Monday, 31 August 2015

Locks and Old Friends

Having left Liverpool behind us we have cruised back to Wigan and come up the 23 locks of the Wigan flight as a 'leg up' in climbing over the Pennines back home.

The Leeds and Liverpool is well known for swing bridges and here you can see one of the electrically powered bridges swinging back after Leo has gone through, controlled by Helen's finger on the button.  This is Glovers Swing bridge just East of the Rufford Junction.

The fun with these swing bridges is that they are all different.  This one, near the first one, has manually operated barriers but the bridge swings electrically.  Some are wholly manual requiring plenty of pushing.

This ship's cat appeared on the boat moored in front of us at Parbold.  From there we came up the five locks into Wigan where we looked around to find a partner to climb the Wigan Locks with us.

This is the approach to Wigan passing the Orwell pub on the left and Trencherfield Mill which you can see on the right of this photo.  Arguably this is the site of Wigan Pier, though we met a chap who reckoned it was further west.

While in Wigan Ian visited the local museum and archives to do some family history research.  He succeeded in finding local newspaper reports from 1937 covering the death of a great uncle who died when a wall fell on him while he was demolishing a cottage on his farm.  It seems that common sense runs in the family!  On the way back to the boat Ian succeeded in rescuing a lad's bike from the canal and found a partner to share the locks with us the following day.

Here you can  see Keith on 'Twin Sister' going into one of the lower locks hotly pursued by Leo.  Even better than finding someone to share with was the fact that Keith and Brenda's grandson and girlfriend were visiting so we had plenty of lock crew.

This odd looking tower is not the remains of some industrial architecture but is in fact a modern phone mast.  Even the bricks are false but it does look better than most masts.

The top gates of some of the locks leak rather badly, like this fountain.  In one lock a spurt from the side wall of the lock filled our well deck to the extent that a toilet cassette left there floated across the deck!

Near the top you get some fine views back over Wigan.  The locks climb 214 feet in just a couple of miles.  With all the help, we managed the climb in only three and a half hours, discounting the half hour we waited for CRT chaps to fill one pound emptied by a leaky lock gate.

From the top we cruised on a couple of miles to a fine mooring near Haigh Hall which had a lovely view to the West.  The sunset here was pretty good  too.  Having come up the Wigan flight on Friday we've moved on slowly over the last few days, enjoying some walks near the canal as well.

Above the Wigan locks is a 9 mile pound and then you come to the foot of the seven locks of the Johnson's Hillock locks just after Chorley.  The bottom lock is to the right and the Walton Summit Branch is to the left.  More about that Branch in a minute.

Here we are part way up the flight with four more locks to go.  The small building to the left of the lock above is a toll house.

The paddle gear on different canals is often distinctive and these locks have an unusual worm gearing for the ground paddles.

We stopped at the top of the locks yesterday and treated ourselves to Sunday lunch at the Top Lock pub - pretty good.  We then went for a short walk around the area, down to the bottom lock and up the Walton Summit Branch.  This is now disused but was built to link the Lancaster Canal to the rest of the system.  It was intended to go to Preston and cross the River Ribble on a substantial aqueduct.  That aqueduct never got built because the money ran out, though a tramway took its place for a while.  The Lancaster canal remained isolated until 2002 when the Ribble Link was built.

The first couple of hundred yards of the Walton Branch is probably navigable though overgrown with trees and there is nowhere to turn round.  After that the motorway (M61) gets in the way.

A footpath through a culvert under the motorway allows access to the old aqueduct where the Walton Branch went over the River Lostock.  Quite a surprising find.

We think this grassy strip is the old course of the Walton Branch canal running South from the aqueduct.

Today we were very pleased to meet up with Chris and Helen on Coventina.  Three years ago we shared the Wigan locks with them and it really felt like a meeting of old friends.  They have also met our son David and Victoria so it was also nice to meet their daughter, Lauren, who is staying with them for a few days.  One way and another coffee developed into lunch and so we've only come on a few miles today.

Here is Leo moored alongside Coventina at Withnell Fold.  Our repainting of the red panels on our bow shows rather well in this photo.

As another coincidence, soon after leaving Coventina we passed Indigo Dream, a boat that had been stranded with us by floods on the Thames at Wallingford in 2012.  It really is a small world.

Because we were unable to explore the Lancaster Canal we have plenty of time left to reach our home mooring near Skipton, so we will be taking our time now for the last part of our travels this year.  Tomorrow we have the six Blackburn locks to look forward to and we aim to get out of the town to moor in open country tomorrow evening.  There are some areas in Blackburn and the other towns we will soon pass through that are less than desirable but hopefully we shan't have any problems.  We aim to have a few days walking from the boat as we get higher in the Pennines, particularly as we return to God's own country - Yorkshire.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

It's the Leaving of Liverpool!

We've had a lovely week in the centre of Liverpool and we finally left yesterday (Monday).  I've put together some snippets of our Liverpool trip here.  A visit to Liverpool is really a must for any boaters.  The journey down is fascinating and being moored in the centre of the docks right next to Liverpool One (the main shopping centre) for free is too good an opportunity to miss.  Having spent 11 days in Liverpool in 2012, we tried this time to do things we didn't manage to fit in then.  There is so much available to do that we could go back to Liverpool tomorrow and still find different things to amuse us.

So here is a sample of our week in Liverpool:
 Here is the view of Liverpool waterfront from the Mersey ferry.

At Woodside on the Birkenhead side of the Mersey is a U Boat sunk in the dying hours of the Second World War.  It has been left pretty well as it was when brought back to the surface in 1997.  It had to be cut into four pieces but is pretty impressive as you can see into each end of each piece.

Snowdrop, one of the Mersey ferries, has been painted in 'Dazzle Paintwork' as used in the first world war to confuse the enemy.  Behind the ferry you can make out the Catholic Cathedral on the left and the Anglican Cathedral on the right.

The Town Hall was having an open week.  Here is the opulent and well preserved Banqueting Hall.  Liverpool has lots of superb public buildings to rival cities anywhere in the world.
This is a strange picture and looks like something out of Doctor Who.  In fact it is the inside of the Central Library.  The outside of the Library is fine Georgian architecture but inside it has been completely reconstructed.  What you can see is a teardrop shaped rooflight with staircases criss-crossing the atrium below.  The library also has a circular reading room like the British Library in London.

This is the inside of the dome in the Port of Liverpool building (one of the 'Three Graces' - the three prominent buildings on the waterfront).  We had a walking tour in terrible rain, but got inside all three buildings on the walk.

Last time we came we were unable to book on the tour of the Beatles childhood homes (now owned by the National Trust).  This time we did the tour and here we are calling on John Lennon.  The blue plaque was put up when he had been dead for 20 years.

And here is Helen calling on Paul McCartney who had humbler beginnings than the Lennons, in a council house in Forthlin Road.

Yes, you are right, this is a Gent's toilet.  As you can see it is rather splendid and is the only Grade 1 listed toilet in the country.  You can find it in the Philharmonic Dining Rooms on Hope Street between the two cathedrals.  The Dining Rooms is in fact a pub where we had lunch sheltering from the rain.

We went up the 330 foot tower of the Anglican Cathedral and here are the 13 bells in the tower.  The central bell weighs 14.5 tons and is only rung on special occasions including Christmas and Easter.
The Cathedral is on a ridge and being 330 feet tall gives superb views, although we had to wait for a passing shower to move before we saw all of the view.  Northwards we could see Blackpool Tower, to the South we could see Great Ormes Head at Llandudno and some of the Welsh peaks.  In this view you can see Salthouse Dock where Leo was moored, just out of sight to the right.

The Cathedral is the largest Anglican Cathedral in the world and is stupendous inside.  It was built between 1904 and 1978 and the architect was Giles Gilbert Scott.  This view shows the nave with an intriguing bridge across.
On our last day (Sunday) we took the train over to the Wirral and cycled from the Mersey to the Dee estuaries over the centre of the Wirral.  We visited Port Sunlight where this picture was taken.  The fine houses were built by Lord Leverhulme for his employees at the Sunlight Soap factory.  He was an enlightened employer.  Infant mortality in Port Sunlight was half that in Liverpool.
The forecast was for rain from 6 pm but it arrived early.  Here we are on the promenade at West Kirby (the top left hand corner of Wirral) looking out at the Marine Lake and the Welsh mountains through the rain.  The sky promised more rain, so we got the train back from West Kirby.  You can buy a combined ticket for trains, buses and ferries for £5.10.  Good value!  Most attractions in Liverpool are free.

So we left all this behind and came out through the docks and up the Stanley Locks on Monday with three other boats.  We've not come far today, though Helen has opened five swing bridges to get us a few miles to Haskayne.  This afternoon we cycled to the coast at Formby where there are some amazing sand dunes.

We've called this one the 'Dune de Formby' after the Dune de Pila in South West France.  The top of the sand dunes are good vantage points to see the views along the coast.

This gives some idea of the extent of the dunes.  We walked down to the sea and Ian had a paddle too.  Well, we will be setting off now to cross the Pennines so it seemed appropriate to make contact with the sea first.

This is on an extreme zoom and then enlarged on the computer, hence it is not that sharp.  However you can make out Blackpool Tower, the 'big dipper' and Lakeland mountains behind.

Slightly to the left of Blackpool you could see the Lake District.  I think the right hand ones are the Coniston Fells, but I'm not certain.

So, after an afternoon at the seaside, having ice creams and barely getting rained on at all, we will be retracing our outward trip over the next couple of days to Wigan before we gather our courage and climb the 23 locks of the Wigan flight and set off to climb the Pennines on the last leg of our boating this summer.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Rufford Closed but now we're lapping it up in Liverpool

Having been frustrated in not being able to cruise the Lancaster Canal this year, we've come down the Liverpool Canal Link into the Docks and it's just as much fun as when we came this way three years ago.

Last Monday we moored at Pennington Flash.  The flashes are lakes caused when land has subsided because of mining. 

This is Pennington Flash, quite a large lake which we enjoyed walking all the way round in the evening.  A bonus was an ice cream van by the car park which we patronised.

Soon after leaving our mooring on Tuesday we came across Plank Lane Lift Bridge.  This is quite a busy road and Helen is in the pink to the left holding up all the traffic while Ian drives Leo through the bridge.

Because of the mining subsidence a couple of locks that used to be here, have been moved to Wigan to let boats down to the new lower level of the canal.  Here you can see Leo going through the site of one of the old locks near the Dover Inn.

After about 40 miles of flat water along the Bridgewater Canal and the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool, you finally reach some locks approaching Wigan.  These are called the Poolstock Locks and seem pretty large and intimidating after the narrow Trent and Mersey Locks.

We stayed the night in Wigan opposite the CRT offices and had no problems at all with passing youths.  There were plenty of other boats there, which always improves the feeling of security, including one which was home to three Harris Hawks.  Unusual pets for narrowboating.  This perch is on the roof of the narrowboat.

We actually took the opportunity this time to visit the centre of Wigan.  Not a lot there to excite  the passing boater, but this is the 'Face of Wigan'.  We didn't find much in the way of food shops either, but perhaps we didn't look hard enough.

In the afternoon we had our Boat Safety Examination, a sort of MOT for boats every four years.  I'm pleased to say that Leo passed the test.  Dave Davenport did the test and proved to be diligent at his job as well as entertaining and pleasant to deal with.  We'd certainly recommend him to boats in this area.

On Wednesday there were very few other boats on the move, so all the locks we did on our own.  We moored that night in a favourite spot by the side of Appley Lock.

This is Crooke Marina.  The entrance once led to a canal into a coal mine, much like the arrangement at Worsley Delph.  Ian's ancestors came from round here and we had already visited without Leo to explore the Family History connections.

Appley Lock is now 12 foot deep which is pretty big for these parts.  Originally there were two locks here and the remains of those locks provide a quiet backwater alongside the modern lock.  We've moored here before and it is delightful.  It was even a lovely afternoon suitable for lazing on the bank.

On Thursday we passed the end of the Rufford Branch.  The original plan was to turn North here to Tarleton from where the Ribble Link connects to the Lancaster Canal, new territory for Leo.  However a culvert has collapsed and the Branch is presently closed for a few weeks.  While we were passing we walked down the locks on the Branch and saw where they are working to repair the canal.

Here is the sign at the junction.  We should have been going to Tarleton but we are now heading to Liverpool.

Here is the first lock down the Rufford Branch.  The red sign on the left says "Canal Closed".

A mile or so down the canal this dam has been erected across the canal.  The pound above this was a little low and below the dam was only mud.  Some exploratory works were going on by the pole sticking up.

This inoffensive little ditch is the fallen culvert.  A small stream goes under the canal here and the bed of the canal has fallen into it so that the canal water drains down into the stream.  So stopping that leak is what the repair is all about.  We'll just have to do the Lancaster Canal another year.

The way onward towards Liverpool is pleasant, but not particularly exciting going first along the valley of the River Douglas and then across pretty flat farmland.  On the night before our descent into Liverpool we moored in what proved to be a lovely spot close to Holmes swing bridge.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is famous, or perhaps notorious, for its swing bridges and there are quite a few along this stretch.  Here Helen is operating the electric Methodist Swing Bridge in Maghull.  You'll see from the way she is dressed that we've had a bit of rain lately too.

From our mooring on Saturday night we walked up into the little village of Melling.  This is just outside the grasp of Liverpool being surrounded by Maghull, Aintree and Kirkby none of which are particularly pleasant.  Here is Melling Church, a fine country church on a little hillock with views of the surroundings, including the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool.

Some stretches of canal have waterlilies either side of a navigable channel.  Woe betide the boat that tries to get into the side.  Lots of weed to strangle the prop!

And so yesterday we cruised in to Liverpool Docks.  This passage has to be booked with Canal and River Trust who open a couple of swing bridges for you across busy roads and then help boats down the locks into the docks.  It is a delightful journey and well worth doing.

Here we are going through Hancock's Swing Bridge which is operated for you at set hours.  Two cheery chaps from CRT were there to see us on our way.

Through Litherland there is a fair bit of weed and litter and other boats had problems here.  Fortunately this time we were OK.  At this bus depot the back few feet of the buses overhang the canal.  You can see more water lilies (strictly these are, I think, globe flowers).
After about 9 miles you finally turn right into the Stanley Locks which take boats down into the Liverpool Docks.  Straight on leads in a few hundred yards to Eldonian Basin.  This ought to be a nice mooring but now looks rather neglected and deserted of boats.  The strong steer from the CRT chaps was not to stay here.  Some parts of Liverpool are not that safe for boats.

Here is Leo in the top lock.  Modern houses lie either side and the area looks fairly safe.  However the locks have some very cunning locking devices to stop anyone tampering with them and can only be opened by CRT officials.

Here we are at the bottom of the locks out in Stanley Dock.  The huge warehouse on the left is still the largest brick warehouse in the world.  Our route lies through the bascule lifting bridge you can see straight in front of Leo.

And here is the lifting bridge.  It reminded me of the Pegasus bridge in Normandy.  Fortunately there is enough clearance underneath for Leo so it did not need to be lifted for us.

Once through a couple of the old docks you turn left into 'Sid's Ditch'.  This runs in a straight line on the outside of the docks with an embankment on the West separating you from the Mersey.  It is as well to be separated from the River as we have seen a 10 knot tide running this afternoon.  Not friendly territory for Leo!!

As you approach journey's end there are two locks separating different levels of water in the system.  Here we are in Prince's Lock which drops you down perhaps three feet.  In the background you should recognise the Liver Building, one of the three prominent buildings called The Three Graces, on the waterfront.

And here is the Liver Building seen from the canal.  The canal connects with Canning Dock by means of three long concrete tunnels, one of them underneath the Museum of Liverpool.

Here you can see Leo about to go under the Museum of Liverpool.  This section of canal was created in 2009 and is surrounded by terraces full of tourists, so you need to be on best boating behaviour.

Mann Island Lock follows this section which only drops you a further foot or two down to Canning Dock where we passed this three masted sailing vessel.

From Canning Dock you come under a lifting bridge into the Albert Dock where this picture was taken.  Albert Dock was saved from becoming a car park by Michael Hesletine in the 1970s and 80s.  The fine warehouses here are now shops below and flats above.  An assortment of small ships and yachts is moored here.

Here is the last bridge, this one being fixed, which separates Albert Dock from Salthouse Dock where visiting narrowboats can moor.
And here we are moored in Salthouse Dock.  Behind us you can see the buildings of Albert Dock and a ferris wheel to amuse the tourists.  Last time we were here in 2012 the boats were shaken about every few minutes by a DUKW amphibious vehicle plunging into the dock to the accompaniment of screams from the tourists onboard.  Since a DUKW sank these are no longer disturbing the peace.

And finally, all sorts of things happen in Liverpool and nearly everything seems to be free.  We came across this stall in Albert Dock where some truly huge birds of prey were on display.  This is a Eurasian Eagle Owl.  It weighs 8 pounds and just look at those talons!!

We are in Liverpool for the next week with free electricity and water on tap, a full length pontoon to do a little boat painting and so much to do here.   What is not to like?  And yet there are plenty of vacant moorings here.  Boaters should be queuing up to come down here and we've no idea why they are not.  All the boats we've met who've been here have been singing the praises of the journey in and that there is so much to do here.  So come on all you boaters, come and experience Liverpool.

This afternoon we've followed Gerry and Pacemakers and taken the "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey" stopping off at Seacombe and visiting the U Boat at Woodside, also on the Birkenhead side.  We have a new list of things to do over the coming days, mainly things we missed out on doing three years ago.