Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ribble crossing, a proper post.

A bit more detail than yesterday’s brief effort. Although I think I’ll stick to pictures in the main. I took a lot of those so here’s just a selection…

It was at around ten to eleven when we pulled out to head for Tarleton Lock, following Whippet Express.

I’d polished the tiller bar and pins in hounour of the occasion…DSCF3692

Before the boatyard and the lock there’s a narrowing of the channel which used to house an opposing pair of stop-gates. The only evidence is the stone quoins for the heel-posts.

We had about 15 minutes to wait while the preceding pair of boats dropped down onto the river and the lock was refilled for us…DSCF3697

…and then we were off.
The tide is still on the flood so we’re having to push against the incoming water. It’s only hard work for about a mile until the channel widens near Hesketh Bank, but that 20 minutes or so is what catches boats out that have marginal cooling systems.

Long shots behind and ahead as we pass the Douglas Boatyard.DSCF3702


Jammin’ was on a mission, overtaking Whippet Express and then us as I eased off to allow Rob and Jane to catch up.DSCF3710

Apart from geese and the odd tern there wasn’t much bird life to be seen on the saltmarsh. But there were a few very pretty shelducks knocking about.

The mouth of the Douglas widens out as it approached it’s confluence with the Ribble.DSCF3709

Up come Rob and Jane on Whippet Express.DSCF3712

We’ve just been passed by the motor-yacht Mistral heading the other way.DSCF3716

It’s recommended that boats take a long sweep out into the middle of the estuary and around Asland Lamp before heading east up the Ribble. It’s very easy to run aground on the mudflats. Not a problem on a rising tide, but potentially a disaster on the ebb…DSCF3719

The Whippets cut a bit closer to the marker than us…DSCF3722

We’d had a steady cross-wind as we came down the Douglas, but now we turned into it as we headed east. And it was brisk…DSCF3728


It’s about 3½ miles from Asland Lamp to Savick Brook and the Millennium Link. It was fine while the sun was out, but cooler when the occasional cloud passed over. And when a spray of salt water blew over from the bow…

Jammin’ turning into the entrance to Savick BrookDSCF3735

Preston, 2½ miles further upstream.
The nearer steeple to the centre of the picture belongs, I think, to Aston Methodist Church. The tower to it’s left is the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Turning into the brook.

The entrance is between the green and red marker posts.DSCF3743

In comes the Whippets…

The rotating sea lock, Lock 9 on the link, is open to let the boats in, then is closed to maintain a navigable depth up the brook.DSCF3748

Just around the corner above the lock is a holding pontoon for boats to wait on while the tide drops to give sufficient air-draft under the first bridge. We only had a couple of minutes to wait, so held off in the stream rather than breasting up to the other boats.

It was a 9 metre tide and the bridge arch was still dripping water after being submerged.DSCF3752

Crow sculpture up on the bank

From one extreme to another – the lower section of the brook, up to the first lock, is narrow, shallow and winding.DSCF3757

The single locks going up were partially manned; there was a volunteer on a bike who was shuffling between locks helping as much as he could, and some had permanent staff on as well.

There are five single locks to deal with as the brook slowly rises up to the level of the canal, but the final rise is up a triple staircase of around 25 feet. Just to make life interesting, if it hasn’t been already, there’s not enough room in the small basin below the staircase to make the sharp turn into the bottom chamber. So you have to reverse in…

Into the corner…

…and heading backwards towards the lower gates.DSCF3766
We’ve come from under the bridge on the left and are heading for the gates on the right.

We’re in and are followed by Whippet Express.

It’s a bit daunting being this close to the towering upper gates of each chamber…

Cool and refreshing, though.

Boat sculpture at the top.

And that’s it, reversing out into the top basin.DSCF3772

We executed a three-point turn, then turned left under the entrance bridge and out onto the Lancaster Canal.

From Tarleton Lock to the top basin of the link has taken us five hours. But it’s been a great trip. We can only hope for such good weather for our return trip in just under three weeks time.

We pushed on for a couple of miles, pulling in soon after Bridge 23.DSCF3774 

The stern is stuck out a bit in the shallow water, but this is the norm rather than the exception up here.
We stayed put today, had a bit of a lie-in, and I finished a little project I’ve been working on.

New tops on the well-deck lockers.

Locks 8, miles 14

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Across the Ribble

Well, we’re up on the Lancaster Canal, having crossed the Ribble Estuary and traveled up the Millennium Link. No long post tonight, just a couple of pictures as a taster…



A brilliant day for it, although a bit breezy as we headed upstream on the Ribble. Moored now about an hour from the entrance to the upper basin of the link. Probably going to take a day off tomorrow…

Monday, May 28, 2018

Poised for the crossing.

Well, we’re here at Tarleton, waiting to cross the Ribble Link in the morning. We moved on from Parbold on Saturday, stopping for two nights below Moss Lock on the Rufford Branch before heading down here today.
We’ve had fine weather through the day, and a few showers in the evening, but nothing like those that pushed through further south, leaving flooding and damage in their wake. The wind has been brisk, though.

Leaving Parbold on Saturday, past the converted windmillDSCF3642

I do like these parti-coloured hawthorn bushes.DSCF3645

We had no locks to do before we reached the junction with the Rufford Branch, but there were a couple of swing bridges to deal with.

The retired Leeds and Liverpool short boats do make very good house boats…DSCF3650

Approaching the junction with the Rufford BranchDSCF3652

The sharp turn under the bridge takes you almost immediately to Lathom Top Lock, Lock 1 on the branch. There was a cruiser on the lock landing, with the crew just finishing filling the lock, and we were invited to go straight in. Not an invitation to decline!DSCF3653

We finished up sharing the first four locks on the branch before we pulled in and our locking partner continued. It was handy as they were part of a group, some of whom were ahead. If there was nothing coming up they would set the lock they were leaving to fill, so mostly they were ready for us as we arrived.

We even had a walker closing the gates of Moss Lock after we left!DSCF3655
So we had a good run down the first half of the branch.

We had a bit of trouble getting in to the side below Moss Lock, it was quite shallow and the brisk easterly didn’t help. But we did finally get tied up, in the shelter of a small group of bushes. Out of the wind, but every so often a gust would bring a shower of hawthorn blossom into the cratch. I could have started a confetti business, the amount I’ve cleaned up over the last couple of days!
The local frogs have been busy, along the banks the canal is heaving with shoals of tadpoles…

When I took Meg for a walk this morning this chap was singing his little heart out.DSCF3663

Only ten minutes after getting going this morning was Germans Lock, the first of three today.DSCF3667

This one has those unique Leeds and Liverpool clough top ground paddles.


This area of flat, rich agricultural land benefited from the canal into Liverpool. Fresh produce was carried in, night soil was brought out for fertiliser. I bet they grew a few tomatoes…

The locks are a lot shallower as the canal descends the Douglas valley.

Flag Iris


Water Lilies

Three locks, three swing bridges to do today to take us to the moorings at Tarleton.

Marsh Meadow Swing Bridge

Rufford Lock, and there’s a boat coming up.DSCF3678

That’s us going down, with St Mary’s Marina in the background.DSCF3679
Just look at that sky! With very little wind today it’s felt very warm. Even Mags thought so!

Good length of moorings in Rufford.

We wanted to top up with water and dispose of the rubbish at the services at Spark Bridge, there was a boat already on the wharf and they invited us to pull alongside. Rob and Jane, on The Whippet Express, will be joining us tomorrow on the crossing.

A mile or so below Spark Bridge the canal passes through the remains of Sollom Lock and under Strand Bridge.DSCF3684

From here the navigation follows the original course of the river to Tarleton. DSCF3686 
Sollom Lock once marked the limit of the non-tidal Douglas Navigation, but in 1805 was abandoned when the new Tarleton Lock was completed.

While the new lock was being constructed the river was diverted into a new channel to the east, with a lock at Croston Finney. Now that has gone the channel is tidal up to Rufford.

Coming into Tarleton

The visitor moorings are just through the swing bridge, and we secured the last space available.DSCF3688

We’re moored behind The Whippet Express, so Rob, Jane and I, complete with a pair of whippets, walked down to the lock to weigh up the situation.

Panorama looking at below Tarleton Lock.DSCF3691
The Ribble estuary is to the left, upstream to the right is Rufford, Parbold and Wigan.

I was reading up about the industry (mostly ship and boat-building) in the area, and came across this interesting snippet of trivia. Apparently the Duchy of Lancaster (isn’t that part of the Queen’s estates?) pays an allowance to the chapel of Hesketh-with-Beconsall, about a mile downstream from Tarleton, for prayers for mariners on the River Ribble.
At it’s inception in 1535 it was the sum of £2:16:5d. (That’s about £2:82p post decimalisation). I wonder if it’s been adjusted for inflation? I reckon that would be around £8,000 a year. Should buy enough prayers to keep us safe tomorrow, then.

Since Friday – Locks 7, miles 9½