Sunday 1 April 2012

Tod walk 1 : Along the Rochdale Canal

Todmorden is a small market town. Although only seventeen miles from Manchester, boasting an Oldham postcode and with sports teams which play in the Lancashire league, Todmorden is actually just in West Yorkshire. However, that wasn't always the case. Historically, the Lancs/Yorks border ran right through the middle of the town, effectively putting half in each county. It was the 1888 reshuffle which re-united the town into the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Also running through the centre of Todmorden is the Rochdale Canal, site of this rather unusual guillotine style lock gate.

The further end of the pound is more traditional, with the black and white swing gates.

Just above lock 19, is this huge retaining wall which holds up the embankment of the railway line. It is said to have taken around four million bricks to complete!

It is inset with drains, though it doesn't look as though much water has passed through here lately.

Typical arched stone bridges allowed the crossing of roads and footpaths.

 And eventually we reached Skew Bridge; it's fine stonework looming eerily out of the remnants of the early morning fog. 

Here, the Manchester to Leeds railway line enters the town, headed for Todmorden station.

For us, the Rochdale Canal was the beginning of a day walk which would take us away from Todmorden, through wooded valleys, over farmland and up onto the moors. It was a gentle start, climbing up from lock 19 past Wadsworth Mill Lock No 20, Shade Lock No 21, Gauxholme Lowest Lock No 22, Gauxholme Middle No 23 and finally Gauxholme Highest No 24 and our departure point.  

Only ten and a half more miles to go :)

PS: I've discovered a little more about the guillotine gate at lock 19.

When the canal was first opened, lock 19 had two mitre gates, such as are common at locks. However, in the 1920s, the road bridge over the canal was widened, shortening the lock pound. The mitre gate at the lower end of the pound was replaced with the guillotine in order to allow full length boats to continue to use the canal. The guillotine does not take up swinging room in the pound and nor is space needed for the balance beams.

With the advent of the railways, the canal became less used and in 1937, the last boat made the Pennine crossing. In 1952, the canal was closed except for a small section between Castlefield and Piccadilly in Manchester and, eventually, even this fell into disrepair. However, in 1974, enthusiasts restored the nine locks through Manchester city centre and the Rochdale Canal Society was formed. Gradually, sections of the canal were rebuilt or restored and re-opened.  The Todmorden section was tackled in 1982, but the guillotine gate was replaced by a typical mitre gate. This meant that the maximum length of boat which could travel on the canal was 60 feet; not an issue as the canal was still closed at either end and no boats bigger than this were moving on the re-opened section. However, the building of the Tuel Lane deep lock in 1996 gave boats access to the Rochdale from the rest of the inland waterway system and in 1997, a new guillotine gate was installed at the lower end of lock 19, once again opening the Rochdale Canal to full length boats.


  1. I love your pics of this old canal, they are fantastic. I really liked the one with the arched bridge and the one with the black and white swing gates. Thanks for the tour! Nan

  2. Some wonderful pictures there. You have captured the feel of the place so well. It's a funny old place, Tod, not quite of this world. There is a body of opinion in these parts (lower down the valley) that Lancashire is welcome to it. Having said that, it has its charms

  3. I do love walking along canals and this is one I've never walked along, I've never seen a guillotine style lock gate before either. Your photos are very atmospheric:)

  4. That's a walk I've never done so I shall enjoy tagging along. All the beauty and none of the effort!

  5. They walked on the water you know...
    I love the photo of the little arched bridge and the tree. It would make a nice print!

  6. Todmorden looks interesting. It's not somewhere I've ever been, to my knowledge, though quite how I've missed it, I'm not sure.

    There's a lock on the Staffs and Worcs canal at Gailey that has its arms bent in half and pointing backwards so it doesn't hit the A5 bridge when the gates open.

    A guillotine seems much more sensible!

  7. Lovely to see Todmorden again, do you remember when we were there in September lsst year. The steep climbs through the Pennines give plenty of good views. We especially liked the Incredible Edible scheme running there with the aim to provide access to good local food for all. Along the towpath and in boxes outside all the public buildings food was being grown for local people to help themselves.

  8. Really gorgeous shots of a place that looks so inviting, even in the misty fog. It's fun to know that you Brits are no more future thinking that we in the States are. Take it down, replace it with something else, change everything, put it back up. Sometimes we seem to run around in circles never able to see the forest for the trees. (I think I mixed about 12 metaphors there but then again, maybe not.)

  9. Lovely blog Helene. Fancy this from a canal boat though. I fancied a canal boat holiday this year, but its so expensive.

  10. What an interesting walk that must have been. How many hours did you take?

  11. Sure glad you took your camera along for your walk, H! The fog adds an eerie sense of mystery to this historical place. I wonder who counted the bricks?

  12. Love the mist and the reflection shots. I shittered at the though of a guillotine gate... but I know that's just a name for the gate that lifts and falls.

  13. I see that my typing skills have not improved over the years. I meant to write shuddered.