Thursday, 2 October 2014

Fradley Junction

We were within one day of the marina but it would have meant a late return home taking into account the time taken to empty the boat.  So we are making it an easy two day journey.  We left the mooring at 9am and had a quick journey of 7 mile and 8 lock to arrive at Fradley Junction at 1pm, aided by most of the locks being set in our favour.

Then to the Swan, the lockside pub at Fradley (commonly known as the Mucky Duck), for a rather good pub lunch washed down with an "Ilkley Black" beer.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Electrics check and service

First thing in the morning we motored a mile or so up the canal to Mercia Marina to visit Aqua Narrowboats  where a few days ago we had booked an electrics check as whenever we connect the boat to shore power it trips the mains supply. The engineer there was able to prove pretty conclusively that it was due to a fault in the inverter/generator which converts the 240V AC to 12 Volt DC.  Fixing this will entail taking the inverter out and sending it to the manufacturers in Holland, something we will need to sort out when we get back to base.  Whilst at Aqua Densie also had a 250 hour oil change,something not due for another 15 hours, but it avoids hassle next time we go out, probably spring next year.

Everything was completed within two hours so we then continued on our way through Burton upon Trent to Branston Lock near where we moored on the way out last week.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

On the Trent & Mersey Canal to Stenson Lock

An enjoyable but long day's cruising in sunny weather.

A pipe bridge carrying large water pipes over the Trent 

Densie (second from left) moored in Shardlow

The morning was bright, and sunny but cool when we left Sawley just before 9am.  Throuigh Sawley flood locks onto the River Trent where we passed under the M1 and then to Derwent Mouth Lock where we joined the Trent & Mersey Canal.  We had a 20 minutes stop in the next village of Shardlow whilst we waited for our friend, John, to join us.  Then, in increasingly warm weather,  steadily up the deep and wide Shardlow, Aston, Weston, Swarkestsone (where John left us) and Stenson Locks, accompanied for most of the journey by Narrowboat "Lapwing".  Sharing the big locks with another boat makes things easier and faster, especially when ascending.

We moored just after Stenson Lock at 3pm tired from our 11 mile journey.

Monday, 29 September 2014

On our way home

We left Nottingham this morning after an enjoyable weekend.  Yesterday's tourist trip was to the castle, sadly not the one of Robin Hood fame as that was demolished after the Civil War, but rather a 17th century mansion now used as a museum and for exhibitions,  Also included was a tour of the caves possibly constructed in the 13th century as a secret way in and out of  he castle.

After very calm and easy trip up the Trent we moored at Sawley Marina just after 1pm and will stay the night here.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

In Nottingham until Monday

Nothing new to say until Monday.  Here is a picture from yesterday.

Cruising down the Trent

Friday, 26 September 2014


Left our mooring at Sawley at 9am in breezy cool grey weather.  We filled up with water and then descended Sawley Lock down to the River Trent which which was flowing quite slowly.  The weather improved as the wind ceased and the skies turned blue and we had a good trip through to Beeston and then on the Nottingham Canal to reach our moorings next to Sainsbury's at 12:30.

Thursday, 25 September 2014


We awoke to a grey morning, but the boat was warm as the fire had stayed alight all night again.  We set off just after 9am passing down Weston, Aston, Shardlow, and Derwent Mouth locks with a hireboat returning to base.  At Derwent Mouth where the canal joins the River Trent for a short while, we noted that the river level was well below the bottom of the  indicator board, as low as we have ever seen it.  Very different to when we were here in the Spring.

We left the Trent through Sawley Flood Lock to moor opposite the marina just after mid-day.  We will stay here until we travel the final leg of our trip to Nottingham in the morning.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Nearly Home!

The last full day of the Summer 2014 trip.  We awoke rather late after an enjoyable evening out last night.  But we were able to set off at 9am immediately descending Star Lock and soon afterwards Aston Lock just beyond the edge of Stone.  However as it turned out we hadnt started early enough as an hour and a half later we were fifth in the queue at Sandon Lock.

There were a similar number of boats waiting to come up so it was about an hour before we were able to travel onward.  Then along the familiar route via Great Heywood Junction and Heywood and Colwich Locks (another queue) mooring at Wolseley Bridge just before 4pm after being on the go for 7 hours.

 It means that we are now in easy striking distance of our home mooring with no further locks.  So an easy run tomorrow even if the weather turns bad.

This is the last blog entry until our next journey, perhaps in October or maybe not til next year.

Thursday, 7 August 2014


The trip from Barlaston into Stone of 4 miles and 7 locks  is one we have made many times and is pleasant and usually fairly quick and easy.  This time although it was still a pleasant journey we were delayed by other boats particularly on the outskirts of Stone where we were third in the queue when we arrived at each of the three locks.

At the last lock we were delayed further when a boat coming in the opposite direction broke down in the lock.  The owner looked at the engine and found that it was no longer connected to the prop - somewhat disconcerting!  So she and her crew member had to pull the boat out by hand to the adjacent boatyard.

We reached Stone, one of our favourite canal towns, at lunchtime and were lucky to moor at the last available spot as it is popular with many other boaters.  This evening we will be going out for a meal with friends.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Through Stoke on Trent

Stoke - Old pottery 

 Stoke - Derelict canalside factory 

Stoke - Old bottle ovens preserved in grounds of block of flats

Heavy rain overnight but OK in the morning.  We  left the lake at 9:30 and traveled through Stoke.  As the guide book says " a fascinating length of canal, not always (if ever) beautiful but all extremely interesting". Extremely interesting particularly to industrial archaeologists as unlike in many places nowadays the old industrial canalside buildings have  been left to decay into dereliction rather than renovated to create flats, shops, restaurants, offices, and museums designed to take advantage of a waterside location.

At Etruria where Josiah Wedgwood built his pottery and arguably kicked off the industrial revolution, we reached the first of the locks which will take us down hill again all the way home.  There was a small queue of narrowboats when we arrived, longer by the time we left over half an hour later. By lunchtime we had left Stoke and were approaching the last of today's locks at Trentham.  We moored shortly afterwards opposite the "new" Wedgwood works built in the 1930s with the latest technology removing the need for the highly polluting bottle ovens.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Harecastle Tunnel into Stoke on Trent

A much easier day to day.  After setting off at 8:25 we just had 5 locks and 1 mile until we reached Kidsgrove where we moored an hour and a quarter later to visit the local Tesco, our last chance to shop until Stone.  Shopping completed about 1 mile further cruising with one lock took us to highest section of the Trent & Mersey Canal and the entrance of of the 1.75 mile Harecastle Tunnel.  It was built by Telford in 1822 to supplement one built some 45 years earlier by Brindley.   Telford's tunnel included a towpath (now removed  to provide extra headroom required because of mining subsidence) whereas boats had to be "legged" through Brindley's.

The tunnel isnt wide enough for boats to pass and so passage is controlled by C&RT staff.  We had to wait an hour with 7 other boats for the tunnel to clear before we were allowed to enter, each boat starting 2 minutes after the previous one to allow diesel fumes to clear and to minimise the chance of collisions.  Then a pretty quick 35 minute journey through to the southern end on the outskirts of Stoke on Trent.  Much of Stoke is an unattractive city from a canal perspective, but the Westport Lake a mile beyond the tunnel provides very pleasant mooring and gives us a home for the night.

Monday, 4 August 2014

heartbreak hill

Wow!! That was hard work!  6 3/4 hours continuous cruising with 20 locks on what is sometimes called Heartbreak Hill.  Fortunately the weather was perfect - sunny and warm but not too hot.

We started off at 8:15, hoping to get a free run at the locks, but it didnt quite work out as there was a boat ahead of us when we stopped at the first lock, three other boats soon followed behind us.  We are now on one of the most popular hire boat routes, the 4 counties ring,  and each week a wave of hire boats passes around the route.

Waiting at one of the Church Lawton Locks

After the first lock others followed at irregular intervals taking us steadily up hill.  I didnt notice the scenery much, but there appeared to be little of interest until the last part of the journey when we ascended the very attractive 6 Church Lawton Locks.  As the picture shows these like the others on his section of the Trent & Mersey Canal are often paired locks allowing better traffic flow.  However whilst a significant number of locks either never were paired, or have one of the pair out of use, there continue to be bottlenecks.

We moored up at 3:15 in hilly countryside near Church Lawton.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Moving again towards Stoke on Trent

Lucky we didnt move again yesterday afternoon - soon after publishing the blog there was a heavy thunderstorm.  However the weather was much better this morning.  We started fairly early as we wanted to avoid queues at the locks.  This is a heavily locked section of canal, with 31 ascending locks in the 13 miles between our Middlewich moorings and Stoke on Trent. Each lock is pretty easy but the number saps ones enthusiasm and the total distance means that the journey would be expected to take us 2-3 days.

Although there were many boats on the move we didnt experience any major delays.  The countryside is mainly flat agricultural land enlivened by the occasional salt works where white mountains of the stuff can be seen.  We carried on for 8 locks and 5 miles until lunchtime when we stopped near the village of Wheelock not far from Sandbach.  This was our last chance of mooring before a further 11 locks to the next mooring opportunity, perhaps another 3 hours.  Not wishing to cruise until late afternoon this is where we have stayed and plan to start again early tomorrow.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

A wet day

Pretty wet for much of the day so we stayed in Middlewich.  The rain stopped mid-afternoon but too late to make it worthwhile moving on.  Opportunity for a bit more grocery shopping, Guardian Crossword etc etc

Friday, 1 August 2014

A rainy trip to Middlewich

The rain started soon after we got up.  By 10am it was still raining, but the forecast was worse for tomorrow.  So what to do?  Stay where we were for two days with no shops or pubs within easy walking distance and our stores running low?  Or brave the weather and make for Middlewich some 3 hours away?  Eventually we chose the latter.  Fortunately there were no locks until the Big Lock at Middlewich and no swing bridges or anything else which would force us to get off the boat.  So after warming the engine and undoing the ropes we were on our way.

I drove whilst Denise stayed below for the first 1.5 hours.  It wasnt too uncomfortable as the rain was relatively light, there was no wind, and our waterproofs are very effective.  There were a fair number of boats on the move, many of them being hirers needing to get back to base for the weekend. Denise drove for the second half of the journey and by 1pm we were moored in Middlewich, soon afterward the rain had stopped.  We are assuming that we wont move tomorrow.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Back on the Trent & Mersey

Approaching the 1200 yard Preston Brook Tunnel

Weather was dull with menacing dark clouds this morning but it stayed dry whilst we were cruising.  Nothing much to report. We left the Bridgewater Canal and are now back on the Trent & Mersey Canal which will take us all the way home.   After passing through Preston Brook, Saltersford, and Barnton tunnels we arrived at Anderton boat lift around 12:00.  There we had a pump-out, refilled with water and then moved on for half an hour to moor out in the Cheshire countryside near Marston.

As we were mooring we heard a mewing call and were pleased to identify two buzzards, one possibly a juvenile, in a nearby tree.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Once more, we have moored at Moore

Weather cold and windy when we set off at 9:15 to continue generally southwards on the Bridgewater Canal.  After 2.5 hours we stopped at Stockton Heath on the outskirts of Warrington to stock up with the next few day's groceries.  I also took the opportunity for a much needed haircut.  £13!! It normally costs £7 at home.

After lunch on the boat we resumed our journey in much better weather and stopped for the day n hour later at Moore near where we had stopped on the way up.  A bit of a short journey today, but if we had continued we would not have an opportunity to moor in reasonable surroundings for at least a further hour.   This puts us a couple of miles behind schedule but we should make it up tomorrow.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

A day off - Dunham Massey

After several days of tiring long cruises we were pleased to have a day off staying at Little Bollington.  We walked into the small village with its largge mill building and attractive houses and pub to visit Dunham Massey, a National Trust house, formerly the seat of the Earls of  Stamford and Warrington who owned large parts of Cheshire and what is now Mancheser.
Roedeer outside Dunham Massey

A bouncy fawn
Part of the main ward

A couple of patients

It is a large attractive 18th century mansion and surrounding grounds of much interest including a herd of roedeer that could be seen munching the lawn without any concern about nearby visitors.  The house was used as a Military Hospitel during the first world war and as part of the 100 years commemoration of that war the hospital has been recreated from photographs of the period. Actors are present playing scenes of hospital life, and there is a fascinating recording of one of the last family members to live in the house describing a brain operation at which she assisted.

We had a very enjoyable 3 hour visit and would have stayed longer but we had to return to the boat to run the engine to recharge the batteries.  We plan to revisit the village for a pub meal this evening.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Through Manchester in a day

This morning we had a choice to make - either moor in Manchester tonight or travel the 20+ miles through the city, fortunately lock and swing bridge free, to reach the pleasant Cheshire countryside.  Since we had no need or desire to visit the city centre again this trip we decided on the latter option.

When we traveled towards Manchester two weeks ago sections of the canal were largely covered in yellow water lilies.  So I planned to take a picture on the way back.  However having flowered the yellow lilies have almost entirely disappeared beneath the canal waters and so these white ones will have to substitute.

View of the empty Manchester Ship Canal and Barton Road swing bridge from Barton Canal Swing Bridge - sadly the bridges very rarely swing.

Having left the mooring at 8:45 we made pretty good progress as the canal is in good condition, and mostly straight, broad and fairly deep, averaging over 3mph, continuously on the move until our arrival near Little Bollington some 6 hours later.  The weather had started coolish, having rained overnight but became increasingly warm during the late morning and afternoon so we were hot and tired and ready to stop when we did.

As we are now a day ahead of schedule we plan to stay here tomorrow and visit Dunham Massey Hall, a nearby National Trust House.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Plank Lane

An early start today so that we can go through the Plank Lane Swing Bridge (although its now a lift bridge) on a Sunday.  When set off at 8:30 the weather was cooler than in the past few days which made the cruising more comfortable and less tiring.  However it was still hard work going through seven large locks on our own as there was no-one around with whom to share.

Approaching Plank Lane Bridge

After 6 hours without a break travelling through the lovely Douglas Valley, not so lovely Wigan, and the pleasant countryside beyond we reached Plank Lane.  The road was pretty busy so I didnt try to wait for a quiet period but simply pressed the button.  As soon as Denise had driven Densie through, a couple of other boats arrived travelling the other way so I let them through before re-opening the road.  By then I estimated there were queues of 20 cars or more in each direction.
Canal near Pennington Flash
 View of Pennington Flash from the canal

Objet d'art made from old lock gates
We moored up immediately afterwards not far from Pennington Flash which we visited for an afternoon walk.   Now its a very pleasant and popular country park and bird viewing site centred on a large lake.  Not long ago it was a coal mine, the flash being caused by mining subsidence.  The area around the visitor centre was in the middle of a railway loading area.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Moored in the Douglas valley

The old derelict Appley 2 locks

Only the alternative 12 foot deep single lock is in use

Yet another hot humid day.  A quick 50 minute trip of one mile and 2 swing bridges took us into Burscough Bridge where we stopped to shop.  We were pleased to find narrowboats Kandahar and Guelrose already moored there.  These are people we know from IWA and had met up with in Liverpool.

After an hour at the shops we had a quick lunch on booard and then set off again at 1pm.  Our aim is to go through the busy Plank Lane Swing Bridge on SUnday rather than disrupt Mondays traffic, and that is some 15 miles, 8 locks and a few swing bridges from Burscough - say about 8 hours.  This is too much for one day, particularly in this heat.

So we travelled a further 6 miles, i lock and 5 bridges into the Douglas valley mooring just before 4 pm in the countryside near Appley Bridge with a good view across the valley to the west and trees to the east.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Back to Burscough

A picture from our stay in Liverpool since I didnt take any today.  It shows a friend's boat leaving past the new Museum of Liverpool Life.

Yet another very hot sunny day with the temperature in the boat rising to 33 deg..  We are travelling back faster than we came, cruising for nearly 5 hours today arriving close to Burscough Bridge at 13:45 after eating lunch on the go.   It's flat agricultural countryside enlivened by 5 swing bridges today but with nothng much to detain us.

We plan to eat out tonight at the Farmers Arms,  one of the many pubs alongside this canal some way from any other habitation, one that was particularly recommended to us by a cyclist we met at the Wigan locks a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Leaving of Liverpool

Salthouse Dock where we moored was full of jellyfish

 View of the early 19th C Albert Dock from Liverpool's version of the London Eye

 Denise enjoying a half of mild at the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, a wonderful Edwardian pub

On our way home at the Stanley Docks locks.  The massive building by the lock is the early 19th century Stanley Docks Tobacco Warehouse.  When it was built it was the largest brick building in the world, it is still the largest brick building in the world. 

After a week in Liverpool its time to move.  We have had a wonderful time.  The weather has been perfect and the city a real pleasure to visit.  It has successfully preserved the old warehouses, now converted into flats, restaurants, hotels and shops whilst bringing in many striking modern buildings.  There are many museums and gallery's, all of which have free entry.  We couldn't visit most of them but enjoyed the Mondrian exhibition at Liverpool's offshoot of the Tate.

We have had some excellent meals, two of which at Mr Chillis, a Shichuan restaurant in Chinatown, deserve special mention and enjoyed seeing the city's history, particularly the tour of the old docks preserved under the newest shopping centre.  During the latter we were most interested to hear the professional historian's view of Time Time and what really happens when they "discover" a new historical site, in this case one which had been under painstaking archaeological investigation for several years.

However I think what impressed me the most was the atmosphere of the place.  Every day, the city centre was packed with friendly people enjoying themselves.  In the evening it was also packed with people in the numerous bars and restaurants, but there was no rowdiness or obvious excesses, it was just very pleasant.

We will certainly return.

Back to today.  We set off early at 8:30 as we wanted to be at the front of the c0nvoy, in this case one of 8 boats.  Basically just the reverse of last week, except that the weather was very sunny and hot with no rain.  We left the city boundary at 15:30 and moored up soon after in the countryside at 16:15.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Moored in the centre of Liverpool!

We have arrived at Salthouse dock in the centre of Liverpool.  The convoy of 10 boats booked to make the trip set off from the moorings at 8am and met up with the C&RT staff who were to support us on the journey, opening the swing bridges and working the locks.

There are some attractive 19th century bridges in Liverpool, oddly a plaque states that they were built by the Health Committee

A Liver Bird perches on the top of the Liver Building

Everything ran smoothly as we travelled through the pleasant suburbs, then the less pleasant industrial areas, before arriving at the docks.  The canal was fairly clean for a large city with only two supermarket trolleys encountered.  We were also pleasantly surprised by how little graffiti there was, almost all of it looking quite old.
Densie moored in Salthouse Dock - second boat from the front

The dock area is very impressive, one empty dock after another connected by new canal, tunnels, and two separate locks.  The canal goes past the Liver Building with its grotesque birds on the roof next to the two other spectacular victorian buildings that comprise "the three graces" and finishes in Albert Dock with its restaurants and art gallery which leads into Salthouse Dock near the shopping centre where there are extensive moorings for narrowboats and cruisers.

Unfortunately most of this final part of the journey was undertaken in the rain which limited the number and quality of photographs.  Hopefully we will be able to take better ones later.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

At the edge of Liverpool

Just 3 miles and 4 swing bridges before we reach our planned mooring point just outside Liverpool.  This gives us until 9am tomorrow morning to get the 1 mile and 1 bridge to the meeting point with the C&RT people who will accompany us to Liverpool docks, it being considered prudent not to moor within the city area.

We started moving later than usual at 9:30 as, although the weather first thing was cool and cloudy, blue skies were clearly on their way.   And that is how it worked out, as we set off the sun began to shine and we had good weather the whole journey.

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal near to Maghull

Most of the cruise was through the, I guess, residential dormitory area of Maghull, and so of little interest. However the 4 swing bridges did provide some diversion.  Each one was different - the first provided electric barriers and traffic lights but the opening of the bridge was manual.  The second had manually operated barriers that had to be in place before the electric swing bridge would operate.  The third was just a footbridge operated completely manually, and the fourth was fully electric and on a busy road.  As regards this final bridge, I didnt like to block the road whilst there was approaching traffic in sight.  It took several
minutes before I had the opportunity to open the bridge and let Denise driving Densie through.  By the time I reopened the bridge to traffic there were queues of about 6 vehicles waiting on each side.

The convoy gathers
We arrived at our mooring point, a pleasant rural spot perhaps a bit close to a couple of motorways, at 11:40 to find that two other boats were already there. Three others have since joined the convoy.  We spent the afternoon crafting, playing games, reading and watching the fish in the unexpectedly clear water.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Wind and showers on the way to Liverpool

After our day off yesterday we need to return to the journey towards Liverpool.  Not so much fun today as the weather is cloudy and windy with some blustery showers.  The land is very flat with large arable fields - similar to the fens but with more trees.  Three electrically operated swing bridges today but we caused little disruption to local traffic as the roads were minor country lanes.  Overall, little of interest to see or do.

We stopped out in the wilds just outside the LIverpool conurbation at lunchtime having reached easy striking distance of Hancocks Bridge where on Wednesday we will be met by C&RT staff to support our journey into Liverpool docks.  Any thoughts of a walk during the aftrnoon were dispelled by the continual light showers.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

A restful day - or perhaps not

Didnt move the boat today, but spent most of the time at Martinmere, run by the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust, the same people who set up and run Slimbridge.   It was just a 1.5 mile walk there after which we wandered over to the wild bird areas, the captive birds being of little interest to us.  It was good to see a range of waders including avocets, sandpipers, and ringed plovers although this time of the year is normally the least productive for bird watchers.  After lunch there we went on a gentle boat trip around a marshy area.  Not much to see unfortunately but we did hear a chiffchaff.

Then back to the boat. The short cut we found turned out to be about 3 miles long and we eventually got back hot and sticky around 4pm.  All things considered though the excursion  made a welcome change from our normal day cruising.  Martinmere is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Burscough Bridge

Left Parbold this morning and travelled up to the next place, Burscough (pronounced Bursca) Bridge passing the junction where the Rufford Branch travels north along the Douglas valley to meet the River Ribble.  Our branch, the one to Liverpool, now passes through the flat, windy and perhaps rather bleak agricultural land that lies inland from Liverpool and the Lancashire coast.

Unlike Parbold, Burscough Bridge is a working village with no pretensions.  It is useful in having a smallish Tesco which provided our last chance for serious grocery shopping before Liverpool.  As we have plenty of time before we are due in Liverpool we are planning to take tomorrow off. Burscough Bridge didnt seem the best place for a break so in the afternoon we moved a mile or so further up the canal where the nearby bird reserve of Martinmere seems to be within easy walking distance.

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Douglas Valley

Wigan pier
Another sunny day as hot as any we have had so far. Setting off at 9:20 we descended 3 locks, this time on our own, on our way out of Wigan. We were able to identify the real Wigan pier as it had an information board alongside. We then passed Wigan Athletic Football Stadium (The "DW Stadium") situated in a rather bleak area near a trading estate.
M6 crosses railway bridge over Leeds & Lverpool Canal - Gathurst

Once out of Wigan we entered the glorious scenery of the rural Douglas Valley, definitely worth a place in our list of favourite canal journeys.  Though it must be said almost anywhere would look special in this wonderful weather. A couple of miles into the valley the canal is crossed by a railway bridge near a further lock, both the canal and railway being overshadowed by the very high M6 crossing.

Just before the small village of Appley Bridge we met the first of the many swing bridges this canal is noted for.  This one just took a footpath over the canal and despite some stories of it being difficult to operate it opened very smoothly.  It may have been recently replaced, there being housing development nearby.  Clearly the locals arent completely used to the bridge: whilst I was opening it a cyclist managed to stop with squealing brakes just before the gap where the bridge wasnt.

Around 1pm we descended our final lock of the day, this time with another boat, before entering the village of Parbold where we have moored for the night.   As a write this blog the rather good music of a brass band player perhaps practicing for tomorrow's Parbold Festival is wafting over the canal.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Another sunny day in paradise

Well not quite paradise, but Wigan is near enough.

On the Leeds & Lliverpool canal south of Wigan

A glorious hot sunny day in unexpectedly attractive countryside.  We left our moorings at 9:15 and traveled north along the tree lined canal past large flash lakes with flocks of swans and geese.  Just outside Wigan we ascended two wide locks, the first locks we have navigated for over a week, with another narrowboat, "Marie Claire" to the junction with the main Leeds & Liverpool canal. 

Turn right to Leeds up the 21 locks of the Wigan flight,  or straight on to Wigan and Liverpool as we did.  After the junction we went down a lock, again with Marie Claire, and at 11:15 we moored in Wigan.

Angela wanted to see Wigan pier so we walked down the canal so she could take a few pictures.  A task made rather difficult as we were unsure which particular unexceptional bit of steel or wood was THE pier.  Then back to the boat for lunch.  In the afternoon we walked into the town centre after leaving Angela at the railway station.  We were surprised by the town, when we were here perhaps 5 years ago Wigan seemed somewhere to avoid but now the canal area looks fine and the shopping area large, quite attractive, and well maintained with several arcades and many of the major stores.  However the large number of empty shops was very noticeable, one modern arcade had very few open shops at all.

Our original plan was to move on to moor outside of Wigan but from what we have seen we are now happy to spend the night here.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Now on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

A warm and sunny day with a cool breeze when we left our mooring at 9am.  Two miles later we were on the outskirts of Leigh when we had a very good view of a kingfisher which flew down the canal and landed on the bank near the boat.  There, it was harassed by a couple of magpies so it flew off into the trees.
An old mill overlooks houses at Leigh

Leigh gave us views of several old mills although the guidebook says most have been demolished.  Beyond Leigh the canal changes from the Bridgewater owned by Peel Investments (aka The Manchester Ship Canal Company) into the Canal & River Trust Leigh Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.  After a mile or so beyond Leigh we passed through the Plank Lane Swing Bridge.  Confusingly its not a swing bridge, but an electically operated lift bridge on a busy road.

When we visited previously about 5 years ago it had a permanent bridge keeper but the bridge has now been converted to boater use.  Normally on such bridges one would wait until there was no visible traffic before pressing the button, however here there was no such opportunity.  So I pressed the button, the lights turned red and the barriers were lowered so that the bridge could be safely raised. Densie then passed through and the procedure reversed.  By the time we left there were perhaps 10 vehicles waiting on both sides of the bridge.  One driver called out a cheery greeting, at least I think that was what it was!

1.5 miles further on we moored early for lunch in a pleasant area and then decided not to move any further today.  Tomorrow we plan to get to Wigan and do some shopping before moving out of the town to moor.  We are a day ahead of schedule and so avoiding spending the night in Wigan seems a sensible thing to do.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Out of Manchester

A lighthouse guides navigators on the Bridgewater Canal

A late start cruising this morning as Angela, Denise's sister joined us at 9:30am.  Then on our way back past the MU stadium to Waters Meeting where we turned north on our way out of Manchester.  Fairly soon we passed the Trafford Park shoppng mall, over the remarkable Barton canal swing bridge crossing the Manchester Ship Canal, and through the outer suburbs of Manchester to Worsley.  The picture shows the bizarre lighthouse in the gardens of a house overlooking the canal.  Note the orange colour of the water, not pollution but the iron stained waters coming from the Worsley mine.
Delightful canal scenery at Worsley

We moored at lunchtime in Worsley to eat on the boat and then walked to the Worsley mine which had given rise to the Bridgewater Canal. The mine had an underground canal network which linked directly to the Bridgewater, so avoiding extra trans-shipments.  Our guidebook states that there are 46 miles of tunnel, but there has been no access for many years.

After filling up with water we set off again, leaving the city  and entering an attractive tree-lined stretch of canal where we moored out in the countryside near the Astley Green Pit Museum - apparently with the last remaining pit head in what was Lancashire.

The canal is very empty, during the whole journey of 3.5 hours and 10 miles we cant have met more than 4 other boats, none have passed in the hour since we moored..

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Into Manchester

Welcome to my new blog - has become so slow as to be nearly unusable and extremely frustrating!

Firstly some pictures from yesterday

 Bridgewater Canal

 Moored near Little Bollington

And todays....
 Giant Hogweed on canalside

 Bridgewater Canal through Sale

Man U's ground at Trafford next to the Bridgewater Canal

Bridgewater Canal near unscenic Old Trafford - I think this is Throstle Nest Bridge!

We started our journey into Manchester soon after 9am.  A couple of miles took us out of the attractive countryside into the sprawl of Manchester.  First Altrincham (where the cheese comes from, see yesterday's blog) and then Sale.  Here the canal is broad and deep and presents an impressive gateway into the city with some areas pleasantly tree-lined.  It didnt last however as the canal narrowed and passed through areas of semi-industrial wasteland with only Manchester United's Old Trafford ground being the main point of interest.  Also there was the extravagantly identified Throstle Nest foot bridge - we couldnt see any throstles in evidence.

We moored in the old wharf area of Castlefield near the centre of Manchester at 12:30, and to our surprise found a mooring without too much difficulty.  However, sadly, the whole area looks tatty and depressing, made worse by large piles of domestic and kitchen rubbish left by other boaters as there are no appropriate facilities available beyond the normal council street bins.  There are plaques around commemorating the Inland Waterways Association's role in preserving the area.  Perhaps they shouldnt have bothered - the city itself doesnt seem to care. There is simply no comparison with Birmingham's Brindley Place area where the canal forms an essential part of the city scene.