Narrowboat holidays—Rochdale Canal

Published: Friday, 21 January 2011

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Sowerby Bridge to Summit

MANY canal boaters regard the Rochdale Canal over the Pennines as having the most dramatic scenery of any of the country's waterways, so can be popular for holiday hire.

However, owing to its route over the hills, it is heavily locked, with broad, often difficult locks to operate that are not really suitable either for the new narrowboat holiday maker or as a get-away holiday.

1t beauty penninesLasting impression

However, for those of more experience and of a stronger disposition the waterway will leave a lasting impression as it wends it rugged way over the Pennines, for unlike the two other cross Pennine waterways, this one goes over the top, without the benefit of a tunnel.

It cannot be stressed enough that this canal is extremely hard work, with no less than 89 broad locks over its 32 miles, with very little respite, and just should not be attempted by a rookie crew, particularly as the level of some lock pounds need careful consideration if a boat is not to be grounded.

1t rochhillsWorth the effort

But as mentioned the scenery is superb, with majestic hills and open moorland, and for the competent boater or holiday maker it really is worth the effort.

After a couple of early locks comes the deepest lock in the country at 19ft 8ins, created out of two previous locks, one of which is now a road with a canal tunnel underneath.

For the first part of this waterways the locks come quite easy for the first few miles, but Hebden Bridge and Todmorden see them packed closely together up to the summit.  For those attempting this part of the waterway there are many turning points for when the going gets too tough.

todmorden wallProgress very slow

In many places there are five and six locks in a mile, so progress can be very slow, as those locks with paddle problems will slow boaters further.  With a restriction of boats into Manchester, there are very few boats about, but if at all possible it is advisable to team up with another, as this will not only later give more security but will make progress easier.

The canal has plenty of attractions in addition to the deep lock, with a guillotine lock, the 'Great Wall of Todmorden' and of course the scenery.

rochdale2Shopping is available at the two towns, but boatyards are thin on the ground and mooring has to be chosen carefully owing to the short pounds.  The summit pound is secured, with a lock keeper allowing passage.

There is no longer a lock keeper at the summit pound and being 'out in the sticks' no volunteers either.

Though arguably having the finest scenery of any other waterway, its price of course is having a multitude of locks, broad ones in the bargain.  Being so little used many of the locks are difficult, so it is not recommended for beginners to have a care-free holiday.

The waterway from Sowerby Bridge to the summit is 13 miles with 35 locks.

Ease of operation

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