Friday, April 09, 2010

An unscheduled bath…or two!

This fine, warm weather continues. I’ve scrapped my first design of door liners, in favour of making the panels out of exterior ply instead of tongue and groove boards. The drawback is making the raw edges good, but the overall effect should be superior. I’ve been able to make good progress, will soon be painting and varnishing prior to sticking them on.

Today though was a cruising rather than carpentry day. The plan was to go downstream to the normal limit of navigation at Whites Bridge, then turn around, finishing up at the mooring we regularly use at Barnton Cut.

So we got off early, around 10, (OK so it’s not that early, but it’s not bad for us) on a fine morning, even the annoying wind had dropped to a gentle breeze.

The river is attractively remote all the way to Sutton Bridge, but before that the original (pre 1837) route follows the natural course off to the left, through Frodsham Lock and down to the Mersey estuary. Major improvements to the Navigation included a new cut to Weston Dock, named the Weston Canal. So the last 4½ miles of the Weaver Navigation is artificial.

Fork to Frodsham. The river heads off to the left while the Weston Canal goes straight on.
My (old) Nicholson’s Guide advises that the old route is still navigable down to the derelict lock and makes good overnight moorings, but there appears to be a boom across the entrance now.

Just a mile further on the character of the banks change as the course heads into the edge of Runcorn.
After 6 miles without a bridge, suddenly there are 3 of them!

Sutton Swing Bridge looks a bit sad, with scabrous, peeling paint.
Then there’s the railway bridge carrying the Chester to Warrington line, and the fairly new M56 span.
It’s still the school holidays, so the Runcorn Rowing Club was busy.

Then the utilitarian pipes, chimneys and tanks of the refineries come into view.

Passing Marsh Lock which gives access to the Manchester Ship Canal, the end is reached at the locked swing bridge that gives access to Weston Point Docks. The route is still navigable through the docks, and has been used to get to the ship canal when Marsh Lock has been unavailable, but the land has been sold to Eddie Stobbarts and a lot of the old warehousing has been demolished.

From the river the only original building to be seen is the Christ Church, now boarded up.

End of the line.
We reversed to the basin at the bottom lock of the Runcorn and Weston Canal and turned around to go back.
This canal, also derelict, used to run around the flank of Runcorn’s hill to Runcorn Docks, joining the Bridgewater Canal via two flights of locks.

Weston and Runcorn Canal, bottom lock. Needs some work….
We headed back upstream, and decided to pull onto the landing at Marsh Lock to have a look at the ship canal. There was a BW guy there, so I guessed that there was to be a boat or two going through.

A whole lot of water out there....
I was chatting to the lock keeper when there was a splash and shout from behind me. Meg had followed me, but instead of following the ramp up from the mooring pontoon the daft mutt had decided to jump the 3’ gap… unsuccessfully.
I dashed back down onto the pontoon, and stretched out to grab her. I just got hold when I lost my balance and joined her in the river.

So now there were 2 of us doggy-paddling in the Weaver Weston Canal.

Luckily the BW chap was on hand and hauled Meg out as I pushed her towards the pontoon, then made sure I was out OK before getting back to the task of preparing the lock.

Dripping water we walked along the pontoon to meet Mags with a towel…. for the dog! Thanks a bunch!

Anyway, Meg got dried, I got changed and we waited for the arrival of the yacht Kekama

Kekama arrives
Off she goes to Holyhead.
A bit of an anticlimax finally, she dropped down the lock and out onto the open water of the ship canal with very little fuss.

After the delays we reverted to plan B, stopped for water at Sutton Bridge then returned to Devil’s Garden for the night. We’ll head to Northwich tomorrow.

Heading in to Devil’s GardenLocks 0, miles 12

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