Monday, 25 May 2015

Still on the Bridgewater

Hi all,
Yes,as the title says,we're still on the Leigh Branch of the Bridgewater Canal in Greater Manchester,or,if you prefer,in Lancashire.We had hoped to set off today for pastures new but a few things have delayed us a bit.Lisa's new glasses,that we ordered over a week ago,had to be picked up this morning,she needs them having not had a new pair for a couple of years.On Saturday we hired a car from Enterprise to go over to Market Drayton for a get together with friends and family and,as it's a Bank Holiday,we can't take the car back till tomorrow,we've made good use the extra day's hire though,and got some of the bulkier shopping done at the big Asda in Leigh.Over the last week we haven't been idle,the short spells of fine weather that we've enjoyed have been put to good use,we've got Chyandour tidied up and washed and I've put some fresh paint on her Gunwales.I will be a bit paranoid for a day or two now as I try to avoid scratching the new paint,it's inevitable that it will get scratched despite our best efforts but the first scratch always gives me a feeling of disappointment.I've managed to repair our chimney that had all but died as a result of the wet weather and the corrosive chemicals in the smoke,it should last another winter or at least give us time to source a replacement.
We haven't done much traveling this week,just a couple of short trips.Tuesday we went West from Astley for three miles to Leigh and then Friday,Eastwards for five miles from Leigh to Bridgewater Marina,where we moored overnight Saturday while we went to Market Drayton.The marina at Boothstown is a great little haven and they were more than happy to accommodate us even though they have very little spare room.A bit of shuffling about and we were moored and hooked up to electric ready for Enterprise to pick us up.The marina is only small but it's clean and tidy,the owners are very friendly and helpful and next door is a pub called The Moorings,that does cheap meals,we've been told they are good but we haven't tried them ourselves.The marina is in what was Boothstown Basin which was used by collieries in the area for loading coal onto barges.There was a Tramway and also an underground canal called The Chaddock Level which was also used for moving coal to the basin.
Looking Westwards from the stern of Chyandour along the moorings in Leigh on The L&L Leigh Branch.We thought these moorings were fine except on Friday and Saturday nights.The town centre is only a few minutes walk and there's an Aldi right next to where we are moored.
Our mooring at the moment with The Moorings pub and Bridgewater Marina in the background.We're ready to move now but we'll not be leaving till the morning.Might just try a pint in the pub in a bit.
 That's all again for this week folks.Since our last blog we have done no Locks and only 8 Miles,that gives us a Grand Total of 1,154 Locks and 1,855 Miles since we set off in October 2012.Take care everyone.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Leeds & Liverpool,Leigh Branch.

Hi all,
This week we are moored just a few yards short of a place we moored at over a week ago,Astley,where the Mining Museum is.We've come back here to avoid the loud music from the pub opposite the moorings at Leigh and tomorrow we will head back again,Lisa's waiting for some new glasses to arrive and a delivery at one of the shops so we don't want to be too far away.
Tuesday evening moored by Scotsman's Flash,we went for a circular walk along the Towpath and then back along the footpath on the opposite side of the canal.
 We left Scotsman's Flash last Tuesday and traveled about five miles to Pennington Flash,another flooded area of mining subsidence,mainly,it's believed,from the underground workings of Bickershaw Colliery.On the way there we had to pass under the Lift Bridge at Plank Lane again but this time we were less apprehensive,having done it only last week.A boat that was ahead of us as we approached the bridge let us past so Lisa didn't have to hold the cars this time and we just sailed through
Lisa filling our water tank from the water point at Plank Lane lift Bridge.In the background beyond the parked cars is the landscaped spoil heap of Bickershaw Colliery.
Coal was first mined here at the colliery,beside the canal,in 1872 and it was closed a hundred and twenty years later in 1992.Just off the picture to the right is what is going to be a new marina and housing,it's hard to imagine now how it must have looked when the mine was working.All along the Bridgewater Canal there were coal mines but apart from the subsidence there is little left to show where they were,occasionally there are bits of what may have been loading staithes,but it's hard to be sure,old mines were being shut down and new ones opened quite frequently over the Centuries.

Part of some old mine workings maybe? a loading staith perhaps? there's little way of knowing now.

A sculpture of some old lock gates as you approach Pennington Flash from Plank Lane and the West.There used to be a lock where Plank Lane Lift Bridge is now but I would think it highly unlikely the gates are from there.There's a lock shown on a map of around 1850 but I can find no other reference to the lock or what may have happened to it.I can only guess that,like Dover Locks,Plank Lane Lock was effected by mining subsidence and had to be removed.
This pic' is for anyone coming up,or down,the Bridgewater and wonders where the Water Point at Leigh Bridge 11 is,I can tell you,there isn't one.The Nicholson's Guide is wrong,there's a Water Point and Elsan on the offside to the East of Butts Bridge 9.Which is about a mile to the East of Leigh Bridge..Here's Lisa doing her usual at said Water Point.
There are still a number of Mills around Leigh and this is Leigh Mill.
Leigh Mill,or Leigh Spinners Mill is a double mill that is still in use,though for something different to what it was built for.It was built for spinning Cotton and was built in two stages,the East site and chimney first and the West site ten years later in the first quarter of the 20th Century.It's still used by Leigh Spinners for manufacturing carpets and synthetic turf.
As you get closer to Leigh there's another lovely old mill,even though it is a bit tatty.This one is Mather Lane Mill,built in 1882 and is being converted to apartments as I type this.
It's not all old mills,collieries and steam engines on here you know.Here's what I think is part of a Canada Geese Nursery,there always seems to be a lot of Goslings together with a lot of adults that I think are female,the ones I think are male are nearby,it's not easy to tell the gender of Canada geese,though I guess they don't have any problems.

A common sight on all our waterways,the Heron,they don't seem to be as nervous anymore and often stand on the bank as we cruise by but they never take their eyes off us.
Well that's the lot again for this week folks.Since our last blog we have done no Locks and only 10 Miles which gives us a Grand Total of 1,154 Locks and 1,847 Miles since we set off on our travels in October 2012.Take care everyone.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Bridgewater Canal,Leigh Branch.

Hi all,
We cruised away from Manchester last Monday morning and made our way along the Bridgewater Canal with the intention of getting to Worsley,the place where the Duke of Bridgewater had his coal mines.The Dukes desire to get the coal from his Worsley mines to Manchester was the reason for building the Bridgewater Canal.After filling our water tank at the services just outside Castlefield Basin,we made our way slowly Westward along the Bridgewater Canal,on our right was the Manchester Ship Canal,at times only just a short distance from us.We passed the original link between the two canals,the Hulme Lock Branch,now derelict but in use for over a 150 years before it was replaced by the new link at Pomona Lock,just a bit farther along the canal.As we passed under the Throstle Nest Bridge we had Salford Quays to the right and a tad further along on the left we could see Old Trafford,the home of Manchester United,overlooking the canal.
Throstle Nest Bridge.

Old Trafford,the home of Manchester United.
 About a mile from there,we turned North West onto the Leigh Branch of the Bridgewater at Waters Meeting.Just beyond the junction,on the left,is the massive Kellogs factory and its disused arm.Kellogs opened the factory in Trafford Park at the end of the 1930's,possibly because grain could be delivered by barge.As you pass,what is the largest cereal factory in the world,you can smell the delicious aroma of Cornflakes and Rice Crispies being made.
After another couple of miles we came to the famous Barton Swing Aqueduct,the aqueduct swings to allow tall vessels to travel along the Manchester Ship Canal over which it crosses.The swing aqueduct first opened in 1894 when the ship canal was built,it replaced a masonry aqueduct built in 1761.It is a one hundred metre long iron trough weighing just under fifteen hundred tonnes,it holds eight hundred tonnes of water and swings through ninety degrees to lie parallel to the ship canal.There's the Barton Road Swing Bridge just to the West of it that was built at the same time and by the same company,Andrew Handyside and Co.of Derby.They actually assembled and tested both bridges at the works in Derby before shipping them to Barton.
Crossing the Barton Swing Aqueduct over the Manchester Ship Canal.

Looking downstream of the aqueduct there's the Barton Swing Bridge.Both are controlled from the Control Tower in the centre.
After crossing the aqueduct we cruised another mile or two to what we had hoped would be our destination for the night,Worsley.We stopped there five years ago while on a hireboat and it was fine,this time,sadly,that was not the case.I had expected it to be busy at Worsley,with perhaps only a few empty moorings,but it was virtually empty,only two boats.The first boat we saw had a crew on it and they appeared to be leaving but it turned out that their ropes had been cut and the second boat was in the same situation so we decided not to stop at all and continued on our way.We understand from talking to other boaters that rope cutting at Worsley has been going on for a while and the Police have become involved,such a shame 'cos it's a lovely place.
The Packet House at Worsley with the Delph under the bridge on the right.The house was built in1760 and you could buy a ticket at the house for the Packet Boat and walk down the steps to board.There were regular Packet Boat sailings to Manchester which took two and a half hours and cost as little as Sixpence.The Delph is the exit from the  Duke of Bridgewaters mines.Coal was brought out of the mines by small boats called Starvationers,there is still one visible in the mud outside the mine entrance,the coal would then be loaded onto barges for delivery to Manchester..There are forty six miles of mineworkings underneath this area.
We carried on past Worsley for another mile or so till we arrived here just to the East of Bridgewater Marina at Boothstown.Thanks to the wet weather we remained here for three days relaxing.
Our next port of call was a small place called Astley where there is a Mining Museum at the former Astley Green Colliery.If you look closely you can just about make out the Pit Headgear beyond the pub and us moored on the canal.The pub is called The Boat and serves a nice pint of real ale as well as serving good,inexpensive meals.

The Pit Headgear at the museum.The pit was worked for over fifty years before closing in 1970.

Inside the Engine House at Astley with the absolutely awesome Steam Winding Engine,the largest steam winding engine used in the Lancashire Coalfields.16 Lancashire Boilers, nine feet in diameter and thirty feet long supplied the steam for this 3,300 hp engine.
Just one half of the Twin Tandem Compound steam engine.It was built by Yates and Thom in 1912 at their Canal Ironworks in Blackburn and took two years to assemble.
The huge Winding Engine drum weighed a hundred and five tons and was twenty seven feet in diameter at it's widest.The wire ropes were over two and a quarter inches in diameter and weighed eighteen tons.
On Friday we moved a little farther along the Leigh Branch to Leigh itself where we planned to stop for the weekend.I also had a hospital appointment in Stockport on Saturday and we needed to be somewhere where we could get Public Transport.Leigh is a nice place to moor with all the shops,a covered market and of course a Bus Station with regular services to Manchester and beyond.We moored opposite The Waterside Inn by bridge 11 where there were good moorings and it was close to town,the only drawback was the Inn,it has music till three in the morning on Friday and Saturday.We'll know better next time.Yesterday we moved again,this time just three miles to The Dover Lock Inn at Bridge 4 and the site of two former Locks that were removed when a new channel was constructed because of mining subsidence.We're actually moored on the Bollards of the old Lock Landing of the second lock.On our way here we had to pass under a Lift Bridge at Plank Lane which has now to be operated by the boat crew i.e. Lisa,who was a little concerned at the prospect but she managed it admirably,only holding up at least twenty cars either side.
Plank Lane Bridge with Lisa at the left end at the Control Panel as she raises the bridge.
This morning we left Dover Bridge and made our way three of miles or so and through two locks to Wigan Junction where there are services for boats.After doing our bits we returned through the two locks and another mile or so before mooring in a lovely place alongside Scotsman's Flash.Scotsman's Flash is the largest of the flashes near Wigan and was formed when the ground subsided above old mine workings,it's said that water from the canal filled it but I'm not sure about that.
Approaching Poolstock Lock 2.The two locks here replaced the two that used to be at Dover,where we stopped last night.These locks aren't too difficult though we had a bit of help from John and Ann on NB Slievenamon who shared both locks with us and also some CRT volunteers at Lock 1

NB Slievenamon ahead as we travel between the locks.For those of you who aren't Irish,Slievenamon is a mountain in County Tipperary and means Mountain of the Women.

Well,that's all again for this week folks,since our last blog we have sailed through 4 Locks,the same two twice,and cruised 15 Miles giving us a Grand Total of 1,154 Locks and 1,837 Miles since we set off in October 2012.Take care everyone.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Castlefield Basin & Manchester.

Hi all,,
This week we have been moored in Castlefield Basin at the end of both the Rochdale and Bridgewater Canals.We got there,before the Bank Holiday weekend,after leaving New Islington Marina,on what was a showery morning,the showers didn't effect us much though.There were eleven locks and one and a half miles ahead of us so we turned left out of the marina,onto the Rochdale Canal,and then made our way through the first two broad locks before working our way down the Rochdale Nine.Those nine locks lived up to their reputation for being a bit difficult,taking Lisa and I the best part of three and a half hours to get down.There was plenty of water in that one and a half mile stretch of canal,so much of it in fact,that it was pouring over the top gates and making it difficult to open the top and bottom gates with the pressure of water.When we got to Castlefield we managed to get into one of the few mooring spaces left so that we could go and explore a little more of  Manchester.

The view from our side hatch across New Islington Marina,not as tightly packed as we have experienced in other marinas,there seemed to be plenty of room for visiting boats at least.You can moor for two nights free and then it's £10 per night with a max of £50 per week.Not bad for somewhere so close to Manchester.
On one of our days we spent an interesting couple of hours at The Greater Manchester Police Museum on Newton Street,it's about ten minutes walk from the marina.These two gentlemen standing outside the museum,were just two of the very friendly,helpful and well informed people we met there.The one on the right is wearing a replica of the first Police uniform.Sir Robert Peel,the founder of the police,wanted them in a uniform that wasn't too official or military and the Top Hat was reenforced so they could stand on it to look over walls etc.,it also made them easily identifiable in a crowd.He also told us that most people don't really appreciate Manchester 'cos they never look up.Following that advice we did look up as we walked about and there's an awful lot of beautiful old buildings to be seen.
On another day we went by train to Mills Hill to visit family,our Son in Law's parents Pete and Pat, live just a couple of hundred yards off the Rochdale Canal so we just had to go for a walk,I have this thing about canals you see.This is a pic' of Walkmill Lock 63 on the Rochdale above Chadderton. 

We enjoyed our time in New Islington,the facilities there are as good as any we've found anywhere,there are Washing Machines that are inexpensive to use,all the usual facilities such as Elsan,Water and Showers,and it's also possible to moor where there is no public access after a certain time of night.From the marina it's only about fifteen minutes walk to Piccadilly Gardens and the Arndale Centre so it suited us.Last Monday was Lisa's Birthday so we spent the day mooching around the shops and then went for a meal,remembering,of course,to be back for seven thirty,or we would be marooned on the wrong side of the Swing Bridge.Depending on the time of year the Swing Bridge across the marina is locked open in the evening and no pedestrians can then get across and,as the days get longer,the bridge remains open to pedestrians for longer,it can still be opened for boats like other Swing Bridges,with a Waterways Key.There are other moorings outside the Swing Bridge and we saw no cause for concern but I would always treat it as part of an urban canal and act accordingly.Ben the Manager explains everything when you get there or the residents are more than helpful if you arrive outside office hours.
Heading down the Rochdale Nine,we go underneath Piccadilly and the buildings on it as we approach Piccadilly Lock 85.We had an April shower at this time and it was handy to get in here out of the rain.
Lisa valiantly trying to open the top gates on Lock 86,you can see the water is over the top of the gates.This stretch of the Rochdale is alongside Canal Street ( bet that came as a surprise ) and there is no Towpath.Yes,I did go to her aid after I took this pic' and believe me,it wasn't easy to get those gates open,top or bottom,after we got Chyandour in the lock.
The end of the Rochdale at Castlefield,see how much water is coming over the gate of Dukes Lock 92.We had help through this lock and it was still a struggle to get the gates open.
Our mooring on what was the Coal Wharf here in Castlefield basin,under the shadow of the Beetham Tower,the 47 story Skyscraper in the background,sorry I chopped the top off.Behind us is the partially reconstructed Grocers Warehouse which was built in about 1770 by James Brindley who was the Engineer for the Bridgewater Canal. 

The Bridgewater is arguably the first canal to be built in the UK,built for the Duke of Bridgewater so he could get the coal from his mines in Worsley,just over seven miles from here,to Manchester.Having done so,the price of coal in Manchester halved overnight.Grocers Warehouse was one of the first Canal Warehouses ever to be built and it was five stories high at one time.The two arches at the front allowed boats to be loaded and unloaded under cover.The left one was the start of an arm that extended for a couple of hundred yards and was used to unload coal which was hoisted up to street level by a Waterwheel powered by water from the River Medlock.This arm was closed when the Rochdale Canal was built over the top of it at the beginning of the Nineteenth century but the warehouse remained in use.Take a look across the Rochdale Canal from the the road above the arches and you can see where the tunnel used to be.Take a look through the warehouse windows and it's possible to see what I think is a reconstruction of a Waterwheel that was used to lift goods up through the warehouse to street level and other floors and not the coal that the arm was originally built for.There are loads of information boards around here giving the history of this interesting part of Manchester since as far back as Roman Times and for someone like me,that's like heaven.The building to the right with the tower is the former Congregational Chapel opened in 1858,at one time it was a recording studio owned by Pete Waterman.
The view in Castlefield in the evening and yes,it's almost as peaceful as it looks.
On one of our days at Castlefield we went to the the Museum of Science and Industry which is about five minutes walk from here and a great place to spend the day.Here's a replica of one of the first planes built by Alliot Verdon Roe who,together with his brother Humphrey,went on to start the world famous AVRO Company on Great Ancoats Street here in Manchester in 1910.The AVRO company built the WW2 Lancaster Bomber and later the Vulcan Bomber as well as a lot of other aircraft.
We spent a few hours at another of the many attractions,this time it was the Greater Manchester Museum of Transport.Some of my former work colleagues at Stagecoach in Perth will no doubt recognise this vehicle.It's a 1950's Alexander bodied single deck Leyland Tiger that worked out of Dundee.
Giants Basin,a seven metre deep,seven metre wide overflow from the Bridgewater to the River Medlock.It's on another former Coal Wharf near the Potato Wharf here in Castlefield.
Great Northern Viaduct over Castlefield.It's of wrought iron construction with the piers filled with concrete.built in 1890,it's over three hundred metres long and was closed in 1969 after the rail tracks were lifted.Still a fantastic piece of construction

Once or twice,while walking around Manchester we have had to seek refuge from the rain in an old building or two,it being April and all that.On one occasion it was the Briton's Protection,a Public House on Great Bridgewater Street that is now over 200 years old.They serve Real Ales,selling a number of beers including a really nice drink called,..............................................Wait for it................................................................ Briton's Protection.Bet that came as a surprise.It's one of two pubs that had that name in Manchester,the other one was on Oldham Road but that closed in 1942.This one had no music and no TV's,just a pleasant atmosphere in which you can sit and talk without having to shout at each other.Another old building we took shelter in,was The Peveril of the Peak and strangely,also a Public House,this one is named after an express stagecoach service from Manchester to London and has had the same family running it for over forty years.They also serve some nice Real Ales and there's an interesting Juke Box.Both these pubs have character and lovely interiors and are just a few minutes walk from the basin.               

The Peveril of the Peak on Great Bridgewater Street.
Well,that's all again for this week,we've now left Castlefield and are moored on the Leigh Branch of the Bridgewater.Since our last blog we have gone through 11 Locks and cruised 10 Miles.That gives us a Grand Total of 1,150 Locks and 1,822 Miles since we set off in October 2012.Take care everyone.