Saturday 29 December 2012

Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Crooke to Appley Bridge

After two weeks at Crooke we thought it would be polite to clear off. The canal is very much overlooked by the local houses so it seemed prudent to keep to the rules and not upset the natives. Just before we left, several of the other boats that had been moored there when we arrived received patrol notices; the waterways equivalent of parking tickets, so someone is obviously quite vigilant. It sort of proves what we said in the last post; in the winter, away from popular spots you’ll get left alone, but you still have to behave at visitor moorings.

So we’re now at Appley Bridge. Yes, back the way we came, although we were at the locks last time and now we’re next to the bridge. We’d have gone back to the locks except for a chemical spill which closed the canal for a week or two. There were blue absorbent barrages across the cut under the bridge and at all the spill weirs after it. When it first happened the whole area smelled of tar, but as the days passed and it continued to rain it seems to have mostly dispersed. Whether the emergency measures have been effective or whether it all got washed into the River Douglas is debatable, but the upshot is that by the 28th of December it was open to navigation again. Or, to put it more accurately; if any navigation had been occurring, its progress would have been unhindered.

We spent the Christmas holidays at Chloe & Shandy’s house, starting with a fabulous Christmas Eve dinner for all the family. In the morning Chloe & Shandy opened Santa's offerings, had breakfast and headed off to Jon & Jo's while we had a very pleasant Christmas day with Frankie & Harry. We resisted the temptation to walk out and leave all the clearing up, indeed C&S got the best deal; when they left there was a mountain of food and Package-Fest was in full swing, on the 29th they’ll come home to a clean house.

On Boxing Day we came back to the boat, lit a fire, hung up the washing, and then went to join Sue & Steve for a lovely evening at Emma & Bill’s at Hesketh Bank.

The following day we drove down to Wrexham to Rob & Tracey’s where we were later joined by Dave’s Auntie Margot and Cousin Philippa. Rob is half way through a yearlong tour in Afghan and was home for Christmas so it was good to be able to get to see them all.

We love Christmas, mainly because it means we get to indulge in our favourite pastime of visiting people. This year, due to being in a different neck of the woods, we’ve been able to share Christmas with a whole other branch of our family and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course it does mean that we’ve spent a good deal of time lounging around and eating too much. There will be a price to pay in the New Year in the form of lots of walking and cycling; let’s hope the weather allows us enough time between deluges to do it.

Talking of rain, we are often asked how the current state of affairs affects us; are we likely to be washed away or left stranded in a field somewhere. The short answer is that as long as we stay on canals and avoid rivers and flood plains we should be ok. There are exceptions, but in general for a canal to flood the adjacent river has to burst its banks and water levels need to rise dramatically, obviously this would cause catastrophic flooding in the local area before there was a problem on the canal. Indeed, aboard a boat in a canal is usually the best place to be when there are flood warnings about. There’s also the added bonus of being off grid to start with, so immune from power cuts and blocked drains. And if the worst should happen, we’re on board to do something about it and we’ve got emergency gear. The boats that appear on the TV news stranded or perched on top of locks would most likely have been unoccupied in the build-up to, and during the occurrence of, their calamity. So thank you for your concern, it’s good to know that you are thinking of us, but touch wood, we’ll be fine.

Thank you, Dear Reader, for sticking with us for another year, we hope you had a good Christmas and we look forward to sharing 2013 with you. Happy New Year.

Monday 10 December 2012

Leeds and Luverpool Canal. Appley Bridge to Crooke.

We were sad to leave Appley Bridge. Being off the main line meant we had a constant stream of birds on our bird table and other wildlife in the trees,
we could leave stuff out on the towpath and it felt very much like home. Crooke, on the other hand is busier, there’s not much of a view and the solar panels aren’t doing a lot. The reason we’ve moved is partly our natural wanderlust combined with a need to get closer to where Ann-Marie is working. We picked a day without ice, filled up with water at Dean Locks,
which would be a perfect canal cottage location if it wasn't for the M6, and tied up just before the Crooke Hall Inn. Very nice pub, apparently. Dave might find out one of these evenings.
Crooke is a pretty little village with a close-knit comunity, however it wasn't always thus. 100 years ago the scene was radically different with up to 20 coal barges a day being loaded from as many as 5 "Tipplers".
This was the last one to be dismantled. There were similar ones at other locations, the most famous being in Wigan. Guess what that was called? It turns out that Wigan Pier wasn't just a music hall joke as we'd thought, but an actual structure. When trade on the canal ceased it was sold for scrap and there is now a replica on the tow-path where it used to be.

It would appear that we are going to be in the Northern Reaches of the inland waterways until the spring. There are three general routes between the North West, where we are, and the Midlands and the South, where we’re going. The easiest way is the one we came by; Bridgwater and Trent & Mersey, but until at least Easter this is impassable due to a big breach near Preston Brook. Alternatively we could turn left in Wigan and continue up the L&L and take the long way round over the Pennines to Leeds then follow the River Trent to Nottingham. We’ve discounted this for a number of reasons, not least of which is that most of the River Trent is tidal. We will go that way at some time but there’s so much to do in that direction that it’ll take us whole year to explore it. The remaining choice, and the way we will eventually go, is via the Bridgewater into Manchester, then the Rochdale, Ashton, Peak Forest, Macclesfield and Trent & Mersey canals. This takes us to lots of lovely places like Bugsworth, Whaley Bridge and Froghall, which we’re looking forward to but, once again, it’s impassable until the maintenance work is finished on the Rochdale in Manchester. The scheduled completion date is 08/03/13, but like everything else is probably going to overrun. So here we are, just to the east of Wigan with nowhere to go. Then next lock - Ell Meadow – is having its bottom gates replaced so we can’t go forwards and we’ll be here in Crooke for Christmas. The water point at Dean Locks is about half an hour behind us, so as long as we keep an eye on the weather and time it right we can survive being iced in for a fortnight without any worries. Ann-Marie is 20 minutes’ walk away from work, and when she finishes in January we’ve decided to turn round and go back to Burscough so that when the weather really gets grim we’re in an ideal spot.

You may wonder how this lack of going anywhere fits in with the CRT rules that apply Continuous Cruisers. We are, after all, limited to 14 days in any one place. We were at Appley Bridge for a month, we’ll be at Crooke for a similar length of time and our presence in both places will, no doubt, be recorded on some database or other. The reason we haven’t been threatened with having our boat impounded and crushed for scrap, or even phoned up with a vague suggestion that we might consider moving at some time, is that in the winter, away from popular spots, on a waterway with hardly any boats moving, you are allowed a certain amount of leeway. That isn’t to say that no-one cares; other boaters pay for winter moorings and if we parked up on visitor rings for months on end we’d expect there to be consequences. But when the maintenance program is in full swing, there’s only 5 hours of daylight a day and there’s ice on the horizon, if not on the canal, you can’t be expected to make the same sort of progress.

Listening to the radio recently, we appear to be in the best place in the country, weather-wise. Everywhere else seems to be having a worse time of it than us, presumably the wheels will turn and we’ll get our fair share of cold. We’re as prepared as we can be and so far we’ve been fine. We spent a very enjoyable ten minutes putting the Christmas decorations up; there’s only so much you can add to an already cluttered 57’ trad and still see outside.

One of our frequently asked questions is how we cope in winter. We now have a stock answer ready; “Well, if we open all the windows and shut the stove down we can sometimes get it below 25˚C.” Boom, tish.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Leeds And Liverpool Canal Appley Bridge to Dean locks and back again.

No-one turned up to mend our lock, but it’s working again anyway. This is due more to whatever is under the gate becoming embedded in it through usage, rather than anything resembling a sensibly planned and executed clearance of said object. You can tell it’s still there by the little geyser spouting up from the bottom of the gate, but all things considered we’re happy to report that Appley Bridge lock is working a lot better than it was and losing considerably less water than a lot of other locks on the L&L, and that navigation through here is perfectly possible. Indeed Derrick, on coal boat Ambush, (a gorgeous Liverpool long boat with a huge 4 cylinder Gardiner) came through at the weekend. Their home base is at Crooke and on their way through they stopped off at our little community to deliver coal and diesel. With Ambush in the lock there was hardly any room for the water, so if they can get through anything can.
We’ve now got half a dozen bags of coal on the roof to go with all the logs.

This week’s been rather busy; as well as a short cruise up to Dean Lock for water
we had a couple of nights away from the boat. First stop was Anne’s in Chesterfield for post. Anne was going to a rag-rugging evening at the community centre so we tagged along; Dave’s had a rag rug on the go for several months (that’ll be about a year then) and it’s sort of stalled just lately, so it was good to get it out and show it to people, so to speak. He got a few new ideas so there’s a good chance it’ll get going again.

The next day we were up early and off to Southam for dentist appointments, after which we dropped in on Chloe & Shandy in Daventry. Their house is looking really homely now and we spent the evening round their table with a very pleasant indian. They’ve invited us for Christmas Eve, and we’re very much looking forward to it.

Thursday was another early start, first to a motor factors for a new battery for the car. (it’s never failed to start first go, but as Ann-Marie is doing lots of short-hop driving in the dark with everything switched on, it seemed sensible to swap it before we had to.) By 9.30 we were at the NEC for a day at the BBC Good Food Show. Ann-Marie has been quite a few times but it was Dave’s first visit. We had a whale of a time; we spent the whole day snacking on free samples and came away laden with booty. Ann-Marie is now working from 6 o-clock each night, leaving Dave on his own in the boat with nothing but a stash of yummy food to keep him company. Oh dear.

We’ve had our first day with ice on the cut this winter, although it’s due to get a bit milder next week so it won’t last. Anne’s coming for the day on Saturday, it’s Dave’s 55th birthday on Sunday, then if the weather looks ok we’re going to move to Crooke on Monday. If we get frozen in, that would be a better place to be. This is idyllic, but not very accessible.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Appley Locks.


This afternoon a little river cruiser went into the lock where we're moored. The crew opened the top gates easily enough to get their little yoghurt pot into the lock, but when they came to close them again they wouldn't come together and there was a big gap down the middle.
When we realised they were having a spot of bother we went to lend a hand but no amount of shoving, bouncing, flushing or poking about with a pole made any difference. They were out for a day trip and they said that the last two times they'd taken the boat out the engine had packed up. This time the lock broke. We'll make sure we steer well clear of them in future! In the end they backed out and chugged off back to their marina while we phoned the CRT emergency number. There must be something jammed under one of the gates and the lock is out of order until the maintenance team get here and sort it out. It effectively means we're stranded in a 3 mile stretch of canal, Ell Meadow is shut and this one is broken. Oh dear, what a shame. We're going to have to stay in a lovely secluded mooring for a bit longer. Happily there's a water point a mile away with a winding hole, the local pub does free wifi, the car park is a 5 minute walk up the towpath and there's a local shop.

We know what you're thinking, but no, we didn't break it!

Now, what happened to that old bike frame?

Friday 16 November 2012

Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Burscough to Appley Locks.

Although you only go up through one 12’ deep lock at Appley locks, it’s referred to in the plural because there are actually 3 locks here. A shallower pair was built alongside the original to speed traffic up, but these are now derelict. The good bit is that you can moor in the approach to the top of the disused locks and that’s where we are. This is about as good as it gets; we’re on the far side of a little island that’s only accessible by a footbridge, there’s a lovely view, plenty of wildlife and it’s like having our own private bit of towpath.
There are 2 other boats moored here at the moment and we have a very friendly little community going on. They both came across the Ribble Link with us and we’ve seen them around on the Lanky and this end of the L&L all autumn, so it’s nice to get to know them a bit better.

We did the trip from Burscough in one go between Ann-Marie’s shifts, so she slept through most of it, just emerging to open the swing bridges. The day before we moved, Dave had been along the towpath with the bow saw, making stashes of dead-fall firewood ready to be picked up as we went by. He got a bit carried away, as he does, and we arrived at the lock with every inch of the roof covered in big bits of tree. There has to be a limit to how much weight you can put on top of a narrowboat before it simply falls over, and we were noticeably tippy. He’s since spent a good few hours every day cutting it into stove sized lengths and now it’s stacked everywhere - on the bank, on the roof, in the front locker – everywhere you look there are more logs.
We’ll use them, of that there is no doubt, and more. In fact he’s already spied another wooded bit that he’ll go and attack when we leave. It keeps him fit and out of trouble.

As it’s nice and safe here, we’ve taken the opportunity to take the slide hatch off the back end and tidy it up. At the moment we’ve got a bit of Land-Rover canvas covering our exposed rear while the slide resides on the workmate. The plan is to line it in ply, repaint it and put coloured diamonds on the raised bit.
Should look good.

The Squirrel log burner is on pretty much all the time now so our staple diet will be casseroles, curries and chilli till Easter. Yum! The copper kettle we bought in Glasson is proving its worth as well; it holds about 4 litres and we keep it on top of the fire and full. This has meant that our last gas bottle lasted 9 weeks instead if 6, and at £20 a refill that’s not to be sniffed at.

We can’t go much further along the canal at the moment as there’s a maintenance stoppage 2 locks further on at Ell Meadow. They are replacing the gates and it’s scheduled to finish on Dec 20, so in a couple of weeks we’ll go and have a chat with the CRT guys doing the work and see if they’re going to be on time. If so we can go through and be in Wigan outside the North-West Waterways office for Christmas.

This is the L&L in all its Autumn Glory

Saturday 3 November 2012

Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Haskayne to Burscough.

Apart from a mad dash to Daventry via Chesterfield to see Chloe and Anne and pick up our post we haven’t done a lot - well not a lot of boat related stuff. Ann-Marie has been working some very odd hours and lots of them, which has meant that boat movements have been restricted to short hops so that we’re never more than half an hour from the car. It took four such shuffles to get from Haskayne to Burscough where we’ve been for the past week. It’s very handy here, there’s a Tesco round the corner, a chippy, a hardware shop, BW services and a free car park. Shame we can only stay for another week, but by then Ann-Marie will just be doing weekends and we can move on easily.

We’ve had a major change of plan for the next year or two. We were going to be going over the Pennines to Leeds, on the Aire and Calder rivers to Wakefield, back over the Pennines on the Huddersfield and then south on the Peak Forest, Macclesfield, T&M, Coventry, North Oxford and GU to Northampton which, with all the associated cul-de-sacs, would have taken up next year. That was going to be followed by an excursion out to Peterborough and the Fens the year after.

It’s now all different. We’re going south straight from here as soon as Ann-Marie’s contract ends in January, back down the Bridgwater to Manchester, then the Rochdale and Ashton taking us onto the Peak Forest and all points south. At Gayton Junction instead of diverting down the Nene we’ll carry on down the GU all the way to London, then on the Paddington Arm and the Regent’s Canal to the Lea & Stort by the end of the year.

What’s changed our minds? Well, when we were down at Frankie & Harry’s they announced that they have decided to move to France with Janice & Paul – a move which doesn’t surprise us at all; Harry and Paul are going to refurbish and sell French 2CVs – and we think it will be brilliant for them. The time scale is fairly vague at the moment; J&P have to sell their house and the gites and find somewhere suitable for them all, so it’s not going to be for a while yet, but we want to spend as much time as we can nearer to F&H before they go. We’d planned to cruise up the Lea & Stort past Hoddesden at some point, so really we’re only swapping things around a bit. We feel very far from our loved ones up here and although it’s great to be exploring the northern canals, they’re not going anywhere and we can always come back.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Liverpool Canal Link/Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Liverpool to Haskayne

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for us. For a start we’ve been in Liverpool, moored in Salthouse Dock, right next to the Tate, the Museum of Liverpool, the Maritime Museum and Museum of Slavery, the fantastically resurrected Albert Dock and with the huge Liverpool One shopping mall just over the road. We have said on many occasions that we’re not city people, and despite the grandiose of our arrival through the disused docks and the newly hewn canal link, it was with some trepidation that we tied up. We need not have worried; our pontoon mooring was excellent and we have been completely blown away by this city. It’s clean, it’s friendly, the architecture is amazing and typified by the cathedrals at each end of Hope Street; one old, one new, almost in each other’s shadows and on opposite sides of a religious divide but existing in perfect harmony.
And it doesn’t end there. There’s the Walker Gallery, the Library, the St George building and, although we went and walked and looked as much as we could, there’s a whole raft of places we didn’t have time to see. If you get the chance to go – go. If you’ve got a boat, take it.
The second exciting thing was that while we were doing all that, Ann-Marie still managed to find time to apply for, go for an interview for, get and start a new job! Whoo-whoo!

We’d hoped to not have to work anymore, but hopeless interest rates and our habit of spending more money than we should mean that there’s not quite enough in the pot. We’ll review the situation each year; this year we bought a lot of paint and a new fridge, next year we won’t be doing that but something else might well come up. Ann-Marie’s got a three month contract working weekend nights in a transport office in Wigan which is where we’re intending to gravitate towards over the next month or so. At the moment she’s driving to work, but as we get closer and the weather deteriorates she’s going to walk. There’s a very nice place on the canal called Crooke less than half a mile from where she’s working so we’ll be there for a fortnight, or evn longer if the planned lock closure at Hell Meadow over-runs. In the New Year when her contract ends we’ll be off up the Wigan flight and over the Pennines towards Leeds.

On our way out of Liverpool we stopped for the night at Aintree where, although it is quite urban, we thought we’d be fairly safe. After all, we were on board and it was just one night. In the morning it was only after we’d got on and off the boat a few times that we noticed we weren’t tied to the bollards. Sometime in the night some jovial oik had decided it would be a wizard wheeze to put considerable effort into undoing our ropes and casting us adrift. No doubt they were sadly disappointed when, instead of disappearing off downstream towards a crocodile infested waterfall, Legend belligerently stayed exactly where she was. Come on, lads! If you’re going to go to all that trouble, at least give it a shove. We thought Scousers had a bit more imagination.

On a less humorous note, when we got to Haskayne, our next stop, we found two burned out boats on the permanent moorings.
They definitely weren’t like that when we went past a few weeks ago and a bit of research on the net revealed that it had happened a couple of days previously and that the police believed there were suspicious circumstances. Not the sort of thing you want to hear when you’re about to leave your boat for four days. We had a trip down south planned to see Frankie & Harry, Mum & Dad, Fran & Sean and Karen; Haskayne had seemed the ideal spot. There’s a car park and it’s quiet, and there’s a couple of houses nearby so it’s not too isolated, but if something like that can happen it was obviously not as safe as we imagined. We had an evening of quandary but in the end decided to stick to our original plan. Working on the theory that lightening never strikes twice and that, for a while at least, everyone would be extra vigilant, we locked up and drove off down the M6 trying not to think.

In what is fast becoming our usual style when visiting our friends and family, we had three nights in three different houses on three different beds, one of which was a settee. We went out for an Indian with F&H; it was brilliant to see them and catch up with their lives, it’s been too long. In the morning we carried on to Karen’s where we ambushed her washing machine and gave it a dammed good thrashing, then took her and Ben down to Portsmouth to spend the evening with Fran & Sean. Sean made his famous Moroccan Chicken, which was followed by an equally delicious strawberry cake. If we were asked to name our favourite hobbies, “Visiting” would be right up there.

Wednesday found us at Mum & Dads. Dave & Dad disappeared into the garage and emerged a little while later with a windlass with a swivelling handle. Why? Well it’s a long story. When we bought Legend she had two windlasses, one of which was home-made and a bit rubbish. For those who don’t know, a windlass is the handle that you operate lock paddles with; crucial equipment. As we’ve meandered around the network we’ve been fishing with a “Seasearcher” recovery magnet at locks and moorings to see what we could pick up. So far we’ve found no end of mooring pins and no less than five windlasses, or “windlii”, giving us a total of seven, two of which had tubular swivelling handles and had become our favourites. We use the word “had” because a little while ago disaster struck. The Rufford branch of the L&L has six locks, each of which has a different method of opening paddles. Some have a horizontal screw affair; these have handles. Some have a vertical slide thingy; these don’t have a handle and don’t require one, and some have a traditional rack-and-pinion which doesn’t have a handle but needs one. This is where your windlass comes in. To make matters worse, some have a combination of all the above and all of them also require an anti-vandal key to unlock whatever mechanism there is, so you need to approach each one armed with various tools and it’s no surprise that our usual locking routine got slightly out of kilter. The net result was that at the top lock our two favourite windlii got put down and between us we failed to pick them up again. Later in the evening we realised and went back to look but by then they were someone else’s favourite. C’est la vie! So, that’s why Dave wanted to raid Dad’s garage for a bit of ¾” copper tube and a couple of washers.
As if we hadn’t eaten enough over the previous two days, we all went out to a carvery that night and had pudding as well, then on Thursday lunchtime we were at it again in Wetherspoons. As tea-time approached along with the threat of yet more food, we thought it would be a good idea to thin out. By 9:30 we were 200 miles further north and still unable to button our jeans up, but back at the boat which, happily, was safe and sound and just as we left it.

Since we’ve been back, despite being contracted for weekend nights, Ann-Marie has been putting lots of extra twilight shifts in during the week. Her job is transport clerk, which means she gets to tell truck drivers where to go. Dave knows from experience that she’s got a natural talent for it.

Monday 8 October 2012

Millenniun Link/ Leeds and Liverpool canal/Liverpool Canal Link. Preston to Liverpool.

Talk about getting your money’s worth! Legend has been the focus of attention for a small army of CRT employees over the last week and a half. First there were the two who helped us down the Millennium Link; they operated the staircase and the sea lock and made sure we were safely on our way down the Ribble.
The crossing back was just as exciting-in-a-good-way as it was on the way over, and pointing the bows of a narrowboat at a horizon that is all sea for a couple of hours is something we will remember for a long time. Next there was Harry and a whole gang of helpers who worked the sea lock at Tarleton, bringing us off the river Douglas onto the Rufford branch of the Leeds & Liverpool, and to whom we owe special thanks as it was seriously chucking it down when we got there but they all just smiled and got on with it. We were right about a big tide going out fast; it was odd to be ploughing through the water, pushing a huge bow-wave whilst the scenery casually dawdled past. Our brave little 19hp Lister has never had to work so hard; on the final stretch, with the open lock ahead of us and not appearing to be getting any closer, we had 2600 RPM on the clock, although that doesn’t mean a lot as the rev counter is off another engine and hasn’t been calibrated to ours. Suffice to say that normally if we go above 2200 on a canal we start creating a wash and people throw things.

We had two nights at Tarleton, then it took us a couple of days to get down the Rufford Branch. We stopped just before the last two locks so that Bill, Evie and William could join us as we went round the corner into Burscough. They are Sue & Steve’s son-in-law and grandchildren. They helped with the locks, got round the outside of Ann-Marie’s cottage pie and they seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience. We moored up just in front of Dave & Kate on Bosley who were on their way from Liverpool to their winter hang-out on the Peak Forest canal,
so it was a social few days we had before heading off to yet another Limit of Navigation, this time at the end of the Leeds & Liverpool.

In 2010 the Liverpool Canal Link opened enabling inland waterways craft to cruise through the stunningly redeveloped Central Dock area, past the Liver Building and the new Museum of Liverpool, through Albert Dock and moor up on a pontoon in Salthouse Dock, right in the middle of the city. This extra couple of miles of canal has made what was once the grotty end of the L&L into an increasingly popular destination for narrowboats, benefiting the whole western end of the navigation in the process. Passage is assisted from Aintree and normally there are half a dozen boats going through in convoy, but not today. We were on our own and so had the undivided attention of yet two more sterling CRT chaps who opened bridges for us and let us down the locks.
From just before the original terminus at Eldonion Basin, we descended the Sanley Dock flight of locks, then spent the next hour or so going “Wow!” as we passed through the huge dock complex with warehouses towering above us and wharves on every side bristling with giant mooring bollards.
There are two locks along the link,
after which, with a blast on the hooter, we emerged into Canning Dock and an audience of Sunday Strollers promenading along the dock walls above us.
The weather - for once - was fabulous, and we chugged through Albert Dock and onto our appointed pontoon in Salthouse in blazing sunshine, waving at everyone and having a ball.
You can just see Legend behind the gazebo thingy. 
Everyone we’ve spoken to about visiting Liverpool has said how good it is, words like “Vibrant”, “Revitalised” and “Exciting” crop up all the time, and we have now got the hint that the museums are both brilliant and free. We’d need a lot longer than a week to fit in everything we’ve been told to visit and we’re thinking that maybe we should have booked a fortnight here in the first place. Not to worry, if we miss some stuff it’ll give us a reason to come back again.
And to all the CRT people who assisted our passage – Thank you, as ever you were without exception friendly and helpful.

Friday 28 September 2012

Lancaster Canal. Bolton-le-Sands to Preston.

As if by magic we’re back in Preston. As planned on Friday evening, Steve & Lesley came along to Bolton-le-Sands, although we’d forgotten that at this time of year 8pm is way after sunset, so they made their way down the towpath by torchlight and didn’t see the outside of the boat till the following morning. We’d been so enamoured by Carnforth railway station we had another go at it with Steve & Lesley. That was followed by a very pleasant afternoon’s boating with them on board; first through Hest Bank with its views over Morecambe Bay,
then over the magnificent Lune Aqueduct and into Lancaster, mooring up just after the Water Witch pub. Despite Dave’s best attempts to sabotage dinner by launching the Moroccan Chicken off the edge of the wood burner, we had a very agreeable evening. On Sunday we returned to Kendal where Ann-Marie bit the bullet and chose a pair of Keen walking boots. So now we’ve got no excuse for not going for a walk. We picked up Steve & Lesley’s car on the way back; they headed for home later on, managing to remember everything apart from Lesley’s shoes. Not bad.

Then it rained. Relentlessly for 36 hours.
We re-appraised our schedule.

We needed to be in Preston on Friday, as that was the only time the boat yard was open and we wanted to fill up with diesel before we cross the Ribble. It didn’t stop raining till Wednesday morning and we were still in Lancaster 30 miles away. Drastic action was required, so while Dave had a really easy time standing on the back of the boat, Ann-Marie, in true hero style, drove and cycled up and down the A6. First to Bilsborrow and back up to Garstang, where we spent Wednesday night, then from Bilsborrow to Preston and back up to Catforth, where we spent Thursday night. As well as putting in all the hard work, she got stung on the neck by (we think) a wasp, which, as if all the cycling wasn’t enough, knocked her for six for a day and a half. Today – Friday - we got to Ashton Basin just after mid-day; Dave backed in and we put 105L in the tank. The last time we filled up was from Brian & Ann Marie’s boat in Middlewich, so we don’t think that’s too bad.

At the moment Legend is on the visitor moorings at Cadley in Preston. Well, almost on the visitor moorings. To our annoyance there is a boat on the only 14 day spot, that was there when we came here 2 months ago, was still there when we came to see Bosley off, and looks like it’s going to be there forever. We wouldn’t mind so much if there were other places to moor round here, but there aren’t. So we’d like to apologise to the world for mooring on the water point.

We’re off to Anne’s in Chesterfield tomorrow morning, and then on the way back on Sunday we’ll pop into Buxton to see Wiltz & Annie and pick up Dave’s camera. When we get back to the boat we’ll move round to the basin at the top of the Millennium Link ready to go down the staircase locks at 8am on Monday. It takes just over 2 hours to get down the link so we should be out on the Ribble around 10:30. High tide is at 12:30 and it’s 9.5m which is really high. We’re not sure whether that’s good, as we’ll have more time, or bad, as it’ll be going out faster when we get to Tarleton. Guess we’ll find out. We’ll just follow Harry-the-Lock-keeper’s advice again and go like the clappers. The weather forecast at the moment predicts a 14mph sou’westerly and no rain; that’s pretty good compared to what’s been going on recently.

We’ve had a wonderful time up on the “Lanky”. Here are some more photos.

Monday 24 September 2012

Lancaster Canal. Bolton-le-Sands to Borwick via Tewitfield.

We must have impressed Sue & Steve with our tales of boat life because they dropped into Bolton-le-Sands to visit Legend on their way back from Preston. It was lovely to have them aboard for the afternoon, although at around 7’ Steve is far too tall to actually fit inside our little home.
On Thursday morning before breakfast we moved a couple of miles up the cut to Carnforth and stopped on the visitor moorings, right behind the BP garage and Spar shop. Not where we’d usually choose for a peaceful night’s sleep but very handy for shopping, parking and a service point. It’s also really easy to find, being right next to the Canal Turn pub, which was useful, as on Friday David & Kate, two of our dearest friends who we don’t see nearly enough of, came to stay for a couple of days. They arrived just before lunch and in the afternoon we all went into Carnforth to visit the railway station. That doesn’t sound very exciting until you realise that Carnforth Station was the location used for the filming of “Brief Encounter.” We had a lovely time saying “Darling?” “Yes Darling?” to each other and pretending to have a piece of grit in our eye till it stopped being funny. The station cafĂ© has been beautifully refurbished in the style of the film set complete with wood panelling, cash register and tea urn. No doubt the staff are sick and tired of comments about 1940s prices. Our two pots of tea came with tea strainers and jugs for topping up which impressed us enormously.

We had another night behind the Spar Shop which resulted in everyone being awake at 6:30am when the bread man turned up. Maybe we should have moved on a bit the night before. Oh well, at least we were all up and dressed for breakfast pancakes and a water fill up before setting forth for the northern-most point on the English canal network. The Lancaster Canal originally went all the way to Kendal but in the1960s the building of the M6 severed the top 15 miles from the rest at a hitherto unheard of place called Tewitfield. This is now hallowed ground for canal enthusiasts; if you send the Lancaster Canal Society a photo of your boat at the end, you will receive in return a plaque to commemorate your achievement. Here's our photo.
In the afternoon we had a walk up the 8 Tewitfield locks on the other side of the blockage. As you walk up the towpath you are very aware that the 25 yard strip of land that you are on represents 200 years of transport evolution.

These were the only locks on the Lancaster Canal between Preston and Kendal raising the canal by 75’. The lock gates have been replaced with weirs, but they are in surprisingly good condition; the stonework looks sound and it makes you believe that the society’s target of complete restoration of the upper reaches all the way to Kendal is not only achievable but imminent.
David & Kate left in the evening and we went to bed about 25 yards from the motorway wondering if we’d get any sleep at all. As it turned out a constant traffic drone was easier to sleep through than Mr Warburton banging his roll-cages around in the middle of the night.

With hindsight we should have made turning Legend round a bigger occasion than we did; we simply pulled it backwards, swung the front round and slid off our moorings, heading south for the first time since we went down the Stratford last year. We didn’t go far though, there were some very nice 14 day moorings at Borwick, about half a mile from the end and we had several nights there in the middle of nowhere - our more usual habitat.
The last 15 miles are still accessible by foot; so on Tuesday, armed with a sizable packed lunch and waterproofs we set off towards Kendal. The further you get the more you begin to appreciate the size and complexity of the job the society have ahead of them. The first part is still in water and “only” requires a couple of tunnels under the roads to bring it back into use,
but after that it is just a dry ditch,
and in some places not even that;
if it wasn’t for stranded bridges in the middle of fields it would be hard to believe there was ever a canal there at all. We have no doubt that it will eventually be restored back to full navigation all the way into a fabulous new waterfront development at Canal Head in Kendal. (Which is at the moment is a waste disposal facility)
We did the whole walk without major incident and caught the 555 back to the boat quite proud of ourselves. We managed to dodge the showers, but the wet grass and muddy footpaths proved to be too much for our woefully inadequate footwear. We spent the evening with our feet in hot water looking at walking boots on the net, then in the morning went back to Kendal in the car and toured round outdoor clothing shops. After a crash course in boot technology and design we resigned ourselves to the fact that you get what you pay for; walking is what we do most and we really can’t expect a pair of jumped up fashion trainers to take the everyday hammer that we put them through. After a whole day of deliberation and soul searching Dave came home with a lovely pair of leather Scarpa Rangers which he’s been fondling ever since, but we have yet to find something that Ann-Marie is happy with. She tried a pair of Keens on and found them very comfortable, maybe we’ll go back.

We go back across the Ribble a week on Monday, so we’re not hanging about going back down to Preston. This weekend Steve & Leslie are coming to stay, we’ll meet them at Bolton-le-Sands and take them through Hest Bank and across the Lune Aqueduct - very picturesque - and moor up for the night in Lancaster. Then, if the weather’s ok, go out the other side to Galgate or Garstang.

Having already been to the furthest westerly point at Llangollen, and now as far north as we can, our next navigational target is Brandon, near Thetford on the Little Ouse River which is the furthest east you can go, followed by the furthest south at Godalming on the Wey Navigation.

Of course there’s a whole country to go at before that.

New Haw Lock to Boveney. River Wey. River Thames.

After pulling the pins at New Haw we dropped down the last four locks on the Wey... Cox's Mill Lock Town Lock The final stretch of the W...