Sun 17th July Wigan
We walked back down the locks past Trencherfield Mill, and found the church we were looking for: Today’s Community Church. They have a large modern warehouse, and they are building a 1000 seater building at the back, for church and community use. Apparently Wigan does not have any venues of this size.
Today’s Community Church
We had a warm welcome from a guy called Robbie who introduced us around. The worship was modern, in a performance style, with coloured lights and a smoke machine. There were some good songs, with one in particular from Hillsongs: “Everything’s changed and I will never be without you”. There is a link here
There was a wide range of ages, with kids work going on, Alpha courses, home groups etc. We couldn’t find any evidence of open air outreach happening.
We went to Trencherfield Mill which is only open on Sundays, and saw the largest working steam engine in the world still in its original setting. Sadly it was not in steam, as it costs a lot to fire it up. The engine drives a huge pulley wheel which had 54 ropes round it, operating at 68rpm, driving shafts on every floor, from which the spinning machines were operated. This huge mill converted cotton into thread. Bales of cotton were imported via Liverpool, and the cotton thread was sent by barge to places like Manchester to be woven into cotton fabric.
The mill engine
The big rope pulley wheel
We then found Aldi and ASDA, where we had lunch, and we stocked up on a few things, getting a taxi back to the boat.
James went for a walk to find a boat to share locks with tomorrow, and found two wide beams (Maggie D and Moonshine) and a narrowboat (Blossom) all moored together. We arranged a time of 0800.
Moored by the pipe bridge
No rat shooting tonight. It was quiet. No boating today.
Mon 18th July Wigan to Haigh Hall Park
We saw activity on the lock behind us, so we set off to get the locks ready, not knowing whether it would a wide beam or narrow boat that appeared first.
The first lock was ready and open. James went ahead and took up paddle for the second one. The first boat was Moonshine, one of the wide beams. We suggested they went ahead and we would wait for the narrow boat. Sure enough Blossom was next, and we shared with them, and Maggie D brought up the rear.
So our convoy was Moonshine (Lynne and Brian), Blossom (Phil and Steph) with Gabriel, Maggie D (Maggie and Steve). Strangely, the last time we did the Wigan flight in 2009, going down, Moonshine and Maggie D were in front of us!
Sharing the first lock with Blossom
Blossom, Gabriel, Maggie D
Moonshine had some friends join them, which made the lock work easier. Also a friend of Maggie and Steve’s turned up on a bike and helped them. Even so, James was on his own at times working both sides of the lock.
At one point, Moonshine had just left the lock, and the lock above was still emptying. All the other crew had gone forward to the next lock. James, on his own again, closed the gates and started emptying the lock. When the lock was almost empty the lock above opened to reveal a single narrow boat coming down. If he had known he would have left the gates open. The lady was very cross, but despite there being five people at the next lock with windlasses, including a CRT man, no-one had thought to come down and let James know. With suitable explanations and apologies peace was restored, but we never want to upset other boaters.
There was a TV crew out and about, flying drones up and down over our heads. It turned out it was the BBC’s One Show, filming a canoeist who was traversing the Pennines. It is due to be shown on 5th October.
BBC One Show drone
At some point Hazel and Phil discovered they both played ukuleles, so there was a bit of jamming going on in the lock. They probably wanted to get on the One Show.
Blossom had no bow thrusters and was pushed around at times by wash from the locks emptying.
A bow thruster would be useful
The weather was very warm and humid, and frequent glasses of water were needed. The flight took 5 hours and 40 minutes – much too long, particularly as we had plenty of crew. The rent-a-crowd friends were doing their best, but there was not enough co-ordination to get the locks set in advance.
Our friends were hoping for lunch at one of the pubs at the top. The Commercial Inn had closed down, and the Kirkless Hall was not serving food on a Monday. We continued after using the facilities, and moored on piling by Haigh Hall Country Park. Bright Angel was there, and the boat behind us had four cats. Thankfully we had no scrapping in the night.
Dusk at Haigh Hall
3 miles, 21 locks
Tue 19th July Haigh Hall to Johnson’s Hillock Locks
It was another very hot day as we made our way in a Northerly direction along what was originally intended as part of the Lancaster Canal. Lovely views, and rural scenery. We were trying to occupy the shady side of the canal where possible.
Lovely views and hills ahead
When we arrived at Adlington, we spotted some off-side visitor moorings in the shade and decided to pause until the heat of the day had passed. We went in search of lunch with decent cider, and found that the White Bear and the Spinners Arms were not serving food. They were both nearly empty. Next door to the Spinners Arms was an establishment called the Retreat, in a converted church. This was serving food, and was almost full. We had a very nice meal, but the ciders were all gas so James had an apple juice.
Flowers at Adlington
We went to the Co-op for a few items before returning to the boat. The sun had just started to invade the mooring pontoon, so we moved the boat to piling on the other side, which by now was shady.
Moving across to the shade
It was late afternoon when we decided it was cool enough to move on. We passed Chorley, and went under the A6 and the M61, where we found a boat club and a large mill called Botany Bay. We looked for a mooring soon after but we either had road noise from the motorway and access roads, or we couldn’t get into the side as it was shallow. We ended up at the foot of Johnson’s Hillock Locks.
An ancient barn
It was still very warm, and Hugo brought us a very inactive vole, which ended up having a burial at “sea”.
There were three other boats there, so we thought we would probably have a boat to share with the next day.
0 locks, 8 miles
Wed 20th July Johnson’s Hillock Locks to Withnell Fold
We were woken at 4am by Hugo miaowing. He had brought us another present of a bank vole, initially appearing to be dead, but this time it was pretending, and was very much alive. It managed to squeeze under the doors to our guitar cupboard, where there is hardly room to pass a sheet of paper. James managed to catch it in a plastic tub, and went in his dressing gown to release it back into the wild. He put it down in the grass by the hedge, but instead of running into the hedge, it ran across the tow path and plopped into the canal, swimming strongly out towards the opposite bank.
We went back to bed, very tired. We rose later than planned, and two boats had already gone up the locks. James went to speak to the third, and found that he was not going until tomorrow as he was refitting his floor.
Meanwhile Hugo had caught yet another mouse!
We wanted to avoid the forecast thunderstorm, and also avoid the heat of the day. We also wanted an easy journey through the seven locks, so when we saw two boats emerge from the bottom lock, we decided to go, as the locks would be in our favour.
Our mooring at the foot of Johnson’s Hill Locks
More than a third of the way from Liverpool to Leeds
No-one to share with
It was hot work, and we met two other boats coming down. When we suddenly had a downpour with hail it was actually quite refreshing.
Fly boat Dee, last seen at Worsley
Heavy rain and hail
At the Top Lock we used the facilities, and moored on the visitor moorings to visit the pub. We had been told they had a good cider, which turned out to be true – Pheasant Plucker. They also had a pear cider which Hazel tried. It was 7.5% and a pint was quite adequate. We had a meal, which was really very good. James had a cheese and onion pie with chips, peas and gravy. It doesn’t sound cordon bleu, but everything was excellent. Hazel had spaghetti Bolognese which was also exceptional.
Short Boat Kennet
A lot of swallows
After the meal we decided to go to the visitor moorings at Withnell Fold, so we set off. We came up behind a pair of connected canoes, and they asked us for a tow as their outboard had packed up. It was the same guy who had recommended the cider at the pub, and the mooring at Withnell Fold. We towed them through two bridges, where they released themselves. He is going to be at the Blackburn Festival at the weekend.
Canoe give us a tow?
We arrived at Withnell Fold, where there was room for us (just) on the short length of mooring.
There was no TV signal, no phone signal, and no Wi-Fi. Otherwise it was a lovely place, with very overgrown nature trails through thick forests of Himalayan Balsam.
Moored at Withnell Fold
Withnell Fold Paper Mill (now closed)
7 locks, 2 miles
Thu 21st July Withnell Fold to Riley Green
Our mooring at Withnell Green
It was a little cooler this morning, for which we were thankful. We walked across the bridge and up the hill to see the old cottages that had been built to serve the mill. There was a reading room and a school, all built by a Methodist mill owner, so no pub then.
Row of houses dated 1834
A back alley
The reading room
As we set off we spotted Triton John moored up. We last saw them on the Trent and Mersey near Anderton, and we followed them through Barnton and Saltersford Tunnels. No-one about today.
Under the M65
We arrived at the visitor moorings at Riley green where we stopped for the rest of the day. One of the reasons for moving was because of the lack of signal at Withnell Fold. At Riley green we could get everything we needed, so we finally were able to bring this blog up to date.
Moored at Riley Green
Next: Into Blackburn for the canal festival, celebrating 200 years of the Leeds and Liverpool.