The start of this month found us chasing diesel – not sure how far we could go without running out and unable to purchase a jerry can for emergency supply (not to mention organizing a way to carry it back from a garage) – diesel stockists are few and far between at this time of year. It was our very dear plan to take the Huddersfield Narrow Canal back south (many, many locks but narrow) and go through the Standedge tunnel (the longest in the UK) but the vagaries of the Canals and Rivers Trust thwarted us thoroughly and we decided to continue along the Rochdale Canal in the company of our canal-exploring coconspirators aboard the Willow.
Traveling in company is fun provided they are compatible – luckily we are! We leapfrogged each other on the run up to Leeds both heading for the one open day at the lock stoppage and both getting caught up at the jammed swing bridge – adversity unites.
The Rochdale! It’s spoken of with trepidation, and we found out why. Since the Summit, it was challenging with both excesses of water and shortages. Going downhill is easier than uphill, but many of the overflow sluices are blocked with twigs, which then catch the leaves and effectively impede the water that needs to escape, leaving the locks brimming over at both ends. The canal itself is very shallow, with very few mooring spots and none of them dredged.
Frequently we had a challenge to get alongside at the end of day. The locks came thick, fast and heavy but we had a good system going.
The final day on the Rochdale saw a target of 29 locks to reach the middle of Manchester and a reasonably secure overnight mooring in Castlefield. There are many spots en route where it was not possible or wise to stop. The homelessness visible in Manchester is depressing. One lock in particular was inhabited under the bridge by a full on encampment constructed of umbrellas and tents with all the occupant’s clothes hung on the lock mechanism.
Luckily we were able to get both boats out of the lock using only one gate so didn’t have to disturb or dismantle the residence.
We made our goal, setting off at first light and tying up in the twilight.