About Me

My photo
After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. A Race to Wigan.

I got back to BMBC on Tuesday evening after 9 days at home to find Stronghold safe and sound in the arm. After shopping at the town Co-Op, situated in the town centre, just across the cut, I came to the conclusion that Runcorn was such a dismal place, with remnants of the old buildings still remaining and some demolished and barren, with the Brindley Theatre in the midst. Walking back from the station, I realised that most of the area is devoted to the car, with new roads abounding, but little attention paid to the pedestrian. Even the Runcorn locks were blocked off by a link road and this used to be such a busy place for boats. There is talk of a new Mersey crossing here, which would do away with that link road, thus enabling the re-opening of the locks to form a ring route through the Manchester Ship Canal to Ellesmere.

The following morning I phoned CRT to see if it was possible to get a passage into Liverpool docks the following week. There was, but I had to fill in a form and post it back to reserve the place. Being without a printer on board, I was advised to do in the public library, but my thoughts were that it was better to be cruising towards Wigan, where I could fill in the form in the CRT office, rather than fiddling about looking for the library and then posting the thing back to them. Now the race was on to get to Wigan before Friday and do the business as I was now pencilled in to go through the locks into Liverpool the following Friday and return the Monday after, which gave me two clear days in the city.

I left after the phone call on Wednesday and fortunately the route is mostly lock free, which was very easy cruising on the wide and deep Bridgewater. At Waters Meeting I turned left towards the Ship Canal, rather than continue up the Rochdale Canal. I saw very few other boats going either way and approached the Barton Swing Aqueduct around a bend to find two other boats waiting there in the channel, as the aqueduct was open for two ships to pass through – quite a rare event, I later heard.

I waited there for about an hour and watched a ship full of day trippers pass, before a tanker approached from the seaward end – quite a sight to see.

Cranes like this are located at all places where stop planks are avaialble
Eventually the aqueduct was swung back across the canal and the gates opened by a man with a windlass at each end operating a quadrant gear on the hinged gates. The Barton Road Bridge is a little further along the central island, but of course that is all electric and operates far more speedily.
Crossing at last.

Onwards through the showers towards Worsley, with its famous Packet House and the entrance to the Duke of Bridgewater’s mines in the Delph. Amazingly, these mines extend for 46 miles into the hillside, where coal has been mined since the 14th C, but are now closed of course. I passed Graham on Hakuna Matata, last seen in Nantwich, but he was engrossed in conversation and did not notice me.
Packet House in Worsley.
The canal passes through very desolate countryside now and it is obvious from the disturbed areas around that this was once heavy coal mining country. One pit head winding gear remains at Astley Green Pit Museum, but I had no time to stop; maybe on the way back though. Next is the town of Leigh, very much a success in the weaving business many years ago, as the red brick mills dominate the town, but being now derelict, I found it to be a depressing place.

I was expecting there to be a keeper in attendance at Plank Lane Lift Bridge, but it was DIY from a pedestal. There were several boats moored on the other side of the bridge, so I asked one of the ladies if she would do the honours, so as not to hold up the traffic more than necessary, which she kindly offered to do. She said that there was a good pub a short distance away and well worth a visit, so I moored up where she suggested, as I was not happy going into Wigan and spending the night there. Well, the pub was not up to my standard as there was no real ale at all, so I had a pint of Guinness at £3.00, which is cheap in my book.

I moved on to Wigan the next day and teamed up with another boat in the next double lock. The steerer knew all the best places to moor up and recommended the best pubs, as well as what to visit in Liverpool – a veritable mine of information. He even waited in the next lock for me while I was in the CRT office for almost an hour.

The people in the CRT office were extremely helpful and my pencilled in place was still open, so I hadn’t travelled all that way just to turn around and go back. The lady sorting me out popped out for a sandwich while I was doing the paperwork, even though I offered to take her out for lunch, I was so delighted! The form was filled in and verified, before I was given a load of informative paperwork on mooring in the docks and the procedure for meeting up and locking through.

I moored briefly in front of The Orwell pub to do some shopping and had a quick pint at £1.65! I asked where Wigan Pier was and to my amazement, it was so insignificant, I could have missed it altogether. I knew that it was a coal loading staithe, but expected something a little more pronounced than that.
Wigan Pier - yes really!

Goodbye to Wigan for a while.

At Pagefield lock I was warned about a top paddle jamming on the next lock and the boater had called CRT out to fix it. There were also boys swimming there, though they were no trouble. When I arrived, the CRT boys were in evidence, but said that the anti-vandal lock had been put on with the paddle in the up position and they had come all the way from Wigan top lock to sort it out, so they were not pleased. However, when I met up with my mine of info friend, he said that was not the case, so who to believe? He was even walking up the towpath to meet me with a knapsack full of shackles and ropes to help me through. I find it amazing how some people will put themselves out to help another boater, but on the other hand so have I when the opportunity has arisen.

The same guy with his wife had moored outside the Crooke Hall Inn, which he had recommended. There was just fifty feet of space in front of his boat and I checked with the landlord that it was OK to moor there. There is a good selection of Allgates Brewery beers on offer here and the menu looked promising. I noted that the beers were from AllGates Brewery and asked if that was the same brewery that owned Ma Pardoes in Netherton, but I have to say he was nonplussed at my question. On researching it later, I found that it was one and the same. I had an excellent meal in there that night.

1 comment:

Tramper said...

Good to catch up on your doings Ray. Be sure to look me up if you head over to Yorkshire.