Scotsman’s Flash to Haigh Golf Club, Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Main Line
The view yesterday hadn’t really been worth lining up with our galley window. The bank being really quite high meant that even when stood up on tip toes the view of the flash sat behind the towpath.
We tip toed around the goose pooh and pushed off reaching Poolstock Bottom Lock a little before 8am. These locks are locked overnight to help conserve water levels in the Wigan area. We’ve come across one of the pounds being very very low before in Wigan, the wait for C&RT to fill it sufficiently for us to scrape along the bottom took into the afternoon and Mick even managed to polish some of Lillian’s mushroom vents whilst we waited. This morning the locks were unlocked and waiting for us, plenty of water about.
By 8:20 we’d ascended the two locks, clicking the anti vandal locks back on at each paddle. At Wigan Junction we turned right, a quick look to the left and we could see crew working the lock, this was likely to be NB Billy who we had a rendez vous with just around the bend.
Last night on the Wigan Flight Crew page there was mention of another boat moored below the locks and four facing the top of the flight, possibly waiting to comedown this morning. We pulled in behind NB Merganser and I walked up to chat with the Lock Keepers. We had arranged to share the locks with NB Billy, but Billy is a historic 62ft long boat and the Wigan flight is a maximum of 62ft, would it be wise for us to share with them? In some locks they might need to go a touch on the diagonal meaning one boat at a time. The Lockies suggested we shared with NB Merganser and they’d let NB Billy know what was happening.
Four young lads stood by the bottom gate, were they here to help or hinder? One Lockie said he knew a couple of them and they were alright. The lady from Merganser (Lindsay) said that they had helped a single hander yesterday and he couldn’t stop singing their praises. So all of a sudden we had six crew and other volunteers about too.
I stayed around as the lads closed gates and lifted paddles, the oldest suggested he was a volunteer, he certainly knew about each lock and which ones to take extra care on, he’d trained up his two brothers to help and it was the forth chaps first day with them. He had a meeting to go to so wouldn’t be around all morning. Once the boats were rising the lads walked up to the second lock to empty it ready for us. With the gates closed behind us I lifted a paddle for NB Billy who was just appearing behind us with quite a few blue topped volunteers in tow.
At the second lock the lads closed gates and lifted paddles, with the boats past the cill I was happy to walk on to the next lock to set it. The older chap headed off back down the flight leaving his crew with us. As Mick came into the third chamber we conferred regarding the help on hand and just so long as either Lindsay or myself stayed with the boats the extra assistance was very welcome. The lads were great at setting locks, opening gates etc, but if something went wrong would they know what to do?
Well that was the last we saw of them, we could see they were setting ahead for NB Billy, but we seemed to have lost our extra pair of hands. Never mind, we soon picked up an official volunteer on a bike with a life jacket who just headed on up the flight ahead of us setting the next locks.
Lindsay and I worked the locks whilst Mick and John moved the boats. Lock after lock after lock, all the time Dixie (?) their dog sniffing around and taking note.
Gates with winding gear were new to Lindsay as were the box ground paddles (do these have a name), I warned her about the clough ground paddles they’d come across the further they got towards Leeds.
The men chatted away at the stern whilst us ladies caught little glimpses of conversation as and when we could hear each other due to the water. They have been moored at Aqueduct on the Middlewich Branch this winter. Out for three weeks they are hoping to reach York and then head south on the Trent and move to Dunchurch Pools Marina near Rugby. They had left Aqueduct last Friday and come down the Trent and Mersey working their way through 9 locks compared to our 91! No wonder it’s taken us a touch longer!!
On reaching Lock 77 we were told by John, on his bike, that we’d we swapping with boats coming down hill in the next pound. You could tell by the amount of water coming down the bywash here that they wouldn’t be the only boats we’d encounter.
Between 76 and 75 we did this again, two single handers with several volunteers assisting. This was handy as it meant more people to hold the towpath side bottom gate slightly open. If this gate goes back into it’s recess it is a right bugger to get out to close the lock again. Add into the equation social distancing! Lending a hand to close a gate right now is almost pointless, because if you stand 2m away and pull the gate all your effort is minuscule compared to being able at the end of a beam.
John warned us of the next few locks which would need to be filled quickly as the bottom gates leak and the pounds above are short, so taking your time means you run out of water. With Mick and John warned to stay well back we wound the ground paddles up and then cautiously the gate paddles.
Not being able to see what the water is doing from your gate paddle is a touch concerning, but Lindsey and I watched out for each others, a nod for more water, a hand up to stop. This worked pretty well.
One top gate was more than just a waterfall. As both boats came in the bows got a good wash down. Glad we’d elected to have the cratch cover closed (normally open on narrow lock to save them getting torn). Once up both boats had to retrieve bow lines that had been washed off gas lockers into the chamber.
Now we appeared to have picked up another crew member an octogenarian with a walking stick who insisted on the chain being wound a certain way on one of the gates and then walked up to open the next gate for us. I did my best to keep my distance whilst he insisted on helping to pull a gate closed.
The count down to the top was now in full swing, arms, legs and backs starting to complain a touch, was now a good time for a muffin? Yes but we’d forgotten to bring them outside with us and with all doors locked it was a touch too much effort to get them.
Two left to go and we had helping hands again from the volunteers. The penultimate lock has top gates that really don’t want to stay shut, so as we closed them a paddle was quickly opened to set it for NB Billy now only a couple of locks behind.
The top lock 65 takes time to fill, the amount of weed sitting above the top gates is not wanted in the flight or adding to problems with gate paddles so only ground paddles are allowed. This does mean you get the chance to chat with the chaps. As John and Lindsay were going to head straight off and we were after water they pulled out first.
We may see them again as the Barrowford Flight is currently out of action up to the summit, but they are likely to zoom on ahead with places to go and miles to cover, whilst we take our time. It was lovely sharing with them.
We pulled in at the services, set the water going, collected rubbish for the bins and emptied the yellow water making use of the elsan.
As we finished topping up NB Billy rose in the final lock, the young crew having a ride in the large well deck as the volunteers wound the paddles. Thanks all round for the crew, although I think the lads were hoping for more than just a handshake!
We pushed off again aiming for a mooring we’d stopped at in 2014 on Lillian the night before we decended the flight. A quick check of Waterway Routes and Paul confirmed it’s location with a big M suggesting there would be armco to aid our mooring.
A restful afternoon with Tilly avoiding walkers and cyclists and the occasional golf ball being teed off across the way.
During the morning I’d been sent a link for The Garden. When I’d first chatted to Lynda regarding the show over a year ago, her producers brief was that they wanted the show to be ‘Lovely’. Since then lots has happened and the play has been re-imagined into the Lockdown Edition. I know I’m biased but it certainly has turned out to be ‘Lovely’. The thought of all the actors recording their lines on their phones at home, Firielle under her duvet to soften the sound and then sending them in to Amy (director) and Penny (digital production) who have put images to text to sound to animation to music (a lovely song by Rhiannon Scutt) to my illustrations. Lovely.
23 locks, 4.5 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 1 swap of partners, 4 going down, 3 up, 4 lads, at least 5 volunteers, 1 bike, 1 woofer, 1 dry day, 1 broken down cruiser, 2 locking pals, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 0 rubbish, 6 covid handshakes, 4 tasty muffins, 1 friendly cover mooring, 1 lovely production, 2 pooped boaters, 215 foot 6 inches higher.