Friday, 22 June 2018

Barrowford Top Lock (only a day away)

Where was Buddy?

On Thursday we fancied cruising to Burnley and then pushing on through Nelson and Colne to end up out in the country for the night.  We heard a boat go past just before seven in the morning and assumed it was Charlie & Linda getting an early start.  That made us decide to get up and get going but by the time we’d done what we needed to do first it was nine o’clock.

As we pulled away, we could see Clive & Jennie coming towards us in the distance, but they were far enough away that it wasn’t rude to pull out in front of them.  Karen and Buddy walked some of the way to Burnley whilst I drove, but they got back on at Gannow tunnel as the route over the top wasn’t easy to follow through the estates.

Before going into the tunnel, I cleared the prop for the first of three times during the day.  That’s a drawback of travelling through towns, the prop gets fouled far more than in the countryside.  Mind you, this canal is a bit like the River Stort in Hertfordshire and is very weedy so quite often the fouls are weed rather than plastic bags or wire etc.  Apparently, it isn’t weedy from Colne onwards so we should have some happy days cruising without getting arms wet up to the armpits; it’s not that bad in the summer really but in the winter it can get a bit tedious.

The entrance to Gannow tunnel is at a sharp left-hand turn, making it impossible to see if a boat is coming the other way:

The southern portal of the Gannow tunnel
The 560-yard tunnel was practically dry, and we managed to avoid all the points where water was spouting through the roof.

Stone lined tunnel rather than bare rock or brick lined as many are
Approaching Burnley centre we passed several fine old mills and warehouses and also this wharf at the entrance to the area now called Weavers’ Triangle:

The wharf was built in 1801 when this part of the canal was opened.  The area is known as Weavers’ Triangle because there are many cotton mills and terraced weavers’ cottages that have been lovingly restored. 

Restored wharf master’s house and toll house just past the wharf now housing a visitors’ centre
Modern plaque on the toll house
Just around the corner we entered what is known as the Burnley mile.  It isn’t quite a mile long but is a 60’ high embankment that cuts through Burnley – quite an impressive sight when seen from the town.

Moored at the start of the Burnley mile
We had a walk around the centre of Burnley and then, whilst Karen picked up a few bits, I took Buddy for a walk around the Weavers’ Triangle (in any other town/city it would probably be called Weavers’ Quarter).  I can attest that most of the terraced cottages were really well looked after but not so, the entrance to the old British Waterways wharf. 

Not so easy to replace the BWB with CRT 😉 (CRT are still trying to replace any mention of British Waterways with Canal & River Trust)
We set off again and had lunch on the move as we thought we could press on and get up the seven Barrowford locks the other side of Colne as it was such a nice day.

Looking across the old and new of Burnley from the embankment (not many mill chimneys left)
At one point the embankment crosses a main road on an aqueduct and the canal narrows.  These narrows are good places to dam with a stank if a section of canal needs draining for inspection or there is a breach that needs fixing.

Disused stanking plank crane at the narrows
Throughout our twisting journey through Burnley we kept getting sight of the 1,827’ Pendle Hill which overlooks Burnley and other towns like Nelson and Colne.  Although not particularly high it stands out as it is a lone hill separated from the rest of the Pennines.

Pendle Hill
The hill has what we thought was a limestone carving of a duck and an egg.  Looking at the local news we find that it is a fancy way of writing 1918 in horticultural fleece as part of the commemoration of the Great War.  It is an artistic impression of the date made of three poppies and their stalks – quite fitting really and I felt a bit mollified having thought it was a duck and an egg.

The best shot we could get of the '1918' with the hazy day

Laying the commemoration (photo courtesy of the local 2BR radio website)
We were soon approaching Nelson which also has many old mills and warehouses still standing, albeit some not in a good state of repair.

A selection of the buildings we passed in Nelson

On the outskirts of Nelson, was a three bedroomed end of terrace house which is on the market for just £90,000 and has its own mooring.  Seems good value compared with what we’re used to coming from down south (you could probably buy a mooring on the Thames for that, but it wouldn’t come with a house 😉). All the houses in the street looked well looked after and, like many back streets in Nelson and Cone, it was still cobbled.

May just be worth having a look…
When we left the house, I was still taking more notice of it rather than the cut ahead and hadn’t noticed a particularly sharp bend.  I had to reverse back to make the turn at the second attempt, all the more embarrassing as a couple were having a picnic with their baby on the canalside of their garden.  They were quite happy and said they see it all the time.  It then became even more embarrassing as a hire boat came in the opposite direction

Leaving Nelson, we stopped at a recycling centre which has pontoon mooring for passing boaters.  Even better, it has a used oil collection point, so we pulled up and took advantage of the facilities.

Boaters’ recycling point complete with used engine oil disposal
Whilst at the recycling point, Clive & Jenny came past so I asked them if they were going up the locks at Barrowford.  They said no, as they were meeting local friends at the bottom and going back to their house for dinner.  We had plenty of time considering it was the longest day of the year so were happy to carry on and go up on our own.

When we got to the approach for the lock flight it looked like Clive was about to moor up on the lock landing.  I assumed they had decided to go up the flight after all and were just waiting for us.  Even though they were foreigners I didn’t believe they would actually moor on the lock landing 😉

Approaching the bottom lock with Clive holding onto his boat whilst the girls got the lock set
The third lock was practically under the M65 just before the motorway finishes at Colne.  Since first going under the M65 30 canal miles and three days ago we have been under it six times and over it twice.  The length of the motorway between the first and last bridge is 26 ½ miles and I’m surprised it wasn’t less given the twists and turns the cut makes.

The old and the new
Half way up, Clive & Jenny’s friends joined them and cruised up to the top of the flight with us.  Going up the locks Clive and I had been discussing alcohol free days; ours are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and theirs are Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.  We do have one thing in common though and that’s the rule can be broken if you have visitors or you are invited out.  It’s wasn’t really a coincidence that their friends were visiting on a Thursday and my brother is visiting next Wednesday 😉

We agreed to stop and have a drink together at the top to make a perfect start to the evening.  They were carrying on through Foulridge tunnel afterwards but found out that it closed at 4.30 therefore not giving them enough time to stop.  Shame, but there’s always another day.

Coming into the fifth lock
At the top two locks sheep were able to graze right up to the lockside (see lamb picture at top) and we were so relieved Karen was on the towpath side with Buddy on a lead.  It could have been disastrous if he had been on the boat as he would have been straight off after them we’re sure

We moored up soon after the top lock even though there were other boats around.

Moored at the top of the Barrowford flight for Thursday night
It was still quite windy, so we brought the sunflowers back down onto the deck for protection during the night.  During the day we travelled 11 ½ miles up seven locks and with 11 miles and nine locks to go to get to Gargrave we may well get there on Friday.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Shuttleworth (sunflowers are resilient)

Sunset on the summer solstice
It had been very windy overnight on Tuesday and it hadn’t eased up by Wednesday morning.  Two of the mini sunflower pots had blown over but were saved from rolling off the roof by the handrail.  Coupled with the fact that it had started raining too, we decided to spend the morning indoors.  We also took the opportunity to get some of the monthly jobs done like checking and recharging the moisture traps.

During the morning Charlie & Linda had decided to brave the weather and came past on Henry James.  A little while later, once the rain had stopped, Clive & Jenny came by on Banbury Blue.  Clive was convinced the wind and clouds were going to disappear well before lunchtime but fortunately we didn’t listen to him 😉 Within a few minutes of them passing the rain started again.

Clive & Jenny smiling even though it wasn’t a summer’s day
We were having a break and catching up on some bridge practice when Mike rang from France.  He was gloating as he had heard about our weather and it was over 30 degrees with them on their boat.  I let him off as he was offering us the use of their narrowboat as part of our two-month summer road trip of France and Italy this year.  They would be doing some work on their house in the last week of August so would be happy to let us use the boat, which would be down on the Canal du Midi by then.  Unfortunately, we will be in Norway during that week, so we had to turn down the offer

The weather made neither of us feel like our normal cold salad lunch, so we had good old, hot winter beans on toast instead.  In the end we put on coats (!) and set off at 2.00pm with Karen and Buddy walking the five miles to the first swing bridge of the day. It was still cloudy but at least the wind had dropped a little and the rain had stopped.

As Karen was walking she soon warmed up so shed her coat and fleece and passed them to me. 

Still cloudy when we went over the M65

I kept my coat on until the sun started breaking through later
Just outside Oswaldtwistle we saw these old coke ovens by the cut.  They were built over 200 years ago as part of Aspen Colliery and were used to turn coal into coke.  The coke was then used to fire a local steel works.  The ovens were used until the 1930s and funds are now being raised to restore them.

Blue sky beginning to show over the coke ovens
We then went through the village of Church which also goes by the tautological name of Church Kirk.  It’s a shame the church is called St James rather than Church Kirk Church. 

After passing under the M65 again we came to the first of three swing bridges we had to negotiate and after the bridge we were out in the open countryside of Clayton-le-Moors.

Cruising through Clayton-le-Moors

View whilst cruising through Clayton-le-Moors
Talking about passing Charlie & Linda reminded me of a couple of things that happened when we cruised with them on the previous day.  We were missing a vital ingredient for the slow cooker curry – cream - it wasn’t needed until it was served so we had all day to get it.  There’s a Tesco Express a few hundred yards from the cut on the outskirts of Blackburn and we moored up so Karen could go to the shop whilst I checked the weed hatch.  Charlie & Linda decided to go with Karen to get some supplies too.  I had cleared the prop and put everything away and was beginning to wonder where they were when I got a phone call saying they were lost.

I’m used to that happening with Karen and when she used to get lost driving to work (when we were bridge hopping) I became known as her ‘Neil Neil’ as she would ring for directions 😊 It made me laugh that three of them had got lost but to be fair I think there was a reason.  Karen had seen what she thought was a VR post box and had gone running down a side street to check it out.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t one, but by the time she explained to her companions what she was doing they had become disoriented.

Much of this canal is a contour canal and as such, follows a tortuous path along the valley sides as can be seen from the map below. The brown road is the M65 and we came over it on the left and four miles later went under it on the right even though it’s only 1 ½ miles by road (or crow).

Between the first two swing bridges we passed the halfway point of the canal.  It was marked by a milestone showing it’s 63 5/8 miles to both Leeds and Liverpool.

The halfway point milestone

A steel bar also marks the spot
At Altham Clough we passed both the boats who had set off before us in the morning.  They had moored up for the day in what is a beautiful spot but was far too exposed for us or rather our plants with the wind due to get up again.  We paused briefly to chat to Colin & Jenny and they told us that it was really rather too chilly to be sitting outside.  Charlie & Linda were obviously out for a walk as their boat was shut up but we passed them walking along the towpath a little later.

When we got to Shuttleworth we found a sheltered spot with a view and moored up for the day.

Our mooring for Wednesday night
By the time we moored up we had travelled eight miles through three swing bridges and were looking forward to an early dinner.

We are now only 24 miles and 16 locks from where my parents’ road crosses the canal in Gargrave, so we should be there by Sunday or Monday.  When I say my parents’ road, it is where their house is (where Mum lives) and also my dad’s care home.  We will soon have to sus out the water points and winding holes etc. around there whilst we work out the different places to moor whilst we move back to bridge hopping for the next couple of months.

The remaining journey to Gargrave

Our view whilst eating dinner and...
In the end, although we felt buffeted by the wind, we were glad we left later than the others as the rain had held off and the sun had been out most of the afternoon.

...a bit later on

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Norden (straight through Blackburn)

We set off at 10.30 on Tuesday morning with the plan of going up the seven locks at Johnson’s Hillock and cruising towards Blackburn.  Upon reaching the outskirts of Blackburn we would decide whether to stop there or press on up the six locks in the centre and moor up out in the country the other side.

Approaching the bottom lock at Johnson’s Hillock
To the left of the lock is the remains of the Walton Summit branch.  This was part of the Lancaster canal which was going to be built from Salford to Preston and then on to Lancaster.  Although the section up to Lancaster from Preston was built, not all the southern section was completed, and a tramway was used from the end of the Walton Summit to Preston.  The Lancaster and Leeds & Liverpool canals shared the same channel from here back down to Wigan and it was known as the Lancaster Pool.  At Wigan the Lancaster canal branched off again (where we were moored on Sunday night) towards Salford but it too was never completed.

The Johnson’s Hillock flight is in a very pretty location and there were quite a few walkers out and young families having picnics in the sun which came out for a while.

Sign at the bottom lock
I was closing the bottom gate of the third lock when we noticed someone operating the bottom lock.  Karen went down to investigate and there was a single boat coming up so Karen told them we would wait for them so we could share the remaining locks.  We had a cup of coffee whilst we waited and then went up the final locks together.

Waiting for Charlie and Linda to catch up and join us
Charlie emigrated to South Africa many years ago and Linda is Canadian.  As with most people we meet up with they were a lovely couple and having another boat and crew made the going much easier.  They were on a hire boat that we recognised as being from Kate Boats in Warwick so we were really surprised to see them this far north until they told us that they had hired it for two months.  They said they always take long holidays, whether by camper van, motorbike or boat – a great life.

Linda driving Henry James (all Kate Boats’ hire boats seem to have boys or girls names)
After chatting with them we all agreed to push on to the other side of Blackburn together and to make sure we could do it we would have lunch on the move.

Karen had gone ahead to set the top lock but there was already a boat in it coming down.  As it came out I recognised it as Paneke (Maori for flat bottomed boat) that was moored for the winter on the Saltisford arm in Warwick.  Karen and I walked past it many times during the weeks we spent moored in the area over last winter.  I had also met the owners, Roger and Jane, last summer when I was taking Buddy for a walk near Bascote on the Grand Union.  As their (flower laden) boat approached us, Roger was driving and called into the boat for Jane as he could see Mr Chalkhill Blue.  It transpired they read blogs, ours included.  This was why, when Karen met Jane at the lock today, Jane surprised Karen by saying, ‘Hello Mrs Chalkhill Blue’.  

To give them their due, they had obviously read the latest blog entry as both were surprised we had replaced the plants at the front of the boat.  I’m sorry Roger, but none of the pictures I took of you on Paneke (still flower laden) were in focus – I must have been laughing too much at your comments as you passed 😊

For some reason the gate paddle gear was higher than usual at the top lock – Sophie, my favourite daughter (married), certainly wouldn’t have been able to operate it:

 Should have got a shot when Karen was at the top of the turn rather than half way up
Once we left the locks Karen went inside to get one of our favourite slow cooker curries on the go and then we had lunch on the move.  By this time the blue skies had disappeared and the wind was getting up.

The canal was still very scenic even though we were approaching the Blackburn, Burnley, Colne and Nelson area.

Heading through Withnell Fold
I couldn't find out what this was but assume it was probably an old arm to a wharf but the banking looks very new

Approaching Riley Green
Just before reaching Riley Green the canal goes under the M65 at a point that always frustrates me when we drive on the motorway.  As you approach the bridge in a car there is a large sign announcing The Leeds & Liverpool canal.  It appears to be totally pointless unless you’re sitting on top of a lorry as you cannot see any sign of the canal over the parapet The canal goes under or over the M65 many times as they both make their way to Colne and, on most crossings the canal can clearly be seen – why not put the sign at one of those points instead?

Going under the M65 for the first of what will be many times for us this week

Cows at Riley Green
Our first Canada geese for quite a while
We haven't seen many Canada geese since being on this canal which has been rather pleasing for Karen; they are one of her pet hates, as when they group together they are pests.  Linda found it really funny that we call them Canada geese as she had assumed they were only called that in Canada.

Not a milepost but a boundary post between the districts of Chorley and Blackburn & Darwen

As we neared the centre of Blackburn a likely looking character was walking along the same direction as us but just in front.  He kept looking back at me and then stopped, I asked him if he was OK and he pointed at one of those plastic road works barrier things standing just under the water.  He carried on for quite a way helpfully pointing out obstructions in the water for me 😊

It didn’t seem that long until we were approaching the flight of six locks in Blackburn.  These were quite different, scenery-wise, to those we had gone up earlier, but they didn’t take long as we shared with Charlie and Linda again.

Charlie relieved to have finished the last lock of the day

Soon after leaving the locks I saw a kingfisher skimming the water in the way they do before disappearing into a tree - always a gorgeous sight especially in a town.

Next we passed Eanam Wharf.  This was originally built as a grain wharf and there used to be a windmill (with an interesting history) next to it.

Eanam Wharf
Here is an extract from the 2013 Proposal to turn Eanam Wharf into a Conservation Area that contains an amusing reference to the windmill:

“The two storey warehouse buildings along Eanam Wharf date from 1810 when the canal opened, the contiguous three storey buildings are later, and were originally built for the grain trade. Beyond navigation bridge was originally sited a windmill which was used to grind corn and was built in 1822. The windmill had large sails which rotated at high speed in strong winds and then friction was so great that it caught fire soon after it was built. When the canal basin was busy the boats would lie two abreast and the crane would unload from the furthest boat and swing goods inside the top floors of the warehouse.”

Apparently, a packet boat service also used to operate from the wharf to Burnley.  It was started in 1824 and the journey took four hours.

A little further on is Daisyfield corn and flour mill which is the largest mill building surviving in Blackburn.  As you can see, Granada TV now occupy part of the building.

 Daisyfield Mill built in 1871

Novel advertising by a fabric covering manufacturer
We carried on another three miles before hitting the open countryside to start looking for places to moor.  The first likely spot already had two boats at it and there wasn’t room for any more.  As we approached we realised one was Clive and Jenny (aka Colin and Jackie 😉) who we had gone up most of the Wigan flight with.  We had a quick chat with Clive (and a laugh over me getting their names wrong) and found that they were going to be moving on at a slightly faster daily rate than us as they needed to get to Foulridge by Thursday.  Though we hope to bump into each other again in the coming weeks as they slow down again.

I forgot to give Clive a ribbing about the thrashing Australia had just received from England in the day's ODI but later remembered that, although he supports most Aussie sports teams, he finds he cannot support their cricket team.

We finally moored up at 5.30 having completed 13 miles through 13 locks during the day.  The curry in the slow cooker was most welcoming 😊

Our Tuesday night mooring

Buddy already asleep as we were tying up