#35 Rochdale & Ashton Canals – East. July 2016



Monday 25th July 2016      nb:Black Bart is a right Lert this morning. Lister & friends too. Crew are close(ish) behind…… Aqua dealt with at second attempt. Cruising astern practise goes well & Bart is soon swimming into


the Rochdale Canal via Dukes/Castlefield Lock. Wide locks, but no udder boaters aroand to share. A very slow one & a half miles of canal guide us through Manchester from Castlefield to Piccadilly. Every lock paddle has an anti-vandal lock. Slows progress yet further. It’s a real shame they have to be installed in some areas, but that be the world we are living in. Even us boatery peoples can-nee get away from it/them.

The first of several almost dry locks. hardly a sign of any water. Like the metal grippers for lock gate operators. Not sure aboat the hand-wind chain pulling mechanism used here, as experienced with other odd locks travelled in our recent North-West cruisings.

Deansgate Tunnel leads Bart into & up Deansgate Lock, then past bars & clubs. No drinkers or clubbers aroand at this early hour. Almost surprised !!




There are a few

Musicians around though.

Always a preference of our crew.

Nothing better than enjoying a tittle music.


Albion Mills Lock is soon followed by Tib Lock. After an almost amazingly long chug we is approaching & ascending Oxford Street Lock. Princess Street Lock creeps up on Bart & crew most fastly taking us to the pleasantly named Gay Village. Perfectly located in Canal Street & adjacent locals.

Always interesting when those canal builders happen to position a ‘water jet’ just ‘below’ the lock. At least there be a conveniently sited (old fashioned) porta-potti on hand.


A CRT bod has appeared. Perfect. Helpfully closes upper gate for crew as the towpath suddenly stops here. Bart & crew glides forward, to & through Chorlton Street Lock. Towpath. Who needs a towpath. We don’t mate.


We enter the darkness of a subterranean world. Not Bart World, this place.

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Don’t know what on-earth goes on down ‘ere mateys. We is not staying in’ere for any longer than is necessary. Filthy, aromatic place this be. Lovely. Piccadilly locks of two


slowly raise our pirate crew,  Aaaarrrggh !!!    from the depths.


Nine locks. Twelve furlongs. Three hours. Yes !!  Three hours we said. Incredib-ule !!!

Need to stop & take a few deep breathes. The air is slightly fresher up ‘ere. A suitable Piccadilly mooring is saut, just roand t’corner.


Larder refreshed & Bart creeps astern back into the basin

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to ready oneself for right hand swish of an entree int’tight tunnel.

nb:Black Bart is turning at Ducie Street Junction where we the crew of three are swimming with the aid of Lister & friends from our short-lived cruise of the Rochdale Canal into the slightly shallow, murky waters of the Ashton Canal & Eighteen moor locks. Yes !! Eighteen !!!


Then we is tacking tight left & through an’udder tunnel guiding Bart into & through Piccadilly Village.


Very handy equipment

on some of these Piccadilly-an homes.

Just so that piano delivery

is trouble free.

Up t’outside & swung

straight in through the open doors. Fantastic.


Ancoat locks 1-3 lift our craft yet further permitting travel past

New Islington & old mill buildings. Seen a fair few of these marvels during recent swims & walks.



Ashton Locks 4-7 raise Bart yet further still before


High Speed two wheeled vehicular crosses our path, almost too close for comfort.

Look at that sky !!!

The defunct Stockport Canal junction hides in amongst Clayton Locks 8-16. Ashton waters is causing old prop a few problems. Depth doesn’t help. Rubbish of all types floating in the darkness below just adds to the ‘Fun’. Repeated reverse thrusting is used on numerous occasions during our Ashton journeying. Weed hatch delving a final resort a few times too. Bart struggles to cruise into several locks due to the lack of depth. We get stuck aboat half way into the ’empty’ chamber. Repeated efforts of reversing & forward thrust of varying degrees & opening of upper ground paddles to flood extra water through the lock & underneath Bart & sheer determination proves successful. Bart finally creeps extremely slowly forward into the lock(s). Waiting to come to a grinding halt again. But we make it. We make it next time & the time after that. Then we lost count. Becoming almost delirious.

As Bart is ascending lock 13 by the ‘Strawberry Duck’ a passing cyclist stops to ask us to phone the police as three ‘scally-wags’ are tormenting a family on a hire boat coming down the locks towards us. They have taken it upon themselves to travel on the boat ‘with’ the family making their life a misery in the process by being complete scum-bags. The police is duly called. Not much of a chance of their coming out though, really. Said hire boat is entering lock 14 as Bart leaves lock 13. Skip walks up to help & has the pleasure of meeting & conversing with these three delightful unsavories who have invaded this family’s space. Difficult to know how to handle the situation. We carefully tell the lady that we have phoned the police. Poor woman. She is at the end of her tether. Worried about how these young teenagers might react if they be ‘pushed’. There are other groups of adolescents hanging around the locks in this local. Have to be careful & mindful of how things might escalate for no sensible reason. Boats pass in the pound between locks. Bart enters lock 14. Hire boat family are preparing locks 13 for their boat. We can see one of the gits walks down the gunnel & takes the helm putting the boat into gear when the family are preparing the lock gates. The man chases him off, but he just gets on the roof & walks back to the bow/forward well area & sits back down with his mates again.

Quite a few others milling around down there, local to the lock too. Then we notice the three sh-1-t’s walking back along the towpath towards us. They walk up, stand in Bart’s gunnel at the stern. Try to take one of the windlasses. They are told to leave it alone, but stay to ‘chat’ their chat. They finally look like they might be starting to leave. One spits over Bart. Doesn’t go down well. They are told NOT to dis-respect our Boat or us, as we have not dis-respected them (although we could easily be inclined to). Apparently, they are not dis-respecting us or Bart. Strange that. Obviously do not understand the simple things in life. Let alone the un-simple tings. A shake of the hand is offered to the more vocal of the three but he refuses & with some relief they are walking away. Deep breath !!!

Happy they finally left the family on the holiday boat alone. Maybe it was a good thing they decided to come and try their luck with us.

We closed the cratch cover down when we phoned the police earlier, so the forward well was not blatantly open & inviting for these delightful characters to try & take up residence like they had in the hire boat. Really feel for that family. Ruined their holiday. Never coming anywhere near this area again. Don’t blame them. Quite scary. Just don’t know what these idiots are likely to do. They don’t need any type of provocation.

We had cruised onto the Ashton Canal with all of Bart’s side hatches & fore-doors locked having heard stories from locals & other boaters about possible problems on this route.

Be warned. Be aware. Keep all but one access point on/off your boat locked.

Shame isn’t it.

–          –          –          –          –          –          –

nb:Black Bart swims effortless out of the last Clayton lock 16 squeezing by the redundant, open Yew Tree swung bridge, roand the corner & Copperus Lane swing bridge requires some assistance as it be unswung. Bart swishes through, being admired by the kiddies & parents coming to the playing field for their football practise. Bart often receives many an admiring nod, smile &/or comment from passers-by.



A strange beast appears

above Bart taking advantage

of the high position provided by the lock wall.



That’s a very large one. Yes she’s 350 toes mate. 70 feet in olde english.

Finally, Fairfield Locks 17-18 leap us to Fairfield Junction at Droylsden where Bart swings right. Straight on is now a ‘dead-end’. Not sure of the defunct canal’s name. It is with some relief we slow to an eventual stop, finding a pleasant-enough berth for a few hours to rest our weary heads & bodies. Lister is quietened down for the night, to cool off after twelve hours (Yes sir/madam you read right) of chugging. Broken only by the occasional weed hatch episode. & twenty seven locks !!!   We is all knackered……

Tuesday 26th July      Oh !!  We’ve got to get up again. No. I don’t want to….

OK. We crawl out of our slumber pit. Bart is getting a smite impatient.

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Never like seeing a drowned boat. This one has apparently been there since November. Old riveted steel barge hiding under the noisy big beast above.

We crew of three & our trusty steed move along at a pedestrian like pace waving to historical canal architecture & nineteenth century mills.


Following our almost daily late morning exercise routine Bart insists we continue as the weather may be closing in later. Not ideal for sailing in Bart’s experience.

Soonest we are roanding the bend, on the final approaches to Portland Basin, Ashton-under-Lyne where the Ashton Canal passes through


Duckinfield Junction enroute to Ashton Old Wharf where it’s shallow muddy, tricky, sticky waters converge with those of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Our Bart (& us, the crew of course) do not flow through to the old wharf or the Huddersfield today. Maybe on another cruise in the future. Only time will tell. Eight miles & a mere thirty two locks could have led Bart ‘up’ to the three mile 418 yard long Standedge Tunnel. A ‘difficult’ & tight tunnel renowned for, at best modifying a boat’s paintwork and at worst redesigning the steelwork of your boat’s cabin. Not an enticing thought. Bart will certainly not be traversing this dark hole. Not worth the risk. Even moor so as we would need to wind 180 deg & come all the way back again as Bart cannot progress North of Huddersfield. It is here the canal changes from a narrow to a broad waterway. Sounds fine. Only problem being the locks become shorter, only negotiable in a 57′ (short) boat. Bart is 70′ so will not fit. In addition to those locks between Ashton & the Standedge Tunnel, there be a further eight miles & ‘only’ forty two moor locks from t’uther end of the tunnel to Huddersfield itself, before we would ‘aboat turn’ & do it all again coming back to Ashton. Not sure aboat that one. Te He !!!


Bart, with assistance from Lister, old prop & rud, swing roand, passing through the delightful hole that be under Portland Basin Stone Bridge. Eyes, Lovely !!   We ultimately sail over the River Tame aqueduct where (apparently) the Ashton waters eventually converge with those of the Peak Forest Canal. Thought that was at the junction, where the marvellous stone bridge is. How wrong (stupid, even) are we. Here endith Bart’s most pleasurable Rochdale & Ashton Canals experience. Although, for clarity (not charity) these past seven-ish, maybe eight miles & twenty seven (yes, mad) locks are not quite at the top of our ‘all-time’ list. You may be only slightly surprised at this ‘news’.

When the Rochdale Canal was constructed it terminated at a basin at Dale Street, Piccadilly, bacause the Duke of Bridgewater wouldn’t agree to the Rochdale linking with his Bridgewater Canal. However when proposals were made to extend the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal past Rochdale to Sladen and on to Sowerby Bridge, the Duke realised trans-Pennine traffic would by-pass his canal with a great loss of potential revenue.

He sensibly changed his mind allowing the Rochdale Canal Company to construct the link, which consisted of nine locks over a mile and a half. He did, however, insist that his own workers constructed the final lock linking into his canal at Castlefield, and that he maintained control of this lock, which is still known as the Duke’s Lock. Clever chappie. The Duke.


Black Bart has cruised East to Ashton-under-Lyne from Castlefield in Manchester at the ‘Waters Meeting’/junction with the Peak Forest Canal, swimming 1 & 1/2 miles of the detritusly urban Rochdale Canal AND 6 miles of the disappointingly undesirable Ashton Canal, chugging through one aromatic subterranean world, ascending 9 wide locks, arising 18 narrow chambers, sailing over three strange channels called aqueducts, swishing by one abandoned swung bridge, swoshing by one still swinging bridge & passing under 19 + 36 bridges. Some being of sufficient width to also be described as ‘tunnels’.



2 thoughts on “#35 Rochdale & Ashton Canals – East. July 2016

  1. Wow, you never know who you might meet! Glad you are ok but tread warily they are probably high as kites. Safe onward journey loads of love X X X X

    Liked by 1 person

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