Yeah, back to the cool, breezy showery weather you’d expect at this time of year. Ah well, if it was warm and sunny every day, you wouldn’t appreciate it so much. Would you..?
We toddled off from Dover Locks-that-aren’t-there-any-more at around 09:45. Our first point of interest was Plank Lane Bridge. At one time operated by a bridge keeper, it’s now boater operated. Times are restricted to avoid disrupting the traffic during rush hour on this busy crossing.
Ready to annoy the motorists? Plank Lane Bridge
It didn’t take long to go through, Mags was poised to head through as soon as there was sufficient headroom.
Just beyond the bridge lies a new development on the site of Bickershaw Colliery which closed in 1990.
With a large waterspace connected to the canal it’s a mixed development of housing and small retail premises. The houses are built with solar panels already installed.
This area, once the source of power production, may actually soon produce it directly!
Another half-hour further on the canal enters Leigh, a town once geared almost exclusively to the cotton industry. Tall chimneys rose high above the textile mills of which only a few remain. And those that do have been given a new lease of life as offices, light industrial units or apartments.
Leigh Bridge, were we swap the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal for the Leigh Branch of the Bridgewater Canal.
Or bye, bye, in our case.
Immediately afterwards is the first of the stop-plank cranes, with planks already slung, ready to drop in and seal the canal.
With the Bridgewater being on one level a major breach would be disastrous without a means of sealing off the damaged section
Mather Lane Mill, built in 1882 is looking a bit forlorn, with broken windows and plastic sheeting blowing in the wind.
But no, the south-face shows the start of a major facelift.
I love the layer-cake brickwork of Leigh Spinners pair of mills to the south of the town, built in 1913 and 1923.
We caught up with a slower boat on the outskirts of Astley, the preserved headgear of the Astley Green Mining Museum can be seen through the trees.
We weren’t held up, though. As soon as we were through Astley Bridge he pulled over to let us pass. On this wide and deep waterway that was a lot easier than some we’ve been on!
Meg was getting restless as we passed the Bridgewater Marina at Boothstown, so Mags took the tiller while Meg and I walked for 10 minutes. I needed to stretch my legs and Meg needed a comfort break…
Shortly after reboarding we passed the new stop lock, installed over the winter at the site of an old swing bridge.
Pairs of opposing gates can be closed to protect either end of the canal.
It was the construction of this that screwed up our winter plans. When we came back down from Ripon in the Autumn we made the decision to head back to the Midlands via the L&L rather than the Huddersfield or Rochdale Canals. Checking the CRT Winter Stoppages showed that it was do-able, but I reckoned without this stoppage on the Bridgewater. So we turned around to head back on the Trent, getting to Leeds just before the big floods… So here are, back where we planned to be four months ago.
Worsley is the next point of interest…
The Packet House where passengers used to board the regular service boats to Manchester, with the entrance to The Delph and the Duke of Bridgewater’s mines to the right.
Worsley Dry Docks, believed to be the oldest on the inland network
The lighthouse on Monton Corner still stands.
New residential developments occupy what were demolition sites when we last came this way
Past the built-up areas of Monton and Patricroft, the canal has to pass over the Manchester Ship Canal. A fixed aqueduct would have prevented large vessels using the Ship Canal to get to the Manchester docks, so a swing aqueduct was installed.
Barton Swing Aqueduct
Up to Manchester…
…down to the Mersey estuary.
The road crosses on a smaller version of the swing aqueduct.
We were lucky to be here on the rare occasion that a couple of boats passed through in 2009.
Off the aqueduct and there’s a long straight through Trafford Park, with the Trafford Centre on the right.
There’s usually several boats lurking outside the canal entrance to the complex, but there’s a new sheriff in town.. The canal authority has appointed a new moorings warden, and he’s cracking the whip, apparently.
Just before Waters Meeting, where the main line joins the branch to Preston Brook and the Trent and Mersey Canal, sits the large Kelloggs factory.
Waters Meeting, we’re turning right, away from Manchester
Another mile or so saw us pulling in, just past the Watch House Cruising Club headquarters. We’ve not stopped here before. We’re above the Mersey valley, where there’s lots of footpaths in this narrow green belt between Stretford and Sale.
Should be a shorter day tomorrow.
Locks 0, miles 15½