20 May 2008

Oh no, it's the Rochdale Nine

An email to Narrowboatworld struck a chord recently. A couple were planning to cruise through Manchester and were asking for trip advice but were very specific in only wanting to hear from those with real first-hand experience of the journey from Waters Meeting through to Portland Basin. As opposed to the Daily Mail-esque apocalyptic pronouncements of people who merely regurgitate and amplify the terror tales told to them by others – none of whom seem to have ever set foot in the places they so wilfully demonise.

Last year we were about to start off up the Rochdale Nine. As a lurker in forums, a reader of letters and a ready participant in lockside yakking, my perception of the Nine was that it was going to be bloody hard work, compounded by a run to Dukinfield that would make 70s Beirut seem like a walk in the park. Except I tend to take all this stuff with a pinch of salt;no, I’m not cavalier and I do listen to advice but I also filter information and like to find things out for myself. One man’s meat and all that. Someone once told me not to bother with the Caldon. A criminal offence that, and I’m glad I ignored him.

So what a surprise to find that the Rochdale Nine were no harder than any other flight of wide locks that I’ve done. I haven’t done Buckby in yonks but I bet it’s still a right bugger. Then the trip up the Ashton. Lots of regeneration going on, one low pound, kids enjoying a supervised canoeing session, two lovely lads who politely helped with the lift bridge at the turn onto the Peak Forest, some corking graffiti but as interesting and as good a day as I’ve had anywhere. The only alarm was when A disappeared down Canal Street into the Gay Village. He took an age to emerge at the next lock, and I was just about to call out a search party when he appeared, flustered and moaning about the lack of towpath and the bloody big wall he’d had to clamber over. A likely story! But I clearly remember that just as we started off from Castlefield, a couple ambled past who told me they had their boat down at Sale. The chap then went onto opine that ‘these are the worst locks in the country’, at which he paused before hitting me with the punchline, ‘Never done ‘em meself mind.’ QED.

P.S. I'm not so naive as to think that unpleasantness doesn't happen on our canals, in rural areas as well as in towns and cities. Some people have experienced very nasty incidents but I'd like to think that they are rarer than the roaring Narrowboatworld et al would have us think. What really gets my goat is people declaiming about an area or a stretch of a canal when they have no personal experience of it whatsoever. That's why cruising blogs are so helpful and informative...real life tales from our on board reporters. Check out Geoff's account of his trip down the Rochdale on Seyella as an excellent example of eyewitness blogging.

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