Monday, May 30, 2011

Lazy days…

Unlike some! We’ve been keeping an eye on those boats doing The BCN Marathon this weekend, particularly NB Indigo Dream.

No, it’s not running, it’s by boat on the Birmingham Canal Network, visiting as many obscure branches, arms and loops as possible, going through as many locks as you can manage, all in 24 hours cruising! Over 50 miles and 93 locks is no mean achievement, even with the excellent crew they had aboard. Well done Sue for the hour by hour account of your trip, I had the maps out tracing your route.

Sue and Richard support a charity which specialises in rehoming retired greyhounds, as do Sara and Andy, part of this weekend’s crew. They chose to do the challenge this year to raise money for the charity, and you can sponsor them here.

Once again, well done.

We’ve done nothing really. Some good long walks with Meg around the Anderton Country Park, along the river and the canal. We’ve stayed down on the river near the boat lift to keep out of the way of the Bank Holiday traffic up on the canal.

I’m going to do a bit of reconstruction at the back of the boat, changing our current in-line bed to a cross-bed, so we will be sleeping across the boat. This will free up some space to enable me to build another wardrobe and a drawer unit. So I’ve been drawing up plans and making up shopping lists for the timber and bits and pieces needed.

It’s pretty miserable weather today, heavy rain although there’re still a few boats about. We’ll be going back up on the lift tomorrow to do a little job at Uplands.

I’m going to be running the Great North Run again this September, aiming to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. So if you feel like parting with some more of that hard-earned cash it will be going to another good cause. Simply click on the link on the right and it’ll take you to my Justgiving page. (If you’re reading this in a feed reader you’ll have to go to the main page at, sorry)

Running Man

Thanks in anticipation.

Locks 0, miles 0

Friday, May 27, 2011

Shopping and an eye test….

We left our Barnton Cut mooring at around midday today, with just a short cruise to Northwich to do.

Although the river is mostly rural, reminders of why it was made navigable in 1732 crop up regularly.

Brunner Mond salt works. (previously ICI, now Tata Chemicals, Europe)

Deck gear on a C1940’s concrete barge.

These were built using reinforced concrete to save precious steel after WWII.

We had odd showers this morning, but it’s improved considerably this afternoon, and we’ve even had some sun.

Northwich Town Swing Bridge, with Town Wharf on the left.

We moored on the wharf, just a couple of minutes from the pedestrianised High Street. Mags went into Specsavers for her eye test, while I went up to Sainsbury’s for something for tea and a joint for Sunday lunch.

Arriving back on the boat we had a cup of tea before heading back downstream. Northwich is OK for an overnight stop, but the best moorings are through the swing bridge, on the right. It’s too noisy on the wharf. But we chose to head back and moor near the boat lift.

Anderton Lift, the aqueducts linking the lift structure to the Trent and Mersey Canal are clear to see.

Witton Brook joins the river under a graceful span just upstream from the lift. During the reconstruction of the river to allow navigation, this stream was made passable, through one lock, for about ¾ of a mile.

Witton Brook

Boats on the move near Winnington.

Locks 0, miles 4

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Down on the Lift

We moved the couple of miles into Anderton yesterday, mooring near the boat lift. I wanted to have a chat with Dave at Uplands Marina about a little project…. More on that later.

This morning we toddled along to the services to top up and empty the relevant tanks, and had an interesting time turning around in the strong wind. We tended to go sideways every time I tried to send the fore-end round, until I stemmed it up to give me a chance to put the stern across. It wasn’t too bad, then.

We motored back to the holding moorings for the lift, and I went down to the booking office to see if there was a slot for us today. “13:40 do you?” Just ½ an hour to wait. That’ll do nicely, thankyou.

We went down solo, with the brisk wind skewing us diagonally across the caisson.

On the aqueduct, looking east along the river.

The paired caissons (tanks) are linked to the canal by short aqueducts, isolated by guillotine gates.

Looking back to the canal, with the first gate closed......

...before the one into the caisson opens.

Half-way down and the rising tank comes level with our dropping one.

The two tanks counterbalance each other, with very little extra power required, although the system now allows for each side to operate independently.

Near river level, looking back up at the rising caisson and hydraulic ram.

That’s it, down at river level with the exit gate rising to let us out.

Tell you what, it’s the easiest 50’ level change on the system. A lot more relaxing than 4 or 5 locks!

And the obligatory backward look as we head off downriver.

The boat visible below the lift is the restored fly-boat Saturn. The only one of it’s kind left, these boats were built with fine lines to rapidly transport perishable cargos. They worked 24 hour days with crew and horse changes at strategically sited stops.

Shroppie fly-boat Saturn.

Just over a mile from the lift we pulled in on a quiet bank on Barnton Cut. We’ll be heading into Northwich tomorrow for some shopping and a visit to the opticians.

The strong wind and heavy pulses of rain have made today’s short trip less than enjoyable, but the wind is due to drop and the rain clear (for a bit).

I’d just started this post when we had a knock on the side of the boat. It was Pete Dawson, a local who spends a lot of time walking his dogs on the canal and river. He was kind enough to donate last year when I ran the Great North Run for Cancer Research UK. We’d met before, and spent a few minutes catching up before he carried on with his walk. I hadn’t realised, but he tells me that during last winter the river had frozen over bank to bank at this point. It looked thick enough to walk on, but he chose not to try! We’ll have a brew or maybe a beer next time, eh.

Locks 0, miles 3¼

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Brighter but still blowy

Well, we did decide to move on today, not too far, just to Barnton. A lot brighter without a drop of rain, but the cool wind is still with us. With only a couple of exposed stretches, though, it wasn’t much of a problem.

Busy at Bartington Wharf, one of the Black Prince hire bases.

With another Bank Holiday coming up I guess it’ll be quieter here after the weekend, but Saturday could be hectic!

Shortly after the wharf the canal dives into the green tunnel above the Weaver.

The different greens in the sunlight really look beautiful.

We’d been warned by a boater going the other way about a tree partially blocking the canal near Bridge 204.

Bit of an obstruction.

He was telling me that there were a few boats held up after coming out of Saltersford Tunnel, so out came the chainsaws for a bit of DIY canal clearing. Probably not what BW’s Safety Elves want to see…

We arrived at Saltersford nicely in the middle of the “passage window”, then crossed the basin to Barnton Tunnel.

Why do they always build tunnels at a skew to the channel?

Barnton Tunnel north portal.

You have to swing wide to the right to be able to see through this one, and even then it’s difficult. There’s no control over traffic on this tunnel, so you have to check whether anything is coming. I’d got in about a boat and a half’s length before I realised I could see a bit of boat cabin silhouetted in the light at the far end. I stopped and started to reverse, because, although I couldn’t see a headlight, it may have been obscured by one the kinks in the bore. Then I saw the boat pass out into the sunlight 570 yards away, so he was moving away and not towards us. I followed him through quite quickly in case there was anyone waiting to come the other way.

We pulled in just past Barnton Bridge, it’s a bit noisy with traffic here till later, but it’s handy for the shops.

Remember the “U-Boat” based on a narrowboat hull knocking around on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal? Well, far from being a white elephant, it appears to be earning it’s keep….

Locks 0, miles 5

Monday, May 23, 2011

Too windy, too wet, two wimps?

Nah, not really. We don’t have any place to be in a hurry, so why move when you don’t need to? We’re well sheltered from the westerly, anchored firmly to Armco, so we’re OK.

One advantage of being near woodland in a strong wind –

First dibs on any blown down branches!

We’ll probably toddle on a bit tomorrow…..

Locks 0, miles 0

Friday, May 20, 2011

Back on BW water.

We’ve been a tad naughty. British Waterways and Peel Holdings (who operate the Bridgewater Canal) have a reciprocal agreement under which craft licenced on either navigation have a week’s free access on the other. We’ve sneaked an extra couple of days, but I won’t tell if you don’t.

Shy Whistler

I’m sure we’re not the only ones, in both directions.

This morning Meg and I headed north out of Moore to have a look at the River Mersey. After crossing two railway lines and a field with a lively horse that wanted to have a close look at Meg (they both got a good run out of that) we had to cross the Manchester Ship Canal.

Moore Lane Swing Bridge

Looking west on the Canal.

Through Moore Nature Reserve and we had to find a route through the rough ground at the edge of the estuary before getting a view out across the water.

Fiddlers Ferry Power Station is on the left, but the tide was out, showing only a glint of water on the right.

Widnes – Runcorn Bridge across Runcorn Gap.

This spans both the Ship Canal and the Mersey Estuary at it’s narrowest point and replaced an earlier transporter bridge. The new bridge, now known as the Silver Jubilee Bridge, opened in 1961.

We couldn’t get any closer to the river which was a bit disappointing, but had a good walk nonetheless.

Back on the boat we had an uneventful trip to Preston Brook with a detour a short way along the Runcorn Arm for water, and then had a 15 minute wait before we could go through the tunnel.

Waiting for Preston Brook Tunnel

We were mugged by a mallard family, lying in wait for unsuspecting boaters. We bought them off with a couple of slices of brown bread.

Little beggars.

Once through the tunnel we had the shallow Dutton Stop Lock to go through, then moored at the edge of Longacre Wood, one of our regular moorings. Meg enjoys terrorising the squirrels here, and there are some good walks taking in the Weaver.

Moored near Longacre Wood.

The bankside vegetation has grown a bit since we were here last. Had to get the shears out to give us somewhere to get off, and to trim back around the windows.

Locks 1, miles 4

Thursday, May 19, 2011

To Moore to moor….

Sorry, couldn’t resist that.

We took a day off yesterday, things to do. But first was a very pleasant walk around the nearby deer park, in the grounds of Dunham Massey Hall. Meg and I both enjoyed it, but I forgot to take the camera. There's a few pics here from an earlier visit.

Then I had an engine service to do, before giving Meg a thorough brushing.

Taking a break.

The weather seems to be on the up again, bright sunshine greeted us this morning. We were away at around 10:30, heading towards Lymm.

Spray-foam insulation being applied to a new shell at Lymm Marina

Coming into Lymm there was something familiar about the canopy on the stern of NB Isychia

SWB Land Rover cab! It almost looks as if it belongs there….. almost.

On the deck of a Ship Canal workboat this side of Lymm.

Right turn, Clyde!

From the 1978 Clint Eastwood film, “Any Which Way But Loose”.

This is what I meant by the comment the other day, when I said that childcare is not a mallard’s strong point-

We closed on the bank to pass some craft, getting close to a mum and ducklings. She promptly hopped out onto the bank, leaving the little ones to their fate. If that’d been geese they’d have been fighting us off!

Siesta time further on.

We pulled in to dump some rubbish at the recycling centre just before London Road Bridge at Stockton Heath (they take all recyclables apart from used engine oil!), and then stopped the other side of the bridge for diesel and solid fuel at Thorn Marine. They can’t take old oil either. So my 3 cans went back under the deck, till the next opportunity.

Meg was so busy rooting around in the shop and chandlery that we almost left her behind. Apparently it’s happened before, to a Jack Russell off a boat.

Unusual Chester Road Bridge, carrying the A56 dual carriageway.

This replaced an “underbridge” when the road was improved.

We pulled in just short of Moore, at around 14:30.

It’s been a pleasant run, warm when the sun was out, but cooler in the shade.

Locks 0, miles 9½

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Out into fields and trees

It’s been a pretty grim weekend for weather, hasn’t it. Wet and windy for the most part, and cool as well.

I could blame the conditions for my poor showing in the 10k Great Manchester Run on Sunday, and it’s true, it wasn’t a good day, but frankly I just didn’t have the speed in my legs. My time was over 3 minutes slower than my PB for the distance. Half-term report – must do better……

Not so for Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie who achieved his third consecutive win here, and his fourth in total.

HG in the lead after just 500m, and he stayed there for the next 28 minutes.

Following him are Chris Thompson (GB), Sergei Lebid (Ukraine) and Craig Mottram (Aus). This was the finishing position as well.

Local girl Helen Clitheroe also had an excellent run, beating some fine athletes to take first place in the woman’s field.

The afternoon turned out worse than the morning, weather-wise, and I felt quite sorry for the last runners in, struggling through heavy showers.

We were intending to leave Manchester yesterday, but the rain and wind stayed with us, so we stayed put.

The Canada goose families were up and down the basins on a regular patrol, looking for edibles. And I must say I admire the parents for the care they take of the little ones. One adult in the lead and the other bringing up the rear, both going defensive against dogs too close to the water’s edge.

Goose Patrol

A marked contrast to the mallard’s rather careless attitude to childcare!

We decided to head out of town today, whatever the weather, and it wasn’t too bad first thing. But the clouds started to thicken around mid-day and we had more rain than dry spells as we cruised out to Dunham Massey.

We had to queue for water as we left Castlefield, but then we had a steady 3 hour trip out of the built-up area and into the countryside. Instead of traffic, trains and the odd police siren, all we’ve got here is birdsong. Much better.

Not much to report about the run back, apart from terrorising a duck family on the bank as we squeezed past a couple of barges cutting back bushes on the bank….


And being terrorised in turn by a swan protecting his partner and nest.

Coming in…..


Then another run.

He left us to it, honour satisfied, near Seamons Moss Bridge.

Locks 0, miles 9½

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday 13th, but lucky for us.

Two counts; first we set off early this morning to get to Castlefield and arrived before the rain came, and then found a space on the very busy moorings near the Grocer’s Warehouse when we got here.

This morning dawned fine and dry once again, and we were away after I’d taken Meg for her morning constitutional.

Our mooring near Dunham Woodhouse.

One of my favourite mooring spots on the Bridgewater, on the offside away from the maniac cyclists…

Aqueduct over the River Bollin.

In 1971 a major breach occurred here which could have resulted in closure. However a trust was formed to bear the burden of some of the repair cost, and the canal was re-opened in 1973. Lots more info here.

Bollington Mill

And the mill stream

The mill was built to grind corn, powered by an undershot waterwheel. Now apartments, of course.

We were on the move before 09:00, aiming to beat the forecast rain this afternoon.

At Seamons Moss Bridge rural starts to change to urban, although the green corrider hangs on for quite a while yet.

Seamons Moss Bridge

Industrial units lurk behind the green screen.

New developments at Broadheath.

The long straight through Sale.

There hadn’t been many boats on the move at all today, none had passed us before we set off and we only saw a handful coming the other way.

Sale gives way to Stretford as the canal crosses the River Mersey on Barfoot Aqueduct.

River Mersey.

We took a right at Waters Meeting, heading towards Manchester. Next time we’ll be turning left to Leigh and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, for our trip across the Ribble Link and onto the Lancaster Canal.

Waters Meeting.

The huge Kellogg’s factory sits on the junction. Grain used to be brought here by barge.

Containers are stacked up like a vertical steel patchwork quilt at the massive Euroterminal, just before Old Trafford, home of Manchester United.

Euroterminal containers

Old Trafford.

It’s only a short distance now to Castlefield, past Pomona Dock on the Ship Canal below us.

The bridge carries the Metrolink line, Pomona Station is just off to the right.

Just beyond the station is Pomona Lock, giving access to the Ship Canal from the Bridgewater.

New apartments flank the canal at Hulme, where the now derelict Hulme Lock provided another link between the canals.

New apartments

Hulme Lock.

We pulled in to top up the water tank and empty a loo near Potato Wharf, then headed into Castlefield Junction, turning right onto the Grocer’s Warehouse arm.

Into Castlefield.

The bottom lock of the Rochdale Canal is visible dead ahead. This is number 92, Duke’s Lock, and is weiring over with excess water coming down the “nine”. Often a problem with these locks, with no bywashes the water has to overflow the top gates of the locks, making them difficult to open.

That’s new!

We spotted just a couple of places to moor as we turned in, but then found one other just where we wanted to be a little further on. We slotted in, tied up, and had just sat down with a brew when the rain started. Excellent timing!

This area has a thriving population of Canada Geese, and there are a lot of goslings around just now.

Two families came down the line of boats with their begging bowls out. You can’t resist, can you.

Canada Goslings

Locks 0, miles 9½