Whatever, it’s turning into a miserable summer. We’re trying to look on the bright side though; a task made a lot easier when your chosen life-style makes “water, water everywhere” an advantageous state of affairs. The good news is that, apart from the rumour that one reservoir somewhere has only been allowed to be ¼ full, because of a badger’s set in the bank, there seems to be no hint of navigation restrictions due to drought this year. (Said badgers will, no doubt, be culled at some stage to prevent tuberculosis in cattle.)
British Waterways’ jurisdiction extends up the river Weaver to a bridge at Winsford, beyond that you are on your own. The Nicholson guide vaguely says it can be shallow in parts. Helpful - not. Undaunted we went under the bridge, taking Legend out of BW waters for the first time. Straight away there was a twisty narrow bit with trees overhanging both sides that reminded us of Yellow River. We crept through on tick-over, expecting to see a crocodile or hit the bottom at any minute.
On the way back to Anderton we moored up at Vale Royal, just before the lock; another beautiful part of the world, and went for a walk over the lock to where, according to our OS Explorer, we should find the ruins of Vale Royal Abbey. We found a golf course and a posh new housing estate, but it was a nice walk; the footpath took us round it all and back along the river to the lock.
In the morning we were passed by NB Kandahar, so we quickly got going and followed them to the lock. When we got there the keeper was just opening the gates so we both went in and tied up together. Kandahar went out first and we followed them downstream. It was lucky for them that we did; half a mile further on they developed an engine problem and we were able to pull up alongside, tie the boats together and give them a tug to the next lock.
We got back to the lift on Thursday lunchtime; there were no spaces going up in the afternoon, so we had a night on the short term moorings. What with the chemical works on the opposite bank and a sound check going on for the Lift Off 2012 Festival behind us, we thought we wouldn’t get much kip, but with the curtains shut and Legend’s gentle rocking we had nothing to worry about.
By 10:30am on Friday we were in
Afterwards we all went back to Anne’s for tea, a big crowd round her big dining room table. Fab.
Back on board Legend we set off up the last bit of the T&M towards Preston Brook. This includes three tunnels in quick succession; Barnton, Saltisford, and Preston Brook, all of which present a challenge. Barnton is straight, but you have to make a sharp left to get in it, while the other two are so kinked you can’t see through them.
At the end of Preston Brook tunnel the T&M ends and the Bridgewater Canal begins. This was the one that started it all. Originally built to drain the mines at Worsely, then extended to ship the coal out to Manchester, it is now owned by the Manchester Ship Canal Company and is very different to BW canals. The first thing you notice is that it’s wider and deeper; you can chug along quite happily and not make a wash. There are stop plank cranes, off-side mooring sites, stone edges and a distinct lack of Armco. It’s very nice.
Where the Bridgwater Canal ends the Rochdale begins, climbing up through the first nine locks almost under the city centre. Then there is a junction; the Rochdale continues to the left on its way over the Pennines while the Ashton Canal turns off to the right to join the Peak Forest and Huddersfield Canals. We’re not going that way this time; we’re going back out to the Leigh Branch then on to Plank Lane and the western end of the Leeds & Liverpool.
Here’s a glimpse of what we got to see of Manchester in the short time we were there.