I’ll Race You To The Locks. 17th July

Riley Green to Pipe Bridge 115A

Last nights mooring

Shortly after we’d finished our breakfast NB Billy cruised past, Clare saying good morning with a wave. Would we manage to catch them up before Blackburn locks so that we could share? Would the locks be long enough for us to share? By the time we’d got our selves ready we were most probably half an hour behind them.

Chimney pots too

Four and a half damp miles to the locks. Plenty of gardens backing onto the canal have made the effort. A K6 phone box sat in one garden along with a post box and stamp machine.

Then neighbours obviously have different opinions on ducks!

Racing to the locks

A young lad sat on his bike waiting for our arrival, as we came up alongside him he said ‘I’ll race you to the locks!’. Well we had no chance he’d have easily beaten us there if he’d tried. Instead he coasted along with the occasional pedal, at one point he hopped off saying that walking would be fairer, all the time all of us were getting damper.

Divers, at least they were getting wetter than us!

Through Hollin Bridge we could see the stern of NB Billy mid channel, were they stuck? Then a Police officer walked towards us in high vis, they had divers in the canal below the locks, but we were clear to go up. Pete had walked up ahead and was emptying the bottom chamber. A quick check with Clare that we could share and we were on our way.

Pete and Billy’s bow

With a slightly over long boat you have to get yourself in past the bottom gates, so Billy headed in first and then Clare pushed the stern across the lock and reversed back behind the gate. Mick could then bring Oleanna in alongside slowly, Clare pushing the boats apart. Second gate closed and a thumbs up the lock could be filled.

Locks 56 and 55 are very close together the pound between them dropping quite a lot as we filled the bottom lock. Coming down hill here last time we so nearly flooded the C&RT offices as we hadn’t double checked the paddles were down at the top of the lock, so water flowed through the lock and into the pound, the lower lock already full. But today we just needed to empty the top lock to make sure we had enough water to get over the cill.

Four lads came along interested in what was going on. Pete offered them windlasses and ended up hardly having to do any work at the next couple of locks as the lads were keen.

A pause was needed to empty a cassette and the we were back on our way again, heading up the rest of the locks. The pounds were a touch low, only the occasional bump and scrape on the bottom as the boats passed through.

What’s inside the box?

An interesting box attached to a wall on the offside caught my eye. It resembled a new water point, but on closer inspection Mick could see a solar panel and a mobile phone aerial on the lid. Anyone have any ideas what this might be please?

Once up the last lock, the drizzle that had kept us damp dried up. We were heading straight on, but Clare and Pete planned to stop for some shopping. Phone numbers were exchanged a possible plan of sharing the Barrowford Locks in a couple of days.

We caught a fish!

Mick pulled us out of the lock, I hopped on after closing the gate. He knew we’d picked something up on the prop but was hoping it wouldn’t inhibit our progress too much. Well we only just managed to limp to the side where I held the centre line whilst he cleared the prop of plastic and a fishing fish with a big hook on it!

Slow going

We now followed NB Billy, the going slow. Plenty of weed and the bottom being too close to the top for any speed to be had.

The wallpapered K6 outside Graham and Brown is still there and under Sour Milk Hall Bridge the large flock pattern brightened up the day, well until it was Billy’s turn to have problems with their prop, they were stuck. No help was needed just patience to get themselves back on the move again, so we took the lead and headed off.

Houses on hills

We’d already decided where to moor for the day quite a few more miles on. Luckily the drizzle stayed away and we had lunch on the go. Progress was slow due to weed, but that gradually petered out and apart from the odd lumpy bit the depth improved too.


Now on the long pound to Barrowford Locks the canal winds it’s way along a contour for 23 miles. Views every now and again. Granada studios and Blackburn in the background, all the houses roofs blending into one long slope down the hills.

Over the M65 aqueduct the motorway making far more noise than it should for the amount of traffic on it.

Spot the odd one out

Gaggles of geese lined up ahead of us. I wonder if the white goose felt out of place or not?

Beehive ovens

Another sight we maybe wouldn’t have seen coming the other way was the beehive coke ovens near Oswaldtwistle. Lumps covered in turf have collapsed in parts showing the brickwork inside. Here the remains of Aspen Colliery lie buried, 24 coke ovens (known locally as Fairy caves) and what once was a canal basin where coal and coke used to be transported from. More info found here. If we had more time we’d explore here more, another for the next time list.

Your best adventure is you

Just after Simpson’s Bridge 111A a large cream wall has a rather good painting on it. Two creatures sit on a pennyfathing, long sticks tied to their feet to reach the pedals. One looks out with a bent spy glass and behind them they trail clouds, letters and paper aeroplanes float in their wake. I’ve tried looking this up on the internet, but nothing is there. I suspect it may have been commissioned by a recruitment agency in the building, but I have no idea who the artist is.

Church Kirk Changeline Bridge has been modified since horses pulled boats, it’s not a patch on the snake bridges of the Macc.

Half way

Just beyond is a mile marker, the halfway point between Leeds and Liverpool. Around it fretwork panels celebrate it’s position. Oleanna can now tick off half the L&L canal, Liverpool to Wigan in 2017, Wigan to half way now, over the next few weeks she’ll cruise the other half along with two of the wonders of the waterways.

Locking mechanism

We now had to deal with the first of the swing bridges, Church, Rileys and Foster. These have anti vandal locks on them, you then use your windlass to raise a bar to unlock them. Lining everything back up to re-lock them is a bit of a pain.

Going through

I was just about to cross Church Bridge when a pickup drove along and stopped half way across. Puzzled for a few moments whilst a chap closed a barrier behind, locking up the access to a work site, he then pulled away end of the working week.

Rileys lots of grit on the ledge

Rileys proved to be slightly problematical. Blimey it was stiff! I shoved and pushed and pulled, bounced it eventually getting it to move. I think the base that the closed bridge sits on needed clearing. If I’d had a bucket of water and a stiff brush I’d have given it a clear out.

Zooming through the weed

Then Foster’s didn’t want to line back up properly to be locked, requiring a kick.

Not a bad view

Our mooring now lay in front of us just after the not so picturesque pipe bridge. One boat was already taking advantage of the view, but there was plenty more space for us. If only it was a touch warmer we’d have had a barbeque and sat out to drink up the view. Instead Tilly managed to do a touch of self catering during her meagre hour and a half shore leave. A long day for all, maybe we’ll have a day off tomorrow.

No trees but a good vantage point

6 locks, 15.23 miles, 3 swing bridges, 1 boat held up, 1 locking partner, 2 divers, 1 race, 4 helpers, 1 coconut, 2nd day of lunch on the go, 2 K6’s, 1st August? 1 view, 1 crunchy friend.


One thought on “I’ll Race You To The Locks. 17th July

  1. Dave (Scouts)

    That box. Going to be a remote data logger of some sort, doesn’t look to have a pipe attached so not monitoring water depth or flow (thats the usual). Could be movement of that wall or sniffing for air pollution.
    Can’t help more, need someone who makes or fitted it really to id it

Comments are closed.