Saturday, October 20, 2012

Back on familiar waters.

After our somewhat unsettled night we were up and about early this morning. I would have liked to have had a look around the town, but we felt we wanted to move on.

Dropping down Lock 6W at not long after nineSAM_4040 Stalybridge L6W

I’d popped across to Tesco for a paper and had a chat with the clean-up crew working outside. One lass said that the piles of food packaging, empty bottles and cans and general detritus are normal at the weekend. Unless it rains.

It’s such a shame. Stalybridge could be a real haven for boaters, with good moorings, pubs and shops. And the amount of effort and money that’s been thrown at making the canalside  presentable has been well worth it. But the attitude of the local youth has certainly put me off. There’s a fine set of pictures here showing the extensive work that was carried out in the town.

Under Caroline StreetSAM_4041 Stalybridge

There are three locks to negotiate to the edge of town, and there are possibly quieter moorings below Lock 5W. We should have dropped down to here, but we didn’t know. Local knowledge is a wonderful thing.

Offside moorings between 4W and 5WSAM_4042 Good Moorings L5-L4

Until the restoration, the canal through the town was culverted, basically a drain with pipes under the roads. The winding hole alongside the Wharf Tavern was the limit of the canal in water, although if you could get a boat this far it’d be a miracle.

Limit of the canal until 2001. SAM_4044 Edge of Stalybridge
The bridge is new, replacing a dam with drainage pipes running through.

The aqueduct over the River Tame caught me unawares. One minute we were pottering along with a brick wall on the right, the next I was looking down 20 feet to the river. I just got a hurried shot as we left the iron trough…

Tame AqueductSAM_4046 Tame Aqueduct

Three more locks left now of the seventy-four up and over from Huddersfield, Lock 2W has severely cranked balance beams to clear a widened road.

Lock 2WSAM_4049 Cranked Beams on 2W 
Old mills as we head in towards Ashton under LyneSAM_4048 Ashton Mills

 The Huddersfield Narrow wasn’t going to let us go without playing one last, evil trick in the guise of Lock 1W.

First there was the narrow, shallow tunnel under Bridges 108 to 110….SAM_4050

….then the lock itself.SAM_4053 L1W

Looks all normal and innocent, doesn’t it. But at the bottom end lurks hydraulic gear that you would sell your granny to avoid.

Hydraulic gear for paddles and gates.SAM_4054 L1W
The two hydraulic motors for the paddles (nearest) were much as expected, twenty to thirty turns each way to raise or lower the sluices.
But inside the box lives the evil gnome who controls how easy and how fast it is to open the gates. You wind, and wind….. and wind. It gets harder the further open the gates get, and I lost count at 100. I guess the Gate Gnome must have been enjoying himself…

Mags was waiting below after I‘d let her out, now with badly aching shoulders as I got the gates closed behind her, then a chap came puffing up the slope under the bridge.. “We’re coming up! Your wife has been shouting!” I’d have heard nothing above the blood roaring in my ears…

Anyway, off we go again… 1, 2, 3… oh bugger, I don’t want to know how many turns it takes!

There were three boats waiting at the bottom, a bit of a treat really as they were all wooden boats of the WCBS fleet.

Wooden Canal Boats Society’s wooden canal boatsSAM_4056 Wooden Boats

Asda Tunnel was the final landmark, burrowing underneath the Ashton superstore. Unlike the Tesco at Stalybridge however, Asda has missed a trick by not providing moorings for passing boaters.
Tut, tut.

Asda TunnelSAM_4060 Asda Tunnel
Out of the other side of the Asda TunnelSAM_4061 Mills
The large mill is now apartments.

Portland Basin or Dukinfield Junction is where three canals meet.
Ours, the Huddersfield Narrow, ends it’s journey over the Pennines, the Ashton Canal sets off on a short but intense trip down to Manchester, meeting the Rochdale Canal at Ducie Street Junction. And finally the Lower Peak Forest heads to Marple where it connects with the Macclesfield Canal and the Upper Peak Forest.

Dukinfield JunctionSAM_4064 Dukinfield Junction
Straight on to Manchester, left turn under the elegant stone bridge to Marple. That’s us then.

Been here before once or twice….SAM_4065 Onto the Peak Forest
The junction bridge here is remarkably slender for such a long, low span.

There’s a lift bridge to deal with just around the corner, another of those hydraulic pumps to wind, and today we had a couple of anglers on the bridge landing on the far side, preventing Mags from picking me up.
She struggled with the shallow water but managed to get in beyond, then I had the last laugh, giving it plenty of wellie and sending a wave of silt down to their ground bait. Do fish cough? They would have in that lot. Childish I know, but it got their attention. And it did feel good.

The rest of the trip was water we’ve covered several times before, though only once in this direction. Odd, that.

I spotted and purloined a couple of logs near Newton Hall, we met another boat just by the M67 motorway bridge, and struggled to get over a floating obstacle in Woodley Tunnel.

Autumn comes to Greater Manchester near Bridge 2SAM_4069 Autumn shades

Leaving Woodley TunnelSAM_4074 Woodley Tunnel

The tunnel cuts through the ridge which separates the Tame Valley from the Goyt Valley. Our companion since Standedge, the Tame now heads west to keep an appointment with the Mersey, and the navigation shortly turns east, now following the Goyt valley to Whaley Bridge.

Reflected sunlight in the railway bridge arch near WoodleySAM_4075 Railway Br

There’s another, slightly longer, tunnel at Hyde Bank, then our planned stop for tonight just a few hundred yards shy of Marple Aqueduct.

Hyde Bank Tunnel hidden behind a leafy bend in the canal.SAM_4078 Hyde Bank Tunnel

Our mooring for tonight, less than half a mile from the foot of the 17 Marple Locks.SAM_4082 Moored below Marple

I got out the chainsaw and sliced up the logs, took Meg for a short one to the bottom of the locks and back, then we had tea. Now the towpath walkers have gone home it’s a delightful contrast here to last night. Just the odd train rumbling by. Lovely.

Thoughts on the Huddersfield Canals.
The climb up to Marsden on the Broad and Narrow Canals has to be the best section. The locks are in remarkably good condition, and the pounds are, with one exception, deep enough. Slaithwaite is a pleasant spot, about halfway between Huddersfield and Marsden, but there are no other good opportunities.
That said, there’s so few boats, especially in the off season, that a lock landing will do. We met one boat crew who’d spent the night in a lock with the top gates open!

The tunnel itself is well worth the effort of getting there. A unique experience, combining the qualities and pitfalls of all the canal tunnels we’ve passed through in it’s 3¼ miles. The C&RT crew here were really good, helpful and informative. We didn’t need to call anyone out on the flights either side, but if these are the same guys there’ll be no problem.

The downhill side from Diggle is not in such good condition, some of the locks are a bit past their sell-by date, and there are some shallow pounds. But on the plus side there are more mooring opportunities, Uppermill being about a third of the way, then Scout Tunnel. And the views are great.

I’ve had my say about Stalybridge, OK for a shopping stop but I’d have to think about stopping overnight. Maybe on those moorings between 4 and 5?

The lock gear reflects it’s origins, having been “borrowed” from a lot of the redundant networks elsewhere. Working the locks is sometimes like a whistle-stop English canal tour.

Would we come again? Yes, I think we would. Maybe south to north. Probably harder work that way round, to be fair. Low pounds would be even lower by the time you’ve filled your lock….

Up Marple Locks tomorrow. That’ll probably do….

Locks 6, miles 9½

1 comment:

Bruce in Sanity said...

Well done that man! (and woman and dog, of course.)

It's not often I catch you out, though – it's the LOWER Peak Forest to Marple, then the UPPER PF to Whaley Bridge/BUgsworth.

The way you have to lock up to Marple is a bit of a clue…

All the best