Friday, October 20, 2017

Two Tunnels…

We set off late today, it was nearly 11 before the rain stopped and there’s no joy to be had in cruising in the rain, is there.

Looking up the Weaver valley from the breach moorings.DSCF1544
The canal runs along the valley, never more than a few hundred yards away fro the river, but 50-some feet higher.

Bartington Wharf, home to a Black Prince hire fleet, most of which seems to be in “home port”.DSCF1549

The repairs to the eroded towpath continue apace…DSCF1551

We had Salterford and Barnton Tunnels to negotiate today. I planned to arrive at Salterford with a little time in hand in order for Meg to have a comfort break. After a very gentle chug through the woods clothing the valley side we arrived with 20 minutes to spare.DSCF1556

This chap didn’t seem at all bothered by us going past, usually they’re away into the bushes.DSCF1554

Like Preston Brook, this tunnel also has a timed entrance system in place…DSCF1557

The tunnel has a kink in the middle due to an unfortunate surveying error when it was dug.DSCF1561

It’s only short though, so we were soon back into daylight and crossing the basin between the two tunnels.DSCF1562
And the sun has made a brief appearance!

Into Barnton Tunnel
This one is straight enough to see the other end, 572 yards away. With no traffic control you just have to check that no-one’s coming.

I wonder how many bricks went into lining one of these…?
A quick estimate gave me the figure of 300,000 visible bricks. I think you can safely assume that there’ll be a triple layer, so that’s close to a million bricks in this one tunnel, not counting those used for lining the airshafts.

You can understand why the canal companies often built their own brickworks next to the canal…

We pulled in just past Bridge 202 on the moorings rings there. It’s the closest spot to the Co-op up in Barnton village for a paper tomorrow morning.

Locks 0, miles 4 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Heading back the way we came.

First off, thanks for all the supportive comments following my half-marathon finish on Sunday. I was feeling a bit disappointed with my time, but you’ve all bucked my spirits up. I’d almost decided to hang up my running shoes, but might rethink that decision…

Good tee-shirt and medal, though.
And on that subject, we managed to raise £330 for Macmillan Cancer Support, thanks to all those who contributed. My Justgiving page will remain active for a while longer, just in case anyone else feels the need to add to the total…

Right then. Yesterday morning we set off from Castlefield, first reversing out into the basin below Rochdale Lock 92 to turn around and head off.

Back out from the Staffordshire Arm, CastlefieldDSCF1495

The day was bright but pretty breezy, cool on the face as we headed west to Water’s Meeting.

The old Hulme Locks, dropping down onto the River Irwell, have long been derelict…DSCF1498

…replaced by the much graffiti-ed Pomona Lock.DSCF1503 

Looking down on the Ship Canal and Salford Quays.

As early as 1660 it was recognised that improvements to the rivers Mersey and Irwell would enable vessels to travel from the Irish Sea into the growing cities of Salford and Manchester. But it wasn’t until 1734 that vessels “of moderate size” could navigate the Mersey and Irwell Navigation, through 8 locks and along several artificial cuts that bypassed tight bends and shoals on the rivers.

By the early 19th century the lower section of the river navigation was made redundant by the construction of the Runcorn and Latchford Canal, with locks 13 feet wide and 65 feet long.

The Runcorn section of the Bridgwater Canal had been completed a few years earlier, and this, coupled with the beginnings of railway competition, made the R&LC less and less profitable. It was sold to the Bridgewater Navigation Company in 1874, by which time it was in considerable disrepair.

The final nail in the coffins of both the river navigation and the later cut was hammered home in December 1893, with the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal. The MSCC had already acquired the canal in order to use part of it’s channel for the new waterway, obliterating much of the higher reaches up to Pomona. The lower sections remained sporadically in use until the 1950s, but it’s derelict now.

Water’s Meeting
We pulled in at Stretford Marina, topped up with diesel and water and bought four 20kg bags of Excel at the very reasonable price of £8 each. Then toddled on, along the long and somewhat boring Sale straight, and back out into the country.

Autumn aroma – the rich, earthy smell of a freshly ploughed field.DSCF1515

Bollington Mill, with Dunham Massey Deer Park beyondDSCF1518
We pulled in at Lymm for the night. A long day by our standards.

So today we set off again, intending to be back on the Trent and Mersey this afternoon.

Blue skies as we set off, but it wasn’t to last.DSCF1522

Under the M6 just south of the impressive Thelwall Viaduct which carries the motorway over the Mersey valley and the Manchester Ship Canal.DSCF1525

Thelwall Viaduct aerial photograph 
Picture from

The Bridgewater Canal crosses an aqueduct a little further along, and is somewhat less impressive…

Thelwall Underbridge
They call aqueducts “underbridges” around here.

We cruised through the southern fringes of Warrington and back out into the countryside at Walton.

Runcorn skyline through the arch of Keckwick BridgeDSCF1531

Preston Brook, a settlement that grew up around the canalDSCF1532

We arrived at the northern end of Preston Brook Tunnel at a quarter past one, 15 minutes to spare before we could go through so time for a quick brew and a sandwich before we passed from the Bridgewater to the Trent and Mersey.

Preston Brook Tunnel, north end

The northern half, until the repaired section midway through, is quite wet in places. This leads to the formation of flowstone drips and mini stalactites.

Out of the other end, with the shallow Dutton Stop Lock ahead.DSCF1539

The difference between the two canals is marked. The Bridgewater is wide, fairly straight, and deep. The Trent and Mersey is none of those!

We pulled in on the breach moorings at Dutton Hollow, the same spot we used on the way up.

I intended to post this last night but didn’t get it finished, so that’s why it’s a day late. Today we’ve stayed put, watching the rain come down and the occasional boat go past.

Over the last two days – Locks 1, miles 26.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A run around Sale, a short cruise with friends, a red sun and a singing tower!

I’ve not posted since we arrived on the Bridgewater, mainly because we’ve done this trip many times and I’ve run out of new things to talk about!
So here’s a quick prĂ©cis…

We left Moore on Wednesday morning, passing the south edge of Warrington through the suburb of Stockton Heath.

Thorn Marine is still here, and still under threat of being redeveloped.DSCF1443
We pulled in for a gas bottle and a couple of bags of solid fuel before pressing on while it stayed fine. Wet weather was due to arrive around midday, and we almost made it to Lymm before getting wet.

First thing Thursday morning I was out for my last training run before the Greater Manchester Half Marathon on Sunday, then we were on our way again.

Surprisingly quiet moorings in Lymm

Old canal-side warehouse near OutringtonDSCF1455

A brighter day afforded distant views of the Pennines to the northDSCF1458 

We pulled in on the offside moorings near the Olde No3 pub for the night, to wait for an early morning delivery from Tesco’s. The pub is open again now after being closed up for a while.

The groceries arrived on schedule on Friday morning, and with everything stowed we reversed to the water tap to top up. An interesting manouvre in the brisk breeze…

Topping up the tank

With cupboards and water tank filled we moved just a short distance to spend the night near Dunham Massey.

Over the River Bollin on the concrete aqueductDSCF1464
In August 1971 a major breach occurred here on the original aqueduct, allowing the canal to drain into the river below. The canal in Manchester dropped by over a foot before stop planks where installed at either end to stem the flow. With little commercial traffic on the waterway the Manchester Ship Canal Company considered closing the canal completely, but instead a Trust was formed, consisting of representatives from the the borough and city councils through which it passes, and the canal company, to raise money to bear part of the cost of repair. This was successful and canal reopened after being closed for 2 years.The Bridgewater Canal Trust still meets to discuss policy for the canal.

Pulled in after another short trip.

So, on to Saturday, and a pleasant cruise in to Sale.

Seamans Moss Bridge marks the end of the rural and the start of the urban as the canal heads towards Manchester.DSCF1470

The site of the former Linotype Works alongside the canal is being cleared to allow construction of a new housing estate, but it looks like the gable of the adjacent factory and the office block are being preserved.


Timperley Bridge and the long straight through SaleDSCF1474

The plan was to moor on the towpath just past Sale Bridge, but there was one space on the offside, alongside the pub carpark, so we dropped into that.

It’s just a short walk to Sale Metro Station from here, and three stops up the line to the Old Trafford Cricket Ground and the start of the half marathon.

Pretty in pink…

Yesterday morning I was up at 06:30, breakfasted and Meg emptied, and aboard a tram by half-seven. The gun went off spot on time at 9 o’clock, and I crossed the start line 5 minutes later. I’d put my expected finishing time down as 02:15, so had been allocated a start zone away from the start.
And I was pretty well spot on, coming in at 02:14:40. I’d hoped for around 2 hours, but by mile 9 I was flagging a bit so eased up and took it steady for the last 4 miles. I can’t blame the course or the organisation, both were spot on. And the support from the locals later on the route was great. I accepted a Jelly Baby from a little girl stood with her dad.

I caught the tram back to Sale Bridge and was back aboard Seyella by a quarter to twelve. Meanwhile Mags’ son Howard had turned up to keep her company, and he’d brought a load of mail with him too. He left us mid-afternoon and I got my head down for an hour.

This morning, a little stiff but not too bad, I walked up to the Co-op to get a few bits and pieces before our guests for today arrived. Doug and James, late of NB Chance and now with a place in Manchester, were joining us for the cruise into the city. It’s been a while since we’d seen them, so had plenty to talk about.

The lads, James on the tiller.

Water’s Meeting, Leigh and the Leeds and Liverpool to the left, Castlefield, Manchester and the Rochdale Canal to the right.

Castlefield Bridges


Moored up near the Y
We had lunch before Doug and James left, mid-afternoon. It’s been a really good day.

Soon after we’d moored the sun made an appearance, the orange tint apparently caused by a combination of Saharan sand, and ash from forest fires on the Iberian Peninsula, all carried on the winds of the rapidly approaching Hurricane Ophelia.DSCF1486


From later on this afternoon the wind has steadily increased, and although we’re sheltered here there are some strong gusts rocking the boat. I wouldn’t like to be in an exposed spot tonight.

The Beetham Tower is visible from the basin, and it has a reputation for being a little noisy when it’s windy. Unfortunately the microphone on my camera wasn’t sensitive to pick up the sound when I tried a recording, but there’s a good video on the link here from 2015. It’s quietened down a bit now, just the occasional howl…
Snapshot 1 (16-Oct-17 8-20 PM)

The wind is supposed to die down by mid-morning tomorrow, so we'll head back the way we came.

Locks 0, miles 21

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Swapping canals…

It was a bit grim first thing this morning, damp and drizzly. I got wet through on my run, but by 10:00 it had started to dry up and the day steadily brightened.

It was about 35 minutes to Preston Brook Tunnel, and we arrived at ten to eleven, just time to get
through the shallow stop lock and follow two other boats through the hill.

Foraging for winter stores on the towpath

Past Longacre Wood.

Dutton Stop Lock, six inches deep, just before the tunnel.DSCF1423

Two other boats waiting for the 11:00 passage window.DSCF1424
Like Saltersford this tunnel has timed passages to avoid confusion. But it’s a  bit longer, so you only have 10 minutes to get in there and 20 minutes to make the trip through.

At this end you leave the Trent and Mersey Canal…DSCF1426

…and emerge onto the Bridgewater Canal.DSCF1428
CRT has no jurisdiction here, the operating authority is Peel Holdings, who also manage the Manchester Ship Canal. But a reciprocal agreement between the two allows boats to use the adjoining canals for a restricted period without charge.

Claymore’s hire base on the right and the M56 crossing ahead.DSCF1430

Just beyond the motorway we swung left onto the Runcorn Arm to pick up water from outside Preston Brook Marina.

Under the bridge a young pigeon was looking lonely and confused. I hope it has fledged or else it’ll be easy prey for the local cats.

With the tank filled we returned to the main line, heading past the Daresbury Laboratories with the distinctive tower on the campus.DSCF1438

Across to the west, on the other side of the River Mersey, Fiddlers Ferry Power Station sends a plume of steam into the air.

We pulled in a few hundred yards past Moore. There are rings right opposite the Post Office but it’s a bit noisy there, alongside the road. I walked back to collect the mail, only to find that Tuesday is half-day! Never mind, we’d planned to stay overnight anyway.

It looks a bit wild for tomorrow, we’ll have to see what it’s like before we decide what to do.

Hi Richard. We'll be stopping on Saturday and probably Sunday nights near Watch House Cruising Club's HQ, between Sale and Stretford. From there it's a short walk and tram ride to the start line.

Locks 1, miles 6