Monday, October 30, 2017

A calendar cock-up and a lonely river.

Today was a little cooler than yesterday, with hazy sunshine rather than the clear skies we’d enjoyed. And it took a while longer to warm up after a significant frost. I actually put long trousers on to take Meg for a walk, but switched back to shorts to cruise.

I’d left a message on the Saltersford lockie’s phone before we left, to let him know we were coming but hadn’t heard back by the time we got there.

Saltersford Lock

There was no-one around and the office was locked up so I rang CRT’s Northwich office only to find that we’re now on winter hours and lock passages need to booked 24 hours in advance! I understood that this didn’t start until next weekend. Anyway, the lass in the office rang the supervisor and we had a chap opening the lock gates about 90 minutes later. No big deal, we’d plenty of time today.

Dropping down in Saltersford’s larger lock chamber.DSCF1680

At both Saltersford and Dutton the smaller of the two locks are not currently in use so we use the “ship” locks, 213 x 37 feet, and in the case of Saltersford, 7’6” deep. That’s 1.6 million litres of water sent off downriver just for us.

Below Saltersford there’s about an hour’s cruise to Dutton, along the wide. deep navigation passing a caravan site on the left, followed by Acton Bridge.

The bridge, constructed in 1933, is a similar design to those in Northwich, but pivoting on an island in the river. The backwater, on the south side, is occupied by moorings for the Acton Bridge Boat Club.

The lockie was waiting for us at Dutton Lock, with the lock filled and one gate open, so we were in and down like a dose of salts. Maybe the donation of a couple of home-made mince pies helped…

The wreck of MV Chica still hangs together tenaciously…DSCF1690

Leaving Dutton Lock

Half a mile below the lock the navigation passes under Dutton Railway Viaduct, carrying the West Coast Main Line 60 feet above the water.DSCF1696

Opened in 1836 the permanent way is supported a twenty-arch span, the elegantly tapered columns made of red sandstone.DSCF1698 

The channel runs through farmland and woods, with only a hint of civilisation at Pickering’s Wharf, the site of a dismantled swing bridge. The long, sweeping bends indicate that this a purely artificial channel, although it follows the flat valley floor of the original river.DSCF1702


We pulled in on the field moorings at Devil’s Garden, no-one else here at this summer-popular, quiet spot.DSCF1706
In fact we’ve not seen another moving boat all day.

Tomorrow we’ll head down to Frodsham. A walk up into the village will replenish the fresh fruit and veg stocks.

Locks 2, miles 6¼

Sunday, October 29, 2017

No fireworks for us…

After a bit of shopping up in the town first thing yesterday, we left Northwich under grey skies and in a freshening breeze. A stop at the wharf next to Town Bridge got the water tank topped up and the rubbish and recycling disposed of, then we were off, heading downstream towards the boat lift.

We’d hoped to be able to moor just upstream of the lift so we could watch the firework display taking place last evening, but it was not to be…

No room for us!

Should have got there earlier… No wonder we were the only boat in Northwich! The pontoon moorings a little further along were out of bounds for the night.

Setting up the pyrotechnics

Plan B was to head on and moor on Barnton Cut, so we carried on past the lift, under Winnington Swing Bridge…

…and past the Brunner-Mond Winnington Salt Works. Only it’s not there any more. They’d started the demolition when we were down here in May, and now there’s very little left.

BM Factory

…and after.

The skeletal remains of the last surviving structures break the horizon
There’s a vast new housing development under construction on the site.

We dropped onto our favourite spot along here, a bit of piling just long enough for one boat.DSCF1675

Today we’ve stayed put, and it’s been beautiful. Sunny skies all day, and with us facing north-west we’ve had sunshine through the windows from 10 o’clock onwards. And that’s GMT… The solar panels have been topping up the batteries nicely.

Hi Carol, yes it's lovely down here when it's quiet. Another week and we'll be back up on the cut, though, heading for our usual winter Llangollen cruise. Timing's a bit tricky this year, though...

Locks 0, miles 2¾

Friday, October 27, 2017

We're spoilt by the weather.

Yesterday was cooler and overcast but remained dry. We stayed put, enjoying the quiet at Vale Royal. We only saw a handful of boats all day.

This morning started very misty, but by late morning we had clear blue skies and warm sunshine.DSCF1622

Clive the cormorant had been doing a spot of early fishing…DSCF1623
Just visible through the mist rising off the water.

By the time we were turning around to head back downstream Clive had been joined by his brother Cuthbert.

Back to Vale Royal Lock

The lockies are still having to winch the gates open and closed, due to the absence of the quadrant gears that have been removed to be copied for replacements.

We had about 25 minutes to cruise to Hunts Lock, under Vale Royal Railway Viaduct, built in 1860 to carry the Grand Junction Railway, now carrying the West Coast Main Line….

…and past the eclectic mix of boats at Jalsea Marine.DSCF1643

Shafts of sunlight break through the trees on the east bankDSCF1640

Approaching Hunts Lock

We waited for 10 minutes or so for a small cruiser chasing after us from Vale Royal to share the lock.

We chugged gently into Northwich, under Hayhurst Swing Bridge, and moored opposite the marina.

The two swing bridges that cross the river in the town were built in 1898 and 1899, and are believed to be the earliest electrically powered swing bridges built.

Hayhurst Bridge

Both bridges are swung by cable hauled by a winch housed beneath the operators booth.DSCF1656 

Moored in Northwich

After a bit of shopping in the morning we’ll head down to Anderton. There’s a firework display at the lift tomorrow night, and if possible we’ll get a mooring with a view of the proceedings.

Hi Ade. Yes, thank you. I’d picked that stoppage up. We’ll still aim to be through there before the closure, then we’ll have to decide when we get to the top end whether to turn around and beetle straight back before the post-Christmas closures, or hang on until there’re finished. Decisions, decisions… 

Locks 2, miles 3

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A grand day for a trip upriver.

We had a cool start to the day with a heavy dew but no sign of frost… yet. The sun was clearing the trees as I took Meg out for a stroll.DSCF1594


We cruised into Northwich, where we needed to stop for a quick trip up to the Post Office.

I do like the Weaver…

The extensive redevelopment at Baron’s Quay in Northwich seems to be complete.DSCF1597

The offside (north bank) moorings, handy for the town centre, are still as rough as ever, but are now at least accessible again. There’s just room for one boat on the lower section, the high wall further along towards the swing bridge now seems to be off limits…DSCF1599
Hmmm… Are we to expect a return of large craft to the waterway, then? It’ll play havoc with the traffic crossing the swing bridges!

Looking back from upstream of Town Bridge, with Northwich Marina on the site of the old Flotel.DSCF1601

I’d rung Bob at Hunts Lock to let him know we were coming, and he told me that he was expecting another boat as well. It was Thorin Oakenshield, just pulling away from the moorings on the left to turn around and follow us.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the footbridge at the maintenance yard swung across the channel before…
…I didn’t realise it still worked!

MVs Parfield and Parbella moored next to the entrance to Yarwood’s yardDSCF1604

These two along with a third vessel called Paradine carried grain from Liverpool and Manchester Docks to the Kelloggs factory at Water’s Meeting on the Bridgewater Canal. The Dukers as they were known could also tow a pair of Mere class barges each. The last grain run was in 1974 from Manchester Docks.

Hunts Lock, the deepest on the River Weaver Navigation.DSCF1606

The River Weaver Navigation has been continuously improved (up to 1890) to accommodate larger and larger vessels. This is the smaller of the two chambers still in use at Hunts Lock.

Hartford Bridge (“Blue Bridge”) halfway between Hunts and Vale Royal Locks.DSCF1609

Vale Royal Lock was shared once again with Thorin Oakenshield, before they passed us to head for moorings at the Red Lion in Winsford.

Leaving Vale Royal Locks
There’s three generations of lock construction visible here. On the left is the earliest chamber, built in 1791 and was in use until 1862 when the larger one alongside was finished. It’s now used as a bywash sluice. The newer lock is now known as the Small Lock, because in 1889 the Big Lock opened. At twice the size of the Small Lock it could accommodate a steam tug and three 300 ton barges, and due to it’s efficient operation using Pelton water wheels to move the gates, it could pass vessels through in 15 minutes.
There was an even earlier lock, timber built in 1732 on the old river. This dates from when the river was first made navigable, but no trace remains today.

We pulled in on the moorings just 5 minutes above the lock.DSCF1615



A couple of nights here, then back downstream.

Locks 2, miles 4

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A good dollop of winter wood, and down onto the river.

We spent the weekend near Barnton, then yesterday moved the mile or so to the services at Anderton.

A fine morning…

We made a stop on the way… Not far up the canal the recent winds had dropped a tree across the navigation, and the contractors had left some logs just off the towpath. I’d kept my eye on them while we moored over the weekend and they were still there so we pulled in. It’s a good, wide towpath here, so I sliced them up too, as well as some other bits and pieces I’d picked up over the last week or so. A satisfying couple of hours work, but I’ve got to get my saw chains sharpened now. The last one went dull while I was dealing with these heavy logs.

We turned around and reversed onto the service wharf to fill with water and dispose of accumulated rubbish and recycling. The service block is having a make-over, but the water was still on.DSCF1573

Having dealt with the sanitary arrangements we returned to moor near the boat lift.

Very quiet in Anderton at the moment

Moored on the 24 hour moorings at Anderton.20171023_153515
That wood should last a week or two!

We’ve decided to spend a week or 10 days down on the Weaver before heading south and then west over towards the Llangollen Canal. So this morning I went to the office and was given a booking for 11:30, sharing with Martin on the coal boat Halsall.

Halsall turning onto the holding moorings this morning.DSCF1578

And leaving to turn onto the lift aqueduct.DSCF1579

Waiting on the aqueduct for entry onto the lift proper.DSCF1580

Looking upstream, the new mooring pontoon is completely empty.DSCF1581

At 72 feet long, Halsall only just fits between the end gates.DSCF1582
In fact, Martin had to lift both bow and stern fenders!

The lift, as constructed in 1875, was hydraulically operated using river water. But the corrosive nature of the water took it’s toll on the hydraulic rams, and by 1897 the lift suffered longer and longer periods of maintenance and repair. Finally, in 1904, the Weaver Navigation Trustees faced considerable expense and downtime to replace the hydraulic system, or look for alternatives.
The company Chief Engineer, John Saner, proposed a radical solution whereby the hydraulics would be replaced by a system of pulleys, electric motors and counterbalance weights. Although this involved extensive modifications to the structure, his scheme was approved. The conversion took place over a two year period, opening fully again in July 1908. As each caisson could now be independently operated, the lift was only completely closed for 49 days during this period.

The machinery deck, carrying the electric motors and pulleys, was added…DSCF1583

…as were buttress frames to the main supports.DSCF1586
The buttresses were required because now the structure had to support the two caissons, each weighing around 250 tons, and their counterbalancing weights. Under hydraulic operation the framework merely had to guide and contain the caissons, and support it’s own weight, as the load from the caissons was carried by the hydraulic cylinders built into the foundations.

There was a bit of as delay before we could leave, something to do with the safety interlocks, I think, but then we were off, both boats turning upstream.

We pulled in on the pontoon, while Halsall continued on to supply some customers above Hunts Lock.

We’ll probably continue upstream tomorrow.

Locks 0, miles 2