Mon 23rd May Slaithwaite to Booth Lock 31E
We made an early start through two locks and the narrow section, mooring above 23E to wait for our appointment with the C&RT team to operate the guillotine lock 24E. Meanwhile we did some shopping in ALDI.
Early start in Slaithwaite
Through the narrow section
The team arrived a few minutes early, and raised the guillotine lock for us, using a windlass. It looked hard work, and we were pleased we hadn’t had to do it ourselves. We entered the lock and they lowered the gate again – more hard work.
Into the guillotine lock 24E
Guillotine coming down
After the excitement of the guillotine lock, there was a pleasant wooded stretch as we climbed more locks in the direction of Marsden.
Green woods above 24E
Into the Pennines
Life on the lock walls
Moorings were hard to come by, and we stopped eventually on some lock bollards, opposite a winding hole, above lock 31E. We couldn’t get properly into the side, so we had loose ropes. It was overcast, and heavy rain started.
We hadn’t seen a moving boat all day, but a Shire Cruisers hire boat went past in the pouring rain, going down through the lock.
A little later, we noticed that our boat had moved in closer to the side. Looking out of the front windows, we could see that the water was now rising over the towpath.
Concerned that perhaps the hire boat had left a paddle raised on the lock above, James went to have a look. It was difficult to walk along the towpath in places due to the huge puddles. There was an overflow at one point, with water rushing off underneath the path, presumably then in a culvert across a field into the nearby river. Further on there was a feeder stream, which had water gushing down the hill in a torrent, and surging into the canal. No wonder the levels had risen! At the next lock everything was in order, with all the paddles down. There was a small reservoir alongside, with a cascade from there into the canal, but there was no water flowing down.
Happy that at least there was somewhere for the water to escape down to the river, James returned to the boat, dodging the puddles once again.
10 locks, 2 miles
Tue 24th May Booth Lock to Marsden
Morning mist in the Pennines
The morning after the rain above 31E
After an early mist, everything was clean and fresh this morning, with brilliant sunshine on the hills. The water levels had returned to just below towpath level. James went to look at the river, hoping to see a dipper. No dippers, but lovely sunlight through the new beech leaves.
Moorland coming into view
The canal and the reservoir
The locks are very closely spaced coming into Marsden, and on one occasion we had to run some water down from the lock above to avoid grounding. Some of the pounds were almost circular, and one lock gate had Blue Peter emblems carved into the beams. Hazel had a go at operating the locks.
The round pound between 34E and 35E
The Blue Peter lock gate
40E with some hills
Hazel with the windlass
The last lock, 42E, was particularly difficult to open, and some passing walkers were recruited as volunteers.
The final lock
We moored above the final lock, 42E, on visitor moorings. We met a lady who said she had lived here for years and never been through the tunnel, and we invited her to come along with us. She said she might.
James went into the village to confirm our table reservation for this evening at the Riverhead Brewery Tap. He had sent a message via their website, with no response. He had tried to phone them, with no reply. They had not received the message, so they booked us in for 7pm. Later we both went to explore the village. We have discovered that shops close early around here – most at 5pm, some at 4.30pm.
In the evening we returned once more for our anniversary meal. The food was excellent, and we think we chose well.
11 locks, 1 mile
Wed 25th May Marsden to Diggle
Tunnel day! A Shire Cruisers hire boat was also to go through, and they had arrived yesterday evening, and carried up to the tunnel. We took some things off the roof before making our way to Tunnel End, where we met the C&RT staff. John was to be our pilot.
The visitor centre
Ready to go
Hire boat waiting behind us
We started at 8.40am, and we had an extra passenger as far as the first checkpoint. It seemed strange letting someone off on a rock at the side of a tunnel, but we were assured that a car was waiting for him in the adjacent tunnel. James had set the time lapse camera, so we hardly took any extra photos in the tunnel.
The trip took 1 hour and 40 minutes for the three mile tunnel. James had to crouch for most of the way and hit his head several times with the hard hat. The bow thruster was very useful at times as there were several places where there were kinks or crooked sections. We had to stop to phone the base on three occasions just to inform them of our progress.
The tunnel goes through bare rock in places, and has a brick roof in other places. Chicken wire and concrete had been applied in other areas. They are very proud of the three superlatives: the longest, highest (in altitude) and the deepest (below ground) canal tunnel in the UK.
We unloaded our pilot, together with boxes of equipment, at the tunnel entrance, and continued to the visitor moorings just round the corner. The hire boat came through a little while later. There were three boats waiting to make the journey the other way.
Sadly when we checked the camera, we discovered that one of the settings was wrong and nothing had been recorded. If anyone wants to see what it’s like try Standedge Tunnel Time lapse as a Google search and there are several to choose from.
We discovered that there was a cafe in the old mill building next to our mooring, and decided to try it for breakfast.
The weather had turned colder and it was raining slightly, so we lit the fire and put the hood up.
0 locks, 4 miles, 1 tunnel
Thu 25th May Diggle to Upper Mill
This morning was damp. Not rain exactly, just wet misty air that settled on everything leaving very fine droplets.
Diggle visitor moorings
We had a wonderful breakfast experience this morning at the Woolyknit Cafe. So good that James entered his first report on Trip Advisor. See here
Mist on the hills
Then we returned to the boat and James tightened the engine belts as one had been squeaking loudly. It seemed to work.
At the first lock we encountered a different type of paddle gear, leaning back at an angle. We had a scenic voyage down the valley from Diggle to Dobcross, accompanied by the railway.
Different paddle gear
Close to the railway
Down the valley
Lower than the trains
At Dobcross there is a transhipment warehouse, where goods were loaded from boat to packhorse and vice versa. The canal was completed to this point by 1799, but the tunnel was not open until 1811, so horses had to do the journey from Dobcross to Marsden.
We paused to use the adjacent facilities but found the Elsan point was out of order. We had no choice but to tip a cassette down the loo.
There follows a narrow section, reminiscent of the Llangollen, or the Caldon Canal.
We passed through the lock under the railway viaduct, surrounded by dog walkers and hikers. Then a lovely wooded section.
Under the viaduct
At Upper Mill we moored on the visitor mooring bollards, but were very loosely roped as it was shallow.
Upper Mill visitor moorings
We visited the village which seems like a holiday resort with lots of eateries. There is a useful Co-op. James used some stepping stones to return across the river. Hazel chickened out and went the long way round.
The route across the river
11 locks, 2 miles
Next week: On down through Stalybridge to the end of the Huddersfield Canal, with family joining us on Sunday.