Thursday, May 17, 2018

Three tunnels, one (little) lock and a change of canal.

We stayed at Anderton till this morning, Val, John and John’s sister Jan came over to spend the afternoon with us, bringing a package of mail with them. We had a good afternoon, catching up. After all, we’ve not seen them for a month!
We’ve had fine days but cool nights. We’re on the cusp of whether to light the fire in the evening or not. At the moment we’re making do with firing up the central heating for an hour if necessary, but I’m not sure if that’ll last…
In fact this morning we sorely missed not having the stove lit. With outside temperatures down to 11° the inside had dropped to 15, far too low for Mags! Ninety minutes running from the heating got it up to approaching 20°, and by then we were feeling the influence of the sun. Unfortunately we’d moored with trees to the east, so didn’t get any direct sun until later.
Anyway, we got under way at around 10:20, having said our goodbyes to the lovely Peter and Jennifer. We may meet up again later in the year.DSCF3404

Past the boat lift

Leaving Anderton the canal enters a wooded section below Barnton, the air thick with the scent of wild garlic.

The canal swings around the awkward turn below Bridge 202, then into the basin leading to Barnton Tunnel.DSCF3410

Both this and Salterford Tunnel have difficult entrances; you have to be almost in the portal before you can see if there is oncoming traffic. Not a problem at the latter, it’s timed passage anyway. But here it’s pot-luck and Sod’s Law says there had to be a boat coming. I’d just got the cabin front in and had to reverse out again, the trouble was that the prop screwed the counter to the left, and the fore-end went right, just catching the inside of the entrance. I thought I’d got away with just pushing the chimney over, but no such luck… 

Ah well, it’s only paint. At least the cratch cover wasn’t damaged.

The oncoming boat emerged 10 minutes later…DSCF3412

…followed by another going quite slowly.

We did eventually go through, crossing the basin between the two tunnels and diving into the gloom of Saltersford just in time. Although this is shorter than Barnton it has a kink in the middle so you can’t see the far end. To prevent boats facing off the passage is timed; northbound we could enter at the top of the hour until 20 minutes past; southbound boats have from half-past until 10-to.

Salterford Tunnel

The kink in the bore gives an eerie effect, with the light from the far end reflecting off the damp walls. I’ve tried to catch it on camera several times and failed. Today was another failure…

Out of the tunnel we’ve more woods as the canal clings to the slope above the Weaver Valley. And more aromatic wild garlic…

After Bridge 206 the woods fall away and there are fine views of the river valley through gaps in the towpath hedge.DSCF3424

The Black Prince hire base at Bartington.

Just past the boatyard I spotted some young coots, the first this year. But by the time I’d got close enough to get the camera on them, Mum and Dad coot had ushered them into the reeds out of the way of the big, noisy tin thing.

It’s a very pleasant run along here, especially on a fine day. The site of the large breach in 2012 now has some splendid moorings with good views.DSCF3431


The cygnets of the local swan family are already being taught how to beg from boats…DSCF3432
They’ll be tapping on the hull in no time!

The Trent and Mersey Canal ends at Preston Brook, though where precisely is a bit of a mystery. There’s a shallow stop lock near Dutton Dry Dock which is usually an indication of a junction, but the maps show that the navigation is still the T&M as it enters Preston Brook Tunnel. It’s the Bridgewater though, when it comes out the other end. The actual end-to-end connection is somewhere under the hill… It’s actually just inside the northern portal, the “Mile 0” milepost stands alongside the horse path over the hill above the tunnel mouth.

Dutton Dry Dock with Dutton Lock just around the corner.DSCF3437

Preston Brook Tunnel, south end.

The three tunnels at this end of the canal will all accommodate craft of 13’ beam, although modifications to the stop lock probably realistically limit them to around 10’. This was to allow barges from the Mersey and the Weaver to access the salt works around Middlewich.

By the time we were through the lock two boats had emerged coming south and it was very nearly 1 o’clock. Time for us to pass through to Preston Brook.
This one’s dead easy, straight and deep so is quick to go through. They give you 20 minutes on the timing, but you can do it in less than 15…

That’s it, now on the Bridgewater.

This short section, up to the Runcorn Arm Junction, was built in 1776 to meet the newly opened Trent and Mersey Canal. The original Parliamentary application to connect the Bridgewater to Runcorn and docks down on the Mersey was modified to include this important link to The Potteries.

Preston Brook Bridge, with Claymore Navigation’s base and the M56 crossing visible in the distance.DSCF3442

Passing under the motorway and past the Runcorn Arm the character of the canal changes to the more typical wide and deep Bridgewater.

This first couple of miles from Preston Brook has three major landmarks on the horizon.

Runcorn’s Victorian water tower…

…Fiddlers Ferry Power Station’s cooling towers across the Mersey Estuary…DSCF3445

… and the futuristic tower of the Nuclear Structure Facility at Daresbury Laboratory.DSCF3447
Two of the three are no longer in use…

With 46 lock-free miles and several aqueducts, the consequences of a breach on this canal could be dire. The company has emergency equipment in place, many bridges have cranes and packs of stop planks alongside ready to block the canal should the need arise.DSCF3448

We ended the day just past the small village of Moore, on a bit of open, sunny towpath.DSCF3449

Tomorrow we’ll head to Lymm.

Locks 1, miles 10½


Adam said...

That house by the tunnel was for sale when we were there in September. Did you spot the towers of the new bridge over the Mersey? They join the other towers on the skyline.

Sue said...

I can smell that wild garlic from this side of the computer screen!

The Thames is very void of garlic in fact I have found none in the few years we have been here. I know exactly where all the wild garlic is while you are cruising too!

Bluebell Wood close to Ferry Meadows on the River Nene is awesome for the stuff as well... Gosh I wish I could find some!

Geoff and Mags said...

Hi Adam. The house is still for sale... I didn't think to look for the new bridge towers. That'll be another landmark to join the three, then!
Yes Sue, it was very - pungent!