Friday 10th July
An unusually early start for us – Meg had eaten or drunk something unwholesome yesterday and got us up twice during the night for an emergency walk! There were three blackbirds singing at 4am, so that was some compensation. She was up again at 6.30 and there was no point going back to bed as we planned an early start anyway. It was a beautiful sunny morning and by 8 we had shuffled across to fill/empty the necessary and were away soon afterwards. Not early by some bloggers’ standards but good enough to get us down to Castlefield before lunch!
Definitely shorts and T-shirt weather as we left. When we were here a few weeks ago, we hoped this interesting bridge would be open to get down to the towpath but it’s still boarded up.
The first lock after the marina was like a little vertical garden, but no flowers ….
unlike a lock further down where someone had sown poppy and nasturtium seeds, making a colourful show.
Developments to the road system before the canal was restored has meant a few adjustments to the locks; at lock 82 the lower gate paddle gear is best operated by a shorty like me who can fit under the road bridge to do the winding.
and some balance beams are cut short where the road edges have been built out so the gates have to be pulled open by chains operated by windlass.
There was a good deal of water flooding over the top gates once we’d started down the Rochdale Nine. I’d close the paddle on the offside bottom gate before walking round to open the gate on the towpath side, as you would normally do on a broad lock, only to find that the water pouring over the top gates had raised the level and I couldn’t open the gate. So back I’d go to re-open the paddle. Most of the locks were like this, so Dave stayed off the boat to open the gate to save me the extra walking!
In the reeking atmosphere of Piccadilly Lock, a number of men strolled down into the tunnel below as I was emptying the lock. They made a good show of being gongoozlers, waiting till we had gone through before starting their transactions, for which we were very grateful. (If you don’t know the area, it’s notorious for “lewd behaviour in a public place” as the prohibition notices all over the place put it).
We were more than half-way down the flight before we met a boat on its way up. Very fortunate in the timing here, as the bottom gate needed three people to combat the force of water coming over the top gates. They come this way quite often so were used to it. After that it was all straightforward and by 11.15 we were pulling into a lovely cool spot under the trees in Castlefield basin.
In the afternoon we went for a walk up along the Rochdale to visit St Peter’s Square. We had chance to admire the lovely railway bridge at Deansgate at our leisure.
We walked past the Edwardian Midland Hotel. It’s very grand and opened in 1903. There is a lot of work being done on the tram system so we walked past in a cacophony of concrete-cutting machines and general traffic noise.
St Peter’s Square is also beset by tram works. It contains the City Library, Town Hall and Cenotaph.
It is also the site of the Peterloo Massacre. In 1819, when the area was largely fields, a crowd of over 60,000 had gathered to demand political reform. But the cavalry was sent in with sabres drawn to disperse the meeting, killing fifteen people and injuring hundreds. We were expecting to find some kind of memorial, but there was nothing. We went into the library to ask – the attendant didn’t know what we were talking about. We were astonished that Manchester, with its radical past, had not got some kind of memorial.
The public buildings are grand and you can just imagine the Victorian businessmen gazing at their impressive buildings with satisfaction. The library is the one below with columns, and the church-like building on the right is the Town Hall extension, which Wikipedia tells me was completed in 1938. Apparently the Town Hall itself, hidden behind the extension in the photo, is considered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic revival architecture in the world. Well, we didn’t pay attention and didn’t even take a photo. Nest time maybe.
We walked back to the boat via the Museum of Science and Industry to see the bits we missed last time we were here. There was an exhibition of items created using 3D printers. Some of them looked like the sort of cheap tat you see in souvenir shops or toyshops, but some of the work was just fantastic. I think the one below speaks for itself.
The display was in the 1830 Warehouse. The construction of the warehouse is visible throughout though I don’t know how much is original.
We walked through displays of radio and TV technical history, then printing – too dark for photos, but there were several exhibits, from a copy of an early model as invented by Gutenberg to a Linotype newspaper press – “made in Manchester” though they didn’t say where – the Linotype factory along the Bridgewater, maybe? We finished by walking through a fascinating section called “Underground Manchester” all about sewers. Here is the section of reconstructed sewer-pipe
complete with a sewer rat.
Did you know that sewers were built U-shaped or egg-shaped in cross-section? This helped to keep the solid matter moving through and prevent blockages. The reconstruction had a flat path made or it would have been rather awkward to walk along. We got thrown out then as they were closing.
We walked round to Akbar’s air-conditioned coolness for a curry in the evening.