Days 53 and 54: down 42…

August 25th, 2010

“The Huddersfield Narrow Canal isn’t so much a canal as two lock-flight seperated by this pig of a tunnel” — Steve Haywood, in “Narrowboat Dreams”.

We stayed overnight outside the visitor centre at the east end of the tunnel, and were told that the flight down would open at 8am. In the event, there were four boats ahead of us in the queue and it wasn’t until 9:15 that we were going down the flight. The first ten locks have very short pounds, so two BW lockies keep an eye on everything and help out while you use them. We stopped about four locks down because a boat ahead had flooded one pound – it took a little while to sort out. By 1030 we’d descended to the reservoir at Sparth, where we offered the lockies tea (milk and two please) and then pressed on to Slaithwaite. The aforementioned town goes by a variety of pronunciations, none of which is the way it’s spelled (slay-thwaite) – I’ve heard “sluthwaite”, “slow-it” and “slaw-it” from locals, though “slow-it” seems the most popular. There are 21 locks from Tunnel End to Slowit and some of them are Hard Work. Locks that leak is a speciality of the Huddersfield, especially those that leak into the surrounding ground and thus leak outwards into the canal through the wing embankments when full. There are also car-wash locks which spraywater down the length of the boat from between the stones.
A particularly awkward lock is Shuttle Lock, just at the edge of Slowit, which has been given an East Anglian style guillotine gate because the adjacent bridge is now too wide to allow for a mitre gate. This gate has a paddle in it, which amused me (call us stupid, but down in the Fens we’ve realised you can just raise a guillotine a bit to let the water out, you don’t need a paddle) but its operation is with a windlass via a series of mechanical and hydraulic gearboxes. It’s a dispiriting thing to wind, and takes forever. Anyway, we moored up just below it, next to the tearoom-narrowboat “Pennine Moonraker”, and I did some work while Richard went shopping. He also did a recce, and discovered much nicer visitor moorings two locks down. We went down and moored up, and I found Sluthwaite/Slowit to be a very nice little town indeed, and with everything for the passing boater right there on the canalside: sanitary station, bakery, greengrocer, butcher/piemonger, car parts shop, laundrette, chippy, pub. Ashby’s chippy comes highly recommended – £3.75 for fish and chips, cooked fresh, very tasty and free scraps and tartar sauce! In the laundrette I met two other boaters, Bruce and Kirsty, from “Pipistrelle”, and it turns out that Bruce owns a boatyard in Wakefield. A Useful Man To Know, definitely…

Day 53: Marsden to Slaithwaite, 4 miles and 21 locks.

Today I’ve done a far chunk of thesising this morning and then Richard and I have plodded on down 21 locks to Huddersfield. I can say that some of the locks were even harder work than before, especially the ones further down (9E – 5E, I think) which have improbably stiff paddles on the bottom gates. For bonus points, the anti-vandal system on the locks in Huddersfield itself (4E – 1E) is operated using a BW Yale key rather than the usual device – unlike all the rest of the locks on the flight. The new tunnels under the engineering works’ built over the canal are interesting and rather spooky, especially as they’re both curved!

On arriving at the bottom lock, some swift arithmetic revealed that we had done 101 locks since leaving Castlefield in Manchester (9 on the Rochdale, 18 on the Ashton, 32 on the west side of the Huddersfield and 42 on the east side) and that Lock 1E of the Huddersfield Narrow was the last narrow lock until the staircase at Foxton, south of Leicester!

Day 54: Slaithwaite to Huddersfield, 5 miles and 21 locks.
Total so far: 552 miles and 464 locks. Thesis 14565 words and 65 pages.

One Response to “Days 53 and 54: down 42…”

  1. Simon Says:

    Don’t let Paul At Salter’s Lode hear you calling guillotine gates with paddles “stupid” He’s very proud of his shiny new stainless-steel guillotine, complete with slackers.

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