Yesterday morning we left Devil’s Garden, heading downstream to the current limit of the navigation.
About a mile and a half downstream the channel forks, the left and disused route being Frodsham Cut.
During one of the earlier stages of the navigation’s development a loop of the river just a little further on was bypassed by this artificial channel, which included a lock. Boats would wait here for the tide running up from the Mersey Estuary before venturing out towards Liverpool.
But further improvements at this end of the navigation involved the construction of the Weston Canal, opened in 1827 and leaving the old river course above Sutton Bridge. This new, wide waterway allowed vessels into Runcorn Docks and the deep water navigable channel in the estuary.
Sutton Weaver, the river goes off to the left over a weir, the Weston Canal carries straight on.
There used to be a flood lock here, but there’s no sign of it now.
On the Weston Canal, approaching Sutton Swing Bridge
We pass under three bridges in quick succession here as we get nearer Runcorn. After Sutton Bridge there’s a railway bridge, then the newer M56 motorway bridge.
Runcorn Rowing Club’s boathouse is at Rock Savage, at the site of an old swing bridge. The pivot post and an annular ring gear are still there.
From here we lose the woods and fields and enter into the industrialised fringes of Runcorn. The navigation runs alongside a gas-fired power station, then a couple of miles of chemical works.
Weston Marsh Lock gives access to the Ship Canal and the Mersey without going up to Weston Dock.
We pulled in on the pontoon here for me to have a look out across the wide expanse of the Weaver/Mersey confluence and the Ship Canal.
From the lock – the Weaver comes in from the left, dead ahead is the MSC heading up from Eastham Locks, and it goes off to the right. Over on the left in the far distance is the Wirral Peninsula.
Not far now, another 15 minutes, and we reach as far as we can go.
The docks are now used by Eddie Stobbart for storage and there’s no access beyond the low-level bridge ahead. Several years ago we moored here, intending to visit the Seamen’s Chapel, but were turned back by a very insistent security guard.
Just to the right is the derelict entrance lock of the Runcorn and Weston Canal.
The short canal connected the Weston Canal to a transhipment basin at the lower end of the Runcorn Locks, which rose about 70 feet to join the end of the Runcorn Arm of the Bridgewater Canal. Opened in 1859 it was in use until the 1960s, allowing smaller boats to get through the docks without facing the perils of the larger ships on the MSC. But it’s now derelict, parts have been filled in and the locks leading up to the Bridgewater have also been lost to development.
So that’s it, end of the road. We retraced our steps and pulled in on the Sutton Weaver moorings, just upstream of Sutton Bridge.
This morning we turned around to head a short way back downstream.
Handy, these nice, wide canals.
Wide enough for a U turn!
Back under Sutton Swing Bridge
I’d spotted some logs up on the bank near the motorway bridge, so that’s why we were going back. With those securely on the roof we did another U turn and pulled in next to Sutton bridge to fill with water and dispose of the rubbish.
Just 10 years between them…
And no, Mags wouldn’t mind me saying so. She pointed it out!
Heading back upstream.
We’d decided to stay at Devil’s Garden again, once again in splendid isolation.
We’ve not seen a moving boat for the last three days, but this evening the rowing club were out and about.
Half a dozen eights and fours went past, trailed by a safety boat. They made us rock more than a fleet of narrowboats!
We’ve booked to go back up the locks tomorrow morning, so should be back in Northwich later in the day.
Locks 0, miles 10½ (2 days)