Monday, 11 June 2018

Heaton’s Bridge (what’s a day without at least one escapade?)

One of the many swing bridges we went through on Sunday
We sat outside for breakfast on Sunday and, as Buddy seemed to be particularly thirsty, I refilled his bowl with canal water.  As you probably know, he prefers drinking from the cut and has to be exceptionally thirsty to drink tap water.  He has (or had 😉) two identical bowls; one for water and one for food and, once he has eaten his food, we stack the bowls together as space is at a premium.  So, when I went to get him another top up of water, both bowls were together, and for some inexplicable reason I let go of them and I watched them slowly sink into the murk.

No problem, as I had my trusty sea magnet which picks up everything we drop overboard (apart from phones and cameras ).  It was just my luck that his bowls weren’t magnetic, so now he is drinking and eating from a plastic bowl until we find replacements in Liverpool.

Morning fishing expedition
We set off for Parbold mid-morning with Karen and Buddy walking the four miles and me driving the boat alongside them.  According to our (out of date map book) there were three swing bridges to go through on the way to Parbold, so Karen was armed with her Watermate key in order to operate them.  In the end, two were long defunct and left permanently open, leaving us with just Finch Mill swing bridge to operate. 

Approaching Parbold we made a sharp left-hand turn at an old junction.  When the canal was first built it was going to go via Chorley but, for reasons I cannot establish, it ended up going via Wigan.

The junction where the canal was originally going off to Chorley
We moored up in Parbold and went to the local McColls to get milk and a few bits of fruit and we had lunch before setting off again.

Coming back from McColls to our shady mooring in Parbold

Parbold windmill was built in 1794 but ceased working about 60 years later
We passed another butterfly boat as we left Parbold; this was called Purple Emperor which is a magnificent insect.  We remembered seeing a different boat with the same name on a mooring near Sonning on the River Thames a few years ago.

Purple Emperor

The owners were sitting on deck and, to give them their due, said we had a better name for our boat 😊

There were yet more swing bridges to negotiate on the next leg of the journey and, most of these were road bridges rather than farm tracks so were barrier and traffic light controlled by Karen and her key.

Although this was a road bridge, it was unusual as Karen had to drop the barriers manually to stop cars crossing

At Hoscar we caught up with Snuggly Buggly which we have seen many times over the years but have never met the owners.  They were stopped at a rubbish point and we pulled up alongside them for a chat.  It turned out to be Gerry Goode and his partner; he is well known on the system as a singer and entertainer.

We decided to do the next couple of swing bridges together to make things easier and then they turned off up the Rufford branch as they were heading across the Ribble estuary onto the Lancaster canal for the summer.

Saying goodbye at the last swing bridge
Approaching the junction with the Rufford branch

Looking up the Rufford branch with Snuggly Buggly moored on the right ready to go down the top lock

We were soon approaching Burscough, yet another town well served by railways around here.  When we had our epic four-train journey back from Yorkshire yesterday our final change was at Wigan and we had to leave one station and cross the road to another as it too was served by two different railway lines.

Railway bridge across the canal – clearly added after the canal was opened
Just after the railway bridge we passed Ainscough’s Mill which was built in 1855 alongside the canal and railway to take advantage of the different lines of communication.  The mill has been restored and converted to apartments.

  Ainscough's Mill with the railway bridge in the background
We had more swing bridges and were getting used to having an audience at most as they seemed to be accompanied by pubs.  

The next was Crabtree swing bridge and, once again, it was by a pub.  This one was non-descript (no flowers and painted a dull grey) and imaginatively called The Slipway as it had a slipway into the cut from its car park.  Karen went off to open it and found one of the barriers had been vandalised and this notice over the controls.

A couple left the pub, walked over the bridge and stopped to talk to Karen.  They told her that two CRT guys had left a message with the people sitting outside the pub.  They had to go and assist at another broken bridge nearer Liverpool but would be back.  As it was gone five on a Sunday afternoon we rather much doubted it.

I checked with CRT head office and they confirmed that assisted passage was being provided between 8 and 4 so we should moor up and we would be helped through in the morning.  As it wasn’t wide enough to turn around and go back to Burscough for the night we moored up securely on the bridge landing – not something you should normally do, but no boats were going to get through anyway.

Moored up for the night by the broken Crabtree swing bridge (the vandalised barrier is on the right at a strange angle)
An hour later, we were doing stuff in the boat when there was a knocking on a window.  It was the two CRT guys back and they said they would get us through the bridge.  It seemed to take ages; each time the traffic lights went red and the barriers went down, the barriers would come straight up again, and the traffic start coming through.  In reality it was only about 20 minutes and we were on our way again.

We went through one more swing bridge and then decided to call it a day about a mile further on.

Final mooring for Sunday night

Plants getting the white fly treatment

We travelled eight miles through one lock during the day.  There are now no more locks until Wednesday when we hit the four at the entrance to the Liverpool link canal which will take us through the series of docks in Liverpool until we reach Salthouse dock.  We will stay for the maximum time allowed in the docks, one week.

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