Friday, September 17, 2010

Getting Near The Top!

From Hebden Bridge, the Rochdale seems to engage a lower gear as the 'lock density' increases. In the 5½ miles from Sowerby Bridge, we had come up 7 locks. In the next 4 miles up to Todmorden, we faced 10 more, but it really isn't a problem if you're not in a hurry! And, as the saying goes, if you're in a hurry and on the waterways, then you're in the wrong place!

Of course, lots of locks means just one thing:– big changes in ground levels. And gradients like these go with the stunning scenery through which the canal passes. Again, it seemed incredible that canal boats, perhaps more often thought of on placid canals, should be up here in steep-sided rocky Pennine valleys. Well done those canal pioneers in the 1790s!

We were dawdling again as we reached Todmorden. Shireen and Thor were coming to stay for a few days and meeting us there. Once again, we had arrived early, so we stayed a couple of days outside town before moving in and mooring up at the wharf, right in the centre of this bustling community.

Thor, now 2½, soon settled back into life on board, and was very happy with the life-jacket we had borrowed for him. Shireen, of course, is an old hand! We set off on a 'there-and-back-again' trip for the next couple of days, which would take us further up the valley towards the summit level.

On our way out of Todmorden, we passed below 'The Great Wall of Tod', a massive wall of blue engineering bricks which supports the railway line high on the hill above the canal.

Sometimes it looked like we were coming to a dead end as the hills rose like walls around us. These locks at Gauxholme (just outside Todmorden) sit right below steep rocky outcrops, but of course there IS a way through!

The view DOWN from these precipices gives you a better idea. No camera trickery here, just a telephoto lens! The railway bridge in the photo carries the line on from the 'Great Wall' (to the left), and the lock nearest to it is where the boat was in the last picture.

On our way up, we met a traditional horse-drawn boat on its way down. One of only five left in the country, we were told. So as not to get in the way of the rope, we passed the boat on the 'wrong' side, i.e. on the left instead of right. That must have been quite a skill in the days when ALL boats were horse-drawn – making sure that boats and horses passed in such a way that ropes never tangled!

After a good day's cruising and lock-working, we stopped in a lovely wide section, 7 locks and just over a mile below the summit level. Shireen and Thor needed to get back, so we couldn't go any further – this time!

The next morning, we all walked further up the canal in the morning, took the boat back down 2 locks near to an excellent chip shop (for lunch!) and then headed back down to Todmorden. Here's Thor outside the chippy, having a drink while he waits for his lunch!

Yes, it had rained quite a bit, but we had all enjoyed our time together – and it had gone too quickly. Shireen told us that Thor was a bit sad on the train back home. We all look forward to their next visit!

Yes, we are still ahead of the blog, but it's gradually catching up. Shireen and Thor visited us in early August.

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