Saturday, 16 August 2014

In to Manchester (which really doesn't seem to love its canal)

(Boat Chalice - posted by Cath)
Post for Saturday 16th August

Grimshaw Lane vertical lift bridge - it really does lift vertically on pistons.
We had moored near to both a fairly busy road, and a railway line, but it was a fairly remote spot, with only the occasional dog walker or jogger. Despite the nearness of the railway we slept well until woken by the alarm at 7:00 am, as agreed with Richard and Kathy, our partners for the descent into Manchester.

That bridge again - and Alan showiung battle scars
We got going soon after 8:00, and found it easy to set ahead of the boats, the first 10 locks being completed before 10:30. We got into a routine, with two experienced crews working there was no need to explain what was needed, someone was already handling it.

Daft sign, as there are massive underwater obstructions both sides!
Fairly early on we met up with 5 boys on bicycles by a lock.  One suggested that his friend was going to jump on our boat, but I said I couldn't believe that, he wouldn't want me to come and stand in his house, would he? Actually, the kids were OK, they just wanted to know about the boats. We talked to them a bit, asked them what they were doing (going to a mountain biking centre), and they cycled off.

This really is fairly horrible.
We had few problems, the occasional anti-vandal lock that we couldn't undo, a couple of prop fouls, but not a lot of difficulty. We saw few people, just the occasional dog walker, however, as we approached Manchester there was increasing detritus and rubbish, and the environment became less welcoming. A burned out waste bin next to the lock, vast amounts of floating junk, lots of evidence of alcohol, and also IV drug use.

And this really is no better.
There were some places where there were signs to keep left, away from underwater obstructions, but there were also concrete lumps on that side, so boats need to stick to the centre here.

Needing a flush over the cill.
We stopped for a quick lunch break by the big Tesco Extra at Failsworth, and did a quick restock on a few essentials, then headed for the long flight over the last couple of miles. I went ahead, setting the locks, but although I saw almost no one I was reassured by the fact that the boats were always only a lock behind. I could look back and see them entering the lock, or see the water being emptied. I have no doubt that after dark this flight is not somewhere that I would want to be.


Attractive former factory.
We only had one place where the water levels caused any significant problems, when we found neither boat would move out of an emptied lock - they were either sitting on the lock bottom, or whatever debris was on top of that. By letting down more water the boats were able to move forward, although neither could still initially clear the bottom cill, and further water was needed to flush them over this.  It was all a bit odd, because once we had enough water to float out of the lock, levels were not significantly down in that pound at all - there seems to be little available margin, and a deep draughted boat like "Sickle" would doubtless struggle far more.

One of the more attractive urban bits.

Thirty locks, all completed by soon after 5:00 pm - including a supermarket visit. Many people are reluctant to attempt this canal, but with another crew it wasn't bad. Talking to Kathy she said that the large number of locks without a 'safe haven' in the middle must put a lot of people off, and that the canal needs somewhere where people feel that they can safely moor up. We moored at Slattocks without any problems, but 30 locks into Manchester for a single crew may be too much. C & RT could improve things considerably by having some safe, locked, offside moorings at a variety of distances from the centre of Manchester.

Not the best place for a paddle - the raised bar actually impacts the bridge.
Richard and Kathy are heading the other way to us, but came into the basin at Piccadilly for the night. It's a secure mooring inside a private housing development, just what is needed in other parts of the canal system locally.

Slattocks to Manchester
Miles:  (Chalice), 10.8 (Sickle), Locks: 30

Total Miles: 603.5, Locks: 405

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