Monday, May 05, 2014

Downstream to Sutton Bridge, back up to Acton Bridge

Ginny (NB Wilvir) and I exchanged texts on Saturday morning, the upshot of which was us cruising downstream to join them at Sutton Swing Bridge. First, though, we had to go up to Northwich for a bit of shopping.

From the moorings below the lift it’s only a mile and a half to Town Wharf in Northwich.

Leaving on a bright, sunny morning.SAM_9298

The sunken concrete barge doesn’t seem to get any worse year on year, it just gets more overgrown.

Northwich Town Swing Bridge ahead, the wharf on the left.SAM_9303

There’s a boat on the low bit of the wharf, so we had to pull onto the high bit. No problem, as Mags doesn’t need to get off. It wasn’t designed for narrowboats…

Shopping done we turned around and headed downstream, past the lift and the salt works, once supplied by water, now the loading equipment silent and unused.SAM_9315
 Cruising the waterway now, it’s hard to believe that as recent as 1984, 1000 ton freighters were coming up here.

The navigation is actually more canal than river, successive improvements to the river since 1720 have seen the channel widened, deepened and often diverted.
Leaving the chemical works behind a wholly artificial channel is taken to Saltersford Lock, bypassing a meandering river section.

Barnton Cut, although you wouldn’t think so…SAM_9322

Saltersford LocksSAM_9323

From Saltersford it’s around 45 minutes to the next, Dutton Locks. The valley along here is open and flat, with the Trent and Mersey Canal just to the north and 50 feet higher.SAM_9326

River crossings are few, and most of those are swing bridges, installed during the last upgrades.

Acton Swing Bridge rotates about a central pivot.

There’s plenty of headroom for narrowboats.

Dutton Locks were open ready for us, as the keeper at Saltersford had rung ahead for us.

Dutton Locks, MV Chica on the rightSAM_9332

I don’t think it’ll be long now before the wheelhouse succumbs to gravity…

In Dutton Locks…

…and out again.SAM_9335
The towpath bridge of the returning river channel, and Dutton Railway Arches carrying the West Coast Main Line, in the distance.

Under the railway.
Twenty arches carry the railway over a span of 500 yards. It was completed in 1837, and is a Grade II listed structure.

Pickerings Wharf

When the river was first made navigable Pickerings Lock was the last lock before it became tidal. The lock was on a loop of the river that was bypassed during later work, and the non-tidal navigation lengthened to Frodsham.

A swing bridge was installed to connect both sides of the “new” cut, but this has been removed.

Swing bridge abutments

The route passes through a narrow wooded length before the valley opens out again at Devil’s Garden.

Devil’s Garden, fine, popular moorings here…. empty today.SAM_9341
Considering it’s a Bank Holiday weekend, there’s surprisingly little boat traffic about.

Frodsham Cut was dug to straighten up and avoid a tidal loop of the river course, but was made redundant in 1827 when the Weston Canal was opened, taking the navigation around to Weston Point Docks below Runcorn.

Frodsham Cut, a boom prevents boater accessSAM_9348

Access to the Mersey Estuary was initially through Weston Marsh Lock, but, with the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894, a short extension and new lock was built, connecting to the new canal. Another canal, the Runcorn and Weston, climbed through 10 locks to meet the Runcorn Arm of the Bridgewater canal. This is derelict, but a successful campaign to re-open the locks would inevitably lead to the link to the Weaver Navigation being restored.
Now that would make a good round trip…

A little further on a fork to the left carries the river channel over a weir and out into the Mersey Estuary.

River channel to the Mersey.SAM_9349
Dead ahead is the Weston Canal. Strictly speaking the river joins the Ship Canal but as the canal sits at mean high water level in the tidal estuary at this point, the distinction is unnecessary.

Just around the corner we pulled in and joined Bill and Ginny (NB Wilvir) and Steve and Barbara (NB Silver Knot), for the afternoon.

Steve, Barbara, Ginny and Bill

Although the day started fine and warm it got cooler in the afternoon, but Mags still managed an hour sat outside nattering before she’d had enough.

We took our leave of them yesterday afternoon, just a short cruise to take us back to the moorings at Devil’s Garden.

It’s quieter here, and there’s plenty of room for Meg to stretch her legs. The moorings were still empty as we approached, but then a boat came, and another, and another… There were five of us there last night.

Devil’s Garden this morning.Panorama_0
Just the tops of the boats to be seen.

Looking across the Weaver valleySAM_9372
We’ve decided to break the return journey to Anderton into three very short days, so today we aimed for Acton Bridge, with just Dutton Locks to deal with.

The lock ready for us…SAM_9377

…up and ready to leave

Moored below Acton Swing Bridge.SAM_9379

Another day that started warm and bright turned grey and cool later. Rain forecast later, too. Never mind.

Thanks for the comments on the last post, folks. Greygal, hi, yes it's lovely down here, but don't tell everyone! Seriously though, we try to get down here for a "Weaver fix" at least once a year. This is a bit of a flying visit, or it might not be? We'll be waiting for you, Lesley and Joe. You'll not escape this time! Thanks for the kind words, Louisette. We aim to please...

And on the previous post, Hi Sue, Simon. Yeah, how lucky can you get, eh? Simon, Sue mentioned the nasty swans at this time of year, go steady on your ride along the Monty. Enjoy! 

Locks 3, miles 18½ (three days)

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