Saturday, May 31, 2008

Back on the Trent and Mersey

I took Meg for a long walk this morning. Up onto the canal between the tunnels, over Barnton tunnel and into the village for a paper, then along the road and back onto the river at Winnington Swing Bridge. Very enjoyable.
Then we set off, back to Anderton.

We met Carol at the bottom of the lift. She’d planned to do some shopping with Sonja and Laura in Northwich, then to cruise back down river to Devil’s Garden and stay there the night, coming back to the lift tomorrow.
So we left them to it, and I went up to the booking office to organise passage on the lift for just us. We were allocated a 12:30 slot, and were back out on the canal by 13:00.

Into the lift
Going up…

The trip boat was in the other caisson coming down, with everybody excitedly waving as they saw us come alongside. We were on our own in our tank.

It was pretty busy in Anderton, with boats on the canal and walkers on the paths, but we hadn't planned to stop here anyway. We carried on to our regular spot on the edge of Marbury Woods, with a water and rubbish stop at the services.

Moored Near Marbury Woods.

It’s been a fine, warm day, with a lot of sunshine. The forecast for the first day of June is not so good, though, with showers moving in.

The Weaver has been a revelation. Beautiful scenery, quiet moorings and a bit of industrial interest thrown in. The friendly BW staff are helpful and full of information about the river. They seem to really take an interest. We’ll certainly come back at some point. It’s a “get away from it all” place. While the T&M is teeming with boats, you can cruise for a morning on the river without seeing a soul, even at this time of year.

We were welcomed back onto the canal by Harry the heron, watching from a tree as we cruised past.
Near the services, a couple of proud parents were ferociously protecting their brood from boats and towpath walkers alike…..

I've added a couple more links to the Bloggers list on the right, Dogs on Tour and Living In Sanity. Both well worth a look.

Locks 0, Boat Lift 1, Miles 3½

Friday, May 30, 2008

Back Towards Anderton, and Info on MV Chica.

The mooring at Devils Garden is a fine spot, with a big field alongside. We were woken up at 6 by a curious cow looking through the window, though!

Had a session of ball throwing with the dogs this morning. Poor Sealy rarely gets to it first, she usually gets trampled in Meg’s rush.
So when she does get it, she’s reluctant to let go!

Dangly Dog.
We left Carol behind when we left this morning, following along later. We had a nice gentle cruise to Dutton Lock, and had a chat with the lock keeper while waiting for the lock to empty. I was interested in the story of the wreck against the bank above the lock.

MV Chica
She was a Norwegian cargo boat, and was brought over here and converted to a hotel boat. She made regular trips between Anderton and the Runcorn Docks until 1993. That winter, the battery providing power for the bilge pump failed, and she foundered at her mooring. She’s been there ever since. Her history is pretty vague, and in some ways, downright contradictory! There’s a lot more information here.

We carried on and arrived at Saltersford Lock around 13:00, and were through by 13:40. We’d intended to carry on through to Anderton and then make the decision whether to go up the lift tonight or in the morning. But there’s a really attractive mooring just 10 minutes on from the lock, and it only had one boat on it, so we pulled in here for the night.

Me talking to the lock keeper in Saltersford Lock

Moored Near Barnton
The basin between Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels on the canal is just up the hill, and from there it’s a short walk into the village of Barnton.

Carol caught us up later, and pushed on to Anderton. Sonja’s coming tonight, and it’s not so remote there.

On the stretch between the locks, I spotted this coot chick (cootling?). Not a very good picture, I know, but the first I’ve seen.

Cootling and Mum

It’s been another fine day, but less sun than yesterday. Last night’s rain had cleared by this morning.

Locks 2, miles 5½

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Mixed Bag of Weather, Scenery and Emotions

We took Monday off, the weather wasn’t brilliant and we were in a pleasant spot at the bottom of the lift, so we decided to stay put.

On Tuesday we had a short run into Northwich and back, mainly to top up on supplies, but also including a visit to the services at Town Bridge. We had a bit of excitement when we watched BW swing Northwich Town Bridge to let MV Parfield through.

MV Parfield Opening Town Bridge
Yesterday was another day of showers, with a cool wind, so it was another day of long walks with Meg, and reading.

Today’s forecast was much better, so we planned to “do” the rest of the river, as far as we could go into Runcorn. We weren’t disappointed, the sun was streaming in through the porthole at 05:30. Unfortunately I was buried under Mags and Meg. When we moored here on Tuesday after our run to Northwich, I couldn’t get the stern right in because of an obstruction under the surface. The rainfall over Tuesday night and Wednesday morning had raised the river a couple of inches, allowing the boat to float over the obstruction. Of course, last night the water went back down again, leaving us propped up at an angle as we sat back down on it. We pushed off OK when it was time to go, though.

We got off at 10:30, past the rest of the chemical plant on the left bank. The crews of visiting boats had painted their vessels names and the date they were there on the wharf. Of course, they don’t come anymore…

Loading Wharf.
Arriving at Saltersford Lock we were waved straight in, and were joined by another 2 boats. We were using the larger of the 2 chambers, so there was plenty of room.

Saltersford Lock
Dutton Lock, reached in another 45 minutes or so, is in a delightful wooded setting. I’d had a walk along the river here last year when we moored overnight up on the Trent and Mersey, near bridge 211. There is only about ½ mile between the navigations at this point.
We filled with water just at the exit to the lock.

Near Dutton Lock. The white arch in the centre right is Bridge 211 on the T&M.

In fact, this section of the river is very pretty. Wooded cuttings alternate with views across rolling pasture.

On the River
The rural idyll ends at Sutton Bridge.

In need of a coat of paint, this is really the point where industry reappears in the form of the M56 viaduct, then about 2 miles of chemical works on the right bank which appear at a distance like a futuristic city from an episode of Dan Dare. It looked deserted, but we spotted 5 of The Mekon’s slaves repairing one of the spaceships.

The Mekon’s City
Slaves at Work.
Painted on the pipe – “HELP ME, I DON’T LIKE IT HERE”. I know how he feels….
This continues through to the effective terminus, a low level swing bridge this side of Weston Point Dock. Just before this, the derelict lock, which once led onto the Runcorn and Weston Canal, is seen on the right. This used to connect with the Bridgewater Canal at Runcorn Docks, but is now lost under new development.

Derelict Lock into the Runcorn and Weston Canal.
Access to the Manchester Ship Canal is through Weston Marsh Lock, ¾ mile earlier. This tidal lock, with a fall of less than 3’, allows boats to connect with the ship canal, and either go west to Eastham and the connection with the Shroppie at Ellesmere Port, or east into Manchester.

Weston Marsh Lock, the MSC and the Mersey Estuary beyond.

Craft wanting to do this have to meet strict criteria, set by the MSCC. After all, this waterway is still in use by ocean going vessels, like the one we saw when we stopped at the lock for a look.

Tankship Stolt Egret
At the end of the canal, I took a short walk along the abandoned quayside towards the desolate and boarded up Seamans Chapel, built by the River Weaver Navigation Company. It was a melancholy trip, wharves now covered in debris from demolished buildings, and a coaster and bucket dredger sunk at their moorings.

Weston Point Dock

I was glad when we turned around and headed back out of the town. We stopped for the night in a lovely spot called Devil’s Garden, after a day of mixed emotions. The sight of the Tanker “Stolt Egret”, registered in the Cayman Islands and coming down the ship canal made my day, but was tempered by the feeling of lost opportunities at Weston Point.

The weather has fulfilled it’s earlier promise, fine and sunny most of the day, with a bit of cloud building later. It’s just started to gently rain as I write this.

Locks 2, miles 18½

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Head of Navigation and Back to the Lift

A fine sunny morning soon turned grey and breezy, threatening rain.
We had guests for breakfast; 2 families of geese turned up, begging.

Ain’t they cute…
We decided to head up to the top of the navigable river at Winsford, just for a look. We’d been told it’s not very inspiring, and we agreed. We turned around just the other side of the town, at the shallow Winsford Flash. This is another of the large pools formed by subsidence following brine extraction.

Winsford Flash. The sailing dinghies are shallow enough to use it. We’re not!
Under the main road bridge in Winsford someone keeps their collection of shopping trollies….
There are lots of waterfowl in Vale Royal Cut. The herons seem a little more confidant here than those on the canals. They’ll wait until you’re alongside before taking off.

Up and Away.
We joined Carol, Sonja and Laura back at the mooring, then travelled together back to Vale Royal Lock for the 14:30 passage slot. We were joined by NB Ardanza again in the lock.
We were through Hunts Lock and Northwich before we had a few spots of rain, and were moored almost in the shadow of the lift at Anderton by 16:00, just before the rain came on heavily.

Locks 2, miles 13½

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Down the Lift and Up the River

We had a good day today. First the trip down the Anderton Lift, then a splendid cruise along the River Weaver, through 2 locks finishing up just upstream of Vale Royal Lock.

The lift itself is fascinating, and justifies the £7m cost of the restoration that finished in 2002. Two caissons or tanks rise and fall alternately, each counterbalancing the other, with the aid of hydraulic rams. Each tank, in water, weighs over 250 tons, and can hold 2 full-length narrowboats. The actual transit only takes about 10 minutes, but the whole operation involving getting the boats in, sealing the gates at the ends, then reversing the process at the bottom took about 30 minutes. A lot quicker and using a lot less water than the flight of locks that would be needed to change height by 50‘.
Lots of info at the official website

Into the Lift
Going Down.
The trip boat at the bottom in the west caisson.
Both tanks level, us going down, the day trippers coming up.
All done, and onto the river.
The lift from the river.
At the bottom we turned left, upstream, and arrived at Northwich shortly after. Shopping is handy, as the river runs just past the town centre. We moored both boats opposite the floating hotel, and the girls went for a spot of retail therapy, while we dog sat. Then on to Hunts Lock, 10 minutes away.

Hunts Lock.
All the locks on the river are manned, and we were through quickly, sent on our way by the friendly lock keepers. The next lock is Vale Royal, and is restricted to timed passages. As can be seen from the picture of Hunts Lock, there are 2 chambers, 1 about 100 feet long and 20 feet wide. This is the one in normal use for the size of boats seen on the river nowadays. The other is huge, designed to accommodate coasters that used to ply up to Winsford for the salt trade. At Vale Royal, the smaller of the 2 is out of commission, and this is why passage is limited. The large lock uses so much water that they try to get as many boats through in one go as possible. We had 3 boats in on our passage, but there was room for several more.

Vale Royal Lock.
Not far upstream from the lock is a pleasant mooring where we chose to stay the night.

Moored in Vale Royal Cut, enjoying a beer in the warm evening.
The river is very pretty and also quiet. There are not that many roads crossing, and none running alongside. This discourages any development along the riverside.

On the river.
There are occasional glimpses of former glory.

Tug “Proceed” decaying at Jalsea Marine
Sunken Concrete Barge near Anderton
Locks 2, Boat Lifts 1, miles 7½.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Heading South, Boat Work and a Hedgehog Rescue…

On Sunday night I took these pictures from the basin at Castlefield. The top shows the tower of the Hilton Hotel, the bottom is looking in the opposite direction towards Trafford Park.

On Monday we braved the mad geese again at the water point at Castlefield, then set off West and South out of Manchester.
Although most of the old warehouses have been converted to apartments, there is still the odd one still to do…

Ripe for Development?
Near Throstle Nest Bridge I spotted what I thought was some rubbish floating in the canal, so steered around it. As we passed I saw that it was a spikey back and a pointy snout sticking out of the water, attached to the submerged portion of a hedgehog! The poor thing must have fallen in from the towpath, and was swimming around in circles, unable to see where it was going. A quick shift into reverse, and Meg’s ball retrieval net came into use. Only just in time I think. He was tiring rapidly.

Henry the Hedgehog.

I advised him against further aquatic adventures and deposited him in the bushes at the side of the towpath. We left him breathing easily, but resting to warm up and recover his strength.

The rest of the cruise to Dunham Massey was uneventful, arriving at around 15:00.

Tuesday we spent putting the first of the colour topcoats on the handrails and roof edge of Corbiere, then Wednesday we moved on to our usual last (or first, depending on the direction) mooring on the Bridgewater about ¾ mile from Preston Brook. We only had one stop; a Tesco delivery at the lay-by near Ye Olde No 3 pub. Here the canal is only feet from the main road. Not good for an overnight stop, but great for deliveries.

Yesterday we were not sure what to do, and finally made the fateful decision to paint the roof of Corbiere. Carol had, some time ago, chosen to use Protectakote, a rubberised non-slip coating, rather than the more usual sharp sand in paint. The boat’s roof, over the last 30 years, had had various holes cut and patched over, and this coating gives good coverage of the defects.
Anyway, it was gone 9 by the time the second coat was on, and we were both well smeared with the stuff. As it’s xylene based, it is difficult to remove and only succumbs gradually to white spirit applied with a scouring pad! So we’ve both got blue patches on hands, arms and legs, as well as some cleaner, but sorer, bits!

Taking a break. Note my blue knees!
The job, in the morning light, was certainly worth doing. We’re quite pleased with ourselves, actually.
We set off to Anderton at around 11:00 this morning. A quick stop at Midland Chandlers for a few bits, then down to the tunnel. We arrived just too late for the 12:30 “window” so settled down to wait until half past one. (As the tunnel is single width, passage through in either direction is restricted. Northbound, boats can enter on the hour and for a further 10 minutes, Southbound is on the ½ hour and 10 minutes.)
While we waited, another 3 boats arrived to join the queue.

Waiting for the Tunnel
Through the tunnel and Dutton Stop Lock, and we were back on the Trent and Mersey Canal. The wooded cuttings look their best at this time of year, with fresh green leaves overhanging the canal.
By the time we got to Acton Bridge I was not surprised to see the first of the following boats coming up and wanting to overtake. This was soon followed by the other 2. They’d already passed Carol. We caught up with them again at Saltersford Tunnel, all tied up in a row waiting for the ½ past the hour window on this tunnel. What a waste of diesel, and the opportunity to listen to the birds. We arrived just on time as planned. This is the worst thing about summer cruising. We’ve generally got someone chasing up behind us, all in a lather to get past. I know we don’t go very fast, but that’s why we bought a boat!

Here they go, just going into the tunnel as we arrived.
And here are some of the things they probably missed, with all that chasing about!

Heron hiding under trees.
Kingfisher looking for his tea

Out into daylight in the wide reach, then into Barnton Tunnel.

Carol coming out of Saltersford Tunnel.
Barnton doesn’t have any traffic control, so you have to check that there’s nothing coming before entering. We were OK, we just followed the boats in front.

Carol pulled over to moor near the Stanley Arms in Anderton, where she’s meeting Sonja and Laura, while we carried on to the services. After filling with water and getting rid of rubbish etc. we turned around and headed back, mooring up shortly after.

We’ve stopped here because tomorrow at 11:00 we’re booked on the Anderton Lift to drop down onto the Weaver for a few days. Looking forward to that!

The Anderton Lift from the river.
Locks 1, miles 25