Today dawned chilly but dry and bright after last evening’s heavy showers. We’d decided to make a fairly early start, you never know what delays you may encounter on the Ashton Locks and we wanted plenty of time to get to Ducie Street Junction.
Out onto the Ashton Canal at Dukinfield
We had a 2½ mile trip to the first of the locks, at Fairfield Junction.
In Droylsden, between bridges 18 and 19, stood the Robertson’s Jam factory. Apparently, when they were cooking up marmalade the smell of Seville oranges was tantalising. Mags worked here in the canteen *#* years ago. Familiar with several generations of children, the “Golliwog” trade mark was retired in 2002, not, the company insisted, due to pressure from the PC brigade.
Introduced as a brand label in the early 20c, it became a collectors scheme in 1928. Children collected paper Gollys from behind the jam jar labels which could then be traded in for enamel badges in various designs. I can’t remember the exchange rate, but I’m sure it was quite high!
Over the years several different forms of Golly merchandising were produced, china, dolls and even clothing featuring in the mix. The original enamel badges (later replaced with acrylic versions) are now highly collectible.
The factory here in Droylsden closed in 2008 and was demolished two years later.
No more Gollys
At Fairfield Junction the abandoned Hollinwood Branch Canal used to head off to the north.
Built as a coal-carrying branch canal, it ran for 4½ miles to Hollinwood where it met tramways from local collieries. It had a short branch of it’s own, to Fairbottom.
It closed to commercial traffic in the 1930’s and has been built over in several places, although parts still remain in water. The first few hundred yards have been reincarnated as the entrance and main basin of Droylsden Marina, operated by Portland Basin Marina. Saxon Mill used to stand on the junction, but has recently been demolished to make way for a development of high-rise apartments. There’s loads of information and pictures here.
We filled with water and emptied a loo tank here, then set off down the locks following a couple of earlier boats.
Fairfield Top Lock, or Ashton Lock No 18.
We made good progress down these two locks at Fairfield, then the steady fall of locks through Clayton. It was a fine example of boaters co-operation, as each boat vacated a lock the crew lifted a paddle for the following boat. This way each lock was full or almost so on arrival, speeding up the operation for all. Sadly this sort of thing is getting rarer…
Part way down the Clayton Locks the 4 mile Stockport Branch set off to the left under a towpath bridge.
Entrance to the Stockport Branch
In the distance can be glimpsed the roof of the Velodrome.
The branch was added to the Ashton Canal map in 1797 to take coal to the town. There’s not much left of it now…..
Here our good progress turned a bit patchy. A couple of chaps from BW’s contractors May Gurney were wanting to empty Lock 10 and lower the pound below to replace a bolt on a gate paddle, and we started to meet boats coming up. We got through before they closed the lock, but chatting and waiting for an upcoming boat slowed things somewhat.
Leaving the Clayton Locks the canal passes the Velodrome, home of The National Cycling Centre. Although not being used as an Olympic venue, it’s playing an important training role. It’s part of the extensive Sportcity complex that straddles the canal above and around Beswick Locks.
Around here we caught up with NB Chatsworth, owned by Roger and Sue from South Africa. They were intending to head up the Huddersfield Narrow from Dukinfield but there’s a stoppage up there so they’re going north via the Rochdale instead. And they read this blog! Thanks, folks, keep reading!
NB Chatsworth in Lock 8
Roy on the right, Sue on the left.
Dropping down Beswick Locks
Phillips Park is just behind us to the right. Mag’s Grandparents are buried in the cemetery here. I think she’s having a quiet moment….
After the Beswick Locks there’s a ½ mile pound before the final three locks at Ancoats.
Approaching the city centre now, the contrast between the old buildings and the modern developments couldn’t be more marked.
Looking back, old mills and warehousing….
….and forward, strikingly modern apartments.
Manchester is still in the throes of re-inventing itself, the skyline is punctuated by tall cranes.
Meg’s had enough
Nearly there now, girl!
I‘m sure ONE of these lines must be vertical!
The last lock, No 1, drops into the gloom under Great Ancoats Street, then we were out into the sunshine again heading through Piccadilly Village.
Out of Lock 1
Piccadilly Village – “one of the most desirable places to live in the city centre”
We pulled out into Ducie Street Junction, on the Rochdale Canal between Locks 83 and 84, and moored opposite the Ashton Canal entrance. It’s been a long day, starting at just before 8 o’clock and switching off at half-past 2. But it’s stayed fine and mostly sunny, so all in all a good trip. And to anyone who still thinks that the Ashton Canal is “bandit country” – come and give it a go, you’ll be surprised.
Ducie Street Junction
We were followed down by John and Janet on NB Renaissance, with their delightfully daft Beardie, Snoopy. They joined us for a brew after we tied up and we’ve arranged to share the Rochdale “9” down to Castlefield tomorrow. Should be another good day, then.
Early night tonight I reckon, we’re all knackered!
Locks 18, miles 6¼