Traveller's tales

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Diary of a genetically unmodified traveller: "I used to work there, I did!"

Walking along by the canal – the cut – from Wade Lock in Uppermill (how long is it since that bit went through a pipe?) to the Diggle end of the Standedge Tunnel – the highest, deepest, longest tunnel in England, and built at a staggering cost (for then) of £128, 804 (about the cost of the average semi-detached), I noted the icons of a bygone age.

A set of railway signals near the Ward Lane bridge, the sheds, wharehouses and former machine shops of Dobcross Loom Works, now and for a long time WH Shaw’s – pallet makers – and the locks, embankments and bridges of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal – Saddleworth’s former sustainers, lifelines and connections with the markets for its products; wool and machinery for turning raw material into fine cloth, and from there to Weaver to Wearer in Yorkshire Street.

Along the canal towpath – icons of a quite different age – anglers – people walking dogs – people just out walking, like me – an age of leisure activities – the Brownhill Visitors’ Centre, longboats lined up to be towed in eights through the tunnel to Marsden, and the other way, through Greenfield, Mossley and Stalybridge, linked to the Peak Forest Canal via Portland Basin in Ashton Under Lyne, and on to Buxworth and Whalley Bridge.

But work here still goes on – for some – hillsides covered with grazing sheep – a small Canine Centre in a small corner off the canal, upholstery firms, car body lads, and firms that fit window systems operating out of Warth and Ellis Mills – and the Diggle Hotel bar staff working away to serve the ever growing crowd at the front enjoying a lunchtime in the sun.

Robert L. Fielding

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