Monday April 23rd 2012 - we left our mooring, went around a bend and there ahead of us was Foulridge Tunnel. This tunnel is one way working only, that means that boats can't pass in the tunnel so it has a traffic light system. We had to wait a few minutes for them to turn GREEN on the half hour and then we had just half an hour to get through the tunnel before the lights changed again, fortunately we did it in 20! A short time after emerging from the tunnel we arrived at the Barrowford lock flight of 7 locks. There has been no shortage of water on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal that we were aware of at all, however half way down the flight Clive was waiting in a pound whilst I set the next lock but when I got the gates open he discovered that Lady Arwen was beached! Try as he might he couldn't shift her so I had to go back to the previous lock, open one of the front gates then wind up one of the rear paddles and let water flow straight through the lock into the pound below until finally Lady Arwen refloated - very odd indeed! The rest of the flight was quite uneventful. All the way down this flight we had been aware of a large hill in the distance, this turned out to be Pendle Hill, notorious for the Pendle Witch Trial when at the assizes at Lancaster in the autumn of 1612, twenty persons, of whom sixteen were women of various ages, were committed for trial, and most of them tried for witchcraft!
I mentioned in the previous blog that I had developed a chest infection just as we left Huddersfield, well I was still suffering with it, still coughing and still swigging Covonia! I was finding the constant coughing quite exhausting and doing a lock flight as well left me like a limp lettuce leaf. Considering this and the fact that the weather was deteriorating, once we had passed Nelson we decided to call it a day and moored up in a lovely tranquil spot out in the countryside.
Tranquil mooring not far from Nelson
The following day the weather was appalling so we didn't move at all. The day after however was very pleasant so we set off to run the gauntlet through Burnley! In actual fact we needn't have worried as the canal skirted around the central part and in places even passed through parkland, rather than the dark satanic mills we were expecting! We carried on cruising for another couple of hours then finally moored up in a rather bleak spot surrounded by moorland which, according to our map, was the site of the Altham Vitriol Works!
Site of the former Altham Vitriol Works!
Once again the next day the weather was dreadful so we stayed put! The next day however was much better and we had a very pleasant cruise through the countryside, interspersed with places like Clayton Le Moors, Church and Rishton. All very pleasant and best of all, no locks! However, looming ahead of us was Blackburn! It took us three hours to travel through Blackburn, including negotiating five locks. Some of it was a bit grim and there was an awful lot of rubbish in the water, quite disgusting really! It wasn't all bad though and there were some quite interesting things to see. For a start it is quite unusual seeing golden domes against a Northern backdrop but there they were!
A Blackburn Mosque
We also cruised past the home of Blackburn Rovers Football team, Ewood Park! Finally we were out the other side and back into open country again and we moored up in a lovely spot close to the site of the former contagious diseases hospital!!!
Rural mooring on the outskirts of Blackburn
A while after we had moored I was chatting to a friend on the phone when I noticed the sky was all pink as the sun was going down. Not only that but there was a pink rainbow - I kid you not! Unfortunately by the time I had got my camera the rainbow had disappeared but the sunset was still in evidence.
Beautiful pink sky
The next day we had yet another lock flight, this time The Johnson's Hillock Locks, seven in all. Once again I was totally exhausted by the time we got to the bottom and was beginning to dread what was ahead of us - the Wigan Flight! However, that wasn't for today thankfully. As we were cruising passed Chorley we spotted another very imposing religious establishment. This one turned out to be the Temple of the Latter Day Saints.
Temple of the Latter Day Saints
It wasn't long before we arrived in Adlington and made use of the facilities at the marina before mooring up for the night. The moorings weren't far from the town centre so I went for a walk up to the Co-op to stock up on a few bits and pieces. When I got back Clive had been checking the weather forecast for tomorrow, Sunday, and it wasn't good! In fact it was really bad - 70mph winds and torrential rain - oh dear! Well that settled that, we're going nowhere! Another boat was moored just in front of us and her cap'n came back to have a word with us, he wanted to know if we were going down the Wigan Flight and if so could they come down with us - we said yes please, but not tomorrow! He introduced himself as Norwyn and his wife is Sheila and they live in Suffolk.
The weather forecasters certainly got it right, it was a terrible day! The rain was lashing down and the winds were really strong. One or two holiday boaters were braving the elements but it wasn't really a good idea. One boater had moored up on the opposite bank a little further down from us and at one point both his mooring pins came out and the boat just shot across to the other side of the canal - not good! We stayed inside, in comfort, all cosy and warm - we're not daft!
Unbelievably we have reached the end of April already - where has this year gone to! At least it wasn't raining, in fact it was a lovely morning. We were up early as we had arranged to meet Norwyn and Sheila at a water point at the top of the Wigan Flight. They were setting off before us to give themselves time to fill up with water before tackling the flight. So we were off by 8.30am had a lovely cruise through the countryside. We spotted something strange in the water and wondered whatever it was until we got close enought to see!
Strange obstacle in the canal - a hay bale!
Sure enough Norwyn and Sheila aboard Shell Bell were waiting for us at the water point as arranged and within a few minutes we were ready to start on the first lock of 21 - groan! Fortunately I wasn't feeling too bad, still coughing but I felt I could cope. We got into a really good rythm with the locks, doing what Clive and I call "oversewing".
Top of the Wigan Flight of 21 locks
We got the boats into the first lock then whilst it was emptying Sheila went down to the next lock and set it. When the first lock was empty I opened the gates, the boats came out, I shut the gates then walked down the towpath passed the next lock, which Sheila was working and went onto the third which I then set and waited for the boats to come in and so on and so forth right down to the bottom. So in actual fact each of us did ten and a half locks each! We did the flight in very good time, three hours and forty-five minutes, which included stopping in a lock for elevenses! All in all it went very well indeed and fortunately I didn't feel too bad at the end of it all.
Norwyn & Sheila aboard NB Shell Bell
Besides the 21 locks in the flight we had another two to negotiate as we turned left onto the Bridgewater Canal, the Poolstock Locks - so 23 locks, not bad for a days work! We cruised for a short while then moored up on the visitor moorings at The Dover Lock Inn where we met up with Norwyn and Sheila for a well deserved drink that evening before having an early night!
May 1st 2012 - We didn't rush to set off this morning, I had a bit of a lie in! We finally set off about 11.00am and had been travelling for about half an hour when we arrived at Plank Lane Lift Bridge. I went ahead to operate the bridge but when I put my BW key in and turned it the message that popped up was "No Power" !!! As it happened there were three BW guys hanging around so I went over to ask what was going on and it turned out that there had been a power cut affecting quite a large part of the region and there was nothing they could do but wait for the electric supplyer to get it back on again! Obviously Norwyn and Sheila, who had set off before us, had got through OK before the power went off! So I went back to the boat and informed Clive of the problem then we moored up, put the kettle on and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally at around 1.15 I saw the bridge starting to rise! There were several boats queuing at the other side waiting to come through as well and it was a crew member from one of them who had opened the bridge, he waved us through!
The Plank Lane Lift Bridge opening at last!
A couple of hours later we arrived in Worsley and moored up - what a pretty place! Everywhere you looked there were Tudor buildings, it was a beautiful spot.
The moorings in Worsley
We had a very peaceful night then the following day, before leaving Worsley, we called in at a boatyard to fill up with diesel. Whilst Clive was doing that I went for a walk around the green and looked at some of the wonderful houses that had been built on the site of the old mineworks. One of them had 3 cars parked outside, two Range Rover Sports and a Rolls Royce - wow! All the houses looked as if they had been there for centuries but in actual fact they are only about 100 years old but were built in keeping with some of the really old buildings in the Tudor style. On the green is a monument and I found out later that it is actually the remnants of the chimney for the mineworks!
We cruised through Worsley looking at all the lovely new housing being built on the old brown sites adjacent to the canal then spotted something which looked quite out of place in this urban setting - a lighthouse!
A short time later we came to the Barton Swing Aqueduct. This structure is designed to carry the Bridgewater Canal over the Manchester Ship Canal and can be swung around to allow large ships to pass underneath. Adjacent to it is the Barton Road Bridge, which also can be moved for shipping. Beyond that is the modern bridge carrying the motorway too.
Crossing the Manchester Ship Canal
Looking back once we reached the other side this is the view of the aqueduct:
Barton Swing Aqueduct
A while later we arrived at Waters Meeting, where we turned right, we cruised through Sale and then about an hour and a half later we arrived in Lymm where we moored up for the night. It was very busy, nearly all the moorings were taken but we managed to squeeze Lady Arwen in with a shoe horn! Once moored up we went for a walk up to Sainsbury's to stock up with a few bits and pieces. Lymm is very pretty and obviously very popular with boaters!
The next day we had a very long cruise. The good thing about the Bridgewater Canal is that there are no locks! There was a tunnel, The Preston Brook tunnel but that was all. We made a brief stop at Thorne Marine Chandlery at Stockton heath as Clive needed some rust treatment, undercoat and paint as Lady Arwen's paintwork is in desperate need of some TLC! Once through the Preston Brook Tunnel we came to a fork where we turned right onto the Trent and Mersey Canal. For quite a while we found ourselves meandering through the countryside in the company of the River Weaver, a waterway we haven't done yet. At one point we spotted a narrowboat navigating the Weaver across the fields.
Narrowboat on the River Weaver
Another thing we spotted whilst cruising along was a Jay! We often see them flying amongst the trees but they are not easy to photograph as they seem to be rather shy. This one just happened to land in a tree very close to the canal and on a low branch too so I managed to snap him!
After a while we cruised past the Anderton Boat Lift, an amazing piece of engineering that lowers narrowboats down from the canal onto the River Weaver - we really must do that one of these days! Finally we moored up at The Lion Saltworks. A place we have moored at several times before but the first time was back in 2005 on the very first day of our very first narrowboat experience. We had a hire boat for a week and by the end of that first afternoon after cruising for no more than half an hour after leaving the marina we were both well and truly hooked! We decided to pop to the pub for a quickie before dinner only to find when we got there that it wasn't open for another half hour! We returned later and had a drink then came back to the boat for tea. We discovered the following morning from a fellow boater that we had missed an excellent evening of folk music in said pub - if only we had stayed another half hour we could have enjoyed it too and probably joined in! Doh!
We were now back on very familiar turf. We both absolutely love this part of the Trent and Mersey, the scenery is really beautiful. We had planned to do a detour up to Nantwich, one reason being that I was desperate to get to a launderette and there is a very good one at Nantwich Marina. The second reason was to meet up with Clive's cousin Josie and her husband Chris and also Clive's new found cousin David - David is the one who discovered him whilst researching their family tree via Ancestry.com. They share Gt Grandparents on both sides of the family as two brothers (their grandfathers) married two sisters (their grandmothers) so they are doubly related! Also, our good friends Heather and Les Welch live in Nantwich and we wanted to meet up with them too. So after negotiating four locks we arrived at Kings Lock, Middlewich where we turned right onto the Shropshire Union Canal then after a few more locks we moored up for the night just before Church Minshull. Just after we moored we had some visitors call in for tea!
Jemima Puddle Duck and friends!
We arrived in Nantwich the next day but too late to use the launderette, which closed at 4.00pm! So we went for a walk up into town and did some shopping at Morrisons. We tried not to buy too much because it's a hell of a long walk back to the boat with heavy shopping bags!! The next day we headed off to the launderette with four bags full of washing! The last time we were at a launderette was the day before we left Huddersfield - its a good job we brought far too many clothes with us on this boat! It didn't take very long to get it all done and back on board - so nice to have lots of clean clothes! The following day was Bank Holiday Monday and we had arranged to meet Josie, Chris and David at The Olde Barbridge Inn at Barbridge Junction so after I had returned to the boat from the launderette Clive turned the boat around and we retraced our steps. We managed to find a mooring right opposite the pub, excellent.
We had a great time with everybody at the pub, though lunch was a bit of a fiasco! We had ordered our meals just before 2.00pm and soon after 3.00pm we were informed that there was no haddock available! Josie, Clive and David had all ordered haddock!! So they made new choices and I also changed my order to something a little lighter as we were eating out again that evening! Five minutes later the waitress came rushing back to say they had managed to get more haddock, so they went back to their original orders. Finally at about 3.30pm our food arrived. They were very apologetic and did make an adjustment to our bill in the end - I should think so too! At 4.30pm we said our goodbyes to everyone as they set off on their journeys home, David to Chester and Josie and Chris to The Wirral - we walked over the bridge and we were home! Heather and Les came to pick us up at 6.30pm and took us back to their house for a meal, which was wonderful - Heather is a very good cook! I was amazed that I even managed seconds considering I had only finished eating lunch at 4.00pm! Poor Heather had to go to work the next morning and she was very tired after a busy weekend so they drove us back to the boat.
The next day we set off once more and returned down the Shroppie heading for Kings Lock. We decided to actually moor up for lunch because Clive really wanted to wash the boat! He had managed to do the starboard side (right side!) whilst we were in Nantwich but the left side was really dirty. As it was a lovely day he decided now was his chance!
Washing all 57 foot of Lady Arwen!
We resumed our journey after lunch and soon arrived at Kings Lock. This time we turned right, back onto the Trent and Mersey and set off up Heartbreak Hill! This is the name given to the many locks on this stretch of the canal. On the way up we passed the salt works where an enormous amount of salt is stored and bagged.
Very big pile of salt!
We did the first five locks, which was quite enough, then moored up just before Wheelock for the night. The next morning after filling up with water and emptying the bins at the Wheelock services we hit the locks. The majority of the locks in this flight are duplicates - two locks side by side but each lock is a single so they don't take too long to fill and empty. After ten locks we arrived at Hassall Green and decided to moor up. We were only going to stop for lunch but the rain settled in so we decided to stay overnight. The next day we were just getting ready to set off when Clive noticed we had a stowaway!
Brown Lipped Snail
He was quite a pretty snail as snails go! Anyway, he was gently removed from the window and put in the grass! Then we were off - another thirteen locks and we finally arrived at Kidsgrove! Again a very familiar place to us, we spent three weeks iced in here back in January 2010! We didn't stop this time though, we carried on through another two locks and moored up so that we could go shopping to Tescos! We got back to the boat and set off again straight into another lock then when we came out the other end we turned right onto the Macclesfield Canal. One more lock at Scholar Green then we moored up just before the rain started opposite Ramsdell Hall - a lovely spot where we have moored before.
The next morning Clive got up early and left me in bed fast asleep while he cruised through Congleton and out the other side. There were no locks to do - yet!! After about three hours, by which time I had woken up, he moored up again in a great spot on an aqueduct right at the bottom of the Bosley Flight.
We both woke early the next morning, about 6.15, to glorious sunshine but it had been very cold during the night and there was a slight ground frost but the amazing thing was the canal, which looked as if it was steaming! It looked absolutely stunning in the brilliant sunshing as the mist swirled about the boat that was moored up in front of us.
We had a cuppa and some breakfast by which time all the mist had burned away . We set off up the Bosley Flight of twelve locks at 8.00am and reached the top at 10.00 - record time! We were very lucky as the majority of the locks were in our favour, only a couple of very leaky locks had filled up and needed emptying. We also met three boats coming down as we neared the top so it all helped to speed things up. When we came out of the top lock we pulled in to fill up with water at the water point and empty the bins at the Bosley BW Services then we headed off again. Clive has been keeping a record of all our moorings in our map books , he marks down how good the TV signal is and whether we have a Vodafone signal or not. There was one spot marked on the map which said that the digital TV signal was very good so he was heading for that, its a Grand Prix weekend!! We were stunned to find that when we arrived and moored up it was only 10.30 in the morning and we had already done a day's work! So here we are - ironically the weather has been absolutely gorgeous for the last two days and we have been inside. However Clive enjoyed watching the quallies yesterday and the race itself today. No doubt it will be raining tomorrow when we want to travel!! We'll see.