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

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