Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Manchester and MOSI

Tuesday 15th July 2008

Woke up to a wet Worsley in the wain. I mean, rain. Went to the convenient newsagent for a paper. Set off at 0930 and had an uneventful run to Castlefield Basin in Manchester. Watered up at the sanitary station, winded in the arm and moored up near Owl, who had overtaken us on the way. To try to get some wi-fi for the laptop we walked up Deansgate to a Wetherspoon's pub, The Moon over Water for lunch. Having been assured that, yes, there was wi-fi, we ordered our drinks and food, and were then told, sorry, it's not working today. Oh well. After a not particularly memorable meal we walked to Salford so I could see my old university. The Maxwell Building, where I had most of my lectures, was still there, but with a fancy glass pyramid on top of the new reception.

the Maxwell Building, University of Salford

Next to the Maxwell Building. where the art gallery used to be, was a new glass and brick building, with a huge Salford Uni badge slapped over the front. Disconcertingly, the sign over the doors welcomes you to Salford Young People's University. Hmm. I wouldn't be very welcome now. Don't they take mature students any more?

From here we tried to follow the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal to its junction with the River Irwell. The MB&B, still only a dry depression as it was three decades ago, runs right past the university campus. We couldn't get down to it, and there didn't seem to be a towpath anyway, so we trudged around back streets trying to spot signs of it. Eventually we came upon the Middlewood development, where the canal, with a couple of locks, is being restored as the centrepiece.

the slab-sided Hilton Hotel building towering over a new section of the MB&B

looking from the Irwell towards the MB&B

Then we found the Museum of Science and Industry. Fascinating. I could have spent two weeks here, never mind the rest of the day.

The attention grabber, visible through the ground floor windows, was the array of old mill engines and other devices in steam.

Entry is free these days (hooray), and while Jan settled down with a cup of tea and free wi-fi in the cafeteria I looked at a few of the exhibits. Exhibits? That makes it sound stuffy. But they've made a good stab at making it non-stuffy: the engines in steam were wonderful on their own. And it was an ordinary Tuesday too.

And there were recreations of scenes from the past, brought to life with convincing projections of actors onto what I assume were glass plates, inside the case of what would otherwise be a boring static display. The museum itself is the site of the Liverpool Road terminus of the Manchester and Liverpool Railway, well preserved, with tracks still connected to the network; and with early railway era warehouses, looking like transplanted canal buildings.

Just a few minutes walk away was the boat. Back we went for a salad tea, eaten outside to make the most of the (by now) dry weather. After the morning rain the sun had actually shone: it felt fleetingly summery.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Parbold to Worsley

Monday 14th July 2008

The morning started fine. Fine drizzle, that is. So yesterday's sun was an aberration, a short-lived reminder of what summer should have been, but wasn't. Went to the shop for a paper and pain au chocolat. Did the usual engine checks. Weed hatch clear. Perhaps today would be when I would get a new alternator belt (but it wasn't).

Set off at 0820 and turned right in Wigan, doing the last of the self-operated swing bridges and locks of this holiday (apart from Dutton Stop Lock).

Lunched at Dover Lock Inn and enjoyed more good food - thanks Bob. This time I had the braised beef for £6.95; Jan had the lamb hotpot for £6.50. Oh, and I then had a banana split for £3.00. The fact that the placemats were stuck to the table really didn't matter.

On the way to tonight's mooring back at Worsley I started polishing the mushrooms.



"Owl" was also back at Worsley: we've seen this lovely boat a lot over the last few days. It has a 1954 Armstrong Siddeley engine.

Birds can't read

Sunday 13th July 2008

Between Burscough and Parbold.

Today it DID NOT RAIN!

Sunday 13th July 2008

gongoozlers at Lock 3 or 5

Got up at 0700 to be greeted by SUNSHINE! Today was the only day of our two weeks on Willow that it didn't rain., and we actually spent much of it off the boat. While waiting for our daughter to take us for another day in Southport, I wirebrushed the rust and mud off some of the ferrous haul of the previous few days: mostly mooring pins.

At 1030 we found ourselves in one of the many churches in the town, where our daughter's boyfriend was leading the service. From there we went for lunch to the house where he lodges. Then we all - daughter, boyfriend, hosts, Jan and myself - returned to the boat to lock up the remaining six locks of the Rufford Branch back to the main line of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

daughter's boyfriend operating a Jack Clough to open a ground paddle

At the top lock we watered up, then cruised to Parbold. Here, to celebrate the absence of rain, we had a barbecue. The Poundland bbq wasn't terribly good, containing rubbish briquettes. I'm sure they used to have proper lumpwood charcoal. With the bbq we cracked open the first bottle of wine of the holiday!

Later in the evening I went to the Windmill pub looking forward to a pint of J W Lees, probably the first since my days at uni in Salford three decades ago. But, as related previously, the pub kept old-fashioned Sunday hours and was closed.

Fished and caught three mooring pins. I think I have enough now.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Rufford and Tarleton

Saturday 12th July 2008

red primered top gates on the Rufford Branch

usual dark sky over Fearn's Swing Bridge 9

This was the morning I discovered that the alternator belt was loose, and that bits of rubber from the belt had coated the shiny yellow alternator and pulley. Set off at 0900 after tightening the belt, resolving to buy a replacement as soon as possible. So it was down the Rufford branch. More new territory. The paddle gear of the top lock, and some more further down, is operated by winding a horizontal fixed crank. This is the same gear as at the Leeds end of the canal, but the first we'd encountered on this trip. And to add even more interest some of the top paddles were activated directly by lifting a long wooden lever. This was completely new to me. Are these "Jack cloughs"?

We got to Rufford at noon and asked Mark at St Mary's Marina about an alternator belt (this is all detailed in an earlier post).

Coming out of the office I spotted Takey Tezey in the marina, so we went down and knocked ... and after explaining who we were, i.e. blogger/boaters, were welcomed aboard by Heather and Dave - thanks guys! We were given the full guided tour treatment, and photographed sitting in their bow. Takey Tezey is a widebeam, and what a difference a few extra feet width makes! It really looked luxurious, and was spotless and one hundred per cent tidy. They thought we'd been passing in our car: I suppose they don't get too many boaters calling in.

For lunch we walked up to the Hesketh Arms. From the "snack" menu we had gammon, egg, chips and peas; and lamb hotpot, pickled onions, red cabbage and roll. The portions were very good size, i.e. large, and the food was very good. A pint of "Pride of Pendle" went down very well too.

Under way again at 1420. Stopped for the services (shower, elsan emptying and water) at Spark Bridge. "Jannock" was moored opposite.

At 1700 we arrived at Tarleton. The boatyard was closed (still looking for alternator belt). I cycled down to Tarleton Lock to see the connection with the River Douglas. One day we'll do this, and the Ribble Link, and get onto the Lancaster Canal.

We decided to return to Rufford for the night, so we left Tarleton at 1720 without really looking round (well, we've left something for a future trip) and moored just before the 24 hour moorings at 1845. Fished, but found nothing but rusty metal and a few nails.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Haskayne to Burscough, with a land-based detour for a beach barbecue

Friday 11th July 2008

After breakfast I did a spot of fishing: three mooring pins (one bent) and a pair of tweezers. We were in no hurry as we'd arranged to meet our daughter at Scarisbrick Bridge at 1100, so we left at about 0945. Shortly after setting off we passed this boat, for pain free cruising no doubt.

We tied up exactly where the entrance channel to the new marina will soon be cut. The owner, Alan Mawdsley, was by the fence looking at the works. Daughter picked us up, and took us to her boyfriend's house to meet his parents. They had driven over from Huddersfield. After coffee we went to the beach at Ainsdale, just south of Southport, for a "surprise" barbecue.

It was certainly a surprise for us, but not for the weather, which was blustery. And rainy. And not too warm. We'd set up in the dunes in a relatively sheltered spot, before being moved on by a jobsworth onto the (exposed) beach. Although the main cooking was done with charcoal, there was a camping stove for the potatoes. The gas ran out and I offered to try to find a replacement cylinder in the village. By the time I got back - with a new cylinder - the barbecue was almost over. Hmm. Should perhaps have given up after the third shop (success came at the seventh, after walking about two miles).

The six of us returned to the boat for cups of tea and profiteroles. The visitors left at 1650: we then cruised to Burscough, and moored just before the junction with the Rufford Branch. Crabtree Swing Bridge 32 was easier this time, now I knew how to do it. You have to wind the horrible hydraulic gear many, many more times than you think you should, and it's hard work.

I've not seen a duck like this before

getting in a flap

The Ship Inn, just down the Rufford Branch, provided a good pint of Cain's 2008 ale.

The end of the line, and I get vocal

Thursday 10th July 2008

After lunch at the Bootle Arms in Melling we carried on towards Aintree. Could we get as far as the racecourse? Well, no. Swing Bridge 10 was locked with a "BW only" lock, so we winded in the channel (one advantage of the boat being only 40 feet long) and headed back in the Leeds direction.

what are we doing in the green stuff?

the lock which defeated us

At some point we picked up a keep net on the prop. After much hacking away with a Stanley knife it came clear. "Willow" has the most accessible weed hatch and and easiest to clear prop I've come across. I'm sure the water came up only to my elbow when feeling around the prop shaft. And there's a huge amount of space around the engine.

At 2030 we tied up outside the Ship Inn at Haskayne. After tea on board we went into the pub and immediately encountered the Folk Club. Members were sitting round the walls of a large room, facing inwards. Each in turn would sing or play their contribution, approximately every other person having a guitar. We supped our drinks and listened - this was excellent. And all the better for it being entirely unexpected. The person next to us sang his song, and then the "chairman" asked if we'd do anything. No, we were completely unprepared, and had never done anything like this anyway. So the round continued ... but I had an idea. The metaphorical baton came round again, and this time I plucked up my courage, and said, yes, I had something. The only song I had been able to think of, and for which I could remember most of the words, was Amazing Grace. So I sang it, with backing vocals from Jan, and everyone joined in! I'd worried that it might be seen (heard?) as not appropriate, but I was assured afterwards that it had been quite in order and was appreciated. The funny thing is: I could sing in front of a roomful of strangers, but couldn't ask them if they'd mind if I took a photo. So there isn't one. Sorry.

I really must find some appropriate tunes for my recorder. Anyone got any ideas?

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Scarisbrick Marina

Thursday 10th July 2008

We pulled pins at 0830 and continued towards Liverpool. As soon as we were through Scarisbrick Bridge we saw what the building site was: Scarisbrick Marina. The previous day all I saw were the tops of piles for some massive structure, but they were actually the steel uprights for securing pontoons.

According to BW assisted passage through to Liverpool begins at Bell's Swing Bridge 16, so we headed for the winding hole before it, at Dicconson's Bridge 17, Lydiate, tying up at 1100. Bought milk and newspaper. Coffee time!

the Running Horses have run away

Bell's Swing Bridge 16

I went to investigate the swing bridge, and found it just needed the usual BW key. A boater told me that it was perfectly possible to proceed - indeed, he often did himself - without BW's assistance. So we did. We weren't cruising during peak (road) traffic hours, so we didn't cause any serious holdups on the many swing bridges on this section. We stopped at Melling Stone Bridge 11 and had lunch at the Bootle Arms in Melling. My steak was overdone. Must remember to ask for "rare" in future. Jan's lamb was good. And the beer was good too.


Wednesday 9th July 2008

(I'll try to catch up with the cruising log now)

young angler showing off his catch by Junction Bridge

Today started at Crooke and ended at Scarisbrick Bridge 27A. We wanted to stop here as it was convenient for Southport, where our daughter was visiting her boyfriend (as from 13th August 2008, her fiance). Before the bridge the towpath was overhung with trees, so we went on through the bridge intending to moor up there. As soon as we got through the bridge I changed my mind: the field to the right was a huge building site. We didn't want to be woken up by diggers too early in the morning. We reversed back through the bridge hole and tied up under the trees. The bank was amazingly tough: I'd never come across a place so difficult to hammer the pins in (no, it wasn't concrete).

At 1900 said daughter came in her car for us to take her out for a meal. We looked at the Blue Elephant Indian restaurant but it looked rather pricey. We drove on to Southport and ate in the Shamraat, getting a takeaway for the boyfriend... Eventually we returned to the boat, not getting to bed until midnight.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Bones excluded

My September isssue of Canal Boat magazine was waiting for me when I got home from work today. (Hooray!) In the editorial Nick Wall invites readers to suggest what made the diagonal indentations in the brickwork by a lock on the Stroudwater Navigation (there is a photograph). He promises a beer for the best response, but he makes a point of excluding Bones. Why? Is it because he thinks your answers would be winningly witty and he wants to give the rest of us a chance, Bones?

But the first thing I saw was that I could have got a pair of tickets for the IWA National Festival for £11 and not the £13 it cost me when I bought them in advance. (But I expect I'll need them anyway. The IWA ticket information on their website is very poor: nowhere does it state that any tickets you buy don't cover the whole long weekend. Perhaps they do, but I doubt it. I left it too late to book a mooring, so we're intending to moor as close as we can and walk/cycle from there.)

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Jonathan Mosse fixes it for Nicholson's

Wednesday 9th July 2008

We stopped for water at Burscough Bridge by the junction of the Rufford Branch. There was a man waving a yellow box around as if he were trying to get a signal. Now, as I am interested in possibly getting a GPS device, I asked him if his device measured speed to the nearest tenth of a mile per hour. Jonathan Mosse, for that is who it was, replied that his box was indeed a GPS device, but for getting accurate position fixes, not for speed measurements. Mr. Mosse travels the waterways by bicycle - in all weathers (today was rainy) - researching for the Nicholson's Guides. His name is at the front of every one. Here he was standing on the footbridge over the old dry dock by Junction Bridge checking the position of the water and elsan point. "But can't you just get the information from BW?" I said.
"For accuracy I have to check it all."
Here was a case in point: the elsan disposal door was locked with a non-BW key (well, not the one boaters have). It will be interesting to see if the next edition of the Nicholson Guide shows an elsan point at Junction Bridge.

Parbold for pasty and pins (but not pints)

Wednesday 9th July 2008

The village shop in Parbold had a small hot cabinet with a Cornish pasty in it for £1.09. I'd spotted (and smelled) it earlier when buying provisions. Now I was hungry, not too hungry, just the right amount of hungry for a pasty. And it was good. Back canalside I got the seasearcher out and did a spot of fishing along the bank. And quickly lifted up three mooring pins, one cast iron iron (no handle), and a tent peg. The best haul yet!

When I've photographed the loot I might post a pic.

Coming back this way four days later we had a barbecue (yes, Sunday 13th July was sunny and rain-free!) and then I went to the Windmill pub for a pint of J W Lees. BUT ... it was ten to eleven ... and the pub was SHUT!!!! I was stunned. In my experience pubs haven't shut at 10.30 pm on Sundays for years - but this one did.

WoW - but not the waterways one

Wednesday 9th July 2008

RC church, Parbold

On our walk round Parbold we came across a school, opposite the RC church, with a large Walk on Wednesday banner outside (sorry, no photo). And, a little further on, coming towards us, was a group of schoolchildren. Some of them were moaning about having to walk!

But not us. There we are, in the bottom left.

Parbold and the post office going nowhere fast

Wednesday 9th July 2008

We left Crooke at 0900 and tied up at Parbold at about 1100.

On a walk round the village we spotted the stationary post office.

And later, at Stockton Heath, there was a handbag shop with a wandering apostrophe.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Welcome to Lancashire!

Wednesday 9th July 2008

The previous night we moored at Crooke at 2015. We walked round the village and had a drink in the busy pub. Had a good ale, but I can't quite remember the name: something like H... Goodenough. Internet searching hasn't helped. Had we really been in Greater Manchester all this time? This must be Appley Bridge 42 with its peeling red rose.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Two big buildings

The first we encountered by Pagefield Lock, Wigan. It's the JJB Stadium, home of Wigan Athletic Football Club and Wigan Warriors Rugby League Football Club

Half an hour further on was the huge Heinz factory at Kitt Green. H J Heinz started canning baked beans in Wigan in 1948. It's been at the Kitt Green site since 1958.