Sunday 8 November 2015

Acton Bridge (Trip to Kent and back)

We had two very different days on Thursday.  I got a taxi to Northwich station in the morning and took trains back to Kent to pick up a car.  I made the wrong choice about which way to drive round the M25 and didn’t get back to the boat until gone nine in the evening.  I can’t believe that I used to sit in stationary motorway traffic nearly every day I went to work in recent years.

Karen and Buddy had the day to themselves (much to Karen's relief).  Karen started by getting the boat ready for leaving for a few weeks whilst Buddy sat patiently on the towpath.

They then went for a walk along the canal and then cut across fields down to the River Weaver.

We went on the Weaver in the summer but not the entire length – next year we intend going right down to the junction with the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship canal.  The locks are enormous.

A sign, probably maintained by one of the lock keepers.

This boat floundered below the locks in 1993 and has not moved since.  She was built in 1894 in Norway and has had quite a chequered history including being commandeered by the Germans in 1940.

Our mooring for the next few weeks.

It’s going to be odd not having a blog to write for a while but we have plenty to do at home getting the house shipshape and rented out.  No doubt I’ll make the odd blog entry to stay in touch with the loyal band of blog followers :)

Our friends David & Victoria made their last blog entry today after having lived on their boat for six years.  They are starting a new life on land for a while but know how to write a proper blog!  Click on nb Pas Meche on the right of this page under "OTHER BOATERS' BLOGS".


Thursday 5 November 2015

Acton Bridge (and Liverpool’s chavvy blister)

Wednesday was to be our last day cruising for a while and as we only had about nine miles we didn’t hurry to set off from our moorings at Runcorn.  The only visitor moorings were outside the theatre and were completely empty apart from us.  You can’t tell from this picture but it is in the town centre, overlooking the shops and the River Mersey on the right hand side.

When researching what to do in Runcorn yesterday I learnt that locally it is known as Liverpool's chavvy blister where they speak with plastic Scouse accents.  I seem to remember that Liverpudlians refer to chavs as scallies. 

We were heading back to the southern end of the Bridgewater canal at Preston Brook and then a few miles on the Trent & Mersey to where we have arranged to leave the boat.  We will leave it there until the New Year whilst we sort the house out for renting and have our last family Christmas there for a while.  As we have a large family we always have our Christmas over the first weekend of January as it is much easier getting everyone together then.
We were followed into the tunnel at Preston brook by another boat which made the silhouetted shot at the top of the entry.  Karen also managed to get a better shot of an air shaft (as opposed to a dead steam tug helmsman).

At Dutton Stop lock boats were queueing in both directions which must be unusual for this time of year.

A mile or so before we got to our boatyard we went past Dutton Hollow where there had been a breach in September 2012.  The canal was closed for seven months to make the repairs which must have caused a lot of disruption in the area.  Mooring rings were installed in the new concrete kerbing which was really sensible as there are few lengths in this area where you can moor up.   The breach must have been quite dramatic as the embankment the canal is built on  is very steep and quite high at this point.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Runcorn (and a new stretch of canal for us)

On Tuesday morning we set off for Runcorn which is on the Manchester Ship Canal, the River Mersey and the Bridgewater canal.  To join the Bridgewater canal we had to go through Dutton Stop lock at the top end of the Trent & Mersey canal.  Stop locks usually have a rise of a few inches as they were built to enable tolls to be collected when boats passed between canals and also to try and prevent water from one canal feeding the other.

To the side of the stop lock is a dry dock and a small yard where they restore old working boats.

Just after the stop lock was Preston Brook tunnel and we had to wait for 20 minutes until we could make our entry.

We took advantage of the wait and had a cup of coffee and started into Karen’s latest fruit cake.

A section of the tunnel collapsed in 1981 and it took three years to repair it (compared to the two years it took to build the ¾ mile tunnel by hand in 1774/5).  This is Karen’s idea of getting a picture of the modern repairs – reinforced concrete rather than the normal brick - without distraction me from driving.

Boats were legged through the tunnel until the introduction of steam tugs in the late 1800s but several tug owners died from the fumes so air shafts were opened up.  This is the closest we got to getting a shot of one (air shaft not a dead tug owner).

At the far side of the tunnel we passed an open air book swap stand…

…and soon afterwards we went under the M56 and turned left onto the stretch leading to Runcorn which is a stretch we have not been on before.  

Earlier this year, when we came out of Manchester via the Bridgewater we didn’t have time to venture up to Runcorn nor even the 20 mile branch up to Wigan.  We were pleased to be cruising this new stretch and no doubt will go along the Wigan branch in the new boat when we visit Liverpool and then the Leeds & Liverpool canal.

The bridges on the Bridgewater canal have name plaques and no numbers.

It can get confusing as we went under three bridges called Expressway Bridge.

I’d forgotten that stanking plank cranes are used on this canal.

As we neared Runcorn we passed two old arms that have now been curtailed.  Sprinch arm (on the left) is now a dry dock – note the stanking plank crane holding planks in place.  The arm on the right was called the Victoria arm.

A new theatre has been built practically at the end of the canal.  It is named after James Brindley the great engineer and canal builder.  We ended up mooring here overnight as it appeared to be the only place where visitor moorings had been provided.  Such a shame as these were the only moorings we saw all day and there were plenty of pretty locations where they could be provided,

This is coming into the very end and we had to turn at Waterloo bridge.

The canal used to continue under Waterloo bridge, down nine locks, to join the Manchester Ship canal. The wiggly red bit is the path you have to follow to go under the roads which are on viaducts.

The locks were filled in during the 1960s but we followed the line down the hill.

Several of the locks were still clearly marked.  The lock gate recess can be seen behind this seat.

This is the bottom lock where the canal joined the Manchester Ship canal. 

A restoration society has been formed and there are ambitious plans to reopen the flight.  When complete this will open up a stunning new canal ring.  Starting on the Trent & Mersey it will drop down the Anderton boat lift onto the River Weaver which runs down to to the Manchester Ship canal.  Not far along the Manchester Ship canal turning right will lead up the restored lock flight, along the Bridgewater to rejoin the Trent & Mersey at Preston Brook.  This would be a pleasant 30 mile cruising ring with lots of historical interest.  These old canal cottages are still standing along the line of the locks.

Bridgewater House stands on the old flight; it’s amazing to think that this was built as a temporary residence (in 1770) for the Duke as he oversaw the building of the section of canal to Runcorn.

These bridges cross the Manchester Ship canal and the River Mersey from Runcorn to Widnes.  The railway bridge was built in 1861 and the road bridge was built in 1961. 

The picture at the top is taken from the Runcorn promenade – shame it was a grey day.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Bartington (Exactly a year since we moved on board)

It’s the end of this week that we are going back to Kent to get the house sorted and rented out so will be away from the boat until that's done.  Karen is going back to work at the end of November and as she will be working in the Crewe area we can carry on living on the boat which is why we have come back up to the North West. We decided last night to head for Runcorn on the Bridgewater canal before leaving the boat in a boat yard at the end of the week.  Before we set off we walked back to see how the canal was being closed whilst the railway bridge is repaired for next couple of months.  There was no sign of the canal being closed as yet but there were men working on the track.

It was another foggy day and it looked quite eerie where we had been moored overnight.

Just south of Northwich we passed a marina development.  To be honest it looked like no progress had been made since we passed it six months ago.  The only activity going on was water being pumped into the basin to fill it.

Just before we got to the great complex of Tata chemical factories at Northwich we passed a fishing match with about 40 anglers.  Most were pleasant and acknowledged us but as usual there were a few who ignored us or muttered under their breath about boats shouldn’t be allowed on canals etc.

I had planned to visit the salt works museum at Marston as it was closed for refurbishment when we tried to visit earlier in the year.  As luck would have it the museum is closed on Mondays – oh well, there’ll be other opportunities especially whilst we’re living n the boat up here.

The boat lift at Anderton is part of the winter stoppages program and was closing from this morning until Christmas for maintenance.  When we went past men were erecting a boom across the entrance ready to dam it and drain the water form the lift entrance area.  We really enjoyed using the lift when we went onto the River Weaver in May and plan to do it again as we didn’t have time to explore the full length of the river.  You can see the holding areas for each lift caisson on the right hand picture.

Soon after Anderton we went through one of the blindest bridges we have come across for a while.

This is entering the 572 yard long Barnton tunnel which is obviously only has room for one way traffic so you have to check that there are no lights of approaching boats before entering.  This tunnel is unusual in that it has kinks in it so you cannot see the exit portal when you first go in.

A bit further on is Saltersford tunnel and as this is so bendy (as opposed to a kink or two) boats are only allowed in during certain time windows.  We were heading North which meant we were allowed in any time from the hour until 20 past the hour.  Fortunately we only had to wait for five minutes – it was quite pleasant as we had this large pool to wait in.  Southbound boats can enter the tunnel at half past the hour until ten to.

It's not that clear here but the tunnel veers off sharply to the left from the entrance; these sort of manoeuvres will be a lot simpler when we get our shorter boat next year.

Of course, the smoke from our stove chimney didn’t help visibility but we managed to spot all the bends in time and not hit the sides.

We had a look at the map of where we have been over the last year to see the extent of our travels.  Slough in Berkshire was the furthest South; Llangollen (Denbighshire) was the furthest West and Slaithwaite (West Yorkshire) the furthest North.  When we get to Runcorn later this week that will be the furthest West in England.  Abbots Langley (which is not that far from Slough in the scheme of things was the furthest East.

We have travelled 1,369 miles through 1,253 locks in that time and if you take out our trips back to our home in Kent or on holiday that is an average of just over four miles and four locks a day.  To think that poor Karen has operated the vast majority of those locks and probably walked well over half the number of miles puts my easy life into perspective for me.