Planning my route

The weather is getting colder and nastier with every passing day and I’ve decided that I need to set off moving my boat in a couple of weeks’ time. The engine is (nearly) fixed, the electrics are (nearly) in and despite dreams of cruising a finished houseboat down the canals at a leisurely pace, I’m going to have to make do with what I’ve got. Heat, light and movement. That’s enough for anyone. I’ll make tea and warm up beans on a camping stove, and probably eat a lot of chip butties along the way.

Emma has heroically taken two weeks off work and is going to help me on the journey. Dad will pop over to help me on Saturdays and a bunch of other friends have volunteered their services if I need them. So I won’t be lonely!

One thing I do need in advance is a plan of the journey. I found it really difficult to find a satisfactory online canal route planner at first – I just wanted to look at canal maps which showed locks, but finding one comprehensive website to give me this was tricky. Then I came across Nick’s Canal Plan AC, which got me sorted.

It was also very encouraging! I’d had this idea in my head that it was going to take me three weeks to bring little Swallow home, and was struggling to get my head around how I was going to manage to keep my business going during such a long time away from a computer.

Here’s the route as mapped by Canal Plan:

Golden Nook Farm, Cheshire, to Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Route planned using Canal Plan AC:

Shropshire Union Canal (Chester Canal)
From Golden Nook Bridge No 115 to:
Barbridge JunctionJunction with Shropshire Union – Middlewich Branch

Having passed over River Gowy Aqueduct

9 miles, 3 furlongs, 6 locks (4 hours, 23 minutes)

 Shropshire Union Canal (Middlewich Branch)
From Barbridge Junction to:
Wardle Lock No 4Junction of Trent and Mersey Canal, Wardle Lock Branch and Shropshire Union Canal, Middlewich Branch

10 miles, 4 locks (4 hours, 48 minutes)

 Trent and Mersey Canal (Wardle Lock Branch)
From Wardle Lock No 4 to:
Middlewich JunctionJunction of Trent and Mersey Canal Main Line with Wardle Lock Branch leading to Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch

1 furlong, 0 locks (2 minutes)

 Trent and Mersey Canal (Main Line – Middlewich to Preston Brook)
From Middlewich Junction to:
Middlewich Bridge No 172Middlewich Town Centre

Kinderton Street (A54)

Having passed through Middlewich Locks (rise of 32 feet and 7 inches)

3¼ furlongs, 3 locks (37 minutes)

Preston BrookJunction of Trent and Mersey Canal and Bridgewater Canal (Preston Brook Branch) – immediately north of Preston Brook Tunnel

Having passed through Barnton Tunnel (572 yards long), through Saltersford Tunnel (424 yards long) [see navigational note 1 below] and through Preston Brook Tunnel (1239 yards long) [see navigational 

note 2 below]

16 miles, 4 furlongs, 2 locks (7 hours)

 Bridgewater Canal (Preston Brook Branch)
From Preston Brook to:
Preston Brook – Waters MeetingJunction with Bridgewater Canal

6½ furlongs, 0 locks (14 minutes)

 Bridgewater Canal (Main Line)
From Preston Brook – Waters Meeting to:
Timperley Bridge No 33Timperley

Park Road (B5165)

16 miles, 4 furlongs, 0 locks (5 hours, 4 minutes)

Sale WharfSale

1 mile, 4¾ furlongs, 0 locks (29 minutes)

Castlefield JunctionJunction of Bridgewater and Rochdale Canals

4 miles, 4¼ furlongs, 0 locks (1 hour, 23 minutes)

Rochdale Canal
From Castlefield Junction to:
Littleborough Having passed through Deansgate Tunnel, through Manchester 18 (rise of ), through M60 Tunnel (0 yards long) and through Edinburgh Way Tunnel

16 miles, 3½ furlongs, 45 locks (15 hours, 17 minutes)

Todmorden Lock No 19Also called Library Lock

5 miles, 5½ furlongs, 29 locks (8 hours, 59 minutes)


Total distance is 82 miles and 89 locks (not counting Todmorden Lock No 19). There are at least 3 moveable bridges; 30 small aqueducts or underbridges and 6 tunnels (Barnton Tunnel (572 yards long), Saltersford Tunnel (424 yards long) [see navigational note 1 below], Preston Brook Tunnel (1239 yards long) [see navigational note 2below], Deansgate TunnelM60 Tunnel (0 yards long) and Edinburgh Way Tunnel).

This is made up of 27 miles, ¼ furlongs of narrow canals; 54 miles, 7½ furlongs of broad canals; 9 narrow locks; 80 broad locks.

This will take 48 hours, 21 minutes which is 6 days, 6 hours and 21 minutes at 7 hours per day. For calculation purposes this is taken as 6 days.

Overnight stopping places

This is calculated based on 7 hours travelling before the first overnight stop and 7 full days travelling starting at Golden Nook Bridge No 115.

On average each full day will be approximately 7 hours and 5 minutes travelling but some overnight stops have been moved to avoid unsuitable stopping places and this has affected the lengths of the days. The shortest day is 6 hours and 42 minutes and the longest is 7 hours and 27 minutes.

First day of trip

On the Shropshire Union Canal (Middlewich Branch), at The Badger Inn (half way between Barbridge Junction and Wardle Lock No 4). This is 14 miles, 2¼ furlongs and 8 locks and will take 7 hours.

Second day of trip

On the Trent and Mersey Canal (Main Line – Middlewich to Preston Brook), at Wincham Hotel Bridge No 192 (half way between Middlewich Bridge No 172 andPreston Brook). This is 13 miles and 6 locks and will take 7 hours 5 minutes.

Third day of trip

On the Bridgewater Canal (Main Line), at Lymm Winding Hole (half way between Preston Brook – Waters Meeting and Timperley Bridge No 33). This is 19 miles, 2½ furlongs and 1 lock and will take 7 hours 5 minutes.

Fourth day of trip

On the Rochdale Canal, at Ancoats Lower Lock No 83 (to avoid stopping in a flight of locks) (just past Castlefield Junction). This is 14 miles, 4¾ furlongs and 9 locks and will take 6 hours 42 minutes.

Fifth day of trip

On the Rochdale Canal, at Sixth Laneside Lock No 59 (two thirds of the way between Castlefield Junction and Littleborough). This is 8 miles, ¼ furlongs and 25 locks and will take 7 hours 28 minutes.

Sixth day of trip

On the Rochdale Canal, at Second below Punchbowl Lock No 42 (just past Littleborough). This is 8 miles, 3¼ furlongs and 17 locks and will take 7 hours 5 minutes.

Seventh day of trip