to a lock, concrete built in 1996 to replace locks 3 and 4 as part of the restoration of the canal. Most of the canal had been closed to navigation and officially abandoned by an Act of Parliament in 1952 and parts of the route through Sowerby Bridge had been filled in for a road widening scheme. The IWA petitioned against various building proposals keeping the possibility of connecting the Rochdale to the Calder Hebble alive. In 1991 £2.5 million of funding meant the connection would be possible. The original plans were for the lock to be 57ft 6″ long, similar to the shorter Calder Hebble Locks, but a reworking meant they could accommodate a standard length lock of 72ft. The first boat to use the lock was on the 11th April 1996, the official opening in May.

Part way up Tuel Lane Lock

Passing a rope around the riser at the bow we then moved Oleanna forward to get the stern line around one too. The huge gates were wound closed behind us then a thumbs up from Gary the volunteer and a paddle was raised.

THANK YOU. Dave to the left and Gary to the right.

Down in the depths of the deepest lock on the network I was glad of the bright blue sky overhead. I was also surprised how still Oleanna stayed as we rose up, our ropes hardly needed. Gary was assisted by Dave, who had come down to see what was happening today, he will be a volunteer at the lock after his training which is to be on Monday. I think he was imparted some pearls of wisdom by Gary. As the noise died down I was asked if we’d been through before, ‘Yes our fifth time’. ‘You’ll have got a certificate then.’ ‘No, we’ve never been offered one!’ He returned and handed one over.

Now we wiggled our way along the side of the valley, views stretching out. Oleanna had smiled in the lock, now a smiley face beamed at us from the wood followed by a very happy jumper walking along the towpath.

Views don’t come without some work

Where to moor for the night? Should we stop part way to Hebden or carry on to ensure we got a space. Locks 5 and 6 were pretty heavy work, but I got the paddles up and Oleanna rising. However when it came to Lock 7 it was a different matter all together.


In came Oleanna, gates closed, I went to lift one of the paddles. I tried repositioning my windlass to make the very most of umph power to get it raised and onto the first notch. Nothing! I walked all the way round to the other side (no walkway on the top gates) and tried again. Nothing! Oh B***er!

It’s when you can feel your steel windlass bending that you know you’ve got a problem! Mick climbed the ladder, we roped Oleanna up. It took a lot of doing and Mick’s extra weighted umph to get them shifted, they eventually moved.

Mile posts, they don’t mention how many locks there are though!

Thankfully we were through and headed for Lock 8. I’d re-read the blog post from five years ago which mentioned how hard it had been to close the near side bottom gate, Frank and I had serious problems with it. So this time we avoided it opening in the first place. Mick opened the off side gate whilst I kept the problem gate closed. It worked and the paddles were a breeze! Just the short distance now to moor up for the day.

Lucy in the sky

It was just gone 6pm, too late for shore leave for Tilly but there was plenty of room on the moorings to choose from for the weekend. The cruiser we’d seen at Brighouse was sat on the service mooring facing downstream. Is he waiting for someone else to share locks with? Don’t blame him if he is.

Hello Hebden!

9 locks, 7.9 miles, 19ft 8″, 5th time through Tuel Lane for us, twice for Tilly, Lock 7!!!!! 91 litres, 3 reverses, 1 left twice, 1 certificate, 2 boaters with weather worn cheeks.

Click the photo for details

PS if you’ve a spare million pounds take a look at this house we passed today. The gardens were immaculate.

Lock Spotting. 9th January


1.63m up by 8cm from yesterday

The alarm went off early and Mick was up and on his way to the bus stop at 7am. The bus this morning was packed, standing room only, presumably overnight workers from East Midlands Airport. Picking up a van from Enterprise he then called in at Wickes. Here he bought several bags of coal as our stocks are starting to run low.

The parking at the mooring isn’t the easiest. Fulltime moorers have access through a gate, but Mick pulled in as close to the hedge as he could so as not to be in the way. As he off loaded the coal onto the roof he was handed items to head to Huddersfield, all the giant sized props, materials I wouldn’t be needing on the boat etc.

Skips heading to somewhere else by road

As we passed by the Clock Warehouse we could see that the skip boats were being craned out onto lorries in the pub car park. The narrowboat that had been by the pub had moved over to the water point, by the end of the day they had moved back across once the skips had been taken away.


The journey northwards was pretty horrid with almost constant rain and spray on the roads. A quick pull in to get something for lunch and we were soon pulling up close to the Piazza in Huddersfield where Dark Horse rehearse.

4E of the Huddersfield Narrow is just round the corner

I stayed to do costume fittings whilst Mick drove to Sewerby Bridge. Close to Tuel Lane Lock is a company called JC Joel. They provide and make drapes and fabrics for the entertainment industry. Mick was here to pick up a roll of dance floor which is suitable for painting with the right additives in the paint. The existing flooring for #unit21 was cheap vinyl (I had a limited budget) and had already torn before it was laid last year, it certainly wouldn’t survive a tour to five venues.

Lunchtime conversation

Back in Huddersfield I tried overalls on two of the actors. Down Syndrome people tend to have short limbs so there was a lot of pinning up and a few nips and tucks on shoulders to do, the overalls are meant for builders not 4ft actors after all.

After lunch Amy (Director) and I went through the props I’d brought with me and those that had been delivered. The giant mug had it’s handle added and was immediately tried out by Amy for weight. Then Alice was called over to check she could easily lift it on her own to take a swig of tea. All worked well. The remaining covering will get added on another visit in a couple of weeks time.

The Piazza was a shopping centre and has been ear marked for sometime to be redeveloped. The shops have gradually been moving out and the empty units have been used temporarily by art groups like Dark Horse. One large unit runs an art workspace for children, their windows always have something fun to look at. Another window showed off a giant cardboard sculpture of Bob Marley, brilliant.

Temporary Contemporary shop was the Chemists, Dark Horse behind the orange doors on the right

I took a little time to work out which shop had been used for the chemists in Happy Valley. Now a gallery with anaglypta on its walls. As the scene moved away from the shop you can see animal heads in the window of the children’s workspace, I think the scene was filmed around February last year as I have photos of the animal heads.

Last years display

Mick returned with the van and flooring. Two of the actors came out to look after the van whilst Mick and I struggled to move the large roll. A lovely chap offered to assist, then Amy came out to help too. We managed to get it into the unit, I’ll be needing some assistance to move it about when I cut it to length in a few weeks time.

The lower deck of the M1 going over the Sheffield and Tinsley Locks

A pause in Sheffield to visit Hobbycraft for a few bits then we headed for the Co-op in Castle Donnington to see what they had to offer before returning to the boat. Costume returns were organised, parcelled up and labelled for the morning.

Quite a busy day in Yorkshire.

0 locks, 6 locks spotted, 0 miles, 1 van, 191 miles, 2 overalls to shrink, 1 spare pair to make bigger, 3 braces tabs, 1 big swig of tea, 3 £1 books, £600 worth of floor, 2 near hernias, 1 new sandwich flavour, 1 location, 3 pairs trainers, 1 pair cycling shorts, 1 cat pleased to see us home, 12 sad git sausages, 2 sad git punnets of blueberries, 1 sad git gluten free loaf, 1 emptier boat.