Friday, 30 July 2010

Cheshire/Shropshire borders = lousy 3G signal

After repeated attempts to load Thursday's blog I gave up and decided to incorporate two days into one entry. I kept on losing my wireless signal.

The weather in this part on the world continues to be fairly miserable. I think we had summer in late May and early June. We travelled on through Middlewich and onto the Shropshire Union on Thursday. There were queues at the locks, summer holiday time is here! We often found ourselves the fourth or fifth boat waiting to go through the lock so progress was slow. It would have been faster if a few more people had been like me and helped other people through the locks instead of just waiting until it was their turn.

At Wardle Lock I met Maureen, a lovely lady, probably in her seventies or eighties. she lives in the lock cottage and was born on a working boat. By one of those coincidences that seem to happen the boat she was born on, no longer a working boat unfortunately, was three boats ahead of us going up the lock. We moored for the night in the middle of nowhere about three miles from the junction of the Trent and Mersey and the Shropshire Union.

Today we carried on up the Shroppie, past Nantwich and stopped just short of Audlem Flight, the traffic wasn't quite as heavy but we still had to wait at a couple of locks. There are some nice moorings with picnic tables and barbecue spots along this stretch of canal, if the weather had been better we might have stopped at one of them. When the rain eased off we walked up to Audlem and found it is possible to moor between locks in the flight so we will move up there early tomorrow.

Ray rang Barry and we have arranged to meet up tomorrow afternoon, if the weather was decent we could have a barbie but I think we will all go for a meal instead.

Yesterday's journey 5.7 miles and 6 locks

Today's journey 16.3 miles and 4 locks

So far we have travelled 495.7 miles, 457 locks, 53 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 14 tunnels

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Travelling alone

We spent the morning visiting the exhibition at the Anderton Boat Lift and watching it work. It takes about five minutes for the lift to raise (or lower) boats between the River Weaver and the canal but if you are actually doing the trip it will take you about half an hour. The rest of the time seems to be spent getting the boats in and out of the lift, sealing the caissons (the bath-like containers that hold the boats), doing technical stuff and getting the water levels in the caissons and the canal and river the same so the boats can exit.

Top right leads to the canal, bottom left to the river

The entrance at the top

The river trip boat entering at the bottom

The chap you can see is stood on the back of his boat in the top caisson

Halfway up (and down)

Narrowboat joining the river

And the trip boat now at the top

After a morning watching other people being busy we decided to move on, so we bid Kathy and Chris a fond farewell, after checking that none of us had anything that the others would need while we are apart. Things like mugs and glasses tend to migrate between the boats. We planned to reach Middlewich but found a lovely, offside mooring with picnic tables and space for the kittens to roam without disappearing into a hedge so we stopped about a couple of miles before reaching there. It did seem a bit strange only needing space to moor Morgana and Merlin!

Gwynie and Lance had great fun, running around, chasing each other and climbing trees. Ray rescued Gwynie from about ten foot up a tree, I'm sure she would have got down but he was worried she would climb even higher! It's his fault for letting her climb up his jeans.

Gwynie's favourite trick at mealtimes

Tomorrow we will continue our journey south and onto the Shropshire Union Canal, we probably won't get as far as Nantwich but we should still reach Audlem Bottom Lock on Friday.

Today's journey 7.9 miles

So far we have travelled 473.7 miles, 447 locks, 53 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 14 tunnels

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Narrow Canals again.

After several weeks on broad canals and rivers the Trent and Mersey seems very narrow. When the canals were built with locks that were only seven feet wide the canal builders didn't see much point in making the canals any wider than was necessary to allow two seven foot boats to pass each other. The bridges are designed to allow a seven foot wide boat to pass through, so it all feels a bit narrow.

We passed through three tunnels today, the first, longest one was reasonably straight, the second, shortest one had a bit of a kink in it and the third looks like it was dug by an enibriated worm. My theory is that the longest was dug first and that by the time they got to the third the engineer said to the navies "OK lads, you know what you are doing, I'll leave you to get on with it!". Kathy's theory is that they started on the beer and whiskey supplies in celebration after completing the first and carried on drinking until the had dug the third!

Anyway, we are now moored up by the Anderton Boat Lift, this wonderful bit of engineering takes boats from the Trent and Mersey Canal and the River Weaver, a distance of fifty feet. We aren't planning to go onto the River Weaver but Kathy and Chris are so we will part company for a few days. I didn't manage to get any photos of the lift tonight because I would have been taking them into the sun, yes sun! I'll try for some before we leave in the morning.

Today's journey 5.6 miles, 1 lock and 3 tunnels.

So far we have travelled 465.8 miles, 447 locks, 53 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 14 tunnels.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Guess what? It's raining

The weekend was pretty good, took a trip into Warrington and got lights for Merlin at IKEA. I also spent far too much in Hobbycraft. We found some mushroom growing kits in Homebase but didn't fancy carrying them round with us, we had planned to go back for them but would have missed our bus back to Lymm.

Today we headed towards the Trent and Mersey, we nearly made it, I thought the T & M started at the junction at Peston Brook but it actually starts a bit south of that. Travelling on the Bridgewater was very slow, there are so many moored boats, we were only averaging about 2mph. We only just made it to Midland Chandlers before they closed so we could collect the valve for our calorifier (immersion heater) which we had ordered. The weather was as yucky as it has been for about the past fortnight, with no sign of improvement if the weather forecast is to be believed. Why do the weathermen always get it right when they predict rain?

Tomorrow we plan to head down to the Anderton Boat Lift. Kathy wants to take Destiny down the lift onto the River Weaver, I don't think we will bother with that on this trip.Something to save for another time.
So it was another uneventful day. We are looking forward to seeing Barry and Alex soon, and hopefully a visit from Mandy, Tony, Mikey and Dani next week as well.

The kittens have a  new trick, if Ray doesn't get their food fast enough they will climb up his jeans to get to the work surface. They better not try it with me when I am wearing leggings!

Today's journey 10.1 miles

So far we have travelled 460.2 miles, 446 locks, 53 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 11 tunnels

Friday, 23 July 2010

Escape from Manchester

We eventually escaped from Manchester yesterday, the weather did it's best to live up to Machester's reputation for rain. After a couple of day's of lousy weather we decided to make a break for freedom on Thursday lunchtime.

We left first, stopping off at the sanitary station for the usual loo emptying, water top-up and rubbish dumping and headed back to the junction with the main branch of the Bridgewater Canal to turn south through Sale and out into the country. By the time they had emptied (loo and rubbish) and filled (water) both boats Kathy and Chris were about an hour behind us, they then stopped off for shopping. By the time they reached us we had been moored for about three hours, I was beginning to think they had decided to moor up and catch up this morning.

After spending the night just outside Bolliington we moved on to Lymm today. Both days were very uneventful but there are a lot more boats, both moored up and travelling, than we have seen for a long time. It is becoming harder to find places for all of us to moor together, particularly where there aren't other boats.
Today was the first time in ages that we have sat outside in the evening.

We plan to stay here for the weekend, Ray and I intend to go into Warrington to Ikea tomorrow and Kathy is expecting visitors.

Yesterday's journey  10.7 miles.

Today's journey  2.1 miles.

So far we have travelled  450.1 miles, 446 locks, 53 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 11 tunnels.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Full Circle, almost.

181 miles, 206 locks, 44 swing bridges, 1 lift bridge and 5 tunnels later we are almost back where we were early two months ago. we are moored at  Castle Quay which is just over a mile from where we were on the 20th May.

We set off around lunchtime with the usual Manchester weather, drizzle, dry, rain, dry for nearly 3 hours. As we passed through Worsley I managed to get a shot of the entrance to the Delph.

Also a shot of the boathouse that was built for a one day visit to the mines by Queen Victoria in 1851.

We crossed the Manchester Ship Canal on the Barton Swing Aqueduct.

 I'm not sure when the last time it was operated was, it would have to be a big ship that couldn't pass underneath it. The canal this side of Manchester is a lot cleaner than it was heading up the Rochdale.
Tomorrow is a shopping and laundry day so it will be at least Tuesday before we move on.

Today' journey 8.2 miles

So far we have travelled 437.3 miles, 446 locks, 53 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 11 tunnels.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Bring back summer!

As you will have noticed we haven't moved very far. The weather has been lousy, I know we need the rain but couldn't it rain for half the day and be nice the other half instead of 15 minutes rain, 15 minutes dry, on and off all day. We went to the mining museum on Thursday, it is run by volunteers one chap we were talking to actually worked in the mine before it closed in 1970. Quite interesting, educational too.

Yesterday we moved up to Worsley, not very far but it meant we could all fuel up at the boatyard on the way. The canal here is orange, apparently it is due to iron hydroxide in the water. At the Delph in Worsley there is the entrance to the old underground canal network which linked the Duke of Bridgewater's mines. There were over fifty miles of underground canals but they are all closed off now. I might try and get some photos of the entrance to the tunnels tomorrow. We walked into Worsley to meet Scott's friend Luke who has come to stay for a week and found a pub that only charged £3.49 for their carvery. At that price we decided to eat out! I can recommend the Bridgewater Hotel, Worsley. Excellent value for money. We are still planning to go into Manchester but it will probably not be until Monday.

Yesterday's journey 1.3 miles.

So far we have travelled 429.1 miles, 446 locks, 53 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 11 tunnels.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

We escaped in time.

British Waterways have announced that the Leeds and Liverpool Canal will be closed from the 2nd August between Lock 30 (near Gargrave) and Lock 85 ( the bottom of Wigan Flight). That is the stretch we did last week. The rest of the network just seems to have cautions about reduced water levels.

Today we moved on from Ince Moss to Astley Green. As we were getting ready to leave we saw 6 or 7 black mink playing on the opposite bank. It wasn't a very long journey, no locks and just one swing bridge. We did have a bit of rain on the way, and then a thunderstorm while we were at the pub but I don't think that was enough to make a difference to the levels in the reservoirs. It did give us an excuse to stay for another pint though!

We may stay here tomorrow so we can visit the mining museum, then I think it will be a longish run to get past the Manchester suburbs.

Today's journey 6.5 miles and 1 swing bridge.

So far we have travelled 427.8 miles, 446 locks, 53 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 11 tunnels.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

23 locks and fishing for kittens!

Chris made it back to us nice and early then all we had to do was wait. There was no problem with BW letting three boats down so John and Jackie took the lead and we all set off. It was warm but not too hot thankfully and with John on his boat and Ray taking Morgana and Almyne that left Jackie, Chris and I to work the locks with a bit of help from BW.

It seemed to be a well maintained flight, some of the paddles were a bit stiff but not many. Our only problem was one we knew about before we started. One lock halfway down has a gate that doesn't open, so we had to separate the boats and take them out one at a time. We made good time and got down through the 21 locks in less than five hours. We turned the corner onto the Leigh Branch, down through the Poolstock Locks and met Kathy who had brought Destiny up to meet us. Then we headed back to Ince Moss to moor up.

When we all settled the kittens came out onto the towpath, Gwynhwyvar had fallen in yesterday and while we were sat relaxing Lancelot took a dip. Albert, the kitten we aren't having, fell in twice. At least they can all swim! We took Lance and Gwynie home with us for the first time. Gracie, the oldest cat, who likes to visit us for some peace wasn't amused when we made her leave before feeding time. The kittens seem to be settling in OK, they have managed to take up a lot of space on the couch for two small kittens!

Today's journey 4.2 miles and 23 locks

So far we have travelled 421.3 miles, 446 locks, 51 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 11 tunnels

Saturday, 10 July 2010

At the top of Wigan Flight

We have made it! We are now sat at the top of Wigan Flight, we might be able to go down tomorrow but there is one boat in front of us waiting to go down so if BW are only allowing one passage per day we will have to wait until Sunday. Chris managed to find a bus service that took him to Plank Bridge where Kathy is so he went to see her and stay the night, hopefully he will be back early enough in the morning if they do let us down the flight tomorrow.

Today's journey was uneventful just Johnson's Hillock Locks to interupt our smooth passage to Wigan. Even they were unlocked early so we were able to go straight through even though we reached there at 9.30.

If we are stuck here for the day I may go and investigate the delights of Wigan.

Today's journey 14.7 miles and 7 locks.
So far we have travelled 417.1 miles, 423 locks, 51 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 11 tunnels.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Blackburn and beyond!

Blackburn was every bit as exciting as I expected. It's only redeeming feature was a fairly new large Morrisons close to the canal. After stocking up we carried on to Blackburn Locks only to find them padlocked. Last entry is supposed to be 4pm and this was at 3 pm. I went off down the flight on foot in search of a lock keeper while Chris phoned BW. I found a lockie and yet again there seemed to be confusion about the restrictions, however he did come and unlock the gates for us so we could carry on. I wonder if mentioning my communications with Debbie Lumb (NW Waterways manager) had anything to do with his willingness to help.

Now we are back in "urban sprawl" the canal is exhibiting the array of bottles, cans, bikes and supermarket trollies that I have come to expect. I can now recognise trollies from all the major supermarkets and DIY store by an eight inch portion of their handle protruding above the surface. Any seats along the towpath seem to be occupied after noon by various enibriated Scotsmen. Why are they always Scotsmen even in Lancashire?

We emerged from the suburbs of Blackburn and moored up near an old papermill with acres of woodland surrounding it. Only about 13 miles and 7 locks to the top of Wigan Flight now, so we should we down the flight on Saturday, water levels permitting. Although it has been raining I doubt it has made any impact on the water levels.

Today's journey 15.7 miles, 6 locks and 4 swing bridges.
So far we have travelled 402.4 miles , 416 locks, 51 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 11 tunnels.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Getting very wet

Today's weather forecast was for light showers, Lancashire must have a different definition of light showers to me. We left our moorings at Barnoldswick about 8.00 to head down through the Foulridge tunnel and reach the Barrowford Locks by the time they opened at 10.00. At this time the rain was light so no great problem. When we reached the locks we found they were already open at 9.30 so we made swift progress down through the seven locks and on towards the "delights" of Nelson and Burnley. By this time the rain was, in my opinion, neither a shower nor light, it was chucking it down! I'm not complaining, we need the rain. At least once we were through the locks I could make the excuse that I had some baking to do and disappear under cover. The idea of me baking always goes down well with Chris and Ray so they had no objections. The rain got so heavy at one point they contemplated stopping but decided they couldn't get any wetter so carried on. It is a pity the weather wasn't better as some of the views once we were clear of the urban sprawl were fantastic even with limited visibility.

From Burnley the canal meanders along never far from the M65, I had intended to moor as far as possible from the motorway but it was impossible to hammer in mooring pins there so we ended up only about 200 yards from the motorway, luckily not too noisy.

Tomorrow we will have the pleasure of visiting Blackburn, a place my brother holds a low opinion of (understatement of the century), at the time of writing I'm not in a position to offer an opinion. A supermarket stop is in order as there is no shop near our intended moorings once we go down Wigan flight. Apparently the locals welcome you with a skip yard which stinks and is fly infested.

The sunset tonight held a promise of a better day tomorrow.

Today's journey 16.6 miles, 7 locks and 2 tunnels.

So far we have travelled 386.1 miles, 410 locks, 47 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 11 tunnels.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Back in Lancashire

I didn't blog yesterday as the signal was a bit dodgy. I suppose you can't expect too much when you are up in the Yorkshire Dales.

Sunday ended up as a no-travel day, the wind was blowing a gale and the rain came down. We did visit the Village Hall for tea and scones in the afternoon, very civilised. I have to say the locals in Kildwick are very welcoming, we spent an amusing hour chatting. The churchyard at Kildwick is heaven for a family historian, they seem to like relating every detail on the gravestones, even the fact that a husband was buried somewhere else. Pity that none of my relatives were from here.

On Monday we started out early, headed through Skipton and on towards Gargrave flight. The restrictions because of the lack of water mean you can only enter the lock flight between 10 am and noon then between 2pm and 4pm. Although we arrived before noon we missed the morning slot because there was a queue of boats waiting to go up the flight. We were the second pair of boats to go up in the afternoon and got part way up the flight only to be told "you won't complete the flight by four, you'll have to moor up". After we had stopped I re-read the restriction notice and it clearly says "enter the flight by 4pm" not complete the flight by 4pm. An email to BW followed, I received a prompt reply and it appears my interpretation was correct and that we should have been able to complete the flight. The delay didn't stop us enjoying a pleasant evening on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We saw the first curlew I have seen in years. It wouldn't come close enough to us for me to get a good photo.

Today we carried on to Barnoldswick which took us back into Lancashire. One stretch of the canal is very bendy, it has a couple of hairpin bends on it. We had the amusing sight of Chris, on Almyne, travelling in the opposite direction to us the other side of a field. 

You can just see Chris, passing right to left behind the moored boats as we were heading left to right the other side of the bend.
The lock keepers today were telling us that unless there is a substantial amount of rain the Leeds and Liverpool could be closed to navigation in just over two weeks. I found out today that the Rochdale Canal is closed at Sowerby bridge due to the lack of water. Generally it was a good day and we still hope to make it to Wigan on Sunday. The other canals don't seem to be suffering as much with water shortages.

Yesterday's journey 10.1 miles, 4 locks and 9 swing bridges.

Today's journey 7 miles and 11 locks.

So far we have travelled 369.5 miles, 403 locks, 47 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 9 tunnels

Sunday, 4 July 2010

I need to learn to turn pages!

On my last post I said it was downhill from here - wrong! I managed to turn over two pages together, we have another eleven locks going up before we start going down.

After my baby-sitting duties we moved on again today, it was a bit windy but dry and fairly warm. I was steering Almyne as Chris is away with Kathy this weekend but we did have Chris's sister Belinda with us. Belinda was doing the swing bridges as she has never steered a narrowboat. We did manage to temporarily close the canal! One of the bridges was very stiff to open and when Belinda tried to close it - it stuck! It wouldn't close fully but it wouldn't re-open either. It was possible to cross the bridge on foot so I rang BW and told them the bridge was stuck closed, they said they would get someone out.

The water levels made it hard to get Almyne into the bank in places but we managed. Morgana's water inlet got blocked with weed so she overheated and Belinda and I had to wait about an hour for Ray to catch up with us. As always the wind made steering hard. Apart from that it was a good day. We have moored for the night at Kildwick, we may move on tomorrow depending on the weather, some forecasts are predicting a nasty day. We need to make sure we are somewhere Chris can get back to us easily.

Today's journey 5.4 miles and 7 swing bridges.
So far we have travelled 352.4 miles, 388 locks, 38 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 9 tunnels.