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'.

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