Monday, 20 August 2012

Down and Out on the Weaver

We’ve had an interesting couple of days since we left the Bridgewater Canal which was our exit route from Manchester and we are now moored in delightful surroundings on the River Weaver in Cheshire.

By contrast with the other canals we’ve travelled, it would be fair to say that we found the Bridgewater Canal a bit boring.  40 miles with no locks, no swing bridges and a wide and mostly straight course does not provide much entertainment.  It is fine for a linking route but not, we’ve found, a place to spend much time.  There were some highlights nonetheless.  We liked the village of Lymm where we had a nice evening meal at the Spread Eagle with our friends Iain and Ann on Friday.  Coming out of Manchester we detoured up the Runcorn Branch.  This used to end in 10 locks down onto the River Mersey but these have long since fallen into disuse and been built over, so it is now a dead end.  Still we did walk down to see the splendid bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal and the Mersey, built in the 1960’s:
Runcorn to Widnes Bridge
We also spotted this wonderful way of taking a bike ride and exercising your dog:
Dog Power !!
For a little excursion we visited the church in the village where Lewis Carroll was born.  This now has a window with Carroll, Alice and characters from the books.  Look at the lower part of the window in this picture and see what you can recognise:
Lewis Carroll Window in Daresbury Church
Unfortunately there was a wedding on so this picture is taken from an information board!!

Where the Bridgewater meets the Trent and Mersey Canal is the first of three tunnels we travelled yesterday – Preston Brook is the first and nearly a mile long, the other two are shorter but more entertaining as they are crooked so you cannot see one end from the other.
North Portal of Preston Brook Tunnel
Today we’ve experienced one of the wonders of the canals – the Anderton Boat Lift.  This takes boats up and down the 50 feet between the Trent and Mersey and the River Weaver below.  The lift was built in 1875 and has been reconstructed twice, most recently in 2002.  It is powered by hydraulic rams which ordinarily lift one caisson while the other falls.  Here are some photos of our experience:
Anderton Lift - River Weaver visible below

In the lift caisson with 'Avocet'

With Avocet we are going down and you can see the trip boat going up

Down now and River Weaver ahead

Coming out of the lift at the bottom

Going up or down the lift is an experience not to be missed.

Now we are down and have been exploring the River Weaver upstream of the lift this afternoon, with our friends Andrew and Valerie who joined us for the day.  The river which was developed for coastal ships to use to collect the salt which is mined hereabouts.  Nowadays fortunately there is little or no commercial traffic and some of the sores of the mining industry have grown over.  The river is a positive delight.  Upstream of Winsford, the official navigable limit, the river becomes very narrow and then suddenly opens out into a huge lake caused by subsidence where they have pumped the salt out over many years.  Apparently some of this lake is a bit shallow so we did not go down too far, but just motored in sufficiently far to appreciate it and then turned round and beat a retreat while we were still floating.  We did have Helen with a boathook on the bow measuring the depth and she did not manage to touch the bottom, so perhaps the difficulties have been exaggerated, but be careful if you do try this just in case.
Out on Winsford Bottom Flash
Here are some other pictures of the Weaver to whet your appetite.
This is the largest commercial vessel we've seen and it doesn't look as if it's going anywhere soon

River Weaver scenery

Valerie, Andrew and Helen enjoying a sunny day on the Weaver

Salt Mine near Winsford

An idyllic mooring this evening

Tomorrow we plan to explore downstream from the Anderton Lift and we may even stay on the Weaver for a day or two more especially if the weather continues as lovely as it has been this afternoon.

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