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70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010



‘Jammin’ was the name of the boat that we would accompany on our way up the nineteen locks this morning. We had met up with her crew the night before, Pete, Marie and friend Stuart plus Rebel the huge, but friendly German Shepherd dog. In fact they were all very friendly and we worked together well.

At 8.15 the BW guy was waving us into the first lock and all thought of breakfast was abandoned. One down eighteen to go and Jacquie was at the helm when SKYY came to a stop with a fouled propeller. This was the first time that Bargy Bill, my super duper prop cleaner, came in handy and along with my dive knife, up came underpants, trousers, a tie, fortunately no body parts, and masses of plastic bags. The trick is to use reverse as little as possible and although the water is full of sunken rubbish we only had to stop once more to clear a small amount of plastic.

We had to endure some colourful, jovial banter from the pub gardens along the canal, but maybe Rebel the dog ensured that nothing worse was encountered. Obviously take the usual precaution and lock the front doors and leaves nothing to temp on the roof, but I didn’t feel threatened in any way.

There are still many fine old cotton mills standing, none more so than at Failsworth, once famous for making hats. That might account for the name of one of the locks that we came through ‘Pinfold or Madhouse Lock’. Maybe there had been a lunatic asylum nearby for the mad hatters, a reality as the madness was caused by the use of mercury in the fulling of felt.

The same BW guys saw us through the last of the nineteen locks and wished us bon voyage as we continued under the motorway and pausing whilst Pete operated the Grimshaw Lane vertical lift bridge, it did as its title says lifted straight up, but only after buzzers sounded, lights flashed and the barriers came down. Stuart on the helm of Jammin did a power dance to celebrate actually stopping the road traffic.

One more lock and green country side filled our horizon as we tied up alongside The Rose Of Lancaster Pub. We felt like intrepid celebrities as we celebrated our arrival with Jammim’s Crew and chatted to a very friendly family who wanted to know all about our travels.

As we had so enjoyed the company of Pete, Marie and Stuart, we agreed to set sail with them tomorrow, but at a more acceptable time.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010



We had pre-booked our passage onto the Rochdale Canal with BW for Saturday and had to be ready at 8.30am at lock 83 as only four boats a day would be allowed onto the canal. This meant that we had to tackle the dreaded Rochdale Nine today, out of the city centre heading north east towards the Piccadilly area of Manchester.

Lock Keepers house at the first of the Rochdale Nine Locks

Lynne, glutton for punishment, was going to join us again and we hoped to be away by midday. At 11.30am we moved out of the safety of Castle Quays into the unknown. Well, you do have to decide for yourself, but as in last blog, do not be put of; the locks were no harder than most others, some do have a chain and winch mechanism for opening and closing the gates and this does take a bit of head scratching to work out which way to wind. The water was clean with next to no floating rubbish and yes, the canal is hemmed in by tall building and passes underneath several, but nobody appeared to be loitering with anything except questions as to ‘Have you really come from Oxford’ and ‘Where are you heading to’ I guess the time of day you pass through is important, but as long as you are above Dale Street Lock no. 84, before BW padlock it at 4.30pm, there is no problem, but allow three hours. We took an hour out for lunch just above lock 87 and still arrived at Ducie Basin at 3.30pm.

We walked Lynne back to her car past the ‘Gay’ village, elevated above the canal and wished her on her way with much thanks for her help with the locks. On the way back to SKYY we stopped of in this vibrant area and enjoyed a drink and a spot people watching, very colourful.



A relatively early start for us, as we would have to overnight in the centre of Manchester and we wanted to be assured of a mooring in the Castlefield area.

The stretch of canal through Sale and Stretford was clean and wide, but mostly residential and the attractively named ‘Waters Meeting’ junction was disappointingly nondescript. We turned right here for the three mile run into the centre of Manchester City.

Initially all that can be seen is the freight terminal for Euro Tunnel and then the Manchester United FC stadium came into view, I did not find this a visually exciting structure, much of it looked to be made of oversized scaffold poles and rusty red coloured, corrugated aluminium. The Ship Canal joined us on the left; its far bank lined with smart apartments and it accompanied us right into the centre, although not always visible.

Just before we turned right into Castle Quays there is a sanitation block on the left side, underneath the railway arches and viaducts. We made full use of the facility including using our own pumpout kit as we were not sure what services would be available on the Rochdale.

Castle Quays was already fairly full of visiting boats at 2pm, but we snuggled into a corner and felt very secure. The whole area had been regenerated some years back and in parts looked a little tired, but many restaurants and bars nearby ensured that the place was full of life. The other side of the railway arches a beach had been created complete with deckchairs and several large screens where World Cup Football could be watched, courtesy of Hyundai Cars.

Despite our concerns about staying in the centre of Manchester, in retrospect we wished that we had allowed more time, there is obviously so much to do and see, starting with the Museum of Science and Industry. I think there might even be some shops somewhere, clothes and stuff, if that’s your scene. If you are hesitating in venturing this way do not be put off by negative comments.



Within and hour of leaving our overnight mooring we were at Dutton and the entrance to Preston Brook Tunnel, this is also timed, but as the tunnel is considerably longer than the previous ones, only ten minutes from the hour is allowed to enter. Fortunately we got through the shallow stop lock and joined the end of a convoy dead on the hour.

The slim ventilation shafts pierce the tunnel roof at all sorts of angles which is probably why the tunnel is so bendy. In the centre of the tunnel repairs using precast concrete section had been made and the light of my torch suddenly disappeared up into a shaft that was wider than the tunnel itself, presumably sunk when these recent repairs had been made.

The other side of the tunnel and we were on the wide Bridgewater Canal, owned and maintained by the Manchester Ship Canal Company. The Preston Brook junction leads either down the four and a half miles arm to Runcorn, or east, towards all stations north. We headed east destination the dreaded Rochdale Canal!!!

There are no locks on the Bridgwater and we soon arrived at the pretty town of Lymm, passing a rather bored looking football fan on the way. We were expecting it to be something like Nantwich and although obviously a wealthy place, it was much smaller, but provided a pleasant overnight mooring.

Sunday, 27 June 2010



Making the most of our town centre mooring we walked up to Aldi and filled the holds with essentials. On the way we passed many black and white wooden building, looking just like Tudor ones, in fact they were the Victorians answer to the problem of collapsing and subsiding building caused by the salt, both rock and brine that was being extracted from right under their town. Some of these construction, like The Post Office, now the Penny Black Pub, were four storey high and were all built so that they could be jacked up, several feet in many cases or even moved to a securer location, (sorry about the picture, it does look as if the building is sliding down the hill). We also saw much newer homes that were built on a steel girder base frame so that they also could be jacked level.

Such clever people those Victorians, the two swing bridges that were built in 1899 were the first in the world to be electrically driven, but more surprising the centre support of the bridge rest on a floating pontoon, thereby reducing the amount of energy needed to swing the bridges to a fraction of what otherwise would be required.

In the afternoon we visited the Salt Museum, which is now based in the old workhouse and the friendly curator showed us plans and photos of the mines old and new and told us that it was only eighteen months ago that the pumping of enormous amounts of concrete into the worked out mines had been completed, hopefully stabilising the town. A short film and the displays increased our understanding of how important salt production had been to this area from Roman times.

The Anderton Lift had been booked for the last upwards trip of the day and spot on time we slid into the caisson. No briefing required this time, but we did notice the cogs on top of the lift that were in use when the lift was converted to electricity in the early 1900's. The shape of the cogs is a clue as to who designed them; Dr. Citroen, we were told by the lift attendant, now we know where the double inverted V logo for Citroen cars comes from. As the lovely River Weaver dropped below us, we said a sad goodbye having had a wonderful week upon it.

Back onto the Trent and Mersey Canal, heading West and almost immediately through the two tunnels. Entrance to the Saltersford Tunnel is timed, from the East it is from the hour to twenty past, this is because it is to bendy to see to the far end and meeting a boat coming the other way is not advisable. Soon we were back into open countryside with views back down to the river and it was here we stayed for the night.



We had a phone call yesterday from good friend Lynne to say that she would like to bring her 90 year old Dad to visit us. We knew that Lynne was visiting her parents, who live near Halifax and we were expecting this call.

The day was perfect and we were waiting on the Vale Royal Lock pontoon so that we could be the first through at 8.30am, soon after we through Hunts Lock and tying up right in the centre on Northwich between the two swing bridges. Castle Street passes very close to the river at this point and it was easy for Lynne’s Dad to get from car to boat and as an ex submariner he felt very much at home, really enjoying the cruise to and from Saltersford Locks. He was such a fun and lively person it was a delight to have him and Lynne on board.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010



We were going to travel to the other end of the Weaver today. Back through Dutton and Saltersford Locks, this time my calls on VHF 74 were responded to immediately, with a request to hold back for a few minutes whilst the lock was emptied and subsequently I was informed that lock was ready to receive us.

We passed the Anderton Lift allowing a photo opportunity to capture the side view, before passing under the two black and white swing bridges in the centre of Northwich.

Two more locks followed. Hunts Lock is still manually operated, we entered the smaller of the locks, the gates being opened and closed by the two lock keepers working together on a big windlass. At Vale Royal Lock a water powered turbine generally manages to open and close the gates, an impressive piece of Victorian engineering. All of the Lock Keepers were very helpful and ready to impart the history of the locks and the river.

We continued past this tall structure, not realising at the time that it was the head of The Salt Union mine shaft. The shaft goes down over 600ft where motorway sized roadways and the biggest bull-dozers that Caterpillar make, allow the extraction of tons of rock salt, the very salt that keep the roads of Britain passable when the temperature drops below zero degs.

A few more turns and the river became too narrow to turn around, but suddenly it opened up into a wide expanse, ‘The Bottom Flash’ too shallow for SKYY, but sailing boats and jets skis were enjoying the perfect conditions. We turned SKYY at the beginning of the flash and headed back, stopping for the night just before Vale Royal Lock.



Today’s plan was to travel as far as The River Weaver would take us. The first hours cruising was in lovely country side, but almost as soon as we had passed under the Sutton Swing Bridge and the M56 Motorway the scenery changed.

For two miles the sprawling ICI works spread out on the right of the canal and on the left behind a embankment the Manchester Ship Canal swept in to run along side us, just visible through a small cut in the bank. A low swing bridge 5ft above the water level barred us from the Weston Point Docks so we turned SKYY around in the entrance of the abandoned Runcorn and Weston Canal, the derelict lock gates a sad reminder of how so many of the English canals looked like before restoration allowed us boaters to explore them.

On our return we stopped against the pontoon for the Weston Marsh Lock, and looked over onto the Manchester Ship Canal. This lock is unmanned and passage has to be pre-booked if pleasure boats with the correct paperwork wish to enter the Ship Canal.

We gently returned to our previous mooring at Devils the Garden for another quiet night.



Time to get a move on, the temptation to sunbathe had gone along with the sun. When we arrived at Saltersford locks I could see a couple of boats were already on their way down. As I was untying to leave the mooring I saw them go past and thought we would be able to catch them up. I tried calling the lock on VHF 74 but got no answer, I should have used the mobile.

Never mind a few minutes wait on the pontoon and the lock keeper waved us in to the big electrically operated lock. Our little boat looked lost in the vastness of this lock, ropes for and aft were passed round bollards by the keeper and passed back down to us, but we felt no surge or pull as we steadily descended.

The lock keeper said that in the past, six lockkeepers used to man the locks 24/7 deciding which of the two locks would be used and which part of each lock, depending on the size of vessel, saving as much water as possible was important with the number of boats passing through as the Anderton Lift could not operate if the water level fell by more than eight inches.

Before Dutton Lock was the Acton Swing Bridge and lock, when it came into sight was the same layout as Saltersford, except for a sign saying “Buy the New Book” The lock keeper Fred was a bit of an author and we bought his first book ‘Fools and Villains’ saying that we would buy his latest if we enjoyed the first. An amazingly good read, rather a lot of characters, but good fun.

Soon after Dutton locks we passed the lovely wooden bridge under which the river returned from below the lock, we then passed under the impressive railway viaduct. All the time the water was slowly getting greener with algae until it now looked liked we were cruising through green oil, wouldn't want Duggie to fall in here.

Our mooring destination was the Devils Garden, a couple of miles further on, an unofficial mooring, but a very popular one with a footpath leading up to the village of Kingsley where the Red Bull satisfied our thirst. The Devils Garden, so called because the boaters of long ago, who were a God fearing bunch seriously thought the Devil lurked hear-a-bouts and would throw a penny into the water as they passed. We, not being so God fearing or Devil fearing enjoyed a peaceful night, except for he mooing of the cows who wandered along right beside the boat,

Saturday, 19 June 2010



We shared our chosen mooring with several other boats. A wide grassy towpath that sloped down to the rivers edge gave plenty of room for folding chairs and even for the roll up foam exercise mats, which we used for sunbathing. The sun shone warmly and we relaxed and pottered, a bit of cleaning some polishing. We had moored on a long man made cut that lead to Saltersford Locks, the actual river was the other side of the far embankment but it was a beautiful spot and encouraged us to linger

We walked several times to the locks, which we would pass through shortly and noticed the semaphore type signals at either end, a reminder of busier time. The little village of Barnton was approached through fields of rape seed, it boasted three hairdressers a convenience shop, but not much else. Another couple of footpaths climbed up the 50ft., bringing us to the entrances to the two nearby canal tunnels, which again we would have to navigate when we left the River Weaver. The last picture is a view from below Saltersford Locks looking back up towards the sluice, pretty eh?

Friday, 18 June 2010



It was an early start for us! A peep out of the porthole at 5.15am revealed a stunning sunrise and by the time we had got the photos we were passed going back to sleep.

We had a plan, all of us agreed that we would stop at The Lion Salt Works at Marston, which is a couple of miles past Northwich, to find out more about salt production, unfortunately these old works are in a sad state of disrepair and are awaiting restoration before it can reopen as a museum. On the way we passed anothe flash and sunken boat before a much more modern salt works, with huge plumes of steam drifting away.

The Anderton Sanitation Station was timely as we all needed water etc. He
re we did say a proper goodbye to Judy & Don as they would not be dropping down onto the River Weaver, we will miss them as they had become really good chums in a surprisingly short time.

A problem with the card operated pumpout, it accepted the card, lit the right lights, but refused to suck. With the help of the owner of the boat next in the queue, we used our manual pumpout kit on both boats and he kindly gave me his unused card as he would still be around when BW turned up and would hopefully get a replacement card from them.

Just around the bend was the two holding mooring for the lift, it was about 1.30pm when we arrived, there were two boats waiting and they would go down at 1.45. I gently moored alongside them. I hadn’t pre-booked, that would have cost a fiver, no charge for just turning up and fortunately as there was no other boat booked, that meant we would be first on at 3.15, time enough to take photographs and answer questions from the coach loads of visitors.

A quick briefing from our friendly lift operator before SKYY and N.B. Penny Lane executed a sharp left turn into the entrance and stopped side by side just before the caisson. A guillotine dropped down behind us before another was lifted allowing both boats to gently move forward into the caisson, duplicate guillotines dropped behind us sealing us in. The massive framework loomed overhead, the cogs and gears wheels redundant now that the original hydraulic rams were back in action. We started to sink down the fifty foot drop in little jerks, the oil was hot and the check valves were working overtime. It takes about five minutes to complete the journey and whilst we went down an empty visitor trip boat ascended.

A few drips of water landed on SKYY as we exited and turned right. What a difference being on a river, so wide and grand compared to most canals. We travelled just a couple of miles before stopping for the day at the recommended moorings at Barnton Cut, a good choice.