Locking up the Rochdale Canal

We had a brilliant stay in Manchester in the New Islington Basin but were a touch nervous about heading off up the ‘Rochdale 18’ through suburbs that have a bad reputation for theft and vandalism. You have to book your passage up as the first and last locks in this flight are secured by special CRT locks. Mike from CRT met us on time, opened the bottom lock, gave us his phone number in case of problems and sent us on our way with a cheery wave – I don’t think he expected to hear from us quite as soon as he did!


The pound above the second lock up was completely empty. Not an auspicious start.


Mike was back in a flash and he and his mate drove up several locks to start letting water down and closing paddles that vandals had left open. On their way they found the Firefly – a small narrowboat who had ‘sneaked’ onto the flight the night before not being aware of the booking system. All the locks on the Rochdale leak and the bottom one is no exception. John and Andrina from Firefly entered the lock and simply waited for the leaking water to fill it and allow them to leave avoiding the necessity of opening the locked paddles – apparently it took an hour! They then proceeded to moor for the night in one of the worst sections. Mike and his mate were amazed that they’d survived without any problems – putting it down to a combination of a cold night and the Man U Man City football match being on the telly.

Still, it was good news for us as we could double up and get through the remaining 16 locks quick smart.


Sharing the workload with John & Andrina from Firefly

We moored for the night a few locks up above the ’18’ near the Rose of Lancaster pub but wished we’d gone on a bit further as we did have a couple of kids lobbing stones at the boat on their way past along the towpath. No damage done though and, considering that section of the canal’s fearsome reputation, I reckon we got off pretty lightly.

From there on the canal becomes increasingly rural. The locks are large, heavy and hard work but they were nowhere near as bad as my imagination had painted them.


As we got towards the summit it became noticeably colder as well as more beautiful and there were still quite a few patches of lying snow.


The long pound at the summit of the Rochdale Canal


Only 36 locks to go to get to Sowerby Bridge and complete the Rochdale!


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