Canal Cruising 2008 to 2010
An eBook by Cyril J Wood
The title photograph shows the Rochdale Canal near Pioneer Wharf in Manchester at dusk
|Chapter 3 - Italian Adventure|
|Chapter 4 - Canalmanac 2009|
Click on title to follow links
Canal Cruising 2008 to 2010 is a true story
Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2008
In a break from tradition, Lymm CC's annual "Brass Monkey Cruise" for 2008 was held on New Year's Day as well as the usual Boxing Day date. Even though the change caused consternation from some members it suited us fine as we, along with some of the other members, due to family commitments would not have been able to attend had it been Boxing Day.
Boats moored at the Old Number Three on New Year's Day 2008
We were moored outside the club house after the New Year's Party and set off for the Old Number Three at Dunham Massey around 11.00 am. The towpath was well populated with walkers burning off the culinary delights of the Christmas period and we were surprised by the number of people out for a New Year's Day stroll. "Total Eclipse" had no water in the water tank and was riding about two inches higher in the water than usual. Accordingly, the boat did not handle as well as when there is a ton and a half of water in the bow and was easily affected by any breeze around.
Lymm CC's hardy members on the "Brass Monkey Cruise" at Dunham Massey
Graham Waites (n.b. "Ubique") taking a photograph of me photographing him (with identical cameras)
We moored at Dunham Massey and were soon joined by other boats. In all about twelve boats made it and we brought the food left over from the buffet the previous evening so had a picnic on the towpath. It was the first time that I had ever had a picnic on New Year's Day which goes to prove that we are never too old for new experiences.
Narrowboats at Oughtrington returning to Lymm after the Brass Monkey Cruise
The cruise back to our moorings was not as cold as might be imagined and after loading our things into the car at Lymm I cruised back to Oughtrington to put the boat to bed before going home after a most enjoyable New Year's Eve Party and Cruise.
The next event of any significance was the Burns Night Social. We planned to take the boat to Lymm, install a new battery and do a couple of jobs on the boat (like fitting a new "Chinese Hat" to the chimney) before going into the clubhouse in the evening. Not everything went to plan though as one of the battery connectors had corroded and the thread on it stripped as I tried to tighten it up. I left it for the morning and we readied ourselves for the evening ahead.
Ange was coerced into helping with the catering (and ended up presenting the haggis) whilst I was recruited to be a "Bay City Roller" complete with wig, hat and tartan scarf. I along with a few other unfortunates were due to sing "Bye Bye Baby" and "Shangalang". We were given lyric sheets but unfortunately the lyrics did not match the music. By the time we were due to perform most of the members present were "well lubricated" and the whole performance raised a laugh. It wasn't taken too seriously and thankfully there are no photographs of the our efforts which is most probably just as well!
Even though I had left the battery charger on all night, the next morning the engine did not spring into life as it usually does. The batteries were supplemented by a jump start from the car using the Club's extra-long jump leads. I put this down to the battery connections and planned to come up during the week to replace them. I arranged to borrow Thorn Marine's crimping tool and came up the following Tuesday to replace not only the connections but the cables as well. Once done I started the engine... or at least tried to. Even with fully charged batteries the starter motor turned slowly indicating that this is where the fault lay. To remove the starter motor, the steps from the rear deck have to be removed and I arranged some assistance from Nigel Foster to help me remove them the following Saturday. This done I took the starter motor to a specialist electrical engineers in Birkenhead who rebuilt it two years previously for a reasonable fee. They diagnosed a faulty armature which was replaced and hopefully, would last for another few years before needing attention. After the starter motor problem had been rectified I did not replace the steps immediately as I wanted to change the engine oil and filter. This would have to wait until the following week, which it was. I could then replace the steps and start making preparations for our Easter Cruise to Middlewich a couple of weeks in the future.
For once we had both arranged the Thursday before Good Friday off work to make an early start on the cruise. But due to Ange having minor surgery on an in-growing toenail the trip was in doubt. The toenail surgery wasn't as painful as we thought and our cruise went ahead. We left Oughtrington at lunchtime, filled the boat's water tank at Lymm and set off for Middlewich. That night we moored at Moore and it was quite windy with the rocking of the boat sending us to sleep. The following morning, the weather forecast was not looking too promising with winds, hail and even snow predicted. We caught the 10.30 am Preston Brook Tunnel passage and at Dutton stoplock there was quite a queue forming. As the difference in water levels was minimal I opened both sets of gates at the stoplock (but don't tell anyone) and the queue soon dissipated. For once the forecasters were correct. We could have reached Middlewich without the use of the engine due to the severe winds experienced. Whilst passing through Northwich we were subjected to a hail storm and due to the rear cover not being erected because of tunnels and low bridges there was, at one point, at least an inch of hail stones on the back deck! We planned to moor at Bramble Cuttings near Middlewich and when we were tying up the boat Ange slipped and fell over. Once the boat was moored Ange complained that there was no tv signal so we moved on to just after Croxton Flash.
"Total Eclipse" moored at Croxton in between bouts of precipitation
The next morning the weather cleared up for our cruise into Middlewich but the rain started again shortly afterwards. Later on we ventured from our nice warm boat to visit the town and do some shopping. Needless to say it snowed on us but not before I had taken some photographs of the new housing development being built next to the "Big Lock" public house. That evening Lymm CC had arranged for us to visit Middlewich Football Supporters Social Club where food and entertainment had been laid on. After an enjoyable evening we returned to the boat and we were soon asleep.
The Trent and Mersey Canal below Big Lock at Middlewich
(Note the narrowboat "Grasp the Nettle" on the right... see Canalscape Book 6)
The traditional Easter Bonnet and egg catching competitions took place on the towpath the next morning after which we all started to depart for home waters. The weather had cleared up a bit and at least the wind was not as strong as on the outward journey. We had a good day's run and at Dutton Stop Lock we opened both sets of gates again (an inch is not going to make too much of a difference to the canal levels) and after a really slow passage through Preston Brook Tunnel we moored between Preston Brook Waters Meeting and Daresbury for the night in the company of Ray Nichol and "Haj+2".
The Bridgewater Canal at Daresbury on a fresh spring morning
Monday morning dawned clear and bright even if still a little breezy and after breakfast we set off for Lymm. We stopped at Thorn Marine to empty the loo and say hello to Margaret and Brian. I also did an impromptu book signing as a customer at Thorn Marine had just purchased a copy of "The Big Ditch" and Margaret asked the purchaser if they would like it signed by the author who just happened to be outside talking to Brian. After dedicating the book and looking at the new housing development next to Thorn (which has been stopped due to being built almost 1 mtr too high) we bade farewell to our friends and made for Oughtrington.
Ange talking to Brian Hamilton at Thorn Marine... nice wellies Ange!
The new housing development taking shape next to Thorn Marine
After leaving Stockton Heath we saw "Heart of Oak" moored. This lovely boat is one of the few remaining Walton Cruisers as mentioned in the chapter entitled "Canal Cruiser Diversity" in "Don't Call It A Barge". On the way back to Oughtrington we were behind another unusual boat... a GRP Broads Cruiser expatriated to the Bridgewater Canal which is normally moored at Preston Brook. We had seen this boat moored there but this was the first time that we had actually seen it on the move. I did not envy the steerer manoeuvring this extremely wide craft through the bends and bridge holes of the canal in case a boat coming in the opposite direction was met. Before long we had reached Oughtrington, were loading our things into the car and heading for home.
The beautiful "Heart of Oak"... one of the last Walton Cruisers from the 1970s
"Fur Elise"... a Broads Cruiser expatriated to the Bridgewater Canal
Just before Easter I received a telephone call from Laura Fogg... one of the BBC's researchers for their "Countryfile" programme. They were planning to make a feature on the Manchester Ship Canal and I (apparently) was the ideal person to speak to about the canal and its history. After a long telephone conversation we arranged to meet at Warburton Toll Bridge... one of my favourite locations on the canal. The weather was awful and the inspection of the bridge was cut short so Laura, Sam Bailey... the programme's Location Director and I retired to their car to discuss not only the forthcoming programme but canals in general. The following day I received an email from Laura asking me if I could be available for filming the following Monday at the National Waterways Museum (previously known as the Boat Museum) where we would board a launch for a cruise along the Ship Canal. They also would like me to cruise "Total Eclipse" across Barton Swing Aqueduct the following day to illustrate a canal flyover. I said that I could make the Boat Museum on Monday but it would probably take too long to reach Barton by narrowboat for the 10.00 appointment so we would play that part of my involvement by ear.
Laura Fogg... "Countryfile's" Researcher and Sam Bailey the programme's Location Director
That weekend I cleaned the inside and outside of the boat just in case I managed to reach Barton for filming. I also replaced some switches on the boat's control panel and partially carpeted the sides of the boat's lining beneath the gunwale with some carpet we had left over from when we re-carpeted our sitting room a few weeks earlier. The weather was promising at first but I just managed to complete the exterior cleaning before the rain started and so I was confined to working inside the boat.
John Craven and me at Ellesmere Port
(Photograph - James M Wood)
I was due to meet the "Countryfile" team at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port after lunch on Monday so we arrived early, met my brother Jim and his wife Norma before having lunch. Afterwards, I was asked to accompany the team down to the nearby Telford's Wharf where I was introduced to John Craven and the rest of the team before we boarded M. V. "Venom"... a launch owned by Carmet Tug Company, captained by Captain Mike Metcalf, which was to take us along the canal. The 16 mtr long M. V. "Venom" was built in 1988 by Boghammar Marin AB in Stockholm, Sweden, is of all aluminium construction and powered by twin Volvo Penta TAMD 121 D engines (what else). She has a displacement of 20 tonnes and a top speed of 19 knots. Boghammar also built the Liverpool Pilot Boats to which she is similar.
M. V. "Venom" owned by Carmet Tug Company
Once we were all aboard the filming commenced with the "Venom" cruising past Telford's Quay outside the Boat Museum. We then headed up the Ship Canal towards Runcorn. I chatted to John Craven about the canal, pointing out features of interest as we reached them. I felt quite important sitting in the co-pilot's seat next to Mike Metcalf, comparing notes about the canal and we said that we would keep in touch after filming. As we approached Frodsham we prepared for filming and I didn't laugh (really) when John brought out his make-up powder compact to dull-down his shiny nose. We then went out onto the front deck of the boat where the main body of the interview took place. I was asked about the reasons the canal was built, who built it and how it was built. We went on to discuss various aspects of the canal's construction and I indicated various points of interest as we passed them. We seemed to do a lot of shooting but I suspected that most of it will be edited out and end up on the cutting room floor.
"Venom" doing slightly more than 4 mph past Frodsham Score
Two screenshots of yours truly being interviewed by John Craven
(Courtesy - BBC TV)
All too soon we reached Runcorn and moored to await our next guest who was a representative from Peel Ports that John was going to talk to about present-day traffic on the canal. As the Liverpool/Manchester Shuttle barge "Res V" pushed by the tug "Daisy Doarado" (that transports Tesco's wine to their distribution centre at Irlam as well as containers) was running a little late, it was decided that we would wait at Runcorn to allow it to catch-up before filming it on the way to Latchford Locks. I was given the opportunity to alight here and one of the researchers ferried me back to Ellesmere Port after an exiting and enjoyable day. It is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life and was when my five minutes of fame were recorded.
Tug "Daisy Doarado" and barge "Res V" passing the Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port...
... and later on at Latchford Locks
The following day, Tuesday, I had booked as a day's holiday as it was uncertain if I would be filming at Barton Swing Aqueduct with "Total Eclipse" or not. Before going to the Boat Museum the previous day Ange and I went to a carpet shop in Birkenhead where we had purchased the carpet I had fitted to the boat's lining below the gunwale previously. We took a sample of the previously purchased carpet with us and matched it with some carpet of the same type and colour and purchased enough to complete the boat's lining. I planned to finish the job on the Tuesday as well as a few other odd jobs but when I came to fit the carpet I was horrified to discover that it was a slightly different shade of beige to the sample. After finishing my other jobs I headed for home via the carpet shop. To cut a long story short they put the discrepancy down to different dye batches and gave me an additional piece to replace the piece already fitted free of charge. The only problem was that I would have liked to have fitted it before the Lymm CC Opening Cruise the following Sunday but it will just have to wait until I have the opportunity to fit it.
Members preparing for the Opening Cruise... note the snow on the ground
In the week leading up to the Opening Cruise I had a nasty bout of "Man Flu". This strain of the virus can always be relied upon to knock the wind out of my sails but I had been asked to take photographs of the Opening Cruise and our guests for the club magazine and website so I had to be well enough to attend. We went up to Oughtrington on the Saturday afternoon and took the boat down to Lymm where we moored on the outside of "Philbarmar". A little later on "Flossie" arrived and moored on the outside of us. We did not go to the "Fitting Out" dance that evening but the following morning we were up bright and early only to be greeted by snow when we opened the curtains.
2008 Opening Cruise Official Guests...
left to right - Mike Webb (Manchester Ship Canal Company), Andy Ball (BBC Radio Merseyside),
Gordon Burns (BBC Northwest Tonight) and Dave Ross (Lymm CC Commodore)
The Guests of Honour that were invited to the Opening Cruise were my old friend Andy Ball (from Radio Merseyside, who I also went to school with and is now a Lymm resident) accompanied by his wife Fiona, Gordon Burns (from BBC TV's "Look Northwest") and his wife Sheelagh plus the Bridgewater Canal's own Mike Webb accompanied by his wife Jean. After the official opening ceremony we cruised down to Walton Arms for lunch. This just happened to coincide with the "Countryfile" programme being transmitted featuring the Manchester Ship Canal (and me!) which Ange watched whilst we were on the move... giving me a running commentary as we cruised. On our return to the boat from the Walton Arms we turned around and made our way back to Lymm. The cruise down had been quite pleasant weather-wise but on the way back we had rain, hail, wind, snow and sunshine all within the space of a few hours. Even though we stopped to erect the rear canopy at Thorn Marine, by the time we reached Oughtrington I was absolutely frozen and couldn't wait to get warm after mooring the boat. Once warm we loaded our things into the car and made for home and a nice hot bath and viewed the recording of "Countryfile".
Lymm CC boats moored at Walton on the 2008 Opening Cruise
I was pleased with the way I was portrayed on the television even if a couple of hours filming only equated to five minutes of tv time! I did notice that some of the information and comments that I had recorded to camera was hi-jacked by John Craven but I will not hold that against him. After all... he is being paid for it. Most of the archive photographs came from the electronic copy of "The Big Ditch" that I gave the research team and I was introduced as Cyril Wood - Author of "The Big Ditch" so you never know, I may even get a few extra book sales from the experience. The programme had been seen by quite a few fellow boaters as well as colleagues at "Wirral Met". One lady who works in the College's Personnel Department nearly choked on her breakfast when she unexpectedly saw me on tv. I have received many comments saying how relaxed and knowledgeable I appeared on screen and that I had a good relationship with John Craven (I didn't use any "filler" words, stroke my nose of put my hands on my hips or display any other annoying habits thanks to Ange warning me beforehand). I can only put this down to John making me feel at ease and his sense of humour lubricating the interview.
Why is it that when one returns to work after a cold/wet weekend boating the sun always seems to shine. I found myself looking out of the window at work next to my desk contemplating this point. Hopefully, it will not be too long before we are having some nice warm weather in which to bask in. What I want to know is... what happened to Global Warming?
Our next cruise was a couple of weeks later to Castlefield, Manchester. At first we were undecided as to whether to go or not with my just getting over "Man Flu" but the weather promised to be alright so we arrived at Oughtrington on Saturday morning having arranged to meet Nigel and Lisa at Agden as we passed. I was pleased to see boats finally taking residence at Stretford Marina.
The first boats to occupy Stretford Marina
After an uneventful cruise to Manchester we moored alongside "Coccium" and joined our fellow Lymm CC members for "Pims" on the towpath. I was overwhelmed at the number of comments from members who had seen me on "Countryfile". Peter Corbett was most complimentary as well. saying that he enjoyed watching me and that I looked at ease giving the impression of knowing what I was talking about. Praise indeed from a tv personality. Ange was asked to serve the cocktails that Eleanor had concocted and I have to admit that they were most enjoyable.
Ange serving cocktails on the towpath at Castlefield
Lymm CC members enjoying cocktails and biscuits at Castlefield
Narrowboats from Lymm CC dominating the Deansgate Arm at Castlefield
We all met later on to walk to a Chinese restaurant for a banquet. On the way we crossed the Rochdale Canal close to the location of the "Hacienda Club" which was owned by the late tv personality and Castlefield resident Anthony Wilson and the recently restored remains of the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal which has a subterranean route across Manchester before emerging from beneath Granada TV's studios where it was once used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War and making a junction with the River Irwell.
The Rochdale Canal looking towards Canal Street, near the site of the "Hacienda" Club owned by the late Anthony Wilson
Two photographs taken inside the Chinese restaurant
Once we arrived at the restaurant more than fifty Lymm CC members enjoyed a most convivial atmosphere and as much food as we could eat. I am not a great lover of Chinese food but I must admit that I the food was beautiful and we all left with full stomachs. After the restaurant the walk back to Castlefield helped to digest the large amount of food that we had managed to eat before some of us went to the "Lava Bar" (where we watched the Eurovision Song Contest a couple of years ago) for a most enjoyable night cap in good company before returning to our boats.
Rowers from Trafford Rowing Club passed at Sale on the "Straight Mile"
NB "Amaretto" stops dead to avoid a close encounter of the physical kind
Every canal has its own features and hazards but when Trafford Rowing Club are holding speed trials and training sessions on the Bridgewater Canal a unique set of hazards (for canals anyway) present themselves in the shape of rowing boats ranging from sculls to rowing eights. The photograph above illustrates how inexperienced rowers can put themselves at risk by not being aware of other craft using the canal. As we met the rowers the weather changed and it started to rain. But at least it could not dampen our spirits after a good (if not cool) weekend.
Just when we thought it was safe to proceed we met even more rowers at Altrincham
Coincidentally, the following Monday my canal cruising knowledge was called upon at my place of work... Wirral Metropolitan College's Carlett Park Campus at Eastham. Some of the Outdoor Education students accompanied by two members of staff were planning a canoe expedition along the Shropshire Union Canal from Nantwich Basin to the National Waterways Museum (previously known as the Boat Museum) at Ellesmere Port. I was asked to give the students a talk about the route that they planned to take as well as mentioning points of interest and telling them of the hazards that they might encounter along the way. I gave special emphasis on what to do when meeting powered craft and told the students to give way to them and pull-in to the bank rather than try to beat them through any bridge holes. Let's hope that they heed my warnings and have an enjoyable trip (see later on in this chapter).
Our next cruise was over the May Bank Holiday weekend to Saltersford Wide... the lake between Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels utilised by James Brindley when constructing the Trent and Mersey Canal. This location has the reputation of being quite muddy so we were hoping for a dry weekend. When we left Lymm the weather was dry and warm. By the time we reached Preston Brook Tunnel it was even warmer and we were accompanied by Bill Edsbury and his friend Christine on NB "Mr Ed".
Ange and Christine at Dutton Stop Lock
Christine is quite new to boating and was glad of a few pointers from Ange when we came to Dutton Stop Lock. We cruised along the pretty River Weaver Valley section of the canal until the new timetable controlling passage of Saltersford Tunnel brought us to a stop (but not the two hire boats preceding us who went through ignoring the timetable). Bill and Christine had a cup of coffee and biscuits with us whilst we waited patiently in the beautifully warm sunshine for the allotted time for us to pass through the tunnel to join our friends. Nigel walked over the tunnel and joined us on our passage through the tunnel.
The beautiful wooded cutting preceding Saltersford Tunnel
The reflection of "Total Eclipse" can be seen in the new Saltersford Tunnel timetable notice board
A boat about to emerge from the depths of Saltersford Tunnel
45 Boats from Lymm CC in Saltersford Wide
It wasn't long before we started through the tunnel and Nigel directed us to the mooring alongside "Seguido". Lymm CC has quite an active youth section and Saltersford allows space for the younger members of the club to brush-up on their paddling skills as well as having a good time in canoes and dinghies under the watchful eyes of Bryn... the 2008 Youth Officer.
Saltersford Locks on the River Weaver nestling in the valley below the canal
The next day started off dry and a bar and barbequeue had been set-up on a wide section of the towpath as had preparations for the first bonfire of the season. This was when Nigel Foster was to be officially presented with his Rear Commodore's fire poking stick by Keith Moore in a ceremony prior to the bonfire being lit.
A more usual view of Saltersford Wide... punctuated with rain drops
Traditionally, we climb the path to the Beech Tree public house at Barnton village where we play Crown Green Bowls and have a meal afterwards. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks previously, the landlord of the pub did a moonlight flit taking with him the kitchen equipment, light fittings, optics as well as other parts of the pub's decorations and interior. But this did not phase Lymm Cruising Club. We carried on with the bowls match as planned but had to make do the a cold buffet afterwards. Even so, this did not deter from the enjoyment and atmosphere that prevailed.
Members of Lymm CC playing bowls at the "Beech Tree"
As it had now stopped raining, Ange and I decided to walk back to the boat the long way... through the village, across the top of Barnton Tunnel and along the canal to the wide. On the way Ange met some of her bovine friends and could not resist the temptation of a little "moo off" with them. Goodness knows what other people walking past must have thought but they are not into inter-species communication in the same way that we are!
Some of Ange's bovine friends on top of Barnton Tunnel (note the ventilation shaft in the background)
That evening, as the rain had started again, we decided to stay on board and watch tv. The reception was rubbish so we watched a DVD before going to bed. The following morning dawned a little better and even the sun was threatening to come out and play. We caught the 11.00 am tunnel passage and ambled our way back towards Lymm.
"Total Eclipse" waiting to pass through Preston Brook Tunnel
By the time that we had passed through Preston Brook Tunnel the sun had gone in and the weather was looking decidedly dodgy. We had a quick stop at Thorn Marine for some milk and a few odds and ends before carrying on to Lymm. At Thelwall the clouds parted and the sun came out again. Normally, when we are about to go home after a wet weekend, the sun shows itself when we are half-way along the M56 motorway but on this occasion we had caught it out as we were off work for the rest of the week and had not planned to go home just yet.
Thelwall Cutting in the sunshine
We moored on the canal frontage at Lymm but John Moult... the Harbourmaster asked us to move into the arm as "Californian" had broken down as was being towed by the Club's Chairman's boat "Rannoch" and it would be easier to manoeuvre if we were in the arm. We started to remove the Saltersford mud that had trodden into the boat as well as completing the carpeting on the cabin sides below the gunwales and generally clean the boat. Needless to say, the carpeting did not go according to plan and gave up on it for the time being. We stayed at Lymm until Tuesday and moved "Total Eclipse" onto her Oughtrington mooring before we returned to the clubhouse by car for the monthly meeting in the evening. When the meeting was over we made our way home.
The cabin sides with the new carpet lining
I returned on the Saturday to finish the carpeting (you were right Ange... cut the carpet to size before attaching it to the cabin lining!) The adhesive helped as well but when finished it highlighted the need for new carpet on the floor. Maybe a nice plain maroon to match the curtains. When I had vacuumed the mess made fitting the carpet I completed preparing the boat for the Annual Invitation Cruise the following weekend. We were to have guests on board in the shape of June and Colin who live over the road from us in Wallasey.
Our neighbours... Colin and June aboard "Total Eclipse"
Needless to say, the weather on the Saturday of the Invitation Cruise left a little to be desired. But this did not dampen the enjoyment of our guests. They were both canal virgins having never stepped aboard a canal boat previously. After a welcome in the Clubhouse, morning coffee, scones with strawberry jam and thick cream (mmmmm!), we cruised to Stockton Heath. Ange and June went to have a look at the shops before we returned to Lymm in the persistent drizzle. I did not erect the rear deck canopy in the hopes that the sun would break through. It did not, but our guests enjoyed themselves nonetheless and asked if they could come back again. We promised to invite them back when the weather was better. On our return from the cruise there was afternoon tea and thick wedges of chocolate came filled with thick cream and a quick speech by our Commodore thanking the guests for attending. That evening there was a casino night in the Clubhouse to which our guests were invited but due to a prior arrangement they could not take us up on the offer. However, we went to had an unusual but enjoyable evening. The following morning, as is usual when it was time for us to return home... the sun came out! A couple of days later we saw June and Colin and I was not surprised to learn that Colin had been on the Internet looking at second hand narrowboats. Watch this space for any developments in this department!
Our next cruise was to the Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs Annual Rally, hosted this year by Worsley Cruising Club at Astley close to the Mining Museum. As soon as we finished work we loaded our clothes, etc into the car, called at our local Asda for provisions (which turned out to be most traumatic... but that's another story!) and headed for Oughtrington. We had arranged to meet Nigel and Lisa Foster at Agden and we reached their moorings at 10.00 pm. After catching up with the latest news we ate our tea on "Vive Para Hoy" before returning to "Total Eclipse" to turn in for the night. Nigel tapped on the boat at 6.00 am the following morning and we were soon cruising in the early morning sunshine. Even though it was bright and sunny there was a bit of a breeze so I left the windscreen up to keep the wind out of our faces.
"Rose of Sharon" moored at Altrincham
There are boats that one sees whilst out cruising that have secured a place in the memory. One of these boats is "Rose of Sharon" moored at Sale Cruising Club's moorings at Altrincham. I read about this boat many years ago in a book entitled "Canals are my Life" written by Iris Bryce. The boat is one of the first "Cutlass" steel hulled boats built by Shropshire Union Cruisers at Norbury Junction for private owners. In this instance... Dr David Owen, a former director of the Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port, which is where I first saw it many years ago. The boat is now looking its age and in need of a little attention. Maybe a new owner could bring some enthusiasm to this boat which has given readers of the books (myself included) written about it many hours of pleasure.
"Vive Para Hoy" following us along the "Straight Mile" at Sale
The rowers from Trafford Rowing Club were out in force again but there were no incidents this time! Before long we were passing through Trafford Park where there are isolated green oases to be found in unexpected locations.
White's Bridge at Water's Meeting in Stretford
After the Kellogg's plant Nigel pulled alongside for a session of "social boating". We passed many brand new, empty office units crying out to be used as call centres when "enlightened" companies realise that the great British public do not wish to speak to operators based in Delhi or some other far-flung location. Approaching Barton Swing Aqueduct Ange took the tiller allowing me to take photographs.
Ange steering "total Eclipse" across Barton Swing Aqueduct (mind those rivets Ange!)
The view of the Manchester Ship Canal when crossing Barton Swing Aqueduct
She did not dare to look down whilst crossing the Manchester Ship Canal thirty nine feet below although I must admit, it does look higher. In Patricroft is an old mill now used by GUS as a distribution centre. The chimney is still in place and Ange says that it looks like a giant wax crayon.
Patricroft Mill with its "Giant Wax Crayon" chimney
"Millionaire's Row" at Worsley (every garage houses a Bentley... well at least one does)
The "Boatyard" housing development at Worsley complete with corporate narrowboat
At Worsley, a new housing development is taking place in the shape of "The Boatyard" situated just after "Millionaire's Row"... a road of up-market detached houses with electrically operated front gates where virtually every garage houses a Bentley (slight exaggeration... but at least one does!). What is impressive is that the "Boatyard's" promoters have a corporate narrowboat which they use for picking up prospective buyers from opposite the Duke's Boat House and taking them by narrowboat to the development a few hundred metres along the canal. I wonder what kind of impact the current slump in the housing and financial markets will have on sales? We made a stop at Worsley for newspapers, etc before carrying on to Astley.
Boats moored above Astley Bridge at the 2008 Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs Annual Rally
When we arrived at Astley we found our mooring (A19X) past Astley Bridge on the towpath side of the canal. We were moored on the side of a narrowboat from Runcorn which was away from the weeds lining the side of the canal. On our arrival we went to the Mining Museum where the Rally Headquarters were located to register our presence and collect our "goody bag".
The Pit Head of Astley Mine, the location of the Mining Museum and a landmark for many miles around
Lots going on with stalls and the Mining Museum exhibits
There was quite a lot going on with various stalls and the exhibits from the Mining Museum made famous by Fred Dibnah MBE when he visited the Museum during the filming of the BBC TV series "Made in Britain". Whilst looking around I was astounded at the number of both standard and narrow gauge railway rolling stock that the museum possesses, most of which was used underground. The other exhibits include a most impressive steam engine used for winding the cages to and from the various levels of the mine. Our goodie bag contained useful items of food as well as the usual quizzes to be completed and rally guide. Lymm Cruising Club won the award for the most boats attending the rally and many of our members won prizes as well. John Moult won a helicopter ride, Brian Gornell won 100 ltrs of diesel fuel and Phyllis Greenough won four of the quizzes. Quite a coup for the club.
One of the participants in the illuminated boats procession
Boats attending the rally stretching towards Boothstown
On the Saturday evening was the cavalcade of illuminated boats suitably adorned with lights of all different shapes, sizes and colours. There were a couple of interesting boats attending the rally including "Flamingo"... a beautifully restored converted, wooden, clinker hulled lifeboat. Being a broad canal the Bridgewater used to be home to many of these converted craft but in recent years their numbers have dropped and I know of only a few remaining. This example is a credit to its owner but maybe with a name like "Flamingo" it should have been painted pink!
"Flamingo"... a beautifully restored converted lifeboat
All too soon the rally was over and it was time for us to return to Lymm. The wind that had been blowing for the last few days had abated but even so exposed parts of the canal were "challenging" to say the least. Ange steered through Patricroft but when we arrived at Barton Swing Aqueduct we met a boat that had just crossed it and advised us to open the throttle as the side winds were very strong. It was after this encounter that Ange decided not to steer the boat over the aqueduct as she did not want to become a "rivet licker" (see the previous photographs of Barton Swing Aqueduct) if the wind blew us to the side of the trough.
Passing through a surprisingly rural Trafford Park
(The ramp on the left once lead to a bridge which carried the towpath across the Barton Power Station Arm)
We were soon passing through Trafford Park again and as the sun was shining I took the opportunity to take some photographs whilst the canal was quiet. At Stretford Boat Yard "Shell Fen V" was back at her moorings. This unusual craft is a tanker barge that originally carried fuel oil to the water pumps responsible for draining the low lying areas of the Fens in East Anglia. She is now a Bridgewater Canal resident and is quite often seen up and down the canal. In fact, she passed through Astley whilst we were moored at the boat rally.
"Shell Fen V"... an ex fuel barge from the Fens waterways in East Anglia
The wind virtually blew us through Sale and Altrincham and at one point there were white horses forming on the canal. We pitied the poor boater that we met towing another narrowboat single-handed. Once we reached our moorings we packed up our things and went home. Our next trip would be down to Lymm in a fortnight's time when "Total Eclipse" was to be slipped out of the water for a hull clean and repaint.
In the meantime, I had been asked to give a talk at Lymm CC's monthly meeting entitled "What Makes a Good Photograph?" This was to be after the usual business of the meeting and I was going to illustrate the talk with some photographs projected on a digital projector that I had borrowed from work. Ange wasn't looking forward to me giving the talk as I would be "fair game" coming in for some "Mickey taking" from other club members. She needn't have worried though, as the presentation was faultless and the comments that I received afterwards confirmed this. I didn't show a single canal photograph during the first part of the talk which surprised most members. They thought that I only took photographs of canals and did not know that I take many photographs of other subjects as well. When I had finished the planned part of the presentation I was asked if I had any more photographs that I could show to which I answered "Might have!" Needless to say many canal photographs were shown to satisfy the request from the club members. The projector operated well. In fact Danny Abbott was so impressed with it that he approached the club's Committee to purchase one for presentations such as mine. A projector has since been purchased and I look forward to using it on future presentations.
I previously mentioned our neighbours Colin and June... who came to the Invitation Cruise, being interested in buying a narrowboat. Well, after returning from the Federation Rally, I was on leave from work the following day and mentioned to Colin that we could go and have a look at some narrowboats for sale at Harral Boat Sales at Wincham Wharf near Northwich. Colin was full of enthusiasm and we drove up there after lunch.
"Grandma Cheese" at Harral Boat Sales, Wincham Wharf
After picking up a price list and catalogue from the sales office we had a look around some of the more affordable boats out of the water in their "upper yard". Tucked away in a corner was "Grandma Cheese"... a boat that we knew that was previously owned by a couple called Jan and Jim who moored the boat adjacent to Dutton Dry Docks at the southern end of Preston Brook Tunnel. It is a strong, business-like boat with a "no frills" design and was offered for sale at around £25k. I thought that it was a little over-priced bearing in mind that it would need some attention to the electrics and internal fit-out. Nevertheless, Colin was interested in the boat and we would return to it later after we had seen what else was on offer.
"Tamar No 2" also for sale at Harral Boat Sales
We went down the steps from the hard-standing to the canal-side moorings and I could not believe my eyes. There, for sale was "Tamar No 2"... my old friend Alec Levac's replica tug (see "Canalscape Book 2" - Chapter 2 - Bridgewater Days). It was looking good considering that it was built in 1982 but I did not think that it is worth the £37k being asked... 30k maybe, especially as the original four cylinder Dorman engine has been replaced with a classic Lister HW3. I regularly telephone Alec but was devastated to hear that he died of cancer two weeks later. I regretted that I didn't get the chance to tell him that I had been on "Tamar No 2" again. After looking at the rest of the boats for sale we returned to the hard standing and gave "Grandma Cheese" another look as well as taking photographs to show June. After inspecting the hull and general condition we climbed aboard and had a look in the engine compartment, gas bottle storage, etc and I could see that Colin was nearly smitten with the boat. He said that he would be quite happy to make an offer of £20k for the boat. I reminded him that he must not fall in love with the first boat that he sees and suggested that he looked at the same company's Nantwich Basin and Swanley Marina sales offices. He agreed with me and we made for the car.
A few days later Colin informed me that they returned to Harral at Wincham Wharf and was disappointed to learn that somebody had already made an offer on "Grandma Cheese". They then went to the other Harral locations at Nantwich Basin and Swanley Marina but did not see anything that was suitable. I think that Colin will be visiting other boat yards in the near future and he has not dismissed the possibility of buying a sailaway to fit-out himself.
Ange and I had both arranged for the week the boat was coming out of the water, off work together. On the Saturday morning I was deposited at Oughtrington whilst Ange drove to Lymm with a car full of red oxide, gloss black, turpentine substitute, paint rollers and a multitude of paint brushes. I emptied the little bit of water contained in the forward bilge, started the boat's engine and cast-off the ropes. It was a beautiful summer's morning. Far too nice to be jet-washing and painting but at least it is better than the alternative... rain! As I approached the slipway, John Moult was sitting in his tractor with the trolley prepared for "Total Eclipse" (special blocks had been mounted on the trolley to accommodate the boat's keel) in the water all ready for me to guide the boat onto it. As soon as the boat was in position, Rob Hoyle, who was assisting John, attached the centre rope to the trolley and the tractor revved up pulling "Total Eclipse" and the trolley out of the water together. There was a certain fluidity of movement in the exercise and the boat was still moving forward onto the trolley as it started to move up the slipway. When the top of the slipway had been reached, the chain securing the trolley was attached to its anchorage point set into the ground, the tractor disconnected from the trolley and orange traffic cones placed over the exposed hardware to prevent the unwary tripping over them.
"Total Eclipse" coming out of the water
(Photograph - Angela Wood)
Then the hard work of jet washing and scraping the hull commenced. Moss and dirt had to be cleaned off as did the multitude of fresh water mussels that had attached themselves to the boat's hull. Any loose paint needs to be removed with the scraper prior to painting. Some boaters go to a lot of trouble removing paint that is in good condition and well adhered to the metalwork in order to get a smooth finish. I do not go with this as I think that if the paint is sound then leave well alone... on the hull anyway! A couple of hours later and the jet was was put away after a job well done. The inspection of the hull gave no surprises and Ange made me a well earned cup of coffee whilst the hull dried off. One of the female members of the club said when looking at the boat towering above us that there is a certain vulnerability about a boat when it is out of the water. A bit like a Victorian lady showing her petticoats. She is correct of course. Boats do not look at ease when sitting on a trolley five feet higher that normally viewed, and at an un-nerving angle as well! They are even worse on the inside. The fridge cannot be turned on, the sink does not empty correctly and one has to be careful walking around as it is all too easy to start to run down hill towards the stern, not to mention sleeping at an angle! With coffee swigged the hull had dried sufficiently for me to start painting the red oxide undercoat. I had planned two coats... one hand brushed and the second rollered. The first coat needs to be applied by brush to reach the crevices and awkward angles that a roller would miss. The brush also puts more paint onto the surface than a roller as well.
Danny and Sheila Abbott were first off in the Navigation Trials with "Stanley Charles"
Tony Whalley lining-up "Sapphire" whilst Linda composes herself
Lily Williams aboard "Seguido" grasping the giant football
The following day was another hot, sunny day and the Navigation Trials were to take place from 10.00 am onwards. This entailed a large football being thrown into the canal and the stopwatch started, the boat starting from a set position going to the ball and a crew member retrieving it , the boat reversing to the start and turning into the arm.
John "Rosie" doing it solo
Mark and Barry Greenough on "Philbarmar"
Graham Waites ("Ubique") who crewed for Bill "Turbulence", arriving with the giant football
When a certain place has been reached the crew member jumps off with the ball and places it on a receptacle when the timing stops. A record number of boats took place in the trials which went on well into the afternoon. I was, as you would anticipate, recording the trials on camera. There was a classic French photographer called Henri Cartier-Bresson who was the master of the "decisive moment"... the moment in time that is frozen by the camera's shutter release being pressed. I do not try to emulate the work of this renowned photographer as I prefer the landscape... it doesn't move, doesn't answer back and doesn't criticise the resulting image. Well that is my theory anyway! Back to the decisive moment... Lily Williams, the Vice-Commodore was crewing for another boat and just as she was going to jump off with the ball I anticipated the time delay afforded by a digital camera hoping that I would catch her in mid-air.
Vice Commodore Lily ("Water Lily") Williams on her way "in" (note the still dry hair) after missing the quayside
I did capture the decisive moment... the one where she slipped into the canal! If the resulting photograph is magnifies it will be noticed that she is on the way down and that her hair is not yet wet. Thankfully Lily was unharmed except for a scrape on the leg. She was helped out of the water and got a shower immediately to wash off the dirty water. Lily's dunking didn't dampen the spirits of the boaters and all too soon it was the Commodore and his wife's turn to negotiate the course.
Dave and Eleanor Ross being "saluted" with the hosepipe
The ball was thrown into the canal further up than the other members and the ball was considerably smaller as well. As Eleanor and Dave Ross came into the arm with the ball they were saluted in the usual manner with hosepipes and buckets! When the festivities were over we all relaxed with a cool drink in the hot sunshine (too hot to paint).
"Total Eclipse" on the slipway after the hull painting was completed
As the sun moved around in the sky it put one side of "Total Eclipse" into the shade allowing painting to resume. The wonderful weather ensured that the bulk of the painting was completed by Tuesday and we asked John Moult to relaunch us on the Wednesday morning. Once back in the water Ange painted the "fiddly bits" on the stern and bow as taught by Brian a couple of years ago. She wore my wellies and stood in the water whilst she painted and went to great pains to ensure that she did not get out of the wellies' depth. After launching it was a luxury to have the fridge working again and that evening we slept "on the level".
Ange painting the "fiddly bits" around the stern
The following morning we cleared up our mess and I took the boat back to Oughtrington with Ange driving up thirty minutes later to pick me up and drive home after a hard but rewarding few days work. After a day's recuperation from the painting marathon and a day's shopping I returned to Oughtrington to cut the grass on our mooring which had grown surprisingly fast over the last couple of weeks. I would have liked to have to completed painting the roof and gunwales ready our holiday cruise to Skipton in a few weeks' time but I was working to a tight schedule (Ange wanted the car after lunch) plus the weather was not conducive to painting. In fact it started to rain just as I had finished strimming the grass. Before going home I called in at the Clubhouse to collect three large picture frames that contained old photographs of Lymm CC in years gone by. Time had not been kind to some of the photographs which had started to fade. But I planned to scan and enhance the remaining images for use in the The History of Lymm Cruising Club that I am currently writing in eBook format. Due to the fact that the frames that the photographs are mounted in I was not able to remove and scan them so I fitted a polarizing filter to the camera to remove reflections and photographed them through the glass of the frames. The resulting images were acceptable and were saved in their original un-resized form on archive quality DVDs for prosperity and also resized to approximately fifty kilobytes for inclusion in the eBook.
"Total Eclipse's" front cabin looking cosy with the old fixed bunk removed and the futon plus LCD tv combo installed
We had long been discussing the future layout of the front cabin and at long last we decided to remove the fixed front bunk and replace it with a sofa bed. A couple of weeks later we took a trip to Ikea to purchase said sofa bed but ended up with a futon rather than a sofa bed. A lot of thought went into the choice of the futon and we settled on one that was self-assembly and would, therefore, fit through the boats doors in its component parts. However, what we had not considered was whether it would fit into the back of our Suzuki Ignis or not. It just about fitted with the rear seats folded and the front seats pushed all the way forwards. Consequently, the journey home was not the most comfortable journey that I have had. Another item that we had been looking at was an LCD television/DVD combo in Asda that would run on 12 volts to replace the diminutive LCD tv that we had bought a couple of years previously. After visiting Ikea we visited the nearby Asda where we purchased one of these excellent televisions. We didn't have to worry about it being "Digital Ready" as we already have a "Digibox" and "Freesat" decoder (for when we have reception troubles) both of which run off twelve volts and connect to the television via a Scart lead. The satellite dish is attached to the existing tv aerial mast when required. The following Thursday I took the day off work to attend my old friend Alec Levac's funeral and decided to make the most of the time off. After taking the sofa bed out of its packaging so that it would fit in the car more easily without having to push the driver's seat forward, I went to Oughtrington. On my arrival I removed the old fixed bunk and assembled the sofa bed, drove to Hazel Grove near Stockport for the funeral then returned to Oughtrington to install the LCD television and then tidy up. My old friend Alec would have approved and wouldn't have minded my use of the day. Needless to say the sofa bed was a success and the new tv worked perfectly. Above the television is a triangular corner shelf on which is mounted a mains operated "touch lamp". As this lamp could only operate when we were attached to mains electricity via a land-line or when the generator was running, I took the lamp home and stripped the dimming electronics out of it. I then fitted a new lamp holder, 12 volt LED bulb plus an on/off switch in the lead and the lamp performs perfectly.
Wirral Metropolitan College's Outdoor Education students on the Shropshire Union canal at Golden Nook
I mentioned earlier that some of Wirral Metropolitan College's Outdoor Education students were planning a canoe expedition along the Shropshire Union Canal from Nantwich to Ellesmere Port. On the 30th June they set from Nantwich Basin and paddled down to Beeston Brook were they camped for the night above Beeston Iron Lock a few yards from where my parents used to moor "Phial" (see "Canalscape Book 1" Chapter 5 - A Small Glass Vessel). The following morning they set off for Ellesmere Port and I planned to catch-up with them at Golden Nook - Bridge 115, between Tattenhall and Waverton.
Steve France and John Kendal (Wirral Metropolitan College Outdoor Education tutors) taking advantage of the breeze
After I arrived they were not in sight so I walked along the towpath looking at the boats moored there. One of the boats took my eye... it was a Dalescraft centre cockpit steel cruiser named "Summer Wine" and was my friend Norrie (the Mad Irishman) Kelly's old boat. It looked in good condition and was obviously well looked after. On my return to the bridge I saw Wirral Met's flotilla paddling towards me... or at least some of them where. Two of the canoes had temporary sails rigged on them and the occupants were taking advantage of the breeze (that just happened to be blowing in the right direction) to assist them with their passage. When the members of staff accompanying the students saw me they stopped at the bridge and had lunch. This gave me the opportunity to photograph them for the College website and magazine. Some of the photographs are reproduced here and illustrate what a good time they were having.
My presence gave them an excuse to stop for lunch...
... and judging by the smiling faces, everybody was enjoying themselves
Based on the success of this expedition, the staff that accompanied the students would like to have four different routes that they can take students on and I have been asked to help them with the planning of these routes which in addition to the Shropshire Union Canal from Nantwich to Ellesmere Port may include the Trent and Mersey Canal from Middlewich to Preston Brook, parts of the Llangollen Canal and the Bridgewater Canal from Lymm to Preston Brook.
The next few weeks were spent preparing for our summer cruise with Lymm CC along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to Skipton (see Chapter 2 - Skipton Excursion). These preparations included completing the painting curtailed by rain (which again didn't happen), the installation of a new self-assembly cupboard beneath the gunwales which we spotted whilst out shopping which would hide the removed pump-out toilet holding tank drain cock and replace some of the storage space lost by the removal of the bunk. I also concealed the distressed cabin lining woodwork above where the Torgem was originally located (caused by a leaking flue socket in the roof) by hanging a large picture frame containing a map of the inland waterways network.
Looking aft from the front cabin of "Total Eclipse" after completion of the modifications
One cause for concern was the mattresses on the double bed between the kitchen and the wardrobe. Over the years the "Dunlopillow" foam had lost its elasticity and support. Consequently, it was causing a little discomfort at night. This was remedied by ordering two new sprung mattresses from a friend of Arthur Malcolm's off "Flossie" who had shown us his mattresses which impressed us. The other preparations included checking the engine and fuel tank contents (the tank took twenty five gallons of fuel to fill it), taking home the superfluous items that we had accumulated on board which would not be required on holiday as well as making an inventory of the food cupboard. Once these jobs were completed we could bring aboard the non-perishable food and clothing, vacuum the boat with the Dyson and complete some last-minute jobs ready for when we set off on the morning of Saturday 26th July.
The space where the hot water cylinder is normally located on "Total Eclipse" after surgery and removal
The week after our return from the Skipton cruise I took a day off mid-week in order to remove the calorifier (hot water cylinder) that sprang a leak whilst we were away. I removed all the pipes still attached to the cylinder and tried to jiggle it out of the engine compartment. It was then that I hit a problem. It was obvious that the cylinder was installed before the engine was as the cylinder is three inches too wide to fit through the space between the inside of the gunwales and the deck board support channels. I even remove the lid off the mud box to give me a little more clearance... to no avail. Plan B! Surgery is going to be required before the cylinder can be removed so I replaced back it in its original position and reconnected the engine cooling pipes. After refilling the cooling system with water I ran the engine until it was hot to make sure that there were no leaks. Time for lunch and to quote Brent off NB "Harry's Lad"... a good dose of looking at! After lunch and looking at the cylinder to see if I had overlooked anything obvious (which I didn't appear to have) refitted the deck boards and replaced everything on the back deck. Then I fitted the new light in the toilet/shower compartment that I bought from White Bear Marina when we were on holiday and tidied up the boat before heading for home. On my arrival home I telephoned Alan Savage and told him of the situation and he asked me to have the boat at Agden on Saturday when he and his son Phil would try to solve the problem. That Friday evening we took the boat up to Agden so that the engine would be cold by the following morning when Alan and Phil came to cut away the steelwork that prevented the removal of the cylinder. More steelwork had to be removed than anticipated and when removed the cylinder could be hoisted out for inspection and either repair or replacement.
Phil and Alan Savage repairing the hot water cylinder after removal
On inspection the cylinder was undamaged (apart from the spray-foam lagging being partially removed) and all that was required was a new coupling for which to attach the feed pipe to. Once the new coupling was installed I replaced the cylinder, connected the pipes, refilled it and ran the engine up to temperature to check for any leaks. When I was satisfied that all was in order Phil started to reinstated the steelwork that had to be removed. This took a little longer than anticipated as some of the metal had corroded and needed to be replaced with new steel. After this the job was then completed.
Ex-British Waterways working narrowboat "Rudd" passing through Agden
The welding was interrupted by the passage of NB "Rudd". This is an ex-working narrowboat which I remember seeing as a child on the "Shroppie". She is of "composite" construction... riveted wrought iron sides with an elm bottom, was built in 1936 by Yarwoods of Northwich for Fellows Morton and Clayton... the famous canal carrying company but was later absorbed into the British Waterways fleet. The original nine horsepower Bolinder engine was replaced with a fifteen horsepower version when the boat was restored and sounded very nice. The boat was in good condition too. She is normally moored at Lorenz's Boatyard in Leigh and further details of this boat are available on the boat's website at http://www.fmc-rudd.co.uk
Phil welding the deck supports back into position after after reinstalling the hot water cylinder
Whilst the welding toys were out I asked Phil to grind off and relocated a couple of fender eyes for the additional fenders that we had bought at White Bear Marina whilst on holiday. This didn't take long and we all reflected on a good day's work over a cup of coffee. All that remained for me to do was to paint the affected areas and new fender eyes but this would have to wait until the "stitches come out" the next available time when we are not cruising or tied-up with building work and redecorating being done at home.
Ange and her friend Karen Robinson cruising through Thelwall Cutting
Even though we had not been up to Lymm for a few weeks we have regular contact with our friends either by email or telephone. Lily Williams... next year's Commodore telephoned to see how we were getting on with our construction work at home and also to ask if I would be her Rear Commodore for 2009. I was extremely flattered by her request but had to decline as I did not think that I had the time to do justice to the three year commitment (Rear Commodore followed by Vice Commodore and after that... Commodore). Living so far away does not help matters either. If I am asked when I have retired I will reconsider the situation as I will then have more time to commit to this prestigious appointment. The second weekend in September we had come to a pause in the work at home due to waiting on the plasterer, so we decided to take one of Ange's friends... Karen Robinson up to the boat and go for a short cruise to Stockton Heath and back.
S & A Marine moorings just past Thelwall Cutting
Ange used to work with Karen many years ago and they have kept in touch ever since. We had promised Karen a trip on the boat and this seemed the ideal opportunity. The weather forecast for the weekend was rain but it was wrong and we had warm sunshine and blue skies for much of the day. It was one of those idyllic cruising days... the sun was shining we had good company and we did not have to rush.
On arrival at Stockton Heath we moored opposite the London Bridge public house
At Stockton Heath Ange and Karen went shopping whilst I recharged my batteries after a busy week at work as well as doing jobs at home afterwards. I was asleep on the front deck when they returned but after being revived by a cup of coffee I started the engine and we headed back to Oughtrington. We passed Thorn Marine in order to turn around at the winding hole and as we passed Thorn Marine I photographed the housing development that was now nearly completed. When we arrived at Oughtrington I cut the grass, painted the relocated fender eyes before loading up the car and then returned home after a very pleasant day.
The new housing development at Stockton Heath nearly completed
A few weeks after our return from Italy (see Chapter 3 - Italian Adventure) it was time for the season's Closing Cruise. I had already filled the boat's fuel tank but the week before I came up to Oughtrington on my own to do some odd jobs. The bilge pump delivery pipe had sprung off and needed reattaching, I screwed another large picture frame to the cabin side to hide a couple of holes left by an old 12 volt socket removed a couple of years ago and the redundant disconnected 240 volt twin socket adjacent to it. The picture frame originally contained a Monet print which was replaced by the Lockmaster map of the Four Counties Ring. In preparation for the winter I located silica-gel dehumidifiers at various locations throughout the cabin and put fresh antifreeze in the cooling system. The fresh water tank didn't need emptying as yet another leak on the calorifier had already seen to that job for me. I had not tracked down the exact location of the leak and planned to leave this until the spring of 2009. It could be that the complete cylinder will need replacing.
The Friday before the Closing Cruise Ange dropped me off at Oughtrington to take the boat down to Lymm and we were lucky enough to have a mooring right outside the Clubhouse. After lighting the fire we unloaded our things from the car and stowed them on board. That evening there was an unofficial gathering in the Clubhouse. I sampled the Baileys which appeared to have quite an effect on me. I don't know if Nigel added a little something to it but it most certainly had the desired effect! When we returned to the boat it took me approximately ten seconds to fall asleep once my head hit the pillow. The next day we had a lie-inn followed by a lazy day watching tv and doing very little else except to charge the boat's (and our) batteries! After tea we got changed for the Annual Closing Cruise Social which had a Halloween theme this year. After we had eaten a comedian by the name of Jed Stone (nice suit!) entertained us. We were sitting close to the stage and thought that the comedian might pick on us. We didn't have to worry as Guy... who was sitting on the table in front of us took most of the "stick" instead. The evening was fabulous with good food, good company and good entertainment. Unfortunately it was over all too soon and we made our way back to the boat ready for the Closing Cruise the next morning.
Boats from Lymm CC arriving at Statham outside Lymm... the location for the 2008 Closing Cruise
The 2008 Closing Cruise was to the Star public house at Statham on the outskirts of Lymm and it did not take long to reach the underbridge which gave access to the road on which the pub was located. We had not visited this establishment before and we were impressed by the Halloween decoration theme. Of special note was a bowl for sweets and when a sensor was activated an electrically operated "hand" tried to grasp the unsuspecting. We were given soup and barms in an atmosphere that was pleasant and cordial. I think that the Star just might have gained a few new customers. We eventually returned to the boat and made our way back to Lymm, loaded the car and I returned the boat to Oughtrington where Ange was to collect me from after a while and then we made our way home.
Santa (Keith Moore really) arriving at the Children's Christmas Party aboard NB "Camarilla"
After the cruising season closes the "Social Season" begins. This includes the Children's Christmas Party, The Adults' Christmas Party (usually coinciding with Lymm Village's Dickensian Weekend) and the New Year Party. We took Ange's grand daughter... Shannon to the Children's Christmas Party who thoroughly enjoyed herself. As usual, Santa arrived by illuminated narrowboat but was late due to being delayed by the locals in the Village. We couldn't make the Adult's Christmas Party and the "Fenderella" pantomime due to Ange being unwell with a chest infection. We desperately wanted to see Judith and John Wyrill performing their take on "I Got You Babe"... the 1960's hit by Sonny and Cher and we hoped that somebody had recorded not only Judith and John's number but the rest of the performance as well.
As usual, Santa brought me many canal related gifts... books, DVDs. a new rechargeable spot light and a new clock for "Total Eclipse". There is a story surrounding the clock is quite funny. In the previous months I had placed many bids on eBay for brass wall-mounted ships' clocks but I was usually outbid at the last minute. Whilst Ange was out shopping one day in our local shopping centre she came across a shelf full of these clocks in a discount store. Needless to say she bought one for me as a Christmas present at a fraction of the cost that I had been bidding on eBay. I would have paid to have seen the expression on Ange's face when she saw the clocks on the shelf... but not as much as Ange would have paid to see the expression on mine when I opened it on Christmas morning!
Nothing could have prepared me for the telephone call I received from Nigel Foster on the 27th December. He told me that Tony Whalley had died suddenly on his boat earlier that day. He had just returned from filling his boat's fuel tank at Thorn Marine and collapsed on his boat whilst it was on the Lymm moorings. Tony was not old. In fact he was a couple of years younger than me. He was a past Commodore of Lymm CC and is one of the few people that I class as a true friend. He and his wife Linda were amongst the first people to make us welcome when we joined Lymm CC and we had always got on well. When it was Tony's year as Commodore (2005), the Commodore's Summer Cruise was up to the top of the Llangollen Canal with an excursion along the Montgomery Canal. Tony, his wife Linda, Nigel and Lisa Foster, Phyllis and Barry Greenough, Ange and myself spent many happy evenings in each other's company and formed a strong friendship that was to last up until Tony's death. Tony and I shared an enthusiasm for the many television series created by Gerry Anderson and we always sent Tony and Linda a "Thunderbirds" (F.A.B.) Christmas card. Even though we did not see Tony (and Linda) as often as we would have liked, Tony was a true gentleman, a gentle giant of a man (to quote Ange) and somebody that we are both proud to have known (he was also the best "mooer" that I have heard). Both Ange's heart and my heart go out to Linda... Tony's widow who is also one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. In the month leading up to Christmas I had already been to two funerals and the third was something I most certainly was not looking forward to but we would have to go to to pay our respects to one of the nicest people that we have ever known.
Tony Whalley as I shall always remember him... wearing his hat and smiling whilst at the tiller of NB "Sapphire"
In the same telephone call that we learnt about Tony's untimely death Nigel also informed us that Brent Hindley who owns NB "Harry's Lad" (and Angie's "weekend husband" with whom she appeared on "Northwest Tonight" with last year) had terminal cancer. When we put the phone down from Nigel, Ange rang Brent (and his wife Christine) to offer our support in the difficult months that were to follow.
On New Year's Eve we drove up to Lymm for the New Year's celebrations. We had noticed ice on the Shropshire Union Canal as we drove past Ellesmere Port and at Preston Brook the Bridgewater Canal was also iced up. When we reached Lymm we drove straight to the boat club to see if there were any moorings available and if the canal was iced up there. There were still a couple of mooring places left but canal was iced up and we decided not to bring the boat down as the ice would abrade the hull's paint and as the hull was only painted this year we thought that it would be best to leave the boat at its mooring. We drove to Oughtrington and lit the fire on the boat before going to Stockton Heath for shopping and something to eat. On our return we cooked the food that we were taking with us to the New Year's Eve Party that evening.
"Total Eclipse" iced in at our Oughtrington mooring
There was a poignant atmosphere at the boat club that evening. Danny Abbott... the Club's master of ceremonies read out a card from Linda Whalley thanking everybody in her Lymm CC "family" for their support and thoughts. Tony would have wanted us to have a good time with "no miserable gits", enjoy ourselves and not to dwell on his death, however untimely, so we did our best to enjoy ourselves. But, however hard we tried, the party did not have the sparkle and happy atmosphere of previous years. Brent was putting on a brave face and Ange spent quite a bit of time with Christine (Brent's wife) and offered a shoulder to cry on whenever she felt the need to talk to someone. Christine promised to telephone us after they had visited Christie's Hospital the following week to let us know how they had got on. The evening did have its high points though... like my cheating at musical chairs and Guy's cheating in some of the other games that we played. At the end of the evening we welcomed 2009 and hoped that it would be kinder to us that 2008 had been.
Fun and games at the New Year's Party
It has been another eventful boating season. We have lost two boating friends that we shall miss dearly (Alec Levac and Tony Whalley), have boated in every conceivable weather... rain, hail, snow, sleet, wind and even (very occasionally) on hot sunny days, travelled along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to revisit Skipton, I appeared on national television ("Countryfile") and even been canal cruising on a gondola in Venice. We look forward to what 2009 has to offer (hopefully with not too many unpleasant surprises) with the opening of the Liverpool Link at the start of the boating season and our cruise on the Lancaster Canal later on in the year.
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Chapter 2 - Skipton Excursion
I had not ventured up the Wigan Twenty One Locks since 1986. The weather on that trip left quite a lot to be desired and consequently I did not take many photographs of this trip. We hoped that on our 2008 trip to Skipton the weather would be kinder to us and I could add many Leeds and Liverpool Canal photographs to my photographic archive. For the last few days leading up to the holiday we had been moored on Alan Savage's mooring at Agden. Alan very kindly let us use the mooring to complete our last minute jobs as his son Phil and his girlfriend Michelle had taken his boat out for a couple of weeks.
The orange canal water above Worsley
On Saturday 26th July we loaded our food and remaining clothing aboard "Total Eclipse" and set off. It was a warm, sunny morning and we cruised along the Bridgewater Canal towards Manchester. At Stretford Water's Meeting we turned left towards Worsley. After the seemingly endless journey through Trafford Park we crossed the Manchester Ship Canal on Barton Swing Aqueduct and wound our way through Eccles and Patricroft towards Worsley. At Worsley I emptied the toilet whilst Ange went to the shop for a newspaper and we were on our way again. The orange water renowned in the Worsley area started to fade as we cruised towards Boothstown in the hot afternoon sunshine.
The unfortunate boater with the wheel chair and steel cable
I have seen some things pulled out of the canal but I was not prepared for what I was about to see. A boat was pulled into the side of the canal about a mile past Boothstown and the owner had just been down the weed hatch. He had removed some steel cable from around his propeller but there was something attached to it. On untangling the cable and hauling it in from the bank the unlucky boater discovered that it had a wheelchair attached to it! I asked if he needed any assistance but he said not and we were on our way but not before I had recorded the incident for prosperity. We had arranged to meet up with other members of Lymm CC at Astley where we would join Eleanor and Dave Ross for a meal to celebrate their wedding anniversary. It was not long before we reached Astley and we moored next to our friends boats, got changed and went into the Ross Arms for a delightful meal in good company and then had drinks on the front deck of "An-Caladh".
Lymm CC members at Astley basking in the late afternoon sunshine
The next morning (Sunday) dawned warm and sunny and we set off towards Wigan. We stopped briefly in Leigh to pick-up some shopping from the Aldi store that is located right next to the canal. The store is located where there used to be a "Kwik Save" supermarket and there are convenient moorings complete with mooring rings there. We were soon under way again, passed through Plank Lane Lift Bridge and on towards Wigan. Whilst passing the Ince Moss nature reserve we encountered a wide-beam narrowboat (the first of many) in a section of canal that could have been wider and didn't have overhanging trees.
An encounter with a wide-beam narrow boat at Ince Moss Nature Reserve near Wigan
We had planned to negotiate the two Poolstock Locks and moor for the night at the bottom of the Wigan Twenty One flight of locks but as the weather was so good we decided to climb the flight. We started the climb at 2.00 pm and the going was good as we shared the locking with Lymm CC's Commodore and his wife... Dave and Eleanor Ross with NB "An-Caladh". Half-way up the flight teenagers were jumping off the lock sides into the empty chambers and off the footbridges at the tail of the locks.
Half-way up the Wigan Flight
Any apprehensions we may have had soon disappeared as the teenagers were courteous and helpful. Climbing out of the locks when asked and were generally well behaved. Ange steered the boat up to the sixteenth lock when my energy started to sap when we swapped over and I steered the boat for the last few locks which we cleared at 7.15 pm.
Wigan Top Lock... breath a sigh of relief!
Once at the top of the flight we were on the part of the canal that was originally an isolated part of the Lancaster Canal. To the right the canal was to have headed towards a junction with the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal (which was never constructed) and to the left the Walton Summit Level headed off towards Johnson's Hillock Locks. At the end of the branch to the left of Johnson's Hillock Locks, the canal was to have lead to a grand aqueduct planned to span the River Ribble and link up with the lower reaches of the Lancaster Canal at Preston.
The Wigan end of the Walton Summit Branch was planned to lead to the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal
Needless to say, this never happened and it was not until 2001 that the Ribble Millennium Link was completed, allowing access to the main canal system for the first time via the Leeds and Liverpool Canal's River Douglas Branch, the Rivers Douglas and Ribble, the Savick Brook and so to the new stretch of canal that linked with the "Lanc". Moored at the top of the flight was a collection of craft including a narrowboat pulling an old, brightly painted Dawncraft Dandy called "Butty".
This Dawncraft Dandy was none other than my old "Misty Waters II"... now called "Butty"
This was none other than my old "Misty Waters II" and whilst not looking particularly well looked after at least it was still afloat and being used. It still had the red two-pack polyurethane paint that I painted below the water line twenty years ago. A testament to International Paint's "Perfection 709" if ever there was one! There were no moorings left at the top of the Wigan flight so we pushed on a couple of miles in the setting sun. We moored at Red Rock Bridge (63) where some of our group went to the adjacent pub... the Crawford Arms but we decided to stay on board "Total Eclipse". After our tea we watched some tv (excellent tv signal as Winter Hill was only a few miles away) and were not long out of bed. I can honestly say that Ange and I slept soundly that night!
Cruising at Sunset above Wigan
I had difficulty getting out of bed the following morning (well it was a Monday morning after all) but the promise of a hot cup of coffee enticed me out eventually. We cruised in warm sunshine through the beautiful countryside as the canal skirted around Winter Hill. We stopped at White Bear Marina, Addlington to replace a damaged fender, purchase an up to date Nicholson's guide of the canal and admire the well stocked chandlery that the marina possesses. We were soon under way again passing through Chorley and past the old Botany Bay Mill now an impressive antique and retail outlet (where I bought my Russian "Zenit" 8 x 30 binoculars many years ago). We were cruising along and a flash of electric blue skimming across the water passed us on the off-side of the canal. It was a kingfisher... only the third one that I had seen in my life. This one landed on a tree just in front of the boat then took off again when we drew level. I was not able to take photographs of it due to the speed with which it flew and by the time I had switched on the camera it had disappeared..
A brief stop at White Bear Marina, Addlington
A tranquil mooring close to Botany Bay
Not long after, we reached the other end of the Walton Summit pound of the canal where it climbs the Johnson's Hillock flight of seven locks and becomes officially the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. We had lunch here and I took photographs of the abandoned line of canal towards the River Ribble before we ascended the locks. It was at this flight of locks that Ange had her first taste of some of the unusual paddle gear to be found on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
The Wheelton end of the Walton Summit at Johnson's Hillock Locks
The abandoned line of the Lancaster Canal Walton Summit Branch heading towards the River Ribble
At the head of the lock were located ground paddles known as "Jack Cloughs" (pronounced "clows"). Instead of winding up the paddle with a windlass, a large handle adjacent to the top gates is lifted which moves a wooden shutter exposing the paddle opening and hence allows water to flow into the lock to fill it. Another Leeds and Liverpool delicacy is the "Box Paddle". These consist of a screw that, when turned either by a conventional windlass or on some, a captive (permanently attached) handle, lifts the paddle. A crude hook and chain is used to prevent the paddles from winding down and on some a brake was supplied for use when lowering them. On some of the Box Paddles the screw can be seen through the open sides of the unit. On others, the mechanism is totally enclosed. There is a third curiosity which is a variation of the "Jack Clough". This is a gate paddle on the bottom gates and is similar to a conventional "Jack Clough" but a rack and pinion along the balance beam, wound by a windlass opens them. We did not come across any gate mounted "Jack Cloughs" as they are only found at the eastern end of the canal.
Unusual paddle gear... "Jack Cloughs" (pronounced "clows") closed and opened on the left with a box paddle on the right
Half-way up the flight, adjacent to one of the locks I noticed a cast iron plaque mounted on a display board explaining how a lock works. It featured heavily outlined relief casting (for sight impaired people), was informative, well thought out and jointly funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, British Waterways, Galloway's Society for the Blind and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society. It impressed me so much that I thought that it warranted a photograph which is reproduced below.
Cast iron information plaque explaining how a canal lock works
After ascending Johnson's Hillock we had a well deserved ice cream from the the Top Lock public house (the Travelling Man pub) then cruised to Riley Green where we moored for the night outside the Boatyard Inn. After a quick shower we joined the other members of Lymm CC for a meal from their excellent carvery which was extremely tasty and good value to boot! After the meal we all sat on the terrace with a drink before retiring to our boats for the night. Our night's sleep was punctuated by the sound of heavy rain lashing down on the boat's roof but this didn't keep us awake too much.
Looking towards the top of the Johnson's Hillock flight of locks
The following day (Tuesday) again dawned warm and sunny, the atmosphere refreshed by the overnight rain, and an early start was made to reach Blackburn Locks before the teenagers (little darlings) were out and about. We wound our way through more beautiful countryside and passed a couple of moorings in idyllic locations before we reached Blackburn and started to ascend the locks.
Beautiful countryside approaching Blackburn
All went well and we passed through them without incident. On entering the last lock Ange said that the boat was not handling as it should and was "sluggish". I said that I would have a look when we stopped for lunch. Once at the top we stopped for a bit of lunch and to visit the Asda supermarket situated adjacent to the canal and Dave wanted to visit B and Q which also backed onto the canal. Ange went to get plates from a cupboard to put our lunch on and noticed a sound like running water (not a sound you want to hear in a boat). I immediately lifted the deck boards covering the engine compartment and was horrified to see that it was half-full of water. The feeling of sheer panic seeing that much water in the engine compartment when you do not know where it comes from cannot be described (literally... that sinking feeling!). The bilge pump was turned on immediately and luckily the engine started. I am thankful that we have a bilge pump that has a good delivery rate and by the time I had removed the generator and other items normally kept on the rear deck the water level had dropped considerably. Once the bilge was empty I noticed that water was coming from the fresh water feed pipe going into the bottom of the hot water cylinder (calorifier) and the water pumped out of the bilge was from the fresh water tank in the bow and not the canal (breath a sigh of relief). I turned off the "Sureflo" water pump and removed the offending pipe. It had corroded and I think that the corrosion was caused by by having dissimilar metals (a short piece of threaded steel pipe attached to the copper cylinder at one end and a brass elbow on the other) attached to each other. Bob McCulloch gave me an old gate valve from his "bits and bobs" box that possessed the same size of "Conex" fitting as the cylinder's feed pipe. I fitted the gate valve, turned it to the closed position to isolate the cylinder's water supply and when we reached a water point (the nearest one being at the BW yard in Burnley) I would partially fill the water tank and see if my temporary repair works. If it did it would at least give us cold water. Now we now know why the boat was handling in a "sluggish" manner going up Blackburn Locks!
"Seguido" and "An-Caladh" ascending Blackburn Locks
(Photograph - Dave Ross)
Beautifully isolated countryside above Blackburn
When the panic had subsided and normality was regained I replaced the deck boards and the items such as the generator normally located on the rear deck, ate my postponed lunch and we headed out of Blackburn onto what I consider to be one of the most beautiful stretches of canal anywhere in the world. We wound our way across the moors past some really enticing and tranquil moorings miles from anywhere. It was quite breezy in some of the more exposed locations and the absence of one and a half tons of fresh water in the bow was making the boat "skittish". The empty hot water cylinder (located on the port side of the engine compartment) gave the boat a slight list to starboard which didn't help matters either.
Ange steering "Total Eclipse" through Riley's Bridge (114) near Church
"An-Caladh" negotiating the same bridge
Some quite creative contour canal building was encountered along the stretch approaching Church where the canal would double-back on itself repeatedly. On one of these meanders the canal entered a wooded cutting where, in the shelter of the trees was situated some quite isolated boat moorings. There was what looked like an old warehouse or barn here waiting to have refurbishment completed and the area tidied-up. When this is done the moorings would be quite idyllic. As we started to draw closer to Burnley. Dave and Eleanor Ross were in front of us and we would wave to each other from opposite sides of the valley where the canal had kept to the contour as it rounded the geographical features.
Rolling moorland approaching Burnley
Burnley soon encroached on the countryside and we had planned to moor at the Gannow Wharf, close to the tunnel of the same name. This was deemed unsuitable so we carried on through the tunnel. On the other side was a quiet stretch suitable for us to moor but was unfortunately too shallow. Plan C was to moor in the Weaver's Triangle at Manchester Road Wharf where the old canal warehouses have been converted into the Inn at the Wharf public house, which we did. Ange has an aunt who lives in Burnley with her cousin and his partner. We telephoned them to tell them where we were moored and after tea they paid us a visit. They were impressed with the boat and stayed with us for a couple of hours before going home... leaving us to our devices.
Our overnight moorings in Burnley's Weavers' Triangle
On Wednesday morning we set off and we reached the location of the BW yard that used to be here. I remembered that in 1986, my recently departed friend... Alec Levac falling into the canal here whilst filling "Tamar's" water tank. After he pulled himself out of the water he looked around to see if anyone had seen him and looked relieved when he saw that nobody witnessed his involuntary dunking. I then shouted across to let him know that I had seen him and he called back that he thought that he had got away with it! I was disappointed to see that the yard and the beautiful, stone, canal buildings that it contained were now disused and looked abandoned. I was further annoyed as this is where I wanted to fill the fresh water tank to see if my temporary repair worked. How inconsiderate of British Waterways to close this yard... especially as I wanted to fill-up my water tank here! Admittedly, we did pass a British Waterways yard approaching Burnley and, with hindsight we should have filled the tank there instead.. Maybe I should also have looked at the Nicholson's Guide to confirm that there was still a water point and sanitary station where I thought there was. Around the corner we reached the famous Burnley Embankment (the second of the Wonders of the Waterways that we had encountered on this trip - the first being Barton Swing Aqueduct) and we made a stop for Ange to visit the massive Tesco store that nestles at its base.
We were soon on our way again and before long we were leaving Burnley behind. Some more good contour canal construction followed and it was not too long before we were passing through Nelson. When Barrowford Locks were reached Dave informed me that he had problems with his tiller. Where the swan neck of the tiller was attached to the top bearing of the rudder was loose. The welding was coming undone and was a cause for concern.
Running repairs being made to "An-Caladh's" tiller below Barrowford Locks
Bob McCulloch made a temporary repair with "liquid metal" and plans were put into place to make a more substantial repair when we caught up with Leo Pollard on "Lady Dinah". Stuart Williams had a portable welding set aboard "Seguido" but could not weld. Barry off n.b "Romany" has a hand grinder but cannot weld. I have a powerful generator on board "Total Eclipse" but I also cannot weld (but it is on my list of skills that I would like to develop) whereas Leo can weld and promised to wait for us to catch up to him in order for him to effect the repair. In the meantime, "An-Caladh" was going to be nursed through the locks to ensure that the temporary repair lasted. Barrowford Locks curve around the side of a reservoir located there which is one of the water supplies for the canal and it was interesting to see BW working on the support embankments.
Half-way up Barrowford Locks
There is also a water point at the top of the locks and I started to fill the water tank whilst eating a bacon barm and cup of coffee from the little shop located adjacent to the top lock. When the tank was partially filled I turned on the water pump and was pleased to see that the temporary repair was successful. It allowed us have running cold water at least but not hot water which will have to wait until the hot water cylinder is either repaired or replaced.
NB "Auberge" moored above Barrowford Locks
After ascending the locks and filling the water tank we were now on the canal's summit level. Moored a little way above the locks was a narrowboat called "Auberge". This boat previously belonged to Linda and Tony Whalley who now own nb "Sapphire", so we took a photograph of it and sent it to them via SMS. We pressed on until we reached Foulridge Tunnel. This mile-long tunnel is controlled by traffic lights and we waited along with a wide-beam narrowboat for the lights to change. Bob McCulloch arrived shortly afterwards and tied up behind us whilst we waited what seemed like forever until the lights changed to green indicating that it was our turn for to enter. Once in the tunnel there was no sign of a swimming cow (historical joke) but the roof leaked quite a bit and there were plenty of stalactites in evidence. Near to the other end Bob was creeping up on us and I heard his Russell Newbury revving beautifully as he engaged reverse to slow "Rannoch" down. The sound of his engine brought a smile to my face as it was quite "musical" and sounded just as a narrowboat engine should... amplified by the confines of the tunnel.
Waiting for the traffic lights at Foulridge Tunnel with no sign of the cow!
We had all planned to moor at Foulridge Wharf on the far side of the tunnel. But things did not look good on our arrival... a scruffy looking boat moored next to where we were going to moor had loud music coming from it and the mature owner (at least sixty years old) was sitting on the wall adjacent to his boat drinking his (apparently) third large bottle of cider! Dave moored alongside us and spoke to the man hoping that he would turn the music down... to no avail. Anyway, we did the usual things that one does when presented with a water point, showers and sanitary station. We also had showers here due to the lack of hot water on "Total Eclipse". After tea Ange had a word with the drunken man (who had now been joined by a very shifty looking younger friend) and the music was turned down... for ten minutes anyway! After a while of the increasing volume of music, Ange made her second visit to the man which was a little more fruitful and she told him that we were going to watch a DVD (in the absence of a terrestrial tv signal and not wanting to draw attention to the fact that we had satellite tv on board). Consequently, the music was turned down for a longer period of time but gradually got louder again and continued long after we had gone to bed. Whilst intrusive at first we eventually dropped off to sleep and (apparently) my snoring drowned it out.
Picturesque moorings at Foulridge Wharf
We didn't hang around next morning and we were cruising at 7.00 am. One member of the crew from one of the boats in our flotilla could not resist the temptation to shout into the open side doors of the drunken man's boat "Wake up!" whilst another banged into the side of the boat boat saying loudly something about loud music (and it wasn't me either!). Before long we had left civilisation behind and were cruising through the beautiful countryside near Salterforth. I would have liked to have taken photographs here but it started to rain and any photographs would not have done justice to this beautiful location. Soon we were approaching Barnoldswick and Greenberfield Locks which start the decent from the summit level of the canal. The rain had now stopped and we descended the locks in bright sunshine.
Above Greenberfield Locks
A serious-looking Cyril Wood ready for action!
(Photograph - Dave Ross)
After Greenberfield Locks is East Marton. Here there is a picturesque double bridge followed and this is without doubt one of the best stretches of contour canal construction anywhere in the country. For about two miles the canal winds around a valley side doubling back on itself. We had taken the precaution of tying Dave's boat to the side of ours as his tiller was becoming increasingly more loose as time went on.
"An-Caladh" breasted-up to "Total Eclipse" approaching East Marton
(Photograph - Dave Ross - I was busy steering!)
The picturesque double bridge at East Marton
Bank Newton Locks
It was, to say the least, challenging to negotiate some of the acute and blind bends with another boat attached to the side of your own, especially when some of the bends are blind and ninety degree plus!. Accordingly, I was not able to take any photographs on the outward journey. We were amused by a sign on the towpath warning pedestrians of the viciousness of swans whilst nesting. On reaching Bank Newton locks we untied Dave's boat as he thought that the tiller would hold up through the locks. These locks lower the canal into the start of the Yorkshire Dales. As the day wore on the weather degenerated and the ensuing rain became persistent. Dave had arranged for Leo Pollard to wait for us below Holme Bridge Lock at the beginning of the Skipton Pound where he was to weld Dave's tiller.
"An-Caladh" and "Total Eclipse" sharing Higherland Lock at Gargrave in the Yorkshire Dales
A quiet mooring below Holme Bridge Lock
After mooring I took our generator down to Dave's boat in torrential rain when Leo started welding beneath two umbrellas and. as he was welding upside down, somebody was holding him by the waist band of his trousers. The repair was soon completed and should hold until we return to Lymm where a permanent repair can be made. Whilst walking down the towpath with Eleanor we saw two dark coloured animals playing on the opposite side of the canal. They were dark brown, long bodied and the size of small dogs. I had once seen a wild mink swimming across the Bridgewater Canal at Daresbury and these creatures looked identical to it. Eleanor had also seen wild Mink before and agreed with me that they were what she thought they were. They quickly disappeared along the canal bank, not to be seen again but they did brighten up our day with their playing and frolicking.
A swing bridge in rural surroundings approaching Skipton
In the meantime Ange did her bit for angler/boater relations. A fisherman was sitting on a small bridge where a beck (stream) runs beneath the towpath and into the canal. He was looking rather cold so she offered him a cup of coffee which he accepted. When I returned from the welding expedition with the generator I was asked to take one of our spare golf brollies for him to shelter beneath from the now torrential rain. A little while later he returned the mug and brolly thanking us for our hospitality... something he has never had off boaters before. Well done Ange!
Town centre moorings adjacent to the Springs Branch entrance in Skipton
Skipton nestles between the steep slopes of Airedale
By the next morning the rain had finally stopped and we cruised the remaining few miles to Skipton in brilliant sunshine. Most of the moorings around the Springs Branch junction had been taken so we cruised a little way through the town where we found a mooring adjacent to the bus depot. I went and had a recce in the town and after buying our lunch I returned to the boat. We ate lunch and I took Ange to have a look at the town and mooch around the market and shops.
Lymm CC members in Bizzie Lizzie's fish and chip restaurant... one of the highlights of the Skipton visit
Looking up the Springs Branch
At teatime we joined the others for tea at Bizzie Lizzie's fish and chip restaurant in Swadford Street, overlooking the canal's junction with the Springs Branch. I can honestly say that I had the best fish and chips that I have ever had in my life which is not surprising as it has been voted "Britain's Best Fish and Chip Shop"! I chose the plaice and it was succulent, well cooked and possessed just the right amount of chips which were also cooked to perfection. Even better than my previous best which was at Harry Ramsdens in Manchester (he's behind you Phil!). After tea we retired to one of the local hostelries... the Royal Shepherd overlooking the Springs Branch for a drink but we didn't stay long and returned to the boat, watched a DVD then went to bed.
"Total Eclipse" moored at Skipton
Saturday morning dawned dry and bright so we decided to start our return journey after replenishing the food cupboards and fridge from the shops. We lost a member of our flotilla at Skipton... Bob and Pauline McCulloch planned to take "Rannoch" on to Leeds as they were out cruising for a month... lucky sods! We cruised a little way out of the town towards Bingley and when we found a suitable place, turned around and made our way back through the town past our fellow club members. We actually had quite a bit of trouble turning around. It wasn't that the canal was too narrow or the lack of winding holes but it was as if the boat wanted to go straight on towards Bingley and Leeds. I suspect that after a few more weeks cruising the boat would turn around without any problems!
Bradley Swing Bridge (192A) in the shadow of the sides of Airedale
Lily and Stuart Williams aboard NB "Seguido" passing through Bradley Swing Bridge
Stuart and Lily Williams had also decided to start their return journey and they cast-off "Seguido's" mooring ropes just after we had passed. We took turns opening the swing bridges for each other and shared the three locks that lead to Gargrave where, after filling the water tank and emptying the toilet, we moored for the night above Higherland Lock. That evening we walked into the village of Gargrave and went for a meal in the Mason's Arms. On the way to the pub we admired the beautiful village and especially the sweet shop's windows (find the ten odd sweets) which was like a step back in time.
Higherland Lock - Gargrave
A quiet corner of Gargrave Village
The sweet shop window in Gargrave Village with a most unusual display
We continued our climb back to the canal's summit level the next morning in weather that left a lot to be desired. The rain was off and on whilst we ascended Bank Newton Locks and there was a lock keeper in attendance. I chatted to him whilst we waited for the locks to fill and told him that when I was last here there was a hire boat base between the fourth and fifth locks. We also discussed the design of paddle gear on the canal and he gave me clarification of their names and types. The was sun shining by the time we reached the winding East Marton section which is one of my favourite sections of canal anywhere in the country. Ange mooed at the cattle and even managed a few baas at the sheep in the fields bordering the canal.
Looking across to the opposite side of the valley to the canal at East Marton with the Yorkshire Dales in the background
Art work in the side of NB "Obi Wan"
Anybody who knows me will tell you that I have a predilection for science fiction films. Imagine my delight when I saw a narrowboat descending the locks with the name "Obi Wan". Not only was its name painted on the cabin sides but also a portrait of the character played by Sir Alec Guinness in the "Star Wars", Empire Strikes Back and "Return of the Jedi" films (Ewan McGregor in Episodes one, two and three and James Arnold Taylor in the "Clone Wars").
"Total Eclipse" moored above Greenberfield Locks
We stopped for lunch below Greenberfield locks but a boat arriving behind us informed us that we were on their permanent mooring. Not being aware of it being anybody's mooring we apologised and moved off as soon as we had finished eating. On closer inspection there was a sign informing boaters that there were permanent moorings at this location but it was obscured by trees. Also, we questioned the wisdom of BW siting these moorings so close to the start of a flight of locks. When we moved closer to the locks there was not sufficient room for boats to off-load crew to operate the locks or to wait whilst other boats vacated the locks. Another bad move BW! During these locks the rain showered us sporadically before the sun came out. When we reached the top of the flight we wished to use the showers and other facilities provided there. We asked the lock-keeper where we could moor and he told us to moor on the long-term moorings after the adjacent bridge... more bad planning on the part of BW offering the facilities but nowhere to moor whilst using them! After using the showers we set off again and we all moored for the night just after Barnoldswick in open countryside. After tea Stuart got his brazier out and we barbequeued food and marshmallows on it whilst we sheltered from the rain beneath voluminous umbrellas.
Barbequeue beneath the brolly at Barnoldswick
The next day the rain had stopped and we cruised along more of the wonderful contour canalling between Barnoldswick and Burnley. By mid-afternoon we had reached Burnley and we again stopped on the embankment where we were soon joined by "Seguido" and "Romany" who also visited the adjacent Tesco Superstore. Making our way out of Burnley the canal clings to the sides the Calder Valley and we enjoyed yet more scenery. We planned to moor for the night in the middle of nowhere after Hapton in a wonderful landscape overlooked by Pendle Hill and the surrounding dales. In a field adjacent to where we were moored were Shetland ponies... quite unexpected for this area. We wanted to catch-up on the news whilst eating our tea but there was no television signal. I decided to see if we could get a signal using our "FreeSat" receiver so I erected the satellite dish, aimed it at Astra 180 using my compass and we received a really strong signal. I had to moor the boat tighter as the signal went off target when a boat went past. It just goes to show... it may not always be possible to have "line of sight" with a terrestrial transmitter but you can usually see the sky where the satellite is! After tea we all sat out around Stuart's brazier again, beneath the stars talking until late... quite a memorable evening.
"Total Eclipse's" satellite dish
Barbequeue in the middle of nowhere near Hapton
Sunset at Hapton
Tuesday saw us continuing our decent from the summit level and the sunshine was punctuated with showers again. At Blackburn Locks there was an awful lot of water running over the by-pass weirs. At one lock the water level had risen so much that it overflowed the lock sides and the location of the by-pass weir could not be seen. When approaching this lock Ange kept well back in the pound because if she had managed to be caught on the by-pass weir it would have been dangerous and most difficult to get the boat off again. Whilst walking around the lock itself care had to be taken due to the lock sides not being visible and the unwary risked stepping into the lock chamber itself. We eventually completed the Blackburn flight without mishap and cruised through the mixed urban and rural stretches as the rain eased off (sod's law). We planned to moor at Wheelton at the top of Johnson's Hillock Locks but there were no moorings available so we descended the first lock and moored alongside Stuart and Lily.
Beautiful scenery near Riley Green
We had planned to have a lazy day on Wednesday, only descending the remaining flight of locks at Johnson's Hillock to the Walton Summit Branch and cruise via Chorley to Red Rock Bridge above the Wigan flight. Approaching Chorley we saw a couple of people walking along the towpath carrying boat parts opposite some moored boats. There did not appear to be any means of getting to these moorings... there was no footpath or road to them and apparently no bridge. Then the male walker took out what looked like a car's remote locking "plipper" and pointed it across the canal. Next minute, as if by magic, a floating pontoon bridge started to swing across the canal. Once fully swung the walkers crossed the canal on it and it swung back into its normal position. I was speechless (which is unusual for me) and just had to take photographs of the operation.
Remote controlled floating pontoon bridge near Addlington
We stopped at White Bear Marina to empty the toilet and spend some money in their boat chandlery. With having boats on the side of us we had damaged a couple of fenders and were so impressed with the one that we purchased on the outward journey that we decided to replace the damaged ones with them as well as a couple more to go half-way between the existing ones. That is, when my friend Alan Savage gets around to welding the extra fender loops onto the side of the boat. I also bought the latest edition of "Narrow Boat" magazine and a replacement light for the toilet/shower compartment. The new light is an LED type that looks and performs much better than the original one which uses a conventional bulb. We were now on the stretch of canal that approaches the top of the Wigan Twenty One and we had all planned to moor at Red Rock Bridge (63) where we moored on the outward journey. After tea we went to the Crawford Arms and spent a couple of enjoyable hours in good company then returned to the boat to recharge our bodies ready for the descent into Wigan the following day.
Boats from Lymm CC moored at Red Rock Bridge (63)
Torrential rain above Red Rock Bridge
It had rained through the night and fortunately, it was was fine and dry when we came to the locks. We shared the locks with Stuart and Lily on "Seguido" and all was going well until Dave Ross came to see us to tell us that his tiller had broken again and the boat he was sharing locks with... "Romany" had lost forward drive. We said that we would tie "An-Caladh" to "Seguido" and "Romany" to "Total Eclipse" as it was the heavier boat and we had a more powerful engine than Stuart's boat. Some of the by-wash weirs were "challenging" as they emptied into the pounds directly below the lock gates causing the boats to be pushed onto the opposite side of the canal. We started descending at 10.30 am and finished at 3.00 pm. Not bad going considering that we had to wait whilst three locks-full of water had to be emptied into one of the pounds due to leakage. We had minimal interference from youths... not that they were a problem ascending the locks anyway. At the bottom of the flight we had a short break before tackling the two Poolstock locks which lowered us onto the Leigh Pound. We moored for the night at the Dover Lock when the generator, grinding and welding equipment came out again. Leo was able to effect a better repair this time due to it not being raining and being able to reach the stern of the boat more easily.
Descending the Wigan 21 with nb "Romany" breasted-up to "Total Eclipse"
Barry Edge off "Romany" had traced his problem to the gear change cable which had snapped. He telephoned his twin brother Stuart Edge (they are so alike it is unbelievable!) who bought a replacement from Midland Chandlers at Preston Brook and brought it up to Dover Lock. When he arrived the replacement cable was still in the large, square carton and Angela's boys Daniel and Alex exclaimed "Yes! He's brought pizza!" Needless to say they had a rude awakening when the box was opened. Once fitted, they moored after the Dover Lock Bridge. This entailed running the gauntlet beneath a leaking water main at the bridge. Dave's repairs were completed and we went into the pub for a most enjoyable meal. There was a boat sunk outside the pub. The boat was a narrowboat called "Dove" and it was a shame to see a boat that was obviously someone's pride and joy sitting on the bottom of the canal.
Two photographs of Leo Pollard welding "An-Caladh's" tiller
Me talking to Barry and Stuart Edge with Daniel and Alex after delivery of the "Pizza"
(Photograph - Dave Ross)
The sad sight of NB "Dove" sunk at Dover Lock
The penultimate day of our holiday was Friday and we set off in brilliant sunshine (passing beneath the leaking water main with the rear canopy erected). We queued at Plank Lane whilst the bridge was lifted and talked about the new marina scheduled to be built there in the not too distant future. The lift bridge may also be removed due to a road widening exercise as well. Next we stopped at Leigh to visit our favourite Aldi store next to the canal. Ange has since written to them suggesting that they put a sign on the canal-facing wall of the store to advertise the fact that it is an Aldi. We are sure that they would then get more custom from boats passing on the canal and I am sure that the adjacent pub wouldn't mind boats mooring there whilst the owners went into the store. They might even be tempted to go for a drink or a meal at the same time!
NB "Merlin" passing beneath the leaking water main at Dover Lock
Pit heads at Plank Lane in 1986...
... and the same location today which is the location of the proposed Plank Lane Marina
Outside the Aldi supermarket at Leigh
We were soon on the Bridgewater Canal in home waters and I was treated to one of my wicked boating pleasures whilst approaching the A580 (East Lancs. Road) bridge. I get a kick when a road runs alongside the canal and we are moving faster than the traffic on the road. There was a traffic queue approaching the bridge and I saw an Eddie Stobart truck joining the queue. We passed beneath the bridge and by the time we had reached Astley, half a mile further on the truck was still behind us in the queue. Excellent! A little further on it was a good job that Ange was on the front deck reading her book. The biggest dragon fly I have ever seen flew onto the rear deck, hovered at the doorway into the cabin and slowly flew off in front of me. It was a good three inches long with a similar wingspan, was a deep brown and had yellow bands down its body.
Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster Boltonii)
(Photograph - British Dragonfly Society)
I have since researched my dragonfly sighting and I believe it could have been a Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster Boltonii) and I have reproduced a photograph of one from the British Dragonfly Society's website. We had planned to moor at Boothstown and share a barbequeue with Stuart and Lily. Their family was visiting them and when they arrived the good old brazier came out as well as the barbequeue. We sat out all evening and had a most enjoyable evening in good company that was over all too soon.
Boothstown barbequeue with Stuart and Lily's family
"Over all too soon" also applied to the whole our holiday that was now drawing to a close. The following day was Saturday and we left Boothstown, stopping at Worsley to empty the loo (again) before we were on the home stretch to Lymm. It was a wet, horrible day and we cruised with the canopy up... a practice that I don't normally like doing but was necessary due to the torrential rain. We had lunch whilst on the move and moored temporarily on the water point at Agden to load our things into the car (which was covered with a fortnight's bird droppings) and I cruised to Oughtrington whilst Ange chatted with Alan and Lyn Savage before coming to collect me from our moorings and heading for home and the mound of mail (and dirty washing) that, no doubt awaited us.
The boats on the 2008 Skipton Summer Cruise were...
Eleanor and Dave Ross
Pauline and Bob McCulloch
Linda, Brian and Karen Stone
Freda and Leo Pollard
Chris and Ken Leigh with Daniel and Michael
Angela Norton and Barry Edge with Daniel and Alex
Lily and Stuart Williams
Angela and Cyril Wood
Our timetable for the cruise was as follows...
From Agden to Astley (near Leigh)
From Astley to Red Rock Bridge (above Wigan 21)
From Red Rock Bridge to Riley Green (Boatyard Pub)
From Riley Green to Burnley (Weavers' Triangle)
From Burnley to Foulridge Wharf (on Short Term Moorings)
From Foulridge Wharf to below Holme Bridge Lock (below Gargrave)
From below Holme Bridge Lock to Skipton (adjacent to the Bus Depot)
From Skipton to Gargrave (on Short Term Moorings)
From Gargrave to outside Barnoldswick (in the middle of nowhere)
From outside Barnoldswick to near Hapton (with Pendle Hill in the background)
From near Hapton to Wheelton (Johnson's Hillock Locks)
From Wheelton to Red Rock Bridge (Crawford Arms)
From Red Rock Bridge to Dover Lock (Leigh Branch)
From Dover Lock to Boothstown (Bridgewater Canal Leigh Arm)
From Boothstown to Oughtrington (home moorings)
Skipton Excursion Epilogue
There have been many changes to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal since I last cruised it over twenty years ago but the overall character has not changed at all. It still possessed its challenges as well as the construction wonders and the natural beauty to be expected cruising through the part of the country that it does. Some of the eyesores have been either flattened or replaced with housing or factory units. There were a few annoyances such as boats on permanent moorings obstructing access to locks and services such as at the top of the Johnson's Hillock flight and below Greenberfield Locks but this is due to corporate greed and thoughtlessness exhibited by British Waterways.
Blackburn Wharf in 1986...
... and the same location in 2008
They really need to address the lack of moorings on the upper reaches of the canal and stop the practice of taking space adjacent to locks as sometimes there is nowhere to let the crew off the boat to prepare the lock or space to wait whilst the lock is being prepared or vacated by oncoming craft. The new marinas being constructed may ease the situation when they open. The lack of water management at Blackburn Locks needs addressing before somebody is hurt or even worse... drowned. But these niggles did not detract from the overall experience of cruising the canal. It is well maintained, in general the locks were easy to operate and the swing bridges were a joy to use. The construction of "off-side" landings at these bridges will assist lone boaters negotiate them in safety. But it is not a canal for novices and to quote Ange... "It is a grown-up's canal, but that does not mean that it is not an enjoyable and beautiful canal"... a point of view that I agree with one hundred percent.
So there we have it. Our Skipton Excursion had drawn to an end after a most enjoyable two weeks. I had taken four hundred and fifty photographs... only a small selection of which are illustrated here, and we have presented a cd containing them to each of the boat crews on the cruise. Once again "Total Eclipse" had taken us on our holidays in comfort and safety... and only used twenty five gallons of fuel into the bargain! We are now looking forward to next year's cruise and the Commodore for 2009... Lily Williams has hinted that it may be to the Lancaster Canal. We hope that this canal will be the destination on next year's cruise and we can't wait as this canal is a waterway that is high up on our "to cruise" list!
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Chapter 3 - Italian Adventure
The coach that was to take us on our Italian Adventure was to pick us up from Lymm Cross... adjacent to the Somerfield supermarket at 07.00 on Saturday the 4th October 2008. Ange and I thought that would be best if we travelled to Lymm on the previous day and sleep on board "Total Eclipse" so that we would not have to travel from our home in Wallasey at some ungodly hour. Accordingly, we set our alarm clock for 05.45 am which would give us time to have breakfast before leaving for Lymm Cross. We stopped behind the coach and I started to remove the cases from the back of the car. Ange had put our passports in an overnight bag and, as they would be required for Customs, retrieved them. Unfortunately, she thought that she had re-zipped the case but had not and when it was lifted out of the car the contents spilled onto the road. It wasn't funny at the time but we later joked that Ange must be one of the few people who have dropped their knickers in the middle of Lymm Village! We hastily repacked the case hoping that nothing had been overlooked in the dim light. When Ange and the luggage were safely ensconced on the coach I drove the car to Lymm CC and parked it next to the clubhouse. I then walked back to the coach, boarded it and we were soon on our way to Dover to catch the cross-Channel ferry to France.
Leaving behind a wet and windy Dover Harbour
We made good time down to Dover and caught an earlier ferry than planned. The crossing was a bit rough but the "Pride of Burgundy" took it in her stride. I went onto the promenade deck with Nigel to take some photographs and couldn't believe the strength of the wind which made photography most difficult. Two hours later we were docking at Calais. I looked longingly at the quayside where Terry Darlington had moored his narrowboat "Phyllis May" en-route to Carcassonne... "One day" I told myself! We whisked through customs (and didn't have to show our passports after all) and were soon heading for route E42 which took us to Liege in Belgium where we were booked into the Holiday Inn. We retrieved our now securely fastened overnight bag and checked into the hotel, had a bite to eat in the hotel's bar and retired to bed after a tiring day. The following morning (Sunday 6th October) saw us up early, showered, fed, watered and on the coach by 07.30 am. I would have liked to explored Liege and taken photographs of the river on which it is situated but unfortunately, we did not have time plus it was not fully light when we left. We continued along E42 into Germany and crossed the River Rhine at Andernach where we had boarded the "M.S. Brittania" two years previously (see Canalscape Book 4 - Chapter 2 - New Horizons).
Crossing the River Rhine
The German Autobahns and Euroroutes took us to Austria and into Italy via the Brenner Pass. Unfortunately it was dark by this time and we were not able to see the beautiful scenery of the area. We would have to wait until our return journey when it would be daylight when we drove through the pass. It was after 8.00 pm when we arrived at the Hotel Bellariva. The hotel is located in the town of Riva del Garda which is situated at the northern end of Lake Garda. On arrival we went straight into dinner, unloading our cases from the coach and booking into the hotel afterwards.
Our hotel... the Hotel Bellariva
As it was dark when we arrived at Lake Garda we had no idea of the geography of the area and the hotel's location. Imagine our surprise when we opened the curtains to our room the following morning to discover that we were overlooking the most beautiful lake imaginable. It was overshadowed by mountains and as the sunlight illuminated the morning mist it created a wonderful tonal regression to the hills which I could not wait to photograph. Before this we showered, dressed and went downstairs for our breakfast. After breakfast I took a short walk to orientate myself with the local geography (and to take a few photographs).
Early morning on Lake Garda
On my return to the hotel Ange and I made our plans for the day. There were no excursions planned that we wanted to participate in so after unpacking our cases we, along with Nigel and Lisa, decided to take a stroll along the promenade that skirted the shore of the lake to Riva del Garda. After exploring the village and looking around the shops we stopped at a quayside cafe where we had lunch and watched the world go around whilst we chatted. After this we continued our exploration before returning to the hotel for a chill-out before dinner. One of my concerns about coming to Italy was the food. The country's cuisine is punctuated with tomatoes, salad laced with virgin olive oil and pasta accompanied by other unmentionable nasties (to my pallet anyway). I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised that I found all the food edible and, apart from a couple of dodgy pizzas, enjoyable. After dinner we joined our fellow Lymm CC members in the hotel's lounge for a drink before going to bed.
The quayside at Riva del Garda
Tuesday 8th October saw the first of our excursions. After breakfast the coach dropped us off at Castelletto where we visited the local market. This market visits a different village around the lake every day so if we bought anything that was not suitable or faulty it would not be difficult to return it. The market was a little disappointing and we left without purchasing anything but whilst the others found solace in a local bar I took photographs of the village and harbour. Imagine my delight in discovering a "Rive Aquarama" speedboat moored in the harbour! These classic boats are renowned throughout the world for their performance, quality of construction and the high-gloss finish of the varnished mahogany hull and decking.
A Riva Aquarama motor launch
They could teach J H Taylor of Chester a thing or two about varnished mahogany but these speedboats do not have to deal with the rigours of locks and canalside moorings. After admiring and photographing the harbour and its contents we caught the ferry to Malcesine. We alighting the ferry and wound our way through the narrow streets before we decided to have a pizza for lunch at an enticing-looking cafe. I didn't think much of the pizza but Ange enjoyed it. We paid our bill and continued our way through the village. We decided to walk to the funivia (cable car) and visit the summit of Monte Baldo (1760 mtrs) which overlooks Lake Garda.
A cable car arriving at the summit of Monte Baldo
Due to the altitude, Nigel and Lisa stayed behind in the village until we returned and we accompanied John and Beryl Moult and Keith and Chris Moore to ascend the mountain. The journey up Monte Baldo is split into two. On the first part of the ascent a conventional cable car delivered us to the half-way station where we boarded another car which is unique in rotating 360 degrees whist climbing to the summit. Unfortunately, the lake was shrouded in mist from this altitude but he views from the summit were none the less stunning.
The view of Lake Garda hiding in the mist as seen from Monte Baldo
Keith and I ventured a little off the beaten track to take photographs and Keith tried to bounce up and down on a rock but he could not get " a good whip" on it! Soon it was time for us to descend in the cable cars and rejoin Nigel and Lisa. We then caught the high-speed catamaran ferry which jetted us back to Riva del Garda via Limone. The latest James Bond film... "The Quantum of Solace" was partly shot here and we passed the galleried tunnels which were the locations through which cars chased each other before falling into the lake. When we arrived back at Riva we had a drink in our favourite quayside cafe before returning to the hotel. After another beautiful dinner I walked down to the village to take photographs of the buildings illuminated at night by the many floodlights which I had seen during the day.
Riva del Garda quayside at night
The next day (Wednesday 9th October) we had to be up and breakfasted early as we were going to Venice. The coach left at 07.30 and took us through the lush Italian countryside which was filled with wine groves. A couple of hours later we were crossing the causeway leading to Venice. After being dropped off in the coach park we walked to the quayside where a water taxi or "Vaporette" (reminiscent of a centre-cockpit narrowboat - but faster) ferried us around the perimeter of the city to the Lagoon, just past St Mark's Square. Initially the weather had been a bit overcast but the sun started to shine and it was warming up. On arrival at the "Vaporette" landing stage we split up into groups and went our various ways to explore the city.
Members of Lymm CC at Venice
Our first port of call was St Mark's Square which was to the left of where we were dropped off by the "Vaporette". To reach this location we crossed several canals entering the Lagoon. Up the last one could be seen the "Bridge of Sighs" which took condemned prisoners from the Dogue's Palace to the gaol on the opposite bank of the canal. The buildings either side of the bridge were shrouded in blue PVC sheeting as they were undergoing restoration. St Mark's Tower was looming ahead of us and the base of it was cordoned off with partitioning as there was also restoration work going on here. We entered the square and we were impressed by the size of it I had to use the widest angle setting on the camera's lens to fit it all in and unfortunately, distortion in the shape of converging verticals set in. As we walked around the square we passed the cafe where Indiana Jones sprang out of a manhole in "The Last Crusade" but there was no sign of him whilst we were there!
The majestic St Mark's Square
(and no sign of Indiana Jones)
Most probably, in the not too distant future, cameras will posses the ability to remove this effect effect electronically in the same way that a large format camera with rising front on it would... only digitally! After wondering at the beauty of the surrounding buildings we headed through one of the alley ways exiting the square and we were soon walking alongside one of the canals. We came across one of the landing stages where one could alight onto a Gondola and made a note of its location for later. We continued our wanderings, looking in the multitude of shops and were amazed at the prices charged for some of the articles for sale before returning to the Gondola Landing Stage.
Gondolas at the landing stage
We shared a Gondola with Beryl and John Moult which took us through the maze of canals. Our Gondolier was most informative pointing out various features of Venice. He told us that most of the houses lining the canals are not inhabited on the ground floors due to the city sinking. We discussed the barrage that was being constructed which would isolate the water levels from that of the surrounding sea and ensure that the future of the city was safeguarded. We soon ventured onto the Grand Canal close to the famous Rialto Bridge.
The famous Rialto Bridge situated on Venice's Grand Canal
I photographed this famous structure that is one of the Wonders of the World and was glad that we were on a Gondola as I would not be able to take the photographs from the banks of the canal due to moored boats obscuring the view. After a while we left the bustle of the Grand Canal and returned to the backwaters. Unfortunately I could not resist the temptation to "sing the song" and serenaded Ange and Beryl whilst John looked on... unimpressed (I can't blame him for that). Around one corner we came across a barge painted in the courier firm UPS's corporate colour scheme which we found qui8te funny. Some of the bends that we had to negotiate were quite tight but our Gondolier used a combination of his oar and pushing-off with his foot to ensure that the faultless paint job of his craft remained un-scratched. All too soon our trip was at an end and we returned to our starting point but not before we were caught-up in a Venetian traffic jam.
A typical Venetian canal
When back on solid land we met-up with Nigel and Lisa and made our way to Theatre Square where we sat in an open-air restaurant for a drink and a pizza. I must say that I was unimpressed with the food, preferring the pizza from our local pizzeria back home in Wallasey... but we had to try it just the same. We then made our way back to St mark's Square and from where we returned to the Vaporette landing stage on the Lagoon. Whilst we waited for the other members of our group to arrive Ange spotted a "lucky, lucky" man selling reproduction designer handbags. She could not resist the temptation to but one and is now the proud owner of a Prada bag that eventually cost all of ten Euros! Whilst we were in Venice we also purchased some Venetian Murano Glass for our display cabinet at home and a blue and white striped Gondolier's jumper for me. I promised to serenade Ange on "Total Eclipse" whilst pushing it along using only the boat pole rather than the engine.
The Lagoon at Venice
Once we were all assembled at the landing stage we boarded our Vaporette which returned us to the coach park for the return journey to Lake Garda. Venice is a beautiful city that encompasses its history to the full. I was impressed with the way that special paint is used to ensure that even new decoration to the historic buildings looks old and weathered. To take a trip on a Gondola and see and photograph the Rialto Bridge were two ambitions that I had never imagined that I would fulfil. On our return to the hotel Keith Moore ushered me to the lakeside to see a Marmot. He had seen this cheeky, large squirrel-like creature bathing in one of the small lagoons off the lake earlier and knew that I would be interested in it. The marmot is the largest member of the Squirrel family and is the size of a small dog, has a long rat-like tail and whiskers around its mouth. The variety seen at Lake Garda is the Alpine Marmot but in the USA it is also known as a Groundhog. I tried to photograph this marmot but the light was failing and I did not have my powerful electronic flash unit or tripod with me so an image pinched from Wikipedia will have to suffice.
A stock photograph of a Marmot
(Photograph - Wikipedia.org)
Thursday was planned to be our day in Verona. We boarded the coach after breakfast and went a similar route to the previous day when we visited Venice. Verona is a very cosmopolitan city that also possesses a large number of Roman buildings. The large central square is bordered by the Verona Arena... a large Roman amphitheatre reminiscent of the Colosseum, constructed in 30 ad and is one of the best preserved examples of this type of building in the World.
The Roman Arena in Verona - home of the annual Opera Festival
Today it is used for operatic and musical recitals and the annual Operatic Festival held here is renowned the World over. After sampling Verona's Cafe Society we boarded an open-top tour bus which showed us around the city. I was not able to photograph many of the sights due to the movement of the bus, reflections from the windscreen or the fact that many landmarks were obscured by trees. However I did capture a panorama of the city from one of the hills on the outskirts of the city.
A panorama of Verona showing the River Adige threading its way through the city
Verona can be likened to Chester but with spaghetti! Even though I like Chester, Verona did not inspire me very much. The Roman remains are, without doubt, spectacular but we did not see Juliet's Balcony. Other members of our group that did visit it said that we were not missing very much! Maybe I had been spoilt by Venice, after which most cities would pail into insignificance. After the trip on the tour bus we made our way back to the main square and revisited the cafe from earlier for lunch before returning to the coach park and the return journey to our hotel. The last excursion on our Visit to Italy was a trip through the Dolomite Mountains to the Pordoi Pass. We left the hotel as usual and literally headed for the hills.
The result of Stumpy's labours... a leaning lamp post!
Our first stop was a small town at the foot of the mountains where we stopped for a "splash and dash" and a fag for the smokers amongst us. Whilst turning around our coach driver managed to partially knock-over a lamp post... right outside the local Police Station! We had to wait whilst formalities were seen to but what impressed us was that the local utility company was on the scene in less than five minutes, assessing the situation and taping-off the area. The "second fix" crew arrived another five minutes later and I smiled to myself whilst a rather large (fat) man pushed against the lamp post to see if there was any risk from it falling over, which apparently, there wasn't. The damage to the coach was minimal but non-the-less would be expensive to repair. Our driver returned from the police station after having his feathers ruffled by the local constabulary and we were on our way again. We headed for the Pordoi Pass and started to climb.
The Dolomite Mountains as seen from the Pordoi Pass...
... and from the other direction
Twenty six one hundred and eighty degree turns took us up the side of a mountain punctuated with ski runs, chair lifts and cable cars. The scenery was spectacular and nothing could have prepared me for the natural beauty of these mountains. Once at the top we had lunch in the Pordoi Pass cafe (2240 mtrs above sea level) and I then took photographs (just a few) of the vistas that had unfolded before us After the lunch stop we boarded the coach and headed along a pass through the mountains climbing still higher.
Members of Lymm CC at Passo Sella
We stopped at Passo Sella where there is an excellent viewpoint to take photographs from. There was snow on some of the taller peaks and the drop in temperature was evident at Passo Sella. The time to start worrying when you see large numbers of Mercedes Benz Unimog 4x4 vehicles present (which we did). We even saw a tracked vehicle that would not be out of place in the Arctic. As well as the stunning landscapes we were impressed by a cyclist who had climbed up the mountain road to the pass. We hoped that he had good brakes for the descent! He obviously did as we next saw him when we had both descended the winding road back down the mountains. Whilst travelling along the valley roads I had never seen so many pistes (is that the plural of piste?). The steep gradient and sharp turns that they possessed reinforced my views that you have to be a special kind of person to want to strap a couple of planks to your feet and literally throw yourself down a slippery slope with only a couple of sticks to steer by! Nevertheless, the beauty of the area cannot be doubted... wooden chalets reminiscent of Heidi, William Tell and Toblerone advertisements.
The view down the valley from our Dolomite viewpoint
Our trip through this beautiful area was over all too soon and we were threading our way back to Lake Garda. On reaching the hotel we went to our room to pack ready for an early start the following morning. After yet another beautiful meal a presentation was made to Beryl Moult for organising yet another successful holiday. Peter Corbett continued the evening's frivolity, demonstrating his ventriloquist skills singing "Just One Cornetto" whilst drinking a glass of beer. He was assisted by yours truly who was hiding behind a column providing the vocals. The evening ended and we went to bed ready for an early start the next morning. It didn't seem very long before we were eating our breakfast at the Hotel Bellariva for the last. After breakfast we checked-out of the hotel and loaded our luggage onto the coach before leaving Riva del Garda for the last time. On our return journey through the mountains into Austria we were able to see the beauty of the Brenner Pass and surrounding area as, unlike on the outward journey, it was daylight. We took a different route back to Belgium and we stayed the night in the same hotel in Liege as on the outward journey. Our first stop before making for the Channel Ferry was to a chocolate factory and shop. Here there were chocolates that rival the best manufactured in the United Kingdom. We stocked up on our favourites before returning to the coach to resume our journey home. We made good time and caught an earlier than planned ferry. The crossing was much calmer than the outward one and we reached Lymm at teatime. We said our goodbyes and loaded our luggage into the car (without incident) then travelled home having had a wonderful time, seen some beautiful places and eaten some superb food in the very good company of fellow Lymm CC members. Unfortunately we now have to return to everyday life having sampled the wonders that Italy has to offer. Maybe, one day we will return to sample some more of these wonders. The best bit for me would have to be Venice and the trip through the canals on a gondola... well it is canal cruising albeit in a different country and even though it was not on our beloved "Total Eclipse" it is something that I will remember forever!
St. Marks Square under a metre of water
(Photograph - BBC News Website)
Venice made the news in early December when high tides flooded the city. When looking at the photographs posted on the BBC News website we found it hard to believe how many of the places in the city that we had visited were under up to a metre of water. The Italian government has promised major cash injection into the Venice Lagoon Barrage project which, when completed, will protect the city from high tides such as the one experienced in December 2008. I think that they had better get their finger out before irreparable damage results from the flooding.
We had walked along this alleyway... but it wasn't like this on our visit!
(Photograph - BBC News Website)
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Chapter 4 - Canalmanac 2009
On New Year's Day 2009, following on from the party the night before at Lymm CC, there was to be a Brass Monkey Cruise to The Old Number Three at Dunham Massey. The ice on the canal that prevented us from taking "Total Eclipse" down to Lymm also prevented us from participating in the Brass Monkey Cruise.
Boats iced in on a frozen Bridgewater Canal at Oughtrington Wharf on New Year's Day 2009
Not a very good start to the New Year but let's hope that this was not a bad weather omen and we have better weather in 2009 than we did during 2008 (but we are not holding our breath). 2009 is the fiftieth anniversary year of when I was introduced to canal cruising by my parents. The actual anniversary is 27th August (in 1960 it was on a Saturday) and even though it is mid-week (Thursday) and I will be at work, I shall be canal cruising from my desk! My introduction to canal cruising is documented in "Canalscape Book 1".
One of the earliest photographs of myself on the canals... at Llantisilio in 1961 with Mother looking on
On 8th January we went to the funeral of Tony Whalley in Blackburn. We drove to Lymm and arranged to go with Nigel and Lisa Foster as we are not familiar with the Blackburn and Darwen area by road (no problem going by canal though). Whilst we waited for Nigel and Lisa, Ange went to the pie shop in the village and bought us a pie each as we didn't have time for breakfast and we were feeling rather peckish. I was not very impressed by standing adjacent to Lymm Cross eating a steak and kidney pie out of a bag at 11.00 in the morning and Ange told me that I looked as if it was beneath me to eat in such a manner. I added that I hoped that nobody that I knew saw me. When we reached the cemetery were joined by most of Lymm CC's members outside the chapel whilst we waited for the funeral cortege to arrive. Whilst we waited we chatted to various club members and, whilst chatting to Rob Hoyle... he mentioned that he had seen us earlier in the day on the Cross and asked if we had enjoyed our pies. After replying in the positive I looked at Ange with my "no comment" expression on my face!
When the funeral cortege arrived we followed Linda and her family into the chapel and the service commenced. We were impressed by the tributes spoken by various people, especially the lovely words spoken by Terry Biltcliffe... one of Tony's closest friends who owns NB "Zulu" ("hips slung low") who actually introduced Linda and Tony to canal cruising. I later spoke to Terry and told him how I felt that the words he spoke came straight from the heart and how much they impressed us. Linda looked very vulnerable and alone as she stood saying a silent goodbye to Tony at the end of the service. Ange and I did quite well and did not "lose it" until we were walking out of the chapel at the end of the service when emotion overtook us and we ended up in floods of tears. After the service we went to the Whitehall Hotel and Country Club in Darwen to share stories and recollections and light refreshments (great coffee). Keith Moore was sitting next to Ange and I and, as usual, there was a good banter between us. Ange made the mistake of relating comments made by one of the newer members at the New Year's Party. The comment was that "I had a lovely face". Keith immediately started to sing "Baby Face" to me and I will, no doubt, be reminded of this comment in the coming months. We were told that Tony may have died as a result of Adult Sudden Death Syndrome which is, apparently, more prevalent in tall people. After we had all shared our stories and reminiscences of Tony it was time to go. We said our goodbyes and paid our respects to Linda and she told us that she had no plans to give up the boat and would see us soon. Nigel chauffeured us back to Lymm and it was not long before we were driving home along the M56. It was to take a long time for us to get over Tony's death. His departure (and the other people whose funerals we had attended in recent months) highlighted our mortality and reminded us of how we don't know what the future holds for us. Maybe this is just as well!
In the meantime, we had Lymm CC's AGM on the 3rd February to look forward to. As usual the AGM was full of political banter, the presentation of various trophies (yet again I did not qualify for a Mermaid Trophy), the election of new Committee members as well as the installation of Lily Williams.. 2009's Commodore. Even though we did not receive a trophy, one of my photographs featuring gondolas in Venice did earn me a prize in the photographic competition. The day after the AGM a package arrived from The History Press. It contained the latest edition of "The Big Ditch" complete with a couple of new photographs, updated maps and additions to the text. It certainly brightened up a cold and snowy February day.
The postage stamp depicting James Brindley and the original Barton Aqueduct
(Courtesy of Royal Mail)
Around this time the Post Office announced that they were to release a series of postage stamps in March, dedicated to pioneers of the Industrial Revolution. One of the stamps... the 72p issue, depicted James Brindley and featured his Barton Aqueduct in the background. It is nice to see the work of one of my heroes portrayed in this way. It is a shame that it was not released in time for inclusion in "The Big Ditch"... but there is always the third edition of "The Duke's Cut".
Our thoughts now turned to the coming season. We had received e-mails from Lily Williams... 2009's Commodore, regarding arrangements for the Summer Cruise to the Preston Dock Festival and the Lancaster Canal. The dates and times that we were due to lock-down into the River Ribble, arrive at Preston Dock and, after the Festival, cruise down to the Ribble Millennium Link were sent to us by post from British Waterways. We were notified of the return journey dates and times a couple of days later. The itiniery did not allow us much time to reach Tarleton where we would lock down into the River Ribble and on to Preston Dock but if I took a couple of extra days off work at the start of the holiday it was "do-able". Unfortunately, Ange would not be able to have these days off which meant that I would be single-handing it to Preston where she would join me after being given a lift. On the return journey the first available date for descending the Ribble Millennium Link was Friday the 7th August. This would not give us much time to return to Lymm but we would cross that bridge when we came to it. Once we were sure that the timetable was viable for us I sent off our cheque for £70 to cover the navigation of the Ribble Millennium Link and to pay for the key fob which would allow us access to the sanitary stations and other facilities on the Lancaster Canal. We would purchase a short-term BW licence nearer the time. A couple of days later we received a telephone call from British Waterways informing us that all the places for the 7th August were booked on that date. After a telephone call to Lily and Stewart Williams, who were booked onto the 7th August passage, we had arranged to swap dates with them and the problem was resolved.
2009 is also the 250th anniversary of the passing of the Act of Parliament which granted permission to construct the first part of the Bridgewater Canal from Worsley to Castlefield. Lily had asked me if I would give a guided walk and talk around Worsley covering the various historic locations. I waited for the dates so that I could make the necessary arrangements for access to Worsley Delph to inspect the mine entrances.
Alan Savage... Lymm CC's Mooring Officer called a work party at the Oughtrington moorings for Valentine's Day which was a Saturday to move some boats up where others had left and re-site the mooring pegs for a couple of new boats off the moorings waiting list. Ange had planned to go shopping with her sister whilst I attended the work party. On my return home, the postman had delivered my copy of "Waterways World". Imagine my surprise to see "Total Eclipse" moored at the "Queen's Head" on the Montgomery Canal featured on the "Favourite Mooring" feature on page four. I had sent the photograph to "Waterways World" in January along with a short paragraph of text and had not expected it to be published yet... if at all. I had also earned £50 for the pleasure of seeing the photograph and text featured.
The scanned page from "Waterways World" showing "Total Eclipse" at Queen's Head on the Montgomery Canal
It was now time to start preparing "Total Eclipse" for the start of the boating season which was looming. The £50 cheque from "Waterways World" went towards the laminate flooring on that we had decided to continue the whole length of the boat's interior from the kitchen area to the forward cabin. On 14th March I left home at 07.00 and headed for Oughtrington with the car laded with four packs of flooring and necessary the tools for the job. I reached the moorings an hour later having stopped at the local shop for milk, croissants for breakfast and a steak pie for lunch.
The completed laminate flooring looking forward
The job went well although there were some fiddly bits around the plinth that the solid fuel fire sits on. I had to leave two thin pieces for another day which would require my circular saw and a special tool for inserting laminate up to a vertical area that would not allow being tapped into position in the usual manner. There were even some odd pieces of laminate flooring left over which were cut and shaped to cover the space at the front of the plinth that the solid fuel stove sits on. Eight hours later I loaded up the car and returned home after a job well done (even if I did have sore knees and back ache!).
The completed laminate flooring looking aft
A couple of days after completing the laminate flooring we received a telephone call from Alan Savage, Lymm CC's Mooring Officer asking if I would like to move moorings to Agden. We love Oughtrington as it is secluded, quiet and we do not have far to carry things from the car park. On the negative side... there is no mains electricity, it is muddy when wet, difficult to reach and board the boat due to the height of the path being higher than that of the bank. So, after a long discussion Ange and I decided to take Alan up on his offer of a mooring at Agden when the place becomes available.
Narrowboats awaiting the opening ceremony of the Liverpool Link
In the meantime, British Waterways announced the date that the Liverpool Link was to be opened... the 25th March 2009. Andy Ball from Radio Merseyside had previously promised to arrange for me to be with him on the lead boat at the opening but he forgot. So I contacted Helen Hall at BW Wigan (who had previously obtained permission for me to use BW's CGI images) to see if there were any places left. There weren't, but it was most probably just as well. I would not have been able to take the photographs that I wanted to from the inside of a boat and would not be able to photograph the convoy of boats as they christened the new canal. On Tuesday I received an e-mail from Andy telling me the timing and order of events. This confirmed that I would be better off on foot photographically speaking. I had already arranged to take the day off work but nearly didn't make it as I was ill in Tuesday night (Ange reckons it was excitement!). I caught the cross-river bus from the end of our road and was soon walking down Castle Street (where Ange works for NatWest/RBS in the Business Management Centre) in Liverpool towards the Pier Head. The weather was very windy but at least it was bright and the rain from the earlier part of the day had diminished.
Andy Ball recording a "vox pop" for Radio Merseyside
On my arrival I bumped into Andy Ball who was recording "vox pops" for Radio Merseyside. After chatting to Andy for a bit I had a couple of hours to kill before the opening ceremony which was scheduled for 2.30pm. I walked around the Albert Dock and traced the southern length of the Link photographing as far as Kings Dock adjacent to the Liverpool Echo Arena. I then returned to the Pier Head which was filling up with people nicely, found a good vantage point and drank-in the atmosphere. Before long hooters and horns were being sounded as the precession of boats lead by the "Pride of Sefton" made its way to the basin in front of the Mersey Docks Building. The chief executive of British Waterways... Robin Evans gave a speech followed by another by Councillor Steve Rotheram... the current Lord Mayor of Liverpool. Children from New Park Primary School unveiled a plaque commemorating the opening of the Link.
The "Pride of Sefton" heading-up the procession of boats at the opening of the Liverpool Link
The plaque commemorating the opening of the Liverpool Link
The procession then set off through the tunnel leading to Mann Island Holding Basin and Lock amid cheering and clapping. There was even a fly-past by an R.A.F. jet fighter. These aircraft can be seen quite frequently flying along the route of the river so I do not know if this was organised or coincidental. After the procession disappeared out of sight the crowd walked around to Canning Basin to see them emerge from Mann Island Lock, through Canning Basin, into Canning Half-Tide Dock, through Albert Dock and into Salthouse Dock to moor at the new pontoons that have been recently installed.
Narrowboats from Mersey Motor Boat Club leaving Mann Island Lock
I bumped into Andy again who was on his way to interview the chief executive of British Waterways... Robin Evans for Radio Four and a couple of days later learnt that I had been "mentioned in dispatches" on Andy's Saturday morning radio programme when he was talking about the Link's opening with another friend... Stuart Wood, the Mersey River Pilot with whom I discussed the proposed Liverpool Link on Radio Merseyside a few years ago. I then made my way back to Castle Street to catch the bus home after a historic day in the annals of British canal history and one that I will remember for the rest of my life... as it is not every day that one witnesses the opening of a new canal. All in all... twenty two million pounds well spent! To read the full story of our latest stretch of new canal click on the following... The Liverpool Link.
The "Pride of Sefton" mooring at the Salthouse Dock pontoons... mission accomplished!
The following week we went up to Oughtrington to clean the outside of the boat, clean the windows, remove the curtains and Venetian blind for washing, etc. We also planned to fill the water tank and try to identify where the leak in the water system was. Things did not go to plan though. The engine start battery was flat (so I thought) and the jump-starter made no impression so we could not go down to the club house at Lymm. There is a water tap at Oughtrington so I connected the long hose onto it and pulled the boat closer to it. Water initially came out of the tap but soon ceased to flow but I didn't know this and it was a good half-hour before I noticed that water was not flowing. Plan B then! We used canal water to clean the paintwork on the cabin sides but they were not to our satisfaction and will have to wait until we have more time and clean water to do the job properly. With not being able to complete all the tasks we headed for home earlier than planned taking the engine start battery with us for a good dose of charging. To cap it all... when I was zipping-up the cover on the back deck, the zip fastener broke! Do you ever get the feeling that you should not have got out of bed on a particular day?
Swans nesting on the Bridgewater Canal
Easter was soon upon us and we arrived at Oughtrington on the Thursday before Good Friday with both of us having taken the day off work. I brought the fully charged started battery from the car, located it in the compartment, connected it up and when the ignition key was turned... click! The solenoid must have stuck so I gave it a quick knock with a hammer and tried again. Success... the engine sprang into life. While it warmed up we loaded the food, clothes, etc aboard, as it was a warm sunny day we took the fore deck and rear deck covers down and cast off. We made a brief stop at the Clubhouse to fill the water tank and empty the toilet then cruised south in the warm, spring sunshine. On the way we passed a swan's nest... a sure sign that spring is on its way. We moored for the night just passed Daresbury and spent a pleasant evening relaxing and watching tv.
The view from the top of Preston Brook Tunnel - northern end
The next morning dawned bright and sunny again and we set-off early to catch the ten-o-clock Preston Brook Tunnel. Normally we time our arrival at the tunnel to coincide with the passage time but on this occasion we got it wrong for some reason and arrived ten minutes too late. Whilst we waited Ange had a look at the path that leads across the top of the tunnel and I took some photographs including up-dating my photograph of the first Trent and Mersey Canal milepost.
The first Trent and Mersey Canal milepost on top of Preston Brook Tunnel
The actual junction between the Bridgewater and Trent and Mersey Canals is ten yards inside the northern portal. Consequently, the first milepost is a little way along the footpath that runs over the top of the tunnel to reflect this. When we emerged from the tunnel Ange took over the tiller and I jumped ashore to operate Dutton Stop Lock. We then wound our way along the side of the River Weaver Valley (Vale Royal) to Saltersford Tunnel. Here we met a couple who had just taken delivery of a brand new partially fitted narrowboat. Whilst we waited to enter we chatted about how they had decided to rent out their property and live on the boat. I got the impression that they were not experienced canal cruisers... little things that they told us about the boat made us question the wisdom of setting out on a partially completed boat that was also their permanent home. But.. hey-ho, its not for us to question their motives.
The flash between Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels
We followed our new acquaintances through the tunnel and it soon became apparent that our impressions about their being novices were correct. They hit the tunnel mouth on entering and crawled through the tunnel, bouncing off the walls frequently. Whilst we waited to enter Barnton Tunnel I asked the boat's owner if he had heard of the "canal effect" to which he told me that he hadn't. I explained that when a boat is being steered through a narrow waterway such as a tunnel or aqueduct it is best to go through quickly as when a certain speed is reached water pressure builds up on either side of the hull helping it to steer a straight course without too much intervention from the tiller. He took my suggestions to heart and sped through the tunnel. When we caught up with him after Barnton Narrows he thanked me for the suggestion and found the boat much easier to control and didn't have to keep making course corrections. Isn't it nice when the theory and practice is confirmed by a third party?
Boats from Lymm CC moored in Billinge Green Flash
Linda Whalley with her "new driver" plate
We continued cruising through Vale Royal in the warm, spring sunshine and moored for the night in Billinge Green Flash along with other boats from Lymm CC. We were especially please to see Linda Whalley (Tony's widow) steering "Sapphire" with some help from Glenys Kershaw off "Camarilla" with Jack Kershaw following behind (and according to him... getting some peace and quiet as well!). Linda had been presented with a "new driver" plate for her efforts and we all congratulated her for being so brave and steering the boat. The following morning dawned as the previous day did with warm, spring sunshine accompanying us on the last few miles to Middlewich. This is one of my favourite stretches of canal as it winds its way alongside the River Dane. Just before Middlewich, the canal crosses the river on the extremely narrow Croxton Aqueduct (originally constructed as a wide-beam aqueduct but rebuilt after a flood as narrow beam in the 1930s) and we reached our destination.
The Trent and Mersey Canal between Billing Green and Croxford Flashes
Breasted-up moorings at Middlewich
The revolutionary NB "Phoenix"
We moored alongside "Seguido" as we have done on previous years and were greeted by the club members that had already arrived. After a walk into the town to replenish the fridge and stretch our legs. On our return we chatted to our friends and were treated to a tug pushing a work boat passing "Phoenix"... the revolutionary design for a fifty eight foot narrowboat built by Grant and Livingstone that was featured in "Waterways World" a while ago (nice teak planking and an estimated cost of £225,000). After tea we got ready to go to the Middlewich Football Supporters' Club just up the road from where we were moored and, as usual, we were made most welcome. A buffet was put on for us and very nice it was too!
The Easter Bonnet Parade
Ange wearing her Easter Bonnet
An impromptu display of juggling on the towpath
The following morning was Easter Sunday and there was an Easter Bonnet Parade as well as the usual Easter goings-on... juggling and egg throwing to name but two. Ange didn't win the Easter Bonnet Parade even though she had spent hours preparing her headwear. She wasn't disappointed but it have been nice if all her effort was rewarded. Shortly afterwards we decided to head for home. After making a faultless about-turn (with Lymm CC members watching) we crossed Croxton Aqueduct and I was pleased to get a wave Peter the Whittler who lives on a GRP Norman cruiser next to Croxton Flash.
Peter the whittler
The sunken hulk of an old work boat in Billinge Green Flash
(One day I will photograph it with a heron standing on it - preferably in bright sunshine or at sunset)
It was a beautiful cruise back through the River Dane Valley and the sunlight glinted through the trees as we made our way back to the Bridgewater Canal. After Wyncham Wharf we rounded the ninety degree bend and Ange said that she could hear running water. We stopped and a quick inspection of the engine compartment confirmed that the flexible coupling on the propeller shaft was splashing water around the engine compartment. The delivery pipe had come off the bilge pump so I donned my overalls and climbed into the bilge. After a few minutes a temporary repair had been made to the pipe and I would try and come up in the week armed with new fittings to permanently cure the problem.
The Trent and Mersey Canal clinging to the side of the River Weaver Valley near Acton Bridge
We carried on through Barnton and Saltersford Tunnels and saw Alan and Lynn Savage's boat at Acton Bridge. We stopped for a cuppa and a chat, put the world to rights and then set off for Preston Brook Tunnel. We planned to moor where we moored on Thursday night at Daresbury and we were soon hammering in the mooring pins and after tea had a relaxing evening in the peace of the countryside.
The completed housing development next to Thorn Marine at Stockton Heath
The next morning we carried on towards Lymm, stopping at Thorn Marine to empty the loo and have a chat to Margaret and Brian Hamilton. The housing development next to Thorn Marine is now completed and the first residents are now in situ and so warranted a photograph. After our chat we cast off and we were soon passing through the wooded cutting before Thelwall Viaduct.
Motorists rushing above our heads on the Thelwall Viaduct Approach
I really love passing beneath the Thelwall Viaduct with the motorists speeding along the M6 motorway as if they haven't got a minute to live whilst we cruise sedately beneath them at three miles per hour. Lymm Village was full of sightseers who waved to us as we passed. Lymm CC's clubhouse was also a hive of activity whilst members who didn't come on the Easter Cruise prepared their boats for the Opening Cruise the following weekend. Fifteen minutes later we were tying our mooring ropes at Oughtrington and loading the car ready to go home. This Easter cruise was most certainly better than last year's... as far as the weather was concerned anyway! At times the canal was like the M6 such was the volume of traffic on it.
The following Thursday I took the day off work to replace the bilge pump pipe work and do a few other odd jobs ready for the Opening Cruise. Larry Smith whose boat "Lady Edna" is moored next to ours had planned to come to the moorings as well and I promised to bring the pies for lunch from the local shop in Oughtrington. We helped each other turn the boats around to undertake our respective tasks as well as lending a hand to each other when needed and ate the aforementioned pies with a cup of coffee. The rain managed to keep off for most of the day and it was not until we were putting the toys away to come home that the rain started in earnest. I made my way home after a day working on the boat knowing that I had accomplished all the jobs that I had planned to do... something that doesn't happen very often. On the way home I called into our local Wilkinson's to purchase a reasonably priced tv bracket that I had seen there. This would make viewing easier as the tv is an LCD and the viewing angle can be critical. The bracket would allow the tv to be set lower down than at present and enhance viewing.
Lymm CC on the Saturday before the Opening Cruise
And so the weekend of the Opening Cruise had arrived. It had been a long, cold and dark winter and at last we were starting to see some evidence of good weather. We left Wallasey after tea on the Friday evening and arrived at Oughtrington about eight-o-clock. Ange dropped me off and drove to the Clubhouse whilst I started the boat's engine and took it down. Ange telephoned me whilst I was en-route telling me where to moor and I double moored onto the side of "Seguido". We went into the Clubhouse for a chat and a drink and during the course of conversation Ange and I were volunteered for helping out at the Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs Annual Rally which is being hosted by Lymm CC this year. Ange was to help Lisa Foster in the Rally HQ, assist Phyllis Greenough with food and Graham Waites with the bar. I was to be on official photographer and floating bridge duty. After a couple of hours we returned to the boat and watched some tv before going to bed.
The following morning dawned bright and sunny which was just as well as the yard had to be prepared for the Opening Cruise the next day. I met Brian Warburton (nb "Ondine") and was surprised to see that he was alone and not accompanied by his faithful companion... "Roadie". Roadie was a wire-haired Lurcher and Brian's crew. Brian told me that "Roadie" had been unwell and had been put down the previous week. Roadie was a pleasant creature who enjoyed being stroked and had an appetite for biscuits. I have memories of Brian and Roadie returning from the Bull (a pub in Lymm Village) and both looking the worse for wear... swaying from side to side under the influence of alcohol. On another occasion Roadie went missing and was eventually spotted walking down the lane in the direction of the Bull where he was eventually found sitting in his usual spot waiting for Brian to arrive and "get a round in". Roadie was one of the canine characters of Lymm CC and will be missed by all the animal lovers in the Club.
With regards to the preparations for the Opening Cruise, Ange, Glenys Kershaw and I were in charge of hanging the bunting and with such an able team this task did not take long. We shifted our mooring into the arm and Ange went into Lymm for provisions whilst I fitted the previously mentioned tv bracket. On her return we had lunch and spent the afternoon "chilling out" ready for the Opening Cruise Dance that evening. The dance was most enjoyable as was the food and entertainment and we left before midnight in order to be up bright and early the next morning. The morning dawned even brighter, sunnier and warmer than the previous day and after breakfast Ange and Sue Burden (Membership Secretary) helped Graham Waites with the distributing of sherries and pure orange juice (for those of us who either do not like sherry or don't drink alcohol) for the toasts at the Opening Cruise ceremony.
Ange and Sue Burden distributing the sherry and orange juice for the Opening Cruise toasts
Lily Williams flanked by Nigel Foster (Vice Commodore) and Phyllis Greenough (Rear Commodore)
After the usual ceremonies and speeches I took photographs of this year's Sailing Officers, the unfurling of the Club burgee on the flag pole and the boats setting off on the cruise. Whilst I was doing this Ange helped Graham with the collecting of glasses and tidying the clubhouse afterwards.
Phyllis Greenough (Rear Commodore) using her stop-go board to control the procession of boats
The procession of boats leaving Lymm
Phyllis Greenough was undertaking her duties as Rear Commodore... controlling the boats with a stop-go board. Soon it was our turn to leave the arm and Phyllis beckoned us to join the procession of boats enroute for Grappenhall ("There's a gap if you're quick"). The spring sunshine was beating down on us as we cruised at a gentle two miles per hour and we reached Grappenhall after a pleasant, relaxing cruise in the sunshine.
"Total Eclipse" with some of the boats on the Opening Cruise in the background
We had decided not to go to the pub with the others as when sixty-odd people descend on a small country pub invariably the service suffers. Consequently, Ange put some nice pork chops in the oven before we left Lymm and not long after we moored we had our lunch alfresco.
Grappenhall Bridge Bend
Boats moored after Grappenhall Bridge
Needless to say our lunch was beautiful and afterwards I took advantage of the blue skies and sunshine to take photographs of a location that we normally cruise past without a second thought. When there was a lull in the traffic we started the engine, turned around and headed back towards Lymm. A colleague's sister had hired "Meandering Thorn" from Thorn Marine for the day and I had kept an eye open for them on our return cruise. We eventually saw the boat approaching in the wooded cutting at Thelwall.
My colleague... Sue Allen's sister and family aboard "Meandering Thorn"
Unbeknown to them I took their photograph and presented a couple of prints to my colleague in order for her to pass them on. I wonder what they thought about passing sixty three boats in a relatively short period of time! Our relaxing cruise back to Lymm in the warm, afternoon sunshine was over all too soon. It didn't take long to load our things into the car and I took the boat back to Oughtrington with Ange following me up by car a little later and we made our way home after an Opening Cruise to remember. Last year we had snow on the Opening Cruise... this year we had brilliant, warm sunshine. I hope that we do not pay for this weather later on in the year (but I suspect that we might)!
Graham Waites on the morning of the Opening Cruise
The next morning I was sitting at my desk in work and the telephone rang. Surprisingly, it was Lisa Foster, Nigel's wife. She informed me of the sudden death of Graham Waites the previous day after the Opening Cruise. Graham was Chairman of the Wine Sub-Committee and the person most likely to be found behind the bar in the clubhouse dispensing the wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on offer. I was most upset and e-mailed Ange at work who was also very upset. Graham and I always had a laugh and a joke and the last time we were doing this was on the morning of the Opening Cruise. In fact I think that I had taken the last photograph of him that morning which is reproduced above. As with Tony Whalley... these things always happen to the nice/funny/unassuming/mild-mannered/helpful people that wouldn’t hurt a fly and that nothing is too much trouble for. Our hearts really go out to Joan (who is also Lymm CC's Social Secretary) and the family. We know that it will be a great loss to them as well as to everyone in their Lymm CC “extended family”.
The Bridgewater Canal work boat that was to be the floating bridge at the FBCC Annual Rally at Lymm
The funeral and cremation was to take place on Thursday 30th April and we both booked a day's holiday in order to attend. Every time that we venture into Warrington we seem to get lost. This occasion was no exception. Even though I downloaded a map from Google Maps and Ange asked a colleague to write down directions we still managed to become a little lost. Maybe its time to invest in a sat nav! We eventually arrived at the church and we were both moved by the service. When it was over there was a cremation service at Walton Lea Crematorium adjacent to the Bridgewater Canal. We didn't get lost this time as we were on familiar territory... even if we did go the long way round via Thelwall Viaduct and the funeral cortege arrived before us. After the cremation there was a wake at Lymm CC's clubhouse. Like Tony Whalley's wake, it turned out to be a less traumatic experience than the preceding ceremonies. The club house was full and we shared tales and funny stories of Graham. After an hour or so we left in order to run the gauntlet of the M56 before there were too many "brain surgeons", "nuclear physicists" and "Professional drivers" which, when added together make the motorway an unpleasant place to be. Before we left Lymm I noticed that our "floating bridge" in the shape of one of the Bridgewater Canal Company's work boats had been delivered in preparation for the Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs' Annual Rally in a few week's time (see History of Lymm CC - Anatomy of a Boat Rally).
Ange steering through the angling competition at Preston Brook
The following weekend was Our next Club outing was to between the tunnels... Saltersford Wide. The weather was kind to us once more and we cruised towards Preston Brook in warm sunshine. Whilst approaching Preston Brook there was a fishing match along the straight stretch that leads to the M56 viaduct. Ange was steering at the time and, as mentioned in Canalscape Book Three, she was greeted with smiles and the occasional "Hello Luv" from the fishermen as they raised their rods in salute to the boat passing. Though, once they saw me their expressions changed and they avoided eye contact with me.
The heron at Morris Minor Bend that accompanied us
We passed through Preston Brook Tunnel and Ange steered right the way through to Saltersford Tunnel. After negotiating Morris Minor Bend a heron very kindly posed for my camera and kept us company for quite a distance. This would not have been the case years ago as herons are a naturally shy bird and fly off as the boat approached to land a couple of hundred metres in front of the boat. When reached again they would fly off repeating the process for mile after mile.
Morris Minor Bend complete with heron in the foreground
Forty-odd boats moored in Saltersford Wide
When we arrived in Saltersford Wide we moored on the side of nb "Adreva" and chatted to other members moored behind us. The younger members of the Club (and some of the "adults") amused themselves by canoeing and whizzing about on a dinghy fitted with a small outboard motor. Others fished and Bryn (nb "Harmony") caught a tin of sardines even though he managed to spill the maggots from the bait tin into the engine compartment of his boat.
Nigel Foster and Neil Hindley amusing themselves in the dinghy
The Rear Commodore's Presentation and the resulting bonfire
Ange fulfilling her cooking duties on the barbeque
Lymm CC has a ritual where the Rear Commodore is presented with a ceremonial stick at the first bonfire of the season. 2009 was no exception to the rule and the ceremony had a theatrical feel to it when Phyllis Greenough was presented with her stick by Keith Moore and ably supported by past Commodores and other Committee members. Once the bonfire was lit the evening of food, drink and conversation commenced. Ange took a turn on the barbequeue and I chatted to Club members until she had completed her task and joined me.
The old horse trough before cleaning and overhauling
BW's tug and workboat at the water trough work site
One complaint that everybody makes about Saltersford Wide is that the towpath is always muddy. Near to the entrance to Saltersford Tunnel is a stone water trough once used by boat horses waiting their tow is legged through the tunnel. The trough is fed by a spring and the overflow water dribbles across the towpath due to the original pipe being blocked making it continually muddy. BW have remedied the situation by laying overflow drains beneath the towpath as well as re-facing the canal bank and installing mooring bollards. I was pleased that they retained the trough as it is used by walkers' (and boaters') dogs. They will have to try and do something about the banking along the rest of the wide now!
Even though this view of Saltersford Locks is well photographed I never tire of it
The impressively sized large lock... note the intermediate lock gates
Even the seldom used small lock has intermediate lock gates
The next day was another bright sunny morning and I walked down to Saltersford Locks on the River Weaver to take photographs. I have never cruised this river in my own boat but I did win a complementary passage on the Anderton Boat Lift a while ago and we keep promising to explore this beautiful river. It is such a waste that commercial traffic has ceased on the river and in these days of ecological awareness I wonder how many HGV journeys could be alleviated by transferring their loads onto barges and coasters for delivery? The locks are most certainly big enough to warrant commercial traffic economically viable. But for now the future of this beautiful river lies with leisure boating and it is good to see that BW have made efforts to encourage boaters such as the installation of floating pontoons to facilitate access to the lockside. The original railway-style semaphore signals are still located by the entrance to the lock chambers to indicate to craft when the lock is ready for entry.
The railway-style semaphore signals for indicating when the lock is ready for entry
The floating landing stage approaching the locks
That evening we had visitors in the shape of Ange's son Michael and his girlfriend Lisa. It was the first time he had been on board the boat as when he was younger it was our retreat and kept as a Michael-free zone. He had been here before when we borrowed "Painted Lady" from Pat and Roy Wilcox from BMBC. That occasion seemed like a lifetime ago but Michael did remember mooring here all those years ago. After our visitors' departure we joined our friends around the bonfire and enjoyed a pleasant evening of conversation. Although... Ange was not best impressed when the night owls amongst our group were awake laughing and joking until the early hours of the morning! We planned to make the 10.00 am passage of Saltersford Tunnel the following morning and, even though it was dry and sunny it was quite cool on the exposed stretches of the canal when the wind, cooled by its crossing of the Weaver Valley necessitated the wearing of a hat and jacket. There was quite a queue at Preston Brook Tunnel and once we had passed through it we cruised continuously to Lymm where we dropped off the barbequeues at the club house before making our way to Oughtrington, packed our things into the car and headed for home.
Claymoor Navigation at Preston Brook
The next weekend we did not visit the boat as we had housework and shopping to catch-up on. I purchased Hammerite paint for the anchor that we were taking with us on the Summer Cruise and purchased a new tv aerial mounting bracket which we could also attach the satellite dish to. I am also playing with the idea of mounting the tunnel light onto the mast as well. We also planned to paint the boat's aluminium window frames in an effort to make them look a little more modern and presentable than the bare metal. One thing that I will share with the reader is one of my dreams. In my dream I was on Alan Savage's narrowboat and we were going to collect the flowers to be presented at the up-coming FBCC rally. Alan wasn't hanging around and the boat was producing quite a wash. We approached some fishermen who were about to complain about the boat's speed and wash and one of them caught the biggest fish I have ever seen caught on an inland waterway. "I chased it onto the hook for you" shouted Alan "So you can't complain about the speed 'cause your mate wouldn't have caught that fish if I hadn't come along!" The dream ended there and it is funny to note that Alan is the first one to shout "Slow Down!" to passing boaters (whether they're speeding or not).
The weekend before the Spring Bank Holiday was spent preparing Lymm CC's yard for the annual FBCC Rally the following weekend. The place was a hive of activity with members drafted in from as far away as Longbeach, California. The FBCC Rally took place the following weekend and is covered in detail at... History of Lymm CC - Anatomy of a Rally. At the rally we met many old acquaintances and whilst on floating bridge duty I met a man my own age who owned the narrowboat "Parvo" (strange name for a boat... reminds me of a disease that dogs suffer from). We chatted and reminisced about many of the characters of the canal community that we had known both past and present. I enjoyed our chat and I look forward to meeting him again when we have more time to have a discussion.
The brass plaque presented to boaters attending the 2009 FBCC Annual Rally at Lymm
After the FBCC Rally we stayed on the boat for a couple of days, basking in the beautiful sunshine. We journeyed home to collect Angie's grandaughter... Shannon who was to stay with us for a couple of days. It was her first time on the boat even though she had been to Lymm previously for the Lymm CC Children's Christmas Party. We left Oughtrington the following day and cruised at a leisurely pace to Walton stopping briefly in Lymm Village for shopping.
Angie's granddaughter; Shannon on the rear deck of "Total Eclipse" (not very pleased about having to wear a life jacket)
We moored for the evening by Walton Lea Bridge and spent the evening watching children's DVDs. "Wandering Thorn" passed with Ian Crompton on board as well as the usual Thorn Marine crew. For five years Ian has been promising me a conversion kit for "Total Eclipse's" BMC 1500 engine allowing "spin-on" filters to be used instead of the replaceable element variety. "its in my van" he told me on numerous occasions... "I'll pop down with it later!" I was gob smacked when he actually appeared with filter conversion kit in hand!
"Total Eclipse" moored near to Walton Lea Bridge on a beautiful summer's evening
The following day we spent the morning in Walton Park escorting Shannon around the Children's Zoo, pushing her on swings, watching her on the inflatable climbing frame cum slide and the trampolines as well as supplying ice cream and lolly ices. The highlights were her face when she was pecked on the finger by a cockerel and, when walking past a peacock, it decided to call loudly (as they do) making her jump at least two feet off the ground! After our visit to the park we returned to Lymm Village and moored opposite Peter Corbett's (Sooty) house for a "chippy" tea before making our way to Oughtrington.
Cruising up to Thelwall Viaduct on a hot sunny afternoon
"Sooty's" house in Lymm Village... arguably one of the most photographed buildings on the Bridgewater Canal
The night was spent at Oughtrington and we left for home the next morning. Shannon is "high maintenance" (her favourite word is "no") and I do not think that she enjoyed her time on the boat. The highlights of her trip were feeding the horses at Walton, the visit to Walton Park and feeding the swans at Oughtrington. I do not think that we will be encouraging her to join us in the near future... maybe when she is older and able to appreciate our wonderful world of canals and inland waterways.
Shannon after feeding a swan at Oughtrington
We now have to start doing some jobs on the boat in preparation for the summer cruise to the Lancaster Canal. Top of the list is tracking down the leak on the calorifier followed by making and fitting (and painting) a replacement windscreen, installing the new aerial mast and mounting, navigation lights, anchor (emergency hand brake), oil filter conversion plus the usual maintenance... oil change, etc. On Saturday the 6th June I travelled to Oughtrington on my own to accomplish some of these jobs as Ange had arranged to go shopping with her sister. With the car loaded with marine ply wood, an assortment of power tools, my Black and Decker Workmate portable work bench plus my screw box, hinges, beading for the windscreen glass and other miscellaneous items. Half way along the M56 it started to rain and continued to do so all day. My plans were scuppered by the weather so I spent the time cleaning the boat's ceiling and floor plus a few odd jobs inside the boat that I had not previously had the time to complete. The following week possessed perfect "boat job weather" and whilst at work I would look through the office window thinking "I don't want to be here... I have jobs to be doing on the boat".
After fitting the LCD TV bracket a couple of months previously, space had been freed up on top of the cupboard that the TV used to sit on. I thought that a display cupboard on top of it would break up the large expanse and also give us somewhere to display some of our "nick nacks". A corner cupboard would fit the bill nicely and would also hide some electrical cables to boot! I looked on the internet for suitable units and was astounded at some of the prices quoted. Even items on eBay were listed at hundreds of pounds. Anyway, I kept an eye on eBay and my patience was rewarded when an antique oak corner cupboard with a glazed door came up at a starting price of twenty pounds. I watched the item but when it was relisted the price was dropped to sixteen pounds and I immediately put a bid in for it. A few days later I received an email informing me that I had "won" the item. The only problem was that there was no delivery and was by collection only. The seller lived in Wigan so I made a quick call to Brent Hindley who lived in Wigan asking him if he would collect. He told me that he would... problem solved! He was bringing the cupboard to the boat club for me to collect the following Saturday.
The new windscreen in place awaiting painting
I prayed that the good weather that we had experienced most of the week would extend to the weekend and my prayers were not in vain. We arrived at Oughtrington early Saturday morning and started work immediately. The first job was to cut the grass. When this was completed we unloaded the "Workmate" and tools from the car and started to replace the windscreen. As with most jobs that I tackle unexpected problems arise. After removing the windscreen and side cheeks I started to saw an inch off the supporting frame in order to remove the distressed timber. There were hidden screws embedded in it which the jigsaw objected to. They were dug out and an hour later this part of the job was completed. The old windscreen surround was used as a template, an inch added to allow for the inch removed from the surround and the mitres cut accordingly. Then the side cheeks were cut and fitted. The fit wasn't perfect and some of the cuts were a bit wavy but, but all in all it was a job well done. Whilst I was doing this Ange touched-up the paintwork around the front deck. Brent telephoned to tell me that the cupboard was waiting for me at the club so Ange went to collect it whilst I carried on fitting the cover to the new windscreen. It had been the day of the Lymm May Queen Procession. Lymm CC had entered a float with the theme "Pirates of the Caribbean" and we won first prize. Accordingly, there was a barbecue at the club to celebrate our success so, after completing the cover and putting the tools away we made our way down to Lymm. We had an enjoyable evening in the warm sunshine but the trials of the day were catching up on me so we said goodnight to our friends and went to bed early. The next morning we had a lie in and returned to Oughtrington and then went home.
Relaxing at the barbecue after the May Queen Procession success
The following Saturday Lisa Foster was having a fortieth birthday party. Ange dropped me off at Oughtrington and she drove to Lymm whilst I followed in the boat. After mooring the boat I continued with my jobs left over from the previous weekend. First I hooked the boat up to mains electricity and put the batteries on charge. Next was the removal of the old mast. The screws had rusted so I had to resort to brute force and ignorance in order to remove it. Once removed the new one was positioned and the holes drilled for bolts and nuts for the front and self-tapping screws at the back. When completed the base and screws were given a good coat of "Canal Union Green" paint before moving onto the next job... the mounting brackets for the anchor.
The new mast mounted and painted
This didn't take very long and when painted I had accomplished all I set out to do. In the meantime, Ange had been touching-up the green paint on the gunwales and cabin roof. Lunch was next and afterwards I filled the water tank, emptied the loo and seeing as the weather was dry I touched-up the black paint on the port-side front swim before chilling out in preparation for the evening ahead. Later on we joined fellow Lymm CC members and Lisa's family at the party in the clubhouse. We were sitting with Joan and Brian Gornell (nb "Forty Winks") with Brenda and Arthur from nb "Flossie". During the course of the evening Arthur announced that "Flossie" was up for sale as he was having a new boat built. This came as a surprise as "Flossie" is a big part of Brenda and Arthur's family. The party was most enjoyable as was the food served. We all had a good time and returned to our respective boats after celebrating Lisa's birthday.
Lymm CC's entry into the village Scarecrow Competition
On the canal bank, close to the Commodore's mooring was Lymm CC's entry into the village scarecrow competition. We shall have to see if the Club gains yet another trophy after winning the May Queen Procession with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" themed float. Before going home I packed the spare toilet cassette into the car to clean and renew a seal in preparation for our holiday cruise. I also tried the corner cupboard for size and measured for the fillet I would have to cut to fill the space between the cupboards and cabin sides left by the superstructure's "tumblehome". Once at home the fillet was cut and varnished, the cupboard polished and the brass work on it cleaned as well as the toilette cassette attended to that afternoon whilst Ange was fulfilling her family duties.
The next weekend I was due to give my guided tour around the canal heritage features of Worsley. We made our way to Oughtrington after tea on the Friday evening. On Saturday morning I was up early, turned the boat around, started the engine and made for Worsley whilst Ange was having a lie in. I noticed that the boat's voltmeter was indicating a lower voltage than usual and on inspection the charge warning light (the equivalent to an ignition warning light on a car) was glimmering. As we had fully charged batteries I was not unduly worried and would inspect when we returned to our moorings the following day. The sun was shining and it promised to be a very hot day. Just before we reached Oldfield Quays moorings I noticed something swimming in the canal. On inspection it was a hedgehog.
The hedgehog after being rescued
It was very low in the water, swimming in circles and looked like it was in distress. I reversed the boat up to it and asked Ange to pass me the washing-up bowl from the kitchen. As we neared the unlucky creature I scooped it up in the bowl which Ange held whilst I manoeuvred the boat to the bank. The hedgehog was lowered onto the towpath and after a couple of minutes it seemed to recover and scampered into the undergrowth. We encountered members of Salford Rowing Club on the "Straight Mile" at Sale and, as usual, offered them the courtesy of slowing down to tick-over and kept as close to the bank as possible (much to the consternation of the fishermen). At Stretford we saw a swan with a large Pike fishing float attached to it. The swan looked quite angry and swam past us as fast as it could. It was obviously in distress. One of our fellow Lymm CC members telephoned the Police and they would have hopefully notified the RSPCA or RSPB to offer assistance to it. The remainder of our journey was without incident but we noticed a few changes along the canal. The Bridgewater Way is progressing nicely and at Patricroft we noticed that the chimney adjacent to the GUS distribution centre that Ange previously commented looked like an upturned wax crayon had been demolished. As we came into Worsley we observed that the Boat Yard housing development was progressing nicely and Ange saw a house that would do us nicely (but we need a good National Lottery win first)!
Worsley Boatyard housing development complete with corporate narrowboat moored outside the sales office
We moored opposite the Boatyard development not far from the narrows by the dry docks and awaited our fellow Lymm CC members. After lunch I walked around the route that I had envisaged when writing the notes to make sure that there were no obstacles to hamper the walk. There were none and my memory hadn't let me down. At three o'clock our fellow club members started to assemble on the towpath and when they were all present the guided walk commenced. The heritage features and a description of the route is described in "Canalscape - Worsley Canal Heritage Walk".
Yours truly with some of the attendees on the Worsley Heritage Tour
(Photograph - Angela Wood)
On our return we were invited to have a drink with Lily and Stuart Williams on the towpath next to "Seguido". Then it was time to get changed for dinner. We all went to the Barton Arms a few metres from the canal and after enjoying our meal we returned to the boat and after chilling out for a while watching tv went to bed. We made our way back to Oughtrington the next morning and enjoyed a cruise in the brilliant, hot weather. At Agden we pulled in to chat with Alan Savage and Terry Tomlinson arrived. Terry is a is a volunteer escort on the River Ribble and would be escorting Lymm CC members on the tidal part of the cruise. When we arrived at our moorings I removed the alternator and as the starter solenoid had been sticking occasionally the starter motor came off as well. Removing the starter motor necessitated the removal of the oil filter assembly which would be replaced by the new unit bought from Compo a couple of weeks earlier. With the equipment removed we loaded the car and headed for home. During the week the alternator and starter motor were taken to the auto electrician in Birkenhead for repair. Unfortunately, they did not repair the type of alternator any more as it was more cost effective to but an exchange unit from Senars - the automotive suppliers in Birkenhead. This I did but they promised to keep the alternator for a couple of weeks just in case there was a problem with the new on.
Students from Wirral Metropolitan College at Wardle Lock, Middlewich
Wirral Metropolitan College's Outdoor Education students had their canoe expedition which I had been helping them to plan this week. They left Nantwich Marina and headed down the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal and over-nighted at the new Aqueduct Marina near Church Minshull. I met them on their second day at Wardle Lock, Middlewich to take photographs for the College Magazine and notice boards.
The Worsley Boatyard "corporate narrowboat" (on the right) passing another narrowboat above Billinge Green Flash
As I arrived they were stopping for lunch before taking their canoes out of the water for the portage around Wardle Lock. The planning of the expedition had been a little optimistic given the hot sunny weather we had been experiencing. They had planned to reach the Anderton Lift by five pm that afternoon but I informed them that this was not achievable and suggested Broken Cross as an alternative due to its good access for the canoe trailer.
The students in action!
Accordingly, I took Steve France... the course tutor to Anderton to collect the minibus and canoe trailer. After dropping him off I back-tracked to the top of Billinge Green Flash where I waited to photograph the students as they passed. Whilst I waited a few boats went past including the corporate narrowboat from the Worsley Boatyard housing development. I asked the guys on board "Shouldn't you be back at Worsley selling houses?" to which they just laughed.
Exhausted students at the end of their canoe expedition...
After waiting for an hour (cooling my feet in the canal) I telephoned one of the students to enquire where they where. They had been held up at Big Lock and had just passed Bramble Cuttings. I then telephoned Steve and suggested that the canoes could be retrieved at the railway bridge just above the flash. He drove to where I was and he agreed with me. In due course the students arrived exhausted by the heat and exertions of paddling and after loading the canoes onto the trailer they headed for home.
... and with their tutor Steve France (far right) ready to go home
The next evening there was a meeting at Lymm to go over details of the Summer Cruise. After a quick tea we drove up and were given a slide show by Terry Tomlinson of what to expect on the tidal part of the cruise. Terry promised Ange that he would look after me on the River Douglas and Ribble section of the cruise as I would be taking the boat single handed due to Ange not being able to get the extra days off work and would be joining me at Preston Dock. After the meeting we slept on board "Total Eclipse" and the following morning I refitted the starter motor, new oil filter unit and tried to fit the alternator. This was a new, exchange unit and did not line-up with the mounting bracket or drive pulley so I will have to return it to Senars in Birkenhead... the suppliers. Good job they were keeping the old alternator just in case there were any problems. I made-up a lead to connect a pair of five amp, three pin electrical sockets directly to the battery bank. This would make it easier to connect the battery charger and inverter to the boat's power supply. This job went well without any unforeseen problems. I suppose three out of four tasks isn't bad is it?. Just before we left, the new owners of our departed friend Graham Waite's boat NB "Ubique" came to take it to its new home. This was a poignant moment for the both of us and afterwards Ange and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes. Ange was participating in the "Race for Life" in Birkenhead Park the next day so we loaded our things into the car and went home.
Ange during the Race for Life showing the photograph of Brent Hindley on her back poster
As I mentioned above, the following day Ange was taking part in the "Race for Life". She was doing this to raise funds for Cancer Research and was her run was dedicated to our friend Brent Hindley (NB "Harry's Lad") who is currently suffering from cancer. On her hack was a poster showing who she was doing it for. As well as Brent, one of his friends... Yvonne, who is also suffering, Ange's uncle Jimmy and my father who both died from this terrible disease were also mentioned on her back poster. She was accompanied by her sister Tracey Cowling, Ali Webb... a NatWest/RBS colleague and one of my colleagues from Wirral Metropolitan College... Jenny Higgins.
Ange crossing the Race For Life finishing line... my heroine!
They all finished the course in the pouring rain and have my utmost admiration for taking the trouble to raise funds for this extremely worthwhile cause. At the July Lymm CC monthly meeting Ange announced that she raised two hundred pounds plus because she raised over one hundred and fifty pounds NatWest/RBS promised to add another hundred pound to her total. Ange... you are my heroine!
I returned the alternator to Senars and on comparison with the original unit it was discovered that the pulley had a spacer on it and the ferules on the mounting were in a different position. Senars did not have any tools to remove the pulley so I took it to the Auto Electrician in Rock Ferry who did the necessary adjustments. Another cause for concern was that there was an electrical connection on the original unit that was not present on the new one. Inspection of the boat's wiring diagram indicated that it was not required as it was an exciter tapping for the older type of alternator and can be safely left off and taped-up. When I install the new one it will be interesting to see if my theory works in practice. My brother... Jim is a regular visitor to the Boat Museum 's (sorry... Museum of Inland Navigation - Ellesmere Port) coffee shop and whilst visiting he always has a look in their book shop. One of his complaints is that their selection of books has, in recent years, gone steadily downhill. In other words, they don't have any copies of my books on sale. He has repeatedly complained about this and even completed a complaints slip highlighting this omission. During the week he telephoned me at work to inform me that at long last they had copies of "The Big Ditch" (third edition) on sale.
The Second Edition of "The Duke's Cut" sporting the front cover's new green colour scheme
And, what's more... next to it was the second edition of "The Duke's Cut" . He delighted in the fact that, apart from the proofs, he had actually seen the finished article before I had. I informed him that my copy was most probably waiting for me at home and when he called around later that evening I told him that my copy was indeed waiting for me when I got home from work! There are a few changes to the book in its second edition form. The front cover now has a green centre panel (I prefer the original Tempus Publishing's black and red version personally), the maps and chronology have been updated, errors in the text rectified but The History Press would not allow me to add any new photographs (of which, unsurprisingly, there are many). One annoying omission was the Footnote which is the original from the First Edition and makes references to a future Second Edition! Still... I should be thankful that the book has been sufficiently popular to warrant a Second Edition and if a Third Edition is published these omissions will, hopefully be rectified.
The weekend before the cruise to the Lancaster Canal I had planned to spend fitting the replacement alternator, filling with diesel and generally tidying up the boat. Things didn't quite go according to plan (understatement). We arrived at Oughtrington on Friday evening in order to get an early start on the jobs the next morning. I was up first and after the usual morning cup of coffee I started to fit the alternator. All went well until I turned the power on. There was a sizzling sound coming from the new alternator and smoke started to rise from the wiring. The power was switched off immediately and I double checked all the connections. All was in order. Even though the old unit was faulty I temporarily connected it and there was no drama. The new unit must be faulty, I thought. I telephoned Alan Savage who came down with a replacement. When fitted it too started to sizzle. Maybe when the old alternator went it damaged the wiring or another component. "Total Eclipse" was towed up to Agden by Alan's nephew, Paul and we would ask our local boat electrician... Cass to come and have a look. He was not due to arrive until Sunday morning. In the meantime Alan obtained yet another alternator and I consulted the boat's wiring diagram. I had a "eureka moment". The original alternator was a Lucas 17 ACR-M (the "M" standing for marine) which possessed a negative connection on the three pin socket. On most automotive alternators this pin is positive so effectively there was a short circuit across the pins causing the positive to, via the charge warning light connection, to short out and destroy the diode pack into the bargain.
The new Lucas alternator when installed
When Cass arrived the next day he didn't think this was the problem but when he looked at the wiring diagram and checked the polarity of the original alternator's pins he agreed with me. The damaged wiring was removed, new connections made and the third new alternator fitted. This was a seventy amp Lucas A127-L0223 which would charge the batteries very nicely thank you very much. The it came to the moment of truth. The electrical connections were made without drama (or smoke) and the engine was started. Wonderful! All systems were go and all that was left was to change the gasket on the oil filter assembly (which was leaking), tighten everything else up and pay Cass. Thirty quid was good value which helped to off-set the fact that I had to buy three alternators to get it right. I did get a refund on the original replacement from Senars in Birkenhead though and I resisted the temptation to vent my frustration at the sales assistant who originally supplied me with an incompatible unit! We then topped the boat's fuel tank, bought a new gas bottle to replace one that ran out that day and went home exhausted but a little happier than the previous day. One little post script to the weekend was as follows... I had purchased a broadband "dongle" for our laptop which would allow us to check emails, do our on-line banking and Ange to buy her National Lottery tickets (she does it on-line). I booted up the computer and when we came to put the lottery tickets on there was no signal so we couldn't connect to the Internet and so didn't put the Lottery tickets on. Guess what? When we checked the numbers on our return home (bad move) we would have had five numbers on one line and won nearly two thousand pounds. Needless to say I made no comment and Ange was very philosophical about the situation and said that there was an even bigger win waiting for us some time in the future!
The next day I was talking to Phyllis Greenough (nb "Philbarmar") by phone who gave me information on low water levels at Wigan and a faulty gate on one of the locks when she mentioned that Dave Ross ("Scotch Dave" - nb "An-Caladh") was coming on the Summer Cruise and that he was due to leave Lymm the following day (Tuesday). I telephoned Dave and we arranged to meet-up in Wigan Wednesday evening. We would then cruise down to Tarleton together, sharing locks and swing bridges. I think that Ange was quite worried about my single-handing it down to Tarleton and up the Ribble to Preston ("What if you fell in a lock or the river and there was nobody there to help you out of the water?"). When I told her that Dave would be accompanying me she felt a lot better about my not being alone whilst negotiating locks, etc. I think that Dave was quite relieved about not being alone as well.
James May preparing to cross the Meccano Bridge erected across the Liverpool Link for the BBC2 TV series "Toy Stories"
(Photograph - Howard Davies)
Whilst we were away on the Lancaster Canal (see Chapter 5 - Lancaster Loiter) there was a happening worthy of mention on the Liverpool Link (see The Liverpool Link). On 8th August 2009 television personality James May crossed the new canal on a 23 metre long Meccano bridge constructed by engineering students from Liverpool University using over 100,00 Meccano pieces. The temporary bridge, which is a combination of bascule and swinging spans, was erected in front of the Liver Building on Liverpool's historic Pier Head for the BBC2 TV's series "Toy Stories" which makes life-sized comparisons between toys and real-life objects. With Frank Hornby's Binns Road "Factory of Dreams" in Liverpool being the birthplace and home of Meccano (plus Hornby Dublo and Dinky Toys) for over seventy years it seemed fitting to construct the bridge within the city. James was originally going to drive across the bridge in a car but he later declined saying that the bridge was built in the wrong scale!
James May... the the presenter of "Toy Stories" crossing the Meccano bridge
(Photograph - Howard Davies)
The weekend after our return from the summer cruise on the Lancaster Canal (see Chapter 5 - Lancaster Loiter) we went on a cruise to Walton Park followed by a barbeque at "Spike Bridge" between Walton and Moore. As we moored at Walton Park Arthur Malcolm and Brenda Gormanley pulled up behind us on nb "Idunno" - Brenda's sister and brother in law's boat. They were on this boat due to having sold their boat and were waiting for their new boat... "Hyland" to be built. To qualify for our cruise points we had to go into the park and play either Crazy Golf, Pitch and Put or Crown Green Bowls. We all went into the park and decided to play Pitch and Putt together. I am not a sports-orientated person and this was reflected in the standard of my game... I came last!
Arthur teeing-off in Walton Park with Ange and Brenda looking on
The future of environmentally friendly canal cruising?
After returning to the boat we were passed by an unusual craft... for the Bridgewater Canal that is. It was a pedello. I have often wondered why nobody used them on the canals. They are environmentally friendly, there is no propeller to become fouled, they have a minimal draft, do not possess oars that can come in contact with other craft and require little effort to propel. Maybe this is the shape of things to come, especially on waterways where powered craft are not allowed!
The bonfire at "Spike Bridge"
Lymm CC members relaxing at the bonfire
Soon after the pedello went past we cast-off and made our way to Spike Bridge where we off-loaded some scrap wood that we brought down for the bonfire that evening and helped to set-up the barbeque. As usual the evening was a success and we made an early start for our moorings the next morning as Ange had family commitments that afternoon. On the way back to Lymm we saw a heron perched unusually on the roof of a moored narrowboat. A little further on we saw a different heron on the roof of a GRP cruiser. Is this a new trend? We reached our moorings mid-morning, loaded the car and were soon on our way home.
Two herons at different locations demonstrating a new trend in boat perching perhaps!
The next cruise was over the August Bank Holiday Weekend and was to Marbury Park, not far past the Anderton Boat Lift. Ange had a family commitment to go to a wedding celebration on the Friday evening so I went straight to Oughtrington from work. I had planned to cruise to Preston Brook after tea where I had arranged to meet Ange the following lunchtime. Ange and her seventeen year old niece... Danielle who was joining us for the weekend were being dropped off by her sister. When I left work the weather was great but, half-way along the M56 it started to rain. The rain persisted and was joined by quite strong winds so I decided to stay on the moorings and have an early start the following morning. I had my tea after which I did some jobs on the boat including fitting the corner cupboard I had bought off eBay before the Summer Cruise and not got around to fitting, watched a film on tv and went to bed.
The corner cupboard in position
After breakfast I set off and enjoyed a leisurely cruise in the warm sunshine. At Walton Cutting I joined a queue of boats which slowed me down but did not put me behind schedule and I moored adjacent to Midland Chandlers at midday. Ange and Danielle were running behind schedule so I had a look around Midland Chandlers and resisted the temptation to spend some money by doing a few more jobs on the boat. Ange and Danielle arrived soon afterwards and after a cup of coffee we were in time to catch the 1.30 Preston Brook Tunnel passage.
Lymm CC boats moored at Marbury Park on the Trent and Mersey Canal
When we arrived at Marbury park we spent some time with our friends then chilled out for the rest of the day. We turned around and headed for Acton Bridge the next day and planned to have a meal in the Leigh Arms. Unfortunately they stopped serving food as we got there so we enjoyed a delicious meal in the pub next door instead. We cruised through Preston Brook Tunnel the next day and all I can say is that it was one of the slowest passages of the tunnel that I have ever experienced. Paul Savage (nb "Adreva" and I serenaded everyone in the "Cathedral" and in doing so founded the Preston Brook Tunnel Barber Shop Singers. The rest of the cruise to our moorings was a pleasant one with the sun coming out to warm us on the last cruise of the summer even though, as with the outward journey we were caught in a convoy of narrowboats.
Caught up in a convoy at Pickering's Bridge... Bridgewater Canal, on August Bank Holiday Monday
I had purchased an Internet domain name from 1&1 Web Hosting and intended to make "Canalscape" available on the Internet. The domain name that I purchased (along with the webspace) was "Canalscape.net". After some initial teething problems with the webspace the files were up-loaded on 30th August 2009 and "Canalscape" went live. Thus marking another milestone in this labour of love that you are reading.
Narrowboats from Lymm CC moored outside the Trafford Centre
In 2000 I visited Mike Webb at his office in the Trafford Centre to discuss photographs for "The Duke's Cut". I also mentioned to him at the time that it was a shame that there was no access to the shopping centre from the canal for boaters. On Saturday the 5th September 2009 this access was opened and a special cruise was organised by Lily Williams... Lymm CC's 2009 Commodore to take part in the opening ceremony. A photographer was on hand to document the occasion and afterwards we all spent a day in the Trafford Centre safe in the knowledge that we did not have to carry the fruits of our retail therapy far to our moorings.
Lymm CC Ladies en-route to the Trafford Centre after the opening of the canal access point
Inside the Trafford Centre... one of the UK's largest shopping centres
Some of Lymm CC's members mid-shop
Angie's niece... Danielle, enjoyed herself so much the previous weekend that she asked if she could join us on the Trafford Centre cruise and she accompanied us this weekend as well. After our retail therapy we returned to the boat and cruised to Sail Cruising Club. They made us most welcome, laying on moorings, food and entertainment. For a couple of days previously I had been suffering from a "thrombotic vein" in a most embarrassing place. All I will say is that at times I could not sit down or walk comfortable. A trip to the doctor's gave me cream for the problem but, after letting my situation slip out I became the butt (literally) of everybody's' jokes! Even the entertainer in the club was in on it but I am able to take such things in my stride just as long as the cream has worked! Putting the Mickey taking aside we had had a good evening and laughed virtually non-stop all evening. The food that they laid on for us was excellent... even if we did have to wait for the custard!
After the Trafford Centre we were invited to Sale Cruising Club
Our next planned cruise was to be to Castlefield in Manchester when we planned to ascend Beetham Tower which overlooks the canal and in the evening go for a meal in the Chinese Restaurant which we had visited the previous year. The previous weekend I had planned to go up to the boat alone to tidy the boat and do some jobs as Ange was meeting a friend for lunch (plan a). When I awoke that morning the weather did not look too promising and as I had a busy week at work (September is enrolment time in College that I work for and the busy days plus long hours can be tiring) plus Ange's friend telephoned to say that she couldn't make it so we decided to have a chill-out day doing nothing except some essential food shopping (plan b).
Narrowboats moored on the pontoon moorings in Salthouse Dock, Liverpool
Just after we had eaten our breakfast Nigel Foster telephoned to tell us that he was on the Liverpool Link cruising in front of the Liver Buildings along with some other Lymm CC friends and did we want to come over to visit them? Well I was flabbergasted to say the least and we arranged to meet them at Salthouse Dock Moorings (plan c). So we did our shopping then caught the bus to Liverpool, walked down to the Pier Head and as we came to Salthouse Dock we met Nigel going to get some essentials from the nearest shop. After saying hello and taking some photographs we made our way down the mooring pontoons to meet our friends.
Nbs "Camarilla", "Karmel" and "Don Ross" from Lymm CC in Salthouse Dock
There were three boats from Lymm CC... "Don Ross", "Karmel" and "Camarilla" moored next to each other and we were invited aboard "Don Ross" for a cup of coffee and a quick catch-up. We were told how impressed everyone was with the Liverpool Link and how enjoyable an experience it was to cruise this brand new canal in front of some of the most iconic waterfront buildings in the world, even if the canal leading to Liverpool was still in need of dredging and de-rubbishing.
Pump House public house and promenade
Soon it was time to make our way to the Pump House public house where a table had been booked for all of us. Our old friends Brenda Gormanly and Arthur Malcolm (ex nb "Flossie") were accompanying Glenys and Jack Kershaw aboard nb "Camarilla" as, due to selling dear old "Flossie" they were having a new boat built and their new boat would not be ready until later on in the year. It was not the first time that Brenda and Arthur had cruised to Liverpool and we reminisced about Lymm CC's summer cruise a couple of years previously when we were moored alongside each other at the Eldonian Village. Ange and I also acted as guides to them showing them around the city and even took a trip on the Mersey Ferries. After our meal, the subsequent drinks and good conversation it was time for us to bid farewell to our friends and make our way to the bus stop for the journey home after a pleasant if unplanned trip to Liverpool which we will remember for a long time to come.
Ange and our friends inside the Pump House at Albert Dock
(Clockwise from left - Jack and Glenys Kershaw, Arthur Malcolm, Brian and Linda Stone,
Brenda Gormanly, Beryl Moult, Lisa Foster, Angela Wood, Nigel Foster and John Moult)
Two weeks later there was another cruise to Manchester but this time it was to Castlefield. We set off from Oughtrington early on the Saturday morning to catch-up our friends who had left the Friday evening. Whilst passing through Sale the "Friends of the Bridgewater Canal" were out in strength litter picking along the towpath. Ange was steering the boat whilst I made us cups of coffee and I could hear her talking to someone. When I went back onto the rear deck Ange said "You'll never guess who I've just seen litter picking on the towpath... Mike Webb!" Mike is the manager of the Bridgewater Canal Company and the last person we'd expected to see on the towpath. Well done Mike!
Mike Webb (right) litter picking with the Friends of the Bridgewater Canal at Sale
We soon reached Castlefield and moored alongside nb "Idunno" crewed by our old friends Arthur and Brenda who we shared a meal with the previous weekend at Liverpool. After a bit of mingling and taking photographs it was time to get ready to walk to Deansgate and the Beetham Tower... home to the Hilton Hotel and the "Cloud 23" cocktail bar on the twenty third floor.
Boats moored four deep at Castlefield
We were a bit early for the opening of the bar and waited in a queue along with other Lymm CC members. After a while we were ushered into the lift that whisked us effortlessly half way up the giant building to the bar. On exiting the lift one is immediately drawn to the cityscape laid out in front of you through the floor to ceiling windows.
Beetham Tower dominates the area surrounding Castlefield
The Rochdale Canal's junction with the Bridgewater Canal
The Castlefield Arm with Grocer's Warehouse in the foreground
Lymm CC members in Cloud 23 half way up the Beetham Tower
Castlefield dominates the near distance and we could identify the individual boats over two hundred feet below. Beyond Manchester Airport Jodrell Bank could be seen on the horizon. On the south side of the building is a window in the floor which it is possible to stand on, suspended above Deansgate. Admission to the Cloud 23 is free but the drinks are not exactly cheap... a small price to pay for one of the best views of Manchester. Our visit to the twenty third floor was over all too soon and it was time to head for Chinatown and our favourite Chinese restaurant... the Number One Oriental Buffet on Oxford Street.
Inside the Number One Oriental Buffet Chinese restaurant
The food in this restaurant has to be sampled to be believed. As much as you can eat for £10.99. The beauty of a restaurant of this type is that you can sample types of food that you would not normally eat and if you like it go up for some more. The stuffed lobster claws were superb as was the salmon, ribs, sesame seed toast, etc. After eating our fill we walked back to Castlefield (a good aid to digestion) and made for the Lava Bar next to the Key 103 radio station... now under new management and no longer classed as a gay bar. We finished off the day with Bailey's coffees, Kopparberg Swedish mixed fruit cider... my new favourite drink (thanks Nigel for introducing me to it) and good conversation. We returned to the boat after midnight and we were soon in bed after a great day.
Inside the Lava Bar... one of our favourite Castlefield haunts
The next morning we had our breakfast and headed for our home moorings. Nigel and I were looking forward to a little "social boating" along the wide stretches of the canal after Throstle Nest Bridge. Quite a few boaters looked at us with amazement as we cruised along the canal with the two boats a foot or so apart.
"Vive Para Hoy" and "Total Eclipse" whilst social boating
All was going well until out engine suddenly died. I knew immediately that we had run out of fuel and, ironically, I planned to dip the fuel tank when we reached Oughtrington but did it now to confirm my diagnosis. The dipstick (no... the wooden one, not me) showed that there was about an inch of fuel left in the tank... how embarrassing. Nigel and I now had to do social boating with ropes... which is not quite as enjoyable as when both engines are running. Arthur and Brenda in nb "Idunno" came up behind us and it was obvious that they had problems as well. We went to investigate and it transpired that the gear change cable had broken. Nigel tied "Idunno" to his boat and then we became three!
Nigel steering "Vive Para Hoy" whilst towing "Total Eclipse" and "Idunno"
Just after Stretford Scotch Dave and Eleanor caught us up in "An-Caladh" and offered to tow "Idunno". We stopped briefly to swap ropes and before long we were under way again. Nigel and I took turns steering dodging the Rowing Eights that were out in force.
"An Caladh" with "Idunno" tied alongside
As we passed through Dunham Massey we were invaded by flies. Ange was busy swatting them and at one point there must have been at least fifty of them inside the boat. We later learned that the Swan With Two Nicks pub at Dunham had to close due to the invasion which emanated from a local farm. Soon we were passing Lymm CC's Agden moorings. Behind us I saw a rather large aircraft crossing the sky leaving four exhaust trails in its wake. I thought that it looked a bit like an Avro Vulcan bomber but I knew that there was only one air worthy (XH558) and the chances of seeing one were very slim. But as it banked I saw the distinctive outline of the delta wing shape that was to be the inspiration behind one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built... Concorde. As it approached us we observed the aircraft waggle its wings and the air was filled with the distinctive sound of the four Bristol Siddeley Olympus engines. I reached for the camera in disbelief of what I could see heading towards us and took the photograph below as it passed overhead. Definitely an anorak moment! I was to learn later on in the week that the Vulcan was returning from the Southport Airshow where it had been putting on a display. Our weekend was nearly over and we thanked Nigel for bringing us back to Oughtrington. It was really enjoyable and had flown past nearly as fast as the Vulcan.
The Avro Vulcan XH558 as it passed over the Bridgewater Canal at Agden
Over the next couple of weeks there were two canal-related happenings at work. I have previously mentioned that one of my colleagues... Barbara Sculthorpe and her husband Garry went to Carcassonne in the South of France. They rented a house from one of Barbara's past colleagues and liked the location so much that they made a return visit with strict instructions to take photographs of the Canal du Midi for me. On their return I was presented with copies of the photographs some of which are included in "French Connection" and a couple are also shown below.
A cruiser entering one of the curved sided locks near Homps on the Canal du Midi
(Photograph - Gary Sculthorpe)
The bridges over the Canal du Midi are not like the hump-backed bridges in the UK but more graceful
(Photograph - Gary Sculthorpe)
Around the same time members of staff from Wirral Met's Outdoor Education department went on a recce for a future canoe expedition on the Caledonian Canal. On their return, just to rub things in I was presented with copies of the photographs that they had taken. Although a canal I have never visited I am well aware of the features and importance of this wonderful Thomas Telford waterway euphemistically called a ship canal when it was completed. Like the Canal du Midi it is on our "to cruise" list but I do not think that "Total Eclipse" will ever grace its waters. The photographs taken by my colleagues only reinforced our wish to visit this beautiful canal. How dare they go there without me!
My colleagues from Wirral Met College... left to right : Jason Savage, Glen Goulding and John Kendal
(Photograph - Barry O'Callaghan)
A fishing boat exiting a Caledonian Canal lock
(Photograph - Barry O'Callaghan)
Lagan Cutting... the deepest cutting on the canal
(Photograph - Barry O'Callaghan)
The last remaining steam powered Clyde Puffer... "Vic 32" approaching Loch Lochy
(Photograph - Barry O'Callaghan)
The end of one of the canal sections entering Loch Oich
(Photograph - Barry O'Callaghan)
"Vic 32" accompanying GRP cruisers down a staircase lock at Fort Augustus
(Photograph - Barry O'Callaghan)
Bad weather clouds rolling across Loch Ness
(Photograph - Barry O'Callaghan)
(Photograph - Barry O'Callaghan)
A typical Caledonian Canal swing bridge on the canal section approaching Loch Oich
(Photograph - Barry O'Callaghan)
Another loch section of the canal
(Photograph - Barry O'Callaghan)
The Caledonian Canal threads its way through Scotland's beautiful Great Glen approaching Loch Oich
(Photograph - Barry O'Callaghan)
It was now the end of the canal cruising season and unfortunately we were unable to participate in Lymm CC's Closing Cruise due to a mix up with the dates, my having already made arrangements to go on the Mersey Tunnel Tour with some of the IT technicians from work (see Diarama Website - Wealas Eye - The Mersey Tunnels) and Ange arranging to go to shopping in Liverpool One with her mother and her sister... Tracey. After the Tunnel Tour I showed my colleagues the new canal link in front of the Pier Head before they made their way to the train station. I was dismayed to discover that the construction work still taking place between The Museum of Liverpool Life and Canning Basin was preventing me from photographing the lock... I will have to wait until next year before completing the photographic record of the waterway. I had arranged to meet Ange, her mother and sister in Lord Street for lunch after which Tracey and Ange's mother went home. We had some more shopping to do and returned to Liverpool One... Ange was on one level whilst I was on the one below. With shopping completed we retired to Coffee Republic in Exchange Flags for refreshment before making our way home.
The Liverpool Link with the newly opened Mersey Ferry Terminal Building on the left
The boat's starter motor was playing up again (it was refurbished earlier on in the year). Ange and I had a few humorous moments whilst she turned the ignition key as I held the rear deck board over the engine up and tapped the starter motor with the shaft of a hammer. As it was half-term week I arranged a couple of days leave. On the first day I planned to go up to the boat early in the morning to remove the starter motor and take it back to the auto electrician in Birkenhead for examination and repair. I had suspected that it was the solenoid that was faulty but on examination after stripping the unit down it was discovered that the end plate was badly corroded and the brushes had stuck in their mountings.
The corroded endplate of "Total Eclipse's" starter motor
The next day I had promised to take Ange and her sister shopping to Salford Quays. Unfortunately we had to go by car and not by boat. I was grateful for the trip as it gave me the opportunity to take some up-to-date photographs of the area, especially of Media City under construction.
Media City at Salford Quays under construction
Huron Basin as seen from the multi-storey car park adjacent to The Lowry
A replacement end plate had been fitted to the starter motor which was collected on the way home from Salford Quays. The next day... Saturday, we were up at Oughtrington after lunch so that I could reinstalled the unit before we cruised down to Lymm for the Halloween Social in the Clubhouse that evening. Ange dressed up in a ghost costume (I don't have to dress-up to be scary) and we joined our fellow Lymm CC members many of which also made the effort to dress-up, putting me to shame. There was a competition for the best fancy dress with Nigel Foster ("Vive Para Hoy") winning the best male costume, Emily Anderton ("Rensol") won the children's prize with Ange winning the best female costume. The prize that she won was a packet of Jaffa Cakes a metre long. It was quite an appropriate prize as Ange demonstrated. After receiving it she walked across the dance floor proclaiming "Full moon... Half moon... Total Eclipse" (remember how our boat was named?). We also discussed plans for the forthcoming trip to Lake Como scheduled for May 2010 and paid our deposit for the trip to Beryl Moult... the trip's organiser. The following morning we returned to Oughtrington in a gale-force wind and went onto our moorings without turning around as we normally do for fear of the boat spinning around and hitting adjacent boats.
Halloween Fancy Dress Prize Winners... Nigel Foster, Emily Anderton and Ange
The club's Annual Dinner Dance was the next event on the agenda on the 21st of November. We do not usually attend the Dinner Dance and I had no real wish to attend but we had our arms twisted by our friends to come. As usual I was asked to photograph the event and I spent about half an hour taking photographs of members prior to the meal.
The Guest of Honour, Commodore and her Husband with the Chairman's Wife and the Chairman
(Left to right: Mrs Kathryn Buckley - President Lymm Lions, Lily Williams - LCC Commodore, Stuart Williams, Pauline McCulloch, Bob McCulloch - LCC Chairman)
Fellow Lymm CC members making their way to the Dining Hall
The meal itself was beautiful but the room was extremely hot and I disgraced myself by removing my jacket before being instructed to do so! I later become the focus of attention when it came to the presentation of the trophies. I won first prize in the Chairman's Photographic Competition - Humorous Category as well as the runner-up. Not content with that, I went on to win First Prize in the Canal Photograph Category. The prizes I received were two W H Smith vouchers and Terry's Chocolate Orange later which I gave to Michelle Gilbody to pass-on to Popsy as a "thank you" for letting me take the photograph in the first place.
The winning Humorous Category Photograph... "Rosie, Phyllis and Jim"
The Runner-up photograph in the same category... "Popsy"
The Winning Canal Scene Photograph... "Spring at Grappenhall"
The next event on Lymm CC's calendar were the two Christmas Parties. The first is the Children's Party which coincided with Lymm's Dickensian Christmas Weekend. As all the roads in Lymm Village Centre were closed off for the Dickensian Weekend I dropped Ange and her granddaughter Shannon off on the bottom road so that they could make the short walk into the Village whilst I drove up to Oughtrington.
Santa and his Helpers have a captive audience at Lymm CC Children's Christmas Party
(Photograph - Angela Wood)
Since refitting the boat's starter motor after being rebuilt there had been there had been an intermittent electrical fault that prevented the domestic electrical systems from operating all the time. I thought that it would be a loose connection somewhere in the vicinity of the split charging relay and came fully prepared with a selection of electrical connections to rectify the fault. In order to reach the area of the fault I had to remove the steel steps from the rear deck... a job that I did not relish due to their weight. With the steps removed I checked the connections, all of which seemed to be in order. Whilst tracing the wiring I discovered a hidden connection beneath the engine bearers in the cable leading to the fuse box. The cable was loose and after stripping back the cable and remaking the connection all was well. I then emptied the water tank in case of frost, tidied up and made my way to the boat club. From the peace and quiet of Oughtrington to the Clubhouse full of children was quite a contrast! After chatting to our friends and exchanging Christmas cards we left for home.
Unfortunately we were not be able to attend the Adults' Christmas Party the following weekend or the Brass Monkey Cruise on Boxing Day due to family commitments. This left only the New Year party for which we arrived at Lymm mid-afternoon on New Year's Eve. After a quick look at the canal to see if there was any ice on the canal and any moorings in the Club Yard Ange dropped me off at Oughtrington so that I could take "Total Eclipse" down to the boat club. The engine started first time and I let it warm-up while I prepared to cruise down to Lymm. I turned the boat around and as I entered the wooded section after the moorings I was horrified to see ice across the canal. Brian Gornell had taken "Forty Winks" down ahead of me so the ice was already broken up. Even so I passed through the icy section gingerly on tick-over so as not to damage the paintwork on the boat's hull.
"Total Eclipse" edging its way through the ice at Oughtrington Woods
Once at Lymm we moored in the arm outside the Clubhouse, the fire was lit to warm-up the boat's interior and the mains hook-up connected to charge the boat's batteries. After saying hello to our friends we decided to the "Golden Fleece" for a late lunch before returning to the boat for a doze to prepare for the late night we were to have. We made our way into the Clubhouse before eight 'o clock and sat with friends that we had shared our 2009 boating adventures with. As usual there were games to be played... a memory game in which large playing cards had to be paired-up, the pass the balloon without touching it game, charades, a grown-up version of musical chairs (which I managed to win... without cheating!), wrap the mummy in toilet paper in which I was our table's mummy (which we also managed to win) plus a few others. All these games were accompanied by good music (hosted by Danny Abbott from MH "Sheila's Wheels"), an excellent buffet and all these components ensured that it was a night to remember... one of the best New Year parties we had ever been to.
Ange participating in the "Playing Card Memory Game"
The adults' version of "Pass the Parcel"
We had originally planned to return the boat to Oughtrington before making our way home but the canal iced-up over night which prevented us from moving the boat. We decided to stay on the boat and had lunch aboard "Seguido" with Lily (Lymm CC's 2009 Commodore) and Stuart Williams accompanied by Sue and Guy Burden. We had a lazy day watching tv and ventured out with Lily and Stuart for tea at the "Fleece" before going to Sue and Guy's to play cards. After a different but non-the-less enjoyable evening we returned to a wonderfully warm boat which was surrounded by even thicker ice. The following morning was warmer but we decided to leave the boat at Lymm and return home. Stuart had said that he would let me know if the ice melted and I would come up and return the boat to its moorings just in case Ian Gilbody hadn't managed towed it back to Oughtrington with "Eclipse" as promised.
The frozen canal leading up to Oughtrington which prevented us from returning to our moorings on New Year's Day
The New Year's party brought not only 2009 to a close bit also my fiftieth year of canal cruising. I had originally sub-titled this eBook and website "Fifty Years of Canal Cruising" but the addition of "Canalscape Book 6" to this labour of love will cause me to re-think the sub-title. Maybe I will re-title it "Sixty Years of Canal Cruising"!
Click to return to Contents
Chapter 5 - Lancaster Loiter
The main line of the Lancaster Canal has been never accessible to the main canal system until the construction of the Ribble Millennium Link was completed in 2002.
The Walton Summit Branch of the Lancaster Canal (on the left) adjacent to Johnson's Hillock Locks
An isolated part of the canal, usually thought by the uninitiated to be the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, runs from the top of the Wigan Twenty One Locks to the bottom of Johnson's Hillock Locks where the now abandoned Walton Summit Branch of the canal continues towards Preston and the the River Ribble.
The entrance to the tunnel on the Walton Summit Branch
(Photograph courtesy of www.towpathtrek.co.uk)
The first mile or so of the canal is in water but most of the remainder was in-filled with spoil from the excavations of the M61 Motorway. A housing estate has been built on part of the canal's route although part of the tunnel remains. At the terminus of the canal was located three basins which have now also been in-filled.
The three trans-shipment basins at the Walton Summit Branch's terminus
(Photograph courtesy of Gordon Biddle Collection)
It was originally planned to cross the River Ribble on a large aqueduct and connect with the rest of the canal. This aqueduct was never constructed due to the high costs involved. A more cost effective plan was to excavate three trans-shipment basins, the centre one of which featured a roof spanning the arm and an adjacent warehouse, and transfer cargoes to railway trucks which would cross the river on a wooden trestle bridge before reloading into canal boats at the Preston terminus to continue along the canal which was cut as far as Kendal.
The railway trestle bridge at Preston that connected isolated parts of the Lancaster Canal
(Photograph courtesy of Terry Tomlinson)
Lymm CC's 2009 Summer Cruise was a visit to the Preston Dock Festival followed by returning down the River Ribble to the Savick Brook where we would enter the Ribble Millennium Link which leads to the Lancaster Canal. In one of the books in my collection of canal books is a photograph showing the abandoned Tewitfield Locks at the northern limit of navigation on the "Lanc"... the affectionate nick-name by which the canal is known. The canal now terminates here due to it being severed when the M6 motorway was constructed. I often think how little extra effort (and money) it would have taken to incorporate navigable culverts through which the canal could flow. Mind you... that was during the 1960's when canals were not flavour of the month and the upsurge in leisure boating was in its infancy!
The abandoned Tewitfield Locks alongside the M6... the current limit of navigation on the Lancaster Canal
(Photograph - George K Jones)
Canal enthusiasts have been campaigning many years for a waterway to connect the Lanc to the rest of the canal system for many years. In fact I went to a Ribble Link Protest Rally by car with Alec Levac in 1987 when we saw boats including some from BMBC and other boat clubs cruising up the River Ribble to Preston Dock. The photograph below shows "Painted Lady" and "Ladybird" entering Preston Dock. After many years of campaigning and fundraising permission was granted to make part of the Savick Brook... a small watercourse that runs into the River Ribble a mile and a quarter downstream from Preston Dock navigable and construct a new stretch of canal to connect the main line of the Lanc near Preston.
Narrowboats from BMBC entering Preston Docks in 1987
I followed the planning and construction of the Millennium Ribble Link with interest and the dream finally came true in July 2002. This was when the first craft navigated the first completely new stretch of canal to be built in this country for over one hundred years (since the Manchester Ship Canal was opened in 1894). This four kilometre stretch of canal is mainly a canalised brook and the new canal section is the three step staircase lock and holding basin adjacent to the junction with the Lancaster Canal. So it is not a "true" canal in the accepted definition and features eight broad locks which includes a three-step staircase lock. The total cost of construction was £5.4M which was funded by a range of public, private and voluntary organizations. The new length of canal is reached from the River Ribble via the tidal section of the Savick Brook and a rotating tidal lock gate. Since the completion of the Link the "Lanc" has been on our "canals to cruise" list.
Staircase locks on the Ribble Millennium Link just after the opening in 2002
(Photograph - British Waterways)
A colleague at Wirral Met... George Jones has an inflatable canoe and every year he paddles along a different waterway somewhere in Europe. In 2008 it was the Lancaster Canal on which he spent his summer holidays. Even though George knew that I had not cruised along this canal he asked me for advice as to where to start and end his journey. He also took photographs of the canal for me, some of which are featured here. But little did I know that I would be following in his wake twelve months on!
One of the cascaded Tewitfield locks
(Photograph - George K Jones)
The Lymm CC Summer Cruise was planned to cover three weeks. Unfortunately I was unable to take three weeks off work and neither was Ange. I managed to wangle an extra three days holiday at the start of the cruise and the plan was that I was to leave Lymm early on the Wednesday morning and cruise single-handed to Wigan that evening. Thursday was to see me taking the boat as far (hopefully) as Burscough and possibly to Tarleton. The high tide on the Friday was due at 1.50 pm. This would give me a little elbow room for unforeseen eventualities. I would descend onto the River Douglas and onto the River Ribble to reach Preston Dock at tea time when Ange would join me. At least... that was the plan! The plan was made a little more probable when I learned that Dave Ross (Scotch Dave) was also planning the section to Preston single-handed. We made plans to meet each other at Wigan, outside the BW Regional Headquarters and complete the rest of the section together.
"Total Eclipse" had been moored at Agden whilst I completed the jobs for the holiday cruise and I left our mooring at 5.30 am on Wednesday 22nd July. It was very pleasant cruising at this early hour with only the wildlife for company. I reached Worsley by 9.00 am and there was Dave preparing to set off. After a chat and emptying the toilet we set-off together. When we reached Leigh we visited the canalside Aldi store for provisions. We ate lunch on the go and by mid-afternoon we were approaching Poolstock Locks which herald the approach to Wigan. The boats were roped together and Dave (aided by "Cracker") operated the locks whilst I looked after steering the boats. This arrangement worked well and soon we were mooring below Appley Bridge for the night.
"Total Eclipse" and "An-Caladh" in Poolstock Number One Lock, Wigan
We were to swap roles the following day and two swing bridges later (BW must sort out more off-towpath landings for single handed boaters) we were turning into the junction that was the start of the River Douglas Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The weather was kind to us and we cruised along this previously... little used waterway in brilliant sunshine admiring the scenery in virtual isolation. The lower section of the canal was part of the River Douglas Navigation... a canalised stretch of the River Douglas. The waterway has a totally different character here. The towpath is non-existent and it was not until we approached a bridge that I realised that it had changed sides! It meanders through lush farmland bordered by weeds which were home to dragonflies, horse flies and even a European Pond Turtle which I saw basking in the weeds (which nobody believes that I saw). Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to stop and photograph the turtle and even if I did the boat's wash would most probably frightened it, causing it to dive into the water. When we reached Tarleton we went up to the tidal lock passing boats of all shapes and sizes but Harry the lock keeper informed us that we were half an hour too late to catch the tide and we would have to wait until midday tomorrow. We turned around and made for the visitor moorings where we stayed for the night and made preparations for the tidal part of our trip the following day.
Sea going craft rub shoulders with narrowboats at Tarleton
Tarleton Lock which provides access to the tidal River Douglas
The next morning Dave visited the shops (especially the pie shop) whilst I minded the boats. Soon after his return Harry the lock keeper came to tell us that the weather was perfect for our trip to Preston and to be at the lock for 12.00 midday. At 11.45 am we made our way to the lock and were soon let in by the BW staff. Only two boats at a time can fit into the lock and ten minutes later the gates were opening to allow us to exit into the River Douglas. The river is on the right of the lock and as it was an extremely high tide that was coming in we were told to go a full throttle for the next few miles until we had passed the next boat yard. I pushed the throttle forwards and when the boat met the flow of the river it was as if we had hit a brick wall. The tide was still coming in and even though in slack water we would have been doing about eight miles per hour against the tide it seemed as though we were doing a half mile per hour. Dave was managing to keep up with me and I kept making sure that he was alright as he had previously had overheating problems. The second boatyard was soon in sight and the river was now wider so the tide had less influence on our passage.
Tarleton Lock gates opening with the turbulent River Douglas beyond
A more placid River Douglas downstream of the boatyard
Yours truly steering "Total Eclipse" down the River Douglas
(Photograph - Dave Ross)
After passing it I throttled back and we meandered around in true river fashion before we were at the confluence of the Douglas and Ribble. Along this stretch the other boats that left Tarleton after us were catching up and overtaking us including "Bowland 2"... Terry Tomlinson's boat that was performing escort boat duties. One boat in particular was the nb "Liquorice". I had never seen a narrowboat go as fast as this one did. I later discovered that it had an eighty horsepower Ford XLD engine fitted. I was doing about six mph and it passed me as if I was standing still. When approaching the confluence of the Rivers Douglas and Ribble we had been instructed to head slightly downstream towards the aircraft hangers of Warton Aerodrome on the far side of the Ribble. Once in the Ribble we had to pass to the left of the Astland Lamp (or Five Mile Perch). Once parallel I was to turn starboard (right) ninety degrees and head upstream to Preston Dock. Well that was the theory but I was too busy taking photographs (notably... the one below) to notice that I was on a collision course with the lamp and had to make a hasty course correction! Terry was to later tell me off for not concentrating... and rightly so too!
The Astland Lamp or Five Mile Perch marks the confluence of the Rivers Douglas and Ribble
Our support vessel... Terry Tomlinson's mv "Bowland 2"
The beached Creighton Inlander 32 GRP cruiser in the middle of a field at Three Mile Perch
Dispersing rain clouds heralded our approach to Preston Dock
Once on the Ribble our speed increased and it did not take long to cover the five miles to Preston. At Three Mile Perch we passed a white Creighton Inlander 32 centre cockpit glass fibre cabin cruiser that had taken a wrong turn and ended up in the middle of a farmer's field. It would have to remain there until the next Spring Tide in twenty eight days until there is sufficient tide height to be refloated. I had hung back a little as I waited for Dave to catch-up. I could see white smoke coming from his exhaust and I knew that he was having temperature problems. This meant that we were last in the flotilla of boats coming up the river. Nearing the electricity pylons that span the river my mobile telephone rang and it was Phyllis Greenough. She asked me if I had my binoculars to hand, which I did and asked me to look at Preston Dock entrance where there was a welcoming committee waiting for us. I told her that I would and hung up. I then looked at the "Bullnose" separating the dock entrance from the Ribble through my binoculars and could see about a dozen people waving at us. I rang Phyllis back and waved as well. When we were about to enter the dock I could see flashes coming from cameras that were capturing our arrival photographically. We then entered the dock, carried on into the entrance lock and could then relax after a most exhilarating trip. Our friends from Lymm CC had walked around the dock and were cheering us as we took up position in the lock. It was so nice and unexpected to be greeted in this way. We are so lucky to have such good and thoughtful friends.
Preston Docks Entrance on the left with the River Ribble on the right
The welcoming committee on the "Bullnose" at Preston Dock entrance
(Notice Phyllis Greenough - 4th from left in a red anorak taking the photograph shown below)
"Total Eclipse" entering Preston Docks
(Photograph - Phyllis Greenough)
Preston Dock Entrance Lock
After the lock had filled, the gates opened and the road bridge swung we were directed to the far end of the marina moorings on the right hand side of the dock where I would moor adjacent to nb "Eclipse" and Dave would moor alongside me. Once safely moored I sent Ange a text with the post code of the dock so that her son Michael could put it into his sat nav and arrive at the correct location when they reached Preston. Whilst I waited for her to arrive I went and obtained a marina gate key (£10 deposit) and collected our goody bag. This was without doubt the finest goody bag I have ever received and contained all sorts of useful items in addition to red polo shirts and the all-important brass rally plaque.
Ange telephoned me to let me know that they were five minutes away so I walked along to the road to welcome her. The road bridge that spans the entrance lock had been closed to vehicular traffic for the duration of the rally and of course they were on the wrong side of the dock. I walked to their location and told them to moor the car in the marina shop car park. We walked back to the boat with Ange's son and his girlfriend Lisa.
The Lymm CC Cleaning Crew
(Left to right - Phyllis Greenough, Michelle Gilbody and Linda Whalley. Photograph - Barry Greenough )
(Photograph - Barry Greenough)
Ange arriving at Preston with myself and Ange's son... Michael
(Photograph - Barry Greenough)
When approaching "Total Eclipse" three ladies (Phyllis Greenough, Linda Whalley and Michelle Gilboddy) with tabards and cleaning utensils in their hands could be seen coming off the boat after pretending to clean in preparation for Ange's arrival (it didn't need it really). Ange went on board and a black, silk negligee had been laid out for her plus a large bath towel with "Fancy a s**g?" on it. Ange was delighted with her welcoming committee and I didn't know that our gang had planned anything so I couldn't warn her.
Members of Lymm CC attending the Preston Dock Festival
(Photograph - Mark Greenough)
After Michael and Lisa had left we chatted to our friends, put on our red polo shirts and went to the rally marquee for the evening's entertainment. Once we were sitting down and enjoying a drink somebody entered the marquee and made the observation that he thought that he had come to a Father Christmas convention with all the red shirts. A little later on a rather well endowed lady wearing a low-cut top started singing and walking around the audience making examples of the male members of the audience. I turned to Bob McCulloch and made the observation "I bet she's got a 16mm base plate" to which everyone laughed but she must have heard me the inevitably paid me a visit. Ange had not had any tea except for a quick snack when she arrived and was starting to feel hungry so we decided to go for a walk and visit the local McDonalds restaurant. This was the McDonalds that I had visited with Alec Levac in 1987 when he got our meals for free due to their taking longer than the allotted time to present us with our meals. No such luck this time though but Ange did send her chicken McFillet back due to it being cold. After we had eaten we returned to the rally marquee, stayed a little longer and retired for the night.
The Police Boat owned by Merseyside, Lancashire and Cheshire Police Forces
Ange at the helm of the Police boat (where's the horn Ange?)
Ange had a lie-in the following morning and when she did get up we had a walk around the rally stands being impressed by a small zoo and the various craft stalls. We went aboard the Police Boat jointly owned by Merseyside, Cheshire and Lancashire Police Forces which I had seen a couple of weeks previously at Eastham. Ange was impressed by the memory foam mattress but not the boat's horn as she felt that "Total Eclipse" possessed a louder (and more distinctive) horn than the Police Boat did. After making friends with the crew and thanking them for showing us around we went to the local Morrison's supermarket for provisions. On the way back to the boat we had a look at the stalls that we missed previously and sampled some Polish food. The cheesecake was most impressive and very rich so we bought a couple of slices to accompany our afternoon tea/coffee. That evening there was food laid on in the marquee followed by a display of jetski acrobatics which were most impressive. The parade of illuminated boats came next and we thought that switching on the navigation lights does not justify inclusion in the parade. One thing that I did notice was the latest trend in navigation lights was to have the white stern light flashing. This would be most useful on canals when waiting to enter a tunnel, seeing a white light and thinking that it was a boat's tunnel/head light coming towards you. The flashing variety would confirm that it was a stern light. The evening's entertainment came to a close with an impressive firework display with the fireworks being launched from a barge moored in the centre of the dock well away from the moored boats.
Jetskiers in action
The Festival's firework display was truly stunning
Our last day in Preston started by watching Dragon Boat racing in the dock. The competing teams seem to take their sport very seriously and when you see them in action you cannot believe just how fast they paddle (if that is the correct term). We had been told to be ready to enter the lock at midday for our journey to the Millennium Ribble Link. Due to other traffic this was changed to 2.00 pm. I the meantime we bade farewell to our friends who would not be joining us on the Lancaster Canal and the boaters who would be be joining us a couple of days later as only a limited number of boats can go up the Link on any one day.
Ange on the foredeck of "Total Eclipse" as we leave Preston Dock
(Photograph - Phyllis Greenough)
Our flotilla making its way down the River Ribble to the Savick Brook under a threatening sky
NB "Philbarmar" entering the Ribble Link
When the allotted time came there was a bit of a wind cropping up and the sky looked threatening. When we cast off our ropes and made our way to the lock and tried to "keep station" a respectful distance from craft moored in the marina and the lock gates so that we could see the traffic lights that would signal us to enter. Over the head of the lock was a swing bridge that not only carried a road but also a railway line for the steam railway as well. It could not be swung until the scheduled train had crossed and whilst we waited the wind did its best to spin us around like a top. Our manoeuvrings were not helped by boaters who could not decide which side they were meant to be on. The gates opened and soon after the bridge was swinging. The traffic lights then turned to green signalling us to enter the lock. Once safely inside we pulled alongside nb "In Dispute" and waited for the remainder of the boats to enter before the gates closed. The paddles were raised an we were soon at the same level as the river. We were only travelling down the river to the Savick Brook which is one and a half miles downstream and Ange was enjoying her first taste of boating on a large river. It wasn't long before we reached the One and a Half Mile Perch and could see the green light at the entrance to the Savick Brook indicating that it was safe for us to enter. We made the ninety degree turn into the brook perfectly unlike nb "Gabriel" the previous day which cut the corner and ran aground on a submerged grass bank. They could not reverse off and had to spend the rest of the day high and dry on the banks waiting for the next high tide to refloat them with a little bit of assistance from the R.N.L.I. BW opened the locks in the middle of the night allowing them safe haven in the lower part of the Ribble Link until they could ascend the remaining locks the following morning.
The newspaper article showing nb "Gabriel" high and dry at the entrance to the Savick Brook
The rotating "Rising Sector Gate" that controls water levels in the semi-tidal section of the Savick Brook
Our convoy waiting in the lower Holding Basin on the Savick Brook
Once in the brook we meandered along the waterway, ensuring that we stayed in the middle of the channel markers and passed through the rotating tidal lock gate before reaching the holding basin where we had been instructed to moor, wait for the tide to fall and the instruction to proceed. This gave us time to have a cup of coffee and a snack before tackling the narrow part of the Link and the locks. We waited in the summer sunshine and after an hour or so the water level had dropped sufficiently for us to navigate beneath the Blackpool Road Bridge and proceed along the narrow canalised part of the brook. This stretch reminded us of the film "The African Queen" and we half-expected a gibbon or chimpanzee to peer at us through the foliage or encounter a crocodile around one of the bends! We wound along the narrowest waterway that I have ever negotiated with only a couple of feet either side of the boat and wondered how the wide beam craft manage the tight turns. We operated most of the locks ourselves until we reached the basin beneath the staircase locks. Some craft are instructed to enter the basin and then reverse into the locks due to silt deposited by the Savick Brook at the far side but we made a text book 240° turn before entering the lock where the boys from BW operated the staircase lock for us. On exiting some members of our group carried on along the Lanc but we opted to stay the night in the top basin.
Nb "Philbarmar" squeezing through a narrow section of the Ribble Link
Me taking the previous photograph
(Photograph - Phyllis Greenough)
Looking downstream to Savick Way Bridge as seen from Lock 4
The remains of our "convoy" moored in the Holding Basin at the top of the Ribble Link
After a peaceful night, the following morning dawned bright and sunny and we decided to turn right onto the Lancaster Canal proper and explore the stub end of the canal towards its incongruous terminus in Preston. Along the way we visited the sanitary station to empty the loo and fill the water tank. It gave us the opportunity to try out the electronic key fob purchased months previously which allowed access to the various services. Apparently, each key fob has a different electronic code which allows the boat's movements to which it is registered to be tracked by BW. With the housekeeping completed we passed the Link entrance and were soon cruising through the rural landscape around Preston. I was pleasantly taken aback by the landscape, especially when we were out in the open countryside which reminded me of how the Llangollen Canal was in the early 1960's. This impression was compounded by the fact that we did not see another boat on the move until we reached Bilsborrow. We decided to moor here for the night, ate on board and went into Guy's Thatched Village later on in the evening. I have never seen such a large ice cream (even bigger than the ones on the Isle of Wight) as the one that Stuart Williams bought and we all had to help demolish. Also in the village was a pretend camera shop that had many old-fashioned cameras on display in the window, most of which I have examples of in my own personal collection.
Rural moorings on the way to Bilsborrow
The canal is reminiscent of the Llangollen Canal in the early 1960's
The atmospheric Guy's Thatched Hamlet at Bilsborrow
The Hamlet even had a camera "shop"
The ice cream that they served had to be seen to be believed!
The next day saw us cruising through an even more rural landscape... even better than the previous day's. There are wooding cuttings that rival those on the "Shroppie" for beauty if not for depth and the canal winds in true contour canal fashion. It is most certainly not a boring canal to cruise with hidden bends after bridges where oncoming craft would catch out the unwary boater. Our next port of call was Garstang. We moored alongside "Seguido" and went into the village to replenish our fridge and food cupboards. We met up with Phyllis and Barry Greenough from nb "Philbarmar" as well as Michelle, Ian and Popsy Gilbody off nb "Eclipse No 2". Whilst wandering through the village we went into a second hand shop where Popsy saw, and fell in love with a girl's bicycle. After persuading her parents that this was for her she bought it, wheeled the bike out and during the holiday spent many hours cycling up and down the towpath. We had a pleasant stroll though the village even though the weather was changing and we were caught in a heavy rain storm... the type that has really large drops of rain that have the ability to soak through most types of clothing. I was glad that I had my trust "Barmah" hat on to ward off some of the rain. The canal passes over the River Wyre at Garstang on an imposing single arched stone aqueduct. its approach is quite deceptive as the lie of the land gives no clue that there is a river in such a deep gorge close to the canal. Unfortunately the weather prevented my taking photographs of the aqueduct which would have to wait until our return journey.
The canal winds its way through many wooded cuttings
Pleasant moorings at Garstang
We set off from our mooring to catch up with "Philbarmar" and "Eclipse No 2" who were moored a few bridges further on. Barry was experiencing vibration problems and fuel leaks with "Philbarmar" which necessitated a visit to the marina on the outskirts of the village to arrange for an engineer to come and have a look at his engine. Whilst there we witnessed a narrowboat being unloaded from a lorry and being prepared for launching into the canal.
A narrowboat being off-loaded from a lorry prior to launching
The marina's excellent chandlery was paid a visit and it rivalled many of our local chandleries for the diverse range of products on offer... anything from a screw to a complete boat in fact! Whilst the engineer was looking at the engine we found the excellent pie shop and farm shop just along the road. That's our lunches sorted then! "Philbarmar's" engine mounts needed replacement and the vibration that they produced had caused joints on the fuel line to leak. The engineer sorted out the leaks but would have to order the replacement engine mounts and arrangements were made to have them fitted the following week.
The engineer attending to "Philbarmar's" problems
The abandoned Fairline 19 that would make a good starter boat for someone
The weather had brightened up a bit and we decided to carry on along the canal, past the entrance to the Glasson Branch and moor for the night at Galgate. We would have liked to have cruised down the Glasson Arm to Glasson Dock but we thought that we might do so on the return trip if we have sufficient time. There was a sanitary station at Galgate Marina that we visited before mooring next to an abandoned "Fairline 19" GRP cruiser (complete with Honda outboard motor). That evening we had our tea in the Plough public house. We were most impressed by the standard and quantity of the meals provided and looked forward to revisiting on our way back.
The Plough at Galgate, illuminated at night
Meanders in the canal approaching Lancaster
The deep Ashton Cutting near Lancaster would not look out of place on the "Shroppie"
The Old Packet Boat House and Workshop in need of restoration
Drizzle greeted us the next morning but as we made our way to Lancaster a few miles along the canal it stopped and turned into a very pleasant day. Considering that the canal is close to a city it is surprisingly rural with many contour meanders and deep wooded cuttings that would not look out of place on the "Shroppie". On the outskirts of Lancaster we passed the old Packet Boat House that was the home of "Waterwitch", "Swiftsure", "Swallow" and "Crewdson" packet boats that once plied the canal. These boats were pulled by horses and reached speeds of up to twelve miles per hour. The horses were changed every few miles at recognised stations much the same as back home on the Bridgewater Canal. At the Old Packet Boat House, the packet boats were repaired and there was a wet dock and workshops on two levels complete with a winch the hoist boats up to the first floor. The building is now looking a little bedraggled and in need of a good dose of restoration. It could be turned into a canal museum dedicated to the Lancaster Canal and the packet boats that travelled along it.
Our excellent city centre moorings in Lancaster
We were now entering the City of Lancaster and we passed many basins that would have thronged with boats loading and unloading at the height of the canal's trade heyday. There was a very enticing looking pub canalside called the "Waterwitch" and just past the adjacent footbridge we moored, opposite the sanitary station. We were very close the the city centre and initially had misgivings about this... unfounded as it turned out. We found the mooring to be quiet and not plagued by youths or other undesirables. Once moored we went for a walk into the city and sampled what the market had to offer. There was a wide range of stalls and we had a good dose of retail therapy! We had planned to catch a bus to Kendal in order to explore where the canal had been infilled. After having lunch out we found the bus station and learnt that we needed the 555 bus to reach Kendal and that the most convenient time was at 09.30. That evening we ate in the Waterwitch public house that was close by. The food was of excellent standard but if I say that it was quality rather than quantity I'm sure that you will know what I mean.
The Waterwitch pub in Lancaster illuminated at night (note the Moon)
The following morning we were up early, fed, watered and out in order to catch the 09.30 555 bus to Kendal. Seven of us went to Kendal Ange and I, Barry and Phyllis Greenough (nb "Philbarmar"), Michelle, Ian and Popsy Gilbody (nb "Eclipse No 2"). We reached the bus station in good time but at £9.60 the fare was a little on the steep side. Barry didn't think so as he flashed his bus pass (he is over sixty) and didn't have to pay! The bus ride to Kendal gave tantalising glimpses of the Northern Reaches of the canal in various stages of restoration. These ranged from what looked like a perfectly cruisable stretch of canal in water to a "shallowed" stretch with gently sloping concrete banking and the canal bed visible to enticing stretches crying out to be connected to the remainder of the canal.
A shallowed stretch of canal near Holme
Beautifully manicured towpath at Bridge 149 on the isolated section at Holme
(Photograph - George K Jones)
The disused canal near Crooklands
When we reached Kendal we found a cafe where we had beautiful lattés accompanying full English breakfasts. After we had finished eating our party then split into two... the ladies went shopping and the rest of us crossed the river to find Canal Head... the in-filled terminus of the canal. It did not take long as Kendal does not hide the remains of the canal and sign posts directed us to an area that was once the terminal basin.
The plaque at Canal Head attached to old canal offices
"Change Bridge" in Kendal... what is usually referred to as a "Roving" or "Changeline" Bridge
The line of the infilled canal in Kendal - now a footpath and cycleway
The line of the canal was obvious and the footpath we followed was punctuated by canal bridges crossing it. Many photographs later we came to the end of the path and the remains of the canal were overgrown and inaccessible (for now) and we headed for the town centre to find the ladies. This done we had a look in some of the shops, had a coffee in an outside cafe before walking back to the bus station. On the way we found some hidden cobbled streets and purchased the inevitable Kendal Mint Cake.
A cobbled street in Kendal
The 555 bus was pulling out of the bus station as we reached it and despite Ange's efforts to stop the bus (no, no, no, no the driver indicated with his finger) we had to wait an hour for the next one. We sat on the wall waiting and other passengers arrived ignoring the fact that we were there first... a fact that Ange reminded them of when they tried to board the bus in front of us. When we returned to Lancaster we walked through the city centre and decided to have a take-away tea. Ian was meeting an old school friend that he hadn't seen for twenty-odd years and whilst he was in the pub we ordered our take-away food by telephone before Barry and I went to collect it. Once collected we all went on "Philbarmar" and sat around the table to eat our food.
At Hest Bank the canal is only a couple of hundred yards away from the banks of Morecombe Bay
The next day was a bit drizzly and Ange made a quick trip into Lancaster for some last minute shopping whilst I filled the water tank and emptied the toilet. On her return the drizzle eased off and we continued further along the canal. After winding through the outskirts of Lancaster we crossed the River Lune on Rennie's masterpiece... the magnificent Lune Aqueduct. This massive structure carries the canal fifty one feet above the river on fife stone arches with a total length of six hundred and sixty four feet. The weather was overcast and not really conducive to taking photographs so I decided to capture it on the return journey. We carried on through the beautiful countryside, past Hest Bank where the canal is a couple of hundred yards from the banks of Morecombe Bay and on to Carnforth. We moored not far from the Canal Turn public house where there were many swans on the canal bank. Ange gave them some bread and managed to hand feed a rather large adult swan without getting nipped fingers.
Ange feeding swans at Carnforth
We ate on board that evening and even though there was live music at the pub we were not disturbed by it. Because we were moored in a town we decided to erect the rear deck canopy and side screens to deter any unwanted visitors. However, that night we were woken up at 02.45 am by the boat's horn. I jumped out of bed and saw a shadow of someone running past the kitchen window. Some youths had come aboard without rocking the boat, put the Morse control in full reverse and pressed what they thought was the starter button but was actually the horn. Satisfied that they had gone we returned to bed but didn't fall back to sleep until it was light. When we got up we discovered that the PVC window in the canopy had been torn to see inside, the side screen damaged and the fire extinguisher on the rear deck was missing. We reported the incident to the adjacent pub and learnt that the hire boat moored behind us had been set adrift. After breakfast we reported the incident to the Police who sent an office to see us. In the meantime, Popsy and Michelle Gilbody off nb "Eclipse No 2" went to the nearby Tesco store and discovered the fire extinguisher in the car park bushes. I went to retrieve it, took photographs and brought it back to the boat in a black bin-liner. When the Police arrived they took it away for fingerprinting and promised to return it.
Boats moored on the Capernwray Arm which once lead to Wegber Quarry
Once our visitors had left we cast off and cruised to Tewitfield... the limit of navigation. Barry Greenough decided to walk as he did not want to take "Philbarmar" any further than he had to as he was still having problems with engine vibration and could not cruise with the engine running at low revs. We asked Phyllis if she would like to accompany us and she accepted our invitation. The canal passed through the countryside in true contour fashion. Approaching Tewitfield we came to the junction with Capernwray Arm known locally as Lovers' Creek. This was once an arm of the canal leading to Wegber Quarry... a limestone quarry where limestone was transhipped from narrow gauge railway trucks into barges for delivery to various points along the canal. Today the arm has short-term moorings and is a favourite picnic/barbeque spot. We enjoyed the cruise to Tewitfield even though the canal was extremely shallow.
A new marina, hotel and leisure development at Tewitfield
The limit of navigation (for now) at Tewitfield
The cascaded Tewitfield Locks slumbering in anticipation of restoration
(Photograph - George K Jones)
As far as we can go... for now! The culvetted Lancaster Canal squeezes beneath the M6 motorway above Tewitfield
(Photograph - George K Jones)
When we reached our destination I took photographs of "Total Eclipse" outside the sanitary station. There weren't any moorings available so after a look around we made a text book winding manoeuvre (stern first into the winding hole) to the amazement of on-looking boaters and retraced our steps. We soon met Barry walking along the towpath and he joined us for the return journey to Carnforth.
The canal at Borwick
After dropping off our guests at Carnforth we decided, for obvious reasons, not to moor at Carnforth even though we wanted to visit the railway station, have a coffee in the Brief Encounter Coffee Room and relive the scene from the classic movie. We therefore carried on and moored for the night at Hest Bank. After a quiet evening and night, the next morning we had a telephone call from the police officer who came the previous day and wanted to come and clarify some details. We delayed our departure until he had been and set off towards Lancaster. No sooner than we had cast off he telephoned us again and wanted to take a statement from us.
Our temporary mooring at Hest Bank whilst waiting for the Police to arrive
We found a space right at the end of the moorings and waited for our visitor to arrive. At midday he telephoned again to tell us that he had been delayed and would catch-up with us during the next couple of days. We set off in the warm sunlight and planned to moor at Galgate. On the outskirts of Lancaster we stopped to photograph the Lune Aqueduct. Ange stayed on the boat whilst I went down the steps to the pathway alongside the River Lune. I had noticed an observation platform jutting out into the river and made for it. When I reached it I was disappointed to discover that all five spans of the aqueduct could not be seen due to trees and the fact that a 28mm (equivalent) focal length wide angle lens was just not wide enough. Still, the sun was shining and the light was reasonable so I should be thankful for small mercies.
John Rennie's masterpiece - the Lune Aqueduct partially obscured by trees
From the other side at least four arches could be seen
A tastefully converted canalside warehouse in a leafy corner of Lancaster
With the photographs taken I returned to the boat and we continued towards Lancaster. Whilst passing through the city I photographed some of the canalside buildings. Originally warehouses and factories many had been converted into apartments, restaurants and bars. After passing through Lancaster we passed through the deep wooded cuttings (where we met a wide-beam trip boat in a narrow section) and open countryside before reaching Galgate. We planned to eat in the Plough and were treated to one of the best meals of the holiday. The Police telephoned to make arrangements to returned our fire extinguisher. They arrived at 08.00 am the following morning and took a statement from us regarding the Carnforth incident. Unfortunately they could not find any fingerprints on it but at least they tried.
The top lock on the Glasson Branch
One of the locks down the Glasson Branch
On the outward journey we did not venture down the Glasson Branch but, the next morning, as the weather was, shall we say, unpredictable we decided to walk down to Glasson Basin and Dock rather than take the boats down. We walked along the canal as it threaded its way through the rich farmland. Adjacent to one of the locks is The Mill hotel, bar and restaurant and we reached it just in time to shelter from a torrential downpour that had threatening to soak us from when we set out. The hotel served excellent lattés and by the time we had finished our drinks the rain had stopped allowing us to continue to Glasson Basin.
Glasson Dock entrance lock
Craft large and small in Glasson Dock
The branch enters Glasson Basin which is an extremely large expanse of water. Around its perimeter are moored craft ranging from small GRP cruisers and narrowboats to sea-going yachts and motor cruisers. At one end there is a lock spanned by a swing bridge which allows craft to enter Glasson Dock. This is a commercial, working dock unlike Preston Dock which robbed Glasson of its trade when it opened. We had heard a lot about the Glasson Smoke House and first heard of it when Fred Talbot (the Granada Television weather man) visited it during an episode of "Locks and Quays". This small business sells fish freshly caught and smoked on the premises. The salmon on display had to be seen to be believed (as did the smell). They sell other smoked meats in addition to high quality sweets and confectionary of which we purchased a couple of samples.
The Glasson Branch with the Lakeland Fells in the background
We retraced our tracks along the Glasson Branch and after lunch set off for Garstang. I left the canopy up as the weather was still a little unpredictable but I was able to take photographs even if the sky is a little "moody" in them. Barry had an appointment to have his engine mountings replaced so he and Ian moored near to the marina whilst Ange and I moored on the visitor moorings close to the village. On arrival we went into the village for shopping then returned to the boat. We visited the marina the following morning and purchased a couple of brass plaques before visiting the pie shop to but our lunch. On the way back to the boat we went to see how Barry's work was coming on and we said that we would wait for it to be completed and sail down to our next port of call together. After lunch I walked down to the Wyre Aqueduct to take photographs. We then filled the water tank and emptied the toilet at the sanitary station when Barry came to tell us to carry on without him as the work was taking longer than anticipated.
The aqueduct over the River Wyre
The River Wyre
When the "housework" was completed we set off and cruised in wonderful warm summer sunshine to Bilsborrow where we moored for the night. The following day was due to be another "scorcher" and after setting off we stopped briefly at Guy's Thatched Hamlet where I bought an enormous ice cream for Ange. We took our time relishing cruising at a little above tick-over through the beautiful countryside. We had lunch on the back deck whilst cruising and after speaking to the others by mobile phone we arranged to meet in the holding basin at the top of the Ribble Link.
Ange eating her giant ice cream from Guy's Thatched Hamlet
A rural setting near Woodplumton
A wide stretch of the canal heading towards Preston
A generously sized winding hole near Salwick
Approaching Preston a Hawker Siddeley Nimrod aircraft flew over us. It most probably flew out of Warton Airfield the hangars of which you aim for when coming out of the River Douglas into the River Ribble. I was quite surprised to see this large aircraft (based on the de Havilland Comet 4c... the world's first jet airliner) as I thought that they were all grounded awaiting inspection. In addition to the Nimrod we had seen quite a few unusual planes flying in the area including a trio of Apache assault helicopters.
The Hawker Siddeley Nimrod aircraft that flew over us near Preston
Before then we cruised past the junction with the Link to visit the sanitary station to top up the water tank and empty the loo. There is a Booth's supermarket not far from the Preston Sanitary Station and whilst I was finishing the chores Ange did some shopping. As the canal is thirty nine feet wide at this point (guess how I know this) we had to cruise to the end of the canal in order to turn around.
Preston Sanitary Station
There were fishermen actually in the winding hole but I did not mind disturbing them whilst we turned around. It was not too long before we were mooring up in the holding basin at the top of the Link. "Philbarmar" joined us half an hour later and "Eclipse No 2" shortly afterwards. We could hear Ian and Michelle's Gardner a good fifteen minutes before they arrived. There were youths hanging around the basin but they dispersed after an hour or so without causing us any problems.
Sunset at the top of the Ribble Link
The BW gang arrived at 8.45am to lock us the three step staircase. Barry and I were to go down together and we were advised to reverse into the lock so that when we reached the basin at the bottom we could reverse out of the lock and carry on beneath the bridge without turning around. We made short work of the Link and were soon at the holding area where we moored on our upwards trip. Whilst we waited we had coffee and it wasn't long before the BW guys blew their handheld air horn telling us that we could proceed through the tidal lock gate at the start of the Link. We were volunteered to go first with "Philbarmar", "Eclipse No 2", "In Dispute", "An Caladh" and "Gabriel" (the narrowboat that got stuck on submerged grass banks when entering the Link) following us.
Waiting for the tide to drop after descending the Ribble Link
We headed down the Savick Brook, passed through the rotary tidal gate and into the River Ribble. Before opening the throttle and committing us to entering the river I did a quick "kerb drill" and saw a large ocean-going cruiser bearing down on us from the Preston direction. The boat was going quite quickly and producing a large wash... a nightmare for a narrowboat. As it passed I opened the throttle and headed straight for the craft's wash. To say that I didn't like riding the wash was an understatement. "Total Eclipse" rose on the first wave and dipped as it passed. The propeller came out of the water and the engine note rose as the revs increased. I now know how Terry Darlington felt running the wash of the "Sea Cat" when entering Calais harbour in "Narrow Dog to Carcassonne"! When we were directly astern of the cruiser I pushed the tiller hard over and headed for the calmer water behind the stern of the craft and the wash died down. Barry and Ian who were following us later said that they had never seen a narrowboat ride a wash like it before... "Total Eclipse" impressed me yet again by the way it behaved in rough water.
Ange steering on the River Ribble
Once we were in the calmer water I asked Ange to check the front deck and was pleased to be told that it was dry with no sign of the water entering our scuppers. We headed downstream at a good pace with a yacht close to our stern and Ange took the tiller whilst I took photographs. I was sitting next to her when she looked down at her arm and screamed (as only Ange can). I screamed as well and asked her what was up. She pointed to the black webbing on her life jacket that had touched her arm and told me that she thought that it was a locust or something tickling her arm. We started to laugh and were still laughing tem minutes later when we reached the Astland Lamp. We had a yacht on our tail, there was another one coming out of the River Douglas and the large cruiser whose wash we had ridden was coming back upstream. "Which side do we pass on"? asked Ange. "Just turn and head for the space on the left" I told her. We made the turn and entered the Douglas avoiding the other craft. The return journey up the River Douglas was not as stressful as the downstream one. We cruised along admiring the countryside without having to use full throttle as we did previously and were soon at the open entrance gates to Tarleton Lock. We entered with "Philbarmar" it was not long before we were tying up at the visitor moorings.
Looking down the River Douglas from the safety of Tarleton Lock
The other boats in our flotilla arrived shortly afterwards and we regrouped to discuss our plans for the rest of the day. We decided to carry on until we found a suitable place which turned out to be Rufford... just past the hall. That evening was spent in the Hesketh Arms were we all enjoyed a beautiful meal in pleasant relaxed surroundings. It was Barry's sixty fifth birthday the following day and on our return we had an impromptu birthday celebration on the towpath in case we did not have the opportunity the next day much to the disdain of residents on the opposite side of the canal. Before setting off the next morning I had to remove our tv aerial as we could not fit beneath the adjacent road bridge due to its limited headroom. Once this was accomplished we headed towards Burscough. The sun was shining and the cruising most pleasant and it was not long before we were at the top lock and the junction with the main line of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
Our convoy approaching Rufford Hall Swing Bridge on the Rufford Branch
Yours truly opening a lock gate on the Rufford Branch
(Photograph - Ange Wood)
Our convoy at the top of the Rufford Branch
The Boys... Barry ("Philbarmar"), Dave ("An Caladh") and Ian ("Eclipse No 2")
After coffees all round we discovered that the electrically operated swing bridge around the corner was out of action due to a fallen electricity supply cable. United Utilities were present working to rectify the problem. They could not give us any indication as to when the repairs would be completed so after "Eclipse No 2" had departed towards the moorings in the direction of Liverpool we moored just around the corner until we could proceed. As I was on a tight schedule in order to return to work on Monday I telephoned my boss to inform her that we had been delayed and that I would be a day late returning. A few hours later the power supply to the bridge had been restored and BW arrived to reset the bridge's electronics. Once this was accomplished we were on our way towards Wigan.
The Ladies... Ange ("Total Eclipse"), Eleanor ("An Caladh"), Poppsy and Michelle ("Eclipse No 2") and Phyllis ("Philbarmar")
The fallen cables preventing the swing bridge operation
All went well until, at Douglas Valley Cruising Club's moorings a wide beam trip boat pulled out in front of us. This boat cruised very slowly as the guests danced on the roof of the boat using the life belts as partners! We hung back and followed at tick-over. At the first lock into Wigan the trip boat went through and when it was our turn we were plagued by three youths supposedly fishing at the lock lobby. Ange operated the lock and once "Total Eclipse" was in the lock the youths started to mess around, opening the bottom gates whilst the top paddles were being drawn. I pointed the camera at them and they soon disappeared, leaving us in peace. The next pound was extremely shallow (no doubt due to the previous actions of the youths) but we managed to catch up with "Philbarmar" who were waiting for us. The trip boat had discharged its cargo of passengers and was moored next to the closed Wigan Pier visitor centre.
An accident waiting to happen... partygoers on a trip boat's roof
More youths presented themselves at the lock adjacent to the dry dock and were jumping into the lock whilst it emptied after being warned not to by Ange and Phyllis. When the two boats entered and they saw that there was no room in the lock the youths lost interest and left. An on-looker informed us that they had an anti-vandal (handcuff) key and windlass which they used to prepare the lock for their activities. The pound above was also extremely shallow caused, no doubt, by their actions. BW's headquarters front onto this pound and it does not instil confidence that they can deter illicit use of the canal and its equipment. Interestingly, moored (or should I say grounded) close to the BW offices was a Hancock and Lane Norseman Forty almost identical to "Total Eclipse". It was interesting to note some of the improvements to the standard design that the owners had made including the splitting of the large rear deck board allowing independent access to the engine and weed hatch... something that we plan to do in the near future.
NB "Fern" could be the twin of "Total Eclipse"
We encountered more youths at Poolstock Number One Lock coming out of Wigan. Perched on the balance beam of one of the top gates were about a dozen boys accompanied by a couple of girls. Ange asked them to move so that she could operate the paddles. One of the youths engaged her in conversation asking her where we came from. She asked him if he had ever heard of Wallasey or Birkenhead to which he said no. Ange told him that it was "well rough" (which it isn't) and magically, they all offered to help with the gates! The owner of the boat following us looked like the tv star Ricky Tomlinson and when he approached the lock the youths humorously started to chant "My arse" which is one of the actor's phrases in the "Royle Family" programme in which he stars.
"Total Eclipse" and "Philbarmar" at our last night's mooring adjacent to Horrock's Flash, Wigan Nature Reserve
We moored for the night with "Philbarmar" adjacent to Horrock's Flash in the Wigan Nature Reserve between Poolstock and Dover Locks. Whilst waiting for tea to cook we reflected on our holiday and agreed that it was a great success. We had visited many beautiful and interesting places as well as having a good laugh along the way. We were sad that the holiday was over and all that was left was to take some photographs of our last night's mooring before returning to our home moorings the following day.
Sunset at Horrock's Flash, Wigan Nature Reserve on our last night of the Lancaster Canal Summer Cruise
Our timetable for the cruise was as follows...
Arrived at Agden for an early start the next day
From Agden to below Appley Bridge
From Appley Bridge to Tarleton
From Tarleton to Preston Dock via Rivers Douglas and Ribble
Stayed in Preston Dock (Festival)
From Preston Dock down River Ribble to top of Ribble Millennium Link
From top of Ribble Link to Bilsborrow
From Bilsborrow to Garstang
From Garstang to Galgate
From Galgate to Lancaster
Stayed at Lancaster (went to Kendal by bus)
From Lancaster to Carnforth
From Carnforth to Hest Bank via Tewitfield
From Hest Bank to Galgate
From Galgate to Garstang (walked to Glasson)
From Garstang to Bilsborrow
From Bilsborrow to top of Ribble Link
From to of Ribble Link to Rufford via Ribble Link, Rivers Ribble and Douglas
Rufford to below Wigan
From below Wigan to Oughtrington (home moorings)
|The boats on the 2009 Lancaster Canal Summer Cruise were...|
|"An-Caladh"||-||Eleanor Muirhead and Dave Ross|
|"Ashbridge"||-||Sam Cook and Stuart Hamilton|
|"Californian"||-||Bonnie and Mike Goldberg|
|"Eclipse No 2"||-||Michelle, Ian and Popsy Gilbody|
|"Forty Winks"||-||Joan and Brian Gornell|
|"In Dispute"||-||Colin and Anne Ashley|
|"Lady Edna"||-||Maureen and Larry Smith|
|"Pauper's Pride"||-||Jim Shead|
|"Pearl"||-||Lesley and Brian Evans|
|"Philbarmar"||-||Phyllis and Barry Greenough|
|"Rannoch"||-||Pauline and Bob McCulloch with Brenda Gormanly and Arthur Malcolm then Sue and Ian Compton|
|"Seguido"||-||Lily and Stuart Williams|
|"Total Eclipse"||-||Angela and Cyril Wood|
|"Unique"||-||Lyn and Roger Mellors|
Lancaster Loiter - Epilogue
So there you have it. Our cruise up the beautiful Lancaster Canal. Even though we had a "brief encounter" with unwanted visitors at Carnforth this has not marred our memories of the canal. As mentioned previously, parts of the canal reminded me of the Shropshire Union and Llangollen Canals in the early 1960s when you could cruise all day without seeing another boat on the move... well, mid-week anyway! Both Ange and I agree, along with most of our fellow Lymm CC friends who cruised the canal, that we would like to return in the not too distant future. Explore some of the locations that we did not have time to visit and revisit other places that we have fond memories of. I have encouraged my brother to hire a day boat on the canal as I am sure that its beauties would not be wasted on him. On our return I sent a photograph of "Total Eclipse" at Tewitfield to the Lancaster Canal Trust along with our completed questionnaire on the canal to the Lancaster Canal Society and received the brass plaque to commemorate our cruise to Tewitfield (illustrated below) by return. It would be nice to think that we would be able to cruise all the way to Kendal when we revisit but I think that this would be far too optimistic to wish for. Even though we might see the canal reinstated in our lifetimes (the Lancaster Canal Trust envisages it could be between ten and fifteen years) we will most probably be too old and infirm to cruise it... but we live in the hope that the restoration will be enjoyed by future generations of Canalcoholics!
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A list of milestones in my canal
cruising experiences from 2008 to 2010
1st January 2008
Lymm CC "Brass Monkey Cruise" to Dunham Massey
Lymm CC Easter Cruise to Middlewich
FBCC Rally at Astley (Worsley CC)
7th June 2008
"Total Eclipse" slipped at Lymm for hull cleaning and painting
26th July 2008
Lymm CC Summer Cruise to Skipton
4th October 2008
Lymm CC Holiday to Italy (Lake Garda, Venice, the Dolomite mountains and Verona)
2nd February 2009
"The Big Ditch" reprinted
14th February 2009
"Total Eclipse" featured in "Waterways World's" "My Favourite Mooring"
25th March 2009
Attended the opening of the "Liverpool Link"
14th April 2009
Lymm CC Easter Cruise to Middlewich
23rd May 2009
FBCC Rally at Lymm
1st June 2009
"The Duke's Cut" reprinted
27th June 2009
Lead a conducted walk around Worsley Canal Heritage to members of Lymm CC
24th July 2009
Lymm CC cruise to Preston Dock Festival, the Ribble Link and the Lancaster Canal
30th August 2009
"Canalscape" eBook uploaded to the Internet at http://www.canalscape.net
5th September 2009
Lymm CC cruise to the opening of the Trafford Centre canal boat access point
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The story continues in...
Canal Cruising 2010 to 2015...
Finances, health, wife and time allowing!
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or select another book below...
Click on the required section in the Contents below to follow links
|Book 7 - 2011|
|Book 10 - 2014|
|The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal|
Wonders of the Waterways
|NB Total Eclipse|
|Lymm Cruising Club Website|
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