Monday, 24 July 2017

THE Bridgewater Bridge 23rd July

Boothstown M60 to Plank Lane
This morning all the Watch House boats came past in turn and then most of them returned after winding, heading back to base. Only a small delay to the start of our day.
P1080886smThe orange water seemed to disappear when we turned the bend at Boothstown. On we pootled to Vicars Hall Bridge, THAT bridge that last year we dashed across the Pennines to get through before it closed for months to be rebuilt. Our dash, in torrential rain at times, need not have happened as the closure of the Bridgewater got put back time after time and eventually didn’t happen until March I think it was. This caused a big ho har as the closure period was going to encroach into the boating season affecting many summer cruises. However the stoppage was shortened and the canal reopened in May after a dam across the canal of gravel was removed.
P1080876smP1080884smWe’ve seen pictures of the work on facebook groups as it has progressed. The bridge had to be rebuilt due to a new housing estate being built which needed road access which wasn’t possible with the existing bridge, which was tired anyway. Ramps up both sides have been built and a new concrete bridge structure is in place. Currently it looks like a brick facade is being added, luckily for us and others the navigation isn’t affected by this.
P1080914smAt Leigh the towpath was busy with walkers and cyclists all making the most of a sunny Sunday afternoon. As soon as we passed under Bridge 11 our time on the Bridgewater was over, the 7 day clock could stop ticking, but the 28 day no return clock would start. We’ll not be back till September, so no problem for us . Just beyond the bridge was a long line of moored boats. Maybe here is popular due to the proximity of pubs and shops or that it is the last part of C&RT waters before you enter Sonny’s territory.
P1080924smP1080929smWe carried on as we had a rendez vous at Plank Lane. Once moored we had time for lunch and Tilly to disappear into the nettles before Gary arrived. Gary White is from All Seasons Covers. I’d originally contacted him last year hoping that he’d be able to make covers for Oleanna in Macclesfield as soon as she was launched. But that just didn’t happen, mainly because she didn’t get launched there. A couple of weeks ago I had made contact again as over the next couple of months we will be in his area. So today he came along to chat through what we wanted and if he would be able to do them for us in the time scale we had.
A very nice chap and we seem to have landed at a good time of year. His company tends to make a lot of covers for Collingwood boats, they close for a fortnight in August, a factory fortnight. So whilst we’ll be on the Lancaster Canal as long as the weather is good to us he should be able to make patterns and make our covers. So fingers crossed.
The rest of the day Mick has been sat in front of the final stage of the Tour de France, Tilly has been hunting and been hunted by several dogs on the towpath whilst I’ve been trying to get the video of the Barnton Swing aqueduct to work on the blog. After several attempts I think the link now works. If you clicked on it yesterday and it didn’t work try again, hopefully it will this time.
P1080931smOur view here isn’t the best, building works continue across the cut on new housing. We hope to move on in the morning after we’ve been woken up, so it shouldn’t affect us too much.
DSCF7114sm0 locks, 6.72 miles, 2 canals, 10 dead horse flies, 1 new bridge, 2 morons on a motorbike, 1 meeting, 1 very close shave, 2 strange legs on my boat, 1 favourable quote, 4th win for Chris, 6 lifts of the bridge, 3 years of full time living afloat.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Swing! 22nd July

Dunham Massey to between Boothstown and M60
With quite a lot to achieve today we had planned to make an earlier than usual start to the day, which we managed but not quite as early as we’d wanted, but in the end our timing worked out to be quite fortuitous.
P1080692smThe rain had been quite constant last night and this morning we noticed a new thing to add to our snagging list for Finesse. Somehow water had got into our chimney and worked it’s way down the double skinned flue to appear from a seam in the wall where there is a small dent. Water had then run down to land on the top of our stove leaving a rusty orange mark which jumped out as. Outside there was no obvious gap where water could get in. So that will be another thing for them to look at when they visit us.
IMG_20170722_101049100smWe pushed off and worked our way through Broadheath, Sale and Stretford. The wide deep canal means you can go that bit faster than on most canals. A group of novice rowers was out on the cut so we slowed right down to pass them only giving one pair a slight fright as they hadn’t seen us approaching. Coming the other way though was a long line of boats, did they all know something that we didn’t? Or maybe it was Watch House Cruising Club going out for a cruise. We wondered how much actual rowing was going to be achieved with all these boats going past.
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As we passed the cruising club a group were cutting back vegetation that backs onto the sight from the tramway, keeping the place spick and span. Two cruisers pulled out in front of us, not normally a problem, but these guys went slowly. We were soon joined by other boats making a long line heading northwards. At Waters Meeting everyone veered left, no-one going into Manchester. Past the Kellogg's factory we all trundled and then the entrance to the Trafford Centre came into view. Last time we passed here there had been a long line of moored boats, but today not one, until we pulled in and tied up on rings letting the long line of slow boats coast past.
P1080768smNot normally ones for big shopping centres but today we hoped the Trafford centre and surrounding stores would meet several of our needs.
P1080776smFirstly EE. My mobile despite having had a factory reset hadn’t improved it’s knowledge of its own charge. The chap in store tried charging it, which we knew was pointless and then said that he’d be able to send it off to be mended as it had a two year warranty. Good and bad news, no forking out for a new phone, but my phone would be returned to the store that sends it off. So I will cope until we get onto the Lancaster Canal, as we will be able to return quite easily for it once it’s mended. With this done we left the palace to consumerism and walked around numerous roundabouts to B&Q for a scaff plank.
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With the plank returned to Oleanna we then returned to visit Asda to stock up for the next few days. There are a couple of ways down onto the towpath from the whole area, but the amount of fences making you walk through places to get to the next was irritating, especially with four heavy bags of shopping another way to the towpath wouldn’t have gone amiss.
P1080780smOnce everything was stowed away we pushed off again heading north once more. Ahead we could see a couple of boats had pulled into the side, as we got closer the reason came into view. Barnton Swing Aqueduct was swung, closing our navigation but opening the Ship Canal. We pulled up alongside the other boats to wait. A Liverpool Ferry had gone through packed with passengers about fifteen minutes earlier and the aqueduct would remain closed to us until it had returned, the rumour was this would be about an hour. We went to have a good look and chatted away with the others who were waiting. NB Sandy B and NB Alice were out on a cruise from Watch House and were the last two out of eleven boats heading to Worsley today.
P1080785smP1080787smWe’ve been over the aqueduct several times now, but never seen it swung. Always hoped we’d get to see it one day, but didn’t realise how long a wait it would give us. After a phone call to the Bridgewater Canal by the Commodore of the boat club we were told that it was likely to be another hour before we could cross as it is too expensive for them to open and close the aqueduct twice for a few narrowboats. By the time the ferry came zooming back through there was a coal boat and five narrowboats waiting to cross.
P1080795smP1080798smP1080804smThe aqueduct, the first and only swing aqueduct in the world is Grade II* listed and is one of the seven wonders of the waterways. Considered a major feat of Victorian civil engineering it was designed by Sir Edward Leader Williams (who was also involved with the Anderton Lift Bridge) and opened to commercial traffic in 1894. It replaced an aqueduct when the Manchester Ship Canal was built, taller boats were to pass along the ship canal. The 330ft long iron trough pivots on a purpose built island. Gates at each end of the trough close to retain 800 tonnes of water as it pivots. Wooden troughs sit below each end catching water that escapes, which isn’t much.
P1080810smP1080811smP1080816smFrom the same island the Barnton Road Swing Bridge is also operated and pivoted. This however was swung twice, you can’t stop cars for a couple of hours! At around 6pm the ferry came back through and the road bridge was swung back very quickly, except it didn’t seem to lock into position, so it was swung back to have another go, this worked and traffic was soon moving across it again. The chaps operating the bridges moved, one into the tower and one to each end of the aqueduct.


The above is a link to a video of the aqueduct swinging back across the ship canal. I’ve speed it up a bit to 8 times the actual speed. Warning if on limited internet it is around 45MB, the original was nearly 2GB and my arms ached taking it.
P1080832smThe whole operation of the aqueduct took about ten minutes. First swinging back across the ship canal, locking in place (a yellow topped pole drops), levels are equalized. Then the chaps at either end wind handles to move the gates at each end of the trough, they look like the clown winding the credits at the end of Camberwick Green, only a bit faster! They cross the remaining gates that retain the water in the canal and wind them back too. As soon as the way was clear the coal boat was first across, followed by everyone else gradually pealing off from each other.
P1080853smOnce across the water gradually turned more and more orange as we neared Worsley. One boat pulled in near the water point, but we carried onwards round under the M60, past the rest of the Watch House Cruising Club boats who had made themselves at home on the wide towpath. A short distance on we moored up and settled down for the evening after a busy day. It was too late for Tilly to go out, but she had different ideas! Somehow she managed to open up the back door and in a blink of an eye was off the boat and running around like a loon on the towpath. Neither of us know how she did it, maybe she has mastered the bolts on the back doors! I’ve been fooling them for weeks by rattling the bolts. I’ve known how to get out for at least a month and quite often go out for a little jaunt whilst they are tucked up asleep. Closing the doors took more mastering than opening them!
P1080840smP1080863smDSCF7114sm0 locks, 13.1 miles, 8 novice row boats, 2 slow cruisers, 1 nightmare shopping centre, 1 still broken phone, 6ft of plank, 2 boxes (only) of wine, 4 full bags, 3rd in line, 1hr 45 minute wait, 1st wonder of waterways for Oleanna, 11 cruising club boats, 1 bolt lifted, 1 hour of sideways running, 4 trees, 2 bolts twisted from now on!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Determined Kink. 21st July

Lymm to Bollington Underbridge

Waterproofs were needed as soon as we set off today. Drizzle turned into rain pretty quickly. The gusty wind got stronger as we progressed slowly towards Manchester.

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Water points and bins are not frequent on the Bridgewater Canal so after we’d passed the two boat yards on our way out from Lymm we pulled in at The Old No3 pub for water. Being exposed on an embankment with the wind blowing Oleanna across the cut meant it was hard to moor up. The bow had been brought into the side, but the wind was forcing it out. A couple of blasts of the bow thruster helped, so then I could get off and get a rope through a ring.

The water pressure was exceedingly poor so we both retired inside to wait for the boom from the tank. Mick later discover a kink in the hose which won’t have been helping matters. It’s a determined kink, determined to stay put no matter now much persuading Mick gave it. Once full it was time to move on. As soon as the ropes were untied there was no holding Oleanna in. So I stayed stood on the bow and slipped the loop of the bow rope off the T stud to then pull it through the ring, by which time we were half way across the cut.

P1080687smThat made our minds up to pull in at Dunham Massey. It was here or carry on to Manchester another three hours away which we really didn’t fancy. Tomorrow we’ll have to make up for two short days.

The wind has been rattling the doors and whistling around us. Tilly has had freedom down in the fields below for most of the afternoon whilst Mick has watched the Tour de France. Later on Tilly and I had a walk along the towpath. She chats as she walks, only occasionally getting distracted and then running to catch up. We only walked 500m, wonder how far she’d follow me? Maybe we’ll walk the towpath towards Manchester and see how far we get tomorrow. Only problem will be other towpath users and the occasional tree!

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 3.28 miles, 2 cheese twists, 1 full water tank, 1 very strong wind, 1 rendez vous for covers sorted, 2 damp boaters, 1 boat well and truly tied up, 2 tyres deployed, 0.5km cat walk a start, 259 miles walk for Tabitha!

Friday, 21 July 2017

BEEP YOUR HORN!!!!! 20th July

Dutton to Lymm, Bridgewater
P1080591smBy the time we moved off this morning the pole positions at the breach site were clear of boats. We could have just nudged up and claimed it all for ourselves but we had places to go.
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We arrived after the mile or so cruise at Dutton Stop Lock and waited our turn to go through the two inch drop. One boat in front of us paused at the entrance to the tunnel and then vanished. Our approach was at 9:50am, northbound passage is on the hour for ten minutes, so we tied up and got ourselves ready. One of the houses above the south portal is for sale, the sign says that it has a mooring too. It used to be the toll office for the tunnel and could be yours for a mere £595,000. Once life jackets were on and the big torch at the ready there was two minutes to go, so we pushed off as there couldn’t be anything coming southbound otherwise the boat ahead would have had to reverse.


With Micks new torch pointing up at the roof we get to see so much more than we used to and with it being one way traffic we could have the beam on it’s brightest setting. At the centre of the tunnel the brickwork is replaced by concrete which makes the tunnel slightly wider. Looking up there was a huge shaft above our heads with just a chink of light coming in through a grill on the side. Sadly this doesn’t count as a mysteron as they have to cast a spot light onto the roof of the boat.
Through the tunnel we tied up at Midland Chandlers to pick up the Woodskin I’d had put aside. A good look round for anything else we might want, which luckily for the bank balance was nothing, then we were on our way again. Now on the Bridgewater Canal the clock is ticking. You are allowed seven days for free after that a fee is payable. But the canal is wide and deep, so you can go faster than on the Trent and Mersey. With no need or want to head into Manchester we will be through well within our time.
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As soon as Daresbury Science Park came into view we both turned to each other and ‘Shhhhhh!’ Since 2012 when we first came past we have considered it to be a secret what they do in there, secret handshakes, secret milkshakes watching out over the world from the watch tower. It’s most probably very boring, but it might not be! A fighter jet flew over, they were keeping an eye on us.
We pulled over for some lunch and so that Mick could talk to his old work. Tom took over Mick’s job when he left in 2014 and to start with Mick was consulted quite frequently. But today is the first time in well over a year that Tom has requested assistance. They talked numbers and letters to do with telephone answerphones and caught up with lots of LTS news. Meanwhile I was trying to pay our letting agent some money for works being done on our house, this all ended up taking quite sometime and me being locked out of our bank account! But in the end it all got sorted and our bank balance shrank.
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Onwards, we hoped that we might get through Lymm, fill with water and make it to near Dunham Massey for the night. But our extended lunch stop had put paid to that. Large houses flank the canal, one day we must have a walk around Higher Walton as it looks rather nice from the canal.As we rounded the bend at Grappenhall a group of kids clung onto the mesh fence of their schoolplaying fields and shouted ‘BEEP YOUR HORN’ So we did. ‘BEEP IT TWICE’ So we did. Their playing field is quite large and they just kept running along encouraging us. In the end they ran out of fence ‘BEEP IT SIX TIMES’ We’d beeped our horn enough.
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As we pulled into Lymm there was quite a bit of space, most on the off side which wouldn’t be good for Tilly, but one space just big enough up near Sooty’s house. So we decided to call it a day. At first I wasn’t too keen on it here, lots of people walking by. But then I found Sooty’s garden and things looked up. Lots of suitable places for friends to be found. Here’s hoping she doesn’t go digging! I hear Sweep has a short fuse.
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1 lock (if you can call it a lock), 12.46 miles, 1 tunnel, 3 mysterons, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 3 seconds early, 750ml Woodskin, 3 secret milkshakes, 1 voxbox conversation, 1 tank of petrol! 1 payment too many, 4 figures spent in one day, 12 kids, 8 BEEPS!!! 0 more, 1 Curry catch up, 2 carrots, 1 courgette, 0 portions of yucky fish and chips, 2 currys instead.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Avoiding The Storms, So Far. 19th July

Whatcroft Flash to Breach Site, Dutton

No rain came during the night and so far today we’ve not seen one drop, let alone any thunder and lightening. The sky has been grey all day and the air heavy and still full of moisture, really hope it rains soon.

As we rounded the next bend we could see where everyone had moored last night, the next flash north. It looks like work has started on what will be a marina here, a few piles have been driven in along the far bank and a large pile of them sits waiting. In time here will change, a new marina and crossings of HS2. Although I’m sure that once the new rail line is built and the disruption gone, canal users will just take the bridges as just another one, it’s just a shame that it will be another area with frequent trains. But that’s progress for you.

Yesterday Mick had been bitten on his arm and last night it had swollen up. I drew a line round it so we could see if it had gone down any over night, but this morning the line of course had worn off. So we pootled along to Broken Cross where Mick headed down the road on a bike to a chemists. He was told that he was dong the right thing, allergy tablets and cream. He returned stocked up with some more pills and a stronger batch too, just in case. The insect repellent was being used liberally at the stern today.

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P1080520smThrough the chemical works which looked moody with grey skies behind them. We passed NB Earnest, a famous boat that has been to places with The Tuesday Night Club that other boats will never go, like going through the lock on the River Dee in Chester and navigating as far as possible on the Witham Drains. Another long line of moored boats brought us to the Lion Salt Works which are well worth a visit if you ever pass.

P1080527smP1080541smNext along the way was the Anderton Boat Lift, working again after a mishap a week or so ago. We ventured down the lift back in 2011 March on NB Winding Down. As we passed today we decided that a return visit was needed to fully explore the Weaver, along with the Llangollen and heading up to Chester and Ellesmere Port, but this will have to wait for another year as we’re booked into Liverpool in ten days time.

P1080545smP1080557smUp ahead we had two tunnels, Barnton and Saltersford. I was posted as look out at the bow, as the approach to Barnton Tunnel has some very tight bends, one under a bridge. One way travel only in these tunnels, so I had to check that the way was clear. There is a wiggle in the middle of the tunnel so looking at the right moment is important, we were clear so could proceed. I decided to stay at the bow which confused Tilly somewhat, she spent our passage through shouting out of the bathroom window at us, which echoed along the tunnel.

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Being at the bow I could see that Oleanna was still smiling, such a happy boat.

Saltersford Tunnel has timed passages, heading north you can pass through anytime between on the hour to twenty past the hour. We’d just missed our window, so pulled in for a cuppa and counted down the minutes until we could go through. They still needed reminding that I was there ready to go off exploring, so I returned to the bathroom porthole and made my presence known. They just meowed back at me, how rude!

P1080587smWe hoped that we’d be able to moor at the breach site shortly before Preston Brook and luckily there was space for us. No view, but extra mooring rings have been added into the concrete edge since we were last here. There used to be space for four or five boats, now more like ten. The edge is low enough to be able to paint gunnels at too, but that will have to wait until we pass another time.

DSCF7121sm0 locks, 10.45 miles, 3 packets of pills, 1 arm still in tact, 8 expectant beaks, 0 people at home, 1 Earnest, 2 for the trip boat, 2 tunnels, 2 and 1 mysterons, 40 minute wait, 2 Black Prince boats, 1 mooring without the view, 1 mile to the Bridgewater, 0 rain too play in, 67838956465 rain now I’m inside!