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Canal Walks and Cruises

The Rochdale Canal is a navigable broad canal in northern England, between Manchester and Sowerby Bridge, part of the connected system of the canals of Great Britain. Its name refers to the town of Rochdale, in Greater Manchester, through which it passes.

The Rochdale is a broad canal because its locks are wide enough to allow vessels of 14 feet width. The canal runs for 32 miles (51 km) across the Pennines from the Bridgewater Canal at Castlefield Basin in Manchester to join the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire.

As built, the canal had 92 locks. Whilst the traditional lock numbering has been retained on all restored locks, and on the relocated locks, the canal now has 91. Locks 3 and 4 have been replaced with a single deep lock, Tuel Lane Lock, which is numbered 3/4.

The Rochdale Canal, when opened in 1804, was the first Trans-Pennine canal linking Leeds and Manchester. It travels a total distance of 33 miles from the centre of Manchester to it’s junction with the Calder and Hebble Navigation in Sowerby Bridge. The canal rises to a height of over 600 feet (180m), which meant several reservoirs had to be constructed to supply the canal.

The canal was first discussed in 1766 when group of businessmen met in The Union Flag Inn in Rochdale to propose a shorter route between Manchester and Leeds, as an alternative to the Leeds – Liverpool Canal that had been recently planned, via Rochdale. But it took until 1794 before a revised Rochdale Canal Bill was passed.

In 1799 the canal was already navigable between Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden and from Manchester to Rochdale. The original plans for a 1.6 mile tunnel between Walsden and Sladen were abandoned and were replaced by more locks. In 1804 the canal was opened fully, making it the only Trans-Pennine route for 7 years, as the Huddersfield Narrow Canal did not open until 1811 due to problems experienced constructing the Standedge Tunnel. The Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which was a much longer route did not open until 1816.

Principal cargoes being distributed via the canal were coal for homes and the mills, agricultural produce and of course raw and finished materials from the textile industy. The locks had been made large enough to accommodate broad-gauge (14ft) boats with commercial goods of up to 70 tons. The canal remained profitable for a short time but by the twentieth century the tonnage being carried was is sharp decline.

In 1937 the last boat made the through journey along the canal and by the 1950’s commercial carrying had virtually ceased. In 1952 the canal closed, one short length remained open, 9 locks in central Manchester, which formed part of the Cheshire Cruising Ring between the Bridgwater Canal and the Ashton Canal. However the Ashton Canal closed in 1962 and by 1965 the 9 locks were unusable.

With the formation of the Rochdale Canal Society small scale work began in the 1980’s to reopen stretches of the canal between Todmorden and Sowerby Bridge. In 1996 a new lock at Tuel Lane was open which connected the restored section of the Rochdale Canal to the waterways network once more. In 2000 the canal was transferred to the Waterways Trust who helped secure funding of 23 million to enable the remaining stretches to be restored. In total 24 locks were refurbished, 12 new road bridges were constructed, a new channel was cut and dredging took place along the entire canal.

In July 2002, the whole canal became navigable once again. A glorious route through some of the most rugged and beautiful scenery in the country, which appeals equally to boaters and walkers.

Featuring relaxing walks through woodland and open pasture, occasioning on the odd hamlet and cutting through the mill towns of Todmorden and Hebden Bridge this essentially flat route is easy walking and well provided with hostelries. Stoodley Hunting Lodge is located at bridge number 24 alongside the canal enabling easy access, or just sit on the terrace and observe the many boats travelling peacefully along its length.


The 32-mile towpath, with its steady climbs and descents, is a perfect place for safe, traffic free, family-friendly cycling. It is ideal for a long distance ride by hooking up with the Pennine Bridleway and the 47 mile Mary Towneley Loop or a weekend ride with the family? Whatever you want to do, the Rochdale Canal has it all.

Make the most of the cycle network with links through to Route 68, which passes through Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge, the Calder Valley Greenway to Brighouse and the Hebble Trail.


There are few canals in Britain that can claim a summit of 600 ft, offer stunning panoramic views over open moorland and city centre cruising. The 32- mile Rochdale Canal has it all.

With 92 locks, it provides a challenge for boaters although you can take it easy and stop off at countless pubs and other attractions en route.

The Rochdale Canal forms part of the South Pennine canal ring which traverses the Pennines talking in the Calder & Hebble Navigation, Huddersfield Broad, Huddersfield Narrow and Ashton canals.

The route takes you through the spectacular scenery of the South Pennines and through the Standedge Tunnel, the longest and highest canal tunnel in Britain. The Rochdale Canal also links through to the Bridgewater Canal and the Cheshire canal ring.

Boats can be hired from Bronte Boats and Shire Cruisers. Stubbing Wharf Cruises also offer boat trips along the canal at Hebden Bridge.

Fancy a cruise? Cruises can be arranged for just a couple of hours to a full day, if you wish from the bottom of our garden and a sumptuous packed lunch can be provided.


My Rochdale Canal Online Guide


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