The Rochdale Nine – a tiny taste of the trials and tribulations to come!

The last time we encountered these nine double locks taking boats north east out of Manchester, was in August 2009. Fortuitously we came upon another narrowboat to share them with then, which certainly made the journey easier.

This time we had the lovely Jim, who I see picked me up on a couple of errors in that 2009 blog post. Good for you Jim! And thank you so much for your company and relentless grafting. Jim’s written a rather excellent blog post about his day with us – check it out here. As he rightly explains, we actually passed through eleven locks to moor overnight in ‘New Islington Basin’ (more information on this peculiar place in the next post).

Five years ago I chose to work the locks along with our companions, and leave Barry at the tiller. This time I thought I’d take the easier option of driving and steering. Sadly we had no accompanying boat, to share the locks and conserve water – until the very last one when we came upon a solo boater! What a shame we hadn’t each timed it better.

Lock 92 to 82

At Duke’s Lock, the first of the nine, we had a visitor. Michelle introduced herself and said she’d been one of our NB Northern Pride blog readers for many years. Also an ex-nurse (of 30 years), she now lives aboard her boat which she informed us is currently moored at ‘Potatoe Wharf’ around the corner. What a delightful name. It sounds like a cheery children’s book to me.


Dukes Lock, so named as it was originally owned by the Duke of Bridgewater to control entry to his canal.  The first lock on our travels to Hebden Bridge, ascending on our exit from Manchester, with Beetham Tower overshadowing the sights of a seemingly bygone era

The first lock on our travels to Hebden Bridge - ascending out of Manchester

Barry and Jim begin feverishly


Lovely to meet you Michelle, thanks for saying hello


Chilling at the tiller

Barry and Jim working seamlessly made light work of the locks. For those not in the know, The Rochdale Nine are a series of rather challenging locks, spread over a mile and a half. They go under buildings and bridges, past night clubs and pubs, and right along ‘Canal Street‘, Manchester’s Gay Village.


An impressive arched railway bridge


Passing the delights of the unusual two-tiered shopping and restaurant area


Under traffic, railway and foot bridges


Tib Lock


Barry went ahead to set the next lock, leaving Jim to finish up and Sandra to drive slowly along


It’s an incredible feeling meandering on a narrowboat while the big city continues it’s daily drudge


Go Jim!


Oxford Street Lock – surrounded by an eclectic mix of structures


No time to stop and stare – eyes fixed firmly ahead


Appearing eerily quiet – everyone’s stuck inside their offices and shops




Having a gay old time

Having a gay old time passing Canal Street and Manchester’s Gay Village 


Yoohoo down there! Jim nonchalantly leans against the paddle


Chains on the paddle mechanisms, as well as anti-vandal locks


Grasping a well-earned rest


Colourful murals – must be fairly freshly painted as they’ve not been daubed with graffiti yet!


Sharing the last of the infamous nine – lock 84 – before the junction of the Ashton and Rochdale Canals. Last time we turned right, this time we ventured into virgin territory

The Rochdale Nine

by Fred Rogers

Chorus :

Locking down the Rochdale Nine
You won‘t want to do it a second time
Your hands are all blistered, your shoulders in pain
And because you‘re in Manchester, down comes the rain
When you‘re locking the Rochdale Nine

At lock number 1 you pay thirty quid
By lock number 2 you‘ll regret that you did
They secure number 1 with a padlock and chain
In case you change your mind and turn back again
When you‘re locking the Rochdale Nine

At lock number 3 the towpath‘s not there
In fact the canal‘s got far more than its share
You can‘t get across without straddling the gates
While the tillerman curses the rain as he waits
When you‘re locking the Rochdale Nine


At lock number 4 your feet get all wet
But at locks 5 and 6 they‘ll be much wetter yet
And as for the scenery it‘s not worth two hoots
And you‘d give a week‘s ale for a dry pair of boots
When you‘re locking the Rochdale Nine

It‘s lock number 7, not one boat has passed
The water is lapping up right round your raft
A local is helping ‘cos the top gate won‘t close
And his pet pit bull terrier‘s got hold of me clothes
When you‘re locking the Rochdale Nine


By lock number 8 you‘ve given up hope
Moored to the lock-side by a short length of rope
The gate‘s wide enough for the old QE2
But the paddles are leaking so you crash your way through
When you‘re locking the Rochdale Nine

It‘s lock number 9. Thank God, it‘s the end
‘Cos most of your crew have gone right round the bend
They‘re shouting and cursing and swearing out loud
They sound like a part of the United crowd
When you‘re locking the Rochdale Nine

Locking down the Rochdale Nine
You won‘t want to do it a second time
Your hands are all blistered your shoulders in pain
And because you‘re in Manchester down comes the rain
But you‘ve finished the Rochdale Nine

We’d heard this song below sung at The Narrowboat pub in Middlewich during the FAB festival. We recalled the locks being a little difficult in comparison to others on the system, but writing this blog retrospectively, having achieved a half way point to Hebden Bridge, I can honestly say we feel these locks are an absolute doodle in comparison to the journey we’ve undertaken since then.

Carrying on up the Rochdale

I hadn’t realised we’d tasted a tiny morsel of the menu of our forthcoming journey, when I found myself alone on the boat stranded in the centre of the canal between locks 82 and 83 – the last two of the day on Thursday (sadly neither of us took a photo for posterity). I was certain we had something unknown wrapped around the propellor, and to cap it all I could see the bottom of the pound from my place at the tiller. It’s an eerie feeling, and one I don’t enjoy – but at least one of us was on land to let some water in and float the boat again. We weren’t so lucky a couple of days later.

But that’s another story …

Cheers! Great job boys – I had the easy part for a change …

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