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.

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