Installations mark achievements of the past and highlight the importance of the canal network

Posted: 20.10.11

Two exciting new interpretation features are being installed this month at Lock 39 and at Summit Pound, as the start of an extensive project to bring more historical information to the Rochdale Canal.

Both installation sites are near Summit, on the border between Yorkshire and Lancashire, a border that marks not only the separation of the counties but also the east and west divide of the moorland and the water itself, a concept captured in a poem by renowned poet Andrew MacMillan.

At Summit Pound, a replica of the Pennine watershed has been cast in iron and the surface decorated with words from Andrew’s poem “Watershed”, which describes how the moors’ crust at this point splits to fall as a liquid equinox on either side of the Pennine ridge.

“They are beautiful words in a beautiful setting and it is hoped that the piece will give canal users the chance to reflect on both the landscape and also the astonishing achievement of the engineers, gangers and navvies who built the canal over this summit, bringing industry and prosperity to the region in 1804,” said Ruth Hair, the manager of the project, which has been funded by Pennine Prospects using funds from the South Pennines Leader programme.

The cast iron feature at Lock 39 is more linear, being a five metre long piece of casting, representing the linear nature of the canal and the road and rail links that run alongside it. The piece tells a brief story of the canal in its lettering, explaining how the canal was the M62 of its day. Both pieces are made from recycled brake discs at local foundry, Hargreaves, of Halifax.

More features are planned along the length of the canal: later this year two large information boards will be installed next to the canal in Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, which will give much more detailed information about the building and restoration of the canal and about its role as a worldwide waterway. There is also a new Rochdale Canal website planned as a backdrop to the whole project.

The project has been designed as a celebration of Rochdale Canal’s historical and engineering importance, as the highest broad canal summit in England, and has been delivered by a partnership of people from Pennine Prospects, The Waterways Trust, the Upper Calder Valley renaissance groups, British Waterways, Rochdale Council and Calderdale Council.

Ruth explained the role of the Leader programme: “The South Pennines Leader programme is all about promoting our local heritage and this project is improving and promoting one of our key heritage assets – the canal network that criss-crosses our landscape. The heritage story of the Pennine canals is deeply fascinating but on the Rochdale, it’s not easily accessible. Understanding that heritage brings a whole new level of enjoyment to our use of the canal as we start to see and understand so much more about the struggles and triumphs of the past.”

The group running the project have seen this as a first stage of works and hope to be successful in securing funding for further information boards and sculptural works along the length of the canal.

Below: Members of the Local Action Group visit the first installation at Lock 39, Summit

Below: Contractors from IS Group install the sculpure at Summit Pound which marks the Watershed of the Canal

Below: The watershed sculpture is completed at Summit

Yorkshire Water United Utilities Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council National Farmers Union
South Pennines Association Lancashire County Council Pennine Heritage Kirklees Council Calderdale Council
Bradford District Council Northern Rail Natural England Environment Agency The National Trust