Friday, 5 August 2016

Four Men and a Canal in Central Manchester

Once upon a time - December 1979 to be exact - four fresh-faced undergraduates decided to walk the length of the Rochdale Canal, starting in Sowerby Bridge and ending up in Central Manchester.  Although I was one of that intrepid band, I remember very little of the trip other than it being cold and extremely wet for the entire journey.

A year or so ago, one of the four (let's call him "Julian" to protect his identity) came up with the cunning plan that - almost 40 years later - we should revisit the scene of our former triumph.  It seemed a great idea at the time, but the closer we got to "RC" day, the more ambitious - and foolhardy - the whole scheme appeared.  In recognition of our advancing years, the decision was taken to base ourselves at a good B&B high up on the moors outside Hebden Bridge rather than slumming it in Youth Hostels (a bit of an oxymoron at our age), and June seemed a better month to tackle the walk than December since (allegedly) the weather is better in "summer".  We also decided to do the walk in reverse, starting at the "grotty" end in Central Manchester, and ending up in the idyllic surroundings of God's Own County.

Enough preamble - on with the walk.

The four of us (myself, another Ian, Peter and the aforementioned Julian) started off by driving to Rochdale and then catching the tram into Manchester.  According to the advertising on the tramway, the whole transportation system was clearly aimed at "cool dudes" rather than a bunch of geriatrics attempting to recapture their mis-spent youth.

I should point at at this juncture that I was the "normal" person on this trip, being the only one not obsessed with some form of transport system (Canals for the other Ian, and trains for Peter and Julian).  Ok, so I was obsessed with taking pictures of everything - including Rochdale's highly attractive Fire Service Museum and Hindu Temple - but that's perfectly normal.  Isn't it?

Rochdale might have been a bit down at heel, but the new tram network was shiny and exciting.  The track area had also been planted with a covering of alpine flowers, which made it rather attractive if one was prepared to ignore all the litter.

The official start of the Rochdale canal happens to be at the basin just behind where Frances, my elder daughter, lived for her Master's year while at University in Manchester.  All very gentrified nowadays.

The walk then started in earnest.  Note the glorious blue skies which had been promised for our outing during "flaming" June.  Sweaters and waterproofs were the order of the day, sadly.

There were a couple of places where we almost had to wade along the towpath since the locks were overflowing.

The area below clearly has pretentions, naming itself "New Islington Marina".  I'm not sure the inhabitants of the London borough would recognise it as anything to do with them, however...

Rather symbolically, while leaving the city we had to walk through a tunnel covered in graffiti.  It would have been wonderful if, at the other end, there had been a green and pleasant vista after the grime of the city...

...but there wasn't!

Watch out for the next unexciting (and, let's face it, utterly self-indulgent) episode in this saga.