A hissing of Geese: Rochdale Canal Walk

Geese everywhere. Big. Mean. Angry. The collective noun is supposed to be a gaggle, in flight it is a skein a team a wedge a plump. None of these terms capture the absolute terror of geese protecting their young on a narrow canal path. Hissing bastards. Look at its tongue, my god:

We got past these but not the next. Four hissing adults square in the middle, a bunch of heedless goslings along the far edge. Maybe if we still had some of our pies left, but no. We beat a retreat. Less than a mile to go around, and we didn’t mind that the older gent and his young grandson we warned about them on our way back got past without a problem (the geese had obviously taken to the water, or they are as afraid of small boys as we are). I got this picture though, probably didn’t mean much to Mark, but it was a win for me. I love these contrasts of Victorian/Edwardian industrial architecture.

Just look at these enormous old mills.

The Arrow (listed, 1908). The Malta (1904). The Swan. So many, they were splendid.

Old pubs as well. The Blue Pits Inn from the blue clay mined where the Castleton train station now sits. The Railway and Linnet. The Ship Inn (where we stopped for a pint, bought some duck eggs, watched the antics of a group of white geese, steadfastly ignored by the horses behind them on the other side of the canal). We will not speak of the Rose of Lancaster, whose gate we found locked when we climbed the stairs from the canal path. Greater Manchester is such a strange patchwork of industry, countryside, city.

Above all, this canal. My my. What a triumph. My heart is rather full of the engineers who designed it and the men who built it. The full length of it from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester was open by 1804. You can tell the volume of water from the many weirs. We realised also just how high we were (and the locks were), staring down from the canal over streams and housing far below.

A series of bridges, arches, constrast of light and shade, the closing and opening of emerald vistas. So so lovely. A nice, easy, flat, downhill walk as well, apart from one bit where we followed the footpath through overgrown thickets beside the M60. If only planners walked.

We also saw a triceratops through the trees. Happiness. Almost as much happiness seeing the tiny little heads of tiny baby goats popping up now and again over the top of the far bank. Baby. Goats. And I somehow almost forgot them.

One last awesome thing? Disappointment Panda.

And the starting-the-day awesome thing? The first two strawberries from the garden (there was a strawberry apocalypse a little while ago, I prefer not to speak of it, but some survived), shared equally with a croissant. Lovely.

Yet overwhelmingly this summer walk created memories of geese everywhere geese. Hissing, demanding food, filling the canal with great rippling Vs, grazing ominously on the far fields in enormous groups. They’re not swans, but still…

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