Thursday, 30 June 2016

Lymm to Leigh

Fri 24th June  Lymm to Dunham

As it was forecast wet later, we set off early to avoid the rain, and quietly to avoid waking sleeping boaters.  Our first stop was in less than a mile, by bridge 24, to empty cassettes. Thankfully the elsan unit was unlocked, as it was still early.

Soon after that we passed the old buildings at Agden Wharf, and we had a look out for the oyster catcher family we had seen twenty days earlier on the roof of a building. We saw one adult and one youngster, much bigger than before. The second youngster was not in sight. We guessed it had been had by a predator as there was nowhere to hide on the roof.

Canalside buildings at Agden Wharf

Oyster Catcher with young

We passed our previous mooring at Bollington Underbridge, as we had plans to visit Dunham Massey, but wanted to explore Dunham Town a little further on. We stopped shortly before bridge 27.

Moored at Dunham

Rain started soon after we stopped, as had been forecast.

Later three large vessels went past, heading for Lymm. We had seen two of them on the Weaver. They must have travelled down the Weaver onto the Manchester Ship Canal at Weston Marsh Lock, then up the MSC to Pomona Lock to get onto the Bridgewater.  The third was a Leeds & Liverpool short boat. They were all heading for the Festival of Transport at Lymm.
Leeds and Liverpool short boat

The weather brightened up later on and there was a bit of a sunset.  James went for a short walk along the towpath to see who was there. He heard two tawny owls and a little owl in the trees, but didn’t see them.

Hopeful swan

Evening sky

Hugo drew our attention with some miaowing on the back deck. He had brought us a small vole as a present.

0 locks, 4 miles, 1 mouse

Sat 25th June   Dunham

We had another wet morning and we had planned to stay another night. However, we found out later that although on CRT waters, mooring on the towpath is allowed for 14 days, on the Bridgewater Canal it is only permitted for 24 hours. It would be nice to know the purpose of this rule.

In the afternoon, when the rain had stopped, we went for a walk round the grandly named Dunham Town, which has a church, a pub, half a dozen houses and a couple of farms. We noticed that every building except the pub had the woodwork painted in the same brownish red colour, suggesting that they were all one estate, presumably part of Dunham Massey. We found a farm shop, but they had no courgettes, which we would have liked.

The only pictures today were an experiment with taking photos through the binoculars. The zoom on the camera I use (which is a Sony Xperia phone) is not much use, going very fuzzy.  The picture through the binoculars is only slightly better, but the blur may be down to camera shake, particularly as it was late evening and low light, so the exposure took longer.

Through the binoculars
With full camera zoom

With no camera zoom

No boating today

Sun 26th June   Dunham Massey to Sale

We started early to make sure we could find somewhere to moor in Sale to visit a church we had seen online.  It was just over three miles away, which took an hour. We had to avoid canoes, which were out and about, timing themselves on the straight length of canal.

We moored by Walton Park Leisure Centre, with one rope tied to railings, and the other to a mooring pin. The canal is lined with large stones and it difficult to get mooring spikes in, but we discovered that the secret is to locate the spike in line with the crack between the stones, about two feet back from the edge.

We walked to the Life Centre, where LifeChurch Manchester is located.  This is in a large modern building, apparently replacing the previous Victorian structure, which started out as Sale Baptist Church.  We had a good welcome with several people coming to say hello. The worship team were good, with concise harmonies. Some songs we did not know, which we discovered were penned by the worship leader, Jamie Hill.  The preacher spoke about suffering, from 1 Peter 4.
Life Centre

LifeChurch worship band

After a pleasant time over coffee and cake, we walked back to the boat and moved a mile further on to Sale Bridge, where we tied up using exactly the same ring and railings we had used last time. We picked up something on the propeller as we used reverse gear, and had to pull the stern in using a rope.  We had a late Sunday roast in the King’s Ransom opposite the mooring. Not very good. I think they suffer from honeypot location syndrome, with a steady source of new customers.

The pub and the mooring

Beautiful flower

We visited Sainsbury’s and Aldi before returning to the boat. The next job was to free the propeller. There was a sweater there, plus lots of assorted plastic bags.

We moved a little further along the canal, to a place where there was a high wall to cut out noises, and a narrow strip of bracken for Hugo. We had more heavy rain later.

0 locks, 5 miles

Mon 27th June  Sale to Leigh

Overnight mooring in Sale

Our departure this morning was fairly leisurely, as we only planned a two hour cruise to Worsley.  We passed under the M60 motorway, and a line of boats moored opposite Watch House Cruising Club.


Stretford Marine Services was the next stop, where we took on diesel and water, and emptied cassettes and rubbish bins. This place is kept very clean and tidy.

Stretford Marine Services

At Waters Meeting a right turn would have taken us into Manchester. We turned left to go north and in about two miles we passed the Trafford Centre (without stopping for shopping).

Waters Meeting

Trafford Centre

Soon after this the Bridgewater Canal crosses the Manchester Ship Canal on the Barton Swing Aqueduct, a most unusual feature of the waterways, opened in 1893. It holds 800 tons of water when it is sealed at both ends before swivelling on an island in the Ship Canal to allow large vessels to pass. Today it wasn’t being swung, so we were able to cruise straight through.  Downstream to the left is the road swing bridge.

Stop plank crane and the aqueduct

Barton Swing Aqueduct

The road swing bridge from the aqueduct

Looking back

Crossing over

The canal passes through some industrial areas, with a road immediately alongside. By Bridge 50 there appears to be a lighthouse, which apparently is a folly. Opposite is a pub now called the Waterside Restaurant. It used to be the Barge Inn, and in 1997 on the delivery voyage of Lystra, our first boat, we were passing here going south. The landlord was leaning on the railings outside the pub, and James said “Terrible news this morning isn’t it?”  “Oh, what’s that then?” “Haven’t you heard? Princess Diana has been killed in a road accident.” The look of shock on his face was memorable.


Waterside Restaurant

The colour of the water was getting redder as we approached Worsley. We passed new canalside housing and a boatyard and dry dock with historic boats before reaching Worsley where we stopped for lunch.

New housing

Flyboat Dee

Moored in Worsley

The old boat house built to house Queen Victoria’s royal barge

The Packet House

The entrance to the mines

Red water

We had planned to stop here for the night, but with all the talk of boats not being welcome, we decided to move on and leave the Bridgewater Canal.  We set off once more, passing the entrance to the mines, where the water was at its reddest.

We had hoped to visit the coal mining museum at Astley but it is not open on Mondays. There were a lot of water lilies on this section, with at least four varieties.

Water lilies

We reached the end of the Bridgewater at Leigh, where there are several large mills, and the final Bridgewater Canal stop plank crane.  We moored for the night opposite a pub which looked good later, with decorative lights

An old mill at Leigh

The final crane

Leigh Bridge where the Leeds and Liverpool Leigh branch starts

Moored at Leigh

Leigh at night

0 locks, 13 miles

Next: On to Wigan and then Sunday in Burscough

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Middlewich to Lymm

Mon 20th June  Middlewich to Croxton Flash

A rainy morning, so brollies and waterproofs were needed.

We started the day by getting eggs from the butchers, and a cooked breakfast from Drinks and Bites at No 35. Smoked salmon with cream cheese and scrambled egg. Lovely. We also bought a loaf of Bara Brith (“mottled bread” from Wales) to take away. At the next table were Moya and Fra, two members of Na Leanai. 

We then went to Lidl to stock up, followed by Tesco for some bits we couldn’t get at Lidl, and back to the boat again.  We thanked our hosts at Middlewich Narrowboats, waited for the rain to stop, and then set off south to the junction, where we needed to turn.

Leaving our mooring at Middlewich Narrowboats

 Turning round by Wardle Lock on the Shropshire Union branch

Looking South to the King’s Lock as we turned

We came back to negotiate the four locks.  We had volunteer help on the three narrow locks, including Ken from Ayup

First lock heading north

Volunteer Ken from Ayup helps us through


We had checked with three boatyards for a replacement gas cylinder, but they didn’t have the right size.  We bought one from fuel boat Victoria, which was moored just past Andersen Boats.

Big Lock

We moored at the first convenient point, which was by Croxton Flash. There is a view down a steep bank to the River Dane at this point, and there were lots of logs and branches all caught up across the river in a big raft.

It was soft earth, so we made sure we put a spring on to secure the boat.  Nevertheless, our pins were pulled out by Victoria going past a bit too quickly, causing the boat to surge and list and the ropes to tighten. Lots of other boats going past in both directions did not have the same effect. Thankfully we were on hand to puts the mooring pins back in again.

Moored near Croxton Flash

It was midsummer’s day: a lovely evening. James put out his crayfish traps.

Sunset on the flash

Evening swans

4 Locks, 2 miles

Tue 21st June  Croxton Flash to Lion Salt Works

Dawn over Croxton Flash

Chris and Judy Clegg came past early. All we managed was a wave as we weren’t up and dressed.

There were no crayfish in the traps, so the traps were put away until after we leave the Trent and Mersey.

Off once more, past the flashes, the Tata Chemical works, and moored boats at Broken Cross and Wincham, before arriving at Lion Salt Works, where we found Kairos moored up. No sign of Chris and Sally, so we guessed they were visiting the museum, especially as we had discovered that it was closed yesterday.

A typical Trent and Mersey Bridge

 Through the chemical works

We managed to moor on a ring at the bows, and one for the centre line, but we had to leave the stern untied. A lady came walking past with her small grandson called Evan.  It transpired that she had been at Middlewich, and her husband was in one of the Morris sides. We gave them a brief tour through the boat.

Then Chris and Sally knocked on the boat, having returned from the salt works tour. They set off northbound, hoping to go to Runcorn on the Bridgewater Canal. We might see them again on their way back.

Kairos departs

Hugo enjoyed the mooring as there was plenty of cover for him. He caught a small vole.

We had lunch before going to visit the Lion Salt Works.  We coincided with some school kids who were doing a drama presentation at the same time as following the tour trail.  The place is very different from when we last visited in 2009.  Then we walked around some bramble-covered buildings and saw a few items of rusting machinery.  Now, following a huge lottery grant, the place has been restored to a point where the buildings are safe to enter, and they have put in lots of interpretation boards and interactive displays.  Most interesting.

Lion Salt Works

Salt crushing machine

 Salt block cutter

We returned to the boat for bara brith and a snooze. !This Bara brith is apparently made by a Welsh lady in the heart of Cheshire, and sold in the cafe in Middlewich. It is wonderful!

James saw a mink swimming across the canal and making its way behind our boat and across the towpath into the long grass. We have mixed feelings about them. It is exciting to see them, but they shouldn’t be here and they are detrimental to our own wildlife.

A cyclist called Tim knocked on the boat. He had been at the Boar’s Head at Middlewich, noticed the BCF shirt James had worn and saw the logo on the boat and made the connection. He is not a boater. He goes to the Prospect Inn folk club in Runcorn, where we played a few years ago. He is in the foreground of my photo taken at the Boar’s head session. Although we had been seated at the same table we never had an opportunity to talk with all the music going on.

Referendum debates on telly. Round and round we go again. Roll on Friday! We have already voted by post.

James went for a walk and discovered a path connecting with the huge nature park stretching between the Trent and Mersey and the Weaver. He found a bird hide overlooking Neumann’s Flash, and saw lapwings and an oyster catcher. Lots of rabbits everywhere. Also a series of pipelines running through the area, perhaps brine pipes?


Sunset over Neumann’s Flash

Very warm and humid in the evening.

0 locks, 7 miles

Wed 22nd June  Lion Salt Works to Dutton Hollow

A Magpie flew in to the stern area under the canopy this morning. James helped it to find its way out again.  There was also evidence of a baby bird or wren that had met its demise, with Hugo the main suspect.

Magpie under our boat hood

It was sunny as we set off for the short journey to the facilities block at Anderton, where we completed all the necessary tasks. We spent 30 minutes there as our water tank was nearly empty.

Leaving Lion Salt Works

Ilford and Clematis

We then passed the boat lift, and followed a boat called Triton John through the Barnton Tunnel.  We moored behind them at the entrance to Saltersford Tunnel, waiting for the top of the hour before we could enter.

Passing the boat lift

Barnton Tunnel

 Waiting for Saltersford Tunnel

Emerging from Saltersford Tunnel

Nothing appeared the other way, and when the time came, Triton John went in, followed by us, and then another boat from the permanent moorings opposite. The tunnel has a few kinks so you can’t see right through.

The boat following us soon fell behind, and Triton John pulled over for lunch soon after the Black Prince base at bridge 209. We carried on to Dutton Hollow, where we stopped for the day.

We frequently see dogs on boats, and often cats, occasionally a parrot, twice we have seen ferrets, but this time the boat moored in front had a tortoise which was going for a walk. They thought it was about 65 years old. 

Dutton Hollow mooring


They left after lunch and two other boats arrived., with pleasant couple Colin and Linda, were heading in the opposite direction from us, and stopped nose on to us. They were going down the Anderton Lift in a day or two. Tamarisk, with Sue and Paul, arrived from Anderton direction, and moored up beyond Tranquilla, and two cats emerged. One was mostly black, and fairly timid, and the other was tabby and white, and was very friendly and bold. Hazel had a surprise in our boat when she reached down to stroke Hugo, and found this little cat was at her feet. Although female, it was called Sid.  Thankfully Hugo was off in the bushes at the time.  We had no caterwauling or aggro, so they must all have got on OK.

James went for a walk later, crossing over Bridge 211, and taking a footpath parallel to the canal, crossing back at bridge 210.  There were some common but lovely white flowers, all different, like huge snowflakes.

Weaver Valley

Evening walk


White flowers all individual and unique

Evening light

Full moon

No locks, 7 miles, 2 tunnels

Thu 23rd June  Dutton Hollow to Lymm

Crisp morning at Dutton Hollow

 Hugo out on deck

We saw three kingfishers soon after we left the mooring. We had left in good time for the tunnel opening times, in case there was a queue for Dutton lock. There wasn’t, so we were the first in the waiting area for Preston Brook Tunnel. There are only two rings here, so only space for one boat. Another boat came through the lock, but he must have been a local, because he kept back by the lock bollards where he could tie up.

Dutton Lock

Waiting for Preston Brook Tunnel

Approaching the tunnel

Into the darkness

At the appointed time we set off through the tunnel onto the Bridgewater Canal, pausing by Claymore Navigation to purchase the out-of-print First Mate Guide we had spotted last time.  They gave it to us free as it was old and the pages were loose.

As we approached Midland Chandlers by the M62 bridge, who should come out of the Runcorn Arm but Chris and Sally on Kairos! We could have missed them if we hadn’t stopped for the first mate guide.


 Chris and Sally

After a brief chat we carried on past distant views of the water tower, and close views of Daresbury Science complex.

That water tower

Wild roses

As we approached Stockton Heath, we caught up another boat (Moorehen) who was travelling a little slower than we were.  There was also another boat going in front of them.  Fuel boat Victoria then appeared behind us, gradually catching up. Then another boat pulled out in front of Moorehen, making five in a line. Thankfully this new boat pulled in again at Thorne Marine.  Moorehen pulled over to tie up at Grapenhall, leaving just three boats, with Gabriel in the middle. The pace was quite good, so we felt no pressure to pass.

We passed under the M6 and reached the outskirts of Lymm. The boat in front pulled over to moor, and we passed them slowly. Round the corner we discovered that Lymm had a boating festival, and all the visitor moorings were reserved, with silly A4 notices that were unreadable from a boat. We had to go through Lymm Bridge and moor outside some houses a little further on.

We went to see the stalls and check things out. We asked about the folk club at the Spread Eagle, and found a Turkish Restaurant which looked interesting for later. We had some lovely ice creams in a Gelateria (it was very hot) and then bought a few things in Sainsbury’s Local, before returning  to the boat.

Then, across the towpath from the boat, we spotted a couple on their balcony, and they had a black and white cat very similar to the one who had had a fight with Hugo 19 days ago.  James asked if their cat ever got into fights, and they said “Oh no, he’s a coward. He would run away.”  At that point Hugo appeared, and their cat saw him, and leaped down from their balcony and gave chase! Hugo shot into our boat, and we decided to close his cat flap and keep him in.

Lymm Cross

Later we went for a very good meal at Flavours, the Turkish restaurant, before moving on to the Spread Eagle. The Folk Club meets upstairs every Thursday, and alternates between guest nights and singers nights.  Tonight was a singer’s night and we had a good welcome. We sang Long Way Down, Windmills, Low Bridge, and then finished the evening with Antiques and Wild Rover.

Lymm Folk Club

Back at the boat, Hugo was very keen to go out, but we kept him in, not wanting a repeat of the trauma from the cat flight last time.

1 lock, 12 miles, 1 tunnel

Next plans: Life Church on Sunday in Sale, then over the Manchester Ship Canal on the Barton Swing Aqueduct to Worsley, Leigh and Wigan.