Monday, May 21, 2018

Moving on…

We were on the move again today, another fine sunny day to enjoy.

Looking over the Bollin Valley this morning.DSCF3475

Dappled sunlight through new oak leaves, lovely.

Just a couple of minutes from setting off we had to cross the River Bollin on an aqueduct. A boat was coming the other way so we held off. There is room for two boats to pass, but it’s a bit tight, so why struggle when you don’t have to?DSCF3477

A half hour of cruising through the countryside brought us to Seamons Moss Bridge, where the rural gives way to the suburban.

Heading towards Broadheath there’s a large development on the offside, on the site of the old linotype works. It looks like one of the factory fronts overlooking the canal is to be preserved…DSCF3486

…and maybe the main building too?

From Timperley Bridge there’s a 2½ mile straight, running past Sale and almost up to the Mersey crossing.DSCF3492

Hmm, this could be interesting…
Catastrophe averted, both the shells pulled over to allow the narrowboats past.

Sale started out as primarily farming country, but the arrival of the canal, then shortly afterwards the railway, stimulated it’s development as a commuter town for Manchester, which increased it’s prosperity. There are several sizeable churches visible from the canal, and the clock tower of the town hall can be seen over the rooftops at Sale Bridge.DSCF3496 



The swans and Canada geese thrive in the food-rich environment of the canal.DSCF3481

There doesn’t seem to be as many goslings about this year, though.

Under the M60…

…and over the Mersey

We pulled in near the Watch House Cruising Club for ten minutes for Meg to have a comfort break, then pushed on, past Stretford Marina to Waters Meeting.

Stretford Marina

Waters Meeting
A right turn takes you into Manchester, but our route is to the left, towards Leigh and points north.

Just around the corner the canal passes the large Kelloggs factory, with it’s own dock. DSCF3512
Grain from the US was brought into Salford Docks along the Ship Canal, then transferred to Kelloggs’ own fleet of powered and unpowered barges for the final leg of the trip. Cornflakes and Rice Krispies were produced here, but during WWII, unavailability of imported corn led the company to introduce Wheat Flakes. The factory even had it’s own Home Guard unit and ambulance team, put to use when the site was bombed.

We cruised on for another mile, pulling in on the moorings at the Trafford Centre.

Tomorrow we intend to be back on CRT waters, on the Leeds and Liverpool Leigh Branch, probably stopping at Plank Lane.

Locks 0,  miles 9 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Up the “Dukes Cut”

We’ve toddled on up the Bridgewater Friday and Saturday, and stayed put today on a fine spot overlooking Bollington Mill. I’m not sure that this section of the canal should be called the Dukes Cut though, as it’s not the original navigation opened by the Duke of Bridgewater in July 1761. We’ll be joining that tomorrow, the route from the Duke’s mines at Worsley to Manchester.
This bit was one of two further extensions, one south from near Stretford (this one…), the other north from Worsley to Leigh.
The route south led to Runcorn, dropping down the only locks on the navigation to docks on the River Mersey. It also incorporated the short arm to Preston Brook Tunnel and the connection to the Trent and Mersey.
The northern extension wasn’t built until right at the end of the 18th century, and linked the Bridgewater to the Leeds and Liverpool (Leigh Branch).

So back to the present and we left the mooring near Moore on Friday morning. A cold night, but a fine sunny morning. Two uneventful days, fairly quiet on the water, saw us to our present spot yesterday late morning. We had to be tied up before noon, Mags wanted to watch something or other on the TV…

Heading in towards Walton and the fringes of Warrington.DSCF3450

The rhododendrons are just coming out at Walton HallDSCF3453

The canal runs along the southern edge of the urban sprawl of Warrington for about 3 miles, finally breaking back out into the countryside east of Grappenhall.

Thorne Marine alongside London Road BridgeDSCF3460

And another of those stop plank cranes lurking in the undergrowth.

During construction of the Runcorn extension work was held up here for a while during negotiations with landowners further south. The main building occupied by Thorne Marine was once a warehouse for goods waiting to be moved on by road.

They can afford to use larger maintenance craft on here…DSCF3462

We arrived at Lymm early afternoon, pulling in on the towpath side. It’s a bit quieter here than on the same side as the town, and just as convenient.DSCF3465
It’s a good job we were early; the moorings were filling up by the time I’d got back from a shopping trip, and there wasn’t a space to be had by evening.

After another cool night we were on the move by half-nine on Saturday. Not far to go, just along to Bollington, but we had to stop for water on the way so had to account for having to queue.

We were only the first or second boat away this morning. There was bunting up in the town, so there might have been some sort of party on to celebrate THE WEDDING!

Long lines of moored boats make progress slow, past a couple of marinas then boat club moorings.

Past The Barn Owl pub on the left.

There used to be a bell on the towpath side to summon a row boat from the pub to transport thirsty walkers across the canal.

The water point at The Olde No 3 was free when we arrived, but it still took nearly 30 minutes to fill from the very slow tap. But we were moored up at Bollington by 11:10, in plenty of time for Mags to indulge her royalist tendencies.DSCF3471

Me, I can take it or leave it. So I got on with repairing the damage to the paint on the front corner of the handrail, and a few rust spots that had appeared on the roof through the winter.

It’s been busy on the water over the weekend, but it’s gone quiet again now. Tomorrow we’ll be heading up through Sale and Stretford, probably stopping at the Trafford Centre.

Locks 0, miles 10½

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Three tunnels, one (little) lock and a change of canal.

We stayed at Anderton till this morning, Val, John and John’s sister Jan came over to spend the afternoon with us, bringing a package of mail with them. We had a good afternoon, catching up. After all, we’ve not seen them for a month!
We’ve had fine days but cool nights. We’re on the cusp of whether to light the fire in the evening or not. At the moment we’re making do with firing up the central heating for an hour if necessary, but I’m not sure if that’ll last…
In fact this morning we sorely missed not having the stove lit. With outside temperatures down to 11° the inside had dropped to 15, far too low for Mags! Ninety minutes running from the heating got it up to approaching 20°, and by then we were feeling the influence of the sun. Unfortunately we’d moored with trees to the east, so didn’t get any direct sun until later.
Anyway, we got under way at around 10:20, having said our goodbyes to the lovely Peter and Jennifer. We may meet up again later in the year.DSCF3404

Past the boat lift

Leaving Anderton the canal enters a wooded section below Barnton, the air thick with the scent of wild garlic.

The canal swings around the awkward turn below Bridge 202, then into the basin leading to Barnton Tunnel.DSCF3410

Both this and Salterford Tunnel have difficult entrances; you have to be almost in the portal before you can see if there is oncoming traffic. Not a problem at the latter, it’s timed passage anyway. But here it’s pot-luck and Sod’s Law says there had to be a boat coming. I’d just got the cabin front in and had to reverse out again, the trouble was that the prop screwed the counter to the left, and the fore-end went right, just catching the inside of the entrance. I thought I’d got away with just pushing the chimney over, but no such luck… 

Ah well, it’s only paint. At least the cratch cover wasn’t damaged.

The oncoming boat emerged 10 minutes later…DSCF3412

…followed by another going quite slowly.

We did eventually go through, crossing the basin between the two tunnels and diving into the gloom of Saltersford just in time. Although this is shorter than Barnton it has a kink in the middle so you can’t see the far end. To prevent boats facing off the passage is timed; northbound we could enter at the top of the hour until 20 minutes past; southbound boats have from half-past until 10-to.

Salterford Tunnel

The kink in the bore gives an eerie effect, with the light from the far end reflecting off the damp walls. I’ve tried to catch it on camera several times and failed. Today was another failure…

Out of the tunnel we’ve more woods as the canal clings to the slope above the Weaver Valley. And more aromatic wild garlic…

After Bridge 206 the woods fall away and there are fine views of the river valley through gaps in the towpath hedge.DSCF3424

The Black Prince hire base at Bartington.

Just past the boatyard I spotted some young coots, the first this year. But by the time I’d got close enough to get the camera on them, Mum and Dad coot had ushered them into the reeds out of the way of the big, noisy tin thing.

It’s a very pleasant run along here, especially on a fine day. The site of the large breach in 2012 now has some splendid moorings with good views.DSCF3431


The cygnets of the local swan family are already being taught how to beg from boats…DSCF3432
They’ll be tapping on the hull in no time!

The Trent and Mersey Canal ends at Preston Brook, though where precisely is a bit of a mystery. There’s a shallow stop lock near Dutton Dry Dock which is usually an indication of a junction, but the maps show that the navigation is still the T&M as it enters Preston Brook Tunnel. It’s the Bridgewater though, when it comes out the other end. The actual end-to-end connection is somewhere under the hill… It’s actually just inside the northern portal, the “Mile 0” milepost stands alongside the horse path over the hill above the tunnel mouth.

Dutton Dry Dock with Dutton Lock just around the corner.DSCF3437

Preston Brook Tunnel, south end.

The three tunnels at this end of the canal will all accommodate craft of 13’ beam, although modifications to the stop lock probably realistically limit them to around 10’. This was to allow barges from the Mersey and the Weaver to access the salt works around Middlewich.

By the time we were through the lock two boats had emerged coming south and it was very nearly 1 o’clock. Time for us to pass through to Preston Brook.
This one’s dead easy, straight and deep so is quick to go through. They give you 20 minutes on the timing, but you can do it in less than 15…

That’s it, now on the Bridgewater.

This short section, up to the Runcorn Arm Junction, was built in 1776 to meet the newly opened Trent and Mersey Canal. The original Parliamentary application to connect the Bridgewater to Runcorn and docks down on the Mersey was modified to include this important link to The Potteries.

Preston Brook Bridge, with Claymore Navigation’s base and the M56 crossing visible in the distance.DSCF3442

Passing under the motorway and past the Runcorn Arm the character of the canal changes to the more typical wide and deep Bridgewater.

This first couple of miles from Preston Brook has three major landmarks on the horizon.

Runcorn’s Victorian water tower…

…Fiddlers Ferry Power Station’s cooling towers across the Mersey Estuary…DSCF3445

… and the futuristic tower of the Nuclear Structure Facility at Daresbury Laboratory.DSCF3447
Two of the three are no longer in use…

With 46 lock-free miles and several aqueducts, the consequences of a breach on this canal could be dire. The company has emergency equipment in place, many bridges have cranes and packs of stop planks alongside ready to block the canal should the need arise.DSCF3448

We ended the day just past the small village of Moore, on a bit of open, sunny towpath.DSCF3449

Tomorrow we’ll head to Lymm.

Locks 1, miles 10½