Wigan Crew. 30th May

Bridge 61 to Dover Lock, Leigh Branch Leeds Liverpool Canal

Here they come!

With a rendez vous to keep the alarm had been set and we were up, breakfasted, covers rolled up and pushing off at bang on 7:30am. Just as we’d got going a look behind, we were being followed. NB That’s It, they’d been moored a couple of bridges behind us last night.

The queue

As thought yesterday there were two boats waiting at the top lock. The lock was still locked and it was a little while before a Lock Keeper arrived and did the honours. The two boats ahead of us turned into the lock whilst we tried to get off whatever it is just before the lock moorings that we were stuck on top of.

The lock was reset just as Peter Baxter arrived at the top lock. He had a quick chat with a chap clearing out the bywashes and then started to walk down the flight resetting the next lock on our descent. Peter was awarded Lock Keeper of the year 2022. The Wigan Flight Crew page and it’s files is a wealth of information on the locks. It’s well worth a look as if you are unlucky to have to do the flight without a volunteers assistance you will be aware of which gates are problematic (never open the near side tail gate at lock 75, unless you really really have to as it is a right b**er to shut), where to mind the dog shit, which locks have serious leaks and where to stand for the best photo of the flight.

Our prep at Johnson’s Hillock Locks the other day proved worth while. It was agreed to only open one gate when leaving the locks. NB That’s It would leave first then Mick would push Oleanna’s bow over using our bow thruster and exit the lock. This meant should one of us need to go ahead to set the next lock they wouldn’t be leaving two heavy gates to be closed behind. It also meant we tried to take it in turns to shift the big heavy gates.

It turned out that neither of us needed to walk on ahead as Peter was doing a great job. Every so often he’d give us some guidance on the next lock, you’ll need your windows closed, two of you on that beam. At one lock he set it filling and then walked on ahead, not opening the gates, this was because two people were needed to open it up and he knew we’d be along soon.

Last week we’d seen on Facebook that a couple of the pounds on the flight had been drained overnight. Paddles had been lifted at both ends of the locks. One of the pounds included a side arm which most of the time is useful for extra water. But with it being drained it meant it took two days to refill it, so the flight was closed, however no C&RT notice was sent out. Keeping an eye on the Flight Group was good, as soon as there was enough water in the two pounds the volunteers were helping boats back on their way.

A drink and biscuits, or Bakewell slices were required just after the halfway mark to up the energy levels. Arms were starting to get tired after all the windlass winding and gate pulling and pushing.

Now we started to meet uphill boats. Two breasted up as one boat was a single hander. The crew from the other boat weren’t too happy with this as they’d planned on teaming up with another boat and felt as if the single hander had jumped the queue! She was at least off her boat helping, but did try closing a gate before we’d got both our boats in the lock to come down.

As we walked down to the last lock of the 21 Peter had been joined by John Gallimore, who I believe set up the Facebook group and another John. Jo and I were treated to stepping back onboard our boats and getting a ride down the last lock we’d share before heading off in different directions.

It actually turns out we have met before, last year at Sykehouse Lock on the New Junction Canal. They were coming down the lock when we arrived, which is most probably why I didn’t recognise their boat.

The Wigan Crew. Pip, Jo, Brian and Mick

The flight took us 3 hours 29 minutes and 20 seconds, not that I was counting or anything! Possibly the best trip up or down the flight we’ve had. Good company, a good routine, with the chaps closing gates, us only opening one and of course the help from Peter and the boats ahead filling the locks ahead for us. It was almost a pleasure.

Time to say goodbye. Enjoy your summer

At the junction with the Leigh Branch, NB That’s It headed straight on, it looked like there were two boats waiting to go down Henhurst Lock. We biped our horn and waved goodbye as we turned left towards Manchester.

Still afloat at Poolstock

Last year due to low water levels you had to book to go through Poolstock Locks, thankfully today the water levels seemed pretty good. The top lock was set against us , the second had a boat just coming up and a whole host of volunteers cleaning and tidying, painting lock beams and the railings on the bridge.

See ya!

We’d planned to stop for the day at Scotsmans flash, but when we got there it felt a little billy no mates, so we carried on in the sunshine and pulled in at a mooring just before Dover Locks. Here Tilly was given four hours shore leave and we’ve hardly seen her all afternoon! Who needs the Yorkshire Dales with it’s views when you can find plenty of friends around the mining subsidence of Lancashire!

23 locks, 7 miles, 21 shared, 1 volunteer all the way down, 3 stem ginger cookies, 4 bakewell slices, 1 pint water, factor 30, 1 left, 8 volunteers, 1 big pot of hammarite smooth, 1st Mrs Tilly stamp of approval this trip!