Irk Aqueducy to Castlefields, Manchester
6th Sept 2013
9 miles - 29 locks - 10 hours
First up, apologies for the lack of photos. Cameras and rain are not good bedfellows if you know what I mean.
This was always going to be the low point of the trip in terms of effort and quality of canal but add pouring rain / low temperatures into the mix and you have the perfect end to a holiday! There really isnt ant way round the fact that its a long unpleasant slog from the Rose of Lancaster to Picadilly, and having reached Picadilly you may as well grind on through the heart on Manchester on the Rochdale 9.
A dismal Miles Platting
We had some low grade irritation from some teenage lads at the Irk Aqueduct, running onto the boat but the fading light and the first spots of rain saw them disappear into the distance leaving us to our own devices with rain drumming on the roof.
The forecast was for rain all day and for once they were spot on. Sometimes light, sometimes heavy but always wet - very wet! We met the guys from Canals and Rivers at 8.30 as planned but the assisted passage we experienced four years ago is a thing of the past. Assistance consists of unlocking the lock at the top and locking the bottom lock behind us as we leave. The only support is a mobile phone number "in case of trouble" and a muttered prayer for safety. Of course, the rain cloud brings with it a silver lining in the fact that hoodlums (lovely word) dont like getting wet so bankside trouble was kept at bay.
Fialsworth passes without incident as did Newton Heath. The locks are very leaky so getting levels and opening gates is hard work, but we made steady progress - Helen shivering at the tiller and me sweating in my waterproofs. To be honest, the old sink estates are being gradually bulldozed and you can see regeneration coming. The economic downturn has slowed the process to glacial speeds, but it is happening and the Rochdale Canal is the catalyst, just as its neighboring the Ashton was before it.
We were glad to meet a pair of boats rising up at Scotchmans Lock which at least meant that all the locks thereafter were full. This development speeded progress a bit and we emerges into a dismally wet Picadilly at 2.30pm.
An equally dismal Picadilly
With a recovery crew meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning we pressed on down the "9". Those top two locks have to be the most horrible in the country - an underworld haven for rent boys and druggies. I am not sure which is worse - the used condoms, the needles, the stench of urine of the baleful gaze of lads touting for trade. If I need a mental picture of Hell and hopelessness this is the one I use.
The descent picks up as we drop through Manchester but irritatingly someone had decided it would be a really good idea to half draw a paddle on each tail gate. Not draw it all the way mind so I can see it, just half way so you only find out when the lock wont fill, the upper pound is sinking fast and the lower pound is awash. We had a spot of bother at Princes Street Lock - the one where there is no access from the shore. Our comms failed and Helen sailed out of the lock leaving me jumping up and down and hollering for her to come back - much to the amusement of the Canals and Ricers Guys who had come to say farewell.
We emerged from Dukes Lock at 5.00pm, wet and exhausted and with all thoughts of making a hand over at Bollin erased. The hand over will be in Castlefirlds come hell or high water. All we were fit for was to tie up in Castle Quay and eat fish and chips from the excellent shop near the Science Museum.
Bar the drunken revelry of Friday night in downtown Manchester (normal) that's in for the big summer 2013 trip. Martin and Adam will arrive tomorrow morning and we will return home by car. A lovely trip but I suspect that we wont be back in Yorkshire for a few year - there are other places we want to explore (the Chesterfield isn't in Yorkshire is it?).