Friday 13 July 2012

Bridgewater/Leeds & Liverpool. Manchester to The Rufford Branch.

On the way from Manchester to Leigh there is a wonder of Victorian Engineering. This is the Barton Aqueduct which takes the Bridgwater Canal over the Manchester Ship Canal.
Aqueduct? What’s so unusual about that? Well this one swings.
Then the road bridge next to it swings.
Then the Manchester to Liverpool ferry sails through the pair of them.
We just happened to be there.

We stopped at Worsley, partly because it’s a nice place to be, and partly to have a look at the entrance to the 48 mile labyrinth of underground waterways that were tunnelled into the coal seams around it. These were the Duke of Bridgwater’s mines; to drain the water and to transport the coal from here to Manchester was why this, the first significant canal in the country was built, and why, more or less, all subsequent canals are the size they are. We moored up behind NB Hadar; a beautiful working boat that we’ve been leap-frogging for a couple of weeks, and met her very friendly owners, Jo & Keith.
This is Jo’s blog.  It was one of the blogs we looked at when we were still in the planning stages of what we’re doing now. We learned a lot from other people’s experiences and it was lovely to finally meet someone we feel we’ve known for quite some time. Thank you for your prolific blogs, both of you, and thank you for all the help you unknowingly gave to a pair of wanabe boaters.

We had a night at Astley Green where there is a mining museum, including a massive 3300hp 4 cylinder steam winding engine.
In the centre of Leigh, the Leigh Branch of the Bridgwater Canal ends and the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal begins. Just as well that Brindley and Bridgwater put more effort into building canals than naming them.

Just before Wigan we stopped for a couple of nights at Ince Moss.
The towpaths along this part of the L&L are in excellent order and make cycling a breeze.

We’re thinking of being around here for a while before Christmas this year; what with interest rates being diddly squat we need to inject some funds into the coffers and we reckon that Wigan is as nicer place as any to get a bit of temporary employment. The North West Waterways office is here, with visitor moorings and very friendly and helpful staff so as we were passing we went in and got a booking form for the Liverpool Canal Link. This is the exciting new route into Liverpool Docks, passing along the river frontage, in front of the Liver Building and into the re-vitalised south docklands area. It’s an assisted passage and we’ve booked Legend on it in October, a week after we come back from the Lancaster. We’ll be in the basin on a pontoon mooring for a week, so if anyone would like to visit Liverpool in October we’ve got a spare bed in the city centre.

The Leigh Branch ends at Wigan Pier; once a joke in the style of left handed tea cups, spare spirit-level bubbles and long stands, but now a very real restored coal wharf, where it joins the L&L main line. We turned left there as we continue our journey to the most northern part of the system. We stopped at the bottom of Appley locks. Even though you now only go through one (very deep) lock, these are referred to in the plural because hidden away in the undergrowth alongside are two more derelict locks that used to allow traffic to go in both directions at once. Looking at them makes you realise just how close we came to not having a canal system at all.
Further west is Parbold and a delicious ice-cream parlour, followed by three swing bridges, none of which use the same mechanism,
then the right turn through a very majestic bridge into the Rufford Branch.
The junction here has got everything, including yet more different paddle gear.
7 miles further on is Tarleton and the sea lock through which, next week, a lock keeper will open to let us out onto an incoming tide on the River Douglas. Right now Legend is moored up in the pound between locks 2 and 3 on very slack ropes. The pound is a fair size but quite shallow at the edges and we won’t be back for 3 days. This is Frankie & Harry’s hen/stag weekend so we’re going to be elsewhere.

Between Leigh and Wigan there’s a shiny new lift bridge at Plank Lane, but sadly no bridge keeper. These days you hold all the traffic up by yourself. Just before the bridge is a water point; we filled up with water and had a chat with a couple who’ve done the Ribble crossing three times. More useful advice, but with more than a soup├žon of trepidation thrown in. We took their tales of boats run aground and struggling through vegetation with a pinch of salt, but not before we’d made mental notes. We are going to approach our upcoming tidal passage with the utmost care, and with our “Absolute Beginners” hats wedged firmly on our heads.


Jo Lodge said...

Hi Dave and Ann-Marie.

It was wonderful to meet you both and thank you for the lovely mention on your fantastic blog. I do sincerely hope we meet up again sometime. It is always a pleasure to meet fleelow bloggers and wonderful boaters.

Happy cruising Jo xx

Unknown said...

I've enjoyed reading your blog, especially that early parts where you were getting used to the boat. Our solar-topped roof boxes are in construction to house our folding bikes :-)

Dave and Ann-Marie. said...

Thanks Iain, and thanks for the comment in CWDF. One word of advice about roof boxes: make them flat-pack so you can get under low bridges. Our bikes are in the front box which we built KD with wing nuts, the solar panels are on the fixed back box which is lower than the gas heater flue and holds spare ropes, cable, bits of wood etc.

Unknown said...

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