Boatman attacked by canal yobs - Manchester Evening News
Manchester's outskirts on the Rochdale canal can be intimidating. I found them very friendly, but that was then, two years ago, and on two busy August days under a perfect blue sky.
However, today the local rag reports the natives are restless, especially around the notorious Lock 68 in the equally notorious Failsworth. And quotes a single-handed boater from Todmorden:
Chris Jones, 56, whose home since retiring from the Merchant Navy has been his 40ft narrowboat Timaru, has spent a week navigating the waterway between Rochdale and Manchester. He says he came under attack on several occasions and even had to repel boarders twice.
"I've travelled literally hundreds of miles on the country's canal network," he said. "This has got to be the worst. I've met many fellow-boaters who have never used the Rochdale Canal, but have been put off by its reputation. And people on the towpath have told me they rarely see barges coming up the canal. In parts it's quite obvious that there is not the traffic that there should be, because you can see the weeds starting to block the waterway."
Is this story the result of a journalist talking to one unfortunate boater? Of course Failsworth is known for being 'bandit country', and there are other worrisome stretches, such as around Rochdale itself.
But it's too easy to blame only the oiks for scaring away boaters. Sure, they hold a healthy share of the responsibility, but the article doesn't mention the long stoppage to fix the Irk aqueduct breach, nor the various other minor disasters that have blighted this lovely but sad old canal.
Of course, what the Rochdale canal needs is 'Canal Keepers', like they have in London. The Community Projects section of the BW website says of the London Canal Keeper project:
All volunteers have been issued with Canalkeeper clothing, making them easily recognisable, and have all been given a Canalkeeper's kit with whistle, simple first-aid materials and graffiti-cleaning equipment.
Hmm, that sounds a bit weedy to me. We need law and order here, not glorified park-keeping! Perhaps there could be a Mancunian 'provisional' wing, complete with uniforms that smack of the military, and sjamboks, and they'd be taught how to glower and say 'Make my day, punk'. The boys would flock to join up, because the girls all love a uniform.