Hillocks. 16th July

Haigh Golf Course to Riley Green

The alarm had been set so we wouldn’t be lazy this morning, however we were both awake before it went off. For some reason I decided to put my waterproof padded trousers on today, there was plenty of water hanging in the air and after the last few days I thought I might not overheat!


The western end of the Leeds Liverpool has been dashed through before, avoiding trouble spots, keeping our heads down whilst it rained and dashing to avoid stoppages. So today despite us still being on a touch of a mission we had more time to look around us as we cruised. Going in the opposite direction is always different anyway.

Mile posts sit strong and proud along the towpath counting up from Liverpool and down to Leeds. At 47 miles from Liverpool we got a glimpse of the mile post, you’d not see if going east to west. It went by too quickly for a photo, so here is someone elses which must have been taken a few years ago as now the trunk of the tree has grown round it, hugging all but the Liverpool mileage.

Wonder if it ever does Chug ?

We don’t remember much about this stretch, just that there are a lot of moored boats to pass slowly. I seemed to take the same photos though, a widebeam called Chug, it’s name once red, now faded.

Important pointing

A C&RT van sat by a bridge a short distance on four chaps stood on the towpath. There was a lot of pointing going on at the crumbling wall on the opposite bank. Then a generator was lifted onto the towpath and a drill plugged in, a five foot drill bit ready to bore a hole into the concrete bank which would then be filled with resin/foam to help hold the bank and eliminate leeks.

A field of crows

On the off side visitor mooring at Adlington we passed NB Freedom whom we’d followed down the Marple flight, they must have passed us when we were moored up in Droylsden Marina.

A bridge

The Leeds Liverpool Canal bridges tend to have the archway stones painted white, well at one time they were, the weather having worn a lot of it off now. The key stone obviously sits in the centre of the arch, but this is not the centre of the navigation due to the towpath taking up some room.

White mark for the centre

To one side of the key stone there tends to be a white line painted, aim the centre of your boat at this and you shouldn’t touch the sides.

More moored boats as we came into Botany Bay, one being NB The Grenedier that we came across on the Grand Union a few years ago, their beam just a touch too wide for them to be able to share broad locks and necessitating the need to have both gates open.

Lunch on the go at Botany Bay

Up ahead we saw the first of two moving boats, a day boat. The lady at the helm must have panicked when she saw us, arms moving outwards to express her concern, bringing the bow round to full on collision course with our port side! Mick put Oleanna into reverse as quickly as he could, getting us out of the danger zone. I know the gunnels already need a touch up but a big dent would need more than paint!

The day boat managed to get back on a straight course and we passed as if nothing had happened.

Bottom Lock

Botany Bay Mill was once a place to visit, the towpath was always quite busy here, but today there was not one boat. The Mill used to house a number of stalls selling all sorts, clothes, gifts, furniture, I suspect a good place to browse. But in February last year the 1855 mill closed its doors, repairs to the building no longer viable and redevelopment now on the cards. Botany Bay Outlet Village, an ‘iconic lifestyle destination’ that’s trendy bollocks for shops, houses, maybe a cinema next to an old mill and a motorway junction.

Playing leapfrog

Through bridge 80 we spied the bottom of the Johnson’s Hillock flight, nestled through the bridge hole was NB Billy all locked up and nobody to say hello to. Two day boats had stopped for their lunch, the crews spotting us came out to watch us at the locks.

Locks on the right, Preston on the left

On the right the locks climb the canal up another 65ft 2″, but to the left another channel heads off. This was the Walton Summit Branch of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, originally this branch continued onto Clayton Brook, quite close to the junction of the M61 and M65. From here a tramway headed north west to Preston crossing the River Ribble and connecting up with the Lancaster Canal.

Waterway Routes has a free downloadable map of the abandoned canal and tramway should you be interested. I was quite surprised at how close we were to the end of the Lancaster canal, 7.2 miles as the crow flies, back in 2017 the Lancaster felt like it was in another country due to crossing the Ribble Link.

Back at the Johnson’s Hillock flight the lock landing is quite overgrown at the moment, a bit more foot fall is needed. The bottom lock was full, wide locks on our own would mean a lot of walking round them as there is no route over the top gates. I think I must have walked over the bottom gates about five times at each lock, my step count for the day was around about half that of when we came up Wigan and here we only had seven locks not 21!

Plenty watching

We pulled a large crowd. The day boaters, who are considering moving onto a boat, today was their first time and they have a week booked later in the summer. Shame they didn’t hang around to help push lock gates, maybe I made it look like hard work and put them off! Then there were couples out for a walk and Dad’s with their kids. A look around for that glint in someones eye desperate to push a gate and help, but nobody showed any sign of interest, maybe they didn’t want to touch the lock gates.

Mick closing up

We quickly got into our rhythm, Mick closing up as I walked on ahead to empty the next lock. Still no one offered to close gates as Mick walked his way round the locks.

A fisherman kept one pound ahead of us pulling out a 2 to 3 pound pike at one point. Someone else had been fishing here too, magnet fishing. A line of rusty windlasses sat on the lock beam at 62 along with a rudder! If you’ve ever lost your rudder maybe it was yours, we didn’t bother picking it up as a spare.

Second Lock up

I soon felt I was over heating so my coat was handed to Mick, nothing much I could do about my trousers unless I wanted to carry on up the locks in my pants! Drizzle came and went as we climbed up the locks. At the second lock memories came back to me from either September 2014 or October 2016 when a couple from New Zealand were ascending the lock on a boat they had hired for several months, the lady was of slight build, could it have been Graeme and Clare on Mr Blue Sky?

Carrying on up

Ascending the penultimate lock I could see the top lock was being emptied, when the gate finally opened I tried signalling to them to leave the gates open, Mick even bipped the horn, but it didn’t catch their attention and the gates closed.

Looking back

As the boat came towards me I wondered why I knew the name NB Hannah May, we’ve come across it before. Then as it came alongside I remembered why, it’s a Stillwater boat our original boat builders!

We still wanted to get a few more miles under our belt before stopping for the day, just as well as the visitor moorings above the locks were full. We ducked under the M65 surrounded by green and meadow sweet filling the air with its sweat aroma.

You’d never guess we were about to go under the motorway

The curve towards Riley Green came into view, the road noise still audible, but just far enough away, we pulled in and tied up onto the armco. Round the bend there would have been rings, but here was further away from a road and much better for Tilly for her two hours shore leave.

Big sideways trees!

7 locks, 12.11 miles, 1 rightish, 2 moving boats, 1 damp day, 1 cancelled pamphlet, 2 hours shore leave, 3 miles walked, 1 noisy mooring, just what would it have been like in April?


5 thoughts on “Hillocks. 16th July

  1. Clare and Graeme Henderson Cleaver

    Hi both,
    We were on Mr Blue Sky back in 2017, but I am sure we were descending Johnsons flight, heading towards Manchester, leaving the boat eventually, at Hebden Bridge for Heather and Dave (owners) to pick up. We moored at the visitor moorings at Johnsons and gave the boat a jolly good wash.

    1. pipandmick Post author

      Hi Clare.
      Pip has got her dates mixed up! It was actually 19th October 2016 that we came down Johnson’s Hillock locks in our yellow boat not 2017. Were you in that area then too?

  2. Clare and Graeme Henderson Cleaver

    I have neen thinking on that. Possibly, if it was the other direction it could have been Heather and Dave, who own Mr Blue Sky. Heather is about my size and rhey are moored up on the canal over winter around Salterford Pub area, Barmoldswick, so it may have been them. 2016 I think we wrere gallavanting for 6 months in the campervan, in Europe.

    1. pipandmick Post author

      It was definitely a couple from a NZ, not sure it was Mr Blue Sky, so it may have been someone completely different. Other New Zealanders are available.

      Pip x

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