Friday, June 22, 2018

A long day on the longest day…

Summer Solstice yesterday for our trip up the Wigan Locks, and it looked at one point that we might have to use most of the 17 hours of daylight available! The locks are currently on restricted passage to save water, opening at 08:00 until 09:30 in the morning, so we were off at just before 8, with one lock to do before the bottom of the main flight of 21 locks.

Rob on Whippet Express heading up towards Henhurst LockDSCF4237

We weren’t the first though. A wide beam led the convoy, followed by the first pair of narrowboats, then us sharing with the whippets, and finally another pair of “narrers”.

Under Henhurst Bridge to the first lock of the dayDSCF4238

By the time we’d got the first couple of locks under our belts Rob and I had perfected the “breasted up entry into the lock chambers” technique. It’s a lot quicker to do this than to take the boats in individually.

Each of the locks has an inscribed stone on the offside just below the lower gates showing the lock number.
Twenty-one to go.

Quadrant gearing on the lower gates where there’s no room for full-length balance beams.

We’d been told by one of the lockies on duty that levels were low on the flight. We’d already scraped the barnacles off in the lower pound below L21, and the pound between 82 and 81 (Locks 18 and 17) was having water put in from further up the flight.

Waiting for water
The leading boat is ahead, in Lock 83 are Ellie May and Eeyore, and we’re in the pound below. We had about 45 minutes wait until there was sufficient water in the pounds ahead to proceed.

Up around Lock 80 we met the first pair of boats coming down, They’ve made better time than us…DSCF4244
One of the pair coming down was Paneke, and we were hailed by Jane and Roger. Good to see you, albeit briefly. Hope you had a good run down the rest of the flight.

The tower on the right looks part of the local scenery, but is in fact very recent and disguises a mobile phone mast.

Jane, being somewhat vertically challenged, had trouble with the high-mounted paddle gear on some of the top gates. So I lent her a stool…DSCF4243

The rest of the locks went mainly without incident, we just got caught on the cill around Lock 70, but our helpful volunteer, Steve, dropped some water through, just enough to get us in the lock without draining the pound above.

In Lock 73

The higher we got the more helpers there were around. The lockies had rung around, asking volunteers if they were available. Several answered the call.


Another low pound, but passable


Just one more to go as we pass the Kirkless Hall InnDSCF4261

That’s it, pulling out of the top lock

We entered Lock 86 (22) at 08:20, and left Lock 65 (1) at 14:11. Nearly 6 hours, not a record by any stretch of the imagination.

Rob and Jane set off on the long pound above, while we pulled in to top up the water tank before following on. The canal runs along the ridge above Wigan, now over 200 feet higher than where we started out this morning.DSCF4265

We caught up with them near Haigh Hall, moored opposite the golf course.DSCF4267

After getting sorted out we had Rob and Jane in for a glass of wine, which turned into a bottle or three!, Well, we’d earned it, hadn’t we?

This morning dawned bright and sunny another good day for cruising.

Coot (cute??) chick across the canal this morning.DSCF4269

Views looking west.

There are good moorings at Red Rock, just north of the bridge…DSCF4275

…but I wouldn’t count on getting a pint at the pub.DSCF4274

A capped colliery shaft in a field alongside the canal is a reminder of the area’s industrial past.DSCF4272

It’s quiet up here, the long lock flight at Wigan puts some boaters off from coming this far. But the clear water encourages weed growth which gets wrapped around the prop.
A quick squirt of reverse shifts it, though.

White Bear Marina through Bridge 69

Up from the marina there’s a long line of permanent moorings.

Porpoise looks in need of some serious TLCDSCF4283
A clear case of inadequate surface preparation…

We re-entered Lancashire between Addlington and Chorley.DSCF4285
Since Appley Bridge we’d been in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan.

Bridge 74a carries the Manchester to Preston line, and is currently in the process of being electrificated. (just made that up…)

The programme should have been completed by December 2016, then December 2017, then January 2018. Looks like it’s been put back again, unless someone’s been nicking cables…

The canal skirts around to the east of Chorley, then ducks under the M61.DSCF4289

Party boat Boatel at Botany Bay boatyardDSCF4290

Just ahead is the Botany Bay Outlet Village, housed in the old British Leyland Truck and Bus parts factory. It started life as a cotton mill, and currently houses 5 floors of “retail delight”. There’s plans for further development on the site

We pulled in here, and were joined a little later by the whippets who had stopped at White Bear Marina for a pump-out.
A day off tomorrow, probably. 

Locks 22, miles 3¾ yesterday, another 7¾ today.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Up to Wigan

Yesterday we moved the short distance up to Parbold, getting moored just through Parbold Bridge. It’s a bit lighter here than under the trees to the west of the bridge.

Fine decorative brickwork on this row of cottagesDSCF4180

A hasty shot of a moorhen chick, with a parent to the right in the reeds.DSCF4182
There doesn’t seem to be many about this year, or maybe it’s just the area we’re in.

The banks along here are stone-built, leaning back at an angle for support. Every so often there’s a short section that leans back even further, leaving a shallow slope for clumsy boat-horses to climb back out on…

Moored at Parbold after an hour or so.

The “Whippets”, Rob and Jane, arrived later in the afternoon as we’d arranged, and we agreed to get off today despite the rather damp forecast. So at 10:30 we were on the move, after I‘d given the local beggars breakfast.

Nearly out of frame, this kestrel living up to it’s alternative name of “windhover” as it looks for prey in the field alongside.
There was a good breeze for it to hover in, too.

There was a pair of kingfishers hunting along the canal and I tried to get a picture of at least one of them, but the best I managed was a blurry shot from about 25 yards away. Not worth reproducing here.

The first lock of the day was Appley, very deep as it replaced two shallower chambers, now derelict alongside.

The lower chamber of the derelict Appley Locks on the left, the newer, deeper one just around the corner.DSCF4204
And it’s just started to rain… Not heavy but fine drizzle, blown on the breeze.

Told you it was deep…

The other side of Appley Bridge village is a swing bridge, the only one of three that is still in use.

Rob and Jane led off from the lock, it was easier for them to do the bridge as Mags was sitting this one out. She’s not too good today, but she’s saving herself for the Wigan flight tomorrow.

Whippet Express coming through Finch Mill Swing BridgeDSCF4208

The other two bridges, Ranicars and Fisher’s, are both fixed in the open position, and aren’t likely to be closed any time soon. It’s a nice spot for mooring along here, too.

Near Ranicar’s Swing Bridge

The locks come steadily along here as we follow the valley of the Douglas as it heads towards Wigan.
The next is Dean Locks, once again with a derelict chamber alongside the active one. It’d be easy to make a mistake and go for the overgrown one on the left, not knowing that the proper one is in front of the cottage.

It’d be an idyllic spot if not for the M6 running overhead…

Through Crooke

Just the other side of Crooke Bridge are moored a pair of restored Leeds and Liverpool short boats, Viktoria and Ambush.DSCF4219

Both these boats, built in 1934 and 1935 respectively, were used to carry grain to Ainscough’s Mill in Burscough.
Viktoria is an unpowered butty, hence the large rudder blade.

Derelict chamber alongside Ell Meadow LockDSCF4223
I don’t know why these locks were duplicated. I thought at first that they’d been replaced because they were the same length as those east of Wigan, 60 feet. These west of Wigan will take a full length 72 foot pair of narrowboats. But pacing them off shows that they are of the longer length. So maybe they were built to speed up traffic on this busy section?

Pagefield Lock

Into Wigan, with the infamous Wigan Pier on the right, Trencherfield Mill ahead and The Orwell just out of sight to the left.DSCF4231


We pulled in after going up Wigan Bottom Lock, number 23 of the flight. So now we’ve only got 22 to do tomorrow… Early start.

Locks 5, miles 7

Monday, June 18, 2018

Back across the Ribble.

As it turned out we didn’t move down to the upper basin of the Ribble Link until the morning, we weren’t due to start until after ten so we had plenty of time.

Leaving our Saturday night mooring, a bit grey and breezy but dry.DSCF4128

The rather obscure entrance to the top basin. DSCF4133

There were already three boats waiting, so we breasted up to NB Duke to wait for our extra crew and the CRT chaps to set up the locks.

We had a wait of about an hour and a half before we were lining up with Dave and Sue on Duke to reverse into the top chamber of the triple staircase. Our guests for the day had arrived had arrived and were installed in strategic locations…

Doug and James, late of NB Chance.
Chance was sold last year, so now they get their boat fixes when they can…

Gauging the Ripple sculpture alongside the locksDSCF4136

Another narrowboat had arrived, so we had two pairs of “narrers” and one wide beam in convoy heading down Savick Brook.

Heading off down the brook while Duke reverses out of the bottom chamber of the staircase.DSCF4139
Anything longer than around 50’ needs to reverse through the locks, as the basin below isn’t really big enough to turn in, and the exit is at a sharp angle to the left of the picture.

The tide was out but just starting to flood as we headed down through the locks, exposing the slimy mudbanks at the sides.DSCF4141 


Below Lock 8 we had a short wait on the holding pontoon while the water rose enough to cover the cill of the sea lock with a sufficient level of water, then we were off at twenty to two.DSCF4143

Widebeam Rosina breasting the flow at the sea lockDSCF4144
The tide is coming in with a vengeance now.

Swinging out onto the Ribble estuary

It’s about 3¼ miles from the entrance to Savick Brook to the turning in to the River Douglas at Astland Lamp. Depending on how fast you want to go against the incoming tide it can take an hour or more. We wound it on a bit and were entering the Douglas after 45 minutes.DSCF4146


This boat heading upstream at a rate of knots gave us a friendly toot as he passed…

…then gave a tow to Rosina
It was pre-arranged, the chap on the wide-beam was concerned about his boat’s capabilities against the tide.

The Astland Lamp, marker for turning in to the Douglas.DSCF4153
We did a sneaky and left it on the right hand rather than going around it, but with the tide near it’s top there was little risk of running aground. We still kept well clear of the bank…

Coming up the Douglas, easy going at the top of the tide.DSCF4154

We’d swapped places a bit coming along the wide water, and were now behind Areandare, and made sure that we were fairly close as we approached Tarleton Lock. As we got nearer it was clear that the waters of the tidal Douglas and the canal above the lock had levelled off and both ends of the lock were open.
I’d eased back a bit, but with frantic waving from the lockside I opened up again, and we passed through the chamber with moments to spare before they had to close up to prevent loss of water from the canal. The gates were shut immediately we were on the canal, so the following boats would have to pass through in a conventional manner.DSCF4156

Areandare had pulled in, but the chap on board walked up and opened the swing bridge for us, and we could push on up to Rufford.
The excitement wasn’t over though. Approaching Fearns Swing Bridge we could see a plume of smoke rising on the towpath side of the canal and a fire engine heading along a track towards it. The fire was in a rubbish heap, a couple of straw bales and some timber was smouldering away.DSCF4159

They had to run a hose across the bridge, so we waited while they got it under control.

Doug and James had left their car near the top basin where we set off, and had planned to take a train back to Preston from Rufford. But with the current “difficulties” Northern Rail is having with it’s timetables, all Sunday trains had been cancelled and their was no bus service. So Doug had arranged a taxi, but while we waiting for the firepeople to do their stuff he got talking to a family on the towpath who came from Preston and were quite willing to take him back with them. You know what they say, every cloud has a silver lining – even a smoke cloud!
So Doug set off with his Samaritans and a slightly depleted crew headed for Rufford, tying up on the visitor moorings there at a quarter past five.DSCF4162

Doug arrived back with the car a little later, and we sat down to eat and drink and chat for a couple of hours before they had to leave us.

A good day all round, we had a drop of light rain as we came down the staircase locks but that was all. And with Doug and James to help with the locks and bridges, Mags and I had an easy trip too. Thanks guys.

We had a quiet night, in bed just after 10. This morning was grey again, but we were on the move soon after 9 , intending to be tied up again before lunch above German’s Lock. As we set off I spotted a boat heading up behind us, so waited in Rufford Lock for them to join us.DSCF4164

The pound above was very low, the landings for Marsh Meadow Swing Bridge were too shallow to get on so I had to leap the gap.

We scraped bottom a couple of times before we reached Chicken Lock, where a boat had broken down on the lock landing.

Looking over at Winter Hill to the east.

Wendy Woo II with engine trouble
Fortunately the lady off the boat we were locking with, Ginally, had walked up to set the lock and it was almost empty so we didn’t need to pull in.

Coming up German’s Lock, with the Leeds and Liverpool clough top paddlesDSCF4171

Mags and I had a chat and decided to press on with such good locking companions. So we toddled on in company, up the last four locks to the top of the Rufford Branch and the junction with the main line of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Waiting below Lock 2 for a boat coming down.DSCF4172
No shortage of water up here…

There was a volunteer lockie on here as well, keeping things running smoothly, and we were up Lock 2 and heading side by side into Lock 1 in short order.

Up Lock 1

At the top we pulled in to fill with water while Ginally turned left under the junction bridge to head for Parbold.DSCF4176 
A very pleasant couple and effective lock partners too. Sorry though not to get their names.

The junction is an almost classic canal scene, with a row of canal cottages and a large but disused and overgrown dry dock.DSCF4174


With the tank full we followed Ginally, through Glover’s Swing Bridge and moored up at the Ring O’ Bells just a little further along.

Tomorrow we’ll head to Parbold.

Yesterday – Locks 9, miles 17, today - Locks 7, miles 3¾