Thursday, 14 June 2018

Lydiate (The best laid schemes of mice and men)

Oooops - where’s the cut gone? The breach between bridges 10 and 9c
After mooring at Maghull (locals kept telling us not to pronounce the ‘h’) on Tuesday afternoon, Karen and I cycled down to Melling which is just before Aintree, where our boat was ‘born’.  We had been recommended to moor there on the night before going into Liverpool as it was the last ‘safe’ place.  We hadn’t gone straight there as a pair of boats we had met a couple of days had had stones thrown at them from the swing bridge as they went through.  I don’t know how much they embellished but they said the youths were hanging off one of their boats when they moored on the bridge landing to pick up crew.  The police were apparently informed.

Anyway, we walked down and decided we were fine where we were and just leave an hour earlier in the morning – the best decision we have probably made since making a boat our home.

When we got back to the boat we noticed it was listing slightly so I slackened our lines a bit and made sure we were away from the side.  This was about five o’clock and we started preparing dinner – usually it’s either one of us (mostly Karen lately 😉) but some meals we cook together even in the small space of a narrowboat galley.   Looking out of the window Karen noticed the water was flowing at quite a pace which is really unusual for a long pound, this one is 27 miles from Wigan to Liverpool. 

We decided to each take an undisclosed point on the opposite bank and if the level had dropped further in 30 minutes then I would contact CRT.

We each knew where our secret points of reference were
As it happened, the flow continued, and the level dropped further so I rang CRT.  They told me that a problem had been reported in the area, teams had been sent, but they hadn’t located the issue yet.  The flow didn’t ease and we kept letting our lines out to keep the boat away from the edge; the spot we had chosen had a more sloping side than usual so we started listing a lot earlier than Ron and Jean moored behind us.  At 10 o’clock I rang CRT again and they told me that there was a breach at bridge 11 so we decided to walk down and investigate. 

We walked through several bridge holes and, as the channel is narrower, we could see the water flowing like it would on a river.  We got to bridge 11 and there was no one around so we carried on.  After two miles (we can tell by the mileposts) we found activity at bridge 10 which was the swing bridge where we had been told to moor but decided against.

Fireman, CRT, contractors and Environment Agency people were all around what was a breach on the opposite side just below the bridge.  Water was flowing through the breach and into a culvert that flowed back under the canal.

Midnight activity
Looking at the fields to the north of the canal we could see they were covered in water – 27 miles of cut between locks contains an enormous volume.

We walked back to the bridge and found two CRT contractors to get more information.  One of them said they couldn’t do anything until Claire arrived, I immediately thought that they were waiting for an area manger called Claire, but I was a bit suspicious and questioned him again, but, yes, they were waiting for Claire.  The third time I asked he explained Claire was coming in a lorry and I realised he was saying clay 😊

Anyway, he explained that they were putting a dam of clay/Claire in the swing bridge hole and that a lorry had arrived an hour previously to offload its load of sand into the water before going off for some clay.  The sand washed away immediately as expected but they were hopeful that two lorryloads of clay would suffice.  I restrained from suggesting stanking planks may have been a quicker and easier solution but had already noticed that they weren’t used on this part of the L&L canal 😉

By midnight, the lorry hadn’t arrived, so we set off home; we heard it arriving soon after we left, ummed and aaaahed and decided to carry on rather than watch a lot of splashing in the dark.
On the way back, we noticed that permanent boats moored on the offside weren’t listing so the banks must be really steep and the water deep there.  The four boats on the towpath side, including us were all listing badly.  We let our boat out into the middle of the cut (still moored tied to pins) and after chatting to Ron and Jean went to bed.  We were now too far out to get to the shore but were relying on the clay dam working and the water level getting back to normal by morning, so we could pull ourselves in.  

We had been setting off for Liverpool at eight in the morning but as we obviously wouldn’t be going there any time soon we didn’t set the alarm. As it was, we woke up early and were relieved to find the boat was level.  We pulled it back into the bank and sorted out all the things we had secured in case the boat had listed even further.  CRT rang at 8.30 to check we were OK; they were ringing everyone who was booked into the docks to make sure they were OK and explain they couldn’t get in.  As it happened we knew more than the CRT staff and were able to explain where the breach was and where the temporary dam had been put in etc. 

I rang to cancel Steve who was coming up to spend a few days with us in Liverpool; it was a shame, but we felt it was the right thing to do.  We rang our friends who were already in the docks to explain that we wouldn’t be getting in and that they would be stuck there.  We then cycled down to the breach to see what was going on.  To show our minds weren’t just on the breach, here is a bench we cycled past. 

 Why sit and look at a sight screen?
Arriving at bridge 10 we could see the temporary dam in place and were so relieved we hadn’t moored the other side as we had originally planned.  The reverse of best laid plans really.


The cut below bridge 10 – so much rubbish for a rural area
We arrived at the breach itself and, although water was drained from below the temporary dam at bridge 10, it was still flowing in from the 10-mile stretch down to Liverpool.

The Liverpool side of the breach – still draining

I think I was explaining how using stanking planks would have been simpler
As only one side of the cut was draining away now, a lot of the water had gone from the fields and this picture doesn’t really do the flooding any justice, so I have included it to aid our memories:

Passing bridge 10 again on our way back we saw another load of clay had been delivered and was being used to strengthen the temporary dam:

When we got back, Ron came to tell us that they were turning around and heading for Burscough as Jean had a hospital appointment.  We didn’t feel happy/safe staying there on our own, so we said we would also move, turn around, and go back to Lydiate.  We would be out in the country and have just a mile’s walk to catch a bus into Liverpool to see Dave and Barbara and find out what CRT plans were for all the boats trapped in the dock.

We had lunch and did a few odd jobs and were surprised Ron hadn’t come back passed us yet so I set off for the winding hole which was just before the temporary dam (fortunately!).  Karen went to Morrison’s whilst I took the boat down to turn it round.  I passed Ron under the M58, he said he had had to stop four times to remove weed from his prop and that’s why he had been so long.

Passing nb Nightingale under the M58
I was more fortunate and only had to delve into the weed hatch twice, once to disentangle an umbrella!  When I reached bridge 11 I saw that the towpath had been shut off, I assume for H&S reasons, so people couldn’t get near the breach works.  I went through, winded and on my way back saw an old-ish lady trying to get around the obstruction – goodness knows how she had got trapped the wrong side.  I stopped, got her onto the boat, took her through the bridge and then dropped her off again (not literally of course).

Heading the wrong way – away from Liverpool now – although pretty, those lillies can be a bugger

Safely moored outside Lydiate
Storm Hector was due during the night, so we moved our mini sunflowers and a few other things off the roof to safety on the back deck:

We now have to replan our travels and will probably head for my parent’s village at the top of the Leeds & Liverpool at, for us, a quick pace. as my mum is not well again.  As I said earlier, we will stay put on Thursday and catch the bus into Liverpool.

Looking back on the day we both felt very sad, not because we couldn’t get into Liverpool, but thinking about all the additional costs that will now be incurred.  As for us, we could always come back in the winter (assuming the breach is fixed) so need to check out the planned winter stoppages.


  1. I used to keep my horse right by the breach. The canal has been leaking in that place for over 10 years and was reported a lot but nothing ever done about it, I heard the canal waters had drained in the Melling area so I had to investigate if it is the same place which brought me across your blog .... good read btw and you enjoy your travels and hope the breach hasnt caused you too much problems, I will stick to my caravan.

    1. Yes, we heard the farmer has been reporting it a while too :( All it meant to us was that we couldn't go to Liverpool - no worries, there's other places to go. Are you horse drawn? That would be a great life too. Thanks for the comment