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'The Rochdale' Manchester to Sowerby Bridge

Manchester to Sowerby Bridge

(26th-28th April 2009)

Due to the number of photographers on this trip, we were spoiled for choice in making a selection available on the site.
Our thanks to all the photographers and the following photos are a mere flavour of the trip.
More to follow so watch this space.

The photos are by courtesy of:-
John Taylor
Nigel Stevens
& FoS Images

(Further information can be obtained from this site regarding copyright of individual photos)

Swallow visits the Rochdale canal

( by David Lowe )

Swallow has travelled over much of the available waterway system but the Rochdale Canal, 32 miles and 91 (originally 92) locks, with shallow sections, a reputation for being full of rubbish in the urban areas, and lack of water, remained a daunting challenge to be met! With the HNBOC Easter Gathering arranged for Ellesmere Port this year it provided an opportunity to take Swallow from there to Manchester (via the Manchester Ship Canal, River Weaver, Anderton Lift, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals) to begin the assault on the Rochdale!


The Canal had closed in 1952 (apart from the 9 locks linking the Bridgewater and Ashton Canals) but through the efforts of the Rochdale Canal Society the canal was re-opened in sections between 1983 and completion on 1st July 2002, when the whole canal was re-opened from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge, where it joins the Calder & Hebble Navigation.


Shortly after re-opening the first full length historic narrow boat to pass across was Grand Union ‘Town’ class ‘Fulbourne’ in August:


closely followed by Richard Booth with his motor boat and butty ‘Squire’ and ‘Ditton’, and Martin Jiggens with ‘Denebola’. Short historic narrow boats ‘Spitfire’ and ‘Elizabeth’ also passed over the canal at this time. With the exception of 'Crewe' making the trip in July 2004 no other full length (ex) working narrow boats are known to have passed over until Swallow’s trip!


Passage has to be pre-booked with British Waterways through the 18 locks from Manchester (Ducie Street), and over the summit, while passage through the new lock at Tuel Lane, Sowerby Bridge (20ft deep – replacing locks 3 and 4) has to be supervised by a lock keeper. This is not a trip for the faint hearted and a good, active crew of three at least with a bicycle is recommended!


The journey east was fraught with problems, mainly low water levels and rubbish at the western (Manchester) end, with slow progress, lock delays, and a large carpet wrapped round the propeller. Thus an early (0430hrs) start from Moss was necessary to reach the summit at 0830 on day two, where Ray (lock keeper) travelled over the summit with us. Nevertheless the journey was achieved in three days each way, a most creditable achievement for a deep drafted boat of maximum length, and the return trip was virtually trouble free down the 18 locks back into Manchester thanks to excellent assistance from British Waterways staff.


While in Sowerby Bridge opportunity was taken to travel along the Calder & Hebble Navigation as far as the first lock at Salterhebble, which at 57 ft precludes further movement east. In fact Swallow continued along what had been the Halifax branch as far as the site of the bottom lock and turned there, right at the limit of navigation for a 70ft boat!


Crew varied over the two periods, but was a minimum of two, and, with David, included Steve and guest crew John (both for much of the trip each way), Rachel, Malcolm, and Richard (with sons Stanley and Sidney), plus help from passenger boat and barge skipper Phil in Hebden Bridge. Nigel from Shire Cruisers joined us for the trip back from Sowerby Bridge to the Summit (thanks Nigel), and Tom in Manchester. Thanks to all for a huge effort to enable Swallow to traverse this spectacular waterway.

Ducie Street – Junction with Ashton Canal (left background) Top of 'Rochdale 9' (right background)

(above & below)

Waiting below lock 83 for BW to arrive and unlock the gates – bicycle at the ready!

Leah aged 10 and Jasmine aged 8 step aboard 'Swallow' for photos at lock 69 Newton Heath
(above & below)

Is Swallow the first full length historic boat to pass under Grimshaw Lane lift bridge, Chadderton ?

(commissioned after the canal had been re-opened).

Steve changes course to pick up a float lost by a young fisherman near lock 64, Chadderton

(good deed for the day?)

Summit Lockkeeper Ray takes a rare opportunity for photos despite pouring rain
(above & below)

Lock 35 awaiting rain to abate.

Lock 19, Todmorden (Library) Lock with guillotine bottom gate

to allow for the widened road bridge (not much room for a full length boat)

John Taylor

shelters in the engine ‘ole, lock 19 Todmorden (John took many of the photographs)

The mysterious figure in blue by the guillotine gate, encapsulated in smoke is 'yours truly'

Below:-  Moored by 'The Golden Lion'  Todmorden and a chance to admire the fish art on wall.

A motley crew assemble for the run down into Sowerby Bridge (L-R) Rachel (on loan from Network Rail!),
David, Richard, Sidney, Stanley, and visitor Mike Howcroft – owner of Leeds & Liverpool Short Boat A40.

A northern pastime climbing chimneys, there are plenty of chimneys to climb

We never found out what the obstruction was.

A selection of photos follow showing the scenery we passed through.

"hmmm, was that a full length working boat that just went by"?

"Couldn't have been, they don't come up here anymore"

Hate to be on this canal when there is no water shortage!

Approaching Sowerby Bridge crew L/R Malcolm, David, Stanley,
Me (background), Sidney, Rachel (engine room), Richard.
Not forgetting cameraman John on the towpath taking this photo.

Admin snippet:-
( If your crew had smiles on their faces when they reached here please send photo.)

Separated by 7' and 70 years this 'Shire Cruisers' immaculate narrow boat passes an impressive looking 'Swallow'

'The Yorkshire border'
( David making that all important phone call to check in, or is that out of Yorkshire, passports duly stamped hehehe! )