Sunday, 22 September 2013

Down to the Weaver

Wednesday 18th September

We survived our first night on the Trent & Mersey thanks to the repaired Dutton Bank holding just fine. It felt more like winter than the very end of summer so we were all wrapped up as we embarked upon two significant tunnels, navigating the twists and turns. Victoria doing quite well in this one despite her fearful face of concentration. The boat is going about 2mph not the 200mph that the photo suggests.

The narrowness of the tunnels and canal in general took a little getting used to after months of being based on the large commercial waterways of the north. The photo below shows how small the tunnel is. Mind the flowers! 

We stopped at the top of the Anderton Boat lift and went in search of someone to book our passage on the boat lift down. We found the booking office (it's not obvious but it is downstairs in the Information Centre through double doors), only to hang around and wait for someone to return from lunch! Once successfully booked on we did not have to wait long at all. The CRT operatives were very helpful and chatty and after our safety briefing we made it down the lift. It's a really impressive piece of engineering, the trip takes about 5 minutes to drop 50 feet but the whole sequence of securing boat and altering water levels takes a good bit longer. Click here for more information on the lift

It was fun to be back on a river once again and not have to concentrate so much on steering. We boated along the River Weaver to Northwich and moored between the two bridges right in the town centre outside a lovely new development of flats and houses (as per photo). Opposite there is a new marina being built although in our three days on the Weaver we did not see many boats moving at all. 

Thursday 19th September
Bad rain this morning so we set off late. Continued along the River Weaver until its navigable limit. On the way we climbed through Hunt's Lock and Vale Royal Locks (useful to give the lock keeper a call and if possible they will have the locks ready for you). All the locks on the River Weaver are manned, reminding us of the River Thames, and providing respite for David's lock bitch (aka Victoria)! Although she still felt important as the technique on the Weaver is the lock keeper dangles a rope down and you have to hook your rope through and tie it and he pulls it back up. The locks are very deep so holding Pas Meche with both bow and stern ropes kept her nice and steady. The Weaver opens up and is a lovely pretty river, the landscape mostly dominated with salt mines and associated industries but broken up with nice countryside and woodland. Just before the end there is a very low bridge and we had to take the chimney down and the flowers - boaters with high boats beware! We got to the end and passed through onto the Bottom Flash at Winsford, this is a nice open lake where there are a few private moorings. Shame there are no visitor moorings here but the lake is apparently very shallow in places. 

We turned in the lake, moored outside the Red Lion pub and popped into town but we chose to move on for the night as the pontoon for the mooring here is not so great, wonky and missing bollards or rings to tie to. Would be safe if you chose to moor here and go to the pub but we preferred the more open countryside moorings at Vale Royal in the photo below. The rain cleared and it was a great sunny evening. 

Friday 20th September
Set off from our mooring back down the two locks to Northwich. Very short day today as Victoria was going back to Leeds for the afternoon and evening to see friends and then family (lovely to see everyone, Happy Birthday to our niece Rosa and good luck at uni for our nephew Lewis). Moored at the same spot in Northwich for the evening. Last train back Leeds - Manchester, Manchester - Northwich. Thankfully Victoria did not fall to sleep on the train after all the wine and wake up in Chester. The train station is about 1 mile walk from the suggested mooring in Northwich town centre. 

Saturday 21st September
We set off from the mooring in Norwich heading for the Anderton Boat Lift, deciding to save the rest of the Weaver for another year. We telephoned the lift to check on availability, there were plenty of free slots despite it being a weekend so out of peak season I do not think you would have a problem getting a space by just turning up. You can book but that costs £5 and obviously ties you to being there on time etc whereas it's free to just turn up. We booked on and in the Information Centre we bumped into Mary and Shaun from NB Zyggy (Zyggy's photo blog click here). We previously shared locks with Zyggy on the Leeds & Liverpool at Bank Newton. Zyggy are rushing back to London for winter so did not have time to boat the River Weaver but they joined us on PM for the ride up. We walked back to the mooring to move PM onto the holding mooring for the lift to be greeted by an unhappy CRT operative who said we were late. It turned out we should not have been booked on one so soon if we were not on the holding mooring so make sure you are there on time! Shaun and Mary had the grand tour once Victoria rushed through the boat and moved her pyjamas and David's dirty socks off the floor. The tour did not take long (much more time efficient than showing someone round your house). Despite the CRT operative getting wound up we sat in the lift for ages waiting for their trip boat to come in at the top. Opportunity to have a cuppa and share boating stories with Zyggy crew. 

We turned right out of the lift and continued a little way down the Trent and Mersey canal. Nice and quirky to be back on narrow canal again. We moored opposite a flash north of Middlewich. Lovely mooring - nice surface for a run in the evening. 

Sunday 22nd September
We set off early to head for Middlewich. We've been having gearbox troubles so needed to get to a boat yard. Nice canal, hit the locks where there was a little queue being a Sunday - not used to queuing having been on such quiet northern waterways! The first lock is a double lock (but we are not sure why as the canal is definitely narrow in places) then the remaining locks are narrow. 

They are so much easier - unless you have a gearbox that does not go in reverse then you need an energetic Dave to jump off and pull on ropes...... staying in Middlewich for a few days whilst we wait for parts to be delivered. Still, the weather has turned again and is now more like summer than the start of autumn. Please comment if anyone has any ideas of things to do in Middlewich! 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Life's a breach

Thursday 12th September

Leigh marks the transition from the Leeds & Liverpool to the Bridgewater canal. Other than that it has little to recommend it but we did stop here to have our diesel and tank 'polished'.We wanted to do this after issues with dirty fuel on the Thames last year and with a view to our upcoming trip on the Trent. Victoria went shopping at the nearby Aldi while Pas Meche was taken care of by Steve from Fuel Scientific.

After that we carried on to a lovely mooring near the delph at Worsely, where the water turns bright orange from iron ore deposits.

Friday 13th September

Unlucky Friday 13th saw the weather finally break and it rained a lot of the way into Manchester. It has to be said the Bridgewater is not the most interesting or scenic canal we've done. The journey into Manchester was pretty unremarkable except the Barton swing aqueduct which carries the Bridgewater over the Manchester Ship Canal. No big ships were on the move sadly but the experience of crossing the swing aqueduct was impressive nonetheless, with views of the ship canal as well as the adjacent road and motorway bridges.

We carried on into Manchester, passing the Trafford Centre and Old Trafford to moor in a very busy Castlefield Basin.

Saturday/Sunday 14th/15th September

We stayed in Castelfield Basin for the weekend, looking round Manchester, especially the Museum of Science and Industry, as well as catching up with uni friends.

Monday 16th September

Another rainy day but we were up early and backtracked out of Manchester to Waters Meeting junction. Again, the Bridgewater is mostly unremarkable for this stretch so having battled wind and rain all morning we stopped early on the edge of Lymm, where we were visited by Karen, a uni friend of Victoria's.

Tuesday 17th September

Passing through Lymm this morning we wished we'd gone a bit further last night, the village is lovely with a range of pubs, restaurants and shops. Very good moorings too. Next time....

We moored for lunch at Preston Brook, visiting the canalside Midland Chandlers for a few bits and pieces, before passing through Preston Brook Tunnel to join the Trent & Mersey canal. This is the first narrow tunnel we've done in a long time and not exactly straight either so a bit of a challenge. Still, it was a good warm up for the mighty Harecastle Tunnel which we'll pass through later on the T&M.

We immediately liked the Trent & Mersey, it's a 'proper' canal - narrow, twisting and very scenic. The stop lock after the tunnel caused some confusion though, with no level difference, water pouring over both sets of gates and a bizarre width of around 8 1/2 feet (neither broad nor narrow).

Tonight we are moored on the Dutton embankment, site of a disastrous breach last September (see Google images).

CRT have thoughtfully installed a plaque to note that we are moored right on the centre line of the breach. Let's hope they fixed it properly....

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Finishing the Leeds & Liverpool

Saturday 7th September

The journey out of Liverpool went smoothly. We were the last boat of three to leave the docks and made it safely through Bootle and Litter Litherland. We were just saying how we seemed to have got away with minimal visits to the weed hatch compared to tales we had heard when we ran over the most enormous island of weed just as we were getting ready to stop. This took the best part of an hour to clear as it was floating up underneath the boat on either side of the propeller.

Sunday 8th September

As we retraced our steps away from Liverpool we had a last minute change of plans at the junction of the Rufford branch and decided to go down the locks towards Tarleton. We shared the first six locks with NB Bright Angel who were great locking partners, before stopping for the night just before Rufford.

Monday 9th September

We made it through to Tarleton (the end of the Rufford branch) in good time despite the overgrown and narrow channel (see photo) and made a last call to CRT to check for availability for the Ribble link. Contrary to what we'd been told before they did have a few vacancies but after checking dates nothing seemed to fit our plans so we decided to save that for another year. The Rufford branch is very scenic and makes a great cruise so coming back will be no hardship.

Tuesday 10th September 

We set off at a reasonable time and managed to share a few swing bridges with a couple of boats. We made it back up the set of locks of the Rufford Branch in good time before lunch. These locks are very pretty. We had an interesting time at the first swing bridge immediately after having turned left. A widebeam boat had just been through the bridge and appeared to be completely diagonal across the canal. The single handed boater appeared. Victoria went to do the bridge and opened it ready for PM. A van arrived and was waiting. The widebeam attempted to manoeuvre with a load of power on and the front rope still tied, it wasn't working, so the boater just simply put more power on. The canal was getting churned up. Victoria reclosed the bridge to let the van past, the driver shouting 'I think he must have had a drink.' The boater then left the boat in gear whilst going through the boat to let off the front rope. This sent the boat right across the canal and in to the path of PM. David reversed as quick as a narrowboat can but got stuck on the mud. The widebeam was eventually underway and we could pass. 

We went up the lock at Appley Bridge and moored in the disused double lock immediately after the lock. David had been going on about the secret mooring all day to arrive to find a CRT boat, a fisherman and then another boat turned up. Still a nice mooring though. 

Wednesday 11th September 

We have made it from Appley Bridge to south of Wigan today. The first day of proper rain we have had on the trip so far. Quite a contrast to last year. Moored at the secure mooring outside the CRT office in Wigan and went for a walk in to town before lunch. Nothing much going on in Wigan today so continued, turning right down onto the Leigh Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool. The rain kept pouring down (but we were not as wet as last year) we did the two locks down out of Wigan. The landscape opens up a little and lakes surround the canal which is rather odd but nice. Heading for Manchester now on the Bridgewater canal. 

Photo of secure mooring. Note there is a sign up saying office only open to visitors 10am-12pm if you are planning on popping in. Wish I worked there! 

Friday, 6 September 2013

Pas Mèche in Liverpool

The highlights of our stay in Liverpool 

We have really enjoyed our ten days in Liverpool. It really is a great place to come by narrowboat. The moorings in Salthouse Dock are well designed and very convenient for sightseeing and access to the city.

Liverpool has so much for visitors to see and do that we won't go into massive detail but here are a few photo highlights from our time here:

Ferry across the Mersey (as in the song) to see New Brighton and a museum showing a salvaged WWII U-Boat.

Mersey Tunnel tour including the control room, ventilation system and getting a look out into the road tunnels themselves, as well as the tramway tunnel under the road level which was dug but has never been used.

Train ride north including going to see the 'Another Place' sculptures which are lifesize casts of the artist's body embedded in the beach. A little unnerving and we couldn't decide whether we liked them or not... perhaps this was too arty for us to appreciate.

All in all Salthouse Dock and Liverpool have been really enjoyable - it's a fantastic spot in the city and the Liverpool docks are a great example of city regeneration.

We're heading towards Manchester next but must first retrace our steps towards Wigan. We've had a great time in Liverpool but after 10 days moored up, we're ready to be on the move again.

Sundown at Salthouse Dock - we'll miss the views and the nice (temporary) boaters community here.