Mytholmroyd to Summit, via the Rochdale Canal path. 10.7 miles
|Dean Clough Mill|
Had a worry from here that I might be shadowed along the next section by a boatful of twenty-somethings, drinking and chatting noisily as an unwelcome walking companion as I pass under the railway and admire the first of many impressive viaducts along this way. Continue on the path perched between river and canal, and thankfully lose the chatty youngsters as they have to stop to negotiate Lock 12. There are some fun little buildings assembled by boat owners along here, sheds with a real sense of individualism and then it off into the countryside, with an impressive terraced garden and a rare brick mill at Bridge 22, spillways with plank crossings at regular intervals and a slow ascent through this wooded territory. Lobb Mill and Lock 16 provide the first open vista in a while, and another railway viaduct, and beyond Woodhouse Mill, we get the sudden view up into the hills to the south, quite unexpected (and hard to photograph) after so long with the high valley sides enclosing us, but oddly no view of Stoodley Pike yet, which isn't that remote from here. Here starts the path into Todmorden, and I'm hopeful that this will provide as pretty views as Hebden Bridge did, and the first terraces and mills, along with Todmorden Wharf, make me feel hopeful, but then we see far too many site that have been demolished and replaced with post industrial scrubland and it's enough to make the heart sink. I can only hope that these had been buildings that weren't worth retaining, because otherwise, I cry 'vandalism!', at least the natural views open up, with Bridestones Moor and Whirlhaw stones to the north, and from under Bridge 29, Stoodley Pike finally makes its appearance behind us in the east.
|Fielden Wharf, Todmorden|
The section into Todmorden town centre is actually very nice, looking cared for and snazzy in the right places, and the boat supply station at Fielden Wharf is something any canal town could be proud of. The signal that this is not a town in the same bracket as Hebden Bridge is the sight of the boarded up Golden Lion Inn, such a sad sight as I'm convinced that this town only needs the slightest bit of encouragement to become an attractive tourist spot and vibrant town, and a haven to outcasts and weirdoes (and I honestly mean that in a good way). Under Golden Lion bridge (30) and the A6033, to pop up by Todmorden Guillotine Lock (19), and pause here for lunch, and to learn about apiculture, as Todmorden seems to hold bee-keeping close to it heart; also watch a man in the flat opposite feeding the ducks by throwing left-over pizza from his window. Then onward to the engineering marvel that is "The Great Wall of Tod", the massive retaining wall on the canalside that carries the railway above it, and supposedly contains 4 million bricks, Yes it is possible to get excited about big walls! The canal has now taken it swing southward and the climb to the summit starts, and beyond Lock 21 we meet an engineering marvel that is a bit more sophisticated, Skew Bridge, the castellated, iron arch / girder combo carrying the railway over the canal at an acute angle, and one for the scrapbook methinks. Carry on up the Gauxholme flight of locks and under Bacup Road, and applaud the conversion of the warehouse above Lock 24, and thence alongside Gauxholme Viaduct as the railway crosses over the canal again in much less impressive style before meeting Copperas House Bridge (32), the first obvious bit of modern restoration work on the canal since Tuel Lane Lock back in Sowerby Bridge.
|"The Great Wall of Tod"|
Crossing the A6033 again, and leaving Todmorden behind, than path perches between canal and the stream Walsden water, and I realise that we've left the Calder behind too. Two more locks are passed before we reach the edge of Walsden, and I decide that I really, really want one of the nutty four-storeyed terraced houses. There's a lot more to Walsden than I recall from my visit to the cricket club's beer festival a couple of years back, St Peter's Church and Hollins Mill for starters, as well as the over-large pound above Lock 29. Quite suddenly, you find that you are now out into some much rougher territory, remote farmland mostly, but still with the odd 1930s house popping up incongruously, and as the moorland replace the fields and the hills get spikier you start to wonder how much more ascent you are going to have before you reach the summit. Quite a lot actually, Lock 35 at Warland feels like the top, with its battlement farmstead and border post indicating that you are about to enter Lancashire and should have your passport with you, but the summit pound starts at Lock 36, and you can feel cheer up here amongst the hills that the Rochdale canal chose to not build a summit tunnel so you can walk the canal path all the way over the top. The watershed is met and marked with a poem, for those who enjoy that sort of thing, and then Lock 37 marks the end of the pound and the board indicates 'Highest Broad Lock in England', and beyond the descent to Littleborough starts.
I depart the canal path to the Summit Inn, having decided to not go on because a return ticket home from Littleborough is £6 more expensive then one from Todmorden, for reasons best known to someone who wants to keep Yorkshire folk out of Lancashire, so a retreat has to be beaten back along the A6033, past the vents of the railway's Summit tunnel, the pleasing toll house at Steanor Bottom, and the many signs indicating the many district borders that you cross at the edge of the county. I make for the first bus stop that I can use with my metrocard and having not stopped for my pint at The Summit,and having time to spare i figure that I'll have time for one at the Bird i' th' Hand instead. Rolling up at 2.40 pm, I find that this pub has been out of business for a very long time, and isn't that just typical?
1,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 332.9 miles