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.