The Rochdale Canal
The Rochdale Canal is a broad canal which pioneered the route up the valleys on each side of Blackstone Edge on to the magnificent rounded slopes of the Pennine moors. Rail and modern road followed on, all packed tightly into the available space. The canal was reopened in 2002 and is a wonderful journey for energetic boaters, especially as part of a 'Pennine Ring' including the Huddersfield Narrow Canal or the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
The canal is heavily locked on both sides of the Pennines but goes through fabulous scenery and fascinating mill villages. A typical scene on the bottom right looks down on the Rochdale Canal as it threads its way through the crowded Calder Valley at Gauxholme near Todmorden.
The narrow valley is filled with houses, industry, roads, river, canal and George Stephenson’s Manchester to Leeds Railway which slices through the chaos on an elegant long curving viaduct. The railway eventually brought closure to the canal, the last through canal cargo was in 1937, but enthusiasts and Millennium millions reopened the Rochdale Canal to through navigation in 2002. The large locks can be hard work, but most boaters find the scenery makes the effort well worthwhile!
The Rochdale canal was the first of three Pennine crossings to be completed, the others being the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal which has also been recently reopened. It was designed to take river craft from both sides of the Pennines (lock size 74ft x 14ft). Payloads of up to 70 tons of coal, grain, salt, cotton and wool were carried around the urban areas at each end but only a relatively small proportion of trade went through all the locks ‘over the top’.
Despite the railway competition the Rochdale Canal was busy until the First World War but eventually the roads took its business away, the last through cargo was in 1937 and trading ceased finally in 1958. Sections to the west of the Pennines were partially filled in and locks converted to weirs. The canal was never nationalised but the private company was more inclined to develop the canal's land assets than waterways traffic.
Control was transferred to British Waterways/The Waterways Trust in 2000 and the full restoration cost £23.8 million, funded by grants of £11.9 from the Millennium Commission, £10.8 million from English Partnerships and substantial contributions from Rochdale and Oldham Councils.