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The 1997 Mega Cruise

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5. Sowerby Bridge to Littleborough and return, Rochdale Canal.

We made an early start at 6.05 from Broad Cut, the idea being to get past Tuel Lane tonight as Malcolm the lock keeper had Thursday as a day off. The Calder and Hebble was found to be deep and fast even in the cut sections and we soon reached Thornhill Double Locks at 7.35 and Shepley Bridge Marina at 9.00. It was here that Neil spotted "Bain Marie" the ridiculous looking boat (actually a small trip boat) that featured in the B.B.C. Television series "Cook on the wild side". Brighouse Basin was passed at 11.15 and at 13.50 we stopped for water and lunch at Salterhebble Locks. We were out of Salterhebble Top Lock at 15.05 and arrived at Sowerby Bridge at 15.45. We went up the first two Rochdale locks and met Malcolm who told us to pull up behind the waiting Shepley Bridge Marina hire boat. 
He was just preparing the deep lock for them and we could go up together. When we were nearly up Julian went to pay for our 26.00 two week license and remarked to Neil that there was still a restriction on boats going down the other side of the summit to Littleborough. When Julian had got the license he went back to the boat for a few "Tinnys" for Malcolm as he thought he needed cheering up. It obviously worked as he took Julian and Neil aside and remarked " I could not help over hearing you talking about going down the other side. There seems plenty of water and what with you coming so far, give Callis a ring I'm sure they will sort you out". 
He gave us a scrap of paper with the telephone number of Callis Mill, which is the Rochdale Canal Trust workshops. At 16.55, we proceeded with renewed vigor, at least all this bloody rain and our habit of bribing lock keepers was paying off. That night we moored on an old wharf (towpath side) just before Luddenfoot, Station Road Bridge No.6, stopping at 17.30. On the way from Tuel Lane, Julian had prepared a meal which we had just after mooring up in, yes you guessed it, pouring rain. After this we had a swift few pints in the "Weavers arms" the first of many Thwaites Pubs we were destined to visit. We retired early as we were going to try to get to the summit tomorrow night.


Thursday 3rd of July saw us make a start at 8.15. The hire-boat we shared the lock with was soon passed, they were still asleep, moored non-towpath side on a nice old deep wharf, in someone's garden! The scenery soon became very dramatic, this must be our favorite climb up to a summit so far. Yesterday we did 28 locks, today we had to do 32 and if Neil was to have his way we would do 41 the day after. This is not up to our wide lock day record of 65, at home on the Grand Union, but the paddle gear on the Rochdale is a little erratic. 
Neil bent the shafts on two of our "Hatton" long throw windlasses and Ian Clarke started to revolt. He remarked that "Where are all these lovely Northern Rivers that you promised." and "If this waterway was like a proper waterway, there would be lock keepers, electric sluices, shinny varnished wooden cruisers, grey painted perfectly maintained locks and happy people in blazers and boaters." We think Ian Clarke must have been referring to his home waterway a quaint strange kind of affair in the South East. 

Julian wanted to go shopping so we stopped for an hour in Hebden Bridge. What a gem this place is, it was a thriving little community with an excellent baker, butcher and a whole range of "proper" shops. Neil anticipated this and went with Julian to restrain his purchases, or more correctly to carry the many bags of provisions Julian bought. While moored up Neil phoned Callis Mill, they said there was no trouble going down to Littleborough and that they would meet us at 8.30 to unlock the top gate. They warned us that due to lack of use the dried out gates leaked badly some pounds would be down and we would have to juggle the water. 
We passed Todmorden Lock with its shiny new guillotine bottom gate, the "old" 57ft 6ins length gates having only just been removed. Neil's favorite bit was at Gauxholm. At one point near here you think the canal is going up an impossibly steep side valley. After some dramatic threatening weather, but not much rain we arrived on the summit at 18.00, reached West Summit Lock at 18.15 and moored up. We decided not to go to the pub so did not check out the "Summit Inn". Julian cooked an immense meal and we stayed up quite late trying to empty the beer lockers. About 00.30 Neil decided to start the engine and charge the batteries, upon doing this he found that there was no throttle. 
Because we had a booked early start we had to sort this now. The culprit was found to be the brass "end" of the cable in the Single Lever Control. The whole crew assisted Neil while with the generator humming he fabricated a bodged but solid replacement from a spare Fender products fiddle rail post. Poor old Ian C was feeling particularly knackered and nearly fell asleep while standing up. Lights eventually went out at 2.15.


On Friday 4th July we entered West Summit Lock at 8.50, after the Callis Mill guys unlocked the top gates. They gave us a few phone numbers to contact someone when we were back out, so they could lock the gates up again. We let a few lockfulls of water through and we were off. Some of the shorter pounds were well down, but over the years we have become used to filling up pounds, juggling water and what depth of water "Beatty" needs. Apart from this and some extremely stubborn paddles we had no trouble till Littleborough Upper Lock 47. With a few spectators watching we had to temporally moor up the "Pennine Princess" a shabby and semi derelict trip boat that was moored in the lock. The end was reached at 11.30. Neil went on a walk-about to investigate the dropped bridge, eventually walking to Smithy Bridge. 
Ian C showed a lot of interest in Julian's U.K. Railway Timetable. Ian C we soon discovered, was a closet "Northern Soul" fanatic apparently there was a "little record shop" in Manchester. There was a train to Manchester from Littleborough Station in a few minutes. Ian C departed saying that depending how long he was he would come back to Littleborough and walk down to us, or go to Todmorden and walk back. Julian did another spot of shopping in the large, handy Co-op Pioneer which was hidden by the railway wall. We set off at 13.30, Ian met up with us in about an hour, having walked down from Littleborough. Todmorden was reached at 19.00 and we moored just above Lock 19 having done our 41 locks. Todmorden is a slightly grot town, but there must be some attraction in the pub as Julian and Ian Clarke stayed there till 1.00am, mind you they were locked in!


Owing to Mr E and Ian's strange habits last night, Saturday 5th of July saw us leave Todmorden at 9.40. The plan was to get off the Rochdale tonight, meet John Fleming and his brother Paul at Sowerby Bridge and Ian Clarke could leave tomorrow morning. Diesel was purchased en-route at Pickwell and Arnold where we saw a few wide beam barges under construction. Hebden Bridge was made at 13.00 and Julian could not resist going back to the excellent Butcher. Neil filled the boat with water. When we were nearly ready to shove off John Fleming and his brother appeared out of the blue, they were a bit early and thought we would be about here. 
They quickly unloaded John's trade-in Nova banger that they had come up in and abandoned it somewhere near the station in case they could not get a lift back to it. "Beatty" quickly departed as we wanted to get to Tuel Lane by 16.00. We arrived exactly at 16.00, the lock was a hive of gongoozling activity, a pair were about to descend, then a pair to come up, then us to go down. We got in the lock at 16.30, after having a debriefing chat with Malcolm and Brian Holden the Secretary of the Rochdale Canal Society. 
We moored just below Lock No1 and as it was Ian's last night and John and his brother's first we decided to splash out and go to the "Java" Indonesian Restaurant which was situated in a converted pub, just opposite the Basin Yard entrance. The meal was excellent and after we walked up the hill to the Ryburn's Breweries sole tied house, the "Rams Head Inn". The pub was packed with locals, but it was decided that the ale was not up to much. On the way back we stopped off at the "Moorings" which was a pub / restaurant in an old basin warehouse, for a pint of the excellent Timothy Taylors "Landlord" ale.


Lock No1. Rochdale Canal, Sowerby Bridge.

Looking back at Lock No1. Rochdale Canal, Sowerby Bridge.

Tuel Lane Tunnel, Sowerby Bridge.

Inside Tuel Lane Tunnel.

Entering Tuel Lane Deep Lock No3&4.

Tuel Lane Lock No3&4.

Malcolm, Tuel Lane Locky talks with Brian Holden, Secretary of Rochdale Canal Society.

Tuel Lane Lock No 3&4.

Leaving Tuel Lane Lock No 3&4. Narrows beside Kwik-Save car park. Rochdale Canal, Sowerby Bridge.

Rochdale Canal, Sowerby Bridge.

Long Bridge No2. Rochdale Canal, Sowerby Bridge.

Julian prepares a mega breakfast to prepare us for the Rochdale Canal day trip. Luddenden Foot, Rochdale Canal.

Duck seems interested in breakfast.

Luddenden Foot, Rochdale Canal.

Brearley Lower Lock No5.

Brearley Upper Lock No6.

Brearley.

The new "Bomb shelter" Brearley Upper Bridge No9.

Just before Mytholmroyd.

Halifax Road Bridge No10, Mytholmroyd, Rochdale Canal.

Broadbottom lock No7.

The Walkley Clog Factory.

Falling Royd Tunnel No14. Rochdale Canal.

Approaching Mayroyd Mill lock No8. Hebden Bridge, Rochdale Canal.

Hebden Bridge.

Hebden Bridge Basin.

Black Pit Lock No9. Hebden bridge, Rochdale Canal.

Stubbing Lower Lock No10.

Terraced houses at Stubbing.

Looking back from Stubbing Lower Lock No10.

Stubbing Upper Lock No9.

The "Stubbing Wharf" pub.

Wooded section below Lock No12.

Callis Mill Workshops and Rawden Lock No12.

The magic roundabouts beyond Callis Lock No13.

Looking back at Holmcoat lock No14. Rochdale Canal.

Pickwell and Arnold Boatbuilders and Shaw Plains Lock No15.

Lobb Mill Lock No16.

Looking back from Old Royd Lock No17.

Shop Lock No18, Todmorden, Rochdale Canal.

Todmorden Lock No19 and High Street bridge No30.

Todmorden Lock No19. Rochdale Canal.

Todmorden Lock No19. The controls for the newly installed Guillotine gate. The original restoration gates in the 57ft sockets have been removed.

Old world shop front in Todmorden.

Looking up at Wadsworth Mill Lock No20.

Gauxholm Lowest Lock No22 and railway viaduct.

Gauxholm Middle Lock No23. No the canal does not go up the valley in front!

Gauxholm Highest Lock No24.

Travis Mill Lock No28 in Walsden, Rochdale Canal.

Going up in Nip Square Lock No29. Colin in command.

Colin swings round to Winterbutlee Lock No 30.

Winterbutlee Lock No 30.

Winterbutlee Lock No 30.

Out of place suburban houses at Sands Lock No32.

Bottomley Lock No33.

Warland Lower Lock No34. Storm brewing in Yorkshire.

"Beatty" approaches Warland Lower Lock No 34. 

Warland Upper Lock No35.

Colin navigates out of Warland Upper Lock No35 and through Warland Gate Swing Bridge No41. The concrete post just in front of the bridge deck is the county marker post between Yorkshire and Lancashire. 

Coming up in Longlees Lock No36 and onto the summit. That storm did not reach us.

Longlees Lock No36, summit beyond.

Traversing the summit pound.

"Beatty" up by West Summit Lock No 37, waiting for the off. Rochdale Canal, Summit pound.

The tatty West Summit Lock No37.

Moored at Summit above West Summit Lock 37.

First Below Lock No38, Lancashire side.

"Beatty" comming out of First Below Lock No 38, Rochdale Canal, Lancashire side.

Neil wonders if we have let enough water down. Note long throw "Hatton" type windlass.

Second Below Lock No39. Littleborough Flight, Rochdale Canal.

Second Below Lock No39. Littleborough Flight, Rochdale Canal.

Ian Clarke dreams of tranquil Thames waters!

The dry pound above Punchbowl Lock No40 is filling nicely.

The only other dry pound was above Lock No41.

The railway summit tunnel exits beside Lock No41.

Lock No42.Littleborough Flight, Rochdale Canal.

Lock No42. Littleborough Flight, Rochdale Canal.

Thickone Lock No43.

Thickone Lock No 43. The strain is beginning to show on Ian.

Sladen Lock No44, we seem to have caught up with all the water we let down!

Sladen Lock No44.

Pikehouse Lock No45. Littleborough Flight, Rochdale Canal.

Benthouse Lock No46.

Looking up to summit from Lock No46.

Looking up to summit from Lock No46, telephoto shot. You can see the scar in summit pound cliff side.

Removing "Pennine Princess" from it's mooring in Lock No47.

Littleborough Higher Lock No47, also known as Durn Lock.

Durn Bridge, just below Lock No47.

Littleborough Lower Lock No48. Littleborough Flight, Rochdale Canal.

Ealees Footbridge, just below Lock No48

The end for present, the dropped and piped Ben Healey Bridge.

Looking back from the end at the dropped Ben Healy Bridge.

The Tour continues...


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