Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chalked up one year of continuous cruising

One year on ……. Yes, we have been continuously cruising for one whole year!   Monday 28 March was Day 365.  Some random thoughts about this last year ……
1.  We did the right thing.
2.  Eaten millions of eggs.
3.  Read more books than last 100 years put together.
4.  I miss being able to see Amy whenever.
5.  Not missed work at all.
6.  Why didn’t we do this sooner
7.  Only had a handful of arguments and only once stopped speaking to each other for a couple of days
8.  Still got some supplies we bought with us from the house such as tins of tuna and corned beef, filter coffee, olive oil and quite a number of bottles of spirits
9.  Why didn’t we do this sooner
10. Dai sleeping 8 hours regularly instead of the perhaps 4 or 5 in our previous life
11. Miss having vegetables and fruit off our allotment
12. No colds or illnesses at all
13.  Long, hard, cold winter but we survived
14.  Why didn’t we do this sooner

Had two other “firsts” this last week …..
1.  We were just about to set off down 9 locks into Gargreave when an old narrowboat pulled up.   Great we thought, someone to share the locks with.    “I’ve lost my reverse gear” the owner exclaimed “waiting for a friend to arrive to help me down the locks.”       No prob we said, we’ll breast up and take you down.    So that’s what we did - a first for Dai and he handled it like he’d done it a million times.    Tell you what, they were the easiest locks since getting on the Leeds and Liverpool canal - I had two helpers!     (For our non-boatie friends “breasting up” is where two narrow boats are tied together so one boat runs their engine and steers.    You can obviously only do this in broad locks where two boats can use it side by side.)
2.   Foxxie decided to take a midnight dip (well, a 11pm dip).     She went out for her last wee before bedtime and walked off the canal side of the boat instead of onto the towpath - SPLASH !!!    It was pitch dark and the silly moo swam to the other side of the canal instead of back to the boat and got out.   She then proceeded to thrash about in the shrubbery whimpering like a mad thing.     After about 15 minutes of Dai encouraging her to swim back - she did and then of course, once on the deck shook her coat drenching Dai (I made sure I was standing well out of the way).     Foxxie loves to swim but doesn’t like to jump in - she will only go into the water if she can wade in - ar well, as they say “all’s well that ended well”.

So this last week we moved from Saltersford, past Barnoldswick , East Marton, Gargreave and are now moored at Skipton where we plan to stay until Friday and then move out of the town for the weekend (don’t like staying in towns at weekends as it can get noisy and most likely time for the drunks and ner-do-wells to do their mischief.   

Since last blog we have done …  13 miles and 15 locks
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 1078 miles and  946 locks

.... and yes we saw first swan nest

unusual double arched bridge at East Marton (B.161)

you can see the hole - but can you see the woodpecker (it was there honest tapping out another one)

nice rural canalside scene in Yorkshire

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

YEA !!

Yes, we are now in beautiful countryside after zooming through Burnley (well, if you can “zoom” in a narrow boat, but you know what I mean); Barrowford Locks and Foulbridge Tunnel.    And just had 2 amazingly sunny, warm days.    So we celebrated with some sunning in the deckchair, eating ice cream at a lockside cafĂ© and letting the fire go out  - first time since the beginning of last October.    

Today we have scrubbed the boat roof and the towpath side boat side - glory be!    Again a first since before the long cold dark winter descended.     Clocks spring forward this coming weekend; lambs playing in the fields, daffs flowering everywhere, trees starting to bud; some wildlife sitting on their nests by the canal  - it’s good to be alive.

Dai is right - now we are in Yorkshire, the Leeds and Liverpool canal is stunning - just a shame about all that we had to go through to get here!     Going through Burnley wasn’t as awful as Blackburn - you travel along “the Straight Mile” (which is actually apparently three quarters of a mile) high above the town so it was interesting looking down on the buildings. 

We are now moored near the Anchor Pub at Saltersford just outside Barnoldswick (I was corrected earlier today by a local because it is pronounced Barlick !!).   Dai remembers drinking there when he did this part of the canal years ago in a hireboat - the crew won a gallon of beer at Quiz Night.    Unfortunately they didn’t have any Black Cat beer (is it still made?   Just checked on the internet and, yes, it is still brewed by Moorhouse  in Burnley so hopefully we will be able to sample it before long) which I was really looking forward to after Dai’s excellent recommendation.    He says the pub is still the same - just less busy.   This establishment , built beside the old packhorse road, is an historic canalside pub where a second building was built on top of the first meaning you now drink in what was once the bedrooms.   

After our busy day srubbing, washing and polishing we think we’ve earned a pint or two so we are off to the pub after dinner …… talk to you all next Wednesday.

Since last blog we have done …  21 miles and 14 locks
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 1047 miles and  925 locks  

well, they have tried to brighten up the canalside in Burnley

halfway on the Leeds and Liverpool canal

all those chimney pots fascinated me in Burnley

standard of pub in Burnley ???

as well as being bloody hard work, I could only just reach to wind the paddle

thought we'd left traffic lights behind us!    These are at Foulbridge Tunnel.  We were lucky and they were on green

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It'll be better after Burnley --- I live in hope !

Highlight of our voyage this week - Blackburn ……. NOT !!    Have to say the canal is not at all nice there -  most definitely the worst place we have been for rubbish in the canal and dog pooh on the towpath.   Needless to say we went through as fast as possible, although we did have to stop at the top of the locks for as long as it took me to make 2 trips to Asda which is right by the canal,  while Dai had banter with several drunks who lurched on by!    

Tonight we are moored at Oswaldtwistle (how’s that for a good Northern name).    Dai always told me that the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is one of his favourite canals ----- ummmm??    Up to now it’s been far from my favourite, but I’m told that once we are through Burnley, then I will change my mind (can’t ever see me thinking that Wigan Locks and Blackburn are going to be in my Top Ten !).  

Done two more flights since Wigan - one of 8 at Chorley and one of 6 at Blackburn - piece of cake after the Horror of Wigan Locks!     

Last Friday we moored by Botany Bay just through Chorley ---- an old mill converted into a “shopping experience”.       Was a bit disappointed but we did spend a couple of hours wandering around.    The conversion has been really well done as they have retained a lot of the original features - in fact, this was more interesting to see that what was for sale in the myriad of different retail units.

Saturday we were moored at the top of the Chorley lock flight and had a really excellent Indian meal in the Top Lock pub there which was quite a surprise.

More good rugby last weekend - Wales won and - oh joy - Italy beat France!      Last matches in the Six Nations this coming Saturday - just hope we can get BBC reception.      Couldn’t last Sunday so had to watch the England v Scotland match on the laptop.

Since last blog we have done …  21 miles and 14 locks
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 1047 miles and  925 locks

Wouldn't you just wish you hadn't if you'd book a long weekend at this canalside establishment?  (see photo below for enlargement of the welcoming sign for phone number if you want to sample it !)

Botany Bay Shopping Experience

Welcome to Blackburn (well, I could easily have done a montage of rubbish in the canal and/or dog pooh instead !)

Believe it or not, they did look better as we got closer

is the canal deep enough ?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wigan Locks : plenty of pain - the pleasure was when we'd done it !

Here is The Dragon  - our new tiller pin.    Isn’t he magnificent.

This last week we finished the Leigh Branch at Wigan Junction and turned left towards Leeds and up Wigan Locks (ohmigod - it brings me out in a cold sweat just thinking about it - I need a glass of something!)  More about that later if I can bring myself to recall it!).   Tonight we are moored just outside Adlington in lovely countryside with the Pennines in the distance.

We had to wait at Plank Lane until Fri 4 March because of the stoppage I mentioned last week.   We saw them fill the canal and new marina and remove the two dams - see pictures below.  

At Abram I caught a bus to savour the delights of Wigan Town Centre.    Actually it was quite nice so I roamed around the shops and market and supplied up at Morrisons.   Dai had managed (with the aid of a couple of pints money) to get 3 of the bright yellow buoys you can see in the photos at the stoppage so I bought some chain and fastenings so we now have great “buffers” for between the boat and bank when we moor up.  

Ian and Sarah came to see us again on Sunday, this time with their two boys Aaron and Jack - it was lovely to see them playing with Foxxie.   You have two delightful sons Ian and Sarah - hopefully they are coming to have a day trip with us this coming weekend.

What else can I natter on about before I have to think about Wigan Locks?   Well, we’ve had some glorious sun this week (together with overnight frosts, wind and hail storms) - its so lovely to have such bright days again and really noticing it’s getter later and later before we have to switch on the lights.   Got stocked up with wood again as masses of trees being loped between here and the locks so Dai has been busy with the saw and axe again.

I finished making a fitted sheet for our bed today and, yes, it fits!     The bed is 6 ft by 4 ft so standard fitted sheets are a no-no.    Plus the fact that it is quite a fight to get the bottom sheet to stay put when we change the bed cos it is rammed in against two walls and the wardrobe at the bottom and I’m a devil for hospital corners (having been a nurse in a previous life you understand!).     So decided to cut down one of the sheets to see if fitted corners would work - now I know it does, then I’ll be cutting, hemming and making channels for elastic on the other sheets - all by hand so it does take some time!

Ok - Wigan Locks.     Well, we had planned on doing the two at top of Leigh Branch and then staying overnight at the Junction.    But it didn’t look very welcoming there so we decided to go for it - 21 broad locks which you really have to do in one go as they are so close together.     As usual Dai on the boat and me doing the locks (well, until he builds me a little platform on the deck I cannot see over the roof so don’t like steering with such a limited view!).    Let me say that I’m not afraid of locks and really quite enjoy them but don’t want to do them ones again for some time!    Met some “interesting” gear I’ve not come across before such as (1) gates with chains where you wind a big fixed windless to shut them - presumably cos they’re so big and heavy you can’t do it any other way (2) gates by bridges where you open/close by turning on gear with huge teeth that look positively dragonesque (3) ground paddles you open/close by turning on top rather than the normal at the side (4) metal spikes hanging from gate beams to the ground to keep the gate closed which you have to lift whilst pulling/pushing gates shut - and I only have short arms (no, not mega short but short enough so I could just about deal with the opening/shutting whilst holding the metal spike free of the ground!      Add to all this the fact that you can’t walk over any of the bottom gates so are walking backwards and forwards twice as much as normal.     And the gates are so very very heavy - Dai had to get off the boat to help me with closing gates twice and he could only just manage them!   I tell you, by the time we got to the Top Lock, I was ready to drop ---- was in bed by 9 pm, I was so knacked !!!   The next morning I felt like I'd been 12 rounds with Mike Tyson - I never realised I had so many muscles to ache!

Got stew for dinner tonight which has been bubbling away on top of the fire all day; will be watching “The Boat Take Guy Built” on telly tonight followed by the new foodie programme and then MasterChef.

Hope you are all ok and - trust me - only do the Wigan Locks with two of you if you are a masocist !!

Since last blog we have done …  10 miles and 23 locks
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 1026 miles and  911 locks

removing the temporary dam nearest Plank Lane

one man presses the button, one directs the water hose and one looks to make sure it's all happening - starting to fill the canal

takes a bit longer than filling the kid's paddling pool  - and gallons more water !

starting to dig out the mud dam at southern end

not much longer now !  (a day later)

gushing over

removing another heap of mud - obviously had to be done slowly else us and the other boat moored there would have been white water rafting !

last mud removal - almost there

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

over the Ship Canal to the dammed cut

This last week we started at Moore on the Bridgewater Canal; then Dunham; up through Sale and Stretford where we then entered the Leigh Branch and through Trafford Park and Worsley.    At Leigh the canal is once again owned by British Waterways (Bridgewater Canal is owned by Peel Holdings/Manchester Ship Canal Company).   We are now moored about a mile out of Leigh right by Pennington Flash Country Park - lovely to see the countryside and Flash through the window.    The Park is a 200 hectare area centred on a 70 hectare lake or “flash” and is a big bird watching venue with loads of hides.    A “flash” is a lake created by coal mining subsidence and flooding.

We had visitors last Friday - Ian and Sarah who live not far from where we were moored came to see us and we had a really nice afternoon catching up and eating/drinking at one of the pubs in Grappenhall.

Celebrated Dai being retired a year - the time has just flown by and no, he doesn’t regret a thing !

Wales won Italy in the Six Nations last Sat so all was well - and we also watched the other games so a rugby filled weekend.

Cruising up through Sale was very industrialised with nowhere really to moor sensibly - same for Stretford and Trafford Park.    Worsley looked really nice but the towpath was very very muddy so we went on through.    Leigh is another town where the canal does through a lot of derelict industry but they are building new housing and other constructions.    The towpath has been muddy for most of the Bridgewater and Leigh branch - more so than anywhere else for such a long stretch of canal, obviously not a lot of path laying around here.   I just have to share with you about Dai trying to bond with the local youth coming through Leigh ---”good morning” shouted Dai; “f--k off” muttered the youth menacingly  (I nearly fell off the boat laughing) but the response didn’t stop Dai trying with the next one which was met with silence and a glare.   The first people to wave and shout greetings were 2 chaps working on a plastic boat ----- “just goes to show” !!

We went over the Manchester Ship Canal at Barton Swing Bridge - the Bridge is only swung for any vessel large enough to warrant it on the Ship Canal - which wasn’t at the time we were there.   

Now have to stay here as there is a stoppage just down the canal at Plank Lane Swing Bridge where the canal is dammed as a new marina is being constructed.    The stoppage is due to be lifted on Friday 4 March so hopefully we shall be moving on after that ----- ready to tackle the Wigan 21 (21 double locks) as we need to do all these in one go.    We will then be on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal “proper” and have decided to head towards Leeds from Wigan.

Oh - and Dai has cleaned up his new dragon tiller pin but I forgot to take a photo ---- next week’s blog!

Since last blog we have done …  28 miles and 0 locks
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 1016 miles and  888 locks

Barton Swing bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal

and Barton Aqueduct we were in which is quoted in Nicolsons waterways guide as one of the wonders of the waterways, it carries the Bridgewater canal over the manchester ship canal built in the early 1890s.  Gates seal off the 235 ft long, 1450 ton section that swings at right angles to the ship canal over a central island.   It replaced Brindley's earlier aqueduct built in 1761 and which carried the canal in a trough over 660 ft and 39 ft above the River Irwell

no water in the cut - can't go anywhere!   you can see the new marina entrance on the left side of the photo

dammed at the Plank Lane side

how many men does it take to supervise the digger ?