Friday 7 October 2022

Haskayne to Taylor's Bridge. Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Leigh Branch. Bridgewater Canal. Runcorn Arm. Trent and Mersey Canal.

At the end of August it all got a bit busy. Anne and Andy came to stay for a couple of days while we were moored outside the Saracen’s Head at Halsall. 


We’re very aware of how confined life on board our boat is compared to a house, how personal space is permanently compromised and that nowhere is “out of the way”, so there’s always a bit of trepidation when someone comes to stay for the first time. Andy was fine and took all the shuffling past each other in his stride. We, on the other hand, were having a mare. The morning before they turned up we went to move the car and…. Nothing. Dave tried jump starting it off one of the boat batteries, but still nothing, so we called recovery out. A fella from a local garage turned up, put a booster pack on and off it went. So, just before August bank holiday weekend, with people coming to stay and car shuffles to do, we needed to get and fit a new battery.  

Despite that we had a fabulous weekend. We went in Anne’s car for a really grand day out on the coast, starting with parkrun at Crosby. 



We’d been looking forward to this one because part of it is along the beach, running amongst the Anthony Gormley statues. Dave and Anne did the run, Ann-Marie was marshalling in the dunes and Andy was in charge of moral support and photography. 

We had a post run paddle in the surf...



...then walked into Crosby for pancakes and waffles for breakfast. From there we went to Formby and failed to see any red squirrels, but we had a lovely walk along the beautiful beach and a picnic in the dunes there...


...before heading off to Southport for an ice-cream and a walk out onto the pier.



We’d reserved a new battery from GSF in Southport, but failed to notice that because of the bank holiday, they were shut on Saturday afternoon, so that put another spanner in the works; it would now be Tuesday before we got one. Dave managed to keep the C3 working by disconnecting the positive cable each time we stopped, so that the draw from the electronics overnight didn’t completely flatten our dying battery. (The fact that it was permanently the 1st of January 2007 was a small price to pay.) That evening we took the barbeque over the bridge to the Halsall Navvy and stayed there till it was dark.


On the Sunday, after a car shuffle, we pulled the pins and boated up to Burscough for services.


 We grabbed a spot on the one-day moorings near the car park, then Anne had a go at paddleboarding and didn’t get wet...



...so that was nice. After dinner they ran us back to our car (and made sure it started) then with lots of hugs and kisses went off home to Bristol.

Bill and Emma came for a visit the next day.  (We told you it was busy!)  Ann-Marie made scones and a lemon drizzle cake, then Emma turned up with a lemon drizzle cake as well. It was like being in the WI marquee at a village fête. After lunch we took them for a boat trip up to Parbold, then Emma and Ann-Marie went out on the paddleboards.



From Parbold we went to Appley Bridge, (Not to be confused with Apperley Bridge, which is over the other side of the Pennines) and moored up in the old lock channel. We stayed there a couple of times when we came this way before, it’s a smashing mooring, quiet and off the towpath. We had an afternoon walk up to Fairy Glen...


...then in the evening went for drinks and a lovely chat with Nick and Lyn who’d moored Rocyn just behind us. They are really lovely people and we have so much in common with them it’s uncanny. Rocyn and Legend were both booked through Henhurst and Poolstock locks on the 1st of September, so we were going to be boating with our new friends for a little while yet.

On the last day of August we finally got a new battery for the C3. No more starting anxieties and we could put the clock right. Hurrah! We drove it over to Poolstock and had a hot, sticky walk back before setting off with lunch on the back deck. It was slow boating all the way past Crooke with an enormous fishing match that seemed to go on for miles, but we eventually got moored up in Wigan, just before Henhurst lock, opposite what used to be the NW CRT offices. (Nine years ago we moored right outside there in December and built a snowman!)


Nick and Lyn were already there, and as it was such a lovely evening, we decided to have a barbeque. A fabulous night, with far too much gin.

The next morning was our booking across the junction to the Leigh Branch.  A bit of local geography is useful here. At the bottom of the Wigan flight there is a T junction, to the left is the Leigh branch of the L&L, which takes you down the two Poolstock locks and towards Manchester, and to the right is the L&L main line which take you down Henhurst lock and towards Liverpool. Water coming down the Wigan flight flows into the junction, but all this down business takes it out faster than it goes in. The original design made allowance for this by taking water from the adjacent River Douglas to compensate for the loss, but in recent years Henhurst had been leaking badly causing low water problems and leading CRT to impose restrictions on crossing the junction. The Wigan 21 flight was still closed from when we came down it, so very little water was coming that way, and they were only allowing passage for 6 boats a day in each direction, all at the same time in the morning. The lock keepers were “caulking up” the gates at Henhurst after the morning boat movements, and by the next day the level in the junction was recovering enough to do it all again. Clearly, it was important to get all the crossings completed as quickly and as efficiently as possible to preserve the precious water that began rushing off at a rate of knots from the moment the first gate was opened. Well, you’d think so, but apparently that concept was completely lost on at least half the boaters that were waiting to cross on the morning we were there. We have never seen so much dawdling and faffing about. Legend and Rocyn were the third pair to go through and by the time we got in and up Henhurst, the water in the junction was decidedly depleted.

Going up Henhurst lock.
We carefully made our way across, keeping as close to the centre line as possible and half expecting to hit the bottom at any moment. We got into the first Poolstock lock OK, but that was just part one.

Down Poolstock No.1
 By 2022 the pound between the two Poolstock locks had become notorious. Poolstock No.1 had been completely rebuilt from the ground up some time previously with new gates and new concrete floor and walls, so was very watertight. Poolstock No.2 on the other hand was a colander with no bottom. Not only were the gates leaking but water was escaping under the lock floor as well and each day the pound between the two locks emptied out completely. The lock keepers filled it just before the morning transit, then let it drain again, so not many local people ever got to see it full of water.

Poolstock Pound in it's usual state.

As we were crossing the junction we – and probably at some point all the other boats as well - had someone waving frantically and telling us that just round the corner there was “no water in the river”. There was, but not much. We had another trepidacious passage across the Poolstock pound...

Across the very low pound. There's not a lot of water below us.

...there were a couple of scrapes along the bottom, but we got safely into lock 2 alongside Rocyn.
And down Poolstock No2

When the bottom gates opened it became obvious that this lock had serious problems. As Nick tried to steer Rocyn out, both boats were pushed around as if one of the top ground paddles was still open. Nick got grounded on something on the lock floor, but Ann-Marie was quick thinking enough to flush some more water through and free him. We think the floor is ruptured; water is coming under the cill and up into the lock chamber, then leaking out through the ancient gates. The whole thing needs the same treatment as lock 1, but neither that, nor gate replacement at Henhurst seem to be on this year’s maintenance program.

Anyway, we got to the relative safety of the Leigh branch without too much drama.



Nick and Lyn stayed on the end of the lock mooring awaiting some friends and we pushed on to the jetty at Dover Bridge...


before walking back to Poolstock where we’d left the car.

The American Mikes were back from their holiday in their homeland, so the next day we drove over to their mooring near Rufford and took them for a day out. We’d been so impressed with Crosby and Southport that we felt it was only fair to take them there as well.


We introduced them to the Very British tradition of walking to the end of the pier with an ice cream, and tried, without much success, to explain why a tea-room isn't a restaurant. (Well you try. It’s not easy!)

In the morning it was another Saturday and another parkrun, this time at Pennington Flash. It’s a lovely run round the country park and there was cake and coffee at the end. Marvelous! After lunch we loaded the bikes into the car and drove over to Stockton Heath at the other end of the Bridgwater, where we left the car and cycled back. The Bridgwater does a big loop round Warrington and Cyclestreets found us a nice direct route back through parks and along the side of the Mersey. It failed at the last minute though and brought us to a locked gate at the end of a lane, so we had to improvise. Happily the final the final half mile took us back through the country park and (almost) past the ice cream van.

While we were out Nick and Lyn had moved up and were moored behind us again, so we invited them round for drinkies after dinner. We’re going to miss them when we go our separate ways.

At Leigh the Leigh Branch becomes the Bridgewater Canal. CRT license holders are allowed a week on the Bridgewater, which is owned by Peel Holdings (previously the Manchester Ship Canal Company) We stopped for a couple of hours for a wander around then carried on to Worsley where the Duke of Bridgewater’s need for drainage and transportation from his mines started the whole canal age.

Moored up at Worsley.

The visitor centre at Worsley Delph, where it all started.


Pulling out of Worsley

From there we went across the Barton Swing Aqueduct, which takes the Bridgewater over the Manchester Ship Canal...





...and on to Dunham School bridge, stopping briefly in Sale for provisions. While he was banging the pins in at Dunham, Dave managed to launch the lump hammer into the canal. He deployed our faithful Seasearcher magnet and spent a good 15 minutes pulling out nothing but nasty, black, smelly mud and had just got to the point of “҂ғңѽᵝ* it! Let’s just buy a new one” when he finally made contact and dragged it out. The next morning we had a lovely long pre-breakfast paddle up and down the cut, with Dave being extra cautious because he knew what was at the bottom and what it smelled like.

Dunham Massey house and deer park (NT) was a short walk from our mooring, so we spent the morning there...



...then hunkered down after lunch through a thunderstorm. That evening we went aboard Rocyn for a game of crib, which turned into three. We’re ridiculously excited that we’ve found some friends who play crib and we’re going to be even sadder when they’ve gone.

We were in Lymm the following day. We had a walk around the Heritage trail which took us round Lymm Dam and Slitting gorge.






That evening it was announced that Queen Elizabeth had died. There were tears and the next few days were all very sombre.

While we were moving on to Keckwick Hill we saw Nb Polako coming towards us. The last time we saw Jan and Colin was on the Thames in Maidenhead, so we dived into the bank and went back for a catch up. Really good to see them again; we’d spotted Polako in a marina near Skipton and we’d wondered if they’d sold it, but it turned out that that is where they moored it in the winter.

Parkrun that week was at Phoenix Park on the outskirts of Wigan, (a bit hilly and apart from a few tree roots a really good course)...


...after which we took the car to Preston Brook where the Bridgewater becomes the Trent and Mersey.

These days it’s not very often that Legend gets to venture onto new water, so when it happens it’s cause for celebration. The Runcorn Arm of the Bridgewater Canal was one such occasion.


We went all the way to the end...



...winded under Waterloo bridge at the current limit of navigation, (“current” because there are plans to re-instate the link to the Mersey)...


...then moored up and had a walk through the town, down to the bank of the MSC and up through what remains of the original locks that took the Duke’s coal down to the river.







 Back at the boat we retraced our steps and moored up just outside Phoenix Park where we would be marshals for the junior parkrun the following morning. We don’t just throw this together, you know.  

Back off the Runcorn Arm we turned right and followed the Bridgewater to its end at Preston Brook where we returned to CRT water and the Trent and Mersey Canal.


 Just after we came out of Preston Brook tunnel we came to the not-quite-wide-beam stop -lock which, despite only having a drop of about 4 inches took both of us, and the lady from the boat coming the other way, a lot of pushing and grunting to open the bottom gate. The increase in boat traffic on the T&M was very noticeable. It was suddenly so much busier than the Bridgewater or the L&L had been. Having been on restricted navigations for so long, we’d forgotten what it was like to be on a “normal“ waterway.

We moored up just before Taylor’s Bridge No.207. We’d picked that one as it looked like a good place to leave Legend for a fortnight while we went on holiday. It turned out to be perfect. There was good parking at the bridge, there were other boats around, and no big housing estates for miles. (We know that sounds snobbish, but unfortunately teenage gangs are the biggest threat to un-attended boats)

Before we locked up we had a day sorting things out and making endless trips back and forth to get all our stuff into the car. We were going to be staying overnight on another boat, then on holiday in a French B&B, then when we came back we were going camping for a weekend on the south coast, so our poor little car was stuffed to the roof. After lunch the next day we said a fond, final farewell to Nick and Lyn who would be long gone by the time we got back, squeezed ourselves into the car and headed south for a long awaited, and much looked-forward to holiday with Mum and Dad.


As well as excitement, there was a bit of nervous anticipation going on. Ann-Marie hadn’t been on holiday with her parents since she lived at home, and all four of us were going for a week, in one car, to stay “En Famile” in a very French chateau. Would we all get on, or would we all drive each other insane? We’ll tell you how it all went next time.  

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