Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Two Days, Three Canals

First off, apologies for not posting yesterday; we were late mooring up and then went out for tea to Mag’s sister’s house. It was late when we got back to the boat.
With a 2½ hour cruise to Dukinfield Junction, we didn’t need to have an early start. I’d arranged for a berth at Portland Basin Marina, but they couldn’t fit us in till 4.
So it was about 12:30 when we untied and set off through the delightful wooded cutting to Hyde Bank Tunnel

Heading towards Hyde Bank
The tunnel is wide but low and 300 yards long…..Unlike the next, Woodley, which is narrow, higher and only half the length.

Woodley TunnelEven though we were heading north into the conurbation that is Greater Manchester, the navigation remains in countryside till after Bridge 6, from where industry and housing start to intrude.

Alongside and above the Tame Valley
Heading into Hyde.
The canal still runs through a narrow green corridor, though.

You have to admire the confidence (or arrogance) of Victorian businessmen who were so sure of their success that they had the company name built into the structure of their factories…Joseph Adamson of Hyde was a respected boiler maker and engineer.

Looking out over the Tame Valley towards Manchester.

There is a Llangollen Canal type lift bridge to pass as the junction with the Ashton and Huddersfield Narrow Canals is approached.

Bridge 1We pulled in on the frontage to Portland Basin Marina and I went through to the office to sort out our overnight mooring.
As we were heading into Manchester we were offered an alternative, a berth in Droylsden Marina at the top of Fairfield Locks about an hour further on. I was a bit dubious, the site had a reputation for vandalism during the initial excavation. This from MEN, August 2008. Lets face it, building sites and water are both magnetic to bored youngsters. Put them together……
But with security beefed up and a couple of residential boats in there, the situation is much better.

So off we toddled, another 2½ miles, after doing a left turn at Dukinfield Junction onto the Ashton Canal. Behind us the Huddersfield Narrow heads off on it’s journey over the Pennines. Another trip…

Dukinfield Junction
And the rain which was promised slowly gains on us. It’s difficult to outrun a storm on a narrowboat….
We arrived at Droylsden and tucked ourselves against a pontoon in the secure section, Not all the berths are behind locked gates; most of those that are, are occupied.

Droylsden Marina.We were collected by Dot and John who live only 5 minutes away, and pigged out on takeaway Chinese food and fish and chips. The original plan was for them to join us for the evening, but Dot has just had new knees installed, and the walkway around the basin is a bit rough. It was gone 9 by the time we got back to the boat and we were ready just to hit the sack.

Around the marina a new development of luxury apartments is due to rise, but the current financial slowdown has all but stopped the work.

Consequently the area is a bit of a bomb-site.After a surprisingly quiet night we were up to get going at 08:00. I took Meg on a scouting mission for a mile or so down the first locks.

Proud Goose family.The Ashton Canal is only 5 miles long, with the locks in 4 main groups on the western half. The marina is situated at Fairfield Junction where the lost Hollinwood Branch canal headed off north. The top of the two Fairfield Locks is here as well.

Fairfield Top Lock
The next group of locks is Clayton, with views of the chemical works and Sportcity.There are nine locks in this flight, dropping the navigation into the city proper.

The Stockport Branch leads off south below lock 11, but now runs 40 feet into a park.

Stockport Branch, under the bridge on the left.Approaching the four Beswick Locks the area has been transformed by demolition and construction of new high-rise apartment blocks.

Near Beswick Locks.While the area around the last flight, Ancoats, is still awaiting the wrecking ball and the architects pencil.

To be fair, a lot of these old mills and warehouses are being converted to apartments, rather than replaced.

At the bottom of the Ancoats Flight regeneration is complete around Piccadilly and well under way near Lock 1

New Islington at the moment.

It should eventually look like this.
Old and new sit uncomfortably side by side…

Leaving Lock 1.
Mags is a happy bunny, I’m feeling a bit weary and even Meg has had enough.

We decided to moor where we did two years ago, below Lock 83 on the Rochdale Canal, just through Ducie Street Junction. We know it’s fairly quiet here, and we can get TV reception.

I’m sure all you boaters out there have heard the horror stories about the Ashton Canal. Local youths hurling stones and insults, nicking anything not nailed down. Huge amounts of rubbish in the water waiting to ensnare passing propellors. And pounds short of water, the boat bottom scraping along on bike frames and supermarket trollies.

Well, speaking of our experience today, we had none of those things. In fact we’ve both enjoyed the day. The locks are generally easy to work, there’s no more rubbish than we’ve encountered in any other urban canal, and the natives are invariably friendly.
We made the trip from Droylsden to Ducie Street, 2½ miles and 18 locks in just 4½ hours.

Tomorrow we’ve the last nine on the Rochdale, dropping down to Castlefield.

Apologies for the length of this post and the number of pictures but I think it’s worth it to show that this canal isn’t as bad as it’s often painted.

Locks 18, miles 11½ (both days).


Dogsontour by Greygal said...

Well said, Geoff. We also had a very enjoyable run through Manchester a couple of years back, despite all the doom-mongers and their dire predictions. Give a dog a bad name...

Sissy said...

A pleasing post...the more the better, I say. Interesting. and the ducks are beautiful, aren't they?

Geoff and Mags said...

Hi Greygal
Yes, it's a shame that interesting bits of the network are avoided because of some out of date bad press. Liverpool then Birmingham for us, next!

Hiya Sissy
Thanks for the support. There's lots of chicks and ducklings around at the moment. Looks like they've picked up after a late start.

Martin (Pennine Waterways) said...

Thank you for dispelling the false stories about the Ashton Canal. It really is no worse than any other urban canal!

Interesting to hear about your night at the new Droylsden Marina. It is good to have this extra facility, although there is normally no problem mooring between the lift bridge on the Lower Peak Forest and Portland Basin. There are often several boats moored along that stretch. As you found out there is really no need to set off down the Ashton locks at the crack of dawn!

Can I correct the mention of Portland Basin being the junction of the Ashton and Huddersfield Narrow Canals? The Huddersfield Narrow in fact starts at Lock 1w half a mile east of Portland Basin, with the the Ashton Canal continuing to that point.

A good set of photos - you had the right sort of lighting conditions to get the best from the locations!