Saturday, 12 December 2015

Visit to Acton Bridge

We needed a break from our visit back home so stayed on the boat for a few days this week.  Part of clearing out our house in order to let it was finding somewhere to store all our camping gear.  As we tend to camp in the Yorkshire Dales near my parents they agreed to store it all at their house so on Wednesday we paid a visit to the Dales to dump all the camping gear.  We had a lovely time with my parents and after a good pub lunch went for a walk to Gordale Scar where we normally camp. This is me and my Dad at the waterfalls at the top end of the campsite.

This is where we normally camp but no sign of tents at this time of year!

This is Janet's Foss at the bottom end of the camp site where the children usually swim.

On Thursday we went for a walk along the River Weaver which runs parallel to where we are presently moored on the Trent & Mersey.  

Once at the river we could look back up to where the canal runs behind the hedge at the top of the embankment.  There was a breach in this embankment at the end of 2014 that caused the canal to be closed for nearly five months last winter whilst it was repaired.  The breach was at the pale bit to the left of centre where all the trees are missing.

These are Dutton locks on the River Weaver complete with semaphore signals that are still used to indicate which of the pair of locks should be used.

Walking along the Weaver is particularly pleasant as there are few roads that cross it so it is very peaceful.  A lot of rubbish had collected at this weir stream bridge - brought downriver from the heavy rains during the previous week.

We passed several of these pre-cast concrete signs, all saying 200, but I cannot find what they indicate or why they are there.  The two mounting blocks are for riders to dismount for the short section as badger activity has made the towpath quite uneven.

On Thursday evening we met up with Dave and Barbara for drinks and something to eat at Barbridge where they are currently moored.

On Friday morning I was sitting at our dinette table contemplating whether to write a blog for this short week whilst watching a kingfisher perched on a branch outside. I assumed it was the same one we followed on this stretch of canal at the end of our walk along the River Weaver the previous day.  Anyway, seeing the kingfisher reminded me that the blog is primarily for us to relive our memories in the future so it convinced me that I would make this entry.

Whilst sorting out the house we finally decided to buy a flat in Aylesbury as it's in the centre of the country so easier for the family to get there when we fancy a get together (I know it's not really boat related but the flat is overlooking the canal basin).   

We're now looking forward to our family Christmas which we always have on the first weekend of January with our children.  We're expecting at least 17 as the number of partners seems to increase each year.  We will then be ready to move back onto the boat full time.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Acton Bridge (Trip to Kent and back)

We had two very different days on Thursday.  I got a taxi to Northwich station in the morning and took trains back to Kent to pick up a car.  I made the wrong choice about which way to drive round the M25 and didn’t get back to the boat until gone nine in the evening.  I can’t believe that I used to sit in stationary motorway traffic nearly every day I went to work in recent years.

Karen and Buddy had the day to themselves (much to Karen's relief).  Karen started by getting the boat ready for leaving for a few weeks whilst Buddy sat patiently on the towpath.

They then went for a walk along the canal and then cut across fields down to the River Weaver.

We went on the Weaver in the summer but not the entire length – next year we intend going right down to the junction with the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship canal.  The locks are enormous.

A sign, probably maintained by one of the lock keepers.

This boat floundered below the locks in 1993 and has not moved since.  She was built in 1894 in Norway and has had quite a chequered history including being commandeered by the Germans in 1940.

Our mooring for the next few weeks.

It’s going to be odd not having a blog to write for a while but we have plenty to do at home getting the house shipshape and rented out.  No doubt I’ll make the odd blog entry to stay in touch with the loyal band of blog followers :)

Our friends David & Victoria made their last blog entry today after having lived on their boat for six years.  They are starting a new life on land for a while but know how to write a proper blog!  Click on nb Pas Meche on the right of this page under "OTHER BOATERS' BLOGS".


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Acton Bridge (and Liverpool’s chavvy blister)

Wednesday was to be our last day cruising for a while and as we only had about nine miles we didn’t hurry to set off from our moorings at Runcorn.  The only visitor moorings were outside the theatre and were completely empty apart from us.  You can’t tell from this picture but it is in the town centre, overlooking the shops and the River Mersey on the right hand side.

When researching what to do in Runcorn yesterday I learnt that locally it is known as Liverpool's chavvy blister where they speak with plastic Scouse accents.  I seem to remember that Liverpudlians refer to chavs as scallies. 

We were heading back to the southern end of the Bridgewater canal at Preston Brook and then a few miles on the Trent & Mersey to where we have arranged to leave the boat.  We will leave it there until the New Year whilst we sort the house out for renting and have our last family Christmas there for a while.  As we have a large family we always have our Christmas over the first weekend of January as it is much easier getting everyone together then.
We were followed into the tunnel at Preston brook by another boat which made the silhouetted shot at the top of the entry.  Karen also managed to get a better shot of an air shaft (as opposed to a dead steam tug helmsman).

At Dutton Stop lock boats were queueing in both directions which must be unusual for this time of year.

A mile or so before we got to our boatyard we went past Dutton Hollow where there had been a breach in September 2012.  The canal was closed for seven months to make the repairs which must have caused a lot of disruption in the area.  Mooring rings were installed in the new concrete kerbing which was really sensible as there are few lengths in this area where you can moor up.   The breach must have been quite dramatic as the embankment the canal is built on  is very steep and quite high at this point.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Runcorn (and a new stretch of canal for us)

On Tuesday morning we set off for Runcorn which is on the Manchester Ship Canal, the River Mersey and the Bridgewater canal.  To join the Bridgewater canal we had to go through Dutton Stop lock at the top end of the Trent & Mersey canal.  Stop locks usually have a rise of a few inches as they were built to enable tolls to be collected when boats passed between canals and also to try and prevent water from one canal feeding the other.

To the side of the stop lock is a dry dock and a small yard where they restore old working boats.

Just after the stop lock was Preston Brook tunnel and we had to wait for 20 minutes until we could make our entry.

We took advantage of the wait and had a cup of coffee and started into Karen’s latest fruit cake.

A section of the tunnel collapsed in 1981 and it took three years to repair it (compared to the two years it took to build the ¾ mile tunnel by hand in 1774/5).  This is Karen’s idea of getting a picture of the modern repairs – reinforced concrete rather than the normal brick - without distraction me from driving.

Boats were legged through the tunnel until the introduction of steam tugs in the late 1800s but several tug owners died from the fumes so air shafts were opened up.  This is the closest we got to getting a shot of one (air shaft not a dead tug owner).

At the far side of the tunnel we passed an open air book swap stand…

…and soon afterwards we went under the M56 and turned left onto the stretch leading to Runcorn which is a stretch we have not been on before.  

Earlier this year, when we came out of Manchester via the Bridgewater we didn’t have time to venture up to Runcorn nor even the 20 mile branch up to Wigan.  We were pleased to be cruising this new stretch and no doubt will go along the Wigan branch in the new boat when we visit Liverpool and then the Leeds & Liverpool canal.

The bridges on the Bridgewater canal have name plaques and no numbers.

It can get confusing as we went under three bridges called Expressway Bridge.

I’d forgotten that stanking plank cranes are used on this canal.

As we neared Runcorn we passed two old arms that have now been curtailed.  Sprinch arm (on the left) is now a dry dock – note the stanking plank crane holding planks in place.  The arm on the right was called the Victoria arm.

A new theatre has been built practically at the end of the canal.  It is named after James Brindley the great engineer and canal builder.  We ended up mooring here overnight as it appeared to be the only place where visitor moorings had been provided.  Such a shame as these were the only moorings we saw all day and there were plenty of pretty locations where they could be provided,

This is coming into the very end and we had to turn at Waterloo bridge.

The canal used to continue under Waterloo bridge, down nine locks, to join the Manchester Ship canal. The wiggly red bit is the path you have to follow to go under the roads which are on viaducts.

The locks were filled in during the 1960s but we followed the line down the hill.

Several of the locks were still clearly marked.  The lock gate recess can be seen behind this seat.

This is the bottom lock where the canal joined the Manchester Ship canal. 

A restoration society has been formed and there are ambitious plans to reopen the flight.  When complete this will open up a stunning new canal ring.  Starting on the Trent & Mersey it will drop down the Anderton boat lift onto the River Weaver which runs down to to the Manchester Ship canal.  Not far along the Manchester Ship canal turning right will lead up the restored lock flight, along the Bridgewater to rejoin the Trent & Mersey at Preston Brook.  This would be a pleasant 30 mile cruising ring with lots of historical interest.  These old canal cottages are still standing along the line of the locks.

Bridgewater House stands on the old flight; it’s amazing to think that this was built as a temporary residence (in 1770) for the Duke as he oversaw the building of the section of canal to Runcorn.

These bridges cross the Manchester Ship canal and the River Mersey from Runcorn to Widnes.  The railway bridge was built in 1861 and the road bridge was built in 1961. 

The picture at the top is taken from the Runcorn promenade – shame it was a grey day.