Sunday 28th August.
Manchester and beyond.
Interesting areas beneath the railway at Castlefield Junction.
I met up with Pete and Ali on a hire boat, moored further along the basin and they were travelling up the Rochdale Nine Locks the following day, starting at 06.15, so I asked if I could tag along with them. Although Pete had been boating before, it was several years ago and he was rather rusty. Ali, on the other hand, was a complete novice, so it was going to be slow going.
Being a Sunday, very few places were open in the City, so it was rather pointless sightseeing and my dicky hip would not be an asset after doing the Wigan flight. Instead, I opted for a mini pub crawl to places that James had recommended the day before. The first was the Peveril of the Peak, which stood alone amongst the more modern buildings and was clad with glazed bricks or tiles. A good choice of beers on handpump, but the interior decor had little to recommend it, apart from the bar. Several groups of guys came in at intervals, had a quick pint and left, which I thought rather strange.
By now I was rather peckish, so popped into The Knott for a pint of Atlantic Plum Porter, which was nearly a meal in a glass and some delicious chicken wings and BBQ sauce with blue cheese dressing. The wi-fi code was “weknowourbeers”, which was very true.
Monday 29th August.
I was ready and waiting for Pete and Ali to cast off at 06.15, after which I had to wind Stronghold at the end of the basin, going slowly and as quietly as possible at that time in the morning. Pete had set the bottom lock, but Ali was copying everything I did, until she got the hang of it. She was on auto pilot after that and actually opened the bottom paddles at an empty lock, until Pete corrected her. The first four locks took us two hours; slow going indeed! Around the Canal Street area, most of which is under buildings, there were shady characters along the towpath, which could only be recognised by the shadows they made. I found this very threatening and I was pleased to be going with another boat. All the gay bars along Canal Street were closed of course, but there were still security staff watching us over the railings. The state of the water was indescribable, with plastic and bottles covering the surface. This is somewhere I never ever want to go again. ‘Disgusting’ is an inadequate word for it.
The Rochdale Nine Locks.
People even sleep here!
Amazing that a heron would fish here.
Ancient and modern high rise.
Gay bars in Canal Street.
Eventually we reached the junction at the top and turned right for Marple and the Peak Forest and Ashton Canals. Now the atmosphere was completely different, with modern apartments and clean water. The locks were now single, so no doubling up was possible and it was one boat at a time. Fortunately for me, the following and leading boats helped with the locking, so I had only to open a few paddles here and there up the Ancoats Three, Beswick Four and the Clayton Eight.
Railway viaduct in the background.
Glaucous Gull ahead.
After these, there was a lock free pound until Marple Bottom Lock. I had now teamed up with another hire boat called Glaucous Gull, with Patrick and Cathy and their son Adam and daughter Jess, who were tremendous help to me with the locks. We moored up for the night out in the sticks for some peace and quiet at last.
Tuesday 30th August.
The big flight of Marple Sixteen loomed ahead and once again my favourite boat crew turned the locks around, saw me in and then filled each one in turn. Jess was my heroine for the day and never seemed to tire. I can’t imagine how I would have done them alone, unless a volunteer was on duty; although there was one, but we didn’t see him until close to the top.
Deep locks on this flight.
Stonemasons' marks in the locks.
Cathy and Jess, my invaluable locking crew.
I had promised the crew a drink when we got to a pub and there was the Ring ‘O Bells at the junction, so it was my round and very grateful I was for all that assistance.
I moored up for the night in the Bugsworth Arm, after two days of heavy locking.
Wednesday 31st August.
For the first time on this trip, my mooring pins were pulled out by inconsiderate speeding boaters and they were not hire boaters either. This is something that really annoys me, because I always slow down for moored boats. I even had a spring line out to stop Stronghold moving along the bank when another boat passes. They moor on the bank, so they must know what it is like – selfish bastards!
The hire boat went off towards Marple and I turned onto the short branch to Bugsworth Basin, with four movable bridges to cope with on the way.
Just a part of the Peak District.
There were plenty of moorings available in the three basins and after cruising through them all, I decided for the one furthest from the noisy road. After watering up, I moored up and had a look around this interesting area, which was originally a lime burning industry. The canal was proposed in 1791 and opened up export of the lime to the cities, ports and factories of the nation. The area is maintained by The Inland Waterways Protection Society and is immaculate and well worth a visit. More details here:- http://www.bugsworthbasin.org/
The lower basin.
Remains of the tramway.
Middle Basin leading to the Upper Basin.
Remains of the lime kilns.