Friday, March 09, 2012

There and Back Again (Part II)

Downriver to Runcorn….

We left Northwich yesterday, after two nights moored on Town Wharf. Although with a cold northerly blowing it was fine and bright, the sun trying to break through the high cloud.

We needed a good day, on Wednesday we’d hired a car and travelled up to Yorkshire for Mags’ daughter-in-law’s funeral. Diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer soon after the New Year, Christine fought a brave but ultimately losing battle. A sad day.

Turning around near Northwich Town BridgeSAM_0001 Northwich Town Br 
We’d all made use of the services before leaving, then headed off downstream to Saltersford Lock.

We’d booked passage for 11:00, and arrived just as our lock-keeper for the day, Mo, swung the top gates open.

In Saltersford LockSAM_0004 Saltersford
The smaller chambers of these and Dutton Locks are not in use, and we look a little lost in the larger one.

Out of Saltersford Lock there’s a 45 minute cruise to the next one at Dutton.

Butting into the waves.SAM_0007

MV Parfield and Mere Class Barge Sarah Abbott are moored near Acton Bridge.SAM_0012 Parfield and Sarah Abbot
Built at Yarwoods yard in Northwich in the 1950s, the motor boats like Parfield could tow two Mere Class barges, working from Liverpool or Manchester carrying grain to the Kellogg’s factory at Water’s Meeting on the Bridgewater Canal. Known as “Dukers”, they continued to work on the Ship Canal and the Bridgewater until 1974 when the last water-borne cargo was delivered.

Under Acton Swing BridgeSAM_0015

Unlike the two swing bridges in Northwich, this has it’s pivot point centrally located on an island. The artificial cut carries through traffic, while the original river is occupied by moorings for the Acton Bridge Cruising Club.

They all have to be kept in working order, just occasionally a taller than normal boat needs to get upriver.

The day had brightened considerably by this time, but that northerly was still cold…

Dutton Lock was open for us as well, so we were in and through quickly.

Dutton Locks, with the derelict MV Chica on the right.SAM_0018 Dutton Locks
MV Chica sunk at her moorings here in March 1993, and has since became a bit of a local landmark, with her rather vague history lending a bit of mystique to her presence. There’s an excellent article here, by journalist Keith Langston.

Dropping down in Dutton Lock, fresh water shrimps franticly heading down as the water recedesSAM_0021 Shrimps in Dutton

Leaving Dutton Lock the river remains broad and deep, passing under the Grade II listed Dutton Railway Viaduct.

R’n’R heading into the wind as M2L appears in the distance under the viaductSAM_0026 Dutton Viaduct
At Frodsham the river branches off to the left down to Frodsham Lock, now derelict. This was a tidal lock, below the navigation was subject to tides in the Mersey Estuary.

Frodsham Cut off to the left.SAM_0037

By 1827, with more and more traffic using the river, this state of affairs was deemed unsatisfactory. A new cut, called the Weston Canal, was dug, from below Frodsham Cut to Weston Point Docks.

I’ve been a bit lazy up to now, referring to this waterway as the River Weaver. Strictly speaking it’s the River Weaver Navigation or RWN. Although there are long river sections, these are interrupted by man-made cuts for the locks, and this final one to bypass the meanders leading to the Mersey estuary. The river sections have been widened, deepened and had bank reinforcement work as well, so very little is in a natural state. Not that this detracts from it’s charm.

Now on the Weston Canal section of the River Weaver Navigation, we passed under Sutton Swing Bridge, still needing a coat or two of paint. It’s put to shame by those further upstream.

Shabby looking Sutton Swing Bridge in the background, railway bridge in the foreground.SAM_0045

From here the character of the Navigation changes, becoming industrial as chemical works start to crowd the northern bank. In keeping with the environment the sky has turned gloomy too. There are some high spots, though.

Cormorant fishing near RocksavageSAM_0048  Cormorant

Marsh Lock allows boats to get onto the Ship Canal, and ultimately into Manchester.

Marsh LockSAM_0051 Marsh Lock

Below the lock the Weaver runs in from the left, the Ship Canal comes in across the way and heads off to Manchester to the right, and the expanse of the Mersey is the other side of the distant embankment.

Wide view from Marsh LockPanorama from Marsh Lock

The industry runs alongside the canal all the way to end of the current navigation, at the low and locked swing bridge at the entrance to Weston Point Docks. Access is denied to the last 600 yards, through the docks to Delamere Lock and the alternative access to the Ship Canal.

Nearing the end….SAM_0054

……the end is nighSAM_0056 Weston Point

The docks are now owned by Eddie Stobart, but purely for their storage potential. There are no plans for water-borne haulage from here. A couple of years ago Carol (NB Corbiere) and I attempted to get to the Seamans Chapel, seen above, but got turned back by a very no-nonsense security guard.

In 1859 a short canal, the Runcorn and Weston, was completed to allow access to Runcorn Docks for smaller vessels, so they didn’t have to get involved with the coastal freighters using the Ship Canal and Weston Point. Another benefit was that boats were able to use a flight of locks up to the Bridgewater Canal.
 There were two flights of locks to link the two navigations; the first “old” flight dropped down directly to the tidal Mersey as it predated both the dock and the Ship Canal. The “new” flight was built later, dropping into the recently completed docks. Both were abandoned by 1966, and the new flight has disappeared under the approach road to the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge across Runcorn Gap. The old flight has been filled but is mostly intact, and there is an active restoration society keen on re-establishing the link.
With the locks re-opened and the Runcorn and Weston rescued from dereliction, another circular cruising ring would be created.

Derelict lock leading to the Runcorn and Weston CanalSAM_0059

We turned around, lined up for photo call (as you do…) then retraced our route.

Ready to return from Weston PointSAM_0062

We decided to head back to peace and quiet of Devil’s Garden, rather than stop at the busier Rocksavage or Sutton Bridge moorings. So we had about 5½ miles to cover before we stopped for the day.

M2L heading back under the M56SAM_0069 M56

Ann taking it easy on the bowSAM_0070 Ann at ease

It was gone 4 o’clock by the time we’d got tied up, after a long but very enjoyable day. We got together for a brew or something a little stronger depending on preference, then took the dogs out, getting back just after it got dark.

We had a quiet night, compared to the previous two, and had a steady start today, not needing to be at Dutton Locks to meet the lockie till noon.

Leaving Devil’s GardenSAM_0001 Leaving Devils Garden
Moore2Life had already left a little earlier, wanting to water up below the lock.

The bridge carrying the towpath over the weir stream at Dutton is unique, being constructed of laminated timber supporting the deck. A plywood bridge, then.

Dutton Horse BridgeSAM_0002 Dutton Horse Bridge

Mo, the lock-keeper was on hand and we were soon on our way again.

Out of Dutton, 45 minutes to SaltersfordSAM_0004 Away from Dutton

Mo waits for us with Saltersford Lock ready.SAM_0006 Dutton

The BW (soon to be C&RT) chaps working the locks are invariably cheerful and informative. Then again, who wouldn’t be, working here?

We turned the corner out of the lock and moored on Barnton Cut, where we’ll stay for a couple of nights. We’re booked back up the lift on Monday morning.

It’s been a very enjoyable few days down here on the river (whoops, there I go again!). By necessity it’s been a bit of a flyer, both R’n’R and M2L need to be back on the Shroppie by the end of the month. But I‘m pretty sure they’ll be back….

Locks 4, miles 25 (two days).

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