Canal Cruising 2006 to 2007
An eBook by Cyril J Wood
The title photograph shows N.B. "Californian" approaching
Dutton Bridge (212) on the Trent and Mersey Canal.
|Chapter 3 - Canalmanac 2007|
|Chapter 4 - Oo La La|
|Chapter 5 - Is There Still Life Below Wigan?|
|Chapter 6 - Och Aye the Noo|
Click on title to follow links
Canal Cruising 2006 to 2007 is a true story
Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2006
2006 started off with a shocking statement by the Manchester Ship Canal Company (who own the Bridgewater Canal) that was to have far-reaching implications to every boater on the Bridgewater Canal. In “Canalscape Book 3”... Chapter Two, I made reference to British Waterways’ involvement with the administration of the Bridgewater Canal. At the beginning of February 2006, along every boat owner on the Bridgewater Canal, I was horrified when we learnt of the proposed rise in mooring fees for 2007. It would mean that our mooring fees payable to the Manchester Ship Canal would rise from £164 to £405 p.a. for a forty foot boat. This equates to a rise of up to nearly 200% which would price canal cruising out of the reach of many boat owners, including, possibly ourselves. There was an outcry last year when mooring fees for private moorers went up by a similar amount but no action was taken by the parties concerned (boats moored on Preston Brook Marina, S & A Marine, Mrs Lanion’s at Lymm, Stretford Boatyard and “end of garden” moorings).
It will be interesting to learn how Peel Holdings justify such a rise in mooring fees. I know that, historically speaking, it has always been less expensive to keep a boat on the Bridgewater Canal due to it having a shorter length and less facilities than on other canals. The lower fees were one of the reasons that I moved from my mooring at Beeston Iron Lock on the Shropshire Union Canal to the Bridgewater Canal in 1985 (see “Canalscape Book 2”... Chapter One) but I consider this rise in mooring fees to be the tip of the iceberg regarding harmonisation of mooring and licence fees for all waterways controlled (or administered by) British Waterways who are rumoured to be taking over the administration of the Bridgewater Canal. Watch this space!
Also in February was the AGM of Lymm Cruising Club. After the usual statutory functions, elections of Committee, amendments to Club rules (like no smoking in the clubhouse – which was defeated), etc came the presentation of awards. We received two awards. The first was the presentation of a permanent plaque to replace the Roy Cocken Shield that we were presented with last year for the best turned out boat on the opening cruise. We were only custodians of the shield which had to be returned prior to the AGM. The second award came as a total surprise. It was a brass plaque commemorating three hundred miles cruised off the Bridgewater Canal during 2005. Ange, should have received an award in her own right. This was a “Mermaid Award” celebrating the fact that she fell into the canal in front of witnesses. She did this at Whichurch on the Club’s Summer Cruise and was helped out of the cut by Tony Whalley... the club's Commodore no less. Fortunately for Ange, Tony had forgotten her falling in, hence no award!
On a more positive note, at the same time that we heard of the rise in mooring fees, Peel Holdings announced that they were planning an extension to the Manchester Ship Canal. The extension was to be an arm off the canal below Barton Aqueduct and Bridge to the Trafford Centre. It would be approximately 400 metres long and would allow access to a new basin constructed next to the shopping centre. The basin would be the terminus for a water taxi service planned to run from the Lowry Centre at Salford Quays, down the MSC to the Trafford Centre and hopefully, allow convenient moorings for canal boats braving the MSC with shopaholic crews (provided that they are allowed to divert off the canal). The plan is not without its faults. Craft would have to negotiate Mode Wheel Locks which are full-sized ship locks and even with the intermediate gates in use to shorten the length of the lock chamber, would take a large quantity of water from the Upper Reaches.
It is interesting to note that when I was arranging for archive photographs for “The Duke’s Cut” I visited Mike Webb – an old friend who works for Peel Holdings and manages the Bridgewater Canal. Whilst chatting to him I mentioned that it might be an idea to have a supervised mooring space on the canal or construct a branch off the canal so that boaters did not have to leave their boats unattended whilst visiting the Trafford Centre. Now, I’m not saying that it was my idea to build the new canal but isn’t it a coincidence or is it just that great minds think alike? The only difference is that from my point of view, they are going to construct the extension off the wrong canal. On a more cynical note... maybe our additional mooring fees will go towards funding this project!
Whilst mentioning “The Duke’s Cut”... early in 2006 I decided to start collating additional information and photographs for a second edition of the book. A lot has happened on the canal since the book was first published but I did create a folder on my computer for the second edition the week after the book was first published. A new section will be the inclusion of the history of cruising clubs on the canal which also forms the basis for Chapter Eight – The History of Lymm Cruising Club within this book. The maps of the Upper Reaches of the River Irwell in Manchester from “The Big Ditch” will also be included. Hopefully, by the time the second edition is ready for submission to Tempus Publishing, there should be some developments in Runcorn concerning the reinstatement of the locks between Waterloo Bridge and the Manchester Ship Canal. There is a lot of development going on in that particular area and Mike Webb contacted me in February to ask if I could provide him with one of the original prints from “The Duke’s Cut”. The image in question is an aerial view of the old Sprinch’s Boatyard in Runcorn, taken possibly in the 1930’s and it was required for inclusion on one of the appreciation boards on the towpath developments in Runcorn.
This aerial view of Sprinch's Boatyard in Runcorn was used for the towpath appreciation board
At the end of 2005 I took the batteries off “Total Eclipse” home to top-up with distilled water, clean the contacts, charge and store over the winter period whilst we were not using the boat. When I took the batteries back up to the boat and reconnected them, the engine battery it would not turn over the starter motor. I took the battery off again and had it checked by Margaret at Thorn Marine. The check indicated that it was fully charged which lead me to suspect that the starter motor was faulty. As I was also going to Midland Chandlers to price the split kitchen sink and drainer that we planned to install when refitting the kitchen on the boat, I obtained a second opinion which confirmed Margaret’s diagnosis.
I then cast my mind back to the summer of 2005 when I replaced the battery isolator switch. I thought that the switch was faulty and intermittently open circuiting preventing the battery bank from charging. It was obviously the starter motor that was faulty giving me the impression that something else was faulty. I took a day off work in order to remove the unit but when I tried to remove the starter motor I could not reach the electrical connections due to their position. I would have to remove the steel steps that lead from the aft deck to the cabin in order to reach them. The steps would not budge and I suspected that the bottom edge had rusted solid onto the support bracket. Alan Savage and his son Phil tried the following day to no avail and we thought that the steps would have to be cut in half in order to remove them. The next day (Sunday), Ange had made plans and needed the car so my brother... Jim took me up to Oughtrington where we met Alan. We decided to have one more go at removing the steps with a large crowbar before resorting to the cutter. After a good team effort the steps moved we could lift them out. Ten minutes later the electrical connections were off and I had removed the oil filter assembly in order to slide the starter motor forward, out of the bell housing.
With the starter motor removed we, tidied up, locked the boat, left the moorings and went to Thorn Marine where I bought a new Chinese hat for the chimney and a couple of other bits before heading for home.
The following day I took the starter motor to a firm in Birkenhead that specialises in rebuilding and overhauling starter motors, dynamos and alternators for a reasonable cost. I collected the rebuilt unit later on in the morning (after parting with £35 + VAT) and headed up to the boat to refit it. Twenty minutes after arriving, the unit was reinstalled and reconnected, the oil filter assembly refitted and after connecting the batteries I was ready to start the engine. After giving the glow plugs a good heat the engine sprang into life and we were mobile once more. Before leaving I also refitted the chimney complete with its new Chinese hat.
A couple of weekends later we went up to Agden to fill the water tank, replenish fuel, gas and coal supplies ready for the season’s Opening Cruise the following weekend. We also learnt of problems with Plank Lane Lift Bridge outside Leigh on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The counterweight had fallen off the bridge rendering it inoperable which put our annual trip to Wigan in jeopardy unless British Waterways got their act together and repaired it which, given the timescale involved didn’t seem very likely.
A snowy, frosty morning looking towards Lymm from Oughtrington on the Bridgewater Canal
We were now all prepared for the opening cruise. As we did last year, Ange and I washed the boat prior to dressing it with bunting, balloons, etc for the cruise to Stockton Heath. Needless to say the day dawned bright and breezy and the wind tried to catch us out a couple of times whilst waiting for Scotch Dave... the Rear Commodore to give us the green flag to proceed in the procession. But as the day progressed the weather degenerated into wind blown rain. When we arrived at Stockton Heath we decided to have our lunch on board so whilst it was cooking I made a quick visit to Thorn Marine. After purchasing the latest new canal magazine... “Narrow Boat” I was asked to sign a couple of copies of “The Big Ditch” which I did before returning to the boat. After lunch we cast off and returned to Oughtrington or should I say we were blown back to Oughtrington? The weather didn’t damp our enthusiasm but it would be nice to have an Opening Cruise that took place on a bright, sunny day devoid of wind or rain for a change!
"Total Eclipse" at Oughtrington, all dressed up for Lymm CC's 2006 Opening Cruise
As anticipated, the cruise to Wigan was cancelled due to the problems at Plank Lane Lift Bridge and we went to Middlewich instead. We both finished work early on the Thursday before Good Friday to make a quick getaway along the M53 and M56 motorways. After loading the boat with our clothes, food, etc we lit the solid fuel fire, cast off and headed off in the late afternoon sunshine. We planned to meet our friends Lisa and Nigel Foster on their new narrowboat “Vive Para Hoy” but Nigel had to work until tea time and we didn’t meet up until the following day. That evening we moored at Stockton Heath and visited the excellent chippy opposite the clock shop on the A56 for our tea.
The following morning we set off early in order to miss the inevitable queues that there were bound to form at Preston Brook Tunnel. When we arrived at the tunnel we were surprised to see that there was only one boat in front of us and as we had timed our arrival perfectly, that boat was setting off into the tunnel as we arrived. Ange didn’t anticipate our arrival at the tunnel as accurately though as she presented me with a bacon and egg butty just as we entered the tunnel’s entrance. I had planned to try and take some video images inside the tunnel but the arrival of the butty meant that the video camera would have to wait until a future occasion... maybe on the way back.
We came across some more Lymm CC members at Acton Bridge so we stopped and joined Joan and Brian Gornell aboard “Forty Winks” for a chat and a coffee. Afterwards, Brian and I walked down to the Black Prince hire base to have a look at their books and I purchased two new mooring pins and May’s edition of “Waterways World”. As we returned to where we were moored we chatted about the Anderton Boat Lift and the River Weaver. The outcome of the conversation was that we made tentative plans to cruise the River Weaver later on in the Summer. As we reached our boats Lisa and Nigel arrived. We had originally planned to eat in the Leigh Arms at Acton Bridge but Lisa needs wheelchair access as she cannot walk and as it is a bit of a hike to the Leigh Arms we decided to cruise up to Anderton, eat on the boat and visit the pub after tea.
On exiting Barnton Tunnel we met a classic cabin cruiser from the 1960’s waiting to enter the tunnel. The boat’s name was “Quartet“ and is one of a few classic cruisers normally moored on the River Weaver. It is a regular user of the Anderton Boat Lift and can frequently be seen on the Trent and Mersey and Bridgewater Canals. The boat is reminiscent of a Dean built boat from Christleton but was constructed down South. Whilst chatting to the owner I said “I’ll be it originally had a Stuart Turner fitted”. The owner replied positively and informed me that it originally had a ten horsepower Stuart fitted and he still has it stored in his garage at home. Because it was becoming unreliable and thirsty (and no doubt Recreational Craft Directive regulations had something to do with it as well), he replaced it with a small Petter twin cylinder diesel engine a few years ago which has performed much more reliably and economically than the old Stuart Turner ever did.
Our arrival at Anderton coincided with the launching of some canoes belonging to members of a canoe club paddling to Chester. Nigel found a mooring space for our two boats and he was tying his mooring ropes as we arrived behind him. Ange was on the side of our boat holding the centre rope with her arm out displaying our intention to moor behind Nigel. As we were about to manoeuvre into the available space one of the female canoeists decided to launch directly in our path. When we pointed out to her that we were already on course to occupy the space that she was launching in she became quite confrontational and a fellow member of her group started to launch as well. There was space one boat away for them to launch that was not long enough for “Total Eclipse” and we suggested that they relocated to this space but the suggestion fell onto deaf ears. Not wanting to fuel the wrath of the canoeists any further we tied onto the side of Nigel and Lisa’s boat until they had paddled away but not before the canoeist in question informed us that they had a licence to which Ange retaliated saying so had we but the difference was that ours was quite a few hundred pounds more than theirs! I suggested that they read British Waterways’ Code of Conduct and I muttered something about using the waterways correctly not being brain surgery. I later heard that several other Lymm CC members had confrontations with the canoeists as well. Maybe they suffer from “Small Boat Syndrome”!
We put the incident behind us and went to the Stanley Arms after tea. Around about eleven thirty, on our way back to the boat I fell over and scraped the skin off my hand as well as “scrorping” (not scraping) my knee. I wasn’t drunk as I had only had four Bailey’s. The fault lay partly with myself for not looking where I was going and with the road as it had a ragged edge and no kerb to speak of. On our return to the boat Ange cleaned my wounds and dressed them before we went to bed.
The next morning we left Anderton behind as we cruised through Marbury Country and viewed British Waterways’ handiwork at the new lock gates installed to isolate the stretch of canal between there and Lostock Gralam which is susceptible to subsidence due to the salt mines in the area. The stretch of canal between Marbury Country Park and the Lion Salt Works is not the original canal. It was constructed in the 1957 to bypass the original line of the canal which had been severely affected by the aforementioned subsidence.
We pressed on towards Middlewich through one of my favourite sections of the Northern Trent and Mersey Canal. I was dismayed at the proposals to convert Billinge Green Flat into a marina. Whilst I recognise the need for additional mooring spaces on the canal network I think that it is wrong to decimate one of the features of canal for a marina. In my estimation it is far better to construct a a purpose-built lagoon for marina moorings. There are plenty of potential sites in the area and there is even a lagoon (not normally visible from the canal) behind Orchard Marina that could be utilised for this purpose.
Before long we were cruising through Croxton Flash. At the end of the flash I was pleased to see Peter the Whittler... the man who lives on his twenty foot Norman cruiser. He is one of the characters of the canal system and always has time to say hello and pass pleasantries with those passing unless, that is, they are going too fast then he usually informs the speeder that they are not on the M6. In fact, not so long ago he was permanently moored on the towpath side of the canal and had a large sign on his boat informing all and sundry that they were not cruising actually cruising down the M6 but the Trent and Mersey Canal! Peter whittles birds and other things from pieces of timber that he finds in the canal and in the fields and will be only too pleased to sell the passing boater the fruits of his labour. The last time we passed this location he was absent (actually in hospital) so I was relieved to see that he was back in residence.
He reminds me of of “Ken the Tramp” another person who lived on the bank of the canal. Ken was a friendly, intelligent, professional man that dropped out of society of his own will. He could usually be seen huddled beneath his umbrella at Moore on the Bridgewater Canal and was always ready to catch the ropes and have a chat over a mug of tea until he died of pneumonia in March 1984. He will be remembered and missed by many of the more experienced boaters on the canal. Just before Acton Grange Bridge, is a memorial erected by the locals to the memory but is now, sadly overgrown and not readily visible unless one is prepared to hunt amongst the undergrowth.
We were soon mooring at Middlewich with our fellow Lymm CC members not far from Croxton Aqueduct. We arranged to go for a meal with Tony and Linda Whalley off “Sapphire” (fellow “mooists” from our summer holiday on the Llangollen and Montgomery Canals last year) along with Phyllis and Barry Greenough from “Philbarmar” and of course Lisa and Nigel Foster accompanied by Nigel’s daughter off “Vive Para Hoy”. Consequently, a table for nine people was booked in the Big Lock pub adjacent to the lock which gives it the name. From my point of view the meal was a disaster. I decided to have the steak and kidney pie which promised to be excellent judging by what I had seen being delivered to diners on adjacent tables. But when it arrived (after a lengthy wait) I received what appeared to be a child’s portion. The pastry lid was about three inches square with a bit of gravy and one small cube of steak lurking beneath the lid. Complaints to the manager were not received favourably and we put it down to experience, vowing not to return there again. After a drink we returned to the boat (without any mishaps this time) and soon went to bed after a tiring and at sometimes trying day.
Boats from Lymm CC moored at Middlewich on a grey Saturday afternoon
The next morning we had the usual Easter competitions... Easter Bonnet Parade, etc. and the weather changed for the worse just as we were about to leave. We had all decided to meet up at Acton Bridge except for Nigel and Lisa who stopped at the Salt Barge due to it having better access from the canal for Lisa's wheelchair. Where we moored, the concrete edging of the canal bank had started to come away from the towpath leaving a gap wide enough for feet to become trapped down. Needless to say it wasn’t long before I had an action replay of my fall at Anderton but at least this time I fell on grass and not gravel!
A table had been booked at the Leigh Arms and as Nigel and Lisa would not be joining us Ken and Chris Leigh from “Merlin” joined us. Our meal at was a totally different affair from the Big Lock. Everybody at the table was amazed when I ordered the Steak and Ale Pie and they held their breaths when it arrived. They need not have been apprehensive... No child’s portions here! And what's more, it was beautiful. After the meal and a drink we returned to a nice warm boat and the heat from our little Carabo stove ensured that we were soon feeling the need to climb into bed.
Easter Monday dawned bright and breezy and we made an early start for Preston Brook Tunnel. We missed the eight-o-clock tunnel passage by five minutes but we were first in the queue for the nine-o-clock one. We stopped at Preston Brook Marina to empty the toilet and again at Moore for milk and a newspaper. I had erected the canopy over the rear deck by now as the wind was containing increasing amounts of water in it. In other words it had started to rain. Even so, the trip back to Oughtrington was pleasant, that is not to say that it wouldn’t have been even better if we had been accompanied by sunshine.
We hoped that the weather would be warmer by the time of our next cruise to Saltersford Wide between Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels over the May Bank Holiday weekend. It was better than the Opening Cruise but not by much. The junior members enjoyed themselves in canoes and dinghies in the wide waters between the tunnels and in the evening we all were warmed by the bonfire, burgers and alcohol provided by the club's catering team. We decided to leave our fellow club members on the Sunday and cruised to Daresbury where we moored in the middle of nowhere and enjoyed a little bit of peace and solitude. This is one of the advantages of being in a club such as Lymm Cruising Club... if you want to join in with the club activities you can do so, if however you want to have a bit of time to yourselves.. you can do that as well.
Saltersford Locks on the River Weaver overlooked by the Trent and Mersey Canal
A few weeks later we had a cruise to Castlefield in Manchester. We arranged to meet Lisa and Nigel on "Vive Para Hoy" on Friday evening at the Barn Owl at Agden for a meal. We were both lucky enough to be able to moor outside the "Barn Owl" and not on the towpath side of the canal. Had this been the case we would have had to summon the services of the ferry boat that transports customers from one side of the Bridgewater Canal to the other, and back again after their drink or meal.
The ferry boat at the "Barn Owl" Agden, used for ferrying customers across the Bridgewater Canal
The following morning the weather wasn't too bad. At least it wasn't raining. We passed through Dunham Massey and the trees lining the canal were in blossom, the scent from which wafted across the canal as we passed. We stopped at the Bay Malton to go shopping in Altrincham and on our return continued towards Manchester. At Stretford we came across an old Teal glass fibre cruiser that had something around the propeller its Enfield "Z Drive". Nigel pulled in to offer assistance and being conscious of "too many cooks" I watched and took photographs. We could not believe what was eventually removed from the propeller...
The fencing that had attached itself to an unfortunate boat's propeller
A closer view of the situation
A complete block and mesh fence panel which had obviously come from the building site adjacent to the new Stretford Marina. The individual links had to be cut using a combination of wire cutters and a hack-saw. Fortunately, no damage appeared to have been suffered by the "Z Drive" which are renowned for being easily damaged. After seeing this, Nigel and I will never complain about plastic bags around the propeller ever again! Whilst cruising up to Manchester it became evident that there was a sale on at either DFS or CSL (or both) judging by the number of old sofas that were floating in the canal. Approaching Castlefield the development at Hulme Lock was not yet complete but it was good to see that the old canal arm that lead to the lock was being integrated into the development as a feature. The last time I was here was nearly twelve months ago. This was when I came by car to photograph the breach that lowered the canal levels severely. I was disappointed to see that there had not been much remedial work at the site of the breach. We found mooring spaces at the end of the arm close to Deansgate. Whilst turning around "the wind" caught Nigel whilst we made a faultless one hundred and eighty degree turn. Unfortunately, nobody came out to applaud the manoeuvre!
Boats from Lymm CC at the Castlefield terminus of the Bridgewater Canal in Manchester
This was the weekend of the Eurovision Song Contest and we spent Saturday evening along with Lisa and Nigel off "Vive Para Hoy" in a gay bar next to Key 103 radio station watching the contest on a large plasma television. It was most certainly an experience and we enjoyed the evening even if Finland did win the contest with a bunch of "monsters" that couldn't sing. I always thought that it was, as its name suggests... a song contest. Perhaps I am wrong! The following day the weather changed for the worse and the rain stayed with us virtually all day. I do not like cruising with the rear deck cover erected as it isolates us from the surroundings and spoils the view, but we cruised back to Lymm with it erected. We had an uneventful return journey except for stopping to help Norrie (the mad Irishman) remove plastic bags from his propeller at Sale. This was to be the last cruise before our summer holiday cruise up the River Rhine documented in the nest chapter... "New Horizons" (alas... not on "Total Eclipse" but with hindsight I do not think that narrowboats are best suited to cruise the Rhine). The next weekend was the FBCC Rally Weekend hosted by Sale CC at Walton Park in Sale. Unfortunately we would have to miss the rally as we would be packing and making the necessary preparations for going away.
On our return from the River Rhine Cruise we had a "chill-out" weekend. The weather continued to be hot and we took the opportunity to tell of our adventures to other members of Lymm CC. We also had the opportunity to chat to Lyn and Roger Mellors who had their new narrowboat "Unique" out of the water for painting beneath the waterline. Lyn and Roger are fitting out the boat themselves and are taking their time to make sure that it is just how they want it. I must admit that they are doing a really good job and the boat will be a credit to them once completed.
Derek Bent and "Ambush" delivering red diesel fuel, coal and bottled gas at Agden
As our fuel tank was running low we went up to Agden for three drums of red diesel which will keep us going for a while. I like to think that we do our little bit to promote commercial carrying on the canals. The diesel fuel, along with gas and coal is delivered by boat. The boat in question is the Leeds and Liverpool Shortboat "Ambush"... owned by Derek Bent who runs a distribution business delivering to many locations up and down the Bridgewater and neighbouring canals. The added bonus is that the fuel, etc. is a little cheaper than if purchased through the normal channels and, what's more, it is delivered virtually straight to the boat.
"Ambush" at Sale featured on the front cover of the 2006 Federation Rally Programme
I had long wanted to visit Longdon on Tern to inspect and photograph the aqueduct that Thomas Telford used as the prototype for Pontcysyllte. One sunny day at the beginning of July we had not planned on going up to Lymm so we went to Longdon instead. It was not too difficult to find this off the beaten track village deep in the depths of darkest Shropshire. The A41 took us as far as Hodnet where we joined the A442. We left the A442 at Crudgington for the B5063 and B5062 which took us straight into Longdon on Tern. As we drove along the narrow B roads, place names from my canal books were jumping out at me. Rodington - there was an aqueduct there before it was demolished, Kynnersley - the location of the Duke's Drive Aqueduct, now also demolished, Wappenshall - where the Newport Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal made a junction with the Shrewsbury Canal. I even saw the name Weston Lullingfields on a direction sign - the southern-most terminus of the Weston Branch of the Montgomery Canal (which the Shrewsbury Canal was meant to extend to and make an "end-on" junction with but never did). At last we reached Longdon. We drove through the village and came to the bridge across the River Tern. Across the fields could be seen the aqueduct... black and imposing. After a quick look around we retired to the pub for a drink and to ask about the best way to reach the aqueduct. The first person asked replied with "What aqueduct?", a second enquiry was more helpful. "Drive across the bridge, up the hill and there's a parking space on the left. Cross the style into the field and follow the path". Well, at least there was a path to it so some people must know of its importance.
After we finished our drinks we followed the road as instructed and soon we were walking across the field. I do not think that Ange was very impressed with it. She had the expression on her face that she reserves for when I am enthusing about about a nice Pacific 4-6-2 steam locomotive or a wonderful Morgan Plus 8 sports car or some other interesting subject that I may have seen on the television... she was most probably thinking that I was having yet another of my "anorak" moments. Accordingly, I was told that I would have to find her somewhere to perform some retail therapy after I had finished indulging myself here! But never mind about that... we parked the car, hurdled the stile and walked up to the aqueduct. In fact there was no path to it so we had to walk across the field dodging the cow pats (at least they were well dried out and hard). I took my photographs and inspected the structure, making mental notes to add the relevant chapter about it in the "Shroppie" eBook. My immediate observations were concerning the flanged cast iron plates. They were identical to those at Pontcysyllte. But one thing that I could not discover is if the joints are also sealed with Welsh Flannel soaked in boiled sugar as they are at Pontcysyllte. No doubt, one day somebody will let me know if they are or not.
Longdon on Tern Aqueduct
I was disappointed as to how the locals view the treasure in their care. No signs saying "This way to the aqueduct" or "Park here for the aqueduct". After all, if it wasn't for this structure, Thomas Telford would not have been able to experiment with cast iron before building Pontcysyllte. Maybe they don't realise that they have the oldest surviving cast iron aqueduct in the world on their doorstep. Maybe they don't care that they have the oldest surviving cast iron aqueduct in the world on their doorstep. I don't know but what I do know is that if I lived there I would make sure that there were signs indicating "Aqueduct This Way" or signs showing visitors where to park, etc. as there is at Ruabon pointing visitors to Pontcysyllte in the right direction. I wanted to take the aqueduct home with me or put it in a museum where it would be appreciated and cared for but Ange said that maybe it would be best viewed where it was built. Maybe she's right.
The trip home was a revelation. It was the day of the World Cup quarter final football match when England were beaten by Portugal. Consequently, the roads were empty of the astrophysicists, brain surgeons, quantum physicists and other various members of MENSA that manage to make our lives a misery whilst they battle out who's going where and in which lane on the motorways! Maybe I should be more philosophical about football as when the big matches are on life on the roads (and when going around the shops) is much more enjoyable. On the return journey from Longdon on Tern we stopped at Nantwich for Ange's retail therapy (good shoe and handbag shop... Ange). We then went onto Shugbury's Ice Cream Farm at Hurleston for two of their beautiful Jersey ice creams before heading for home after an enjoyable (mostly for me anyway) day out.
We were in the grip of a heat wave that turned out to be the hottest July since God knows when and the obtaining of a McCulloch petrol strimmer gave us the opportunity to tidy up our moorings. As well as cutting the grass adjacent to where "Total Eclipse" lay we cleared the moss and other growth off the sandstone lining of the canal. This would make it less likely to slip when it was wet as well as looking much tidier. As the heat wave continued we looked forward to the next cruise up to Walton Park and "Spike Bridge" between Walton and Moore.
In the meantime, Ange and I had some time off work planned mid-week. Ange and my brother's wife Norma had booked a pamper day at a health centre in Haydock. This would leave Jim and myself at a loose end so I suggested that he joined me for a day on the boat. Jim collected Ange and left for Haydock after I left for Oughtrington. We arranged to meet at Stockton Heath the following morning so I cruised to Lymm, emptied the loo and filled the water tank before carrying on and moored for the night adjacent to Australia Lane in Grappenhall. As it turned out this was a bad place to moor as ducks nibbling the moss off the side of the boat's hull kept waking me up during the night. I do not know how many times I banged on the side of the hull in an attempt to frighten them off but it didn't work. I wished that I had one of those "Super Soaker" water pistols so I could squirt the water around the ducks in an attempt to frighten them away and leave me in peace.
During the night there had been a light rain shower that had freshened everywhere up and I went on deck with a cup of coffee to take in the morning air and wake up. On my way back into the cabin my feet slipped on the new laminate flooring that I had fitted a few weeks earlier and fell onto my bottom pulling the fire blanket with me which was stowed in a plastic wallet adjacent to the back door. Well... that most certainly woke me up but it took me nearly half an hour to refold the fire blanket and replace it in its wallet.
After having a shave and a shower I got myself dressed and had a leisurely cruise to Stockton Heath mocking the motorists racing past me on the A56 as they made their way to work (there for the grace of God go I). When I eventually arrived at Stockton Heath I moored outside Thorn Marine where I had arranged for Jim to leave his car here whilst we were out cruising. After visiting Margaret and Brian Hamilton to sign some copies of "The Big Ditch" and pick-up "Waterways World" and a few bits Jim arrived with Timmy the dog (shades of the "Famous Five" don't you think?). Once on board we set off in the brilliant sunshine that was to accompany us all day. We stopped at the little shop at Moore for a couple of their beautiful pies, milk, etc and carried on towards Preston Brook to catch the ten thirty tunnel passage. Jim had never been through Preston Brook Tunnel and the longest tunnel he had previously been through was Chirk Tunnel on the Llangollen Canal. He was most impressed with Preston Brook, especially the rebuilt section that is known locally as "The Cathedral".
After passing through the tunnel, he locked us through Dutton Stop Lock and we cruised along the River Weaver Valley in the hot summer sunshine. He thought, as I do that the northern end of the Trent and Mersey Canal almost rivals the "Shroppie" or the Llangollen for beauty and he wished that we had more time to explore it further. I promised to take him all the way to Middlewich in the future. But for now we managed to get as far as the white bridge that not far past Acton Bridge. Here we turned around in the winding hole and retraced our steps towards Stockton Heath. On the way we were treated to the sight of an ex-working narrowboat "Collingwood", an Admiral Class narrowboat towing the ex-Grand Union Canal Carriers Erewash Class butty "Ash". Not carrying cargo but being used as "bare-bones" hire boats. After this rare treat we carried on to Thorn Marine where Jim retrieved his car from their car park and went to collect Ange and his wife Norma from their Pamper Day at Haydock. Jim was dropping Ange back at Stockton Heath and they had tea with us before braving the M56 back home after an extremely memorable day.
|Motor "Collingwood" and butty "Ash" in the wooded cutting after|
|Dutton Stop Lock at the northern end of the Trent and Mersey Canal|
After Jim and Norma left us we stayed at Stockton Heath until after we had been to the shops the following morning. We then cruised down towards Moore and basked in the brilliant sunshine as we cruised to Moore where we tied up just before the reed beds near to the little shop. The next morning being Saturday we turned around and headed for "Spike Bridge" where we tied up in the shade of the wooded cutting and waited for our fellow Lymm CC members to join us.
"Spike Bridge" before Lymm CC arrived
(The name "Spike" is derived from the spikes just visible on
the left of the pipes spanning the canal that deters climbers)
Before long Scotch Dave... the Rear Commodore arrived and we set-up the gazebo ready for the barbeque that evening followed by other members with the barbequeues, bar, etc. We had a really enjoyable evening eating, drinking and catching up on the news and gossip. Whilst chatting to Tony Whalley we were discussing Terry Darlington ("Narrow Dog to Carcassonne") and Tony informed me that Terry's boat was being unloaded as we speak from the container ship that carried it across the Atlantic Ocean to Boston Massachusetts. Unfortunately the evening was over far too quickly (as they usually are) and the next morning we left for Oughtrington and cruised back to our moorings in the brilliant morning sunshine.
Boats from Lymm CC moored at "Spike Bridge"
For a while now I have been thinking about adding an extra section into "Canalscape". This was to be information on how to operate locks, bridges and a little about the rules of the road. The section was to be completed with an appendix and glossary. I mentioned this to Tony Whalley whilst we were at Spike Bridge who was kind enough to proof-read an early version of the text and he suggested a totally separate book with a title something like "Canals for Dummies". I took this on board and made enquiries to see if I could use the title. The publisher of this particular series of books didn't even have the good manners to reply to my enquiry which I took as a "no" so and looked for alternative suggestions. Eino Shaw... colleague at work suggested "Don't Call It A Barge"... which I was quite taken with. So much so that I have adopted this as the working title and hopefully this will be the eventual title if it is ever published. At the time of writing "Don't Call It A Barge" is over fifty pages in length and is coming together quite nicely. Of course, the trick is to have it accepted by a publisher. I was very fortunate with Tempus Publishing as I had something that they wanted... a virtually complete manuscript on a subject that they were looking for when I first approached them. Most publishers will not entertain a new manuscript from an author, only accepting work from literary agents. They are a breed all to themselves and to be accepted by one of them is nearly as difficult as approaching a publisher. Maybe I should approach the head honcho at the Vatican for a letter!
A fortnight the cruise to Spike Bridge we had a cruise to George Gleave's Bridge near Daresbury. We had been in the clutches of a heat wave since the last cruise with a couple of odd days when it had not been absolutely stinking hot. What a shame we were stuck in work. That's the problem, you see... work gets in the way of boating and I would retire tomorrow if I could afford to do so.
We recently saw this beautiful "Floating Garden" at Stockton Heath
Our next cruise of the season was to Middlewich. This was our second visit this year but as we were off work the week before the rest of the club was due to meander up the Trent and Mersey Canal we decided to leave our moorings on the Wednesday and take our time cruising up. This also gave me the opportunity to take some more photographs of one of my favourite stretches of canal. After spending the night at Lymm Village Moorings we made a quick visit to the market before heading for Preston Brook. Here we stopped at Midland Chandlers for a new fluorescent light unit and a pipe fender to replace one that had been damaged. Once through the tunnel and Dutton Stop Lock we cruised slowly through the countryside on a hot summer's afternoon.
The entrance to Preston Brook Tunnel with the entrance timetable on the right
Ex-working narrowboats moored between Preston Brook Tunnel and Dutton Stop Lock
"Morris Minor Bend" was nick-named after an old car of that type dumped there many years ago (now removed)
That evening we moored just past Marbury Country Park at the wide bit before Marston New Cut. The next day we continued our slow cruise and moored at Bramble Cuttings a few miles from Middlewich. Not long after we moored the weather took a change for the worse and it started to rain. But we weren't bothered as we had plenty of time and didn't plan on leaving this extremely tranquil mooring until the next day.
"Morris Minor Bend" is shortly followed by "Barbed Wire Bend" so called because of the barbed wire fencing that extends into the canal
(Just visible beneath the tree on the apex of the bend)
Bridge 206 signals the start of the wooded cutting that precedes Saltersford Tunnel
The canal passes through the centre of the Brunner Mond factory complex near Northwich
The "Old Broken Cross" at Rudheath near Northwich is a favourite with boaters
Ange steering "Total Eclipse" through Billinge Green Flash
One humorous (to me anyway) happening concerns a narrowboat that was moored a little way down the canal. Early next morning he cast-off and was cruising past when I made the usual pleasantries. The steerer's reply was as follows (in a cockney accent)... "Just going up to Middlewich to get some wor ah". Well, not being one to laugh at other people's expense (really... Ange!) the way the guy said "wor ah" cracked me up and when the boat had passed I nearly fell in the canal laughing at the cockney pronunciation of water. I was still chuckling fifteen minutes later and even now... years later still chuckle about it. Small things amuse small minds I suppose!
One of the most tranquil moorings I have known is at Bramble Cuttings outside Middlewich
I have previously mentioned Peter the Whittler who lives in a twenty foot Norman cruiser just past Croxton Flash. There is another resident in the area that is well known to canal cruisers. He is the "Flute Man". I do not know his name or for that matter ever remember seeing (or hearing) him but I am reliably informed that this colourful local character walks along the off-side of the canal from Croxton to Bramble Cuttings playing a flute! On this occasion we looked out for him but he was not in evidence.
We arrived at Middlewich around midday the next day (Saturday) and joined our friends in the usual things that boat clubs do (but after our last visit, not in the Big Lock public house). The next day we started to make our way back along the River Weaver Valley and hoped that I would be able to take a photograph of the old sunken work boat in Billinge Green Flash. Ideally, the light has to be just right and preferably with a heron perched on the hull of the old boat. Alas, the light was not right nor was there a heron in evidence. It will just have to wait for another day. In the meantime we continued along the canal and moored for the night at Acton Bridge. The Leigh Arms provided our evening meal and refreshment to their usual high standard. We shared a table with our usual gang of six other Lymm CC members except that Nigel and Lisa Foster did not make the cruise and their places at the table were taken by Hugh Bantock and his partner off NB "Toccata". Their boat has a treble cleft and musical notation from the opening bar of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor to match the boat's name.
A couple of weeks later was the Illuminated Boats at The Barn Owl, Agden. We had not planned to go on this cruise due to our both having a trying week at work (it was enrolment time at College, had worked two late nights and needed some serious relaxation). We were asked to come to a barbeque at our Oughtrington moorings then cruise up to the Barn Owl for the Illuminated Boats. We did not have any exterior lights to illuminate the boat with but Nigel off "Vive Para Hoy" lent us an amber rotating beacon and we lit the hurricane lamp as well and placed it on the roof. We did not expect to win any prizes but at least we made the effort and took part. We also had a very nice meal in the Barn Owl as well.
Barbeque at Lymm CC's Oughtrington moorings
(Photograph taken from the roof of "Total Eclipse")
The Bridgewater Canal at Oughtrington Wharf on a sunny summer's afternoon
Our tiller and pin with boats from Lymm CC in the background
Sunset at the Barn Owl, Agden
The next cruise was to Salford Quays on the River Irwell. I always look forward to this cruise but unfortunately I had "man flu" and gave it to Ange where it manifested itself as bronchitis. Bearing this in mind we decided to forgo the cruise and try to get ourselves right for work.
The Boat Safety Certificate was due to expire at the end of October and after downloading the latest guide to the subject from the Internet I made an assessment of what work had to be done in order that the inspection could be passed and a new certificate awarded. This work included many "I'll finish that off later!" items such as securing the earth cable to the starter motor (originally earthed through the boat's hull), enlarging ventilator holes, tidying-up the bilge pump wiring and connections and a few other bits. One item for concern was that the gas locker drain was blocked. I had tried to unblock it with various items ranging from wire to a long stick. In the end I brought a very long masonry drill from home and cleared the obstruction partially finishing it off with a wire coat hanger which Ange suggested that I tried. The drain then worked perfectly and after it had dried out was repainted. There were other items that required attention such as the heatproof insulating material adjacent to the cooker that was showing signs of distress and the checking and replacement of the fire extinguishers as well as some "best practice" items like changing the 2.5 twin and earth single conductor mains cables with flexible cables. It wasn't until I was satisfied that the boat was ready for inspection that I contacted the boat inspector to arrange for a date for the inspection at 12.00 on Wednesday 1st November at our Oughtrington moorings and I arranged to take a day off work accordingly.
"Vive Para Hoy" and "Total Eclipse" moored in autumn sunshine at Dunham Massey
In the meantime, Lymm Cruising Club hosted a visit from Strawberry Island Boat Club located in Doncaster on the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation. Lymm CC had visited them last year but Ange and I were unable to accompany the club on the visit. On this trip the weather was atrocious as our members were taken on a trip along the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation aboard members' boats. This year we had about forty members from Strawberry Island coming to Lymm and the plan was to take them for a trip along the Bridgewater Canal followed by a buffet and an evening of entertainment in our club house. We had two members... Irene and Jim Hopkins "billeted" with us for the day and we cruised along with "Vive Para Hoy" and "Don Ross" to Dunham Massey for a picnic in the unusually warm autumn sunshine before returning to Lymm.
Lymm CC members and guests from Strawberry Island Boat Club enjoying the picnic at Dunham Massey
About 9.00 pm our guests from Doncaster bade us farewell and returned to Doncaster by coach. They thanked us for a most enjoyable day and for our hospitality. We looked forward to meeting them all in the future on a return visit to their club.
During the evening we were speaking to Beryl Moult (who organised the River Rhine cruise earlier in the year) about our disappointment of not being able to put our names down on the list for the River Danube cruise that she was organising for August/September 2007. Unfortunately I am not able to take holidays in September due to it being the enrolment time in College. We were told that the cruise might not take place anyway due to lack of numbers and that she was thinking about a cruise on the River Seine through France to Paris. This would most probably be during April which meant that I would be able to have the time off work and provided that Ange could as well we should be able to go.
Another development that came to light during the evening was that a protest rally against the proposed rise in mooring fees was being planned. It was to take place at Lymm Village where the canal was to be blockaded with boats, closing the canal to through traffic for the duration of the protest rally. No doubt... I shall have to arrange another day off work!
Before we knew it the weekend of the Closing Cruise was upon us. Ange's brother Colin had travelled up from the Isle of White with his new girlfriend to visit and the "Girlfriend Gestapo" (of which Ange is a member along with her mother, sister, youngest brother and sister in law) were going to give the poor unsuspecting girl the once over. Consequently, I went up to Oughtrington on my own as I still had a few jobs to complete before the Boat Safety Examination the following Wednesday.
Boats from Lymm CC moored at Dunham Massey on the season's Closing Cruise
The following morning I readied the boat for the Closing Cruise which was to Dunham close to the "Swan With Two Nicks" public house. I cruised up in the brilliant autumn sunshine which was really warm considering that it was late October. After socialising for a couple of hours I returned to Oughtrington, tidied up the boat and went home.
John Taylor, the Boat Safety Certificate examiner was due to meet us at our Oughtrington moorings midday on 1st November. I thought that I had covered everything that was due to cause problems but was expecting something to rear its head and cause a problem that would prevent the new certificate from being granted.
John Taylor admiring our collection of plaques whilst issuing the new Boat Safety Certificate
(Get the date right John!)
As it turned out "Total Eclipse" passed with flying colours and a new four year certificate was issued (even if John did put the wrong expiry date on it).
The following week, on Wednesday 8th November 2006, the previously mentioned protest rally against the proposed nearly 200% rise in mooring fees threatened by Peel Holdings... owners of the Bridgewater Canal took place. Fifty boats attended and the rally was covered by local newspapers and radio as well as the north-west television news programmes broadcast by both the BBC and ITV. Keith Moore... the Chairman of the Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs and past Chairman of Lymm CC was interviewed as was Mike Webb from the Bridgewater Canal Department of Peel Holdings. The canal was also blockaded at Sale adjacent to the King's Ransom pub and at Worsley. A surprising move came from Peel Holdings who ordered Barton Aqueduct to be swung, effectively closing the Bridgewater Canal at this location. No doubt this was to add further support to our cause (I think not!).
The blockade at Lymm looking from Lymm Bridge
Coincidentally it was just over three years since the last protest rally held on 29th October 2003 at Stockton Heath when we were protesting against Peel Holding's (who else!) proposals to close Thorn Marine at Stockton Heath in order to build a handful of town houses on this historic site. At that time nearly one hundred boats attended and up to now at least we have been successful in keeping Thorn Marine in the old Bank Riders Cottage (possibly the oldest purpose-built canal building in the country dating from about 1770) but we will have to wait until later on in the week to discover if our efforts have been successful or not.
A second later photograph of the blockade taken from the bank showing
the Author (complete with hat) on board "Total Eclipse" (lower left)
(Photograph - Lymm CC)
A couple of days after the protest rally there was a meeting of the Bridgewater Trust... an organisation consisting of representatives from the Borough and Town Councils through which the canal passes, Peel Holdings, the Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs as well as representatives from other interested parties such as angling clubs. At this meeting the proposed 200% rise in mooring fees was thrown out and that a more sensible six percent rise was suggested instead. Peel Holdings did not take to this decision lightly and we will just have to wait and see what the outcome will be. Maybe this will be the catalyst for Peel Holdings to try and dispose of the Bridgewater Canal... possibly to British Waterways and we would then have our fees brought in-line with the rest of the canal system which are also considerably more than what we currently pay.
Around this time, British Waterways also had problems. Their funding from DEFRA (Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs) was to be cut by seven point five million pounds. This would have a serious effect on our canal system causing a cut-back in essential maintenance as well as putting many restoration plans on the back burner. To bring this to the notice of the public, protest rallies were held at many locations throughout the country on the weekend of the 25th and 26th of November 2006 and in our area at Castlefield in Manchester, Anderton Lift on the Trent and Mersey Canal and the River Weaver as well as at Cow Lane (opposite the old lead shot tower) in Chester on the Shropshire Union Canal. As with the situation on the Bridgewater Canal we wait with baited breath to discover the outcomes.
On a more positive note, the week after our protest rally at Lymm I received, totally out of the blue a telephone call from Tempus Publishing. Tempus wanted to produce a second edition of "The Big Ditch". With it having a larger interest base (canal, industrial archaeology, local history as well as maritime interests) than "The Duke's Cut" (canal, industrial archaeology and local history interests only) it had sold out after only eighteen months of being on sale. They were enquiring as to if there were any additions or alterations that I would like to make. I said that there where a couple of modifications that I would like to bring it up-to-date to which they informed me that they would like them within a week in order to print the new edition and have it on sale by Christmas 2006. Fortunately I had already started a file on my computer for additions and alterations and so I was able to send them the file plus a couple of new photographs and maps within the week.
With the Boat Safety Certificate now out of the way for another four years we can now concentrate on our refitting plans and hopefully have some of it completed for next season. The first thing on the agenda is to install new seating on the rear deck. This is to take the form of two moulded plastic chair seats (minus the steel legs) screwed to a wooden plank attached to the rear deck handrail. This would allow the centre deck board to be split in two allowing easier access to the weed hatch without having to lift the large deck board that is the complete length of the rear deck. The extra space beneath the seats would allow the generator to be brought from the front deck with the mains connection not having to run virtually the whole length of the boat to the power input socket next to the engine control panel when the generator is in use. The exhaust pipe from the generator could also be extended to vent outside the boat allowing the unit to be operated with the rear cover in place without overheating... for a short period of time anyway. My joiner friend Steve Jones ("Alright mate!") has promised to come up to the boat to give some pointers for the modernisation of the kitchen which is long overdue and also advise on the splitting of the front door to make it similar to the stable type door but with two doors above the split.
We were on holiday during late November and I planned to have one of our "Boy's Days Out" with my brother Jim. On the appointed day the weather was not very promising but we did manage to take some good photographs of the locations that we visited. I have included some of them below for your perusal.
Morris's Bridge (45) on the Llangollen Canal at Whixhall (close to where Maureen sank in 1964)
Boats moored on the Prees Branch near Whixhall Marina
One of the last remaining non-hydraulic Llangollen Canal lift bridges.
This example is on the Prees Branch
The wooded cutting at Ellesmere from the top of Ellesmere Tunnel
Chirk Basin and Aqueduct from on top of Chirk Tunnel
Unlike at Ponty last year, Jim managed to walk across Chirk Aqueduct!
Jim had an unscheduled day out on "Total Eclipse" when he accompanied me to Agden to deliver our generator that was being borrowed by Alan Savage for illuminating his boat at the Children's Christmas Party when he plays Father Christmas delivering the children's Christmas presents not by reindeer and sled but by narrowboat instead! The trip to Agden and back was shall we say challenging as it was quite windy and the boat's water tank was empty which meant that it was a ton and a half lighter as well as being three inches higher out of the water. The word "skittish" comes to mind when describing how the boat behaved in the wind but we managed to return to Oughtrington without any mishaps even though we did not have the weight of the generator in the bow.
And so another cruising season comes to an end. It is now time to empty the water tank, check the antifreeze, change the engine oil and filter and bring the boat's batteries home for maintenance and charging. I do not think we will be attending the "Brass Monkey Cruise" on Boxing Day due to family commitments but we will be at Lymm for the Children's Christmas Party and taking the boat down to Lymm for the New Year Party at the club house so we will not be winterising the boat in the truest sense of the word.
A couple of days we later we were back at Lymm for the Children's Christmas Party. Ange had planned to bring her eighteen month old granddaughter... Shannon up to Lymm for the party and also to experience a little of Lymm Village's "Dickensian Christmas" weekend. She didn't seem too impressed by the Morris Dancers (I think that you need to be a "special" kind of person to be a Morris Dancer) or the carol singers but as far as the party is concerned it got the thumbs up from her. You can always tell a good children's party... somebody always throws-up. This one was no exception and just who do you think threw-up? Well Shannon of course. It was just as Father Christmas (complete with sleigh) was arriving on top of a narrowboat preceded by a few other Lymm CC members' illuminated narrowboats.
Ange and Shannon (complete with "Devil horns") at the Lymm CC Children's Party
The Children's Christmas Party was a great success
Father Christmas arriving at Lymm CC by narrowboat
(The white spots in front of the camera are raindrops illuminated by the camera's flash unit and not snow flakes)
Father Christmas (Keith Moore actually) was greeted in the manner to which he was used to... the sound was deafening. I could hear them outside as I was taking photographs. Anyway. Ange cleaned-up Shannon and we made our way home after an enjoyable if not fraught day out.
As the year drew to an end I heard of the European Parliament turning down the British Government's proposal to continue the derogation of "Gas Oil"... the type of diesel fuel known as "Red Diesel" that does not attract Excise Duty in the same way that fuel for road-going vehicles does. This would mean a price increase of up to fifty percent. As if we haven't got enough problems what with mooring fees and British Waterways' cut in funding. I have also learnt that Peel Holdings have settled for an eight percent rise in our mooring fees. More than the proposed six percent but a lot less than the up to two hundred percent that was originally proposed. Let's hope that next year is a better year for the canal boater when it comes to politics, funding, fees and so on.
This has been a year that has seen us travelling along foreign waterways (see Chapter 2 :- New Horizons) for the first time, we have enjoyed a good cruising season and unfortunately we have lost a couple of good friends as well with the death of Robert Teece (wonderful moustache) and Richard Munslow who was Lymm CC's archivist and historian. None of us know what the future holds so we look forward to next year with anticipation as well as trepidation.
Click to return to Contents
Chapter 2 - New Horizons
Our holiday for 2006 was a complete departure from what we had previously experienced. Beryl Moult, Lymm CC's Treasurer had organised, in conjunction with the holiday company "Travelscope", an addition to the Club’s summer cruise programme which was to be a voyage aboard a cruise ship that would take us up the River Rhine passing through Germany, France and Switzerland before returning to Amsterdam and back to Lymm by coach. The official summer cruise was to Ellesmere Port and Chester along the Chester and Wirral sections of the Shropshire Union Canal. As we had been to both places many times by car and by boat we decided to support the River Rhine Cruise instead.
Lymm CC Members assembling in the clubhouse carpark prior to the coach arriving
We left our car in the Clubhouse car park and walked to the pick-up point whilst our luggage was ferried to us by John Melling and John Moult. We waited for the coach which was late due to road works approaching Lymm. When the coach arrived we loaded our luggage and started to journey to Newcastle. On arrival at the ferry terminal we joined the queues of vehicles which included a fleet of Toyota Landcruisers going to God knows where, a classic 1950's Rolls Royce, more Harley Davidsons than I had ever seen in one place before en-route to a "Hog Fest" (a Harley Davidson motorcycle rally) in Holland and about twenty BMW motorcycles no doubt going to emulate the "Long Way Around" route.
A classic Rolls Royce in the ferry queue
(Reminiscent of Goldfinger)
The ship that was to take us from the River Tyne, across the North Sea toIJmuiden near Amsterdam was DFDS Seaways' "Princess of Scandinavia". Once we boarded the ferry we were allocated a cabin, deposited our hand luggage, had a look around the ship and the on-board shops. On one of the decks was a display of the ship's satellite navigation system which showed our exact position which I found absolutely fascinating. We then went for dinner in one of the restaurants and I can honestly say that I had the best steak I have ever tasted. When we awoke on Sunday morning the Dutch coast could be seen and we had our breakfast with fellow Lymm CC members as the ship entered the harbour.
The "Queen of Scandinavia"
(Photograph - DFDS Seaways)
"Could I have the steak please?"
On leaving the ferry in Amsterdam we were then taken by coach along the motorways of Holland. As we passed Schiphol Airport Brian, our coach driver informed us that the runway is below sea level and the name "Schiphol" means "ship's hull" as the original terminal was the hull of an old ship. We stopped for lunch at a motorway service area where I took the opportunity to take photographs of a Dutch canal. This particular example was not of the navigable variety and it reminded me that not all Dutch canals were for navigation but for land drainage. The numerous windmills for which Holland is famous for are usually built to pump drained water from the level of one canal to another at a higher level. We were informed that when at rest, the position of the sails is significant… informing of family tragedy, being repaired or happy occasions, etc. As well as the more usual type of windmill the landscape was punctuated by many of the newer variety used for generating electricity in line with the country's commitment to renewable energy sources. We continued into Germany and made our way along the Autobahns to Andernach, crossing the Rhine and many other major waterways along the way. We eventually arrived at Andernach at 17.30 and saw the MS “Britannia” which was to be our floating home throughout the cruise for the first time.
Not all Dutch canals are navigable
The 110 metre long MS "Britannia"
The first impression of the “Britannia” was just how big it is. I had seen photographs of similar craft featured in “Waterways World” but when seeing it in the flesh the photographs did not do it justice. Its size is 110 metres in length and 11 metres beam. When all the cabins are fully occupied the passenger capacity is 201 who are looked after by a crew of 32, all of whom lined up to greet us as we came aboard. On arrival we were shown to our cabins then had dinner whilst our luggage was being unloaded from the coach and delivered to our cabins. In the evening we went into Andernach and walked up a cobbled arcade where we discovered some of our fellow club members in a typical German pub. We spent most of the evening there until we returned to “Britannia” for a nightcap in the ship’s bar before going to bed.
A cobbled alley way in Andernach
After breakfast the following morning (Monday), we cast off and cruised upstream to Boppard. Besides scale and the extremely fast current (about 10 M.P.H.), one of the first things that I noticed about the river was the mile... sorry kilometre posts. They are placed on both banks every kilometre along the waterway and indicate the distance from the limit of navigation. In between these posts are smaller posts at 100 metre intervals with a slightly larger post with a "+" on it every 500 metres. We started our journey up the Rhine close to the 610 kilometre marker post.
We passed Koblenz where the waters of the River Mosel merge with the Rhine forming a small peninsula known as Deutches Eck. Here, a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm has been erected symbolizing German unity. The scale of the Rhine has to be seen to be believed. If you think that the River Severn has a current, it pales into insignificance compared to the Rhine which is nearly three times faster. The barges that ply the river are loaded to the gunwales and have very little freeboard. On more than one instance we saw the wash from “Britannia” flow over the gunwales but didn’t flood the boat due to their having a stepped hull. Whilst on the subject of the barges, cars are stowed on the rear deck or cabin roof of many of them. When required, the vehicles were removed from their parking place and placed on terra firma by cranes fitted to the vessels. Large playpens (more like cages) for the crew’s children have been fitted to some craft allowing them to play outside safely in the fresh air and sunshine. When a barge or other craft on the river wishes to pass another on the wrong side, a large blue board with a flashing white light in the centre is displayed. The craft approaching from the other direction displays their board to confirm the action.
A typical barge on the Rhine... note the lack of freeboard
Tuesday morning we headed upstream after breakfast. As the weather was quite hot we sat on the sundeck. The river wound its way through a gorge lined with villages which seemed to only have one street.
In the afternoon we moored at Boppard and explored the town before returning to the ship for tea. Later on we joined some other club members ashore and found a pub in a cellar that was reminiscent of Preston Brook Tunnel’s interior only painted white. There were many steins hanging from the ceiling and we spent a most enjoyable evening sampling the local beverages (“absolutely unbelievable” according to Compo!).
The pub in a cellar at Boppard reminiscent of inside Preston Brook Tunnel only painted white
Tuesday morning we headed upstream after breakfast. As the weather was quite hot we sat on the sundeck. The river wound its way through a gorge lined with villages which seemed to only have one street. Railway lines, which accompanied the river, run on both banks and on a couple of occasions we saw the “Ice Train”… Germany’s answer to Sir Richard Branson's “Pendolino” in the U.K. These railway tracks would pass through the centre of the towns… effectively splitting them in half just like some of the roads!
One of the towns on the banks of the river is Lorelei. According to German legend, there was once a beautiful young maiden named Lorelei, who despairing over an unfaithful lover, threw herself headlong into the down the near vertical drop into the river 345 feet (132 metres) below. Upon her death she was transformed into a siren and could, from that time on be heard singing on a rock along the Rhine River, near St. Goar. Her hypnotic voice lured sailors to their death on the rocks that line the fast flowing river in the gorge. Just downstream from Lorelei are moored some tugs. These are operated by freelance captains and any craft that has trouble negotiating the bends at the narrowest point with the fast-flowing current against them is assisted by the tugs, payment for which is demanded and cannot be refused.
The famous (or infamous) Lorelei Rock
An aerial view of the River Rhine at Lorelei looking upstream
(Photograph - Wikipedia)
The day’s cruising came to an end at Rüdesheim which is the home to a locally produced strong brandy known as Asbach. We moored in an off-shoot from the main part of the river and were amazed at the number of swans in the area. One swan in particular was swimming with its cygnets and amused us as it was giving one of its brood a piggy-back on its back between its wings. We had not seen anything like this before and I thought that it warranted a photograph. Another example of the local wild life was a coypu seen on the river bank close to the ship. A coypu is a large, amphibious rodent the size of a small dog. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me to capture it photographically.
Cruise ships moored at Rüdesheim
A swan giving its cygnet a piggy-back
This town has many attractions including a cable car up the adjacent hills and Siegfreid’s Musik Kabinett… a museum dedicated to mechanical musical instruments. We were amused to see in one of the local shops a wardrobe/cupboard for sale in the shape of a coffin (€995). The same shop had many strange Gothic articles for sale, the use for some of which I cannot imagine. On our return to "Britannia" we saw five other cruise ships, the design of which was similar to "Britannia", breasted-up at the numerous mooring platforms that the town possesses.
A quiet corner of Rüdesheim
An example of a wacky architectural colour scheme
After dinner that evening we went ashore again and visited the “International”... a pub where beer was ordered in a “lady” for the men and a “boot” for the ladies. The “lady” is a large glass in the shape of a nude female and the “boot” is a smaller capacity glass in the shape of (not surprisingly) a Wellington boot! Keith Moore delighted in displaying his lady glass to passers-by through the window of the pub. The expressions on the faces of the passers-by had to be seen to be believed when they saw the shape of the glass. The toilets in the “International” also warrant a special mention. The tiles on the walls are brightly coloured and some of them have what can only be likened to the smutty cartoons on Blackpool postcards only concentrating on the bodily functions normally associated with lavatories.
Members of Lymm CC in the "International"
An example of unusual tiling in the "International's" loo
The “Britannia” set off early the next morning (Wednesday). I was awakened by the ship’s bow thrusters as we cast off. I was on deck soon afterwards taking photographs and video recordings of the sunrise. One the cruise up to Mannheim I took the opportunity to catch-up on the reading matter that I had brought on holiday. The book I was reading was "The Water Road" written by Paul Cogarty and tells of his exploits on a narrowboat cruise throughout the English waterways. Basically, he took time out from his job as a travel journalist and cruised from one end of the country to the other and back via a different route. In one chapter he cruises along the Bridgewater Canal and a paragraph requires reproduction here...
"A couple are painting their boat in the dry dock (slipway really) of Lymm Cruising Club. The woman waves a paintbrush. Lymm is clearly a big boaters' centre, the banks lined for a mile or more with moored narrowboats and cruisers, hips slung low, prows proud, sitting on their own shimmering reflections. Cotton Blossom, Zulu, Free Spirit II, Whistler."
Who knows... the couple painting their narrowboat might have been Ange and myself! This excellent book is essential reading for those of the same persuasion as ourselves and if the opportunity of reading it comes up I cannot recommend it too highly.
We reached Mannheim just as we finished eating lunch and were offered a choice of excursions. For the ladies to Heidelberg shopping or to the “Technical Museum” at Speyer for those with a mechanical disposition.
We chose the “Technical Museum” and it was awesome as it contained exhibits ranging in size from model trains to a full-sized Boeing 747 with everything imaginable in between. There was so much to see that a couple of hours could not do justice to the museum but for me the highlights were… the German Federal Railways steam locomotives, the Rolls Royce Merlin V16 engine (famous for being the engine installed in the Spitfire but also installed in other aircraft, tanks, motor torpedo boats and many more applications), the car collection (they even have an AC Cobra) and the Boeing 747. Other exhibits include a u-boat and many full-size aircraft such as a Douglas Dakota, an Antanov 25 freighter and many others. The Boeing 747 requires special mention as it is mounted on a plinth about 50 metres in the air and it is possible to walk inside the aircraft and even onto one of the wings (which you can get a good “whip” on it by bouncing up and down). The museum also had an "Imax" theatre like the Museum of Film, Television and Photography in Bradford but we died not have time to visit it and besides that, the films' soundtracks would most probably be in German.
"Britannia" having her fuel tanks filled whilst we were away from the ship on excursions
(We suspected that she had a pump-out as well)
After dinner we decided to have an early night as there was another early start in the morning. Also, Ange had got sunburn on her arms and the ship’s chef gave her a bowl of yoghurt to apply to the affected areas. Needless to say we had the Mickey taken out of us as we were going to bed early but all that I will say is that as well as having sunburn relieving properties the yoghurt tasted nice as well.
On Thursday morning we left Mannheim at 5.30 am and we cruised through the relatively flat landscape to Speyer. We left the “Britannia” here and went to Strasbourg by coach. We visited the cathedral (which I think looked as though it was unfinished and was waiting for another spire to be built) and did some shopping before cruising through the city’s canal system (4 miles and 2 locks) before returning to the ship which had cruised upstream to Strasbourg in our absence for a service stop. As well as taking on fuel I suspect that it had a "pump-out" as well as there weren't many passengers on board at this time. Every evening when we moored, a water hose was connected to the ship to replenish the water tanks on board.
(I still say that the Cathedral looks as though its waiting for another spire to be built)
One of the canals that runs through Strasbourg
It was quiz night on the “Britannia” and after dinner and the quiz was won by the combined team of “Vive Para Hoy” and “Total Eclipse” from Lymm CC. When the quiz was over the ship’s passengers were entertained by more antics fro Lymm CC in the shape of Keith Moore and Mike Goldberg.
Early Friday morning we locked back down onto the Rhine from Strasburg’s docks and cruised upstream. The top deck was closed due to the sunshades, bridge, funnel and masts being lowered. This was needed due to the limited height clearance on the guillotine lock gates and low bridges. Before entering the next lock the crew had to lift “Britannia’s” fenders (shades of Hurleston bottom lock) as the ship only just fitted with inches (sorry – centimetres) to spare across the beam. Our captain managed to negotiate the lock without bumping the sides… quite a feat on vessel 110 metres long! Passengers are not normally allowed to walk around the outside of the ship whilst negotiating locks but, with having thirty nine other captains on board he relaxed the rules which allowed me to take the photographs below plus some interesting video footage whilst in a lock. The locks have a few interesting features. Firstly, they were usually accompanied by hydro-electric power stations on the by-pass weirs, the revenue from which pays for the upkeep of the locks as no tolls are charged for their use. The bottom gates were of the guillotine variety with the top gates being either mitred or drop gates (disappearing into the top cill of the lock chamber). Another unusual feature was floating bollards in recessed grooves. The ship’s ropes are looped around these floating bollards which rise and fall with the water level in the lock and save having to re-tension or slacken off the ropes as the water level rises and falls. I would like to see a smaller version of the floating bollard used in locks on our waterways system as it would have many safety benefits whilst locking. The next lock was wider and we shared it with a barge, no doubt to save time rather than water!
A tight squeeze for "Britannia" in a Rhine lock
"Britannia's" fenders had to be lifted for passage through the lock
One of the floating lock wall bollards mentioned in the text
A Rhine lock at sunrise
We next entered a section of the river that makes our inland waterways pale into insignificance. The river was at least a mile wide and we were cruising on a collateral canal at the side of the main river channel three times the width of the Manchester Ship Canal. The river and canal were both at treetop level on an embankment forty or fifty feet above the surrounding countryside.
The wide collateral canal section of the River Rhine beneath a sunny, early morning sky
Our next port of call was at Breisach. After lunch we went on an excursion through the Black Forest, visited a cuckoo clock factory and the spa town of Titisee, also renowned for its cuckoo clocks and beautiful lake. After spending some time looking around the small town web returned to the comfort of our air-conditioned coach which took us back to Breisach.
The full-size Cuckoo Clock on the side of the factory we visited
Lake Titisee in heart of the Black Forest
The entertainment after dinner was meant to be a Mister and Misses contest but Mike Goldberg arranged a rope throwing contest with the crew. Even the captain, number one and chef joined in and a prize was offered to the contestants who threw the rope from the bank over the ship’s hand rails. Speedy – one of the deck hands won for the crew and Cliff Hayes won for Lymm CC. The proceedings were watched by the remainder of the crew and passengers and such was the popularity of the contest, the Mister and Misses contest was postponed. We later learnt that the rope throwing contest was to become a permanent entertainment feature of the cruises.
Mike Goldberg ready for action
Nigel Foster prepares for his throw
After the contest we were saddened to hear of the death of Rob Teece, a long-standing Lymm CC member and when we later retired to the local hostelry Bob McCulloch offered a toast in his memory. I will always remember Rob for his dry wit and wonderful "handlebar" moustache.
Sunset over the Rhine at Breisach
The next day was Saturday and we were taken on an excursion by coach to Interlaken, the name of which means the place between the lakes. The two lakes of Brienzer and Thun were once connected and made one large lake. Over the years, part of the lake silted up creating two lakes and the town of Interlaken is built on the silted up part of the lakes. We then carried on to climb the Stanserhorn Mountain by funicular railway and cable car. From the summit we had views of Lake Lucerne, the surrounding mountains which included the Eiger and even as far as the Black Forest in Germany. On our descent from the mountain we went to Lucerne and marvelled at its architecture, ornamental covered footbridge and the price of the watches in the shops. I remember having a book when I was a child that showed a photograph of the covered bridge in Lucerne and never dreamt that one day I would visit it and take my own photographs of it. We learnt quite a few facts about Switzerland such as... the "CH" on Swiss car number plates is an abbreviation of "Confederation Helvetica" after the confederation of the Helvetian states that make up Switzerland. As we were driven along the winding Swiss mountain roads we noticed small chapels built next to farms. This was due to the farmers building their own chapels for use in the winters when they were snowed in and not able to visit the main churches. Occasionally, travelling priests would visit the farms and take the Sunday Services in exchange for food and shelter. Another interesting point concerns the wood piles outside the farm houses. If the wood pile is neat then it is generally accepted that the farmer has a good wife or an eligible daughter. When wearing traditional costume, the married women wear a black cap whereas unmarried females were a red one.
The canal at Interlaken connecting Lakes Brienzer and Thun
The view from the top of Stanserhorn towards the Eiger...
... and Lake Lucerne
The famous covered footbridge in Lucerne with the Stanserhorn just visible on the right
In our absence the “Britannia” had cruised upstream to Basel where we rejoined it. From our mooring I noticed a steel cable crossing the river at high level. It had a flag attached to it and moved across the river periodically. On further investigation I discovered that the cable towed a small ferry boat crossing the river. The boat did not have any engines and it relied solely on the river's current acting on its rudder for manoeuvring. After dinner the postponed Mister and Misses contest took place. Needless to say, Lymm CC made its mark here as well with Bonny and Mike Goldberg taking joint first place.
The unusual "towed" ferry in Basel. The tow cable (arrowed) and
flag is just visible in the top right hand corner of the photograph
Our last day aboard the “Britannia” was Sunday and after a lazy 50 kilometre cruise back downstream from the 170 kilometre marker post. The journey included more locks (one of which we shared with an inflatable dinghy) before we arrived back at Breisach. Those interested were given a conducted tour of the engine room where we were impressed by the ship’s four V12 turbocharged 500 hp diesel engines and learnt that apart from the bow-thrusters the ship did not have propellers.
"Britannia's" bridge... notice no steering wheel but a pair of joysticks instead
The engine room showing one of the four, 500 hp V12 Deuz diesel engines
The top of one of the ship's twin Voith-Schneider propulsion units
The rotating "paddles" or blades that act as propellers
(Technical diagrams - Voith-Schneider GMBH)
The propulsion system is a pair of Voith-Schneider propulsion units that feature something similar to paddles protruding from the bottom of the ship's hull to propel it at any speed in any direction just by altering the pitch of the propulsion blades at a given point in their rotational cycle. The ship is capable of turning in its own length (with a little help from the bow thrusters) and the Chief Engineer told us that "Britannia" is capable of in excess of 35 KPH but is not allowed to go at this speed by maritime law. On one occasion when there were no passengers on board, the ship was doing 27 KPH and an emergency stop was initiated. The vessel came to a dead stop in less than 60 metres (less that half its length). Very impressive but not surprising for the fastest cruise ship on the River Rhine.
Later on, after we had packed our bags ready to be loaded into the coach for the trip home the next morning, it was the Captain’s Dinner and Keith Moore recited a poem written by Maureen Kelly to all the passengers and ship’s company thanking the crew for such a memorable cruise. We had cruised from Andernach at the 610 kilometre post as far as Basel at the 170 kilometre post and 55 kilometres back downstream to Breisach making a total distance cruised of 440 kilometres or in old money - 273 miles and eight locks. Plus 4 miles and 2 locks in Strasburg. I wonder if this can be counted towards the 300 mile plaque?
We left the ship early the next morning and started the long haul by coach through Germany and Holland to Amsterdam where we caught the overnight ferry back to the UK. Unfortunately, Leo Pollard was ill on the journey home and had to be taken to hospital in Amsterdam. His wife Freda and Pauline McCulloch stayed with him until he was fit enough to continue the journey the following day.
And so ended a wonderful holiday with a difference cruising one of Europe’s major waterways. The cruise brought home the fact the British waterways are not used to their full potential as they are on the Continent. It was a pleasant change not to have to operate locks and bridges although I did pack my windlass and B.W.B. key just in case (only kidding Ange). We were blessed (once again) with wonderful weather when the temperature at one point rose to 30° centigrade. No doubt we will pay for this next year when it will most probably rain all through our summer holiday.
The cruise has also proved yet again that wherever Lymm Cruising Club goes we will cause havoc, hilarity and most of all… have a damn good time!
Sunset over the North Sea on our return crossing back to England
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Chapter 3 - Canalmanac 2007
The New Year started off with us being aboard "Total Eclipse" after the New Year's Party at Lymm CC's Clubhouse. We saw in the New Year in true Lymm CC fashion with a really good party that was enjoyed by everybody who attended. We shared a table with our old "Mooing Group" and as is the way of these things we laughed our way through the evening to the early hours of the New Year.
With Christmas and New Year out of the way we started to look forward to and prepare for the cruises that 2007 held in store for us. The Club's Summer Cruise was planned to be a cruise along the Bridgewater and Leeds and Liverpool Canals to Liverpool. This was to co-incide with the city's 800th Anniversary River Festival. On arrival at Liverpool we would be required to lock down into the River Mersey and cruise upstream past the Pier Head to Canning Half-Tide Dock which would then give access to the Albert Dock where the festival is to be held. The new canal under construction connecting the North Docks to the South Docks is due to be completed in 2008... twelve months too late for our needs.
As soon as we heard of the plans for this cruise we registered with British Waterways (the River Festival's organisers) and soon received an information pack informing us of our boat's requirements. These included... tidal insurance (already covered), a valid BW licence (to be obtained nearer the time), anchor and chain (already possessed), two fifty foot mooring ropes (since purchased and spliced) and a self-inflating life jacket for each member of the crew. I had arranged for my old Radio Merseyside colleague Stuart Wood to come to Lymm beforehand and give those going on the cruise (plus other interested parties) some pointers on "going tidal". Andy Ball... also from Radio Merseyside had expressed an interest in our cruise and was exploring the possibility of presenting an outside broadcast from one of the narrowboats as it braves the mighty Mersey. Andy is now a Lymm resident and has been invited as the Commodore's Guest of Honour on our Opening Cruise.
The only real obstacle (except for the weather) is that there are only one hundred and twenty places available within the Albert Dock so we will have to keep our fingers crossed that our club is allocated places. If we are unsuccessful in having one of these places allocated to us we might still "go tidal" but it would be on the River Ribble instead and venture upstream to the Savick Brook which gives access to the Ribble Millennium Link and the Lancaster Canal... a canal I have wanted to cruise for a long time. We would be able to accompany Lymm CC as far as Burscough Junction where we would turn right onto the River Douglas Branch which leads down to the River Douglas and eventually the River Ribble Estuary.
Another of Beryl Moult's excursions planned for 2007 in addition to the previously mentioned River Seine Cruise is a visit to the Falkirk Wheel and Edinburgh Tattoo in August. Needless to say we have already booked the time off work for that one! It seems like a long way off but I know that it will be on top of us in no time at all.
After the New Year's Party the next social event was the "Tramps' Ball" which took place at the end of March. Ange and I scoured our wardrobes for suitable clothing and what we didn't have we bought from charity shops. During a most enjoyable evening we scooped the first prize in the fancy dress competition and Ange really fell into the part giving funny looks to anyone who made eye contact.
Ange and I "dressed-down" for the Tramps' Ball
(Incidentally, Ange's black eye is make-up and my protruding stomach is fake!)
Our thoughts now turned to preparation for the season's Opening Cruise. Due to Ange having family commitments over Easter we decided not to go on the Shake-Down Cruise to Wigan but spend a couple of days cleaning the boat inside and out as well as doing some of the jobs that needed completing. We had previously taken the boat's curtains home to wash but as they came out of the tumble dryer Ange said that she would like to make new ones. My heart skipped a beat when she said this as I remember making the old ones... or should I say that I remember falling out of the loft with the sewing machine when we were starting to make the old ones! This accident caused me to have a few weeks off work due to damaging a sacroiliac joint in my hip. Bit not to worry... as we did not have the time to sew the new ones Ange took the material and a sample curtain to a seamstress that has a shop in Liscard close to where we live. I had also fitted a Venetian blind to the kitchen window, replaced the existing curtain rods and even fit a curtain to what was (prior to moving the toilet into the planned extension to the shower compartment) the toilet window which has not had a curtain on it due to being frosted glass. Other jobs that we wanted to complete was the previously mentioned fitting of a wooden plank from one side of the rear deck handrail to the other and the fitting of two seats to it. This would free-up the floor space and give easier access to the weed hatch as well as allowing a more convenient location for the generator. I went up to the boat the previous weekend to accomplish these tasks leaving Easter free for cleaning.
We brought Ange's niece Danielle with us to help as she was looking to earn some money for a forthcoming holiday. On arrival at Oughtrington we loaded our things aboard and cruised down to Lymm where we moored outside the clubhouse. After hooking up to the mains electricity we got cracking and by teatime one side of the boat's exterior was cleaned, the new curtains hung and the interior vacuumed. The following day saw the fire and flue repainted with black heatproof "Hammerite" paint and everywhere cleaned and tidied ready for the Opening Cruise. We returned to our Oughtrington moorings in the knowledge that we had accomplished everything that we set out to accomplish.
"Total Eclipse" gleaming in the spring sunshine after cleaning and polishing
The following weekend saw us winging our way to Oughtrington along the M53/M56 on a beautiful spring evening. Our cooler box was full of items to go straight into the boat's refrigerator on our arrival but talk about the best laid plans of mice and men... the Gas Board had dug a hole at the entrance top the lane that leads down to the Oughtrington moorings which prevented us from parking in the moorings car park. Consequently, we drove down to the club house at Lymm, deposited our food in the refrigerator there and cadged a lift back to Oughtrington for the night. The following morning we cruised down to Lymm and double-moored on the side of "Mullymush".
Boats moored at Lymm in preparation for the 2007 Opening Cruise
We emptied our food out of the club's refrigerator and loaded our clothes, etc from the car. It was the day of the Grand National horse race and whilst there were activities in the club house I did some jobs on the boat. The weather was beautiful and we basked in the warm Spring sunshine. That evening it was the Opening Cruise Social which was most enjoyable and heard that Andy Ball... one of our guests of honour was not able to attend the Opening Cruise due to a bereavement. The morning of the Opening Cruise dawned clear and bright. It was the first time that I can remember the weather being this fine on an opening cruise and if this is how Global Warming effects us all I can say is "bring it on!" The boats were marshalled by "BC" (Boat Constable) Lily Williams who is the Rear Commodore for 2007 and she did a good job in her Police uniform and had a commanding view from her specially made podium (actually the steps used to access boats when they are on the slipway).
"BC" Lily Williams marshalling boats from her podium
The cruise to London Bridge was wonderful and it was so good to be cruising along the canal in the warm weather after the (relative) depression of the winter. We joined some of our friends in the London Bridge public house and the meal that we had at was (for us anyway) enjoyable but I know that some members had problems waiting for their food and the food itself when it eventually arrived. The atmosphere reminded of the old London Bridge Boat Rallies that used to be held here years ago. All too soon it was time to return to our moorings in the sunshine and I didn't really want to go home but, the boating has to be paid for somehow.
Boats from Lymm CC at the London Bridge pub in Stockton Heath
Trees in blossom at Grappenhall Turn on the Opening Cruise
After the Opening Cruise, the next happening of any note was the Paris Trip organised by Beryl Moult that is documented in Chapter Four :- Oo La La! Two days after returning from Paris we were due to cruise to between Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels for the May Bank Holiday. Before this I spent a day doing odd jobs on the boat including digging out the filler paste that was applied to the hole left by the old chimney collar when the fire was moved and refilled with Isopon P40 GRP paste, cutting the grass on the mooring and erecting a large plastic garden box alongside the fence adjacent to our mooring. After this had been erected I emptied some of the articles that were normally stored in one of the bunks on the boat. I also "planted" four stainless steel solar lights to illuminate the mooring at night and took the opportunity to tidy up the inside of the boat.
The classic cruiser "Jacqueline" from off the River Weaver
The cruise up to between the tunnels was uneventful but enjoyable in the hot weather that we were experiencing at the time. We did pass a classic wooden cruiser called "Jacqueline" from off the River Weaver and noticed that a new footbridge had been erected at Walton Hall to supplement the road bridge that gives access to the hall and gardens but other than that we didn't notice any other additions to the Bridgewater Canal. On the Trent and Mersey however, Saltersford Tunnel along with Barnton Tunnel is now timed in the same way as Preston Brook only for twenty minutes of entry in each direction not ten. This is a great benefit as last year we had to reverse more than half the length of Barnton Tunnel (but not around the bends) due to meeting an inconsiderate boater after we had passed the half-way marker who refused to go backwards. It is a good job that "Total Eclipse" is good at reversing!
Boats from Lymm CC in Saltersford Wide
We had an enjoyable weekend that was attended by over forty boats (and one coracle) and was only marred by an inconsiderate live-aboard who insisted on running his generator for hours at a time. The coracle mentioned above was owned by Colin Edmondson better known as "The Coracle Man" who is also the author of an excellent small book entitled "Going it Alone"... a guide to single handed narrowboating. Colin lives in Saltersford opposite to where we were moored and his coracle was burned on our bonfire (as was last year's coracle). He has now constructed a scaled-down Gaelic curragh which is similar in construction to a coracle but "boat shaped" and easier to row.
Colin Edmondson... "The Coracle Man" rowing his Curragh
After a couple of barbequeues, a game of bowls, "snack roulette", a competition for the most creative use of wild garlic (which grows nearby) and other forms of entertainment the weather broke and we experienced the first rain for a few weeks. The weather on the cruise back to our moorings was not as pleasant as on the outward bound journey but at least it had stopped raining. Anyway, who cares about the weather, so long as you are cruising? We're British after all and human skin is waterproof! Which is just as well as waterproof skin is something that is needed for our next destination... Castlefield in Manchester, where it usually rains, rains again and then rains some more just to be on the safe side!
The usual gap for "Social Boating" is about one metre!
The weather surprised us and it did not rain on our cruise to Manchester. Nigel and I performed our usual "social boating" manoeuvre where we cruise side by side (where canal width allows) with about a metre separating the two boats. At one point just after Waters Meeting on the Manchester Branch we were cruising side by side and the club's chairman... Bob McCulloch came up behind us in his narrowboat "Rannoch" so we parted allowing Bob to come up through the middle. He already knew that we were nuts but just got confirmation of it!
Apartment blocks adjacent to the disused Hulme Lock Branch (opposite what was Tillotson's Warehouse)
I was amazed at how much development work had been completed since our last visit last year. Apartment blocks have been constructed on the island between the main line of the canal and the Hulme Lock Branch. Castlefield is now dominated by the forty seven storey - one hundred and seventy one metre high Beetham Tower. Housing the Hilton Hotel in its lower storeys, residential apartments on the upper storeys and a penthouse "Sky Bar" this imposing building opened last year and looks as though it was made from clear Lego eight stud bricks. Whilst in Manchester we went out to a Chinese restaurant in the evening followed by a couple of drinks in the "Lava Bar" where we watched the Eurovision Song Contest the previous year. We set off for Oughtrington the following morning and had a leisurely cruise back down to our moorings taking photographs as we passed the new developments that have sprung up alongside the canal.
Beetham Tower dominates the skyline at Castlefield
The Bridgewater Canal is a canal of contrasts and will always surprise those unfamiliar with it. Take the stretch between Stretford and Sale for instance. After passing beneath the M60 motorway the canal enters a wooded cutting that would not look out of place in one of the more rural parts of the canal at... say Walton for instance. This stretch is a green oasis between two quite heavily populated areas and I am surprised that the developers have not tried to destroy it.
The wooded section of the Bridgewater Canal between Sale and Stretford
The following weekend was the Whit Bank Holiday. It was also the weekend of the Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs' Rally hosted this year by BMBC at Runcorn. We had decided not to go and spent the time preparing the boat for our forthcoming holiday to Liverpool instead. It is surprising how much stuff can be hidden away under bunks. Things like tools left on the boat for when you find time to do particular job, pieces of timber left over from projects that might come in handy one day, screws and other hardware kept for prosperity, etc. Some of the items were placed in the large garden box adjacent to our mooring. The remainder was loaded into the car (which was nearly fully laden) and taken home to be stored in the spare room and the loft and what we didn't want ended up in the wheelie bin which we nearly filled. We also checked the food cupboards for items that had passed their sell by dates and made a list of things that we need to buy for the holiday. The wardrobe was emptied of clothes except for coats and the shoes that normally stay on the boat (mustn't forget to replenish the first aid kit either!). When emptying the bunks I brought out some green carpet tiles left over from the rear deck. I had promised myself to clean the foredeck and remove the green plastic mats that had been bought when we first had the boat. They were replaced with the carpet tiles which looked a lot cleaner and neater as well as being easier underfoot (I have a habit of walking barefoot and I am continually getting told off for doing so).
The tidied front deck on "Total Eclipse"
The following weekend was also spent making preparations. I went up to Oughtrington on my own as I can get more jobs done and also can set off earlier (I was having my breakfast on the boat at 08.00 after leaving home at 07.00). After breakfast I turned the boat around and painted the starboard (right) side hull between the waterline and the gunwales. This completed the boat was turned around so that the fresh paint was not scuffed by fenders, etc. I then made the gave mistake of starting to paint the port side of the hull. Initially, I thought that I would just paint the bow and stern so that the tyres did not scuff any fresh paint. Well. I got carried away and painted the whole side. The problem I now was faced with was how to protect the fresh paint. I ended up lying on my back with my feet pushing against the cabin side keeping the boat about two feet from the bank and preventing the boat from touching the tyres. This position worked well until a boat went past a little too fast. After an hour I was satisfied that the paint had dried (I was wrong) and went onto the boat to have lunch, check the engine over, put away the tinned food and other items I had brought with me, generally tidy up and make an inventory of the food cupboard and note down anything that was required for the holiday which would be brought up the following Saturday. to read about our exploits surrounding the Coal and Cotton Boat Rally go to Chapter 5 - Is here Still Life Below Wigan? This chapter also documents the new Liverpool Link Canal.
Boats moored at Oughtrington for the "Teddy Bears' Picnic" and Inter-Mooring Games
When the holiday was over we had some of the wettest June weather on record. Floods were devastating Sheffield and Doncaster. Fortunately, we live on well drained high ground and were not affected. Our boating was however and the jobs were piling up as well. The grass needed cutting at our mooring as well as other outside tasks that could not be performed due to the rain. The first reasonably dry weekend was the first weekend in July which was when we attended the euphemistically titled "Teddy Bears' Picnic" and inter-mooring games to be held at Oughtrington Village Hall. It was the shortest cruise that we have ever attended... being all of two hundred metres from our mooring!
Lymm CC members assembling for the Inter-Mooring Games at Oughtrington Village Hall
Quite a few boats attended and the rain managed to hold off whilst we took part in "welly throwing", boules, noughts and crosses, five legged race, penalty shoot-out and a general knowledge quiz. There were teams from all three moorings (Lymm, Agden and Oughtrington) as well as an "others" team for boats moored elsewhere. Needless to say... Oughtrington won but there were a couple of sour losers that blamed all sorts of things for their moorings not winning. Afterwards we had a barbequeue and returned to our mooring as the sun was setting. The following morning it still had not rained and I was able to strim the grass at our mooring. I completed this task just as it started to rain but at least it was one job to be crossed off our list.
Our next trip was to Scotland to visit the Falkirk Wheel and Edinburgh Tattoo. Our exploits north of the border are documented in Chapter 5 :- Och Aye the Noo. Not long after our return from Scotland we were off to the other end of the United Kingdom. Greenhythe near Dartford in Kent to be exact to see our friends Joan Hodrien and John White (see "About the Author" in "Footnote"). We went down by train on a Virgin Trains "Pendolino" which was absolutely superb. Needless to say I plotted our route there and back by canal and waterway (much to Ange's annoyance) but only took one photograph of interest to the canal and inland waterway enthusiast which was of the River Weaver looking towards Dutton Lock as we crossed it on Dutton Viaduct. Any lack of quality is due to the optical properties of the train's windows and the fact that the train was moving quite quickly at the time. The river was idyllic in the summer sunshine and the meadow below Dutton Lock and the "Chinese Bridge" that carries the towpath looked so inviting... one of those perfect moorings except for the trains crossing the viaduct, but that would be a small sacrifice to make for the pleasure of being able to moor in a location such as this.
The River Weaver from the train on Dutton Viaduct... note the Chinese Bridge
The day after we returned from down south we headed up to Lymm where the BBC were broadcasting the final part of Stuart Flinders' "On The Edge 2007" series of programmes and the North West Weather Forecast from outside the clubhouse.
The BBC Northwest Tonight team preparing for the TV broadcast from Lymm...
... and whilst on air
Stuart was taken up the canal on John Moult's boat and a little later made a live broadcast where he interviewed Brian Gornell... Lymm CC's 2007 Commodore (who looks nothing like Lionel Ritchie) and some of the other members including Ange who was introduced as Brent off "Harry's Lad's" wife. She didn't manage to say a word due to the broadcast's time constraints.
Ange and Brent members being interviewed by Stuart Flinders
When the broadcast was completed it was like a "Le Mans Start" as the boats set off in the evening sunshine for Sale Cruising Club where we spent an enjoyable evening as their guests. On the way Ange was recognised by many boaters as being Brent's "Weekend Wife". The following day we set off early in the direction of Manchester as we were due to lock down onto the Manchester Ship Canal, Salford Docks and the River Irwell along with other Lymm CC members. It was good to see that mooring piers have, at long last, been installed at Stretford Marina ready for occupation.
The mooring piers in place at Stretford Marina
Around ten o' clock we locked down Pomona Lock into Pomona Dock accompanied by "Harry's Lad". Pomona Dock gives access to the Manchester Ship Canal, Salford Docks and the River Irwell and we headed downstream, beneath Trafford Swing Bridge (which was once the largest swing bridge in Europe) and moored at Salford Quays amongst thirty-odd other boats from Lymm and even a couple from Sale and Runcorn.
Lymm CC boats moored at Salford Quays
After mooring we went to the Lowry Shopping Centre for some retail therapy. A few hours later we returned to the boat laden with shopping and had a rest before joining ten other Lymm CC members in the Lime Bar... an up-market restaurant for a beautiful (if not expensive) meal. After the meal we relaxed in the company of Johnny Briggs - Mike Baldwin of "Coronation Street" fame. Johnny Briggs lives in Salford Quays as he did in the television series so it is not surprising that he frequents the Lime Bar.
The usual suspects... Lymm CC members in the Lime Bar
On leaving the Lime Bar we walked back to our boats through a well illuminated plaza that the Lowry Shopping Centre surrounds and along the promenade on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal where none of us felt at risk from suspicious characters unlike in some locations.
The well illuminated plaza adjacent to the Lowry Shopping Centre and the Lime Bar
The following morning we cruised up the River Irwell as far as Manchester Cathedral before turning around and making for Pomona Lock and Castlefield. Along the way we passed members of Lymm CC who had planned to moor outside the Mark Addy public house which gives good access to Manchester City Centre where the Mardi Gras was being held and the Lowry Hotel where the River Irwell provides the backdrop for the X Factor's Manchester auditions.
Ange concentrating on steering through Salford Docks towards Trafford Swing Bridge
Fellow Members of Lymm CC moored outside the Mark Addy public house
We also passed the infilled entrance to the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal. Blocking the entrance was a mound behind which the start of the canal's restoration was taking place as part of an exciting development on the banks of the River Irwell in which the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal features strongly.
The entrance to the soon to be restored Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal
After locking back up to the Bridgewater Canal we turned left to Castlefield. When we arrived in Castlefield we were surprised that the basins and the arm were not full of boats seeing as it was Mardi Gras Gay Festival weekend and there were many moorings still available. After a walk to the shops for milk, etc (and taking photographs along the way) we were invited onto John and Beryl Moult's boat for Sunday lunch.
A relatively deserted Castlefield Arm
The Rochdale Canal looking towards Pioneer Wharf and Deansgate Tunnel
After lunch we returned to our boat and prepared for an evening out. We planned to go to the "Comedy Store" alongside the Rochdale Canal. This venue is where comedians (both new and established) try out their new material to a (mostly) appreciative audience.
The Rochdale Canal looking towards Deansgate Tunnel with the Comedy Store on the right
The same location looking in the opposite direction towards the Hacienda and Canal Street
This was most certainly a lively and entertaining evening in pleasant surroundings even if the drinks were a little on the expensive side. The next morning we set off early for Lymm. I left Ange in bed for a lie-in and I steered the boat in the early morning sunshine through Hulme and the canyons of new housing developments that line the canal.
Approaching Throstle Nest Bridge not far from where I saw a kingfisher
Not far from Manchester United football ground a turquoise shape flashed past the boat on the left hand side. This was a kingfisher skimming across the surface of the canal, stopping every ten metres or so to perch on a branch before resuming its flight. This is only the second time I have seen one of these shy, colourful birds, the first time being near Ellesmere on the Llangollen Canal. Needless to say they are too fast to photograph whilst on the wing (unless the photographer is prepared and very lucky). Manchester is the least likely place to see one and if somebody had told me that they had seen one here I would be hard pushed to believe them unless I had seen it with my own eyes. It just goes to show that the canal can surprise us when we are least expecting it. It was a pleasant cruise back to Lymm and brought to a close a long, busy but enjoyable weekend. Once we reach Lymm we emptied the toilet and filled the water tank ready for our next cruise. I took the boat back to Oughtrington and "put it to bed" until then.
At the end of September I received a telephone call out of the blue from Stephen Holford at Tempus Publishing. He told me that "The Duke's Cut" was going to second edition and for me to send him any amendments to the original manuscript. Unfortunately (or fortunately... depending upon your point of view) the following weekend I had "man-flu" and we did not go on the illuminated cruise from Thelwall. I spent the time reading through my files for corrections (yes... believe it or not, there were a few mistakes in it!), typing additions, compiling some new photographs plus making a few changes to the manuscript to bring it up to date. I was given a little breathing space for the deadline due to the postal strike delaying the files being sent to Tempus on CD and I now await my copy of the second edition with anticipation.
Grappenhall Turn in Autumn
The following weekend was Lymm CC's Closing Cruise for the 2007 boating season. On arrival at Oughtrington we turned the boat around and cruised to Agden to replenish our Diesel fuel, Calor gas and coal supplies.
Light and Shadow on Agden Bridge
Whilst there an unusual boat "swished" past. It was a narrow beam, replica Dutch barge by the name of "Emily Anne". I said "swished" past and there-in lies the clue... it was steam powered. As it approached Agden Bridge a member of the crew appeared on deck to lower the chimney.
Emily Anne at Agden
After the fuel was in the boat's fuel tank and the gas and coal were stowed away we cruised to Lymm and moored outside the club house. After a social event on the Saturday evening we had breakfast in the club house and set off on the Sunday morning in the beautiful Autumn sunshine for Grappenhall. Once there where we winded and moored not far from Grappenhall Turn. After mooring we made our way to the Grappenhall Village Hall where we joined other members in the Village Hall bar for a drink before relocating to the main hall itself for food and dedications. After lunch we had a leisurely return cruise to Lymm followed by Tony and Linda Whalley on "Sapphire". We cruised with the knowledge that the weather was starting to get cooler and that there were not too many cruising events left this year.
Tony Whalley steering "Sapphire" at Thelwall
Every November on the weekend nearest to the fifth, there is a bonfire at Lymm CC's Agden moorings. Any scrap timber and other combustibles are stacked onto a bonfire and burnt in the evening. The bonfire is historically accompanied by an evening of food (usually black puddings, stew and barbequed hot dogs and burgers) and socialising (but no fireworks as they are not allowed under the terms of Lymm CC's insurance policy).
The car park at Lymm CC's Agden Moorings with the bonfire ready for lighting on the left
Once darkness fell the bonfire was lit and we all enjoyed the food prepared by the willing volunteers as we toasted ourselves around the bonfire. The evening's main topic of conversation was the recent announcement of the annual rise in mooring and licence fees laid down by Peel Holdings. The exact details were due to be revealed at the club meeting the following Tuesday but nobody was expecting good news. Even so the evening (and the bonfire) was not damped by the impending bad news.
Phil, Mike and Lynn Savage ready for action in the food tent
The bonfire in full flame
Some of the members toasting themselves by the bonfire
The following morning we returned to our moorings at Oughtrington in dense mist. I looked out for one side of the boat and Ange looked out for the other. Even so, we had the misfortune of meeting a boat that we did not see until the last minute, but a confrontation was averted by some quick manoeuvring of the tiller!
"Coccium" cruising in the mist at Oughtrington
One good bit of news that surprised me the following week came in the form of an e-mail that I received at work from Tempus Publishing informing me that they were printing a third edition of "The Big Ditch - Manchester's Ship Canal". As it was not all that long since it went to second edition there should not be too much in the way of amendments to the manuscript. Even so I spent the following week checking my copy of the second edition and I look forward to receiving my copy for proof-reading. Talking about the Manchester Ship Canal... it was good to hear that in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint Tesco are using the MSC to move wine off-loaded from ships in Liverpool Docks. The wine is trans-shipped from the ships to barges and towed along the ship canal by tug to Tesco's bottling and distribution centre in Irlam near Manchester. In doing so they are removing a substantial amount of HGV movements off our roads. Good on them!
It was now the time of the year that I do not look forward to... the time that I empty the boat's water tank, check the anti-freeze in the engine's cooling system and take home any items that are not left on board over the winter. I had planned to cruise up to Agden, running the taps at the same time. Unfortunately, the engine would not start due to a flat battery. It was eventually started with some help from Alan Savage by charging up the battery and identifying the problem as being one of the batteries not holding its charge and "pulling" the voltage of the others down. I was soon moored at Agden topping up the fuel tank. I like to keep as much fuel in the tank as possible as if it is full condensation cannot form. With the price of red diesel being so high I think that I will have to invest in a locking fuel cap to prevent anybody siphoning it out. With the tasks completed and the boat put to bed at Oughtrington I headed home sad in the knowledge that another boating season had come to an end.
Bank-side improvements at Oughtrington
There was a work party at Oughtrington the following weekend but I was banned (by Ange) from taking part due to over-exerting my back lugging batteries around the previous weekend. The work party was to address the problem of the banking which separates the footpath from the moorings at Oughtrington. The banking was to be reinforced with concrete slabs similar to the work that had taken place at Lymm moorings.
Lymm Cross at Christmas
There were, however still a few social events left on the calendar. Due to family commitments and previously arranged staff parties we could only attend the New Years Party on the 31st December. We brought the boat down to Lymm and moored in the arm outside the clubhouse. It was a brilliant evening and we staggered back to the boat at 02.15 am on New Year's Day with our stomachs still hurting from laughter (and not over-eating as you might expect). New Year's Day was to see the "Brass Monkey Cruise" to the Old Number Three at Dunham Massey and this cruise is documented in Chapter One of "Canalscape Book Five".
And so another year cruising the canals comes to an end. The weather had not been too kind to us during 2007 although we did have a "perfect cruising day". This was Monday of the first week of our summer holiday cruise to Liverpool. It was one of those rare days when the weather was absolutely perfect for us (boiling hot!), we were in good company accompanied by Arthur and Brenda off "Flossie" and "Scotch Dave" and Eleanor off "An-Caladh" and cruising along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal from Wigan to Burscough... one of my favourite lengths of canal. If you did not know where you where you could be cruising along the "Shroppie" or the northern reaches of the Trent and Mersey the scenery is so beautiful. Below is a photograph of the canal approaching Gathurst, and I do not apologise for duplicating this image here even though it is also featured in Chapter Five - "Is There Still Life Below Wigan?"
The Leeds and Liverpool Canal approaching Gathurst on our "Perfect Day's Cruising"
Next year, Lymm CC's Commodore is "Scotch Dave" and his summer holiday cruise is to Skipton... a route not renowned for its good weather but we have already booked the time off work and I am looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with this stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Ange was especially looking forward to the Wigan Twenty One flight of locks... a good morning's work! Let us hope that the weather is a little kinder to us during 2008.
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Chapter 4 - Oo La La!
We enjoyed last year's Travelscope cruise up the River Rhine so much that we were delighted when Beryl Moult said that she might arrange another cruise for 2007. Originally it was to be the River Danube into Hungary around the end of August/beginning of September but due to lack of numbers it was changed. We could not have gone on this cruise anyway as I cannot take holidays during the College's enrolment period with which it would have clashed. When Beryl suggested a shorter cruise along the River Seine to Paris during April we put our names down immediately. Neither Ange nor myself have ever been to Paris or, indeed France (except for skirting along its border aboard "Britannia" on last year's cruise up the River Rhine) so this would be another adventure into unknown territories. Unfortunately the ship that we were due to cruise on was taken out of service and the trip to Paris was to be by coach and we were to be based in a hotel instead.
Mitch and Richard... our coach drivers for the holiday
The coach picked us all up from Lymm at 5.00 am on Friday 27th April. Due to having such an early start we decided to leave home on the Thursday evening and sleep on board "Total Eclipse". This would leave us with a ten minute drive to the clubhouse where we would leave the car instead of an hour's drive from our home in Wallasey. After loading our luggage onto the coach, everybody boarded and we set off for Folkestone the Channel Tunnel. I always enjoy being a passenger on a coach as it gives me the chance to look out of the window and look out for canals as we pass them.
I was impressed by the Channel Tunnel train, the technology behind the carriages and the smoothness with which the trains run. In fact I did not know that we were moving until I saw a flash of movement through one of the small windows visible from the coach.
Inside the EuroTunnel Shuttle Train
Exiting the EuroTunnel Shuttle train
After thirty five minutes we were in France and soon found our way to the French motorway system. In the Introduction to "Canalscape" I mention about discovering canal-related happenings in unusual locations. Well, it happened again! On the first refreshment stop on the French motorway at Rely near Calais, I was astonished to see a small Sea Otter aluminium narrowboat on a trailer being towed by a large Hyundai Santa Fe four wheel drive vehicle.
The Sea Otter narrowboat "High Jump" at Rely near Calais
The boat's name was "High Jump" and, according to the sign writing on the cabin side it came from Churt in Surrey which is a village situated on the River Wey. When I informed everybody on the coach that there was a narrowboat at the the fuel pumps they didn't believe me... until they saw
"High Jump" was being towed by a large Hyundai Santa Fe 4 x 4
it for themselves that is. After this stop we were soon under way again and we reached Paris at teatime. Our hotel was on the outskirts of Paris and after reaching our destination we were introduced to our guide Bernard (pronounced Ber-nard) who, along with his rolled up newspaper, was to provide us with an infinite amount of information about the places we were to visit.
Bernard our guide
(Complete with newspaper)
Once off the coach we took our luggage and ourselves into the hotel lobby before finding our hotel rooms, doing some unpacking and then going downstairs for a quick drink before our evening meal.
Fellow Lymm CC members enjoying their breakfast at the hotel
The next day after breakfast we were taken by coach into Paris to sample the sights and sounds of this, most cosmopolitan of cities. First stop was the Eiffel Tower. My preconceived thoughts on this structure was that it would be like Blackpool Tower... how wrong I was! In fact Blackpool Tower was completed in 1894 and at 115 mtrs (380 ft) its design was based on the upper portion of the Eiffel, constructed in 1889, which pre-dated Blackpool Tower by five years and is three times the height at 324 mtrs (1063 ft).
The Eiffel Tower in all its glory...
... and members of Lymm CC posing in front of it
Cathedral of Notre Dame
The River Seine at the side of Notre Dame Cathedral
After the Eiffel Tower we were shown around other Paris landmarks including the Cathedral of Notre Dame and eventually ended up at the Louvre. The coach was parked in a subterranean coach park and after alighting we had a look around this extraordinary museum (originally a Royal Palace) which is breathtaking not only in its size but also in the style of its architecture.
Bernard Hesford having a turn on Lisa Foster's buggy in the Louvre
We thenleft the confines of the Louvre and braved the streets to find somewhere to have lunch. We then returned to the coach and our hotel to shower and change for a return trip to the centre of Paris to sample the delights of the city by night.
The Moulin Rouge
We were dropped off opposite the Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill) and after Nigel and Peter Corbett had sampled the local "Guitar Shop" we went on a "Noddy Train" which wound through the narrow streets and past the premises that were frequented by artists such as Toulouse Lautrec as we climbed the Montmartre and eventually arrived at Sacré Coeur Basilica.
The Auberge de la Bonne Franquette Restaurant
After admiring the view we were ushered through the square to the restaurant where we had a most enjoyable evening meal accompanied by entertainment from the resident artist helped by Ken Leigh and Nigel Foster. Ange couldn't decide if the artist was male or female and asked Bernard Hesford what he thought. After a few seconds he announced "He's a feller!" Ange asked how he knew to which Bernard replied... "He's got hands like shovels!"
Nigel Foster and Ken Leigh plus the Auberge de la Bonne Franquette's resident artist
When our stomachs were full we walked down the hill through the cosmopolitan artist's quarter to where the coach dropped us off and we then travelled around the city to see it by night.
The nocturnally illuminated Eiffel Tower
For ten minutes after the top of the hour the Eiffel Tower is illuminated by a spectacular sparkly light show with lasers sweeping the night sky from on top. This fantastic light show proves that the tower is truly the jewel of the city. The following day after breakfast we were swept away by coach to the Palace of Versailles. We decided not to tour the inside of the palace due to having to queue for hours (and that was just to pay for the tickets... you should have seen the queues for the toilets!) to let the queues die down before having a look around the gardens so we visited a market and had refreshments in a café close to the Palace. Once refreshed we walked up the the palace and met up with Nell and Bernard Hesford. We hired two golf carts to carry the less mobile amongst us and that was where the fun began.
The impressive gardens at the Palace of Versailles
(Photograph - Arthur Malcolm)
Beryl and John Moult with Nigel and Lisa Foster were in one cart whilst Ange and I accompanied Nell and Bernard Hesford in another. Bernard was navigator while I drove. All was going well until we went up a road and the cart cut-out informing us that we had entered an "illegal area" and would have to reverse out as the cart would only go backwards. Bernard was driving at the time and decided to perform a three-point-turn only to discover that the cart would not go forwards. Ange and I had to push the cart forwards until we passed a proximity sensor on the trees which allowed the cart to go forwards again. Needless to say the others witnessed the incident and nearly fell out of their cart laughing at our performance. As we were continuing our journey around the gardens it started to cloud over followed by rain and a thunder storm. We sought refuge behind a hedge then made a run for the entrance when the weather eased off. By the time we reached the coach to return to the hotel the rain had stopped but more was threatened judging by the colour of the clouds. Back at the hotel we had a quick shower and change of clothes and back to Paris. Our itinery was to go for a cruise on the River Seine then for a meal in a restaurant. Our cruise was to start in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and after boarding the cruise boat we were taken upstream (I think) past many moored residential boats no two of which were alike.
An interesting centre cockpit Dutch Barge "punching the current" on the River Seine
Whilst cruising along the river we saw an interesting looking centre cockpit Dutch Barge with a fixed wheelhouse (I hope that it was air conditioned) making light work of the river's current. It was also good to see the children on deck wearing life jackets.
An Amphicar (on the left) loaded on the rear deck of a barge
One boat that took my eye was a converted barge that had an Amphicar on the rear deck for either an aquatic tender or a land-based one. We approached a junction in the river as it ran around the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I did not realise that the cathedral was built on an island in the middle of the river until we took the route around the other side of the island on the return journey.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame viewed from the river
The entrance to the Saint Martin Canal was our turnaround point. A cruiser was waiting for the lock at the start of the canal to open for it and I looked on with envy, wishing that we could cruise along this canal as well. A little further on up this canal it enters a tunnel that runs beneath a boulevard that was constructed on top of the canal.
A cruiser waiting for the lock to open at the entrance of the Saint Martin Canal
The tunnel is illuminated by grills in the roof and it is possible to see the boats below whilst walking along the boulevard. After we turned around we retraced our steps except for taking the previously mentioned alternative route around the Notre Dame island and we were back at our starting point adjacent to the Eiffel Tower all too quickly. After the boat trip the rain started as we were taken to the Les Noces de Jeanette restaurant in the Latin Quarter of the city. Our beautiful meal was accompanied by a lady accordionist who also sang some old favourites. When we came out of the restaurant the rain had stopped but the streets were wet and perfect for available light night photography as demonstrated by the photograph below.
Les Noces de Jeanette Restaurant
The next day dawned warm and sunny. We were due to go on a trip to a French shopping mall but the general consensus of opinion was that we can go to the Trafford Centre anytime back home so we set course for the Monet Gardens. The road that we were on ran alongside the River Seine and Nigel Foster and I were looking at the river longingly and we agreed that narrowboats would go very nicely on it as it was broad with regular mooring points and no discernable current (just call us the Darlington Brothers!). Unfortunately, when we arrived the gardens were closed so an alternative destination was suggested in Rouen in Normandy. It was here that Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in 1431. Our route to Rouen was punctuated by an excursion to the Richard the Lionheart's castle... Chateau Gaillard at Les Andelys.
Chateau Gaillard... Richard the Lionheart's castle overlooking the River Seine
When we arrived at Rouen we walked around the shops. I was looking in a shop and lagged behind the others but was gob smacked when my bottom was pinched by a French lady whilst crossing the square where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake to catch up with the rest of our party. Well... there's a first time for everything! After having a very pleasant lunch at a pavement café we continued looking around the shops but all too soon our last full day in France was coming to an end and it was time to make our way back to the pick-up point where we had arranged to meet the coach.
Café Society in Rouen
Interesting Gaelic architecture in Rouen
(They're not falling over... its just distortion from my camera's wide angle lens)
Back at our hotel we packed our cases before showering, changed clothes and went down to the foyer for a drink before a pleasant meal in the hotel's restaurant. The following morning we had an early start in order to beat the traffic through Paris and the Channel Tunnel. Once back in the United Kingdom we made our way back to Lymm in time to catch the end of the monthly club meeting. And so came to an end our excursion to Paris. It was not as boat/canal/waterway orientated as we would have liked but we had a wonderful time (in true Lymm CC fashion) just the same. We now look forward to August and our next excursion when we visit the Falkirk Wheel and Edinburgh Festival.
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Chapter 5 - Is There Still Life Below Wigan Pier?
Since “Is there Life below Wigan Pier” (see "Canalscape" Book 2) was published in the October 1991 edition of “Waterways World” there have been quite a few developments concerning the Leeds and Liverpool Canal below Wigan. As previously mentioned, Lymm Cruising Club's Annual Summer Cruise for 2007 was to Liverpool where we took part in the "Coal and Cotton" boat rally timed to coincide with the Annual River Festival held in the dock complex. The cruise to the rally allowed me the opportunity to travel along the lower part of the canal below Maghull which I had only been to on foot or bicycle, see the changes made to the canal first hand, document and photograph these changes as well as taking part in the "Coal and Cotton" rally.
The construction of a new waterway connecting the Lancaster Canal to the River Ribble – The Millennium Ribble Link, has brought about renewed activity on the canal below Wigan and especially on River Douglas Branch of which leaves the canal at Burscough. The prominent electricity pylons that once spanned the canal below Bootle were removed in 1991. A new canalside housing development called the Eldonian Village has been built at the Liverpool end of the canal just past the junction of the Stanley Dock Branch on the site of the old Tate and Lyle sugar refinery. The canal features prominently in the village which centres around a large basin that offers a safe-haven from some of the problems that affect this stretch of the canal. The canal has been infilled beyond the basin so it is effectively the canal’s terminus if the Stanley Dock Branch is disregarded. Many boaters moor here and travel into the City Centre by public transport knowing that their boats are safe at this location. Another development at this end of the canal is British Waterways’ ambitious plan to construct a new cruising route connecting the bottom of the Stanley Dock Branch, through the Central Docks system to the Pier Head, Albert Dock and South Dock System... more of which later. The construction of this new length of canal would remove the necessity for boats to lock down into the River Mersey in order to reach the Albert and South Docks complex. As the new canal is due to be completed in 2008 (2009 as it turned out) this would be the last opportunity to sailon the river in front of the Pier Head .
We had booked our places for the rally in December and started to make the appropriate preparations such as purchasing two new fifty foot long ropes, a short telescopic boat pole for passing ropes up from the depths of deep lock chambers, etc. Our mooring was to be in Salthouse Docks, adjacent to Albert Dock in the South Docks and, as previously mentioned, to reach it would entail locking down into the River Mersey and cruising past the Pier Head to enter Canning Half Tide Dock prior to the Cotton and Coal Rally and the River Festival commencing. Due to British Waterways and the various parties organising the rally repeatedly moving the dates and then eventually cancelling the only date that we would be able to lock into the river, we decided to cancel our river passage and moor in the Eldonian Village at the canal's terminus. This would allow us to make a leisurely cruise around to Liverpool, participate in the rally and then enjoy a leisurely cruise back to Lymm with maybe an excursion up the Wigan Twenty One as far as Johnson's Hillock and back if time allowed.
Boats from Lymm CC in Nelson Dock awaiting the tide
(Photograph - Brian Evans)
The Friday before we were due to set off I finished work at lunch time and after completing packing I drove down to Egremont Ferry in Wallasey to photograph and video the narrowboats coming out of the docks onto the River Mersey. I could identify some of the boats as those belonging to Lymm CC members. "Forty Winks", "Californian", "Frugal", "Pauper's Pride" and "Lady Edna" to name but a few.
Narrowboats passing Liverpool's historic Pier Head
(Photograph - Brian Gornell)
I next drove to near Birkenhead Ferry which is the narrowest part of the estuary and directly opposite Canning Half-Tide Lock entrance. I recorded the boats cruising up and down the river before they were signalled to enter the entrance lock to Canning Half Tide Dock. Brian Gornell on "Forty Winks" went down as far as Garston before battling the current to rejoin the others. I was most envious at not being with them but, unfortunately, that is down to British Waterways!
Narrowboats on the River Mersey overlooked by the Anglican Cathedral
Our holiday really started when we arrived at Lymm on the brilliantly sunny Saturday morning and Ange dropped me off at Oughtrington then she drove down to the boat club whilst I followed in the boat. When I arrived we loaded our things on board. Whilst I filled the water tank and emptied the toilet Ange went to the shops in the village to buy the fresh food that would not have travelled well. This done we set off in the direction of Manchester. It was refreshing to be able to dawdle along the canal and not being tied to a time-table. We had arranged to catch-up Arthur and Brenda on "Flossie" and Dave (Scotch Dave) and Eleanor Ross on "An-Caladh" at Worsley that evening for a meal in the Barton Arms. Not much had changed along the canal since our last trip but I did notice that Stretford Boat Yard had been tidied up and there was a mound of scrap that contained dead Dawncraft Dandies and other broken-up boats. I was dismayed that "Barbara Joan"... the Taylor built boat that was being restored in the long, plastic, prefabricated "shed" that occupied a corner of the yard was not in evidence. The Little Ship previously known as "Lady Aron" was also missing and I wondered where they had both gone to. As the day progressed we turned left onto the Leigh Arm of the canal, passed through Trafford Park and when we reached the Trafford Centre we noticed that an area was being cleared and paved at the side of the canal. Maybe this was the mooring area for the Trafford Centre that I had suggested to Mike Webb a few years back. Barton Swing Aqueduct was crossed and we weaved through Patricroft and past the former Gardner engine factory (hat removed to show respect) that looks as though it will not be long before the demolition crews move in. Not long after this we negotiated the ninety degree bend at Monton adjacent to the recently completed lighthouse that has been much photographed of late.
Possible mooring area for the Trafford Centre
The disused Gardner engine factory in Patricroft between Barton and Worsley
The much photographed lighthouse at Monton
"Flossie" takes the turn at Worsley in front of the Old Packet House
The water had now started to turn orange even though a new water treatment plant has been constructed to de-colour the water draining out of the Duke of Bridgewater's Mines. We were unanimous about the water not being as orange as it was in years gone by. We moored beneath the footbridge next to Dave and Arthur's boats. Later on, after getting showered and changed we made our way to the Barton Arms where we enjoyed a beautiful meal in good company. Afterwards we returned to our boats and made arrangements for our start the next morning.
"Total Eclipse" being steered by the author past the Old Packet House in Worsley
(Photograph - Angela Wood)
Mrs iPod (alias Ange) steering through Boothstown
A new housing development in Leigh on the site of a demolished factory
Plank Lane Lift Bridge on the outskirts of Leigh
The next morning dawned as warm and sunny as the last and after breakfast we set off in the direction of Wigan. As Arthur and Brenda's boat was the slowest they lead the way to set the pace with us in the middle and Dave and Eleanor bringing up the rear. In Leigh a large empty factory that occupied a site adjacent to the off-side of the canal had been demolished and apartments constructed in its place. Other than that the canal was as it was previously. Nothing else had changed along our route and after negotiating the two Poolstock locks and the second to last of the Twenty One flight around the corner we moored directly opposite the British Waterways Regional Headquarters. Dave and Eleanor arrived a while later followed by another boat. It was Roger Lorenz with his converted ex-working barge "Neptune". As he walked past us we had a quick chat and he informed me that "Barbara Joan" had gone to a classic wooden boat restorer whilst "Lady Aron" was awaiting a similar fate and was currently in their Leigh basin opposite the old Brooklands Mill. Roger also told us that the water level in the pound below (that contains Wigan Pier) was low due to the actions of vandals at Pagefield Lock opposite the JJB Stadium. BW had started to empty water out of our pound to top it up.
"Total Eclipse" leaning over in Wigan
Before long "Total Eclipse" and "Flossie" had started to take on a decidedly apparent list to port. Dave's boat only draws about eighteen inches and was relatively unaffected by the lack of water. Arthur's boat was soon sitting on the bottom bit ours was listing at what appeared to be an increasingly greater angle. It must have been that the keel was causing the greater list and I had anxieties about the angle in case, when the water level increased water flowed through the engine compartment ventilation grills. We had already had our evening meal but Arthur and Brenda were preparing spaghetti Bolognese. When it was ready Arthur brought out the two plates to their portable table and chairs but, due to the list of their boat, the contents of one of the plates slipped off into the cut. After a fleeting grin Arthur composed himself but Brenda was most displeased when she was told her that it was her plate that was now empty. Needless to say Arthur shared out his into two equal portions by cutting the spaghetti with scissors. British Waterways were contacted and they promised to flush some water down the flight of locks in order to regain our boats' composure. Besides Arthur's unfortunate accident and the boats leaning alarmingly, we had a most enjoyable evening chatting away in the warm evening sunshine and the water level had even started to rise again. By the time it was time to go to bed we were all on an even keel (literally) and could turn in safe in the knowledge that we would not be falling out of bed!
In the queue behind "Neptune" which was stuck on a "nest" of shopping trolleys
The next morning, "Neptune" was first away and we followed shortly afterwards. We met Roger at the next lock down with his boat well and truly stuck in the centre of the channel (it draws one and a half metres). The flushing effect of the paddles as we descended had the desired effect and "Neptune" was soon under way again. It was making heavy work of the pound to Pagefield lock and was soon stuck again opposite the JJB Stadium. A boat coming in the opposite direction became stuck as well and they asked Arthur for assistance. Unfortunately "Flossy" does not possess sufficient power to enable them to pull the stuck boat around "Neptune". Arthur moved to one side and I brought our bow close enough to them to put a rope around our bow "T" stud. I was careful to keep our stern in the deepest part of the channel, reversed and managed to pull the boat free. It was then our turn to circumnavigate "Neptune". I asked Roger if there was anything we could do and he said no as we would only be pulling the boat further onto the obstruction. At the side of the boat was a collection of shopping trolleys and other miscellaneous rubbish. One would have thought that British Waterways would have dredged this shallow section knowing that large, deep drafted craft would be travelling to the rally at Liverpool. We managed to get around Roger's boat without getting stuck although we did feel something scrape along our base plate and Arthur was okay as well. We telephoned Dave to tell him of the problems that faced them but he wasn't on the boat, Eleanor was. They managed alright when they arrived at the blockage. In fact Eleanor pulled "Neptune" off the obstruction (apparently more shopping trolleys) and they were able to continue their journey without further problems.
Gathurst at the start of the River Douglas Valley
After Ell Meadow Lock we were cruising on one of my favourite stretches of canal. The weather was boiling hot and I was able to take some photographs of this stretch. Even though I had photographed it twenty years previously the weather had not been too good but the new images proved to be superb (even if I do say so myself) and excellent additions to my archive. The canal had been cleaned up considerably around Gathurst and British Waterways had at long last started to put landing stages on the off side of the canal either side of swing bridges enabling single-handed boaters to negotiate the bridges in safety.
Isolated tranquillity deep in the depths of the River Douglas Valley near Appley Bridge
Eleanor and Dave Ross on "An-Caladh" negotiating a swing bridge opened by Ange and Arthur
"Neptune" passing us at Burscough
We cruised through the River Douglas Valley and moored for the night at Burscough and had a barbeque in the fading summer sunshine. As we ate our food Roger Lorenz cruised past. The boat was going well after putting the trials of the day behind them. The following morning we had planned to take the train to Southport which is only a short distance away. Once there we walked down to the pier and along it to the end which was approximately a thousand yards out to sea. We had a look inside the pavilion that was located at the end of it. After a look around at the old-fashioned penny-in-the-slop machines (including a Sooty concert) we walked back along its length and went into the town traversing the full length of Lord Street. We were amazed at the number of Range Rovers that we saw, outnumbered only by electric buggies driven by affluent OAPs some of which displayed "buggy rage" when pedestrians and other buggy drivers didn't move out of their way quickly enough. One buggy driver resorted to driving precariously close to the kerb and anybody opening their car door would be looking disaster in the face. After visiting the "Hill Street Loos" we had lunch in Woolworth's cafe, bought a plastic stool in Wilkinson's (to rest your feet on when steering "Total Eclipse"), made our way back to the railway station and then back to Burscough. After forty winks (not the Commodore's boat) we moved the boats a mile down the canal and had an excellent meal in the Farmer's Arms next to swing bridge 31.
Brenda, Arthur and Ange on a windswept Southport Pier
This classic Sooty Show Concert (cost 1d to play) would be of interest to at least one of Lymm CC's members
The next day was not as promising as the previous ones. It had rained during the night and there was a bit of a breeze. Ange opened the swing bridge and Arthur had a bit of a problem with the wind keeping him on the bank but he soon was in the centre of the channel passing through the bridge. We took turns in opening the bridges keeping Dave between us who was, by now on his own as Eleanor had to return home to work. It was along this stretch that I counted four WWII machine gun posts one of which was a two storey structure.
Two of the Second World War "pill boxes" (machine gun emplacements)
that we saw next to the canal between Burscough and Lydiate
We passed this Leeds and Liverpool "Short Boat" moored near Burscough
One of Lymm CC's members... Paul Bidston off "Freedom" is an ex-Falklands bomber pilot. He still flies today but now only smaller aircraft such as Cessnas. He had told us that he would be out and about in the skies on Wednesday and, true to his word, he was. After flying over us dipping his wings he gave us an impromptu flying display which included rolls and looping the loop. The fisherman that we passed was totally bemused by the aircraft's behaviour until we explained that he was a member of our boat club. We were so enthralled that we didn't think about taking any photographs of his airborne frolics until afterwards when it was too late.
Tranquil moorings at Scarisbrick
We had planned to cruise to bridge sixteen at Maghull where we would have an escort into Liverpool. British Waterways telephoned to confirm arrangements and told us that they would arrive at nine-o-clock the next morning. In the meantime it was starting to rain and so we put the rear deck canopy up just before the torrential rain which accompanied our mooring at the allotted place.
Bridge 16 at Lydiate on a cloudy Thursday morning
The next morning, the rain had stopped and we were up bright and early to greet Robert and Tom from British Waterways who were to oversee our progress to Liverpool and open the swing bridges for us. Little had changed along the canal except for the occasional new housing development. The swing bridges opened magically as we approached them and even as we neared Liverpool the occasional head popped up above walls to make sure that we were alright. There were intermittent showers as we passed through the suburbs of the city but on the whole the weather was bright and sunny.
A new canalside development in Bootle
There was quite a lot of flotsam on the canal as we reached Bootle. Previously, we had been hampered by weed but now the items included large roofing panels (which the kids used as gondolas) from a factory that was being demolished, abandoned gas bottles, used fire extinguishers, plastic bags aplenty and even an Isuzu Trooper lying upside down at Sandhills.
The "drowned" Isuzu Trooper in the canal at Sandhills
BW's dredger based at Sandhills has definitely got its work cut out
The Eldonian Village at the canal's Liverpool (for now anyway) terminus
The canal's terminus at Eldonian Village was reached late afternoon without having to go down the weed hatch once although I know that others had not been as lucky as we had been. Arthur picked up a collection of plastic bags upholstered with weed and another Lymm CC member... Larry Smith had forty feet of industrial grade armoured cable wrapped around "Lady Edna's" propeller as he negotiated the Stanley Dock Branch which took around an hour and a half to remove. In true Liverpool fashion the copper conductors inside the cable had been stripped out and presumably "weighed in".
The Eldonian Gang... left to right, Joan Gornell, Brenda, Ange, Me, Brian Gornell, Arthur and Scotch Dave
I was impressed with the way that the canal had been embraced by the Eldonian Village. Previously, the Stanley Dock Branch was lined with derelict land and unsightly warehouses. The branch now passes through the new housing estate and is sympathetically landscaped and the locks re-gated. The canal's terminus basin is bordered by housing on one side, a sports hall and a "village" hall on the other. We were made most welcome by the community of the village and invited into their village hall in the evenings. The hall has a bar, games room and usually has entertainment laid on over the weekend.
Narrowboats moored in Salthouse Dock
The location of the moored boats in relation to the Albert Dock (on the left) and the Pier Head (in the distance)
The "Yellow Duck"... a DUKW that gives tours of the city and docks
Friday... the day after our arrival at Liverpool we walked towards the Pier Head along the line of the canal link and sought out our fellow Lymm CC members who were moored in Salthouse Dock which is adjacent to the Albert Dock. We got the feeling that they had been in the docks for long enough and would be glad to return to the canal. Even though the piers that they were moored on had electrical hook-up terminals, the system was not connected to the mains supply and the boats' refrigerators/freezers and other domestic appliances had to be switched off due to lack of power in their batteries. Water tanks and effluent holding tanks required attention regularly and when moored four or five deep this can also cause problems. The dock was frequented by the "Yellow Duck"... an amphibious DUKW that gives tours of the city before launching itself into Salthouse Dock to continue the tour around the Albert and South Docks. Afterwards, we went around the Albert Dock complex, had lunch and then walked up to the Anglican Cathedral, showed Arthur and Brenda around this magnificent building before returning to the boat by bus (route number 101).
A selection of the tall ships taking part in the Mersey River Festival berthed in the docks
Ange, Brenda and Arthur being shown around one of the tall ships by a knowledgeable guide
The next day we visited the tall ships and went on a few of them, being shown around by knowledgeable guides. We then walked down to Nelson Dock to visit HMS Albion... the Royal Navy commando support vessel. The size of this ship has to be seen to be appreciated. It contains four enormous landing craft in purpose-built dry docks within the ship's hull. When required, the docks are flooded, the rear section of the ship lowered and the craft launched. The helicopter landing pad was equally impressive and normally has four Sea King helicopters on it although they were not present when we visited the ship.
Ange on the enormous helicopter deck of HMS Albion
Inside the cavernous HMS Albion showing the landing craft pens
The sheer size of this impressive ship has to be seen to be appreciated
After the visit a free bus then took us towards the city centre and we were dropped off at the Pier Head as Arthur and Brenda said that they would like to take a trip on the Mersey Ferries. After purchasing the tickets we went to the temporary landing stage (the original sank earlier this year and will soon be replaced by a new one) and waited for the "Royal Daffodil" to arrive. We boarded and sat upstairs where we had a good view of the river and the points of interest. The boat cruised downstream as far as Vale Park in New Brighton and made a broad turn to head upstream to Seacombe Ferry... the Wallasey terminal. After the passengers shuffled their way off the boat and new ones shuffled on we cast off and made our way to Woodside... the Birkenhead terminal. There was yet another interchange of passengers and we were off again. We passed Cammell Lairds shipyard and made another large sweep across the river to the Liverpool side ending up where we started from. I pointed out the house that I was born in as we passed Egremont Ferry. The trip on the ferry was old hat to us but our visitors to the area thought that it was wonderful and they will remember it for a long time to come.
One of the Mersey Ferryboats leaving Birkenhead Woodside Landing Stage for Liverpool
After walking past the Liver Buildings we crossed the Strand and made our way into town where we bought some essentials before returning to the Eldonian Village on the 101 bus. Every Sunday there is a heritage market in the warehouses surrounding Stanley Dock. We walked around without purchasing anything (although there were a couple of items that I was tempted by) and, on our return to the boat had surprise visitors from my place of work. After their departure we returned to the dock where the tall ships were moored for an open air music concert. The concert was excellent and made all the more enjoyable by the spontaneous line dancing display that accompanied the music. We then returned to the Eldonian Village and ordered pizzas for tea from a pizza shop that would deliver them to the Eldonian Village. We received a telephone call from the delivery man and the conversation went like this... "Orlright gerl... djoo order pizzas?" To which Ange replied that we did and the caller then said "Yerat Eldonian Village yeah... aryeron oneothem barges?" I don't know how she managed to complete the conversation but I don't think that I could have done without collapsing with laughter. After tea we went to the village hall and on our arrival we were informed by the door keeper that there was an "achtonternight... quidtergerrin". Ange had to interpret the door keeper's message for the other members of our party. The entertainer was quite versatile and played guitar, saxophone and keyboard. He later invited members of the audience to participate. One of the participants was an Elvis Presley impersonator and, to be honest, he thought that he was Elvis. Ange could not look at me for fear of collapsing as I had tears of laughter coming down my cheeks... the pelvic thrusts, the leg wobbling, the piercing eyes, the poses. I could go on but he was one of the funniest impersonators that I have ever seen in my life and I don't even know if he was meant to be funny or not! I shouldn't mock the people of Liverpool as they took us into their community and shared their resources with us so I will now apologise if any of my remarks are in any way offensive but they are not meant to be.
The plaque we received for attending the Coal and Cotton Rally
The next morning we were due to leave the Eldonian Village and start our journey home. Robert and Tom and their assistants were on hand to open the swing bridges for us and look after us as they did on our inward journey. We stopped at Litherland to top-up the water tanks and it was here that was the only occasion that I had to go down our weed hatch. If we had not stopped I would not have had to approach the bank where the evil weeds lurked. The trick was to reach the centre of the channel afterwards without engaging gear and so preventing the weeds from wrapping themselves around the propeller. With this trick accomplished with the help of our boat pole we continued on our way. I think that the secret on a waterway such as this is to travel as slowly as possible. In doing so there is not as much suction towards the propeller and consequently, less attraction for the weeds and other waterborne debris.
Passing through Sandhills (not a grain of sand in sight) on the way out of the city
Later that afternoon that my manager from work telephoned me to ask me to ring "Canal Boat" magazine as I had won a competition. The competition in question was for £2500 worth of electrical equipment for the boat. Well, I was gob-smacked as I never win anything and this came as a complete surprise. That evening we moored at Haskayne and ate in the Ship Inn. It was here that I had a culinary first. My starter was black pudding and haggis in a black pepper sauce. With being a haggis virgin and always wanted to try it, I can honestly say that it was beautiful and I will definitely be eating haggis again. The rest of the meal was beautiful and even though I had stated at the beginning of the meal that I would have a starter instead of a desert, the promise of chocolate fudge cake and fresh cream got the better of me!
Moored outside the Ship Inn at Haskayne
Next morning we retraced our steps to Burscough where Arthur, Dave and I refilled the water tanks and emptied the loos whilst the ladies went to replenish the food cupboards from the excellent shops there. We moored for the night above Appley Bridge Lock where we had planned to have a barbeque but the weather was not what could be called barbeque weather (blowing a gale and later raining) so we ate on board instead. Our approach to Wigan was less painful that the previous week when low water levels caused problems and before long we were mooring in the same place (opposite British Waterways' Regional Headquarters) as we did on the outward journey. The boats that came off the River Mersey were starting to catch us up and we made our farewells here as Arthur was travelling up the Wigan Twenty One towards Skipton and Dave was waiting for Larry on "Lady Edna". The following morning we cast off and it was really difficult turning right onto the Leigh Branch of the L & L as "Total Eclipse" wanted to accompany "Flossie" to Skipton (and so did Ange and I) but unfortunately we had work the following Monday and could not accompany them. Next year perhaps!
"Flossy" and "Total Eclipse" sharing the bottom Wigan Lock by Trenchfield Mill
(Photograph - Angela Wood)
We locked down the two Poolstock Locks with a beautifully finished narrowboat that had a classic Dorman engine which was the same as the one my old friend Alec Levac had in "Tamar". We let this boat go in front of us and we "pootled" along enjoying the warm sunshine singing along to the music on Ange's iPod which was plugged into its loudspeakers and had a rear-deck picnic at the same time. As we approached Leigh the weather took a turn for the worse and it started to drizzle. I erected our rear canopy which only just fitted beneath the low bridge at the end of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal's Leigh Branch. The rain became more persistent and we stopped beneath the A580 road bridge to erect the canopy's side screens. As we emerged from the bridge the rain was accompanied by thunder complete with big rain droplets associated with thunder storms. By now the canal was not visible due to the spray on the water created from the torrential rain. It is an experience cruising in weather such as this and not getting wet, especially when steerers of boats passing in the opposite direction were being soaked to the skin, not having (or maybe not wanting) the luxury of a canopy. By the time we arrived at Boothstown the rain had stopped and we moored there but rather than visit the "Moorings" public house for a meal we ate on board instead.
The Moorings public house at Boothstown beneath a stormy sky
The homeward leg of our journey was now coming to an end but we experienced a delay at Barton as the aqueduct was closed due to traffic on the Manchester Ship Canal. That evening we moored at Lymm and loaded the car the following morning before returning the boat to its mooring and heading for home. Once again "Total Eclipse" had carried us on our summer holidays without missing a beat (and only having to go down the weed hatch once). This trip had proved that there is still life below Wigan and that there will continue to be so.
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Chapter 6 - Och Aye the Noo
At the beginning of August 2007, Lymm Cruising Club had arranged a trip up to Scotland to visit the Falkirk Wheel and the Edinburgh Tattoo. The trip was organised by Beryl Moult who had previously organised the River Rhine Cruise in 2006 and the Paris trip earlier this year. The trip was only for three days... starting on the Thursday morning when we were picked up in Lymm by coach and to be dropped off on the Saturday evening at the same place.
The previous night we slept on the boat in order to be at Lymm bright and early next morning. After leaving the car in the club's car park we waited for the coach to arrive at Lymm Cross. We didn't have to wait long and we were soon sitting comfortably waiting for the journey to begin. Shortly after ten o'clock we set off and it wasn't long before we were on the M6 motorway crossing the Bridgewater and Manchester Ship Canals on Thelwall Viaduct. Hidden from general view was a transhipment wharf on the Ship Canal where a coaster was moored. The next waterway of note on our route was the Leeds and Liverpool Canal where the M6 crossed it on a lofty viaduct at Dean Locks. It didn't seem all that long ago that we were passing beneath the motorway by boat on our way to Liverpool for the River Festival and Coal and Cotton Boat Rally. The last waterway that we saw in England was the Lancaster Canal. The disused locks at Tewitfield and the weed strewn canal beyond are crying out to be restored and we criss-crossed the canal a few times before leaving it behind. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long until we can cruise along this beautiful canal to its Kendal terminus.
The sad sight of Tewitfield Locks on the unrestored section of the Lancaster Canal beside the M6
(Photograph - Jim Shead.com)
Our first stop in Scotland was at Gretna Green. As we still had quite a distance to go we didn't linger very long and we were soon speeding through the valleys that nestle between the hills and mountains leading to Glasgow. We received a rude awakening along one section of the motorway when a Tornado jet fighter plane overtook us as it banked around the valley seemingly only a few feet above the roof of the coach. Once we reached the hotel we unpacked, settled into our room and got changed for dinner. We were treated to a beautiful meal and the presentation of a diamond (sixtieth) wedding anniversary present to John and Elsie Hughes off the boat "Miss Ellie". Afterwards we sat in the hotel's bar for a while before retiring to our room. After a good night's sleep we were up bright and early next morning, ate breakfast and boarded the coach to visit the Falkirk Wheel.
John and Elsie Hughes with their Diamond Anniversary cake
As the canals in this area are not connected to the main canals network and we are not too familiar with them, I think that a short explanation of their geography and why the Falkirk Wheel was constructed is in order.
Map of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals
The Lowlands of Scotland are crossed by the Forth and Clyde Canal built by John Smeaton (of Eddystone Lighthouse fame) and Robert Whitworth (a colleague of James Brindley). This was the World's first coast to coast "ship canal", opened in 1777 from Grangemouth to Glasgow and the link from Glasgow to the Clyde was completed thirteen years later in 1790. Although originally classed as a "ship canal" do not expect it to allow the same size of vessels as those seen cruising along the Manchester Ship Canal as the definition of a ship was different then to what it is now. This is reflected in the lock dimensions which are sixty eight feet long by nineteen feet wide. The canal was once the domain of the Clyde Puffer... a barge-sized, steam powered coaster that plied the lochs and navigable rivers of Scotland as well as the Caledonian and Crinan Canals.
A Clyde Puffer... at one time one of the most common boats on the Forth and Clyde Canal
(Photograph - Puffer Preservation Trust)
The canal's route starts at Bowling Harbour on the banks of the River Clyde. Locks raise the canal from the river level and it follows the river upstream passing beneath the spectacular Erskine Bridge. Shortly after this the A814 crosses the canal "on the level" at Dalmuir Bridge. When the canal was being restored it was not viable to rebuild the bridge with navigable headroom and a swing bridge would not have been very practical on such a busy main road so an alternative had to be thought of. The most economical way to do this was the construction of a revolutionary design in the shape of a "drop lock". This is a lock either side of the bridge to lower boats sufficiently to allow them to pass beneath the bridge and then raise them back up again to the previous canal level. The water is pumped electrically out of the first chamber and when the water reaches a predetermined level with the chamber beneath the bridge, gates are opened allowing craft to pass into the second chamber beneath the bridge. Once the bridge has been navigated and craft enter the third chamber the gates are closed and the water is let in raising the craft up to the level of the canal after the bridge. The last set of gates are opened and the craft continues on its way. This is a good example of lateral thinking on the part of the canal's restorers and could be used on other waterways such as the Montgomery Canal where the disused canal has been crossed on the level many times.
The Dalmuir "Drop Lock" at Clydebank on the Forth and Clyde Canal
(Photograph - James Gentles)
Dalmuir Drop Lock's intermediate chamber beneath the A814
(Photograph - James Gentles)
The canal then winds its way through the suburbs of Glasgow and in Maryhill, Stockingfield Junction connects it with the Port Dundas Branch and the canal's original Glasgow terminus. From here the canal leaves Glasgow behind and crosses the Scottish Lowlands towards Falkirk. It shares much of its route with the Antonine Wall which was built twenty years after the more famous Hadrian's Wall.
At Camelon (now absorbed by Falkirk) a junction was originally made with the Union Canal (also known as the Glasgow and Edinburgh Union Canal) at the Union Inn public house. Originally a flight of eleven locks raised the Union Canal out of the valley and through the Falkirk Tunnel which was at the time the only canal tunnel in Scotland. The Union Canal is a contour canal constructed to a smaller gauge than the Forth and Clyde and its dimensions are seventy feet long by twelve feet six inches... more in keeping with a conventional broad gauge canal.
The Avon Aqueduct is reminiscent of Chirk Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal
(Photograph - James Gentles)
Amongst this canal's main features are the Avon, Slateford and Almond Aqueducts. The twelve arch Avon Aqueduct crosses the Scottish Avon to the west of Linlithgow and is reminiscent of Chirk Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal. This is not surprising as the builder Hugh Baird built it to the design of Thomas Telford (including the cast iron trough). At nine hundred feet in length and eighty five feet high at its highest point it is second only to Telford's mighty Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal. The eight arch Slateford Aqueduct is five hundred feet in length and carries the canal over the Water of Leith.
(Photograph - British Waterways)
The five arch Almond Aqueduct is much shorter at four hundred and twenty feet long but is seventy five feet high. The famous Broxburn icicle formed on this aqueduct in 1895. It reached a height of seventy five feet at the tallest point of the aqueduct. Leamington Lift Bridge is another of the canal's attractions. This unusual bridge was built in 1896 and originally located at Fountainbridge. The bridge was moved to its current location at Lochrin Basin in the 1920's when the Fountainbridge basins were sold and infilled. The deck of the bridge lifts electrically to allow passage of boats and was fully restored in 2002. The canal's original terminus was known as Port Dundas in the centre of Edinburgh. Today the canal's terminus is at the end of a newly constructed section of canal at Edinburgh Quay not far from the Castle, the original terminus being obliterated during the 1960's when the line of the canal was built over.
Leamington Lift Bridge in Edinburgh
(Photograph - James Gentles)
Back at Falkirk... when the restoration of the canal was imminent an alternative route had to be found. to connect the Forth and Clyde to the Union Canal. This came in the shape of the Millennium Link. The Millennium Link uses a new route circumnavigating a housing estate and instead of eleven locks, two new locks and the Falkirk Wheel were constructed to overcome the difference in levels. Approaching the Wheel from the west, a junction is made with the Union Canal via the Millennium Link which leaves to the south. The Millennium Link consists of a new lock at the junction with the Forth and Clyde Canal which leads to a large basin giving access to the Falkirk Wheel.
The Millennium Link Junction Lock with the Falkirk Wheel in the background
This revolutionary (pun intended) boat lift is the only one of its type in the World and raises craft twenty five metres to an aqueduct in the same way that the Anderton Lift on the Trent and Mersey Canal in Cheshire does. The aqueduct leads to the Roughcastle Tunnel (the second canal tunnel in Scotland) which at 168 metres long is supposedly the first canal tunnel to be constructed in Britain for over a hundred years.
The inside of Roughcastle Tunnel
The tunnel allows the canal to burrow beneath the Antonine Wall and a main line railway track leaving them both undisturbed. After the tunnel is a winding hole and the lock that reinstates the original level of the canal on the 73.1 metre contour line. The original route of the canal at the top of the infilled flight of locks is reached after a new section of canal and then makes its way towards Edinburgh.
The new locks after the Roughcastle Tunnel
After passing the junction with the Millennium Link the canal passes through Tamfourhill Industrial Estate to Glensburgh negotiating fourteen locks on the way. Once at Glensburgh the canal makes a junction with the River Carron which forms the final part of the navigation connecting it with the Firth of Forth at Grangemouth, so completing the cross-country route connecting the Irish Sea to the North Sea.
Unfortunately, when we visited the Falkirk Wheel the weather was not conducive to taking photographs so the main picture (below) was taken by a colleague... Gina Walker, who is one of Wirral Metropolitan College's Librarians. Gina visited the Wheel a while ago when the weather was more pleasant.
The Falkirk Wheel viewed from the far side of the basin
(Photograph - Gina Walker)
Once the overall spectacle of the wheel had been absorbed we boarded a boat which took us up the wheel, through the Roughcastle Tunnel to the bottom of the new locks before winding and retracing the route back down the wheel. Whilst Ange and the others had a look around the shop and visitor centre I walked around the basin and took photographs of the wheel in operation. Our visit was over all too soon and we were winding our way back to the hotel through Falkirk. We crossed the canal at the Rosebank Locks which were beckoning me to stop and take photographs but when on a coach of forty plus people it would be very selfish to hold everyone up whilst capturing the scene on camera. Bearing this in mind, "borrowed" photographs from James Gentles' excellent Falkirk Wheel and Millennium Link website are as good as any photographs that I could have taken, especially as he is fairly local to the area and is able to choose the days (and the weather) on which he takes photographs.
Rosebank Locks in Falkirk
(Photograph - James Gentles)
After our visit to the Falkirk Wheel, we dropped off some of the club members at Falkirk railway station for them to catch a train directly to Edinburgh. The rest of us returned to the hotel to freshen up for the Tattoo. When we arrived at Edinburgh the guide gave us a tour of the sights of this beautiful city. When we stopped we grabbed a bite to eat before making our way to the castle.
On the way to the castle we stopped to have a quick look at Greyfriar's Kirkyard (Scottish Cemetery). This is the home and burial place of "Greyfriar's Bobby" who has had a special place in our hearts since seeing the film made about him when we were children. This Skye terrier was a faithful dog who refused to leave the grave of his master, John Gray, a farmer from Midlothian, upon his death. John Gray took the dog to the market in Edinburgh every Wednesday. After the one o'clock gun sounded, he would have lunch in an eating house nearby, giving Bobby some scraps no doubt. After his master's death, Bobby continued to come to the eating house at lunchtime, but only when he was forced by hunger to leave his master's grave. For fourteen years he watched over the grave, stirring the emotions of the people of Edinburgh. The gardener and keeper of Greyfriar's tried on many occasions to evict Bobby but in the end they took pity on him. A shelter for him was built nearby and was fed regularly. Bobby never spent a night away from his master's grave even in the most dismal weather conditions. The story of Greyfriar's Bobby spread and soon, his story became one of Edinburgh's unique stories. When Bobby died, he was buried in Greyfriar's Kirkyard close to his master and a bronze statue was sculpted for the small dog, which now stands just outside the kirk gates.
The bronze statue commemorating "Greyfriar's Bobby"
After the brief excursion into Greyfriar's Kirkyard we then headed up the Royal Mile towards the castle and were overwhelmed by the amount of people filling the streets which had been closed to vehicular traffic. In fact, the crowds were such that we decided to dart into a nearby pub for a little liquid refreshment and let them die down before continuing our journey on foot to the Tattoo.
The Edinburgh Tattoo in full swing
We had been allocated good seats and were surprised when the commentator congratulating John and Elsie Hughes on their Diamond Anniversary as well as welcoming Lymm Cruising Club to the Tattoo. The entertainment for the evening was most enjoyable and consisted of military personnel (and others) from all over the world. The last thing that we expected to see was a military steel band from Trinidad and Tobago... complete with limbo dancers! Ange could not watch the young motorcyclists though as they criss-crossed each other's paths at high speed. As the evening went the weather became increasingly windy but it did not mar our enjoyment too much and all too soon the event was over. It didn't take long to empty the seating areas and after a stroll down the Royal Mile we were soon sitting on our coach waiting for the last few members to arrive at the designated pick-up place. When they arrived we set off back to our hotel for a well earned sleep after a memorable if not busy day north of the border.
Our last day in Scotland started off with a trip to Loch Lomond. After breakfast we loaded our cases onto the coach for the return trip home and headed north to the Loch. As we had made good time to the Loch and arrived before schedule we took the opportunity to look around the shops at the visitor centre at Balloch... the gateway to the Loch, before making our way to the landing stage for the boat trip.
The trip boat that was to take us around Loch Lomond
Whilst making our way onto the Loch we passed some beautiful craft moored on the river that flows into it. One was reminiscent of a pre-war (Second World War that is!) Taylor mahogany cruiser built at Tower Wharf, Chester.
A classic mahogany cruiser reminiscent of a pre-war Chester built Taylor
We also noticed several boats in need of a little TLC and even saw one with BW registration numbers on it (no it wasn't a narrowboat). We wondered if owners had to pay to sail their boats on the Loch and I have since discovered that anyone wishing to launch their boat has to first register it with one of the Loch Registration Offices. They are located at Balloch, Balmaha and Luss. Registration involves completing an application with details of the owner and their craft. A boat number is allocated by the Registration Office and this can also be supplied by them at a cost of £5 plus £1 postage if done by mail.
Lymm CC members on Loch Lomond
Once out on the Loch, the weather was pleasant and the sun was shining intermittently but it was still quite windy. Loch Lomond has the largest surface area of fresh water in the UK. It is 24 miles long, five miles wide and at its deepest point is 600 feet deep.
Joan and Brian Gornell (Lymm CC's 2007 Commodore) on the Loch
On the Loch there are about 38 Islands, some of which are inhabited. There is a Hotel and even a nudist colony on Inchmurrin... one of the larger islands, which we passed. With it being so windy there were no nudists in evidence though.
A beautiful, if not breezy Loch Lomond
It may not be the worlds most famous Loch, being upstaged by Loch Ness, its "monster" and the fact that the Caledonian Canal flows through it, but much has been written about Loch Lomond, both in song and verse. The area is renowned for its beauty and tranquillity and offers picture postcard views around every corner. The banks are punctuated by old castles and fine houses, many of which have been converted into hotels and conference centres.
One of the many castles on the banks of Loch Lomond
Our hour long cruise on the loch was over all too soon and we returned to the coach for the journey back to Lymm after an enjoyable if not busy few days. We were sorry to leave Scotland. Our brief visit had whetted our appetites for the Scottish canals and we would like to spend more time exploring them. Unfortunately this would not be on "Total Eclipse" though. Wayne... our coach driver who had driven us on the trip had presented us with a quiz to help while away the miles. On our return journey the quiz papers were marked and there are no prizes given for guessing who won it! We reached Lymm at tea time and after loading our bags in the car we headed for the club house where a vote of thanks was given to Beryl Moult for arranging the trip. Where to next Beryl?
Members of Lymm CC in Scotland
A few days after our return the Falkirk Wheel was in the news due to the Bank of Scotland announcing that it was producing a new set of bank notes depicting Scottish bridges. I was especially interested in the new fifty pound note which illustrates the Falkirk Wheel. As Ange works for Nat West (who are part of the Royal Bank of Scotland) I asked her if she could obtain an a promotional image of the note but, unfortunately she couldn't so a heavily pixillated (for obvious reasons) image from the RBS website will have to do! The locations are illustrated below...
£5 - Brig o'Doon (Medieval - meaning "Bridge over the River Doon and of Tam o'Shanter fame),
£10 - Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct (416 yards long, 100 feet high on 21 arches),
£20 - the Forth Railway Bridge (completed in 1890 and one of the engineering icons of the World),
£50 - The Falkirk Wheel (as previously mentioned, also see Chapter Eight - Wonders of the Waterways),
£100 - Kessock Bridge (cable-stayed 1982 bridge across the Inverness Firth - 1056 metres long).
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A list of major milestones in my canal
cruising experiences from 2006 to 2007
Lymm CC Holiday to the River Rhine from Andernach to Basel (not on "Total Eclipse")
"The Big Ditch - Manchester's Ship Canal" went to Second Edition
Lymm CC Summer Cruise to Eldonian Village, Liverpool - Mersey River Festival plus BW's Cotton and Coal Rally
Lymm CC visit to the Falkirk Wheel and Edinburgh Tattoo (not on "Total Eclipse")
Cruise to Castlefield in Manchester, Salford Quays and the River Irwell
"The Duke's Cut - The Bridgewater Canal" went to Second Edition
"The Big Ditch - Manchester's Ship Canal" went to Third Edition
Plus many more shorter cruises too numerous to mention here
Sunset at Dunham Massey on the Bridgewater Canal.
The story continues in...
Canal Cruising 2008 to 2010
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