It’s almost rural there, apart from the odd emergency vehicle siren you could almost be convinced you’re in the countryside. Especially as there’s a farm down in the valley, alongside the River Tame.
Mary Smith was born here in 1795, and followed her soon-to-be husband Robert Moffat to Cape Town to spread the word to the heathen. They wed in 1819 and immediately set off 600 miles north into the interior.
Their oldest daughter, also Mary, married a young David Livingstone in Africa in 1845, and set off with him on explorations. It was on one of these trips that she died, aged just 41, in Mozambique in 1862.
Livingstone continued his travels, and disappeared for 6 years. Henry Morton Stanley was commissioned in 1869 by the New York Herald to find the errant explorer, succeeding two years later on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. “Doctor Livingstone, I presume” has become a legendary phrase.
The farm is up for sale, if you want a slice of history it’ll cost you around half a million.
We got away around 09:00, expecting quite a long day with 18 locks in just over 6 miles to cover.
Dukinfield Junction is three way; the Huddersfield Narrow heads off left, eastwards, The Ashton Canal heads west down towards Manchester, and the Lower Peak Forest disappears behind us to the south.
There’s an unusually flat stone arched bridge carrying the towpath across the junction.
The building beyond houses the Portland Basin Museum. I really must visit sometime….
Turning left onto the Ashton Canal
Moore2Life follows us out, beyond the HNC heads off.
To Fairfield Junction the Ashton cuts a corridor through the industrial fringes of the city.
Converted textile mills visible one minute…
….leafy cuttings the next.
Fairfield Junction, where the Hollinwood Branch Canal heads off northwest
We’re filling water tanks in the mouth of the redundant duplicated lock. Both of the Fairfield Locks were paired to reduce congestion.
Ground paddle culvert in the unused chamber
The Hollinwood Branch Canal heads off to the left, but currently only runs to the recently built Droylsden Marina. It used to go to Hollinwood, about 4 miles to the north east. It’s main cargo was coal.
Filled and emptied we set off down the long slope into Manchester.
Ashton Canal, Lock 18
We made steady progress downhill, but the bright start to the day soon gave way to cloudy skies and increasing wind.
In the Clayton flight another branch canal runs south from a large turning basin. This was the Stockport Canal, no prizes for guessing it’s ultimate destination…
Stockport Canal under the towpath bridge
It doesn’t go far now…
The bottom of the Clayton Locks marks the halfway point, well, near enough. The next group is the four Beswick Locks, running through the redeveloped area now home to Sportcity.
The Etihad stadium, home to Manchester City FC is on the left, and the Velodrome on the right.
It was at Beswick that the weather turned distinctly unpleasant. The short showers weren’t that bad, the wind was the problem.
Bywash at Beswick Top Lock, water going upwards!
Mags was getting a bit tired by now, so, instead of trotting ahead to set the next lock I started to move the boat between them, mooring up and filling when we arrived. Quite a bit slower, but at least she had a chance for a sit down.
Locks 6 and 5 were leaking badly from the bottom gates, 6 so much that it wouldn’t make a level.
Lock 6 bottom gates
We had to resort to pulling the top gate open
There’s another very low bridge below Beswick, Ann had already had to clear several items off the roof of M2L way back at Lumb Lane Bridge, but it was still a close run thing.
Head down under Bridge 7
Waves on the water between Ancoats mills
The problem was that you didn’t know where the wind was coming from next. The tall buildings funnelled the gusts, deflecting the air from the left, the right, straight ahead. It was difficult to predict, so aiming straight for an open lock was tricky.
Looking across Lock 3
New development at Ancoats above Lock 1
A seriously big drill was being used alongside the old New Islington Wharf
Didn’t get that from Homebase!
That’s it, out of Lock 1 and into the gentrified Piccadilly area of Manchester
Looking through Bridge 1 to Ducie Street Junction and the Rochdale Canal
Those are raindrops on the lens…
Moored in a very wet Ducie Street Junction, M2L just arriving
This is hardest day Mags has had to cope with since her “do” last November, and she did really well in pretty grim conditions. We’re both tired now, though. With no boats coming up every lock was against us. A bad road, as the old boatmen would have said.
The couple on the hire boat in front of us had been told NOT to stop between Dukinfield and Castleford, but I told them that they should break the trip around here so they’ve pulled over in Piccadilly. I wouldn’t fancy doing the Rochdale Nine after the Ashton Eighteen! They’ll wait for tomorrow!
So there you go, another safe transit of the Ashton Canal. No stone-throwing children, no mattress round the prop, no shortage of water (just the opposite). OK, it’s always going to be hard work doing 18 locks in 6 miles, but that would be the case anywhere.
If you’ve not been up here, come and give it a go. I can’t guarantee you’ll enjoy it, but it is satisfying to sit down to a chip butty after a busy day. Can you believe, Ann had never had a chip butty before? Have to introduce her to the delights of a fish-finger butty next…
Locks 18, miles 6¼