Summit to Smithy Bridge
4th September 2013
3.5 miles - 13 locks - 5.5 hours
Summit isnt just the top pound - there is an actual place called Summit at the western end of the one mile pound complete with pub and watering point.
Above lock 36 - Rochdale Canal
The summit lock (36) is unlocked at 10.30am which precludes a mad dash down to the Rose of Lancaster in a single bound, as had been our original plan. We therefore engineered our passage along the Rochdale to give us three days of descent which, if the truth be told, was a much more comfortable approach than the heroics I undertook with Jeff four years ago which involved a further 7 miles of travel and an extra 14 locks.
The summit section is undoubtedly glorious, its broad sweep of water cutting through the moorland with the surrounding hills crowding in on either side and heather lining the water margin.
The descent is as slow as it is pretty, with me having just about enough energy to lift a single paddle and then sit for 5 mins watching the peat stained water swirl down and out, eventually making a level and allowing me to crack open the heavy gates. I sometime wonder how many times I have started for long minutes at water selling up - it must add up to days, probably weeks of my life but I still find it both strangely compelling and soothing at the same time.
The majestic summit pound of the Rochdale Canal
The problem with the Rochdale is that at times they didn't build by-washes and instead all the surplus water cascades over the lock gates - which can make them easy to fill but very difficult to open. The other feature is the partial state of collapse of many, their width reduced to less than two boats. Not that it mattered to us as its days since we saw any boats on the move and we seem to have the whole canal to ourselves.
Tell me, where else can you safely sit on a lock chamber and refill your water tank? Where can you moor in a lock and wander off to pick fruit for 30 mins? Where can you moor to swing bridge bollards for the night in almost certain confidence that no one will pass? If you like your boating solitary, this is the place to come.
That said, facilities are few and far between - especially sanitary stations. You male use of every opportunity and the station at Littleborough is the only one between Tod and Manchester!
We next to the Smithy Bridge swing bridge, using the bollards as they offered the only place where we could get anywhere near the bank. Moorings are scarce. The fruit harvest has become more abundant after a barren few days with lots of Blackberries, Crab Apples and Rose Hips.