Category Archives: Rochdale Canal

2019 Round Up.

Checking our vital statistics for a years worth of cruising takes a while. We have a trip computer which records almost all our journeys, sometimes it counts locks twice, sometimes it doesn’t quite catch where we reached before we wind. Before we used this method of recording our journeys I would use canal plan to work out our distances. This method can also miss out parts of our journey but it does give me more statistics. You know how I like numbers! How many bridges, how many narrow locks and what distances we travelled on different types of waterways. So inputting a years worth of cruising takes some time.

Anyhow, here is our round up of the year.

The New Year was seen in at Crick. From here we decided to head to Sheffield to have the last snagging jobs done on Oleanna, we were fortunate that the route north was open with no winter stoppages in our way until we reached Yorkshire. Once in the top chamber at Foxton it was going to be downhill all the way to Keadby.

Going down at Foxton

Sadly our blog started to loose it’s photos, which is a great shame. It was a problem shared by many bloggers who were all doing their best to get things working again. Have to say we ended up jumping ship from blogger to wordpress, but posts still lacked their photos when moved. We hope gradually to rectify this by replacing the missing photos, I miss them when looking back. But this will be a long job.

Waiting at Cromwell

During January we cruised down stream on the River Trent, the weather was getting colder the further north we got. Our route was clear but at Keadby the lock off the river was being dredged, so our journey was held up a touch. Then with February came cold nights and the canal at Keadby froze over. So we waited at Cromwell for things to improve.

First go at Gluten free puff pastry for cruising sausage rolls

Daylight hours and tides meant we split our tidal journey at Torksey. The early morning start from Torksey was very cold, so I was very glad I’d knitted us both balaclavas, we remained cosy cheeked for our journey.

Cosy heads

Our journey up towards Sheffield meant we coincided with the bicentenary of the opening of the canal and a very unseasonably warm weekend. The chaps at Finesse replaced a leaking window, gave us a new one (our choice), sorted out our gas locker lid amongst other bits and bobs. It had been a good decision going to Sheffield, it saved them time coming out to us and it saved us money on the extras we’d asked for.

New galley window going in
200 years old

Next we headed for Goole, the lure of cheap diesel and a night away to see our friends Bridget and Storm on the otherside of the Humber was a bonus. We then hunkered down to sit out storms and rising river levels. Our original plan had been to go to York, but flooding put paid to that, so instead we went by train.

Bridget and Storm with their lovely house

Towards the end of March we decided to give a trip up the Ouse another go, the rivers were at better levels and we still haven’t taken Oleanna there. But first Bank Dole lock wouldn’t fill due to silt, then when we reached Selby the Lock onto the Ouse had a fault which would take too much time to mend for us to wait. This was a relief for Tilly as this was where she’d discovered the difference between grass and duck weed and ended up learning to swim a couple of years ago.

Mark came to meet us from York

At the beginning of April we headed to Leeds. From here we had a day trip to Derby Crown Court for the sentencing of our original boat builder (Stillwater) who had finally pleaded guilty for fraud. I also spent a more pleasurable day in London, having a meeting for Puss in Boots.

Derby Crown Court

With panto in mind we planned our cruising for the remainder of the year. The remainder of April we made our way up the Calder and Hebble and onto the Rochdale Canal.

Being a foot shorter it wasn’t as tight as it had been on Lillian

Our friend Frank joined us to do the stretch from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, which included the deepest lock n the network, Tuel Lane. He’d not done this stretch back in 2014 when he and I walked from Manchester locking Lillian over the Pennines to get to the Tour de France.

Tuel Lane the deepest on the network
Frank

Once over the top we picked up a boat to share the locks down into Manchester. Clare and Graeme were over from New Zealand for a few months and proved to be very good company.

Mr Blue Sky and Oleanna

On the 1st of May, with the help of a Canal and River Trust volunteer our passage down into Manchester went well. The following day both boats headed down the Rochdale nine with an extra pair of hands from an old college friend of mine, Doug.

Nearly there!

During May we cruised down the Bridgewater and onto the Trent and Mersey Canal gradually heading southwards. A short detour up the Middlewich Branch to look at where the breach had been before we carried on southwards.

Climbing the Cheshire Locks

A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested! https://oleanna.co.uk/2019/05/23/the-plan-20th-may/

Tom and Jan

We saw the end of May out mooring at Tixall Wide before rejoining the Trent and Mersey and heading onto Fradley Junction where we joined the Coventry Canal. With Atherstone Locks out of the way I spent time below working whilst we cruised familiar waters on the flat, it might have rained too!

Tixall Wide

A day trip to London from Rugby for us both, me to a seminar for Separate Doors 3 and Mick to catch up with his friend Siobhan who was over from Australia. Continuing down the North Oxford Canal to Braunston where we joined the Grand Union Canal to head to London.

Busy Braunston Locks

A visit to the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon meant I bought some lovely yarn to make a cardie for myself (it’s nearly finished!) and caught up with our friend Heather Bleasdale, who just so happened to be moored there as well.

Yummy yarn

Our route then up and down the Grand Union meant we managed to get to see both Mikron shows this year as well as teaming up with the cast and NB Tyseley to climb the locks up to the summit.

Sharing the locks with Tyseley

Tilly was left in charge for a couple of days whilst we headed to Scarborough to check on our house as we had a change of tenants. This meant we got to stay with Jaye and Duncan and catch up on the news from home.

I’d be in trouble if this photo wasn’t on the blog again!

We now pressed on down to London where we booked a mooring in Paddington Basin for a week in early July. This gave us the opportunity to catch with with friends and family before we headed back out west and down the Hanwell flight. I made the front cover of Canal Boat for July.

Mid July we locked out onto the Thames cruising the Tidal section to Teddington. From here we transited to the River Wey, brand new waters for us.

Up onto the Wey

With my final design for panto delivered to Chipping Norton from Guildford we could enjoy our cruising a bit more, despite the soaring temperatures which had us hiding under trees for a couple of days.

Finished!

On the 26th July we ticked off our third point on the compass, reaching Godalming the furthest south you can get on the connected network. On our way back to the Thames we met up with Adam from NB Briar Rose, both he and Tilly got wet that day.

Furthest South

The original plan had been to cruise the Basingstoke Canal whilst we were there, but sadly the levels were too low and the canal closed before we got there, so we spent a while longer on the Wey.

Hampton Court Palace

Onto the Thames where we managed to get a space outside Hampton Court for a couple of days and I discovered the joys of standing in line for some fresh veg. Gradually we made our way up the Thames. Waking early and getting going worked for us as mostly we managed to get moored where we wanted around lunchtime. Three years ago we did from Teddington to Oxford in a week but with a months licence we took our time.

Waterway Routes
No Problem XL

The further upstream we got the quieter the river got, less hustle and bustle. We met up with Paul and Christine (NB Waterway Routes), missed Carol and George (WB Still Rockin), finally got to have a proper conversation with Sue and Vic (WB No Problem XL) as we headed upstream.

Kelmscott Manor

As the rivers bends got tighter, the banks were harder to get up. A mooring by Kelmscott Manor required a rope from the post to help us get on and off the boat, but it was worth it to visit the house.

At the end of the navigable Thames

On the 26th August we winded at the furthest point we could reach on the Thames on Oleanna and started to head back eastwards. Tilly gave one of our moorings a double stamp of approval and stayed out well after dark!

Isis lock, Oxford

An incident with engine coolant nearly stopped us from reaching Oxford to see War Horse. But a nice man from RCR got us going again so we had a narrow lock fix and headed to the show catching up with Matt and Bill for a drink afterwards.

Lovely chaps

Then at the beginning of September we turned off the Thames onto the Kennet and Avon. For the last five years we’ve been meaning to head this way, but for one reason or another it hadn’t happened.

Gangplank land, the K&A

With tales of lack of mooring we kept to rising early hoping we’d get moorings. This mostly worked and wild moorings were very rarely needed, we did still have to use the gang plank every now and again. We only encountered one pound on our westward journey where even the longest plank wouldn’t have helped which meant we had to carry on up a flight with the clock ticking before locks were locked around us.

Over the summit

At Devizes we met an Instagram friend Frankie who’d been working on the flight over the summer. Despite following another boat down the flight we made good time with the help of the volunteers.

The photo of the year, Devizes

Onwards to Bath and Bristol. Here we moored with HMS GB in the background and met up with two of my old school friends for lunch. A big shame we couldn’t stay longer as there was more we wanted to do and see whilst there, we’ll just have to save up for next time as the mooring fees are quite pricey!

In good company
Old school friends

The section between Bath and Bradford upon Avon was our favourite, with the aqueducts and views along with the second deepest lock on the network.

Cornwall

Mick and Tilly got to enjoy it for a week longer than me whilst I headed off to Cornwall to eat gluten free pasties and start painting my panto set for a week.

Pasty

Once I was back we had two weeks to reach Oxford, but the weather had different ideas. What felt like the monsoon season started. There was rain on most days, luckily not the day we did Devizes. We managed to team up with two couples from Bristol on a hire boat, by the time they reached the top of the flight they could work uphill locks with their eyes closed, we left them to master downhill on their return journey.

Tilly enjoying the big trees

Our second low pound struck as we tried to leave Cobblers Lock, Oleanna was sat firmly on the ground and unable to leave the lock until a good flushing of water set her free. The rain actually did me a favour as whilst we sat in Newbury hoping for the Thames to drop I managed to get my model for A Regular Little Houdini finished.

A Regular Little Houdini

At the end of October I headed off to panto land leaving Mick and Tilly a short distance outside Reading, hoping they would be able to get up the Thames in the following week. Our friend Paul came and helped Mick out onto the Thames reaching Goring on their first day. Here Mick and Tilly got to met Carol and George (WB Still Rockin’) who’d been clinging onto the moorings there before heading downstream.

Photo courtesy of Carol WB Still Rockin

Paul returned later in the week and despite the engine overheating and having to deploy the anchor they succeeded in getting to Abingdon where Oleanna had her second visit from RCR. Mick battled on against quite a downstream flow and reached Sandford Lock before tying up. Here the levels rose and fell, the engineer came for a second visit and found lots of crud in our cooling system.

A calm paws on the Thames at Sandford

With the engine in better fettle, Mick nudged his way up towards Oxford and finally made a dash up Osney Lock and onto the canal despite that section still being on red boards. It turns out he’d chosen his moment well as the river has stayed on red boards since then.

Pantotastic

Once I left all the singing dancing and glitter behind and returned to narrowboat life we had to sit out high levels on the Oxford canal and on the River Cherwell. We loitered in Oxford, but as soon as it looked like things were improving we were on our way.

Lakes not meadows

We paused in Banbury for Christmas haircuts and shopping before pulling in for a few days at Cropredy Marina, from where we headed to London for a Sibling get together at my brothers.

Family

Onwards to the top of the Oxford Canal the day the locks reopened and down the other side continuing onwards to Radford Smelly for Christmas.

Christmas

In Warwick we met up with my family and then picked up crew Mike and Chris to help us up the Hatton and Lapworth flights.

Our final visitors of 2019

The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new year.

Narnia Lock our last for the year

Quite a busy year. So our vital statistics for 2019

According to Canalplan

Total distance is 1199 miles, ½ furlong and 886 locks . There are 119 moveable bridges of which 22 are usually left open; 139 small aqueducts or underbridges and 20 tunnels – a total of 8 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 207 miles, 4 furlongs of narrow canals; 399 miles, 5¾ furlongs of broad canals; 102 miles, 5 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 226 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 212 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 49 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 150 narrow locks; 626 broad locks; 109 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

838.2 engine hours

That is 255 miles and 272 locks more than last year! But 246.4 hours less engine running, just goes to show it’s worth having solar panels.

1336.93 litres diesel, 9 (although we’ve got 2 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 6 overnight guests, 6 packs Dreamies, 1 cover cat, 32 friends, 17 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 1 double stamp, 5 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves, 1 baby blanket, 2 shows designed, 1 cover illustration, 5 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 39 boxes of wine delivered, 12 bottles of wine delivered.

Thank you for sharing our year with us.

It Wouldn’t Be The Famous Canal Street Without …. 2nd May

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.

2 Varieties

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.

NB Lottie Jane
NB Mr Blue Sky
A touch tight

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.

Starting the nine

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.

Walkway into the dark

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.

Signs everywhere to try to discourage people from falling in

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.

Back in the open

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.

Doug catching a ride

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.

It wouldn’t be the famous canal street without …

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!

Floating flower beds
Os

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?

Mick giving some bowthruster assistance to NB Mr BS

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.

Got to have a photo of that viaduct

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.

Last Lock on the Rochdale

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.

She wouldn’t put her phone down so I could get a photo!
Bedraggled Graeme

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.

Hacienda

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.

Railway map at Victoria Station

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.

A tasty yellow fluffy morsel

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.

Walking Into Manchester. 1st May

Irk Aqueduct Moorings to Thomas Telford Basin, Ashton Canal

One

Houdini spoke and we were out of bed, dressed, breakfasted, covers rolled back with tea in our thermos mugs ready to go a little before 8am. We had a rendez vous to keep a few miles away at Lock 65. The morning was a touch damp and water proofs were required for some of the time as we pootled our way to the first lock of twenty for the day.

Thunderbirds are
GO!

After Lock 64 came Grimshaw Lane Lift Bridge, Graeme walked on to operate it with his key of power. Going through here at 8:30 meant we were guaranteed to stop a lot off cars, but they all sat and waited patiently for the two boats to pass under. Grimshaw Lane is not your average lift bridge that pivots up to let you through, oh no. This bridge lifts on four rams, one in each corner, as if it was in the opening sequence of Thunderbirds.

Two

At Lock 65 we worked our way down. This was where we were to meet Ian a C&RT volunteer who would help us down the next 16 locks. We’d arranged this before we’d met up with Clare and Graeme, knowing that today would be a hard day for the two of us. At 9:30 we moved on towards the next lock, no sign of Ian, so Mick sent him a text message to let him know we were carrying on.

Three

A few minutes later the sight of a blue sweatshirt and life jacket appeared on a bicycle on the towpath, ‘Are you Ian?’ ‘I most certainly am’. He headed on to the next lock and made it ready for us.

Four

With three of us on the ground locking was easy. At times Ian would go ahead, lift a paddle on the next lock or more, return and help with gates. Who ever was a spare part would walk down and wait at the next lock.

Five
Team Manchester
Change in lamp posts
Concrete just below the surface.

Between Locks 68 and 69 we were told to get back on our boats. Along the next pound the canal changes from being in Oldham to Manchester, this is shown by the change in lamp posts on the towpath. With the change from black to grey also comes where the canal was blocked off when it was abandoned. Here the channel was filled with concrete. When it was reopened a narrow channel was dug just off centre, you can see the concrete shelf lying just under the surface on both sides. Ian said to stay in tick over all the way, this would mean we’d get to the next lock, slowly but without having to clear the prop or getting stuck on obstructions below the water.

Six

Newton Heath Lock 69 (the one with the pub alongside that has a cage around it’s outside seating area), I drew the short straw of the day, the bottom paddle, the only bottom paddle. I thought I heard Ian say it would take 32 turns to wind it. But it was far more than that, my arms felt like jelly afterwards. I counted as I wound it down, I’d missed him saying 100 before the 32!

Seven
Eight
How much water!?
Nine

On we worked, low water never an issue. Most locks below were full which meant that we were taking a lot of water down with us, a lot! The bywashes were torrents, even Mr Happy seemed a bit dazed as he span round in an eddie current on one.

Ten. Carrots Cabbage and Cauliflower
Mr Happy having fun in the bywash
Eleven

Goslings with their Mum and Dad didn’t know where to go as we approached, first throwing themselves off a wall onto the towpath then being swept over lock gates by the overflowing water.

Twelve
Thirteen
Fourteen
Fifteen
Sixteen
Don’t jump!
Mills

Ian headed down the locks to try to avert the possibility of flooding up ahead. But on reaching Lock 80 the towpath below the lock was decidedly wet and as the lock emptied no dry route was possible without taking a detour. The lock paddles have inhibitors on them, reducing the amount of water that can leave, but when there had been so much water coming down the bywashes this didn’t really help. According to Ian the bywashes here are council ones, narrow and without enough fall to be able to cope with the amount of water coming towards them.

Seventeen

Five years ago, Lock 80 was where we caught up with Derek a singlehander. It being a Saturday and a bit later than we’d intended we ended up having hassle from a group of lads who’d just finished football practice. That was the start to a very long day working our way up the locks. The full story is here. Today we had no such hassles, just too much water!

Flooded, it got worse

Ian had lifted a paddle on Lock 82 already to help move some of the water down. Both boats had to avoid bumping into the submerged towpath and a duck island on their way there. Here Ian told us to get back onboard and he’d let us down. This was where he’d leave us, just two more locks to do before we could call it a day.

Eighteen
New Islington Marina

We passed New Islington Marina where work is on going and visitor moorings suspended at the moment.

Nineteen

Lock 82 was surrounded by builders all having their lunch, Graeme and I bent double to work the paddles. At 83 more builders watched on from behind a fence like inmates as we emptied the last lock of the day.

Twenty!

Mick took the lead. We’d decided to pull into Telford Basin which meant negotiating some very tight bends to get onto the Ashton Canal, tomorrows Rochdale 9 locks just in view.

We’ll leave that one for tomorrow

The turn into the basin itself was very very tight, but doable. We then winded and pulled in onto one side of the basin. NB Mr BS pulled in, winded and tied up on the other side. Within five minutes we were joined by NB Lottie Jane who had just come down the Ashton locks. Sue and Tony had shared the Calder Hebble locks with Clare and Graeme a week or so ago, so knew they were on their way down today.

Third boat in the basin

NB Lottie Jane seemed familiar, one of those boats we’ve seen about. It could be that we were both on the Gloucester Sharpness last year at the same time. After introductions we all retired inside our boats for lunch only to reconvene later for a few glasses of wine and much conversation on NB Lottie Jane to mark the end of a long day for all of us.

20 locks, 7.36 miles, 4 miles walked (a better ratio), 1 lift bridge, 1 great volunteer, 1 bike, 3 goslings, 187 ft 3 inches down, 101 ft 3 inches lower than Sowerby Bridge, 1 spare rib, 3 C’s, 1 peddle car, 1 Mr Happy, 132 turns both ways! 2 flooded pounds, 6 hours, 0 stops for the weed hatch, 0 guns, 0 kids, 1 rather nice, if hard work, day down into Manchester, 1 gate code, 3 boats, 1 yarn parcel returned, 2 glasses wine, 2 hours of conversation, 1 plank.

Ten Down. 30th April

Slattocks Top Lock to Irk Aqueduct Moorings

Slattocks Top Lock cottage

An earlier start today. Graeme had walked down the locks yesterday and seen that C&RT were working on the second lock down, they had suggested that it would be good if we could be through the lock by about 8:30. So with ten locks to do today we pushed off just before 8.

In convoy to the next lock

Taking water downhill with us we certainly weren’t going to run out today, at times there was too much in the short pounds between the locks on the Slattocks flight. I walked on ahead to the next lock as soon as the top gates were closed hoping to lift the paddles on the next lock so that the towpath didn’t get flooded in between.

Our one gate method had to be put on hold this morning as Clare had managed to get a coat of paint on her gunnel yesterday, so scraping it off the following morning wouldn’t have been good.

A boat coming up hill

After the first six locks the next two were slightly further apart, nearly half a mile. I decided to walk on ahead to get them ready, just as well really as the first one has to be left empty which a passing boat had just done, and at the second one both bottom paddles had been left up by a couple of inches so the chamber there had drained.

The view downhill from Scowcroft Lock 61

Here I filled the lock as a lady watched from a short distance below. No sign of a boat, so I hadn’t stolen the lock from her. She eventually came up to say hello just as NB Mr BS and Oleanna came into view above the lock. Her boat was a couple of locks away, coming up hill, so they would leave the gates for us.

Boats everywhere!

By the time we were working our way down I could see her boat rising in the lock below. A crew member walked up and said they would pull in just after the lock to let us pass. which they did , but there wasn’t quite enough space for a Braidbar boat they were with to tuck in as well. All of a sudden from not seeing boats for days the canal was full and so was the towpath, eight crew between the two boats. We all do-si-doed to get past each other and then normality returned.

Too much water!

The last lock of the day was very full indeed. Here there is a small concrete wall that’s been built to hold back water from running down a track alongside, it looks like this lock overfills often. The top gates were below the level as I topped it up and remained so as the boats dropped down, so much so that it was like a waterfall behind the helm. It’s these moments that Mick is very glad not to have a 70 ft boat! Expecting the bottom gates to be seriously hard to open with so much water coming down, Graeme and I joined forces on one gate, yet it opened so easily we needn’t have bothered.

Just around the bend were our moorings for the day by the Irk Aqueduct. Clare tried the moorings through the narrow section, but there wasn’t enough depth so they pulled NB Mr BS back to join us.

Not bad here

Woweee!!!! 9 hours she said. A whole 9 hours!!! Trees, friendly cover, sideways trees, birdies what more could I want, oh a big green field too! Just quite a lot of woofers. One of whom came to try to say hello but had it’s mouth full with a ball. It really didn’t know what to make of me on my roof. This outside kept me busy, 5 hours went by in a matter of seconds. I had a game of cat and birdie up the trees, they encouraged me to climb higher and higher, the view was very good from up there, but then they all flew away!

We’d pulled in shortly after 10am. The cuppa Mick had made me in my thermos mug was at a good temperature, it just tasted a little odd, the milk having been kept hot for a couple of hours just didn’t taste good. Hope I find time to drink a cuppa tomorrow. We spent the afternoon watching The Grand Budapest Hotel for reference for panto. What a wonderful film, such a colourful feast for the eyes.

Tree!

This evening we had a very pleasant couple of hours with Clare and Graeme having some food at the Rose of Lancaster. Time to chat without having to shout over the water in the locks. Tomorrow will be another early start, we head in to Piccadilly some 7 miles and 20 locks away. At lock 65 we’ll pick up a C&RT volunteer who will help us down. So early to bed tonight.

10 locks, 1.65 miles, 4 miles walked, 10:10am moored up for the day, 47 ft 8 inches dropped yesterday, 30 ft 10 inches the day before, 94 ft 5 inches dropped today, 86 ft above Sowerby Bridge still, 1 shiny gunnel, 3 boats, 2 hour old tea, 9 hours curtailed to 8, 6 biscuits for tomorrow, 1 chicken in a basket, 2 hours in the pub, 1 heel knitted twice, wrongly both times, 1 early night, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Queuing! 28th April

Lock 46 to Littleborough

Still to be conquered

With the route into Manchester planned in several chunks, today we had the shortest one to do. Move down three locks and about half a mile, the next few days we’ll be covering more ground. After breakfast we started to make ready for our move and as we did so we joked about waiting for the next boat to come along. The last boat we’d seen pointing in the same direction as us was in Todmorden and before that it had been Hebden Bridge. We’d not seen a moving boat in a couple of days, so we didn’t really expect one to come along, but it did!

Being on the little arm meant we could chat with the chap working the lock whilst his wife hovered in the boat. We’d just decided to empty the yellow water tank before moving down to fill with water in the next pound, so we didn’t rush to join them in the lock.

They are also heading into Manchester and would be stopping in Littleborough for the day, they’d come from the summit this morning and only had a few low pounds, certainly nothing as empty as we’d found. We mentioned that we have a volunteer booked to help us on the way to Piccadilly, if they wanted to join us they’d be welcome.

As we chatted I opened the front door briefly, mistake! After being reluctant to spend any time outside yesterday, today’s sun pulled Tilly out of the door. The geese in the field needed stalking and that tree also needed more thought. No point in trying to get her back and anyway we’d not got far to go so there was no rush.

I just wanted to say hello to the geese

After a while she returned, yellow water emptied and we made our way down the lock. NB Mr Blue Sky was on the water point. No space to pull in by them, so we loitered on the lock landing, we’d not be in anybodies way as a second boat would be very unlikely. But we’d not expected on being in a queue for water today.

A rather nice mooring, might have to come back

We took our turn at the tap and chatted to a chap from the moored boat alongside the services. His boat was the first craned in when the canal reopened, he’d been lucky enough to get planning permission and has a drain and electric hook up right next to a water point. He pointed us in the direction of some skips where he said we could put rubbish, I doubt these are official bins as it is a C&RT maintenance yard, but we made use of them as there are no more bins until Manchester.

Plastic houses with one stone wall

New houses face the canal. Their front walls all built in dressed stone, the natural colours and patterns showing, then all other faces have been built in a cheaper more plastic stone, looking like it’s been clad in sheets. £225k will get you a three bedroomed semi here. Wonder what the thin detached one cost?

Two more locks with plenty of on lookers, one chap eager to help with the gates. Ten we’d reached our destination. A fisherman let us nudge in behind NB Mr Blue Sky. Graeme and Clare came for a chat, a New Zealand couple over for two months. We talked about our plans to go into Manchester. They were interested in sharing the locks but wanted to be at Castlefield Basin to meet a friend a day earlier than we’d planned. We said we’d join them for the last nine big heavy buggers.

Model box just needing steps adding
but they will be matching the show floor, so I’ll make them later

A shopping trip to the Co-op to stock up for the next few days and then back to work for me. An email to the director with dimensions of how things could work and a finished model box. I just need to clear out my cupboard to store it in now, but for the time being it’ll sit in the corner of the dinette.

Late afternoon, as our roast chicken cooked, Graeme and Clare knocked on the roof. They’d been looking at the maps and were going to suggest to their friend to join them at Piccadilly instead of Castlefield. Those extra nine locks after a long day might just be too much and the following day we’d have an extra pair of hands.

So tomorrow we join forces and start to work our way into Manchester. An earlier start than normal for us, but at least we’ll have company and split the work.

3 locks, 0.52 miles, 1 empty wee tank, 1 escapee, 1 queue, 1 full water tank, 0 rubbish, 1 boat going our way, 1 boat going the other way, 1 lady goose watching our every move, 1:25 theatre ready for a set, 1 roast chicken.

Fitting A Circle Into A Square Hole? 27th April

Lock 46

A lull in the rain encouraged Mick to head out for a newspaper this morning. He first headed to the Co-op, but apparently they didn’t have juice that I’d like so he just had to head to Sainsburys, handily passing a bakers that sold pork pies. Sainsburys although small had my juice along with Mick’s favourites cheese twists! So I got healthy juice whilst he got an assortment of baked goods.

Rain came and went all day, we were glad not to be out in it. I tried but the wind was a touch too much and kept interrupting my calculations to climb the big branchless tree. On each attempt I would exit via the cratch, decide against it and arrive at the hatch just as She did. Perfectly timed on her part.

Service time

My drawing board was lifted out from it’s slot and I delved under the dinette for my tech drawing equipment and model making box. Time to make a start on Puss in Boots. To make way for me taking over the main cabin Mick headed into the engine bay to give Oleanna a 750hr service. New filters, oil etc.

Sketch elevation and plan

I spent the morning seeing if I could fit a very big circle onto the Chipping Norton stage. Leaving enough room for actors and dancers and it still reading as a circle through the square of the proscenium took a bit of time. A basic groundplan to show how much space there would be for each scene and highlighting things I’d need to solve as I design the show. I can now let John the director know that this version could work.

Mick carried on tinkering after lunch, Tilly carried on checking the outside and returning, helping to keep my steps up for the day! I stowed the drawing board and started to make a model box of the stage. Last year I was loaned a model box, but as they are producing a show in the autumn two will be needed, so I’m making my own.

Model detritus

I double checked the dimensions of my clothes cupboard to make sure I built the model to fit. Every time I finish working on the model it will be put away in the cupboard to stop Tilly from chewing parts of it, or even moving in, it is a box after all!

As the afternoon progressed Tilly learnt that jumping in onto the floor was a much better idea than straight onto the table! Last summers lack of rain helped in me keeping model bits paw print free, I wonder if I’ll succeed this year! I got all the main walls cut, stage and auditorium floor ready to be fixed together tomorrow. Whilst Mick tried to start Oleanna. This went on for a while.

Ratchet in hand

After several attempts where she started but then gradually slowed down till she stopped, Mick could be heard muttering ‘I don’t understand!’ Tilly and I kept quiet for a while, then asked if we could help, knowing that that was unlikely. Another half hour passed and then more attempts to start her up failed. ‘Should I start conserving electricity?’ ‘No not yet’.

A while longer and each time Oleanna was started up she lasted that bit longer before slowing to a stop. Then at last as Mick pumped the thing that bleeds the air from the diesel line she started and kept going. Phew! He’d already done this before starting her up, removed the filter he’d replaced and put the old one back on in case the filter was at fault. So tomorrow he’ll be putting the new filter back on and pumping the bleeding air thing again.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1.2 miles walked back and forth to open and close doors! 1 newspaper, 1 pork pie, 2 cheese twists (they only come in twos apparently), 1 carton juice, 4 soggy paws, 0 on my model yet, 0 on my drawings yet, 1 flat packed model box, 1 elevation, 1 groundplan, 2300 radius, 2 or 3 portals? 10.5 litres oil, 2 filters, 1 swapped out, 7 attempts, 8th successful, 1 very wet day.

Redistributing The Water. 26th April

1st Below West Summit Lock to Bent House Lock 46

Carrying on down

Another morning trying to beat the elements, well the rain had already started and stopped a few times as we got up and had breakfast. The plan was to not go far, but close to Littleborough where we could hop from one mooring to another topping up with water and shopping over the weekend as the weather allowed.

Starting to rain

As I set the first lock a chap walked past in shorts, I bet he’d wished he’d put his long trousers on, it was blustery and starting to drizzle. By the second lock it was time to change my long trousers into waterproof ones!

Disused derelict mill

The next six locks are all close together, so it’s not too far to walk ahead to lift a paddle on the next chamber so that it fills itself as you come down the one above. As Mick brought Oleanna into a lock a passing Postman in his van beeped his horn, ‘How far you going?’ ‘The canal’s empty down there!’ At least we were warned.

Empty

I’d go ahead to lift a paddle and check on the next pound. One persons version of empty is not the same as anothers. But as I reached Lock 43 to lift a paddle I could see that the Postman had used the term ’empty’ as I would have done. Between 43 and 44 you could make out the deep channel very clearly, the bottom of lock 43 along with it’s tyre was also very visible, no danger of getting stuck on the bottom cill here as you’d never get anywhere near it.

Tyre and cill very visible

A phone call back to Mick, I walked down to Lock 44 to check on the paddles. All were down. Mick called C&RT to discuss what to do, we were happy to let water down but the length of pound would almost certainly mean that we’d just be moving the problem up hill, possibly emptying two pounds. We were told to go ahead if we were happy with what we were doing and the local team would be informed. At least we’d be leaving the problem behind us, not taking it with us as you do when going up hill.

With all gates closed we opened a paddle at each end of 43, 42 where Oleanna was sat and 41. Keeping the gates closed as you run water through means that no silt or other larger items will get caught on the cill stopping you from closing the gates, this is what Lockies have told us.

Running water through

The pound between 40 and 41 was quite short, so we lowered this to a couple of feet from being empty, 41 to 42 was left with enough water to navigate through. All the time as we ran water down Oleanna sat in Lock 42, the level here dropped to about halfway, one of us stayed with her all the time whilst the other checked the level either below or above. A large Mink scurried along the bank as I kept an eye on things whilst the rain kept falling. Why do these things always happen when it’s p**ing it down?!

That looks better

Mick called from Lock 43, he thought the level below was now navigable, so had closed the bottom paddle to start to fill the lock. I did the same at 42 to make getting back on board easier, we didn’t want any slipping in the rain.

Lock 44 at last!

Leaving two pounds behind that we hoped would only take a lock or two of water to be deep enough we descended 42, Oleanna crawled along to 43 where the lock was already full. Then down 43 and into the pound that had been empty. Mick had made a note of where the channel had been deep and we avoided using the offside gate to leave as we knew there was a lovely tyre lurking in the depths.

We’d made it through to 44, redistributing the water to aid us and hopefully leaving it in not too bad a state for the next boat.

Earlier I’d walked to the next lock to check on levels there too, this had been fine. I was going to walk it again, but our lock full of water (and possibly more) had brought the level up over the overflow that runs across the towpath. Here there was no raised walkway, but luckily Mick managed to get the stern into the side for me to hop back on board.

Should we stop? We were both hungry, I needed the loo and we were both soaked despite wearing waterproofs. Our chosen mooring was still one lock away, there we’d be nearer shops, the last water point before Manchester and hopefully a nice mooring to while away Storm Hannah, we carried on.

Interesting

Alongside Lock 46 is a short arm, long enough for us and possibly wide enough for two narrowboats. According to Pearsons guide it was an old dock, the stump of a crane still here, which was used for loading stone quarried at Blackstone Edge. That looks like a challenge.

Dough left for 24 hours
Pricked with a folk before cooking
Topped with lots

This evening we have sampled my first go at Gluten Free Sour Dough Pizza. As most things without gluten they behave differently so instead of kneading the dough and shaping it, you push it into shape, then cook it for a while before putting your topping on it. We had tomato, ham, mushroom, olives and mozzarella and cheddar. Verdict tasty, crunchy edge but the centre could have done with a few more minutes baking first.

Cooked, yummy!

8 locks, 1.36 miles, 4 miles walked, 1 very empty pound, 1 hour 20 minutes to fill, 4 low pounds when we finished, 1 mink, 2 drowned boaters, 1 drowned deer, 1 Postman, 80 ft 10 inches down, 258 ft 11 inches above Sowerby,1 branchless tree stump, 1 volunteer booked, 1 very wet morning, 1 drier than expected afternoon!