Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Waiting for Wigan

One of the downsides of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal is the Wigan flight of locks - all 23 of them.  Big locks, deep locks, leaky locks and perhaps no-one to share the pain with.

Well we're now a mile and a half from the top lock of the Wigan flight and aim to go down tomorrow.

We've worked our way West through Lancashire in cold and sometimes rainy and even snowy weather.  On Sunday we came through some poor areas with lots of litter in the canal which inevitably means odd forays down the weed hatch to clear the prop.  We came through Church where you have to get off the boat to operate three swing bridges.  We've had trouble here before with the local youths, but on a rainy cold Sunday morning no-one was about and it was fine.

In Church we passed the half way mark on the Leeds and Liverpool, being 63 and five eighths miles from each city.  This ornamental steel sculpture marks the mid point.  But I guess we cheated because we haven't started from Leeds.

Coming through Blackburn we passed Eanam Wharf, where you can see the old awning that covered boats being loaded and unloaded.  By the brightly coloured boat is the old wharf building, now converted into a Caribbean Restaurant.

Soon you come round a bend and find the Blackburn Locks in front of you.  When we came up here last September the locks were dreadful but we were pleased to find that CRT have replaced all the gates over the winter and they work beautifully.  As you can see it is fine and sunny, but it was very cold.
 On Monday we moored overnight at Riley Green and had a pleasant meal at the Boatyard Inn, a large family diner sort of pub.  We went for a short walk around and came across these daffodils right by a half mile canal marker.

On Tuesday we cruised a short way to Withnell Fold, a lovely sleepy little village built in Victorian times to house the employees of a paper mill there.

The road to Withnell Fold is surfaced with granite sets and only goes to the village, so traffic is rare.

The village has a shady garden set in the hollow that was originally a reservoir for the paper mill.  Just above is this structure.  Under the curved green grass by the fence is the water pipeline from Thirlmere in the Lake District to supply the folk in Manchester.

Not far beyond Withnell Fold we came to the top lock of the flight of Johnson's Hillock.  This flight of 7 locks had been closed for five days for repairs, but opened at midday on Tuesday.  It is a testament to how empty this canal is of boats that we only had to wait for a couple of boats to go down before it was our turn.

Here we are filling up with water just before the top lock.  We came down with a couple of chaps on a boat called Fleur de Lys and enjoyed their company.

Our fellow lockers pressed on below the locks but we moored up.  The bottom lock is on the right in this picture.  To the left, under the  bridge, is the Walton Summit branch which was originally the intended course of the Lancaster Canal which would have crossed the River Ribble on an aqueduct at Preston to carry on North.  Sadly the aqueduct never got built, so we have to find an alternative route.

Today (Wednesday) we visited the retail emporium of Botany Bay at Chorley.  This occupies five floors in an old mill and is mostly full of things with which to clutter your house.  Interesting to visit but not our cup of tea.  This afternoon we passed the boat owned by some friends, Helen and Chris.  Though they were not on board, they'd left a message in the window:

Like us Helen and Chris failed to get over the Ribble Link last year because of the collapse of a culvert under the Rufford Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool.  Hopefully we will both make it this year.  With this good luck message, how could we fail?

Well tomorrow promises a hard day of locking dropping down over 200 feet into the valley of the River Douglas.  Anyone fancy giving us a hand?

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Over the Top and into Lancashire

Well we're finally off and cruising on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.  We left Skipton on Wednesday afternoon heading West and spent the first night between Skipton and Gargrave near Thorlby Swing Bridge.

Here we are just about to leave our mooring on our adventures for 2016.

We now have a teapot which lives on the roof.  Obviously the teapot has to be in the shape of a lion.  He signifies that Helen is a member of a secret society, but I'm sworn to secrecy.  It is nothing too offensive!

These were our first ducklings of 2016.  We've seen quite a few in the last days and today we even saw a gosling.

This is Thorlby Swing Bridge although in fact the picture was taken the following morning when we set off.  Helen is by the bridge swinging it open so that Leo can pass.

On Thursday we carried on to Gargrave where we climbed our first locks of the year and had a coffee at the White Cottage Tea Rooms before carrying on up the Bank Newton Locks to moor at a favourite place on the Bends, where the canal weaves back and forth across several small valleys.

We popped in to Gargrave Church.  This was the effect of the sun through stained glass there.  We did not know before that  Iain Macleod, one time Chancellor of the Exchequer is buried in Gargrave and we found his grave.

 Here is a lovely view looking back down Bank Newton Locks to the hills around Skipton.

On Friday we climbed the three Greenberfield Locks. At the top is a cafe which of course we patronised.  Having huge portions of cake meant neither of us felt in need of lunch.  If you look to the left of the wall along the canal you can see what looks like the top of a canal bridge.  It is on the course of the old route of the locks here.  We learned that there used to be a two lock staircase here.

Around what should have been lunch time we pulled in to Lower Park Marina to collect our new solar panel which we had arranged to have delivered there.  Sadly the panel we've had on the boat for three years has failed.  Fortunately the suppliers are honouring their guarantee.  The main problem was that it was glued onto the roof and was a real pig to remove (with a saw inserted underneath it to cut the glue).  Anyway when we've repaired the paintwork from this, we will be able to refit the new panel.

We moored overnight on Friday at Foulridge just before the tunnel and today we went through the tunnel and down the Barrowford Locks into Lancashire:

Here you can see us about to enter Foulridge Tunnel.  The green lights show this is OK.  Boats East to West are allowed through at the hour and the other direction at the half hour.  The tunnel is just under a mile and takes about 15-20 minutes.  It was quite drippy. 

Here we are waiting at the top of the Barrowford Locks which come just over a mile the other side of the tunnel.  These 7 locks drop you down to industrial Lancashire at Colne and Nelson.
 This afternoon we stopped in Burnley at the museum for the Weavers Triangle.  This gave an account of cotton spinning and weaving and had information about the canal as well.  It was worth a visit but on what was a cold day it would have been better with heating.  We retired afterwards to the pub you can see here and had not beer but warming cups of tea.

Inside the museum was a splendid model fairground seen here which all worked.

Slater Terrace just beyond the museum is seen here by the canal.  The top two floors were houses with their front doors opening off the long balcony.  The ground floor was a warehouse.

We've come quite a long way today - 13 miles and 7 locks - and we're moored at Hapton outside the less desirable bits of Burnley.  Tomorrow we'll probably have an easier day, well it is Sunday, the day of rest.

Our aim is to get to Tarleton by 3 May for our crossing to the Lancaster Canal over the Ribble Link.  Fingers are crossed as we've not managed to do this before.  Watch this space to see if we are successful.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Only a week before we're off!!

We went boating again last weekend but not as we normally show on this blog:

Well we've lived in Knaresborough for three years now and we hadn't yet been rowing on the River Nidd.  So we took the opportunity of having Graham and Liz (a couple of friends from way down South) staying with us to try it.  We had lovely weather and really enjoyed being out on the River with our expert rower at the oars.  Ian just sat there and took pictures.  In case you're wondering Graham and Liz were in a second boat.

We aim to set off on our travels on Leo on Wednesday 20th April giving us plenty of time to cross the Pennines for our appointment on 4 May to go over the Ribble Link to the Lancaster Canal.  This will be new territory for Leo.  Let's hope that nothing stops us going this year.

We hope to see all our boating friends and plenty of landlubber friends too as we pass nearby this summer on our travels.