Monthly Archives: Jul 2017

Deja Vu. 30th July

Salthouse Dock

P1090651smAs the sun went down last night it cast a wonderful light across Salthouse Dock turning everything golden in it’s path. Mike on NB Lady Baltimore had also picked up his camera, a far superior one to mine with huge lenses.

P1090654smP1090660smA slow morning and a cooked breakfast. Since the 16th of June when we left Hanwell we have moved everyday but three (interview check on the house and hand Lillian over) so we deserved to sit around for most of the morning. We’d missed the boats leaving to do the link at 8am, as our eyes had still been firmly shut, we’d drifted off to sleep last night as music still blared out from the pubs and clubs on the other side of the dock.

More washing was done, got to make use of being hooked up especially as it’s free! By the end of the day our water tank was only a quarter full!

During the morning we got news of a sighting of Lillian. I think everytime Tim and Elizabeth take her out past Crick Lizzie will be waving at them from NB Panda like a loony woman. She says she’d have introduced herself if she hadn’t still been in pyjamas. The report was that Lillian respected Panda and was the slowest passing boat all morning.

P1090702smBy the time we got our act together to go and get some culture it was most definitely afternoon. I’d had a quick look at The Tate’s website and noticed something to do with the mural we’d seen yesterday on our way in which finishes tomorrow. So we headed over to Albert Dock to see some art.

P1090672smP1090674smOn the ground floor was part of an epic wall hanging by Aleksandra Mir Space Tapestry, inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry depicting Halley’s Comet in 1066. Large sections of paper hung on the walls asking questions relating to our home and space, is there anybody out there? In the room there is getting on for 40m of the work, but in total there is 200m. The work took two years to make with the aid of 25 collaborators all using black marker pens. It was strange standing in a room in Liverpool looking at images of where we have travelled from in the last two months in East London.

P1090679smP1090687smP1090689smFurther up the gallery are rooms showing various art works from the collection which all have links to each other. A constellation map connects the artworks to a trigger piece. The works stretch from Grayson Perry to Lowry,  Duchamp to Paul McCarthy and his Artist video. Some of this we found interesting, other parts not so. Certainly Paul McCarthy’s video was strange, slightly amusing yet very disturbing (we didn’t watch it all the way through it’s 50 minutes). The Felt Suit by Joseph Beuys was a calm moment after the video and had connections with Michelangelo Pistolettos Venus of the Rags. My favourite piece was in the Lowry room by Ghisha Koenig, The Machine Minders (seen above).


Up another floor and an exhibition that was co curated by Tracey Emin and the gallery. Tracey’s controversial work My Bed 1998 sits in a red room, surrounded by drawings by William Blake, at the far end of the gallery are drawings by Tracey. My Bed is a self portrait where the artist is absent, her bed after four days of inner turmoil laid out for all to see. We timed our viewing with a talk by a chap from the gallery, which was interesting and informative if a little bit meandering. Blakes drawings at first glimpse are detailed drawings easy on the eye compared to the detritus around Tracey’s bed, yet the subject matter is more disgusting, boils, torture, lust in a form that we now would tend to pass over without looking at in detail.

Still no sign of an exhibition about the mural. That was because we had already seen it yesterday at Stanley Dock.

P1090719smP1090727smFull of art and the views from the galleries windows, two narrowboats coming into the dock, we decided to spend an hour in the Museum of Liverpool. When we were here five years ago we had quick visits to the museums and galleries that surround the docks as we had constant visitors all weekend. On one day we’d come into the museum and started to look around, within fifteen minutes there was an announcement that they would be closing soon. Today we walked up the spiral staircase to the first floor, thinking that we could have a look around there and come back another day to do more. We had just walked to the beginning of the time line for the history of Liverpool when there was an announcement, yes they would be closing in quarter of an hour! Deja Vu! So instead of working our way through centuries we spent what minutes we had looking at the display on Liverpool’s Overhead Railway.

P1090733smP1090735smOpened in 1893 the Liverpool Overhead Railway was the first elevated electric railway. Running along the docks, originally five miles long, it was extended to stretch from Litherland to Dingle. It became known as the Dockers Umbrella giving shade on rainy days. A popular tourist trip and at it’s height almost 20 million people used it in a year. In 1955 a survey showed that a lot of repair work was needed on the viaducts which the company could not afford. Despite public protest the railway closed at the end of 1956. We just had chance to watch a small section of a film made looking out of the carriages at the docks before another announcement pushed us closer to the doors. We will be back, one morning so that our visit doesn’t get stopped before it starts again!

P1090745smFor a treat we headed over to Pizza Express for a meal tonight. We had a voucher for free dough balls and another for 25% off food. So we made the most of it with three courses. Next door is the Liverpool Wheel which was still turning as the sun was heading down over the horizon. We may come back to go round it one evening ourselves.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 lazy morning, 1 tiller tied up tight, 0 squeaking now, 3 exhibitions, 40m of felt tip art, 1 bed, 1 split pillow, 2 dumpy chaps, 15 minutes of history, 1 carriage, 0 spitting, 2 narrowboats, 2 loads washing, 2 pizzas, 2 glasses of wine, 2 puddings, 1 portion dough balls, 45ish cat naps to go!

A Pootle Through Bootle. 29th July

Holmes Swing Bridge to Salthouse Dock, Liverpool
P1090328smBy the time we went to bed last night we were surrounded by boats. All six boats going into Liverpool today had chosen to moor at bridge 10 along with one that had stopped on it’s way out. With Bridge 9 Hancock’s Swing Bridge only being able to be operated by C&RT staff we felt no need to rush to be at the front of the queue so had tea and breakfast as normal, well a little bit earlier than normal! The first boat moved off at 7.20am and by the time we stepped outside the bridge in front of us was being swung for the last two boats, leaving us on our own. We soon moved off, opened the bridge and cruised just over a mile to reach the rendez vous point with C&RT. There was enough time to chat with the two boats ahead before the chaps in blue arrived to give everyone the low down for the first part of our journey.
P1090338smP1090342smThe link passage is manned by bridge keepers and a second team of lock keepers. Bridges 9 and 6 are only operable by C&RT staff and they are opened twice a day, once at 9.30am for those heading in to Liverpool and at 1pm for those coming out. You can do this stretch without going into Liverpool and stay at Eldonian Basin or Litherland, but then you’d miss out on the fantastic journey through the docks.
P1090359smWhen the bridge opened we all filed through in line, a flotilla of six boats with us bringing up the rear. It was slow going at first, so tickover or neutral was needed until spaces appeared between us. The yellow lilies still gave us a channel to follow even though the flowers hadn’t opened up to view the sun yet. After about 40 minutes we approached Netherton Swing Bridge which opened as we got close, the others had had to wait for us stragglers. 
P1090377smThrough housing estates the canal wound. One lady seemed to be tending her garden as we passed, but she stopped, sat down and opened a large book to make a note of our number and name. We wondered if she has a spread sheet so she can see if people have been before and how long their stay had been. In the last half mile or so to the Litherland services boats started to come towards us. Two had ladies who were ever so enthusiastic about the experience.
We pulled in so that we could dispose of our rubbish and give our wee tank an empty. Our tank gets emptied every three days and we have a large black container that we can use to store our yellow water in. So we hope that we will be able to stretch to our full stay without having to pay the elsan price at the marina. By the time we’d finished we were still at the back, the other boats all having disappeared into the distance a few minutes before. The bridge team had said that we should aim to leave Litherland at midday to make the locks in time for 1pm, we had five minutes in hand.
P1090411smParks and houses now get replaced with disused warehouses and waste land and so many plastic bottles, Lucozade have a lot to answer for! As you pootle through Bootle the bridge numbers end at 1 and get replaced by letters. After bridge C we turned right to meet the other boats waiting at the top of Stanley Dock Locks and breasted up with NB Lady Baltimore. Mike and Lesley are from the States and this year bought an ex-Black Prince hire boat to cruise the canals for 8 months of the year, returning to the States for winter. They were to become our locking buddies down to the docks.
P1090432smP1090447smThis is where the Lock Keepers take over. The first two boats to arrive had entered the top lock, but could go no further as the paddles to empty it are different. The paddle gear has a long tube attached to it and the lockies windlass has a longer handle to compensate for this and a socket on the end. When the chaps in blue arrived they started to lock the boats down two at a time, us being in the last pair. There was no rush, we all had a designated mooring for our stay and everyone would have to wait for us before being let down the last lock of the link.
P1090449smStanley Dock Locks were built some 70 years after the Leeds Liverpool Canal opened, prior to them being built any cargo heading to or from the Mersey docks would have to be moved by horse and cart. The locks were built wider 14ft 9in so that Mersey flats could access the canal level some 44 ft higher than the docks.
P1090469smP1090474smP1090478smWe made our way down with one lockie following and locking up after us. Then at the bottom lock Lesley and I got back on board to be let down by the men in blue. Five years ago we did the trip, we still listened to the chaps with their directions and were told that they would meet us at Princes Dock Lock, which the other boats would have worked themselves. We were also told to look back at the grain silo as we passed into Stanley Dock as there was a mural celebrating a track from the Sergeant Peppers album, but which track?
P1090458smIn the last five years some things have changed, the buildings on the north side of Stanley Dock have been changed into  The Titanic Hotel and pontoons sit waiting to be filled with boats. At first look the giant Tobacco Warehouse still looks as dilapidated as it did in 2012, every window broken. Well that is until you get to the far end where new windows are going in starting on the lower floors and working outwards. The building was built for storing tobacco and the floor levels far too low for an easy conversion. So some major work must be going on inside to make reasonable head room. It is a stunning building.
P1090487smP1090491smP1090504smP1090507smP1090545smUnder the Regent Road bascule bridge and past the blue shipping container where you turn left and into Sid’s Ditch. This area still smells of the activity that used to once go on here along with dust, but now is a desolate  prelude of the sights to come. Buoys to the right and then buoys to the left. Then the Liver Building comes ever closer with it’s birds over looking the Mersey from high. What a sight. A large cruise ship was billowing out black smoke on the Mersey  as we pootled our way under the modern footbridge.
P1090568smP1090571smP1090578smP1090587smThe lock was waiting for us to enter and once the gates closed behind us we were instructed to turn our tunnel lights on as ahead there are three sections of tunnel. Low flat roofed like a letter box. We’d bob back up for air to see the Three Graces up close (The Royal Liver Building, The Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building)  before the next section of tunnel and then the final one which pops you out into the modern world. Here we joined the rest of the boats waiting for the Lockies. Gongoozlers everywhere, Mick even had a request for a photo stood on the back of Oleanna, photo yes but not on our boat!
P1090596smP1090601smP1090612smP1090613smThe jolly Lockies checked we were having a good time and were enjoying the views as they locked us down into Canning Dock. Once we were given directions and horn instructions we did the big u turn through the dock, past several tall ships and turned into Albert Dock, then through the bridge into Salthouse Dock. Here there was a bit of a hold up. Our mooring was almost straight ahead and being a reverse layout boat we wanted to head straight in, but those with saloon at the bow were winding to reverse in. Lucky for them the wind wasn’t a problem, just getting turned  seemed to take forever. Once our mooring was clear we slid in and tied up, hose out to replenish our almost empty tank, hook up plugged in for free electric and the washing machine on before a very late lunch.
P1090628smP1090636smThe rest of the day we have done more washing, drying, dishwashing and tried to keep Tilly amused. The proximity of a three lane road, admittedly up a high wall (although that’s not stopped her before!) and being on pontoons with no way out of the water for a cat, may mean she has a bad week in Liverpool. I shall just have to dream of Bridge 10 and the rain instead. Hang on, a week! A WEEK!!!
P1090649smDSCF7114sm6 locks, 12.57 miles, 4 swing bridges, 100’s held up, 6th boat in line, 4 men in blue, 2 fire extinguishers, 624 lucozade bottles, 1 Laura, 1 empty wee tank, 3 rights, 3 lefts, 3 tunnels, 1 mural, 300+ photos, 20ft overhang, 2 loads washing, 30 pairs pants dried, 60 socks dried, 1 week without trees, 1 week without friends, 49 ish cat naps to go!

A Path Of Yellow. 28th July

Saracens Head to Holmes Swing Bridge 10.

P1090264smAs we were about to push off this morning a boat appeared through the bridge behind us, so we clung onto our ropes and waited for them to pass. We had a boat to leapfrog the swing bridges with.

P1090274smP1090280smNB Tranquillity being ahead worked the first bridge which was all electric. We leapfrogged them and got to the next. I let a cyclist cross who was obviously being followed by another, they were together so I waited for them both to cross. It was a good job the wind had calmed down as I was making the boats wait. This panel slightly flummoxed me. I pressed the button to open it, lights barriers. It then suggested letting go of the button, but not until a bulb had light informing you that the bridge had unlocked, you then had to push the bridge into the open position. Mental note made, make sure whilst you wait for a cyclist to read the instructions before you start!

The next bridge had manual barriers, but was electric. The next for me was the old push and pull, no electricity in sight and a handcuff key to unlock it. I seemed to have picked the short straw as the final bridge of the day was electric too. I only got to stop one car, NB Tranquillity nine! Mental note for the way back, get the posher bridges.

P1090305smP1090319smComing out of Maghull the canal turned yellow with masses of water lilies. A channel through them has been kept clear by the passing boats. Above the blue sky had been combed with cloud, suggesting a front was coming our way. Yellow trains crossed the railway bridge, we should have brought Lillian as she would have completed the picture.

P1090292smP1090302smAs we approached Bridge 10 the gap in the lilies broadened so we pulled in to moor. This would leave us with the bridge to do in the morning and a miles cruise to reach bridge 9 which is operated by C&RT between 9.30 and 10.30. When we came into Liverpool on NB Winding Down we waited the night at bridge 9, but there wouldn’t have been so good for Tilly due to a busy road.

P1090294smNB Tranquility pulled in too and after we’d both tied up we chatted away until the heavens opened with very large rain drops, so we retired to our boats leaving the rain for Tilly to enjoy for the rest of the afternoon.

During the afternoon, boats exiting Liverpool have come past, one stopping and so far another three boats have arrived presumably going into the docks tomorrow too.

P1090323smWe have both read the skippers guide to the link and I have found our paper copy from 2012 to have at hand tomorrow. Only one thing appears to have changed since then and that is the operation of Prince’s Dock Lock. Back in 2012 it says that this can only be operated by staff, now it doesn’t mention this, so maybe we get to do it ourselves. We’ll find out tomorrow.

DSCF7114sm0 Locks, 7.75 miles, 5 swing bridges, 3 done for us holding up 9, 1 held up by me! 1 yellow lined route, 2 yellow trains, 2 cathedrals, 1 soggy moggy, 1 boat waiting for the morning, 1 camera on charge, 1 loaf of bread rising on the bread shelf.

Three Men On A Bow. 27th July

The Slipway to The Saracens Head, Bridge 25
What a rude awakening!
P1090192smThe voice of Houdini had spoken and Tom had just got up to make tea. This normally means I get a ding ding which means biscuits, then I return to bed to keep toes warm for at least two cat naps. Repeated ‘No’s follows this before I go back to bed and have quite a few cat naps before I need to check the progress on the outside being moved. But today it was very different! Instead of ding ding Tom let three men onto our boat, I didn’t see any cutlasses, but they certainly cut things up and stole stuff too that I’d never seen before. Was this Oleannas treasure? They were everywhere, I wasn’t allowed to hide under the sink, so took to sitting in the bow. But this wasn’t safe either so I had to jump ship and hope that Tom and her could defend our boat. I spied some trees and headed straight for them, keeping an eye on what was going on, from afar.

I apologise now for references to my theatre days, but those from Scarborough will hopefully understand.
We’d suspected that the chaps would arrive early after hearing tales that Kris the chippy quite often starts work at 4am! Mick had just put the kettle on when a silver van pulled in front of the pub at 7am. The kettle was topped up straight away. An ‘Improbable Fiction’(1) quick change from pyjamas to fully dressed was required as the chaps stepped out of the van and were straight to work, thank goodness we hadn’t stayed on the other side of the cut last night. Louis, Kris and Andy had set off at 5am and made good time across the Pennines from Sheffield. They had obviously worked out what needed doing first by each of them to facilitate the others to do their jobs, no being Franked (2) here today.
Tools were off loaded onto the grass, now a makeshift workshop. Lengths of ‘just in case’ (3) wood were evident along with hoover, circular saws, drills and all the rest. Louis’s first job was to get some breakfast for the chaps in the van, whilst they got on with things.
When Oleanna was being built Andy was employed as and when to do the plumbing on the boats, he is now full time. First thing for him was to disconnect and pull the cooker out from it’s snug position. This was so that Kris could cut a hole in the floor below so some ballast could be removed by Louis. The table was removed and put in it’s storage position, this is the first time this has happened since we picked Oleanna up.
Before 8am the cooker was sat where the table had once been and was ready to have it’s top replaced, at some point a strip on the hob top had been touched up and the paint had browned as we’d used it. Kris had already sorted the crack that had appeared in the rest for the cratch board and was cutting out the stern door threshold that had split. I had sent through measurements of such things so that the replacement just needed fitting rather than being fabricated here.
P1090200smP1090203smOnce there was access to the bilges Louis started to appear with the brick ballast. Using a bent metal rod he was able to pull the ballast towards the hole and remove it from one section of the floor.
P1090221smP1090227smNext the fridge was pulled out. We’d asked for some holes to be drilled under it to help ventilate the bilges. These were used to also cut a hole to remove more ballast.  With the bricks mounting up in the van, we were all glad that they could get the van within about 10ft of the boat. Oleannas stern started to rise out of the water reducing her draught.
The water pump was checked for leaks, they have sorted themselves. The bathroom radiator was checked over as that is where we’d had a leak originally, this had been sorted at Crick by a local plumber. But Andy found a small leak, so sorted it. The central hearting system was topped up with antifreeze and water. The shower pipe that we couldn’t get out of the bracket just needed a confident tug to free it, we’d been too cautious, and the soap dish was removed.
P1090251smP1090252smA vent  was added to the dinette to help ventilate the freezer and holes were drilled into the drawer and floor below it to help with air flow. However there doesn’t seem to be enough insulation on the front face of the freezer, so it is causing condensation to form. We will source some foam that we can add to it to help solve the problem. The front door bolt hole had been filling with rainwater, so this had another smaller hole drilled right through it so that it would self drain. An extra thickness was added to the frame around our roof hatch where water had got in. Extra sealant was added in the galley and bathroom, just where water seems to congregate. A catch in the cat proof cupboard was moved to make it cat proof. Wood locker lids had an edge cut down to help reduce them from marking the paintwork when they are lifted off. A second shelf in the pan cupboard was fitted, this now needs reorganising. One of the bathroom doors was given a bit more room so as not to catch on hot days.
P1090229smWhilst all this was going on Mick and I had nowhere to be as you can imagine. So for a while we put our towpath chairs out in the car park and chatted to a chap who used to run the pub and local boaters as they turned up in their cars. Every now and then we were called upon to move our possessions about, or it would start to rain so we went inside to stand where we wouldn’t be in the way. Next big thing was to strip the bed so that ballast underneath could be removed. The van was moved to be closer to the bow and a human chain was made to remove the 25kg sheets of steel from below our bed. Once the gas locker vents were in view a spirit level was pooped on top of the cratch board to check if Oleanna was level from side to side. One piece of steel needed to go back on.
The bow was now sitting much higher and the stern was at least 2 inches up. Louis was happy that she was now sitting where she should be in the water.
P1090234smThe leak on the chimney was looked at and some silicone added to where water might have been getting in. We are still concerned that the fixed chimney is too high to get under some bridges. Louis will check the regulations as this isn’t the side of things he deals with. Then with everything else ticked off the list the three of them started to sort out the fairleads. We had a pair that weren’t a pair, different designs, they had also been put on the wrong sides of the bow. A new pair were fixed on, the right way (not the Ken way) round and at one point the gas locker vents must definitely have been back under water as all three of them were on the bow of Oleanna.
The list was checked again. Everything that they were going to do today was now done. Another visit will be needed to install the batteries. A few weeks ago we made the decision to increase our battery bank from two to three lithium batteries. The elusive second one had arrived in Sheffield and if we’d only been wanting two they would have been fitted today. But with a third now on order, it is much better to wait and have them put on board at the same time, something to do with cycles being the same.
P1090218smIt was just gone 1pm and the chaps had only really had a ten minute break to have something to eat. A very efficient mornings work from them all. We waved them goodbye, called for Tilly who came running home and then sat down for some much needed breakfast lunch.
The mooring had been okay overnight, but we didn’t want to stay there another, so we pushed off on our now lighter boat and crossed off a few more miles towards Liverpool. Oleanna cut through the water with ease as we battled with the wind. We pulled up at the Saracens Head, Halsall and decided that as Oleanna had lost quite a few stone today we could treat ourselves to a meal at the pub and gain a little weight ourselves.
DSCF7114sm0 locks, 4.54 miles, 2 swing bridges, 11 held up, 7am! 3 thieves, 100 plus bricks removed, 200 kg plus of steel removed, 10 holes, 1 vent, 1 sharp tug, 0 batteries, 3 skilled chaps, 1 bow, 1 Kris Shhh, 1 heavy van, 6 hours enforced freedom, 1 cat glad to be home, 2nd pub mooring, 3.5 pints, 2 burgers, 6 scoups chilled medication, 1 lightweight boat, 1 water line in need of a Gorrie clean.
  1. Improbable Fiction a play by Alan Ayckbourn where the actors have to change their costumes at the end of act one and all the way through act two very quickly! From modern day, to Victorian, to 20’s, to Science Fiction, to Goblin and Squirrel. Well worth seeing.
  2. Being Franked. Frank was the master carpenter and when he had built things I would paint them. Quite often I would be delayed.
  3. Just in case. When going to fit up a show at another theatre, the van would be packed and always include an amount of ‘just incase’ pieces of wood Frank insisted on taking. Just incase!

Pub Side Mooring. 26th July

New Lane Swing Bridge to Rufford Branch to Crabtree Swing Bridge 32

The rain was coming down stair rods this morning, so with only a short hop to do we had a cooked breakfast. Asda’s Turkey sausages aren’t bad, but not as good as Sainsburys. By the time we’d taken our time it had stopped raining so we decided to move. We pushed off and I swung Crabtree Swing Bridge managing to hold up two cars.

We’d decided to head up to the junction to wind as the mooring outside the pub is sloped, it would also mean easier access to the chimney too as that is on the port side. As we passed the closed pub car park we could see a sporty car that had seen better days, every one of it’s windows had been smashed! Were we being wise to moor outside the pub overnight?

P1090176smNB Infinity had moved off so there was space we could take by the car park in Burscough. Tomorrow we are hoping to loose some of Oleanna’s ballast so getting the Finesse van as close to the boat is important. At the car park we couldn’t guarantee them being able to park closest to the boat and there was a barrier to keep motorbikes off the towpath which might have been awkward. So we carried on back to the junction to wind.

Oleanna’s doppelganger was sitting just through the bridge at the junction waiting for the swing bridge at the top of the locks to be opened. Mrs Infinity looked like she was having a bit of trouble unlocking  the ground paddles to fill the top lock up. It would have been funny if we’d have shared the locks with them, shadow and mirror. Wonder if they are heading to the Lancaster?


After we’d winded the rain started again in earnest. My coat seemed  to be doing it’s job well, rather than soaking water up it was running off it. This wasn’t so good when I came inside to find waterproof trousers as I dripped everywhere, a bit like the open windows. Mick pulled us in a little short of our chosen mooring and on the towpath side. This meant that Tilly could go off and explore the fields rather than the pub carpark and maybe we’d move across first thing in the morning.

The rest of the day has been spent having a good tidy and clean. It feels a bit like we need to show that we’re looking after Oleanna to the chaps tomorrow. The cooker top has had a good clean (Mick’s domain) even though it will be replaced tomorrow and under the back steps has had a good sweep and tidy ready for a hatch to be cut to aid ballast removal. As we cleaned Tilly would return periodically to sit and clean her filthy paws. Well you’ve got to look your best when going ashore! Once she was clean and  dry she’d be off out again. I’m really not sure she’s a cat at all, cats don’t like rain.

P1090185smAs the day progressed the rain cleared away and boats started moving. With each boat passing we got nervous that they might stop outside the pub, so we decided to push across and take the mooring before anyone else did. Hopefully we’ll have a peaceful night and be up bright and early waiting with the kettle on for Finesse to arrive.

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 2.74 miles, 1 swing bridge, 2 held up, 1 wind, 1 doppelganger, 4 hours tidying and cleaning, 1 wine cellar in order, 4 hours field exploration, 20 muddy paws, 1 big deal about sitting on a towel! 1 boat ready and waiting, 0 pints tonight, 7.30 am ETA tomorrow!

Back In Swing Bridge Land. 25th July

Fishers Swing Bridge to New Lane Swing Bridge 31

P1090081smThe weather forecast isn’t being kind to us. Today has been a lovely day, starting off slightly damp, but progressing into another warm sunny afternoon. However tomorrow is meant to be a seriously wet day which has meant that a planned snagging rendez vous with the chaps from Finesse has been put on hold. They will need the stern hatch open for much of the day and without a pram cover Oleanna would get wet where she shouldn’t. So we are keeping our fingers crossed that Thursday the weather will be on our side.

P1090078smWith this in mind we had a late breakfast, trying out a recipe for oat and pecan pancakes. They were nice, but would have been nicer with a touch of sugar added to the mix or a big drizzle of maple syrup. They were a nice change though.

So our mission today was to find somewhere to meet Finesse, get their van as close as possible to Oleanna and still be on course to make our booked passage into Liverpool at the weekend. We’ve spent some time looking at google earth, tracing the canal from Wigan to Maghull. We have been this way before and had an idea of a couple of places that might be good.

P1090090smP1090091smFirst though we had a swing bridge to do, the first of quite a few to get us to Liverpool.

P1090097smThen was Appley Deep Lock which is 12ft. We first came through here with our friends Frank and Steve in May 2012, it was peeing it down! A boat had just passed us so we hoped that it would be in our favour, which it almost was, only a couple of feet down, so I started to top it up. I quickly realised that I’d need all the paddles to do this as the bottom gates were leaking so much. However one of the ground paddles was chained up, out of action. A small cruiser approached from below and a lad of about 12 came up with a windlass in hand. He was very chatty and was a little bit old before his time, asking all the usual questions boaters ask at locks but with a slight naivety to them. He asked if he could wind a paddle for us when we’d got our boat in the lock as he’d be doing nothing otherwise. That would be great thanks. Mick brought Oleanna into the lock and was just getting off the stern to close the gate when the lad started to wind the paddle up! We both shouted to wait, he of course was only doing as we’d agreed, lifting a paddle when we’d got our boat in the lock, no-one had said anything about gates!

Unable to unlock the handcuff on the other paddle meant it was going to take time to empty such a deep lock. So we chatted away. He and his Dad had not had the boat long, they’d bought it in a car boot sale on line for £100 and were heading off on an adventure. He asked how much our boat had cost, which got the response of ‘quite a bit more than yours’. Boys like numbers no matter what age, so I gave him Oleanna’s vital statistics so far. Nearly 4 months old, about 650 miles and around 420 locks. As we pulled away from the lock I could hear him shouting these down to his Dad, I think we’d impressed him.


Our first possible meeting place was Parbold where there is a car park right next to the visitor moorings. There was space for us, not the closest, but still quite good, only down side was that they are only 24hrs, perfect for tomorrow, but not Thursday! We pulled in and went to the shop timing it well that the level crossing closed just after we’d crossed the rail tracks. Any excuse for Mick to watch trains! After lunch we toyed with the idea of carrying on a bit to see if other places were any good, if not wind and moor up to return later tomorrow. But this would leave us with quite a lot of miles to get under our bow, so we decided to carry on and see what else might be available, after all a couple of hours cruise for us is only a matter of minutes in a van for Finesse. This did mean though that the very good chilled medication shop by the bridge on the off side didn’t get a visit! We will be stopping here on the way back though! Can’t pass it twice without partaking.

P1090153smAt Bridge 35 we pulled over to add our rubbish to the mountain in and on the skip. Just after bridge 34 was another place we’d identified, another 24hr mooring! On past the Rufford Branch where we will be heading in a couple of weeks. We were now on water we’ve only done once in NB Winding Down.

P1090167smComing into Burscough Bridge at the end of a line of boats was Oleanna’s doppelganger. Well nearly. NB Infinity is an Aintree boat launched in December 2015. She has very similar colours to Oleanna, maybe a little bit brighter, but her stripes are a mirror image of each other, not shadows. Her owners were just opening up the hatch and we complemented them on their colour scheme, the lady didn’t twig to start off with. Behind them was a space and through the fence was a car park, we thought about it for a while, but the canoe portage sign put us off, we’d be in the way.

P1090169smAt Burscough Bridge the chandlers where we replaced a mallet and the good bakers have both sadly gone. Now in their place is a restaurant and bar, shame because the pies were very good. The next place was Long Term Mooring and not suitable for a cat to go out as the road was right beside it. The next swing bridge came into view along with what had looked like a boat yard on google earth. However it was a closed down pub, with parking in front right by the water and a 24hr mooring and there was space. If we stopped we’d be there for 48 hours, should we be bad?

P1090174smOur conscience got the better of us, so we carried on to find the next place was also 24hr mooring and outside an open pub. There were still a few more places to try, but they were quite a few miles further on, so we decided to wind and moor on the towpath for tonight, a better place for Tilly and then moor up tomorrow at the closed pub. Fingers crossed that the weather puts others off from cruising tomorrow and that the open pub attracts any that do.

DSCF7114sm1 lock, 8.29 miles, 6 swing bridges, holding up 20, 1 twice, 1 wind, 1 straight on, 7 healthy pancakes, 12 year old old before his time, 0 chilled medication, 6 ripe bananas reduced for not being green, 1 mirrored, 1 shadowed, 2 many 24hr moorings, 1 hour, 27 goose grass seeds, 1/2 hr removal, 2 miffed magpies, 1 cat porn email, 4 black beauties waiting for homes.

A Spot Of Gardening. 24th July

Plank Lane to Fishers Swing Bridge 45, Leeds Liverpool Canal

P1080935smA boat passed us this morning at around 7.20am heading for the bridge. Plank Lane Lift Bridge cannot be operated during busy times, 8-9.30am and 4.30-6pm, due to the amount of traffic on the road. So when we rolled up the curtains on the front windows we were surprised to still see the same boat moored on the bridge landing, they were only just moving off at a little after 10. We signalled to them that we were pulling out but for water, so they operated the bridge just for themselves and we took their place at the water point. Once the tank was topped up I turned the key of power in the bridge console and opened up the navigation.

P1080954smP1080960smNear Bamfulong a tree was hanging so far over the cut that we couldn’t see past it. Was there a better side to try to pass it on? No. Our chimney cap is only just balancing on top of the chimney at the moment so I wondered if it would stay put as we had to go through the middle of the branches. Mick slowed us right down and I delved into a locker to pull out our set of sheers. A major bit of pruning was required and we gradually cut an Oleanna sized hole through the tree. Hope it doesn’t grow back before NB Blackbird comes through in about a weeks time. With the cuttings thrown onto the towpath we carried on towards Poolstock Locks.

P1080972smP1080975smThe two locks were our first for what felt like an age, only four days. A boat had just gone up in front of us and by the time we reached the second lock they were just finishing going up. They said they were turning left at the junction ahead and would wait for us in the next lock. We followed up and turned to join them. They had picked the boat up at Nantwich last Friday and these were their first broad locks ever. They were the boat that had been at the bridge this morning. When they had arrived they didn’t have a key of power to operate it, so one of them had got a cab to the C&RT office in Wigan to buy one and then got a cab back. One expensive key!

They were on a mission and we were peckish so we parted ways after the lock and pulled in outside what used to be the C&RT offices in Wigan for some lunch. The ground floor of the building is currently empty, the water tap still works and a boater has typically left a load of rubbish for someone to collect just because there isn’t a sign saying not to! The gates that used to keep this mooring secure are now even more so as the padlocks on them no longer open with a key of power. So if you pull up there, there is no way into town.

P1080982smDSCF1980smP1090007smAs we pulled into the next lock we could see that a boat was following us, so we waited so that we could share with them. NB Dolly was heading back to Crooke after a short cruise, so we could share the locks out of Wigan with them. The towpath is very high after this lock so I elected to walk to the next bridge where the canal turns a sharp left. The last time we were here this mile pound had been drained overnight and we had to wait for C&RT to let water down from the Wigan flight and close the Poolstock Locks so that every drop would come our way. Today there was no six hour wait to then crawl along the bottom, tripping on traffic cones and getting stuck mid channel. Our passage was very easy.

P1090003smApproaching Ell Meadow Lock there was a boat in the reeds off side, they didn’t seem to be in trouble so as we passed Mick said that we were being followed by another boat. Most people would have sat and waited for their turn, but no they came out of the reeds and pulled in behind us. One boat was going down another waiting to come up, so there’d be a wait. I hopped off and went to lend a hand. The lady from the boat coming up wasn’t impressed by the boat that had been in the reeds. As they had approached the lock the reed boat closed the gates on them, ‘not enough room for two boats’ she was told! She didn’t know if it was their first time out or if the boat was very new. Whilst she and I worked her boat up I had a chap chatting away to me who had turned up on a bike. I first thought he was lock wheeling for a boat still out of view, but no he was just an enthusiastic gongoozler who wasn’t aware that he was encroaching my personal space! He loved the programme with those two actors, oh and that one with Timothy Spall, they need to have their boat a bit further back in that lock, etc, all as I tried to keep an eye on the boat coming up. In the end I suggested to the lady from the boat that she should hop on and I’d head over to close the paddles thinking that someone from one off the two boats behind us would come forward to help close gates. I was a bit too keen to get away from encroaching man so didn’t drop the paddles before I walked round. The step down was too high for the lady so she ended up walking round, dropping the paddles I’d left and then as still no-one had come to lend a hand she closed that gate behind Mick, who was just climbing up to do it.


I was obviously waiting for the reed boat and he eventually shouted asking if they would fit, ‘YES’. So he stopped bow hauling his boat and jumped on the back bringing it in alongside Oleanna. He and his wife stood on the back of the boat enjoying the experience. One of their fenders dropped into the water as they entered. I pointed it out to them, he fished it out saying that would teach him for leaving them down, lucky for him it floated. I closed the gate behind them and then walked to the bottom gates to open the paddles. There may be a reason that neither of them got off the boat to help, some medical condition that wasn’t obvious perhaps. But when she said to Mick ‘it’s harder work than expected these locks!’as I opened up the second paddle, Mick did his best not to laugh out loud. I had no intention of opening both gates, so conferred in a very loud voice with Mick. They smiled and watched as I crossed over the bridge AGAIN to open the gate in front of them. Well they had no-one to pick up so they might as well go first. They didn’t seem to understand that I’d need picking up, surely  I was a lockie, there to make life easy for all. A chap from the boat behind then came and lent a hand with the gates. I just found the hole thing really quite funny, boy are they going to get a shock when everything isn’t done for them.

P1090011smWe followed them, both had a hand on the tiller. Luckily they pulled in at Crooke as their staff passed.

P1090037smThe M6 passes high over head just before the next lock, Dean Lock. A pretty setting with the bridge curved steps, the bywash and the old disused lock to one side. A fisherman sat by the bywash as two kayaks appeared below. They proceeded to climb out of the cut and haul thier boats up onto land where wheels were added to ease moving them to above the lock. These two chaps are heading to Hull by paddle power. We wondered if they would paddle between the locks up the Wigan flight or just walk up the whole flight.

P1090057smAs soon as the M6 was out of ear shot we pulled over with a great view over a meadow. Not quite as far as we were hoping to get today, but near enough.

DSCF7121sm7 locks, 9.72 miles, 2 hours to get a key, 1 lift, 27 held up, 1 blackbird sized hole, 1 chimney cap still, 1 left, 2 lots of newbies, 1 empty office, 2 bags rubbish, 1 favourite little man, 2 narrowboats will fit, 2 oblivious boaters, 150 plus miles to paddle, 2 hours means 5 right! 1 murder.