Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Wigan.

There are two sides to being moored up in a town centre. On one hand it can be an expensive do; there’s a Screwfix and a Wickes within walking distance, which has resulted in one or two improvements – the beading in the bathroom is finished and there’s a nice new shelf with a light under it in the kitchen.
Also the box lids in the well deck have got non slip panels where you stand to get in and out.
On the other hand it can be very much in our financial interest to have a 24 hour supermarket on Ann-Marie’s way home from work at 5am.
These are the CRT’s new offices in Wigan and very nice they look too.
If you’re passing it’s certainly worth popping in, if only to pick up a copy of Towpath Talk. We popped in for a new Handcuff Key. This is the essential little device that opens the security locks on paddles on the Leeds and Liverpool.
Without one progress is – well - impossible really. Paddles are locked to stop unnecessary emptying of locks and pounds by the Bash Street Kids armed with nothing more than a mole wrench. While undoubtedly required practice in urban areas, the policy of securing every paddle on every lock does seem a bit excessive, especially on some of the more remote ones – the Rufford and Glasson branches for example. You also need one on the BCN where it’s referred to as an Anti-vandal or Water Conservation Key, and we got one in a hurry after getting stuck at Smethwick almost a year ago, but we sometimes come across a paddle that we can’t open due to it spinning round without doing anything. We had a feeling that as we didn’t get it from BW, the hole in the end might not be quite the same size as the genuine article. We’ve now got a new one and it’s a much better fit, so either the old one has worn (doubtful) or we were right and it was sloppier to start with.
Any road up, we’ve now got a spare one so when we’ve got help locking it’ll be quicker, and we don’t have to worry quite so much about dropping one the cut.

The frozen ground means that we can at last walk somewhere other than the towpath without finding ourselves up to our knees in mud. To the south-east of Wigan alongside the Leigh Branch there are a number of flashes where mining subsidence has resulted in lakes and ponds so we had a pleasant afternoon wandering around a couple of them.
The weather forecast looks good for going up the flight on Saturday; we’ll have a walk up on Friday to see what the ice situation is but at the moment, although a couple of the pounds are frozen over, it’s not thick enough to cause us any problems.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Appley Bridge to Wigan.

OK, so far 2013 hasn’t been a blazing whirlwind of excitement. That’s not to say that nothing has happened. For one thing, we bought a new mattress and organised the logistics of getting it into the boat and onto the bed, and the disposal of the old one. (Chucking it in the canal, whilst seeming to be the favoured option of certain segments of the population, who curiously appear to go to extraordinary lengths to get their unwanted stuff in the cut rather than their local tip, was not something we considered.) We found a bedding shop in Wigan close to the towpath and put our order in. As with all things boaty, you can’t just buy one off the shelf, but unlike some narrowboat bedrooms with clever designs ours isn’t a weird shape, it’s just a bit smaller. Once we’d found out that descriptions like “¾ “, “small double” and “queen size” all meant the same thing; ie. 4’ wide, the job got a lot easier. When collection day arrived we left Appley Bridge and cruised into Wigan, leaving the old rolled up mattress in the back of the car as we went past. We moored up opposite the new CRT offices at Henhurst lock and walked round the corner to the showroom. The salesman offered us the use of his estate car to move it but as we pointed out, by the time we’d wrestled it in, driven across the car-park and wrestled it out again, it would have been easier just to carry it to the boat. So that’s what we did. To get it in the front doors we simply rolled the cratch cover back and lifted the king plank up; all very slick. A woman walked by while we were performing, looked at the mattress in its polythene cover and asked “Have you got a bed that big in there?” Dave said “Yes they’re all this big.” Ann-Marie said “No, the downstairs ones are bigger.” Sometimes they just ask for it.

Chloe and Shandy came for a visit while we were at Appley Bridge. It’s been a while since they’ve been to the boat – understandably, we took it a long way away from them – and that isn’t going to change much until later in the year when we start heading south again. I was lovely to see them; we had a very relaxed evening, followed by pancakes and a walk through Fairy Glen the next day.
For our first two nights in Wigan we tied up outside the CRT office which is as safe as houses, being on the off-side and behind a locked gate. However, it’s a 48 hour mooring so on the Monday night we pushed off to the towpath side. We’re quite sure if we’d asked nicely we’d have been allowed to stay put, but there’s more sunshine over here and we don’t have to cross any bridges, making it closer to town.
As far a safety is concerned, it seems to be as good as any other city. Doubtless there would be tales of woe if we cared to listen, but we don’t.

It looks like we’re going to be iced in here in the next day or two. Hopefully it will be clear again in a couple of weeks as on the weekend of 26/27 Jan we’re planning a full scale assault on the Wigan flight of 23 locks. There is a mooring refuge about half way up, and a pub at the top so it should be ok even if we end up on our own. It’ll be good practice for when we come back over the Pennines on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which has 74 locks in 19 miles. And a 3 mile tunnel.