Between Sowerby Bridge and Barnoldswick, via Wigan
103 miles 136 locks 65 hours
Seven or fourteen night One Way Trip
This is not a mainstream trip. It appeals to very serious
boaters, perhaps groups of lads, who are used to making long
journeys with long days, and know how to plan. For such
crews, this is an unequalled challenge, with lots to see
including the Barton Tank (swing aqueduct) and Wigan Flight.
More sensible people can do it in a glorious fortnight.
Leaving our historic canal basin, your journey begins with the excitement of a new tunnel and the deepest lock in the country. The canal gradually climbs through woods, fields and small stone towns to Hebden Bridge. This old mill town nestles in a fork in the hills, houses piled tier upon tier. Hebden has excellent shops and is full of surprises - everything from horsey clothing to hand-made pottery. Untie, and go on up the valley, its sides closing in with crags and trees and views of the moors high above. A stream runs alongside, and the locks are set among woods or stone cottages. The Pennine Way crosses at Callis. So to Todmorden, completely untouristy yet with much to enjoy - fine Victorian buildings, especially the Town Hall, a lively market and many places to eat and drink, all dominated by a curving railway viaduct. From here the going gets serious - more Alpine than Pennine. Another 18 locks in just three miles bring you breathless but exhilarated to the summit, at 600' the second highest you can scale in England. You will have earned a drink at the Summit Inn. Next, you drop down into Littleborough. Pass Clegg Hall, a Grade 2* listed building dating from 1618, which was long a ruin but has now been restored. Soon you come to Rochdale itself, where some of the biggest restoration projects have been tackled, including the M62, which for so long seemed permanently to block the canal. Now you go under it by a short but ingenious deviation of the canal. Then descend through town and country, transformed by the restoration of the canal. As you pass closer into the city, there are some fine sights, but you can also see the opportunities for regeneration which the opening of the canal has presented.
At Piccadilly Village, the Ashton joins the Rochdale and you plunge beneath a skscraper, and right through the city centre with lively canalside bars, before emerging at Castlefield. Here you join the Bridgewater Canal. Pass the Trafford Centre and turn onto the Leigh Branch. Go to Worsley, and stop to see the birthplace of the canals. Transfer seamlessly to the other Leigh Branch (you will have to look this up!). This takes you through to Wigan, where you join the L&L just above the bottom of the famous flight. Pause to explore the covered market and bustling town. Set out up the flight, with splendid views back over the town. Then you are back in the country, with locks at Johnson's Hill, where the Lancaster Canal never got joined to the L&L. And so through countryside, with views of the Calder Valley (that's the Lancashire Calder), interspersed with old mill towns like Blackburn, you get to Burnley, and cross the embankment above the rooftops of the town. By now you're getting the message: the builders of the L&L were astonishingly bold, so you aren't too surprised, having climbed the deep locks at Barrowford, to see the long, wide and deep Foulridge Tunnel ahead of you. Pass through to tie at your moorings, before repairing to Café Cargo for a well-earned celebration.
You require an exceptionally active and experienced crew; it's a very long way and the Rochdale plus Wigan equals a lot of locks. The western half of the Rochdale Canal is not yet in as good condition as other canals and you may experience difficulty or delays. We will give further details in the Route Companion posted to you in good time before your holiday. You must tell us at the time of booking that you intend to do this route.
Transfer arrangements for Barnoldswick
Your direction of travel will be advised the week before you
start: it depends on that taken by previous crews. Your
Information Pack has all details for both directions. You
will come first to Sowerby Bridge whichever way the boat is
going. All cars are parked at Sowerby Bridge. The easy
20-mile transfer by minibus or taxi to or from Barnoldswick
will accordingly be at either the beginning (for the whole
party) or the end (for the whole party or just the drivers)
of your holiday. Cost about £11 per head, minimum £45, plus
a small extra charge for bikes or dogs. Full information is
sent to you in good time and details are discussed with you.
Those travelling entirely by train can get to Barnoldswick
(Skipton or Colne station, taxi required) and Sowerby Bridge from main
line trains at Leeds, Manchester or Preston.
This one-way trip is available only on Dorset. Monday start.