Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Burnley to Foulridge Wharf.

Walking up Pendle Hill turned out to be just as big an undertaking as we thought it might. Armed with extra drinks, maps and a GPS compass app we strode forth from our mooring at the bottom of Barrowford Locks, and followed the Pendle Way towards the South Face Ascent.
When we managed to find it, we thought that the path, as it passed both Ogden reservoirs and climbed ever upward onto the Lancashire moorland, was dramatic and fairly strenuous.
That illusion was irrevocably shattered when we started to come down the East Face. Imagine the stairs in a Victorian terrace. Now imagine them made out of uneven stones. Now imagine them half a mile long.
At the bottom our legs were like jelly, but what a view!
A couple of days later we walked up the locks and over the top of Foulridge Tunnel to have recce at the moorings on the other side. On our way up we came across this odd looking contraption and its owner, John Wonfor.
John’s rather ambitious mission for this summer, (if and when it arrives) is to visit the four corners of the inland waterways on a 16’ catamaran with a camping chair and a car top tent strapped to it, in order to raise money for Macmillan Nurses. Highly commendable, mad as a hatter. We helped him through the bottom two locks and brought him on board Legend for tea and cake - as we do – and gave him a map of the inland waterways, which we don’t think he’d really looked at till then.

If you’re interested, the four navigable corners of the joined up system are: North - Tewitfield on the Lancaster, West – Llangollen on the…er… Llangollen, South – Godalming on the Wey Navigation and East – Brandon on the Little Ouse. They are, as it happens, our goals as well, although we intend to take a much more leisurely approach to achieving them and plan to visit everything in between as we go.

Talking of visiting things, as a way of saying goodbye to Burnley we drove up to this.
This is the “Singing Ringing Tree”. Some of the tubes have slots in them which the wind blows over, making a low hum, a bit like blowing over a bottle. When we were there the wind was doing a hoolie so we re-named it the Moaning Groaning Tree. That’s Pendle Hill in the background. Looking at that photo makes our knees hurt.

After carefully studying the weather forecast for a week at the bottom of Barrowford Locks we picked what looked like the best boating day and started up the flight.
It all went super smoothly to start with; in fact when Alan turned up to lend a hand we were perfectly placed in the third lock right by the car park. Spot on. It was only after the forth that it all went wrong. Within five minutes the weather went from absolutely fine to very wet and very windy with the towpath on the windward side, and in the scramble to get moored up before being blown into the reeds we managed to ram the bank – hard. The resounding crash that echoed from the cabin when we hit turned out to be most of our crockery exiting the cupboard and throwing itself, Life of Brian style, to the floor. We also broke the ornament we brought back from New Zealand, the one that gives us Good Luck over Water. Fat lot of good that did, eh? In our defence, the forecast had been fine and it was raining, cold and windy, but at the end of the day it was all down to rushing about when we really didn’t need to. One of us was on the bank with the front rope round a bollard and it wouldn’t have hurt to just let the wind swing the back out instead of trying to fight it and bashing into the wall. No lasting damage though, a bit of blacking lost, some new crockery needed and a lesson learned. If in doubt, slow down.

When the rain stopped we carried on up the flight, by this time another boat had come up behind us so for the first time since the staircase on the Millennium Link we found ourselves paired up for the top three. They were on their way to the Skipton Waterways Festival, which sounds like a good thing to go and have a visit to. So we will. We’re also going to have a look at the Preston Boat Jumble on the bank holiday Monday

Meanwhile we’re moored up at Foulridge Wharf after coming through the mile long tunnel.
There are showers and a café and a car park here so it’s all very nice. There’s also a sign that says “Three Days Max” which is very faint and you’d be excused for not noticing it, but there’s a perfectly good mooring spot a couple of hundred yards further on, just before the county border, so were going to be good and shuftie up.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Altham Bridge to Burnley

After the wind had died down a bit and we’d moved from the shelter of a wall into the open with views over the moors, Altham Bridge was lovely.
While we were there we had a trip to Chesterfield for Dave’s annual eye MOT, a day litter picking with the local IWA branch, and when there wasn’t a howling gale going on (and sometimes when there was) went walking on the surrounding moors.


While the views are stunning round here, we did find ourselves on what we now refer to as the Pointless Style & Gate Walk.
We also went to a meeting held by the local IWA branch which included a talk about Kennet; a L&L Short boat that the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society own and operate. The Friends of Kennet are a very enthusiastic and friendly bunch who have put an awful lot of time and effort into restoring this beautiful boat and now put just as much time and effort into maintaining and moving it around, and to welcoming as many people as possible on board in order to educate visitors and raise interest in the history of the L&L and canals in general. We found the talk especially interesting, as we’d been queued behind it while we waited to go across the Ribble to Preston last year. Humble appologies for calling it a Mersey Flat.

From there we moved up to Knotts Bridge, which on the map looked a bit close to the motorway, but in fact was lovely.
Dave did a very productive firewood scavenge
and got a lot of the new engine room panels painted while Ann-Marie finished the last curtain tie-backs.
Our next stop was Rose Grove, where there is a very nice shower block, off-side moorings and a car park which gets locked at night. Legend was there for one night; the next afternoon David & Kate came to stay and we moved into Burnley. (The car was there for nearly a week due to the car park being locked up the first time we went back to get it; sometimes things don’t go quite to plan.)

We moored outside the Inn On The Wharf right in the middle of Burnley.
Just like Wigan, we’d heard tales of doom about staying there; our opinion is that the more boats are seen moored in towns the more boats are likely to moor in towns. Anyway, we’ve had a week here and it’s been surprisingly quiet and peaceful. We’re on one side of the famous Weaver’s Triangle where a lot of work has, and still is being done to restore and re-generate the remaining mills, workers cottages, engine houses and other buildings.
It’s already quite impressive and when it’s all finished it will be spectacular. A look round the little museum in the former toll house was very informative and gave us an insight into what the place would have been like 150 years ago when it was the centre of the cotton weaving world.
Then.
Now.
In the town we’ve found Brambles Café,
which could prove to be a costly discovery if we’re not careful and there’s a Tesco Deathstar here as well – also costly. Just round the corner is the mile-long Burnley Embankment from which you get fabulous views over row upon row of terrace roofs and chimney pots,
grand municipal buildings and the Turf Moor football stadium. And if that’s not enough to inspire you, (we’re sorry Steve, but quite frankly, it’s not) there is always Pendle Hill beckoning in the distance.

Nickleson’s describe the Burnley Embankment as one of the seven wonders of the inland waterways. Without resorting to google we reckon the other six must be the Anderton Lift, the Pontypontycyclisty Aqueduct, the Bingley Five Rise, the Barton Swing Aqueduct, the Standedge Tunnel and our boat.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Whins Bridge to Altham Bridge

Last week, for the first time ever, we locked Legend up and went away for ten days. We emptied the fridge, shut the gas, electricity and water off, took all the loose stuff off the roof and stowed it in the engine room, packed our suitcases and drove away. The longest we’ve left it unattended before was for a long weekend and after our recent incident we were a tad trepidatious. We chose our mooring site very carefully; we needed somewhere non-rural but close enough to civilisation to be walked past regularly, somewhere not visible from a main road but accessible with a convenient parking place. Whin’s Bridge ticked all our boxes and happily proved to be perfectly safe. While we were away we kept finding ourselves watching dramatic-looking weather forecasts predicting Alaskan storms engulfing the UK, and returned after nine days expecting to have to dig our boat out of a snow drift, but apart from a little heap on the towpath, which had been sheltered by the boat there was very little to show for it.

Actually that’s not strictly true; all the Pennine passes were closed on the way home, there are still snow sculptures overhanging hedges and ditches everywhere and there is an enormous drift on the road near where we parked that we had to drive round with all four wheels on the pavement. So yes, the weather forecast was right and there was a bit of disruption after all.

We’d left the bird table up while we were away and came back to find it continuously visited by no end of hungry birds who, like us had been caught out by the cold snap. Hopefully it won’t last for long; there must be lots of newly hatched youngsters struggling for life at the moment.

Oddly the canal itself wasn’t frozen until Thursday morning, and even then it was only patchy. By then we’d moved up few miles to a little hamlet called Withnell Fold which has cobbled streets and a set of stocks.

After 48hrs on the moorings there we set off again to the Boatyard Inn at Riley Green where Frankie and Harry came on board for an Easter cruise through Blackburn.

There isn’t much in the way of pretty in Blackburn,
it’s mostly grey urban or grey industrial but there are the odd gems
the six locks are interesting, there are the remains of some lime-kilns along with the basin which served them
and Eanam Wharf, where we moored up for the night, is very impressive.
Due to there being too much water coming down the locks, and due to there being two wide-beam working boats moored in the smallest pound in the flight, we managed to flood the pavement outside the lock-keepers office. Technically it was the lock-keeper’s fault as he was setting the next lock and sent all the water down, but it was us everyone was pointing at.

On Easter Saturday we went Church,
which is a suburb of Accrington, next to Oswaldtwistle, where we shared a mooring with about forty Canada geese.
It is the half-way point from Liverpool to Leeds and there’s a thingy to mark the spot;
63 5/8 miles from both ends. F&H went off on Sunday and on Monday we cast off and carried on into the teeth of a gale, to the middle of nowhere overlooking the moors. “Mooring” in more ways than one.

We’ll be here for a few days on our own. Dave is going to finish the engine room and Ann-Marie is going to get the last curtain tie-back done and get stuck into some spring cleaning. As soon as the outside temperature improves, we’ll be giving the tumblehomes their annual lick of paint and putting a coat of blacking from there down to the water-line.

Post code for here is BB5 5US

Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Stourbridge Canal. BCN. Grand Union Canal. Kinver to Kixley Wharf

There are 25 locks from Hyde Corner to Merry Hill, but we had a fabulous day working up through them all. The Stourton and ...