Saturday, 24 August 2019

Yet another Wonder of the Waterways

As promised in our last update, I am doing another to bring us up to date.  We are now on the River Weaver and close to sea level once more.  This afternoon we came down the Anderton Boat Lift which is our latest Wonder of the Waterways.  But we need to go back to where we left off at Lymm in Cheshire on the Bridgewater Canal.
Lymm is a very pretty village with a gorge running through the middle of it.  The river in the bottom has been dammed in a couple of places to produce lakes and this one is in the centre of the village.  The valley above is called the Dingle.

Our friends Iain and Ann, who live in Oldham, drove out to spend the afternoon and evening with us.  Here you can see (from left to right) Daphne, Ann, Iain and Helen.  William was also with us but seems to have gone walkabout.  The ornate archway leads down into the Dingle and to the village centre.  We walked the whole of the Heritage trail around the village including the gorge below which is called Slitten Gorge where water power was used to slice up iron bars for nail making.

On Thursday we left Lymm and stopped at lunchtime at Daresbury.  Half a mile from the canal is the church where Lewis Carroll's father was vicar and it was in the parsonage here that Lewis (real name Charles Dodgson) was born.  As well as an exhibition about him the church has a series of windows with Alice in Wonderland characters.  This one shows the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

And here is Lewis Carroll with Alice.

In the afternoon we carried on to Runcorn which is at the end of a branch of the Bridgewater Canal.  We had distant views of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge seen here between the trees.

At the end of the Branch in Runcorn we turned round and moored.  Behind us is Waterloo Bridge. The canal used to go through here and down 10 locks originally to the River Mersey and later to the Manchester Ship Canal.  A road blocks this route now but, with the opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge road bridge, roads have been rerouted and there is a possibility of restoring the locks.

We took a path which follows the line of the old locks.  The stones in the picture were part of one of the locks.

In this photo you can make out where the old lock gates would have fitted.

And here is the last of the locks leading out onto the Manchester Ship Canal, now in the middle of a modern housing development.

In the last lock you can still see the remains of the lock gate and the paddle gear.

This magnificent house, now in the middle of the same housing development, was built as a temporary home for the Duke of Bridgewater when the Runcorn Branch was being built.  Not bad for a temporary abode is it?

From the end of the Runcorn Locks we walked round to the old Runcorn to Widnes Bridge seen here from underneath with the railway bridge to the left.

This is the more classic view of that bridge.  It no longer has vehicles on it but pedestrians were still walking across.

Yesterday (Friday 23rd) we rejoined the main Canal and turned right for Preston Brook Tunnel.  Like the two small tunnels that follow this is not wide enough for two boats to pass so there is an arrangement for southbound boats (as we were) to pass at the half hour and northbound at the hour.  So here we are waiting for our time slot.

Preston Brook Tunnel is about two-thirds of a mile long and here you can see our friends on Jabulani coming out of the south portal of the tunnel.

Once through the tunnel we were off the Bridgewater Canal and onto the Trent and Mersey.  This canal has distinctive mileposts of which this is the first.

We moored on Friday afternoon at relatively new moorings on the site of where the canal breached and flowed down into the Weaver valley in 2012.  This plaque marks the spot.  It is a lovely position overlooking the valley.

Jabulani had to go for a pump-out (if you are not a boater best not to ask what this is).  Helen and Ian went for a walk down into the Weaver valley and crossed this lovely bridge over the weir stream below Dutton Locks.

The Weaver is a large scale commercial river (or at least it used to be) as this notice by Dutton Locks shows.

Today we came along through the two short tunnels (this one is Barnton) to Anderton.

The wonderful Victorians built this fantastic boat lift to connect the Trent and Mersey Canal with the River Weaver fifty feet below.  The lift has been restored a couple of times and in its most recent form was reopened in 2002.

Leo came down with another boat, Marbury Lady.  A channel connects the Trent and Mersey with the lift itself.  Here we are waiting in the channel to enter the caisson that goes down.  The two caissons are side by side, generally with one going up while the other goes down, though they can operate separately.

Here is the view looking down from the top to the river below.

We are now in the caisson looking back towards the Trent and Mersey. 

Now we have started to descend.  Before this the gate closes behind the boats to keep the water in.  There are in fact a pair of gates so that the canal behind is also sealed.  The descent is so gradual that you barely notice you are moving and there is no jolt when the caisson starts and finishes its travel.

Half way down we passed the trip boat coming up in the other caisson.

Here the other caisson has reached the top and we are down at river level.  The cog wheels on top remain but have no function now.  They were part of the 1908 restoration when the caissons were supported by cables from wheels at the top.

Now, as in the original format of the lift, each caisson is supported on a huge hydraulic ram (the shiny pole shown here) and oil is pumped in or out to push it up or let it down.  With one up and one down it requires very little energy to operate as water is let out of the rising caisson so that the lift is partly driven by the difference in weight of the two caissons.

And here is the view from the bottom as we came out of the lift.  A similar double gate operates here.  The lift is a marvel of engineering and, for normal boat licence holders, it is also free!
 We are moored tonight just a couple of miles downstream from the Lift.  Over the next few days we will be exploring the River Weaver before we come back up the Lift and continue our southward journey.  And, as these pictures show, the weather has significantly improved. 

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Another Wonder of the Waterways

It has been too long since we last did an update to the blog.  Sorry about that but we have been doing more socialising lately and life is just too hectic.  People say "isn't it relaxing on the boat?", and yes it is but there is still plenty to do and the days are very full.

The last update was from near Blackburn, so this one takes Leo down off the Leeds and Liverpool to Wigan and on towards Manchester.  Another update will follow soon to bring us right up to date as we are moored in Runcorn tonight.
Last Friday (16th August) we came down the 7 locks at Johnson's Hillock.  It was a miserable day and it was drizzling as we came down with another boat, Manana.  When we got to the bottom and moored, the rain came down much harder so it was a good decision to stop.  This picture shows two locks in the middle of the flight.  The strange white box with the rod sticking up is the ground paddle at the top of the lock.  The Leeds and Liverpool has some unusual lock gear.

This is the view looking up from the bottom lock of the flight.

On Saturday we passed the Botany Bay Warehouse on the way into Chorley.  Last time we came this way the warehouse had been turned into a shopping place with unusual craft and homeware.  Now it seems to be closed and is being redeveloped into a "Designer Outlet" with some housing.  Not much appeared to be going on as we passed.

A Speckled Wood butterfly visited us as we cruised along.

We've really enjoyed the Leeds and Liverpool this time and it has some fine views.  This was taken between Adlington and the top of the Wigan Locks.

We moored Saturday evening about a mile and a half from the top of the Wigan Locks.  There are 21 of these, dropping boats some 214 feet down to the junction in Wigan.  The top dozen locks are very deep but those lower down are not as deep.  This picture is of Leo coming into the top lock.  We shared the flight with Eric and Elizabeth on Lunar Princess and we got into a comfortable routine with everybody playing their part so it was a pleasant experience even if some of the top gates leaked badly.

This view around a third of the way down leads the eye to the church spire down near the bottom of the flight.

Here we are between locks 75 and 76 passing two boats coming up.  Our two boats went either side, allowing the upcoming boats through the middle.  As you can see there was a fair bit of weed down the flight.

By lock 78 there is a curious tower that looks as if it is built of brick.  In fact these are phony bricks in large panels and the tower is a mobile phone mast!

Steve, a CRT lock keeper, saw us through the last lock (85) and closed and locked up behind us.  There are strict times for entry and exit from the flight.  Lunar Princess is following us out of the lock and we shared with them down two further locks at Poolstock on the way out of Wigan.

A few hundred yards below the last lock is Wigan Junction.  Here boats can turn right for Liverpool, but our way lay left towards Manchester.

Looking back as we cruised between the two locks at Poolstock gave a view of the fine church and also Lunar Princess following us.

Here we are down all the locks and cruising along the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool.  This section gives good views either side of the canal because the surrounding land has sunk because of mining subsidence.

We stopped near the Dover Inn out of Wigan and, as arranged, we met our friends William and Daphne cruising on their boat, Jabulani.  They had been to Liverpool and we were pleased to finally meet up.  Both boats have been cruising all summer and we had hoped to meet somewhere.  We are now cruising together for a couple of weeks.

On Monday we had an easier day with no locks.  This is Plank Lane Lift bridge which we met early in the day.  Fortunately we caught up two other boats going through so we managed to get all four boats through at one go rather than holding up the traffic twice.

At Leigh, the branch of the Leeds and Liverpool turns into the Bridgewater Canal.  We passed Astley Colliery which is no longer active but is an interesting museum.  Unfortunately it does not open on a Monday.

We moored on Monday evening near Worsley and walked into the village.  The strange orange colour of the water is from dissolved iron.  Worsley is, in many ways, the reason for the existence of the Bridgewater Canal.  Here canals were dug into the hillside where rich seams of coal were extracted into boats and taken to Manchester.  Once the canal was opened the price of coal in Manchester was reduced by half!

Worsley Delph is where the waterways go into the coal mine.  This area has recently been improved and restored as shown in the picture.  The narrow boat shapes represent the boats which went into the mines.  These were called 'Starvationers' because the ribs in the construction looked like the ribs of a starving person.  The curious rusty pole is a modern representation of a crane for loading coal into the canal boats to take it to Manchester.  One entrance to the mine was to the right of the crane and one to the left.  There were 46 miles of underground canal.  Amazing!

The following day we cruised through Worsley.  This is the view from the boat looking towards the Delph.

On the way into Manchester we passed this lighthouse at Parrin Lane.  Not sure who built it but I doubt if canal boats benefit much from its illumination.

And so to another Wonder of the Waterways.  This is Barton Swing Aqueduct which takes the Bridgewater Canal over the Manchester Ship Canal.  When ships use the Ship Canal this aqueduct has to be swung full of water to allow ships to pass.  What a marvel of Victorian engineering.

This is the view from Leo crossing the aqueduct looking west.  The tower is the control point for both the Swing Aqueduct and the road bridge beyond which also swings.

And here is the view looking east towards Salford and Manchester.  The road and canal bridges swing onto the central island you can see below.

Looking west again you can see the swinging road bridge and beyond is a lifting bridge and the motorway bridge which is so high it doesn't need to swing.

Here looking back you can see Jabulani following us onto the aqueduct.

A little further on the canal crosses the River Mersey which is really quite small this far inland.

After the Swing Aqueduct the Canal comes to 'Waters Meeting' which is a canal junction where one can turn left to go into the centre of Manchester and pick up the other canal routes over the Pennines - the Rochdale and the Ashton which leads to the Huddersfield Narrow.  Our way lay to the right towards Stretford and Sale with a long, long straight section of canal through these towns.  The intriguing cantilevered flats in the picture are near the end of this long urban stretch before coming back out into open country.

We moored on Tuesday after escaping the clutches of Manchester suburbs and walked into Dunham Massey to visit this fine National Trust house.

We both liked the sentiment expressed in this board as we toured the house.
So that brings us through Manchester and out the other side into Cheshire.  As I have said we are now a couple of days further on, but that part of our journey will have to wait for the next instalment of the blog.