Appley Lock

April 30, 2011

No blog yesterday. We spent the day in Burscough with Alan’s cousin Pauline, watching the royal wedding in the morning. At least Pauline and I were having a lovely time watching the wedding and discussing the outfits whilst Alan was trying to make contacts on his radio. He had applied for one of the special GR call signs issued for the wedding. He wasn’t that successful from their house but now has the radio set up on the boat, which is acting as a ground plane, and he’s having more success.

In the evening we went to The Hop Vine pub in Burscough for a meal. Apparently it has won Lancashire pub of the year. The beer is very well kept according to our resident expert and yesterday they had a hog roast in the evening as well as the normal pub meals. It was extremely full and after a day of celebrating and partying everyone seemed to be shrieking at full volume so it was a bit of a torment trying to have a conversation between the three of us and we were rather glad to leave. I wasn’t very impressed with my meal though Alan’s was OK. The fish & chips were had from the chippie down the road the previous evening were better. I guess it wasn’t the best circumstances to judge them by.

We woke this morning to another bright and sunny day but there’s a fiendish wind blowing. We were in the midst of a fishing competition with about 40 competitors stretched from the Burscough Junction up to Burscough Bridge so after a quick trip to Tesco we set off. We moored in Parbold for lunch and went for a walk in the town but were distracted by the worry that the boat would be adrift by the time we returned. We had thought of mooring in the nice open countryside below Appley Lock for Saturday night before going on to Wigan tomorrow. About 30 minutes after mooring up the Rose of Parbold charity boat went past quite close and too fast and the next thing when I looked out our bow was heading across the canal. I dived out and grabbed the centre rope but the wind was too strong and we couldn’t get it back to the towpath side until Alan pulled out the back stake and used the engine. By that time the DAB radio aerial attached to the front of the cratch had been dislodged by the offside trees. We are now moored once more with the stakes bashed in as hard as possible including a centre line. Every time a boat goes past I go out to check that we are still ok. The problem is that the ground is bone dry and the wind is pushing us away from the side. Let’s hope it drops this evening or who knows where we will be in the morning? It does make such a difference when boats slow down to pass: a pair breasted up have just past so slowly that I knew there were there by the sound rather than any motion. I rushed out again but this time to say thank you!

Today we did 4.86 Miles and 2 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:-

2483.35 Miles, 1467 Locks, 133 Swing Bridges, 90 Lift Bridges, 43 Tunnels

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Burscough

April 28, 2011

We were woken extremely early this morning because we were next to a waste recycling yard and they started very noisy work at 5.30! Maybe they were early so that they could finish earlier for the holiday. And it was smelly as well. Two boats went past heading for the Wigan flight just before 7.00. We would have jumped up and gone along if there had been one boat; instead we decided to head off to Burscough for a couple of nights.

As we went through the first three locks in Wigan I was slightly regretting that decision. They are very heavy locks and the first above the BW office has a long walk round to access the other side. (I could have done a tightrope act across the top arms but it might have led to a watery end. In my mind I could do it but….)

It was another lovely day and when we reached the Douglas Valley we were glad we had decided to make what will probably be our last trip to Burscough. We went through Dean Lock with a boater who moors at the Douglas Valley CC. We are sure we met up with him last year. He was single handed so I said that as I was walking along the lovely long stretch to the swing bridge (I think from memory it is Finch Hall but it doesn’t give the name in Pearson) I would operate the bridge for both boats. Well, best intentions. I got there, used the key, and raised the lock just as I should, and pushed… and pushed… and pushed. No movement whatsoever. I lifted the lock several times and was sure I was doing the right thing but I couldn’t get it to move an inch. The other boater eventually brought his boat to the side and came to help (Alan had had to take a phone call and was further back). The boater confirmed that I was doing the right thing and that the bridge had been temperamental of late. We both had a go to no avail. Alan then tried to bring Lazydays in to the landing stage but had problems because there was a piece of sharp metal sticking out that he had to avoid. The other chap went over the other side to see if pushing from both ends would help and we moved it an inch or two. Then his boat started blowing back into the stream and while he ran to grab his rope I finally managed to move the bridge. When it had turned a foot or so it was fine but I had really strained my back.

The boats went through and I closed the bridge at as fast a run as I could manage while pushing a heavy swing bridge. Not fast enough because the lock didn’t click. In the end it took both Alan and the other boater’s joint effort at closing it at a run to get the lock to click so we could retrieve our key. As we went on I phoned the Wigan office to report the problem and said that I couldn’t imagine how we could operate it on the return journey if we weren’t with another boater.

After we moored below Appley Bridge to have lunch three other boats passed. They said that it had taken the combined efforts of the three men to operate the bridge (so I did quite well then) and that they had also called BW who said someone was being sent out to look at it.

We finally reached Burscough Junction mid afternoon. Alan turned at the junction and reversed quite a way to a space on the mooring rings with the lovely view over the hills. Now we are all set up to return at the weekend without having to go through the hated spring bridges ahead.

As we travelled near Parbold we noticed a very interesting phenomenon, clouds of insects of some sort up at the top of the trees. They were like ribbons of smoke that changed shape constantly and there were several of them. Does anyone know what they might be?

Wigan Pier

Boats, trains and trucks

A swarm of insects

Today we did 10.64 Miles 6 Locks and 3 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:-

2478.49 Miles, 1467 Locks, 131 Swing Bridges, 90 Lift Bridges, 43 Tunnels


Wigan

April 27, 2011

We had hoped to fill up with water before we left Worsley this morning. The tap is in the public toilets and it’s always been rather off putting. Today we discovered that the toilets had been vandalised and were in a disgusting state and we really didn’t feel like getting our water from there. It was a bright day so we set off taking turns to walk.

The next water point was at Butts Bridge on the outskirts of Leigh. When we got there we found that the barge that was collecting rubbish from the canal (and had been moored in front of us last night) was in front of the waterpoint while the two men had their lunch. We decided not to interrupt them and to go on to the watering point at the Plank Lane Lift Bridge. We did moor at Leigh Town Centre however and Alan stayed on the boat while I went off for the shopping. It took longer than I had planned because I popped into several different shops and the market rather than just going to Aldi. There was a multitude of bakers and I bought some lovely scones and a ginger cake from one. A pork butcher provided pork steaks and some ham on the bone. I asked for sirloin steak and was told what I should have realised, they only sold pork. I headed for the market because I needed some buttons and thought there might be a haberdashers. It was a very well stocked and bustling market with several butchers, sliced meat, hot chicken or fish stalls, three greengrocers and a multitude of other stalls including one that sold knitting wool and buttons.

I headed on to Lidl only to find that it was empty and in the middle of a construction site of new cinema, restaurants and supermarket so it was back to where I started at Aldi, and then back to the boat for a very late lunch.

As we approached Plank Lane Bridge the BW bridge man came along to open for us but stayed for a quick chat when I said we would take on water first. Since we were last there in July a new marina has been created next to the bridge, though as it is still lacking jetties and facilities I thought, or indeed hoped, it might be destined to be a water sports centre. There seem to be so many new marinas and many seem to be having difficulty filling the spaces.

It was 5.30 as we went past the flashes before Wigan. We went on past the mooring we used last year (my fault, I was sure it was further on) and ended up having to go through the two very heavy, slow and anti-vandal locked Poolstock Locks into Wigan, not knowing where we would stay the night. It was nearly 7.00 before we moored at the moorings above the Wigan Lock, with the security of two other boats. Now we are debating whether to go up the Wigan Flight tomorrow or to go to Burscough for a couple of nights. We might decide in the morning is another boat heads towards the flight!

Fly Boat

Waterside Inn Leigh

Today we did 13.20 Miles 2 Locks and 1 Lift Bridge

Statistics so far:-

2467.85 Miles, 1461 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 90 Lift Bridges, 43 Tunnels


Worsley

April 26, 2011

What a difference from the weekend! Luckily for all the people for whom the Easter holiday really was a holiday it was warm and sunny right through till yesterday, Easter Monday. Today was so cold. I went into the winter clothes storage locker and pulled out a warm fleece and my gloves and at the end of each of my steering shifts I had to defrost my hands in a basin of warm water.

We left Stockton Heath at 9.30. We are heading for the Wigan flight onto the Leeds and Liverpool and travelled along the Bridgwater twice last year so had no great impetus to overnight before Worsley. The day was so cold, grey and drizzly that even Lymm held no great attraction though for once we could have moored right in the centre. There was a tremendously loud road drilling noise as well! We were thinking of mooring at Little Bollington to eat lunch and take on water but there were already four boats milling round the water point, including one hovering mid stream so we went on. By the time we got to the lovely stretch overlooking Dunham Massey it was raining so we stopped dithering and decided to travel on till Worsley, eating lunch on the move and taking turns to steer.

As we approached Sale a forty footer was following us and they were obviously upset that I slowed down when passing moored boats. They caught up and then came powering past me. I was travelling at our maximum speed at the time and they were going so fast that their bow wave was at least a foot high. As we went round a bend there was a boat moored on the towpath. Luckily I slowed right down because they had to take avoiding action so they didn’t crash into it. The woman steering veered round in the nick of time leaving the moored boat bashing and crashing in her wake. A little further along we passed them moored at Sale Bridge. The man was outside wiping down his white roof on which the rain drops were obviously not allowed to linger. I deduced therefore that they weren’t speeding because they had a long way to travel, nor because they had to run into the pub before they stopped serving. The boat was called “Nomad Rushing”!

After we had turned onto the Bridgewater Leigh Line at Waters Meeting things quietened down and we passed only one boat on the move. I saw my first goslings of the year, five very little round bundles, and also passed swans sitting on some very elaborate nests. There seems to be many more new buildings on the waterside at Worsley but it’s very quiet on the boating front. We have moored behind a barge laden with booty cleared from the canal. We suspect they are working down towards Waters Meeting having ridden over a few obstructions on our way here. Today we also passed a large dredger at Grapenhall: seems that there are higher levels of maintenance on the Bridgewater.

A footnote: our meal at Piccolino yesterday evening was extremely good. How wonderful to return to a place after a year to find that the quality hasn’t dropped.

Crossing the Manchester Ship Canal

Today we did 20.39 Miles

Statistics so far:-

2454.65 Miles, 1459 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 89 Lift Bridges, 43 Tunnels


Stockton Heath

April 25, 2011

As we have travelled along the northern part of the Trent and Mersey and onto the Bridgewater canal we have passed linear moorings, often belonging to boat clubs, with big signs: SLOW DOWN, DEAD SLOW, MOORED BOATS. Why is it then that when these people leave their moorings they forget that other people should have the same consideration? We have even had boats pass us at speeds that threaten to rip us from our moorings and crash us against the side that we have seen previously in those moorings ordering everyone else to slow down. We left last night’s mooring by 8.00 this morning because we could no longer stand the stress of having to check our pins and bash them back in again most times a boat went past. We are now at Stockton Heath and the ground is firmer but the speeds are even faster! And the boaters are invariably middle aged to elderly men throwing out a merry greeting as they speed by, totally blasé to the fact that they are leaving boats crashing and banging in their wake.

At least we have what will hopefully be a good meal this evening to look forward to. We last went to Piccolino in Stockton Heath for Alan’s birthday last year and loved the food. It is probably ill fated to go back to the same place but we are giving it a try.

We spent a couple of hours this afternoon walking down to Walton Gardens. As one would imagine on a sunny bank holiday they were packed with Warrington folk enjoying the well kept facilities. The rhododendrons and azaleas had started to flower, some bushes in full bloom and some with flowers just starting to open. The colours were fantastic, as were the beds of tulips. We plan to return on our way back down in late June.

Late evening sun

Rape seed

Walton Hall

Today we did 8.70 Miles 1 Lock and 1 Tunnel

Statistics so far:-

2434.26 Miles, 1459 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 89 Lift Bridges, 43 Tunnels


Bartington Wharf

April 24, 2011

It was a later start today after we said a sorry farewell to John and Vera. We are hoping to see them again on our return from the Leeds and Liverpool.

There were real Easter Sunday crowds out today. Hardly surprising as the sun was shining and it was a perfect day to be either on or by the canal. We had lunch on the move as we went past the chemical works at Rudheath, maybe not the best timing. People were milling around at the Anderton Boat Lift and it looked as if the exhibition centre was heaving which is good news for BW. We had to wait for several boats to come through the Barnton Tunnel: it was a convoy that had come through the timed passage at Saltersford Tunnel. We were able to go straight through Saltersford ourselves as we arrived in the twenty minute time slot for north bound passage. It’s such a bendy tunnel, hence the necessity for timings.

We were then on the lookout for a mooring tington Wharffor the night but found that every suitable place was filled with lines of boats. All the clubs come out for Easter and we finally found a place at the end of a group from Runcorn. There’s a lovely view over the Weaver valley but the ground is soft and our pins keep coming out as the many boats pass by. They aren’t all speeding but the canal is fairly narrow so it has the same effect. We will have to get up and on our way briskly in the morning and keep checking the mooring pins this evening.

Barnton Tunnel

Today we did 11.68 Miles and 2 Tunnels

Statistics so far:-

2425.56 Miles, 1458 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 89 Lift Bridges, 42 Tunnels


Bramble Cuttings

April 24, 2011

It seems that yesterday might have been the last of the sunny days, this morning is quite hazy. We left Wheelock just after 8.00 on Saturday morning, in order to reach Middlewich before lunch. The first stretch down to the Booth Lane locks is pretty countryside but the busy A533 runs alongside the canal from the locks onwards and there are chemical works and industrial sites. It seemed that during the morning most of the boats were heading against us which was good, though I did have to convince one group of hirers that our boat, heading into the lock which another boat was just exiting, had precedence over emptying the lock for boats that had “joined the queue” much earlier.

As we went through Kings Lock at Middlewich and past the junction to the Shropshire Union Middlewich Arm I could see our friends Vera and John on Felicitas waiting to descend the last lock down from the arm. The three Middlewich Locks are a little tricky in that they are close together with a difficult bend and they are usually busy, often with hirers for whom these are their first solo locks, if travelling south. So it proved yesterday with a boat of parents and several children who really held things up at the bottom lock because the Mum had popped to the shops and the father, steering the boat, was left with a crew who were too young to have any idea what to do. In the end the boat behind them went in first and I worked the locks for the woman while her husband went back to give them some help. Meanwhile a queue was building up in both directions. The mother had returned by the time we were descending so there was a chance to quickly run through how the paddles worked before they went in. The trouble is that if they hire from near the Anderton Boat Lift they are nowhere near locks to have a lesson before they set off and if they then go through the Big Lock with another crew that do the work they are suddenly faced with a difficult first solo lock. Also there is very little room for waiting boats because of the boat hire company about one boat’s length beyond the lock and that puts a lot of pressure on crews to go through quickly as following boats have nowhere to go.

We moored and started off to the shops in time to meet up with Vera and John, along with daughter and grandson. Shopping was done, lunch eaten, and we set off together through Big Lock and on to the recycling site. We had been saving our oil from the engine change some weeks ago, knowing that we could dispose of it there, and Vera and John had several bags of recycling. And finally we were able to breast up at the one remaining mooring at Bramble Cuttings, a lovely spot on the offside where we have moored twice before. We just got in in time as several other boats came along eying our position enviously. There are picnic tables and benches so too much wine was drunk and we all enjoyed the end of a lovely day.

Today we did 8.38 Miles and 9 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2413.88 Miles, 1458 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 89 Lift Bridges, 43 Tunnels