Saturday, 16 August 2014

More lock variations -Including deepest in the country.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)
Post for Wednesday 13th August

Enough vegetation to cause problems in a lock.
Our journey up the rather different Calder and Hebble continued, with a firm resolve to reach Hebden Bridge today if we could.  We were told it was a bit special, and being also a little bit "alternative", our quest for decent vegetarian food should be easy to satisfy!

Clearing a blocked paddle to allow it to close properly.
Before then, though, we had quite a few more locks to do, including some that are definitely even more "different" than we had done already on the Calder and Hebble.

Guillotine lock gate at Salterhebble
However today "different" initially meant relatively standard locks but with some problem causing them to take a bit longer than the norm.  In one we found massive clumps of vegetation - probably some of the worst we had ever seen actually make it into a lock. Usually you can push it out of the way and carry on, but this would make even opening the gates difficult.  we got out OK, but with large amounts then firmly stuck under Chalice's front end, which it proved remarkably hard to float out.

Guillotine gates at the bottom, but conventional ones at the top.
Later we encountered a lock which had just been used by one of the very small number of boats we encountered coming the other way.  Its steerer informed us that one of the hand spike operated top gate paddles was stuck half open, making it very hard to fully empty the lock and open the bottom gates - he had reported it to CRT.  We were surprised we could use the lock at all with so much water constantly passing uncontrolled through a top gate paddle, but managed to.  Clearly the paddle had been being hit with a sledge hammer in a bid to lower it, as the wood at the top was now all smashed up.  However feeling around with a "shaft", (or "boat hook" to none boaty types!), it was obvious it was blocked with more vegetation.  A bit of "fussocking" managed to drag this out, and the paddle would now close easily as intended.  If CRT did come out, they would have found a working paddle, but with its top now smashed up - I wonder if they could guess the full story?

Grade 2 listed, apparently - also another typical C&H paddle.
At the quaintly named Salterhebble is a delightful flight of three locks in quick succession.  However a road widening scheme many years ago had deprived the bottom lock of space for conventional swinging gates with balance beams, and it has since then sported a massive guillotine gate, that is electrically raised.  I don't think we have ever before actually passed under a guillotine gate actively in use.

 Incongruous mix of spike and hydraulic operated paddle gear on same gates.
As we worked up the flight a volunteer lock keeper had a long chat with us, during which we learned:

1) That although CRT sub-contract the grass cutting that was in progress to a firm called Fountains, in this area those cutting the grass are not employed by Fountains.  Fountains apparently further subcontract it again to a firm that busses people up from essex each week to cut grass in the North.  You couldn't make it up, could you, but a shame that CRT can't save money by their contract being with the firm actually doing the work.
2) That the middle lock here is the shortest on the Calder and Hebble, and the longest boats can only pass it backwards to get past the gates.
3) That the attractive buildings are Grade 2 listed.

Moving up first locks on Rochdale towards Tuel Lane tunnel.
Part way through the day, in Sowerby Bridge, the Calder and Hebble gives way to the fairly recently restored Rochdale canal.  As we approached the point that signals the switch, I noticed the boat Dr Bradley's Linctus, owned by Canal World Forum member Colin.  Colin quickly appeared, gave us some advice about how things worked locally, and suggested we  might meet up later for a drink or two - he was happy to meet us at Hebden Bridge.

Entering Tuel Lane lock from the tunnel.

Our other main appointment of the day was the Tuel Lane lock, almost immediately as we passed from the Calder and Hebble to the relatively recently restored Rochdale canal.  Tuel lane lock is a modern structure that replaces two former locks that were lost when the canal was derelict, and roads got widened.  Now, at 19 feet 8 inches deep Tuel Lane is the deepest lock in the country, and has to be approached through a long curving tunnel that goes underneath everything that got built over the derelict canal.  You can only be worked through it by a lock keeper, and they are only now permanently there at weekends, so we had had to give 24 hours notice for a booked mid-week passage.  We had been cautious and booked 3:00 pm, but were actually there ready about an hour earlier.  Because of the way this lock operates, you actually have to stop below the two conventional locks that precede it, and await instruction.

This is not a lock to mess with!
This massive lock is tucked away on a very narrow site, surrounded by roads, and the approach through a tunnel means you see little of it until actually entering.  Considering its unusualness, it is very hard to take photos that emphasize the scale of it.  As you rise you have to put ropes around "risers" in the walls to hold your position - tensioned steel cables that your ropes slide up.  I actually found I had to hang on for dear life at the back, although David did far better at the front.

Once on the Rochdale you are no longer on a canal restricted to shorter boats, and a full length boat of 70 feet can use it, (although obviously only until it reaches the Calder and Hebble, where it would need to turn around again!).  We found the initial locks straightforward, but being deep, (most around a 10 feet rise), we had to control the incoming paddles well, or the boat really swings about and bashed the sides, (the locks being twice as wide as the boat).

Looking back towards the enytry tunnel.
Hebden Bridge was reached without difficulty in very much the time we had predicted.Cath walked up and found a recommended pub, the Stubbing Wharf that would feed us, and happily take Odin, so we all went along later, and I thought it very good.  Later our friend Colin turned up, and we had a good natter about all kinds of things for several hours -an interesting evening.  Quite late on, as we were about to set off to the boat very tired, Colin announced he was now going on to meet some other people - clearly he has more stamina than we do!

Brighouse (Calder & Hebble Navigation) to Hebden Bridge (Rochdale Canal)
Miles: 13.2 (Chalice), 0 (Sickle), Locks: 18

Total Miles: 574.7, Locks: 330

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