Boat - Huntingdon Hire Company - Shire Cruisers Crew - 4 of us, sort of able bodied (definitely preferable to just 2)
Day 1 - Saturday 10/06/17 (7 locks)
Arrived Sowerby Bridge around 12 noon - dropped off some bags and went shopping in nearest (Halifax) Tesco and arrived back at 12:40 - went for lunch at Temujin pick your own stir fry - very nice. Reported in at 1pm at Shire Cruisers. After unloading luggage to boat, parking car, being shown round boat, and then our briefing with Susan about our route we set off around 3pm. After dropping off our chaperone at the 1st bridge - we proceeded to 1st three Calder & Hebble locks where our chaperone met us again and showed us how to negotiate, very sharp turn in, short locks and long boats - with issues of leaking gates, pushing front off to clear gates, and use of the handspike (“the stick”). Then off on our own down the C&H - and after stopping off to get some forgotten supplies at Morrisons at Elland Road, and passing through 2 more locks we eventually moored up in a rainy glade opposite Cromwell Bottom, with the duckboard at 45 degree angle up to a fishing platform, and a meal of sausages and fried onions. All in all an eventful first day.
Day 2 - Sunday 11/06/17 (16 locks)
Set off around 10 am - and soon passed Stafford on way through Brighouse, so buddied up through several locks. Joined 2 river sections before we parted with them as they were continuing onto Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Had a small issue with log stuck in bottom paddle of a gate at Kirklees top lock. Then at Kirklees bottom lock Stafford went on ahead into lock with a boat whose crew were all girls and had fun with them not being able to throw a rope, or to get the bow out from behind the lock gate! Turned right onto Huddersfield Broad and stopped for lunch, when we called CRT about bridge 17 not working, and arranged, when they called back, to go through around 5.30pm. Whilst waiting to go through we checked out mooring options at Aspley basin, and decided to go just past (through small tunnel, and moor by University footbridge. Recommended! Jeff cooked peppered steak dinner.
Day 3 - Monday 12/06/17 (21 locks)
Reversed back and turned round in unofficial winding place in University grounds, and filled water up at Aspley basin services, while girls went shopping - then turned again and started up Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Immediately had some issues with low water in pound between locks 1E and 2E and 2E to 3E. Got help from CRT staff (Moses) after 3E and especially from lock 9E onwards where we had to wait (lunch) while they brought water down from higher up. Started to see some of the nice scenery as we made our way up, but still plagued with low water levels (and being chased up by Worcester) - so couldn’t get close enough to bank to moor at Linthwaite, and ended up moored at Slaithwaite outside Fire Station. After Keith and (Sous chef Sue) made us Cumberland Pie we went for nice walk round “Slawit”. Jeff found butcher shop.
Day 4 - Tuesday 13/06/17 (21 locks)
Started up top half of Huddersfield Narrow for our appointment at Marsden this evening (Jeff bought a ½ shoulder of lamb in butcher’s). Managed to avoid new wet white paint on Guillotine lock out of Slaithwaite. Still issues with low water in several pounds. This time we were following “Passing Through” - Brown and Cream boat with Mum & Dad and very agile man on crutches. In the end we stopped for quick lunch in the lock at 35E or 36E to get some separation from them. Would have arrived at our planned time of 4pm - except for very slow filling lock at 41E - in the end Babs had shower etc to help add to water in lock - it took about 30 minutes! By the time we were leaving Worcester had caught up. We arrived at Marsden in bright sunshine, moored outside café, but visitor centre just closed. While filling up water and chatting with others over beers in sunshine, Jeff had argument with sprung sign (walked backwards into it!). Walked into Marsden for Fish & Chip supper.
Day 5 - Wednesday 14/06/17 (13 locks)
Introduced to CRT volunteer - Trevor - our chaperone for the passage. NB Boats appear to go through in order of arrival, not order of booking. Under Trevor’s informative and helpful guidance we made it through (Very Narrow!! - and four stops to radio control for permission to proceed) without any scrapes to superstructure - phew! Came out at Diggle end of tunnel to bright sunshine and glorious scenery. Stopped for Ice Cream at first lock - and we were passed by Worcester - on a mission! Made our way down Diggle flight, - girls went for walk and museum visit after lunch in Dobcross while boys brought boat through 2 locks and gongoozlers to Uppermill. After a couple more locks the girls went shopping at Greenfield Tesco, behind Kingfisher pub - but as there were no mooring rings! boys carried on a bit further to find moorings for night and eventually ended up on the edge of the winding hole at bridge 82. They walked back to help carry the shopping! Chicken, spinach, pasta sauce and potato dinner joint effort by Sue & Babs.
Day 6 - Thursday 15/06/17 (19 locks)
Continued on down Huddersfield Narrow canal, through Mossley and Stalybridge under pylon standing over the canal and 19 locks later arrived at Ashton under Lyne and Portland Basin. Negotiated tight turn into even tighter “marina” to get pump out just before they closed, and following their advice about where to moor - pushed on for an extra 40 minutes and paid £6 for secure moorings at Droylsden (Fairfield Junction). After tricky reversing into mooring - (due to wind, and neighbouring boat having an anchor strapped in a difficult position on the bow) and nice chat with Janet, we filled with water and settled down to a well deserved dinner of salmon fillets with several glasses of wine.
Day 7 - Friday 16/06/17 (20 locks)
Clear run down 18 locks of Ashton Canal and into Manchester, turned corner and did two locks up the Rochdale and moored up mid afternoon in New Islington arm. Boys went on a walk to find a Chinese takeaway and ended up past Piccadilly Town Centre and into Chinatown, where we couldn’t choose between 20 or more restaurants! Water very clear in the arm and Canadian pond weed looks like Xmas trees in the canal.
Day 8 - Saturday 17/06/17 (18 locks)
Started reasonably early to make our way up the big Rochdale double locks. Beautiful sunshine, water in canal very clear, which meant you could see some enormous fish, and, unfortunately all the bottles cans and other rubbish thrown in the canal. Such a shame. Although water levels were a bit low we were going well by sticking to the central channel until about 12 locks in - at lock 70 or so when the engine stopped dead on entering the lock. A weed hatch investigation found a lot of stuff round the prop which couldn’t be shifted. So weed hatch replaced and a merest touch of forward throttle (debris was picked up when in reverse) meant it was loosened off a bit and eventually we managed to remove a huge wad of plastic, plus sacking material and mixed in with it a good length of tennis court fencing wire for good measure. So we stopped for lunch and a clean up just by bridge 82 and before lock 69. Duck board was required because water so low we couldn’t get near to bank. Sample comments from passing locals - “is this canal navigable up to Rochdale then?” and “We’ve lived here for 5 years and never seen a canal boat on this stretch of canal”. So onwards up past Failsworth, with only a few more running agrounds to contend with, and then after a final lock (64) at which some fascinated local lads (8 or 9) assisted when organised in a race to open and close the top lock gates, we had a pleasant last meander to our mooring at The Rose of Lancaster pub. Needless to say we enjoyed a lot more alcohol both on board and in the pub with our excellent evening meal.
Day 9 - Sunday 18/06/17 (10 locks)
The first of our “days off” we had a lazy morning and late breakfast and enjoyed the fine weather and views over the River Irk from the nearby aquaduct while we waited for the pub to rouse so we could borrow a hose from the helpful landlady to fill up with water. (Huntingdon’s hose didn’t reach the tap in the pub courtyard!) Then on through 10 locks, including “Slattocks” and avoiding the visitor moorings there we went on a bit further and moored in the pound aways back from lock 53 and the M62. Beautiful hot and sunny weather so had an early stop in the afternoon. Pork meatballs (with herbs and chilli) by Sue for dinner.
Day 10 - Monday 19/06/17 (7 locks)
Pushed on through the first 3 locks towards Rochdale with no problems, but then very slowly from lock 51 because water in pounds so low. We then hit problems with getting crew ashore at lock 50, running aground, and then having to clear the prop. Through lock 50 and 49 we had to clear the propellor of various jumpers, sheets and other rubbish no less than 4 times, and above lock 49 two of us managed to extract a full wheelie bin complete with contents from in the canal. Jeff probably left a windlass on the bank as a result! Needless to say we were all pleased to be leaving Rochdale! We then pushed along to Littleborough where we went for a late lunch in a local cafe, and then for a Morrisons shop. Remarkably - no security tags on the alcohol in there! The boys then went for a look at the next two locks (48 and 47 - Durn lock) and the moorings above them. As the water levels were so low in the pound between them we let some water down from the pound above and eventually struggled through. We have never run aground so much on a trip! Moored up just after the sanitary station and water point - Battered fish fillets for dinner.
Day 11 - Tuesday 20/06/17 (9 locks)
Jeff fishing in early morning sees wonderful sunrise. Considered reversing back down to water point to fill up - but decided against as we only filled up just over a day ago, and either summit or lock 28 on other side show water points on the map. (Turned out to be a small mistake - but we couldn’t remember now what Susan at Shire Cruisers had told us about which water points were not working!). Another glorious sunny day, and we knocked off the 9 locks on our way up to the summit in just 2 hours and moored at Chelburn Wharf. After going for a walk along summit pound and checking the moorings on the other side we decided to stay where we were and had a lovely lazy sunny afternoon with the moorings there to ourselves. Jeff cooked a long slow hogget pie (pulled lamb) so lovely cooking aromas all afternoon.
Day 12 - Wednesday 21/06/17 (20 locks)
Up and over summit (water point not working - despite what CRT workers told us yesterday) and down the other side - lovely weather again, and some of the best scenery we have seen anywhere on the canal network, along with some of the heaviest lock gates! After finding that the water point at lock 28 is no longer in use - despite a huge CRT “water point” sign, we stopped for Fish & Chip lunch at famous Granny Pollard’s shop in Walsden and then continued down past the great wall of Tod, and the guillotine lock 19 to the water and services point at Todmorden, only to find a boat moored (long term) at the water point! We double moored alongside and filled up nevertheless, and then (now quite hot and tired after a long day) we went past one more lock to moor outside Lidl. At least that was the plan, but at the end of that long day we failed to notice that a bottom gate paddle had been left open. So Jeff had to go back to allow more water down through lock 19 to refill the partially drained pound, before we could do our final lock. Jeff went to top up on alcohol supplies in Lidl, (very cool in there!) and dinner was Pork Burgers created by Sue, Tomato and Mozarella Salad by Jeff, and Peach Flan by Babs.
Day 13 - Thursday 22/06/17 (8 locks)
After a walk round Todmorden and a visit to the market we set off around 11am and made our way through 8 relatively well spaced locks and some very pretty countryside to arrive at Hebden Bridge where we moored up before lock 17. As the weather was still good (and the forecast for tomorrow not so good) we went on a walk round the Hebden Bridge Loop, which involved a steep climb up to Heptonstall and some spectacular views, and part of the Pennine Way to get back down to the canal. We reckon about 5 or 6 miles or so in total. Lovely! Dinner was a frittata. Everyone falling asleep after that - so bed early!
Day 14 - Friday 23/06/17 (8 locks)
Effectively our last day - where did that 2 weeks go? But not bad as this was our first misty, mizzly come rainy morning in all that time! After a lazy fried breakfast morning, the girls went round Hebden Bridge shops, Jeff had a last fishing session and caught a monster Bream, Keith was finishing crosswords. Quick top up at the water point after first lock, and slowly made our way through four more locks and more countryside heading for Sowerby Bridge. We stopped for an afternoon tea/coffee after lock 5, and promptly ran aground in mid channel as soon as we had set off! After some assistance from a passing cyclist we managed to get Keith ashore via the duck board and he went back to lock 5 to let down some more water. And so we eventually arrived at the spectacular Tuel Lane lock at 4.10pm - just in time for the last passage through with lock keeper assistance. We arrived back at Shire Cruisers around 4.45pm. Perfect timing to do some last packing up and to get ready for our evening out at Gimbals for a wonderful last night meal. Fabulous! Woke up the roosting ducks on quayside as we weaved our way back for our last night on board.
Overall impressions of our holiday.
A lovely route with spectacular scenery and lots of interest for most of the time, but quite hard work to complete in just two weeks, and wouldn’t recommend it for just two people! As always one or two places are not quite so nice - and the route is not without its challenges, mainly due to low water levels, but the rewards far outweigh the minor difficulties we experienced. Shire Cruisers were exemplary throughout. - We all loved it!