Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Waters, new friends.

Having got to Parbold on Friday the pressure was now off so the early starts can be kicked into touch…

Duck (and goose) feeding before a leisurely start on Saturday morning.

I had my morning run, then did a bit of shopping up in the village before we pulled pins at around 10.

A bit of a sculpture park near Newburgh.

I wouldn’t want to meet this guy in the dark, even though I’m not a crow!

Two swing bridges to negotiate took us to the junction with the Rufford Branch.

I stayed off at the last one to check out the junction and the top lock on the branch, unfortunately my camera stayed on board. I waved Mags in under the bridge then filled the lock while she hovered just below the bridge. I got her to get close to the bank so I could get the camera, but decided not to suggest that she reverse out onto the main line so I could get a picture of her coming under the bridge. Coward!

The lock filled so slowly with only one top paddle working that we had ample time to do the manoeuvre several times…..

Lock filled, swing bridge swung, Mags lining up to come in.

Lock 2’s top gates were leaking so badly that the chamber was full, but lock 3 reversed the trend with leaky bottom gates.


Both top paddles had to be up to put any water in; when the lock was full I made the mistake of closing one paddle before walking around to open the gate on the nearside. By the time I’d got there the level had dropped again by 2 inches and the gate wouldn’t budge so I trailed back round to open up the other paddle again.

I must have walked around that lock half a dozen times…..

The variety of paddle gear keeps up the interest.

There’re cloughs a la L&L summit….

Screwy up ground paddles…

And traditional rack and pinion gate paddles, although with Fenner reduction gearboxes unnecessarily fitted.

A bit cobbled together, methinks.

We’d had enough after doing four of the seven to Tarleton, and anyway it was fast approaching 1 o’clock (Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying sessions) so we pulled in a little further on behind a moored up wide beam.

Moored below Lock 4

Aerial up and the qualifying was watched, then I got my head down for a nap for an hour. Meg was due her afternoon constitutional so we set off heading downhill. Walking past the boat in front I realised it was Takey Tezey, Heather and Dave’s boat. They’d decided to spend the weekend out of the marina and this is one of their regular haunts.

Meg’s walk got a bit truncated, then we all got together for a drink or two after tea.

Mag’s, Heather and Dave, Takey Tezey in the background.

We had a really enjoyable couple of hours chatting and swapping boaty anecdotes. Good to meet you both, see you on the way back!

Just before we’d moored we’d passed another three boats who were heading down to Tarleton today.

Out on my run this morning I had a brainwave, so when I got back I went and suggested we join them as far as Sollom, making their odd number even, and being able to share the last 3 locks.

So this is what we did, pulling pins at around 09:45, creeping past a still quiet Takey Tezey , and joining Julia and Nigel on NB Dorothy Goodbody in German’s then Baldwin’s locks.

NBs Dorothy Goodbody and Seyella in German’s Lock no 5.

I never did ask where the unusual name came from…

The canal is very tranquil with good quiet mooring spots along with reedy fringes.

Very river-like.

At Rufford Lock there was a bit of a hold up (another leaky lock), and we ended up sharing with another of the trio instead.

Queue at Rufford Lock

Change partners, doh see doh….

Sorry I didn’t get their names, nor the name of the boat, but I did notice it was something in Welsh…

After Rufford Lock we passed St. Mary’s Marina on the left and Fettler’s Wharf on the right….

St. Mary’s Marina

...then the National Trust Rufford Old Hall just visible through the trees.

Rufford Old Hall

We all piled up at the services at Spark Bridge, as they were pushing on down to Tarleton they all went first, and we waited till they’d done before moving over ourselves.

On the water point. Dorothy Goodbody, The “Welsh" boat and Wombat II.

While we were waiting I watched a farmer shrink-wrapping bales of hay for silage.

All wrapped up.

I wondered how they did that……

One more swing bridge and we pulled over, just in time to see Lewis Hamilton make a misjudgement on tyre choice which lost him the Hungarian Grand Prix. But Jensen Button won, in style.

Through Fearns Swing Bridge.

We’ll be stopping here tomorrow, then moving down the last couple of miles to meet the BW team at Tarleton Lock at 11:30 on Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon we’ll be on the Lancaster Canal.....or in the Irish Sea. Is it a right turn or left?

Locks 7, miles 7½

Friday, July 29, 2011

Popular Parbold

Today could have been quite a long one, encountering our first self operated locks for a while and unsure about traffic levels on the Leeds and Liverpool Main Line.

So we decided to pull pins at 08:30. If the trip went well we’d be tied up by early afternoon, if there were delays we’d still have plenty of time in hand.

Leaving Dover Bridge, through the chamber of the original Dover Top Lock.

Nearing Wigan there are several of those flashes caused by subsidence, Scotsman’s being the biggest.

Past Scotsman’s Flash.

There are 2 locks to ascend before reaching the Main Line at Wigan Junction, and I believe these replaced those at Dover Bridge when the canal was re-levelled.

In Poolstock Bottom Lock (No1)

These locks lift the canal by around 10 feet. If you look at the bank height on the Scotsman’s Flash picture and imagine the canal 10 feet higher? Well, that must have been the water level down to Dover Bridge before the surrounding land sunk into the mine workings below.

Poolstock Top Lock (No2) with St James' Church in the background.

Yes the church clock DOES say 10 to 10. We’re not usually moving yet. But today we’ve done 3 miles and 2 locks already.

At Wigan Junction a right turn takes you up the main run of the Wigan Flight, then up and over to Leeds. We turned left for Liverpool but we’ll be turning off before then onto the Rufford Branch.

Wigan Junction.

Strictly speaking the last 2 locks of the Wigan flight are on our route although they are separated from the rest by a ¼ mile pound, in fact inscribed on the stonework is L No XXII and L No XXIII, Locks 22 and 23.

Henhurst Lock, No 22 on the flight, has “power assisted” gate gear.

Hand power, that is.

Cruising past the BW Wigan offices.

Wigan Bottom Lock has a dry dock alongside.

A cruise through Wigan wouldn’t be complete without a picture of Wigan Pier, however disappointing.

Wigan Pier

Even George Orwell’s “The Road To........” seems to be blocked by a brick wall.Winky

Two more locks take us clear of the town, the first near Wigan Athletics DW Stadium and the second ½ a mile further on at Ell Meadow.

Ell Meadow Lock

There’s an old lock chamber on the left.

We had a chance of a bacon butty in the 2 mile pound through Crooke to the pretty Dean Lock.

Dean Lock with another derelict chamber alongside.

It’s a shame about the M6 motorway crossing just to the east. The old lock cut makes a lovely mooring, apart from the noise.

Just before the lock there are 3 generations of transport stacked up.

The 18C canal crossed by the 19C railway then the 20C motorway.

We’d intended to stop at Appley Bridge but were making good time so pushed on a bit further, through the deep Appley Bridge Lock to moor at Parbold.

In Appley Bridge Lock.

It’s deep because it replaced 2 now derelict chambers in the cut alongside. We were moored in the cut for a few days last spring, when our starter motor gave up the ghost. Then we only just managed to get below Poolstock Locks, scraping our bottom on the canal bed, before the Leeds and Liverpool was closed due to shortage of water. No such problem this year, better management and the recent rain have kept levels up.

Parbold was busy with moored boats but we got in on the towpath just through the village. Not the best spot with underwater rocks but it’ll do for the one night.

We were moored by 14:30, having had good locks all the way. Only one was against us and that had a boat in coming up. Slowly though. He’d left a bottom paddle up so it stopped filling at ¾ until he realised. Good job we’ve plenty of water……

Locks 8 miles 11

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Heading West

Today started bright and sunny, but got duller later. We even had a few spots of rain this afternoon.

We didn’t just moor up in the bushes last night….

Water Lilies in the clear(ish) water alongside.

Leaving Boothstown the canal runs through an area reclaimed from pit spoil heaps. Not particularly attractive with only scrub vegetation being able to get any benefit from the poor soil.

The harsh concrete edges don’t help, but are essential to keep the water in as the land either side slowly subsides due to the extensive coal mining.

There are some bright spots....

The towpath has also been built up with clay-like spoil, not bad in dry weather but filthy when it’s wet.

Pit spoil path

Astley Pit has the only headgear left, 50 or 60 years ago they would have been all around. This one is now preserved as part of the Astley Green Pit Museum.

Astley Green Pit headgear.

Just after the village we pulled in to let a wide load past.

Dredger and work flat.

Takes up quite a bit of the channel, but at least the water is deep.

The first sight of Leigh is a large mill which stands beside the canal.

Here’s Leigh…

They don’t call it a mill town for nothing….

We pulled in on the handy (but unmarked in Nicholson’s Guide) services on the offside just before Butt’s Bridge, filled the water tank and emptied a loo, then pushed on through the town.

I like the loft windows on this new build...

At Leigh Bridge the Bridgewater ends and the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal begins.

Leigh Bridge.

We had to weave our way through a group of novice canoeists on the edge of the town, before heading out into open country again.

Pennington Flash appears on the left.

This shallow lake, formed by subsidence, is now a nature reserve and country park.

Plank Lane Swing Bridge (actually a lift bridge) is manned by a bridgekeeper, and we arrived just after he’d knocked off for lunch. No problem though, we’d plenty of time.

Waiting at Plank Lane.

The land across the way has been cleared of all the buildings associated with Plank Lane Pit, and a basin has been dug out for a 40 berth marina. The land alongside has approval for housing, but as yet no developer has come forward to take on either project.

Housing and marina, some time in the future.

Another boat came up behind us, wanting water. As the tap is alongside the holding mooring they breasted up with us to fill.

We had a good chat with them, Amanda and Alistair on NB Caromanda are heading for the Liverpool Link, but moor on the Nene. We’re planning to go that way next summer, so may meet up again.

NB Caromanda pulling in for a pump-out just after the bridge.

A little further on the grotty towpath surface is being replaced with an all weather surface.

I wouldn’t take any more from this side!

Under Dover Bridge and we pulled in, between the narrows where the two redundant locks have been removed. Why redundant? Subsidence, of course!

Dover Bridge and the Dover Locks Inn

Locks 0, miles 8¼