Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Gecko's New Home

A fairly lazy morning ahead. We are only 4 miles from our destination with a couple of swing bridges to negotiate.
As we passed through Bursgough we admired this old mill, now converted into flats - sorry, apartments.

Away at 6.30 and ready to open the bridge an hour later. Unfortunately Crabtree Bridge did not want to play - the wedges had stuck and we had to call an engineer out.  Two hours later he had it open and we resumed our passage.

The chap who lived opposite the pub was not impressed."when we had the wooden bridge, they came twice a year to remove the weeds and give it some grease. This broke down three times last week"

It seems that vehicles over the 7.5 tonne limit (what's wrong with an English ton?) damage the sensors.

By 11am Gecko was safely moored in her new home which is only 10 minutes by bus from Southport.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Whio Meet Again

Bank Holiday Monday. After three days of peaceful cruising today is something else.
A charming setting with abundant  blossom. This is a long and deep lock with attitude. Much of the lock gear is inoperable and it took us 45 minutes to fill it.  Usually, if conditions are still,  I sit in the channel and wait for Margaret to prepare the lock. Here I moored up and had a cup of coffee. If there had been any bacon on board I may have made a second breakfast.

When the lock was ready, the boat was not. The lock had taken so much water that Gecko was now aground.
At one time an alternative pair of shallow locks had been built to accelerate passage  but these are now defunct.
At Parbold the world seemed to wake up and we found ourselves in the middle of a parade of nine boats all headed our way. This made passage through the swing bridges interesting as the first boat crew would operate the bridge for all of us  and then rejoin the flotilla at the back.

Along the Kennet & Avon Canal there are a string of pillboxes built in WWII for defense from invasion. I did not realise that invading forces were anticipated so far north as to require such preparation along the L&L.
This two-storey pillbox reminded me of another war-related construction.  Whilst seeking out prefabs in Hertfordshire in the 1980s I discovered some two-storey ones which was a surprise to me.
As we progressed boats joined our flotilla: some out for the day, others headed for Liverpool to attend the IWA rally.
When we reached the junction with the Rufford Arm we decided to call it a day and moor up .
This is the route for those wishing to navigate the Lancaster Canal.  The canal joins the River Douglas before its confluence with the Ribble which has to be crossed to enter the Millenium Link on the north side of the river. As soon as you turn into the Rufford Arm you start your descent  to the Douglas valley.

Hopefully with more success than this cruiser.

This  junction shows evidence of being a busy commercial site in the past. This derelict dry dock was large enough to accommodate two Liverpool Long Boats simultaneously.
Maneuvering  such craft  in through the entrance at the far end of this picture must have been quite tricky. Once inside the dock, the first boat in could not leave until the second boat moved.
We picked a spot to moor and started washing the salt off Gecko whilst the Bank Holiday gongoozlers  strolled past with ice creams.

Later in the day we were accosted by Don, a kiwi we know who moors his boat in Aylesbury. He and Val cruise the summer over here then return to New Zealand for the summer over there. In all the activity of extracting ourselves from the flotilla and mooring we had not noticed that their boat Whio was moored 25 yards behind us (the blue boat in this picture) And so we spent a pleasant evening with Don & Val before they set off for Lancaster Canal and Liverpool.
Whio (Blue Duck) at Staglands, Akatarawa, New Zealand.jpg
The WHIO is a blue duck from New Zealand

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Gecko on the Move - Plank Lane to Crooke

Another bright and dry morning. Away at 6.30 heading for Wigan. Not to climb the daunting flight of locks towards Leeds but to turn left towards Liverpool. This is new territory for us.

The first lock we encounter after our left turn has a fairly new road bridge over it. There is no footbridge on the lock so to get from one side to the other Margaret has to climb up to the road, cross this bridge and descend the other side. I can't imagine it would have added much to the cost of the road bridge to add a footbridge to the lock, but who cares about canal users?

As we descend the three locks in Wigan we pass Kennet, an original Liverpool Short Boat which worked the canal in its commercial days. It now belongs to the L&L Canal Society and is used as a floating classroom. As 2016 is the 200th anniversary of the canal opening it will be busy this year. The locks between Wigan and Leeds are 60ft long and Kennet was built to operate this route.

Immortalised by George Orwell, the legendary Wigan  Pier occupies a tight turn for us and we head westward out of the town, descending more rural locks.

Here and there the May blossom is pink

In this fine weather and lack of boat traffic we are making good progress so decide to moor up early enough to explore our locale.
As we approach Crooke we pass this extraordinary construction. It appears to be a communal area for three houses providing a sheltered quayside retreat. Notice there are doors in the back wall - beach huts?

Cruising through the village, we find a lovely peaceful spot just out of sight round this bend and tie up before noon.
There is no traffic in this area o f the village and the whole atmosphere is somnolent which, after our early start, is tempting.

Our exploratory walk reveals that, away from the main road, it is indeed a charming village with a small marina and a substantial pub - The Crooke Hall Inn. We decide to treat ourselves to Sunday dinner here later.

When driving on roads we have learned that it is pointless asking directions from service station staff as they are all clueless. Being unsure of our actual location, we asked in a local shop which village we were in and the shopkeeper did not know! He printed off a till receipt with the address of the shop for us but this, I think, was the registered office address.
The meal and service at The Crooke Hall Inn was excellent. I was immediately impressed by the bar staff who recognised the intention of another customer to jump the queue and deftly ignored him until his allotted turn. Margaret had the roast sirloin whilst I had liver and bacon. Both meals were generous and perfectly prepared, as was the selection of vegetables. The rich gravy on my dish had whole mustard seed in addition to the traditional onion. Very tasty.
Out in the pub garden the Liverpool Long Boat Ambush was moored. This operated between Liverpool and Wigan but is too long to take the route to Leeds. It is now owned by Derek who plies his trade of fuel supplier along this section of the canal. The sister boat, Victoria, is permanently moored on his wharf at Bursgough.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Gecko on the Move - Lymm to Plank Lane

A bright sunny Saturday morning, so up at 6 and away by 7am. A good two hours cruising before we see another boat moving and then not another for a further hour.

We have not traveled this way for some years so are interested to resume acquaintance with such buildings as the old Linotype works at Sale

The first time we passed this building in 2006 it had been burnt out. No evidence of the damage is apparent now.

This gate for Infant Girls intrigues me as it is clearly from a different era than the current school buildings.

We are now skirting the west of Manchester and landmarks are frequent.

Soon after stopping at Stretford to empty the toilet and top up the tanks we pass the junction where we could turn right for the city centre and Old Trafford.

Around 11am we pass the Kelloggs factory but it is too late for breakfast so we don't stop.

Don't fancy shopping at the Trafford Centre, either so push on.

At Barton we cross the Manchester Ship Canal on an aqueduct similar to the road bridge next to us. These pivot in the centre to allow ships to navigate the Ship Canal.

From our elevated position we can see one of these ships moored a short distance away.

We are not totally devoid of nature here as evidence of Spring is all around us.

Whilst the swans, which mate for life,  are tending to their brood.....

.....the Canada Geese have twenty goslings to contend with. If there is one immigrant I would be happy to deport it is the Canada Goose, but the little ones do look sweet.

I do not know the story behind this lighthouse.

As we approach Worsley we are flanked by new houses - and large ones, too. These were not here on our last passage.

It is comforting to see that not everything has changed here in the town where Canalmania was born.

When we arrive at Plank Lane to moor for the night we find the newly-created but unused basin is being surrounded by house building also.

We are now on the Leigh Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool  Canal and tomorrow we will have locks to contend with.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Gecko on the Move - Anderton to Lymm

In the last 21 months we have cruised Gecko for one week only. Since last July she has reposed in Uplands Marina at Anderton which is just across the River Weaver from the Tata plant. This used to be Brunner Mond but despite the change in name, ownership and nationality, it still produces salt. And since July last year it has been depositing a proportion of its salt production onto Gecko. Today we have come to the rescue and are moving her further north to Lancashire. I feel we are also rescuing ourselves: despite the wonders of Preston, we would rather be out on the canals.
We topped up the water tank last week after flushing out the potable antifreeze. Fuel  is sufficient for about 200 hours so once we have extracted her from the marina we can get on our way - just turn left onto the T&M  and go.

First we have three tunnels starting with a short one and each subsequent getting longer. By the time we have cleared these we are in Preston Brook on the Bridgewater Canal with a lock-free run ahead. 

 After the wet but warm winter, the weather is beautiful: sun shining and barely a breeze.

It really feels like summer with May blossom so abundant. 

And Flag Irises creating a golden border to the channel.

Occasionally we are treated to a bank of Rhodies

Not everything, however, is rosy in the garden as we find several clumps of Japanese Knotweed when we moor up near Lymm. 

But a glorious summer evening keeps our spirits on a high  as we settle down for the first night on Gecko for a very long time.