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.