Saturday, 28 May 2016

Mopping the Prop!

We are on our way south now, having passed Manchester yesterday.  It was a long day so we are taking it easier today and enjoying a walk from the canal to Dunham Massey, a National Trust property.

After the excitement of the Ribble crossing we popped into Rufford Old Hall, having visited it last some years ago.

The Great Hall was built in 1533 after a successful legal battle was determined by Henry VIII to give the inheritance to the member of the family who built it.  For much of its life the Hall has been owned by the Hesketh family, famous in motor racing circles.

The Hall was added to in 1662 and in Victorian times when the curious light over the Great Hall was added to cast more light over the billiard table.

From Rufford we had 7 locks to climb back to the main line of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.  We had planned to stay part way up but the lock pound was so low in water that we couldn't get anywhere near the side and we were concerned the level might drop even further overnight.  So we spent Tuesday night near the top of the flight on a safer pound and carried on to Crooke near Wigan on Wednesday.

Here is Leo coming up in the top lock.  This is a lovely spot with lots of old buildings around and a pub called the Ship Inn, where we had a drink on a cold Tuesday evening.  The main line of the Leeds and Liverpool is just through the bridge you can see ahead.

Here is the signpost at the junction.  We headed left for Wigan, others were going towards Liverpool for a festival next weekend.

This was quite a shock coming towards us.  Fortunately the canal is fairly wide here, approaching Parbold, so we didn't have any serious problems.

Appley Lock shown here is a full 12 feet deep because it replaces two separate locks in the channel alongside.  We moored in the adjoining channel on our way to the Lancaster Canal and it is a lovely spot.  But this time we carried on to Crooke.

On Thursday we came through Wigan and did not turn left up the Wigan locks but turned right on the Leigh branch to head south towards Manchester.  That evening we moored at a favourite spot above Pennington Flash, a lake used as a wildlife reserve and sailing lake. 

This is right in the centre of Wigan.  The fine cottages are dwarfed by Trencherfield Mill behind them.

This is Kennet, a Leeds and Liverpool 'short' boat that was built in the 1950s and that we have seen about a lot.  It is doing a special passage from Leeds to Liverpool in October to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the canal's existence.

It was a bit of a dismal day and we think these goslings were huddling together for warmth, while Mum (or Dad) did some serious preening.

This is an old lock that boaters now cruise straight through.  For this stretch of canal the land around has subsided because of mining but the canal has been built up gradually on a high embankment giving fine views of the surroundings.  However one result was that two locks here were moved to the edge of Wigan.

Plank Lane Lift Bridge is on quite a busy road.  We were lucky that the blue boat on the left was ahead of us and kindly operated the electric lift bridge to let both boats through.

And here is the view from Leo sitting up on the high embankment above Pennington Flash.

Previously we had walked all the way round the lake, but this time we explored all the bird hides which have been provided to watch the wildlife.  As well as the usual water birds we spotted what we think was a Gadwall - an unusual coloured duck.

Friday was a long day mostly on fairly boring canals through areas where you would not want to moor overnight.  But there were some highlights.
After a few miles across restored mining lands with the revs up to cruise in this wide and deep canal at around 4 mph (this is fast for a canal), we came into Worsley.  It was here that the Duke of Bridgewater had his mines and from here he built the Bridgewater Canal to take the coal to Manchester.  The water here is a funny orange colour coming out of the mines.

At Parrin Lane is a lighthouse.  Why I'm not sure but it is a distinctive feature of the canal.  This time past the lighthouse was especially memorable as there was a horrible metallic grinding noise and something wrapped itself round our propellor.  

We turned the engine off and Ian dived into the weed hatch.  Here at the end of the day you can see the offending object.  It was a mop with a metal handle which was securely wrapped round the propellor shaft.  This is the worst prop incident we've had so far this year.

One of the highlights of the Bridgewater Canal is the Barton Swing Aqueduct which crosses the Manchester Ship Canal.  If a ship comes along then the water channel of the Aqueduct is closed at both ends and the whole construction is swung out of the way of the Ship Canal.

Here is the view from the Aqueduct looking seawards.  The road bridge beyond the control tower also swings to clear the way for ships.

And here is the view looking towards Salford.  You can see a ship on the left. When this moves the Barton Aqueduct would need to swing.  We have met boaters who have been stopped at the Aqueduct.

At Waters Meeting a canal goes left to the centre of Manchester to join the Rochdale and Ashton Canals in  providing two of the three routes over the Pennines.  We went right on the long straight stretch of canal passing Stretford and Sale before eventually coming out into open country and mooring for the night.

In the next few days we will be working our way in a more leisurely fashion to join the Trent and Mersey Canal through Preston Brook Tunnel and on south to Northwich and Middlewich.  We are now in Cheshire and away from Lancashire where moorings are pronounced 'Merings'.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Back South over the Ribble Link

We reached the north end of the Lancaster Canal at Tewitfield and then there was only one way to go - back the way we had come.

This view is taken from the spectacular Lune Aqueduct, looking upstream.  The dots in the water are canoes.

As we arrived at the Aqueduct, the broad beam trip boat, Kingfisher, was turning round.  Here you can see Kingfisher crossing the Aqueduct.  

This time in Lancaster we visited the City Museum which had a special exhibition on Morecombe and Wise as well as informative presentations about aspects of local history.  Well worth a visit.

Walking back, we liked this advertising board!

As well as bluebells, we've enjoyed banks covered in wild garlic like this one by the canal.  At times it looks like snow, but certainly smells different particularly during rain, though we've had little of that I'm pleased to say.

When coming back down a canal we've already travelled, we try to stop at different places.  So it was with Galgate which was an old village with lots of small cottages built for mill workers.

This is one of two mills in Galgate.  Encouragingly these are still in use by a variety of modern businesses.  One mill (not sure it's this one) is the oldest silk mill in Britain.

This stuffed person is apparently fishing and his left hand is fixed with string to an overhanging branch, so that the wind moves his hand and makes it look as if he is waving.  A quick glance makes him look quite real.

From a mooring at Cabus Nook, north of Garstang, we had a walk up into the Bowland Forest and climbed the delightfully named 'Nicky Nook Fell'. 

Here Helen is about to join the footpath to the top of the hill.  Nicky Nook Fell is only about 700 feet above sea level but has superb views over the coast from Lancaster to Blackpool and Preston.  I guess you should be able to see the Lake District Mountains and possibly the Isle of Man, but visibility was too poor when we were there.

This monument on the Fell was originally erected to celebrate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee, but there are now extra plaques for Queen Elizabeth's golden and diamond jubilees too.

Here is Helen on top of Nicky Nook.  The hills behind are higher fells in the Forest of Bowland, the right hand one is called Parlick Fell.

From the top we dropped down into Grizedale  which has a reservoir and some delightful native forest.  This view shows more bluebells in the woodland.

The bluebells here have flowering broom behind.

With a visit from our son, David, we carried on into the centre of Preston and moored overnight on Sunday by the services at Cadley.  This mooring is securely locked at night.

Passing a caravan site we liked this horse coming out of the ground.  It is cast in brass and beautifully finished.

We are seeing more swan families now.  Here is Mum and Dad and three cygnets.

The last half mile into Preston is rather weedy but houses adjoining the canal have worked hard to make their gardens attractive.  This one looks like a Caribbean bar.

We walked down to the Marina and Docks.  Here are Helen and David standing by the Marina.

The Ribble steam railway runs along the river front and crosses a swing bridge over the entrance to the Dock.

Since the final mile of the canal has now disappeared, this is now the very end of the Lancaster Canal.  The Canal finishes on a high embankment and originally then crossed another aqueduct.  The proposed aqueduct over the River Ribble that would have joined the canal to the rest of the system was never built.

So the Lancaster Canal remained disconnected from the rest of the canal system until, in 2002, the Ribble Link was opened.  We had come over the Ribble Link at the beginning of May and yesterday (Monday) we returned that way to Tarleton on the Rufford branch of the Leeds and Liverpool.  We've not included so many pictures this time as it would simply be repeating an earlier posting, but I will describe the experience.
Having come down 8 locks from the Lancaster Canal we followed the semi-tidal Savick Brook.  As you can see this does not look navigable!  Both Leo and the boat in front of us kept going aground as the water level seemed to be a foot or more lower than our outward trip.  At one point the boat in front got firmly stuck and we managed to give it a nudge with Leo to allow us both to continue.

Here we are cruising down the River Ribble against the tide.  You can see the buildings of Preston in the distance.  The return trip was harder work for the engine going along the Ribble (doing about 2,000 rpm) but towards the Astland Lamp the tide slackened and we rounded the lamp into the River Douglas just about at slack high water.

You do have to keep an eye open for debris floating in the River.  We had already passed a floating sofa when we came across this armchair.  With David hoping to move house soon we did think of towing these but we couldn't find the other chair to make a three piece suite!

Here you can see the Astland Lamp to the left and the boat in front just turning to go round it and up the River Douglas.  Notice that the planks and poles are tied on for this trip just in case.  We did finish up with salt spray on the bow and front windows, but it was pretty calm and the earlier wind had mostly dropped by the time we were out on the tide.
Having come round the Lamp we came up the Douglas against the falling tide.  However the outgoing tide is much slower than the incoming tide, so this was not really too difficult.  Here you can see us approaching Tarleton Lock which marks the end of the Link.  Although there was a bit of a current past the lock it was not too difficult to get in.

David enjoyed his passage over the Ribble Link with us and here you can see him on the back of Leo safely moored up in Tarleton.  And even now it is not back to work for David as he is off to Wales for a few days holiday.

Today we have cruised most of the way back up the Rufford branch and tomorrow we will return to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal heading for Wigan and Manchester.  We will broadly be heading south now but we are discussing an excursion into Wales on the Llangollen Canal.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Right to the very End of the Lancaster Canal

Not only have we now cruised to Tewitfield, which is the present navigable limit of the Canal but yesterday we cycled the remaining 14 miles of the original course of the canal to Kendal, so we can truly say we have reached the end of the Canal.  However let's go back to where we left off.  On Thursday we walked into Morecombe along the sea front from Hest Bank where Leo was moored.

Here is Helen on the seafront at Morecombe doing 'Bring Me Sunshine' with Eric Morecombe.  His statue and little garden is very well designed and we thought it was just right as a memorial to the man.

On Stone Quay, where we patronised a good cafe, there is a series of plaques about birds with poems or jokes, like this one.

At the very end of Stone Quay is Trafalgar Quay which is the best Morecombe now has for a pier sticking out into the Bay with good views of the Lake District on the other side.

We caught a bus back from Morecombe and then cruised on just a short distance to Bolton le Sands which is another nice place right by the sea, though here a salt marsh prevents you getting up close to the water.  On Friday we carried on to Carnforth and moored overnight in the Capernwray Arm.

As you come through Hest Bank the canal comes round a bend and suddenly you are on an embankment with views of Morecombe Bay below you.

The section of canal to Carnforth continues to give excellent views of the sea.  Here we are looking across the bay to Grange over Sands with the Coniston Fells in the background to the right.

Carnforth Station is famous for its starring role in the film 'Brief Encounter'.  On the Station is a fine museum and information about the film and its director, David Lean.

This is the Refreshment Rooms at the Station which have been restored to the decor in the film.  So we had a tea and a coffee to pretend that we were Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson.

Capernwray Arm is a short branch off the canal which originally served a quarry.  It is now a delightful secluded stretch of water through the trees with a sizeable pond at the end.  There is even a pontoon to moor to.  In the picture you can just see Leo peeping into view.

This shot was taken where the Arm branches off the canal.  The red boat is on the canal and the blue one is just at the start of the Arm.

On Saturday we cautiously reversed past several other moored boats and then carried on along the canal.  Though the Arm was quite deep, the entrance, like most of this Canal, was rather shallow and reversing the last bit onto the Canal was pretty tricky.  Only a mile away we had to turn round at the navigable limit at Tewitfield.

Here is the end of the Canal.  Turning round for us was not easy as a couple of hire boats were moored at the Service Block restricting the winding hole.  By lifting the rear fender we just managed to turn round next to some private moorings.

The end of the Canal is right next to the M6.  When I say right next to the motorway  I really do mean it.  Here you can see that the coach is passing within 20 feet of the end of the Canal!

This boat was moored right at the end of the Canal.  I've called it the Clockwork Boat.  The effect of the reflection of the red painted top of the rudder makes it look as if it has a key at the stern to wind it up!!

Here is the signpost at the end.  Note that to the right it shows Burton and Kendal, the latter being fifteen and a half miles further.  Kendal is where the canal originally ended when it was completed in 1819.  A good path is signposted all the way so we decided to cycle this the following day.

So it was out with the Bromptons and a packed lunch in the cycle bag.

The Canal is blocked by the embankment of a road but the other side the Canal is in water and ascends 8 locks of the Tewitfield flight to climb 75 feet to its original summit level.  The stonework of the  locks is in fine condition though there are no gates.

Here we are looking south from Lock 5 and you can see the motorway on the right.

Even the mileposts are still there, this one saying 14 miles to Lancaster and, on the other side, 13 miles to Kendal.

It will be wonderful when this section of canal is restored to use.  The views and the scenery are first class.  Cycling along the first 8 miles which are in water, you would think it was a functioning canal.  That is until you come to the next major road crossing and find just an underground culvert connecting across.

This is the view of Holme Mills from the Canal.  In the distance are the mountains of the Lake District.

There was no wind for much of Sunday and the reflections were fantastic.

Here is one of the crossings of the  M6.  Just beyond Helen the canal comes to an end for fifty yards and then resumes on the other side.  Here the path steps sideways to use the pavement by a main road to cross under the motorway.

Under the next bridge we found a group of people waiting for a trip boat.  Water Witch is owned by the Lancaster Canal Trust which is working to restore this section of  canal and the trip boat acts as a fund raiser.

For half a mile or so the path leaves the canal.  This is because Stainton Aqueduct was damaged by the Christmas Floods and is now unsafe.  This view shows the problem and was taken from a distance on the diversion.  As if the restorers didn't have enough problems!

Soon after Stainton the water ends and the canal is just a ditch.  However its course is easily followed and soon we met the Hincaster Tunnel which takes the canal through a hill into the valley of the River Kent.  In the picture to the left of the Canal tunnel is a horse tunnel that led to a path over the hill for the barge horses and, now, for us.

Here is the horse path which has some fine stone bridges along it.  The hill rises 70 - 80 feet above the canal.

Soon after the tunnel we found this fairy house in a tree.  Some local person has been having fun.

Although some of the dry canal is obvious on the ground, for other sections we were following a path across a field with no sign of the canal until you come across a canal bridge in the middle of the field.

This bridge in particular stands in splendid isolation in the middle of a fairly flat field.  Where has the canal gone?

By contrast this section looks as if you could fill it with water and it would be instantly navigable.   Here you can see an old winding hole for turning boats just beyond the tree on the right.

The last 4 miles seemed to go on for ever and there were a lot of stiles to lift the bikes over.  Finally coming into Kendal the path becomes a recognised cycleway with a tarmac surface.

The Canal ended at 'Canal Head' where there was a wharf for unloading boats.  Today this has become the local council household refuse tip.  A bit sad really for our ride to finish at the local tip!
Having reached Kendal we looked in vain and asked a couple of locals for a tea shop to celebrate our successful 'navigation' of the Northern Reaches of the Lancaster Canal.  There being no prospect of tea we caught the bus back with our folded bikes wrapped in bin bags (we had been told that the bus company prefer them wrapped).  Instead of tea we had celebratory pints at the Longlands Inn at Tewitfield.  Incidentally we learned that 'Tewit' is the local name for the Lapwing which we know by the alternative name of 'Peewit'.

Tonight we are at Hest Bank and over the next few days we will be heading back south.  Our appointment with the Ribble Link to make our return to the rest of the canal system is a week today, Monday 23 May, so keep your fingers crossed.