Thursday, 18 June 2015

Down the deepest lock on the canal system

Friday 5th June; Luddenden Foot (Rochdale Canal) to Cromwell Bottom (Calder and Hebble Navigation)

We were just catching on the shelf where we moored last night but with a bit of shoving we reversed off with no trouble, and pottered down towards Sowerby Bridge with the share boat nb Alcidonia, with whom we shared some locks yesterday, not far behind.  Last night we realised there was a heron’s nest near the bridge and we caught sight of the family in this field of buttercups.

1b heron family

It’s very difficult to see the birds but we guessed that the two or three young ones had only recently fledged.  On the outskirts of Sowerby Bridge we passed a restored mill, now housing a very appropriately named gym!  I won’t visit – the locks are providing quite enough exercise thank you very much.

2 good name for a gym

We were soon approaching the Tuel Lane locks.  We had phoned ahead as requested by the notice at yesterday’s last lock, and tied up at the lock landing with Alcidonia.  This lock is considered  too deep for boaters to operate themselves, and the lockie is there Friday to Monday; if you want passage on the other days you have to book ahead.

2a approaching turl lane deep lock

The trainee lockie who appeared was not yet ready to operate the locks by himself so we had a short wait while the lockie returned from the bottom lock.  It wasn’t long before we were entering Tuel Tunnel lock, at 19’ 8½” the Deepest Lock On The System!  This is what it looks like from the bridge; when the canal was restored, a new lock was built to replace locks 3 and 4 and a tunnel constructed under the road.  The two footbridges are for lockie use only.

3 tuel deep lock from road bridge

It was all pretty normal to start with.

4 looks quite normal  5 still looks normal

Then you turn round to check out the heavy duty cill.  Glad it wasn’t leaking much!

6 below the cill now  7 long way down

We leave as the lockie crosses the upper footbridge;

9 lockie crosses upper footbridge

and enter the tunnel as Alcidonia follows us out.

10 and into the tunnel

The tunnel curves in an S-shape, which was a challenge easily met by Dave who pulled in to wait by the toadstool bollards as I filled the lock.

11 toadstool bollards

Our companions shared the locks then left us to take their boat into Shire Cruisers, where they are based, and we said goodbye to the Rochdale Canal and joined  the Calder and Hebble Navigation where we soon had our first chance to use the Calder and Hebble Spike to operate the paddle gear. 

17a salterhebble with spike  17d spike

Salterhebble locks are pretty but at 57’6” not the easiest to get through.  We are only 55’, so for us to get out it was just a question of shuffling about a bit to avoid the leakage through the top gate while getting the bow out from behind the bottom gates. 

18 top salterhebble lock

Bit of a challenge for a 60-footer I would think – that’s the maximum length for a narrowboat according to Nicholson’s.  We moored below the second lock for a lunch stop.  Dave gave a hand to the guy on the boat moored behind who needed someone to help him align the bolts on the gearbox he was fitting.  Dave also got our Sea Searcher magnet out and recovered the chap’s dipstick which he’d dropped in the canal.

Salterhebble 3 is another lock with a guillotine bottom gate.  Rather a climb to cross the lock if you use the paddles on both sides of the top gates – which I did!

23 salterhebble bottom

Mooring is quite restricted along the following stretch with warning notices every few hundred yards – there are cables buried under the towpath making it inadvisable to use mooring pins!  The towpath is part of the Calder Valley Greenway (a walking and cycle route) and there are signs at various points with the Towpath Code of Conduct.

19 towpath code of conduct

We found most cyclists used a sensible speed and used their bells or called out a warning when they wanted to pass pedestrians or the many runners who also use the path.  They were pretty good along the Rochdale too but I can think of some areas where the cyclists could learn from them!

We continued down through Elland (too noisy and full of concrete for us) to the quiet mooring marked at Cromwell Bottom where there is a nature trail and pleasant walk round the flooded gravel pits.  One of the locks was leaking so badly (much worse than the picture above) that Dave got soaked while manoeuvring to get out so I took over the helm while he got some dry trousers.

So that’s the Rochdale completed!  Would we come this way again? Well….. there are lots of locks, and they are large and very heavy, but manageable.  We’re not averse to hard work, but I certainly appreciated the longer pounds between locks – with 92 locks (counting Tuel Tunnel as 2)in 32 miles there weren’t that many places where there was time to make a brew and drink it between locks!  The moorings were not plentiful – either the areas were dodgy (till you get past Rochdale) or the sides were just too shallow or rocky for a wild mooring.  So some days were longer than we would have liked just because of finding a sensible spot to moor.  We didn’t have problems with water supply (except for too much the day we started down from the summit) and once you get past Rochdale the scenery just gets better and better.  We liked the eastern section very much.

11 broad locks (Tuel Tunnel lock counts as 2 on Canalplanner!), 7 and a half miles, 6 hours.

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