Slaithwaite to Marsden
9th August 2011
3.5 miles - 21 locks - 5 hours
I took a series of photos of Slaithwaite last night and then accidentally deleted them before they were downloaded to my laptop, so a repeat exhibition was undertaken this morning - der!
Actually, the morning light was much better so the cloud did have a silver lining, but at the expense of a boat setting off ahead of us and setting all 21 locks against us. We passed under the towns low bridges and noted that the warning chevron is still missing the chunk we knocked off two years ago! The locals like the canal and they like to see boats moving along it, with many coming over to watch our progress and reflect on the last 10 years.
Slaithwaite Guillotine Lock
The first lock is easy but then you hit the guillotine at 24E - a beast of a contraption which was installed in place of traditional gates as the adjacent access bridge had been widened. This massive sheet of steel has to be raised with 137 stiff turns of the lock key and then another 137 on the way back down again. A tough way to start the day. To be honest, the 3.5 miles up from Slaithwaite are one long flight of locks with only the shortest of breaks below 32E.
This upper half of the eastern side was dogged by a lack of water. It wasn't the supply that was the trouble, it was the fact that we were the second boat up and each short pound was depleted by two lockfulls before we entered. We dragged the bottom most of the way but the slowness didn't matter much - we had less than 4 miles to travel. The River Colne kept us company, throwing up the occasional ruined mill and adding a bit of built landscape to the general panorama.
34E and 35E
The Sparth Reservoir marks a boundary of sorts. Till here it is free cruising but lock 32E represents part of the controlled section right up to the tunnel. The flight is unlocked at 10.00am on the day before a passage and you have to be out of the top at 4.00pm.
32E - start of the summit climb
This last climb is accompanied by an increase in the leakiness of the locks. The water pours out of the shored up gates as well as through the loose fitting masonry lock sides. Perhaps the most spectacular is 38E, sitting above a pretty circular pound with cascades of water erupting as the boat ahead tries to make a level. These leaks are so bad that if you shut one top ground paddle the lock actually starts to empty!
Leaks at 38E
The lock gates were installed in the early days of the restoration, back in the 1980's and were made to minimum sepc by Job Creation schemes so I guess its no surprise that they are now approaching the end of their working lives. BW is doing a mass gate replacement this winter which should improve things somewhat, not that there is a lot to be done about the chambers themselves. In contract to the finely worked limestone of the Marple Flight, these are made of rugged blocks or rough hewn stone and have been prone to leakage since the day they were built.
On the foraging front I did spy a small clump of Bilberries on the offside, but much to Belle's disappointment they turned out to be isolated and insufficient to deliver a useful quantity. Maybe if we had time to explore the heathland up above we could find more.... but not today.
Standedge Tunnel - Marsden Portal
With the bottom scraping on the bottom we finally hauled ourselves through 42E and into the summit pound and the tunnel visitor complex. You need to top up with water before the tunnel passage to maximise headroom and there are two options: 1. use the tap beside the visitor centre (very slow) or 2. wait till the trip boats have stopped and use the fixed hose next to the BW control room. The latter was quicker and more convenient so we went with that, spending the night with our bows almost in the tunnel portal.
We had a prowl around the complex, spending money in the gift shop and viewing the art exhibition before taking a stroll down the hill into Marsden town centre. The woodland path was filled with wild rasberry canes but sadly the season was long gone and only a few stragglers remained.
The Marsden mooring is quiet from a boat perspective, not that you get a lot of passing traffic, but you the passing trains do rumble by at frequent intervals and the bunting flaps away above out heads, celebrating the canals bicentenary.
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