Tuesday 23rd August.
I was up fairly early to wall to wall sunshine – oh joy! Engine checks done and ready to move on with my neighbour, but he came along about 10.00 to tell me that he would not be travelling until the weekend now, so I set off straight away. Sure enough there were no other boats going in the same direction, so I had to tackle the seven Blackburn Locks alone and that was no fun, as the paddle gear was very low geared and all required a hand cuff anti-vandal key to unlock. Needless to say that progress was very slow and took me two and half hours to get through.
There were a few lads around at the locks and I was asked if a barge could get out to the sea from the canal system and questions about hiring boats and did you have to have a licence to be able do it.
After ten miles I reached Riley Green, where there were moorings and a few other boats moored up, some even pointing the same way as me, so I was hopeful for tomorrow.
Wednesday 24th August.
Sure enough, another boat had moored up behind me and was going down Johnson’s Hill Locks. It was the usual arrangement for operating, which I suggest; they open one gate and exit through it. I then go through and stop to close the bottom gate, before catching them up at the next lock. The big problem here was that there were no bollards or rings to tie up to and on a couple of occasions I went into the next lock and walked back. There were also two locks that were so close to bridges that they had to be opened by a quadrant rack and pinion gearing, one of which would not open completely. Forgetting about the rack and pinion, I climbed down onto the boat and tried to squeeze through the partially opened gate, which would not open because of the R &P mechanism – DOH!
Wallpapered phonebox outside a wallpaper wharehouse.
A fine canopied wharf at Eanam.
Coming up to an enormous warehouse later, I realised that it was probably Botany Bay retail outlet, which it was. There was also a boot fair taking place, so I decided to stop for a while and have a look around. The boot fair was all junk and the four floors of the warehouse were much the same, although there was a clothing dept. and a furniture dept. that I missed out. Most of it was the sort of tat that is sold in very large garden centres nowadays.
Botany Bay retail outlet.
Continuing on a very long pound, I eventually came to the top of Wigan Locks, a flight of twenty one to the junction with the Leigh Branch of the Bridgewater Canal. Hopefully, I will catch another boat to lock down with.
Thursday 25th August.
Waiting at Wigan Top Lock.
There were two boats waiting to go down Wigan Locks, but the wife on one boat had taken the dog out for a walk and so they had to wait for her to return. Luckily, another boat then appeared and my luck was in. The wife and husband both took turns at locking and steering and there was a volunteer, called Peter, as well to help out. He really was a mine of information about the history of the flight and followed us all the way down to the bottom lock, setting the locks in advance.
Peter the willing volunteer.
Amazingly, this brick building is a telephone mast.
Lettering on the bridge arch commerorates
200 years of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
Although rain was forecast and it was very overcast, it remained dry throughout the operation. We cleared the bottom lock after four and half hours, which illustrates that the trepidation in my mind was not the same as the practicality.
Turning onto the Leigh Branch at the junction, we did the final two locks of the day, before mooring up at the Dover Lock Inn at Dover Bridge, where Graham and I had enjoyable boating conversation over a couple of pints. Not my choice of pub, but beggars etc. and the beer was cheap once again.
Friday 26th August.
Not an early start, because we knew that there was a hold up at Plank Lane Swing Bridge until 2pm, but an easy day to look forward to without any locks. I remember this stretch well from two years ago with water filled flashes caused by mining subsidence. The whole length of waterway had to be built up along the banks due to this subsidence and the two locks that were at Dover Bridge had been rebuilt 2 miles further towards Wigan.
Arriving at Plank Lane Lift Bridge, I moored up alongside New Aukland to await the 2pm opening of the faulty bridge. There was very limited room to moor, as there were a number of live-a-boards, who had probably been there for ages, but we coped. At 13.45 the CRT men told us to head towards the bridge, which opened on time and we all jostled to get through ASAP, after which the boats gradually separated out.
Plank Lane Bridge - jostling for space.
Graham sets off....
........and is two boats ahead.....
...........and through we go in line astern.
New houses with built in solar panels - new to me anyway.
A tight squeeze.
Large waterside pub in Leigh.
One man's project at Parrin Lane.
We stopped to shop at Leigh, where there was a convenient Aldi almost bankside, before moving on to Wordsley, where we moored within sight of The Packet House. I knew it well having moored here before and there was a water point for Graham and Chris to refill their tank. The services block had a locked barred gate before a solid wooden door, also locked, which implied that it was not a very safe area, but no problems overnight.
Saturday 27th August.
We let go about 10.30 for our last day together, because I was off towards Manchester and they were heading towards Northwich, where they live. We exchanged phone numbers and parted at Waters Meeting, so I was on my own again, but not for long it turned out.
Across Barton Swing Aqueduct again.
Couldn't miss out a shot like this for my footy friends.
I enjoy going into towns and cities where I have never been before and I found it quite exciting venturing into the unknown. Surprisingly, there were very few people about. I had to keep a close eye on the map, because of the number of bridges towards the centre. I was looking for Castlefields Basin that had been recommended to me as a safe mooring by Graham earlier, but when I got there it was totally chokka block, with no bankside space anywhere. The reason for this was Gay Pride weekend and as far as I knew there were no other safe moorings to be had in the city, so what to do? It was then that I realised that nb Chance would be here and I remember James and Doug blogging about being moored up in the city in their favourite place and this was it! Sure enough I spotted Chance and gently went alongside, using just a centre line for the time being. Having sent them both a message on Facebook Messenger, I received a positive reply from Doug and tied up more securely. Another lucky day for me.
Moored next to Chance.
Chokka block moorings.......