Thursday 30 July 2015

Arriving in Liverpool (1)

The day had come! We were ready for the off at 0900; CRT were ready too and the first six boats made a prompt getaway.

The first section of canal after the swing bridge was notable for the amount of weed. There was plenty below the surface too.

I noticed our speed drop after a couple of miles; we had picked up plastic bags round the prop. Going into astern threw some of the rubbish off and improved things, but when we stopped at the Litherland services I pulled out great quantities of bags and weed. Things were a lot better after that.

Off to the right was the first real sign that we were approaching our destination: cranes marked "Port of Liverpool".

We were getting closer ...

... and closer ...

... and then came Stanley Locks, a flight of four manned by CRT volunteers taking us down to the docks.

On emerging from the bottom lock there is a smallish bridge hole to negotiate ...

... but what lay beyond?

To be continued!

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Nearing Liverpool

Tuesday 28th July 2015

It rained a lot in the night, and rained some more as we cruised to Maghull. There we stopped for lunch, then had a wander round the town.

We didn't stay too long as I was keen to get to the assembly point for the passage to Liverpool the next day. Hancock's Swing Bridge 9 wasn't far away; we joined five narrowboats already there. Another narrowboat came a bit later; widebeam hotel boat Lady Teal would join the party in the morning.

And this is the swing bridge we ordinary boaters are (currently) not allowed to operate.

As the sun went down over Aintree we were looking forward to the bringing to fruition of our plan to go to Liverpool by boat.


Monday 27 July 2015

Where the L&L started, so they say

Not quite so much rain as yesterday, but we didn't manage to avoid all the showers nor the drizzle. This was the sign at Lathom Junction telling of the closure of the Rufford Branch.

At Burscough Bridge we used the services and then went to Tesco, which is to the north of the canal bridge.

Now someone had suggested we might like to call on someone in a boat at Scarisbrick, probably in the marina, but I couldn't remember who! I searched through my e-mails and a few other blogs, but without success. We stopped, though, and looked round, hoping that a boat name might trigger my memory. None did.

Oh well. I hammered in the mooring pins of a neighbouring boat - the forward and aft pins had both been completely ripped out; the boat was relying on a centre line pin.

Ah - Ally, on the phone to Jan, has just said that it was a comment by James on Gabriel. I still can't remember whom we were to visit.

At Halsall there is a sculpture of a navvy seemingly rising out of the rocky ground.

The first cutting of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal took place here. There is a plaque marking the "exact" spot, where the canal has been cut through solid rock. I'll try to get a photo as we make the return journey next week.

We tied up at Haskayne; I'm writing this in the Ship pub using their wi-fi.

A little boat maintenance was done this evening: the bathroom sink has been getting slow to drain. Disconnecting the hose from the sink waste revealed a lot of disgusting whitish gunge lining the rubber hose. Filling the hose with water and then blowing down it forced it to clear, but only until the next fill of water. Eventually I reconnected it to the waste and used the empty milk bottle method - crushing and releasing to push and suck the water - until it eventually cleared.

Can anyone suggest what I might put down the sink to clean the hose? If it's a pollutant I can catch it as it comes out of the skin fitting. Would bleach work?

Sunday 26 July 2015

Crooke to Lathom Junction

Hmm. It rained today. Quite a lot.

We cycled along a track through a field to church in Shevington this morning in the dry, although it was raining by the time we came back. We had Sunday lunch in the Crooke Hall Inn, then hung around a bit waiting for the rain to ease before setting off towards Liverpool.

Dean Lock came soon; there was a boat, Rosina May, on the lock landing with the crew filling the lock. I hung back but eventually came in to the side as they were having difficulty opening the gate. On my way to give assistance I managed to wind down a bottom gate paddle a fraction, then with my additional weight on the balance beam we managed to force the gate open.

Progress after this was relatively smooth, but the rain it did fall. We encountered the first of what will be many swing bridges. The first was an easy manual one; the next two were electrically operated.

We stopped at Lathom Junction where the (currently closed) Rufford Branch joins the main line. It stopped raining as soon as we stopped, so after tea we walked down the Rufford Branch to see what we could of the reason for the closure. A temporary fence barred our way after the fourth lock down; the pound was low but not empty.

Something I forgot to say yesterday: the train we caught from Wigan North Western to Blackpool North was packed. I haven't been on such a crowded train for a long time. We had to stand until Preston.

Saturday 25 July 2015

Four piers in one day

Guess where we've been today. Here's a clue.

Yes, we've been to the seaside. We took the train from Wigan North Western to ... well, here's another clue.

Right again. Blackpool. Jan had never been, and it will have been more than 35 years since I went. We had our bikes with us, so we were able to cycle along the promenade south to the pleasure beach and the roller coaster (I was tempted but Jan wouldn't have ridden it if you'd paid her) and north to the quieter end of the beach, encompassing the three piers. It was a lovely sunny day but with a cool onshore breeze.

The fourth pier, then? We left our mooring in Wigan to continue towards Liverpool, passing the famous Wigan Pier or coal tippler on the way.

We tied up at Crooke where we went for a walk and I sampled the Allgates Black ale in the Crooke Hall Inn. And very tasty it was too.

Friday 24 July 2015

Phew! Made it to Wigan

We did indeed move some more last night after reading that the top lock on the Leigh Branch was due to be closed today. It turned rather dark as we motored along. We reached Plank Lane lift bridge and decided to stop.

We got up at 0630 today in order to be able to get past the bridge before the traffic got too heavy and carry on to the Poolstock Locks. CRT have been opening the locks for just an hour from 1000 to let boats through, but the stoppage was billed as happening today. We reasoned that if we were there early CRT would let us through. We got there at about 0830 and didn't have long to wait for CRT to arrive and unlock the locks.

The problem is with the top lock. One top paddle is broken allowing water to flow into the lock all the time. As we were ascending the top lock a work boat arrived laden with stop planks; as soon as all the waiting boats were through the work boat blocked the head of the lock and the planks were cut to size and shaped with a chain saw.

So we only just squeaked through to Wigan; the latest info from CRT is that the lock should reopen on Monday. This would have made it tight for us to get to Hancock's Swing Bridge 9 at the rendezvous time for the booked passage to Liverpool. As it is, we now have the luxury of a day in hand. Jan has never been to Blackpool so we might pop along there by train tomorrow.

More on stop planks: I expressed my surprise to a CRT man that new stop planks were having to be made. He said that they were only ever used once as they are useless after water has swelled them. Has anyone else heard this? He reckoned that few of the stop planks in their little shelters around the system had ever been used.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Worsley and a rush to get past Poolstock Top Lock closure

A day of some waterways wonders as we crossed the Barton Swing Aqueduct and stopped in Worsley.

This photo of the Packet House I took with my new camera. I'm still very much in the learning-how-to-use-it stage.

We moved on to Astley Green; now we might move some more tonight in order to try to beat the stoppage at Poolstock just before Wigan, having just read my stoppage alerts. Shame - I was hoping to look at the Astley Pit Museum.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Exploring Salford

The only boating we did today was to push across to the other side where we were slightly less under the footbridge. We did do some cycling, however, initially to Salford Docks, sorry, Salford Quays as it's been rebranded.

This is Salford's answer to the Taj Mahal.

The amount of redevelopment around the docks is impressive. I made a point, of course, of searching out the BBC buildings, not an especially difficult task.

We spent some time in the Imperial War Museum (North), but it was too dark to see the exhibits properly. I left Jan doing some shopping at Tesco Express in Trafford Road while I cycled off down Ordsall Lane looking for a pub I went to as a student. I couldn't remember what it was called, but I could remember very clearly the tables being exceptionally heavy, made from old sewing machine stands covered in copper. I stopped at the first pub I came to, the Bricklayer's Arms, bought a half of Holt's Black and asked some locals if they knew what I was talking about. They did. The pub with the copper tables was the Welcome and it had stood next door until it was demolished many years ago.

On I went, cycling through my old university campus (Salford) which is having a lot of building work done. I crossed the Inkwell Irwell to where the Civ Eng building should have been, but it was a pile of rubble. I used to go to the AV unit nearby to play with cameras and boom microphones in their studio; that has also vanished.

My next port of call was Castle Irwell, the student village. That is now barricaded off ready for redevelopment. I helped out with SUR - Salford University Radio - there (and got to shake the Queen's husband's hand when we were presented to him once. The Duke of Edinburgh was the Chancellor.)

Then I cycled to Oaklands Road in Kersal where I lived for three years in the halls of residence. Gone. They are now houses.

Still, I enjoyed my trip back in time, and I didn't expect everything to be preserved as it was 40 years ago.

This evening we had a good meal at a Wetherspoon's in Oxford Road before walking round a lot more of Manchester before returning to the boat.

Tomorrow we move on, probably just to Worsley. Meanwhile my windlass is getting rusty.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Would there be room in Castlefield Basin?

We were a little late setting off from Little Bollington as a phone call from Jan's dad confirmed the date and time of his sister's - Jan's aunt's - funeral in Truro. I then immediately set about researching and booking a train journey to get us there from Liverpool. We will have arrived in Salthouse Dock only the day before. At least the boat should be reasonably secure while we're away. We'll end up having all of one whole day to explore the city before our booked passage out.

It took me two and a half hours to book the right splits - a right palaver! Still, it got the cost down from about £400 to £165.80 with our Two Together railcard.

Back to today. We cruised the rest of the Bridgewater Canal to Waters Meeting in Stretford where we turned left so I could go to the Trafford Centre and John Lewis. It was easy to get to by bike from Parkway Bridge - south west along the path and turn right at the traffic lights onto another cycle path until you see it in front of you.

Back on board we retraced our steps to Waters Meeting (we'd tied up near a winding hole) and turned left towards central Manchester. The Manchester Ship Canal gets very close; this is Hulme Lock Pomona Lock which connects to it.

As we approached Castlefield Basin we could see end-to-end moored boats. Would there be room for us anywhere?

Well, yes, right at the end. Behind us the water gets pretty shallow.

That's Jubilee on the right, under a clanky metal footbridge!

This evening we walked along Deansgate to Albert Square and St. Peter's Square. Tomorrow I'd like to visit Salford Quays. Perhaps we'll cycle along the towpath to Throstle Nest Bridge and cross there.

edited to correct error - thanks Debby of nb Chuffed

Monday 20 July 2015

Red bottoms and blue bottoms

Until today I had seen only black hulls. But then, obviously freshly done, appeared this red-bottomed boat.

And then these blue bottoms.

(Sorry the photos are so dark; I don't know how to lighten them in Paint.)

We left Moore and continued east along the Bridgewater Canal, stopping at Lymm for lunch and a look round. The canal goes through some lovely wooded bits.

I was just thinking how much more pleasant it is that it's not raining when the drizzle started.

It stopped when we did at Lymm. We walked up to the church, which was open for electrical safety checks; then we walked to Lymm Dam. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera. The dam was built when the toll road was routed to carry what became the A56. Water flows from the lake thus created under a bridge and through the "Dingle" woods to the village centre.

We tied up for the night at Little Bollington just past the water point. We had a barbecue, then walked to the Swan with Two Nicks pub as the nearer pub, Ye Olde No. 3, had shut at 9 pm. It always does on a Monday, apparently.

Sunday 19 July 2015

Tunnels and trains

Today we left the Trent and Mersey Canal and entered, via Preston Brook Tunnel, the Bridgewater Canal and widebeam country. Well, we saw one, in Preston Brook.

Our first tunnel today was Barnton Tunnel. Here you are asked to check that there is nothing coming towards you and enter only if that is the case. As we neared the portal we could see that the coast was clear, so I switched on the tunnel light and nosed in. But now there was a tunnel light at the far end! Was this a boat already in the tunnel or was it merely approaching with its light on? There was no way of knowing, so I bottled out and reversed back into the basin.

The chap the other end also reversed - we found out later - but came through when we vanished from his view. Three more boats followed him. It seemed to take ages until we were clear for entry. All this delay, though, meant we were in the time window for Saltersford Tunnel and had to wait only five minutes or so at Preston Brook.

I had completely forgotten the part of the T&M west of Barnton. There is some very pleasant farmland looking splendid under the fluffy clouds.

We stopped at Preston Brook for some milk from the Spar shop. Jan held the boat on the centre line while I walked to get it. Ignoring - this time - the Runcorn Arm we continued on the main line past the Daresbury Science Park to moor at Moore.

After tea we walked into the village and crossed the two railway lines a few times. At one bridge I was interested to see a diesel-hauled excursion train approach, go under us and stop at a red signal. This is the best photo I took.

Apologies if you were hoping to see the train! When the signal changed the loco made a wonderful noise as it slowly pulled the ten coaches and spare loco up the hill.

Back at the canal I did manage to get one semi-decent shot of the science park "water tower".

Apart from the occasional plane flying out of Manchester Airport this is a very quiet spot. (Just before the village moorings.)

Saturday 18 July 2015

Houses in the sky

We've passed Lion Salt Works several times in the past but today was the first time we were able to have a proper tour.

It has presented this face to the canal for years ...

... but now there's this as well.

A new Lion Salt Works Museum with lots of good explanations of the salt industry and how salt was made from the brine which was pumped up.

Before reaching the Lion Salt Works at Marston, however, we came through the exciting chemical works at Northwich. I was just too late to photograph the sign warning motorists of the "steam vapour" which might be emitted.

We tied up for the night at Anderton; this evening we walked to Barnton to recce a church for the morning. This is the wonderful view from the church.

I love the house in the sky appearance. What goes on up there? Why all the windows? There are similar buildings in Northwich too.

When we got back to Anderton we walked down to the Weaver to look at the boat lift from below. We won't be going down this year.

Friday 17 July 2015

Where not to moor in Middlewich

I was right. We didn't sleep well last night. The HGVs kept thundering past all the time - if you value an uninterrupted shut-eye then don't moor just above King's Lock in Middlewich. Counterintuitively the traffic noise subsided only during rush hour. This was because everything was reduced to a crawl. At 0800 I looked out of the window and was surprised to see nothing but lorries.

All right then, lorry cabs.

Despite our forthcoming rendezvous with our friends (who have a mooring directly above King's Lock on the offside, as it happens) we were determined to move away from this most peaceless of locations, so we winded and dropped through four locks to tie up just after Bridge 172.

At the sharp left bend where the dry dock is Jan manoeuvred Jubilee past Constance.

Adrian and Chris had arrived by the time we tied up; we went to help with the last stages of putting up their shed.

I did help, honest!

And then Adrian declared the shed to be finished. The first item to be stored inside is the TV aerial.

We all enjoyed a takeaway from the Balti Spice, still going after 16 years, eating it on board Jubilee.

We saw Chris and Jan on Tilly May again today as they passed Adrian and Chris's boat Essence. They stopped in front of Jubilee to get some provisions.

Thursday 16 July 2015

Four old things in Sandbach; bread-bombed ducks

The oldest man-made things in Sandbach are these two ancient "crosses".

As for the two other old things I refer to in the title, well, I did mention that we are to be grandparents, didn't I?

We went down King's Lock and filled up with diesel (61p per litre base price - not bad!); then winded in the junction and went back up the lock to tie up approximately opposite our friends' boat Essence. We have arranged to go for a curry with them tomorrow, so we'll be here in Middlewich for an extra day.

As we approached Middlewich we saw these two people chucking bread pellets at ducks on the other side of the canal.

Perhaps the ducks were trying to get away from them.

I hope we get some sleep tonight. We are a few feet from a main road with HGVs thundering by, as well as the boy racers. No-one seems to obey the 30mph speed limit.

You don't normally see this in a lock

The pair of locks numbered 42 takes the Trent and Mersey Canal under the Poole Aqueduct. The towpath side lock is being prepared for a CRT open day, hence the vast amount of scaffolding and steps disappearing down into the depths.

This is what a ground paddle - the actual paddle - looks like.

The square hole behind the paddle takes the water from the higher pound into the lock chamber where it exits below the lowest water level.

There was no signal where we moored last night in Wheelock; I'm posting this on the way to Middlewich.

This morning we walked/cycled into Sandbach and enjoyed the fine town on market day.

I wonder whether or not it will be barbecue weather this evening.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Pottery workers take a break

Much better weather today saw us cruise from Etruria to Rode Heath. On the way we saw workers on a break at Middleport Pottery.

A familiar boat went past, No Direction, but in different ownership since bloggers Ray and Jayne sold it.

(Rubbish picture, sorry.)

As we went past Westport Lake a man untying his boat, Tilly May, called out to say that he read this blog. At Harecastle Tunnel we had a chat while watering up.

Chris and Jan, it was good to meet you. Our paths diverged the other side of the tunnel at Hardings Wood Junction as we carried down the Trent and Mersey while Chris and Jan turned onto the Hall Green Branch.

We stopped at Rode Heath where the moorings were pretty full. We tied up at the beginning of all the moored boats, had tea, then welcomed friends Martin and Buff - who live in the village - on for drinks.

At one point in the evening Jan noticed the sunset directly ahead of us. This is the view from the side hatch.

Our lunch stop, by the way, was at Red Bull, where we booked our passage into and out of Liverpool. This is now to be in on Wednesday 29th July and out on Sunday 2nd August, giving us three whole days there. I think that will be enough. This wasn't the perfect timing as we had hoped to meet up with Ally and Ben at Scarisbrick on their way to a wedding in Southport. Never mind, they will have to visit us in Albert Dock. I don't know where they will park.

Monday 13 July 2015

Rainy Monday

This morning it rained. So we stayed put, watching the Bywater Hotel pair leave ...

... and watching the rain.

At about 1 o'clock we judged it to have eased sufficiently for us to get going, so we did.

The cows thought more rain was coming ...

... and it did. But not too much.

We passed nb Earnest of Tuesday Night Club fame. I must have spent hours reading their exploits on their website some years ago, before even getting our share in Shadow.

We tied up above Stoke Top Lock for tea, intending to move on to Westport Lake later. But after we'd eaten we couldn't be bothered to move, going for a walk up the Caldon Canal to Hanley Park instead.

Harecastle Tunnel tomorrow, and then it's downhill all the way to Manchester. Wheee!