Monday, September 14, 2020

Lost locks, a banana bonanza and an uplifting end to our Weaver excursion.

I really, really should get back to blogging more regularly. Then you won’t have to lose an hour of your life reading what is shaping up to be another long, rambling post!

Right then, where were we? Ahh yes, Sutton Bridge, last Tuesday. We took the day off as intended on Wednesday, Amber and I had a walk up river to see what there was still to see of Sutton Locks. Not a lot as it happens.

Sutton Locks were built as the entrance to the Weston Canal to protect the water levels in Weston Point and Runcorn Docks. Frodsham Lock had been in existence for several years before the Weston Canal, maintaining a navigable head of water above the tidal estuary. But I’m guessing that it’s associated weir wasn’t high enough to cope with seasonal flooding and high spring tides, so Sutton Locks acted as a barrier to these variable levels. Interestingly the two adjacent and different-sized chambers had pairs of opposing gates so that boats could lock up or down from the canal depending on the river level.

Using the excellent mapping system on the National Library of Scotland (https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=16&lat=53.30215&lon=-2.69697&layers=6&b=1)you can see the original arrangement and the current situation…

From 1898…

…and now

The locks are to the right if you’re struggling, clearly marked on the OS map.

The locks are now buried in the trees and bushes in the bend of the channel, and the spit of land separating the locks from the weir stream is considerably shorter. With the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 the Weaver Estuary was no longer tidal so Sutton Locks were no longer needed. The channel to the south-east of the locks was opened up, removing a good lump of the lock island. The locks were left to gently decay into oblivion. But not before they were joined by several old, redundant work boats, some narrowboats, some Mersey/Weaver flats. These versatile cargo vessels were the mainstay of the carrying fleet on the Weaver and up and down the Mersey, sail driven in the open waters and drawn by a team of men or draught animals in confined channels. As trade decreased and moved to larger, motor-driven boats the old ones were decommissioned and often left to rot in out of the way places. One of these graveyards is the disused lock cut at Sutton.

1975 Image purloined from https://www.gooseygoo.co.uk/site/mersey-flat-daresbury/

One of these sits in the chamber of the small lock, closest to the towpath. It’s the corpse of Daresbury, built in 1772 and used on the Weaver for coal carrying. She was still in use in 1956, there’s apparently a photo (that I can’t locate…) of her in Northwich at that time. By 1985 she was no longer needed and was sunk in the lock chamber and left to rot. A survey was carried out by Navy divers with a view to raising and restoring the hull, but it was found to be too far gone.  

There’s very little to see now, it’s probably clearer in the winter when the foliage has died back, but there’s only barely visible copings to spot from the towpath. And a bit of the timber of the old Daresbury.

The transom, I think.

flooded hold…

…and ironwork off the fore end.

 

The reed bed obscures all of the other craft dumped in the cut.

On Thursday morning we made the trip back upriver, not all the way, just up Dutton Lock and stopping at Acton Bridge.

Dutton Railway Viaduct

Bridge over Dutton weir stream.

Amber relaxing aboard…

…and ashore.

We had a Tesco delivery scheduled for arrival at three o’clock on Friday and it arrived handily. It was only after the driver had left and we were unpacking that  realised that the six bananas I’d ordered actually turned out to be six packs of six!

That’s a lot of bananas!

We do like bananas, but for breakfast dinner and tea for the next week would have been too much, so I separated them, wrapped the stems and stored them in the cool of the wine cellar.

It’s supposed to keep them fresh for a fortnight. We’ll see…

In the evening, after packing away the groceries and filling the water tank we left the noisy environs of the bridge and moved up to the peace and quiet below Saltersford Lock.

Approaching Saltersford Lock on a beautiful evening

Saturday saw us up the lock in company with another three boats, and stopped on the grass at the nature park just past the lift for the weekend. This morning was our last on the river for a bit, our passage up the boat lift was booked for 11:30 and we went up with another boat.

Heading for the lift

Passing the down caisson at the halfway point.

At the top we swung right and slotted into a gap just vacated by someone going down. How lucky was that!

We’d only been tied up for a half hour when Halsall came chugging along so I flagged them down, filled the fuel tank and swapped an empty gas bottle.

 

We’ll head back towards Middlewich tomorrow.

Locks 2, miles 10½

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