Go to Allan's Page 2019 Part 1: via Stratford and Gloucester Canals Home Page 2019 Part 2, the Road  to Wigan Pier Go to Deb's Page

2019: Going to Liverpool

3. Liverpool itself, and our return

 

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Debbie was easily able to push this swing bridge open ...
... but this one wasn't going to open without CRT's help

 

Leaving Wigan behind us, we set off along the western end of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, and were immediately impressed by its spectacular beauty. We stopped at a couple of pretty little towns, such as Parbold, and wished that we had allowed more time to explore them; maybe next time!

As with the rest of the canal, there are numerous swing bridges of all types; manual bridges, electric bridges, hydraulic bridges, and broken bridges. Yes, broken bridges; somebody had destroyed the control cabin of one of the swing bridges and pushed it into the canal using a mechanical digger, and the expensive mechanism would take months to repair. The official statements from CRT referred variously to 'random vandalism' and to a 'marauding band of gipsies' but the people we spoke to at the site told a different story, of a deliberate act of revenge by a disgruntled local whose actions had even been captured on CCTV. They told us that the local Police would not prosecute despite the evidence because nobody had been injured, and they had merely issued a crime number and suggested that CRT claim for the cost of repairs on their insurance. Meanwhile, CRT were sending a team of workers to swing the bridge open manually for just one hour twice a week, to allow boats to pass through it. It was a good thing that we had a flexible and unhurried schedule because the opening times did not fit well with the available opening times of the locks down into Liverpool, but  we arrived there a day ahead of the opening time and joined the queue of boats that were waiting to pass through the bridge, then joined them to travel onwards as a convoy and share the work of opening the remaining bridges

The descent through the 4 locks into Liverpool docks was quickly accomplished with the help of a few volunteers, and we were lucky enough to be guided through the docks by a CRT employee called Sid who told us a great deal about the area. For example, he pointed out to us how the conversion of an old tobacco warehouse into flats required the removal of alternate floors because it had been built with ceiling heights of only 4 or 5 feet so as to maximise the floor area for storage, and had employed children there who did not need any extra height to work in. He guided us across to a new channel which had been dug to interconnect two of the docks; at  the opening ceremony he had commented 'but it's only a ditch' and the name Sid's Ditch had stuck - there is even a name-plate announcing it as such.

 

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Starting down the lock flight towards the docks
The old tobacco warehouse is being converted into flats
Emerging into the docks
This old clock tower is a good landmark, showing where to turn
Heading towards the short new canal which connects two old docks
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It is nicknamed "Sid's Ditch". We were lucky enough to have Sid as our guide
Making our way across the docks
The route winds its way right past the front of the iconic "Liver Building" by way of new and old canals, locks, tide-gates, and new tunnels
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One tunnel takes you right underneath this buildings
Another tunnel takes you underneath a square with a statue
This bridge finally takes you into Salthouse Dock and its moorings
We had an excellent mooring pontoon, conveniently sited by an exit ramp.
There were many of these jellyfish in the waters of the docks

We were very grateful for Sid's guidance, particularly as the weather had pushed several of the marker buoys out of position and it is very shallow outside of the correct channel. With his help we boated from dock to dock, passing under bridges and tunnels, through the locks and tidal gates, across the front of the iconic Liver Building, until the Albert Dock which is the centre of the local life with restaurants, bars, clubs and shops all round it. Then there was just one more bridge to pass under before we were in Salthouse Dock where all the new moorings have been created. The pontoon which we had booked was perfectly placed, being right next to an exit gate which was ideal for taking Jessop outside for walks.

We had wondered how Jessop would cope with Liverpool, as there is very little grass near to the dock so we were booked in for just 3 nights (originally we had booked just 2 nights but had increased this to 3 nights to fit better to the opening times of the damaged swing-bridge). As it turned out, he coped extremely well; he soon decided that the bollards at the end of each pontoon were just as useful as a row of trees would be (thankfully there was no leakage of electricity!), and that the small grassy area around Billy Fury's statue just 100 yards away would be perfect for anything else he needed to do. There was a larger area where he could exercise, about a quarter of a mile away, but the weather was not very good so we only went there once. By the third day he was clearly becoming restless, however, so we were glad that we had not booked in for longer; instead we we will just have to return for another 3 days in a year or two's time.

 

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Debbie meets 4 of Liverpool's most famous sons
They are also pictured in  mosaic of sweets, in a sweetshop window
Penny Lane
Strawberry Fields
Strawberry Fields

On our first afternoon we bought a couple of 48-hour tickets for the hop-on-hop-off bus service, and spent an hour travelling the full route - listening to the excellent commentary and deciding which of the many places we would visit during the next 2 days. We had the most wonderful time in Liverpool, taking the Beatles sightseeing tour and visiting the Beatles Museum, visiting several sights including the art gallery and the Maritime Museum, and simply enjoying being tourists around the city. We ate a superb variety of meals at the Albert Dock (one restaurant even gave us a discount for being on a boat), and all in all decided that our visit had been a triumphant success despite the weather being too poor for us to take the iconic 'Ferry cross the Mersey' trip, and we will just have to return soon to see more of the sights of Liverpool!

 

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This canal-side house had an impressive band of frogs performing on the roof
Intrepid engineers swarmed up this electricity pylon

Leaving Liverpool was made particularly easy by the large group of CRT volunteers at the locks, and we quickly continued to the broken swing-bridge where we again waited a day for it to be swung open. We found ourselves at the head of a long queue of boats there, and it proved to be a highly sociable gathering as all the boaters strolled up and down the towpath chatting to each other (and their dogs did the same).

Finally we were on our way again, through Wigan and down to the Bridgewater Canal. Lymm was an extremely handy stop for us; we left a big bag of clothes at their launderette and went for a long walk with Jessop around the lake, before returning to the pretty little town for an excellent Turkish meal. A couple of days later, just as we were leaving, several old working boats arrived for that weekend's Festival of Transport and the canal suddenly became rather crowded; what fun, I do love a bit of chaos in the morning!

 

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We went down the Anderton Lift ...
... on to the pretty River Weaver ...
... where the swing bridges are big enough for us to pass underneath ...
... and there are some very interesting watercraft.
Then the Anderton lift took us back up to rejoin the Trent and Mersey Canal

We couldn't miss the opportunity to spend a couple of days on the beautiful River Weaver, not having had enough time to stop there on our way towards Liverpool, so we pulled across to the Anderton Lift and almost immediately were able to go down to the river itself. We couldn't go far downstream because the first lock, Saltersford, was closed for major repair work which had taken months longer than expected (not least because floods had washed away the partially-completed repairs a few weeks before) so we went just a short way down-river to an isolated mooring spot that we know. The next day we went up-river to the beautiful Vale Royal moorings; the lock keepers said that it had been an extremely quiet summer - partly because of Saltersford lock being closed and partly because of the weather. Indeed the river had been in flood and therefore closed to navigation just the week beforehand, and with storms forecast it was likely to be in flood again before the following week, so we hurried back to Anderton and rode the lift back up to the safety of the canal.

The long flight of locks up to Kidsgrove has the nickname 'Heartbreak Hill' - reportedly because the locks are generally too far apart for the crew to walk between them comfortably, but are at the same time too close together for it to be worthwhile their getting back on the boat - but we have climbed the flight often enough that we actually find it quite easy. As we had hoped (and unlike last year!) we reached the top of the flight in fine weather and then settled down to wait out 2 days of storms with high winds and torrential rain.

Last year I had bought a couple of small solar panels, which had been doing a good job of topping up the batteries until I had noticed back in May that their performance had reduced considerably. After talking to the suppliers, it had become clear that I was going to have to return them to be tested - but how do you safely package two large fragile panels (each about 3ft x 1ft) for posting? Luckily I had spotted an art dealer's shop back in Lymm, and he had given me a couple of suitably-sized strong cardboard boxes; I packed up the panels and, as I had to visit home anyway, took them with me on the train to Milton Keynes so that a courier could collect them.

 

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IN THE EVENT OF SIREN SOUNDING PLEASE LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY another rather worrying notice!
A beautiful overnight mooring by one the flashes near Middlewich
I love this old sign on the old Kidsgrove Gas Light Company building.
A lovely mooring at Bugsworth Basin near Whaley Bridge. Soon after we left, the nearby Toddbrook Reservoir Dam partially collapsed.

Closures on the Lower Peak Forest Canal at Marple (which had lasted for over a year) and on the Macclesfield Canal at several places including Bollington and Bosley, had severely restricted the ability to travel on these two spectacular canals recently. We had diverted around the Marple Flight by not going through Manchester, and the Macclesfield was at the moment (just about) open for its full length, so we took the opportunity in rapidly-improving weather to take a trip along to Whaley Bridge and spend a night in Bugsworth Basin. In fact this was rather convenient for we had been having a slight problem with our exhaust system which had sheared one of its support brackets, and on the Upper Peak Forest Canal we would be passing the boatyard at Furness Vale who had fitted it for us 3 years ago. A few modifications to the way that the silencer was supported, not only cured our immediate problem but also made the whole engine & drive system seem quieter and smoother than ever before, so we very glad that we had stopped - thank you TW Marine.

 

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I just loved this inventive conversion of a narrowboat into the 'Only Fools and Horses' van

Returning to Marple, we stopped to visit the Ring O' Bells pub, where we had had some good meals in the past but which had somewhat disappointed us on our previous visit there. Under new management, the pub is once again well worth a visit; we had an excellent evening there with a friendly welcome, good food, and some excellent wine.

 

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The impressive Goyt Mill at Marple (at the time of writing, it is for sale for 6M..
I was surprised to find this plaque  on the side of a building near Macclesfield
The cows along the Macclesfield canal seemed very interested in our passage
This blue one didn't move much though.
A fine, distant view of Mow Cop, as seen from the canal

Returning to Kidsgrove we wanted to moor as near to Tesco's as possible to go shopping, so we reversed back down through the top lock to the good moorings below it. This also left us perfectly placed for our trip through Harecastle Tunnel early the next morning, before we turned left in Stoke-on-Trent and headed up the Caldon Canal which we had not visited for a few years. This is another fabulously beautiful and rather quirky canal, with the added attraction of a steam railway alongside its river section down to Cheddleton (where Jessop managed to make good friends with a sheep, running noses with it between the bars of the gate).

 

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No it isn't a deliberate mistake; we went down this lock backwards
On the beautiful Caldon Canal
The steam railway runs alongside the river Churnet
I think this was probably posed

Now we were running out of time, to get back to Crick Marina where we had booked ourselves a mooring , so we travelled straight there, maintaining a slow but steady pace, rather as epitomised in this poem by Glasote Locks.

 

Leaky Lock

The Tale of Leaky Lock (Glascote)

 

Leaving the boat at Crick, we went off to Southampton to join a much larger ship for our POSH Baltic Cruise

FOOTNOTE: After our Baltic Cruise we returned to the boat for a month; we nearly reached the top of the Ashby Canal (in torrential rain we gave up and turned round at Bosworth) and nearly reached Oxford (with the Thames running high and even more rain forecast we gave up and turned round at Thrupp). We'll be out for Christmas, I wonder what the weather will be like?

 

Go to Allan's Page 2019 Part 1: via Stratford and Gloucester Canals Home Page 2019 Part 2, the Road  to Wigan Pier Go to Deb's Page

 

All pictures on this site are Allan Jones unless otherwise stated

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