Day 70 – Argee Bargee In The Tunnel

A pre agreed cast off this morning of 8.15 as the first of three tunnels only allows passage for ten minutes on the half hour. We were again prepared for rain although not for the wind, we had quite a job keeping the brolly from turning inside out.

Despite the cloudy skies, the scenery has improved today, with everything looking even more lush with all the rain.

Preston Brook was our first tunnel, and I did the steering. In the first shot, I was a little close to the left hand side and the brickwork, hence the somewhat concerned face – my steering and facial expressions definitely improve.

Toby steered in the next tunnel which was also a timed entry, we were following an old puffer narrowboat with a horn that sounded like a very old Downtown Abbey era car. The third tunnel was a free for all with whoever gets there first. The boat in front sounded his amazing horn and entered the tunnel, so we followed, we then heard another horn from a boat who had entered after us from the other direction. To and fro they went with their horns, so we thought we’d join in to signal that there were two boats. The boat coming the other way backed off and reversed out – phew!

Toby has been on the lookout for a Kingfisher all holiday and today we saw two. One on a branch and another in flight, they move so quickly, I think we were very lucky to get this shot. Next on the list is an Otter, I think that may be pushing our luck.

We moored at Anderton and had lunch in the museum cafe. It also gave us a chance to take a closer look at The Anderton Boat lift which we’ll take tomorrow. We’ll be going down from The Trent and Mersey Canal to the River Weaver. You can just turn up and take the next slot, but as you know, I like a plan! So we’ve paid our £5 and we’re booked on the first passage tomorrow at 10am.

We met up with Jan, one of my work colleagues and her husband Chris in the local pub. Jan has been in the wars after falling off her horse and is in a back brace and sling, Chris is doing a grand job looking after her. It was great to catch up.

Day 69 – Wet Wet Wet

We woke up to an overcast and slightly misty morning, with the forecast threatening lots of rain later.

We decided to make the most of the lighter rain early on so got going fully togged up in our wet gear and then set off. It wasn’t long before it the rain set in and by 10 am it was really going for it, so we took turns up on deck rather than both get wet at once. We should probably have got the brolly out a bit earlier, before Sarah was looking like a drowned rat, but we still kept smiling and at least it was still fairly warm.

We passed some lovely well kept gardens; this little cottage was the winner of the day for us. I think they’d probably benefited from a bit of watering too, everything looked nice and lush.

The dogs certainly didn’t seem to mind a bit of water – well two of the three didn’t anyway, the third one seems a bit less sure!

We saw our second ‘Boaty McBoatFace’ of the trip today – this one nothing to do with the RRS Sir David Attenborough though!

We moored up at 11:35; typically the rain eased off after that, and the forecast thunder and lightning never happened so we should have just stayed in bed all morning and moved in the afternoon instead! Still, there were some heavy showers later and it was nice to be in the cozy warmth and dry of Oliver whilst it chucked it down.

We had some lovely bacon butties using the bacon from the Port of Lancaster smokehouse at Glasson. We both thought it was some of the best bacon we’ve ever had, absolutely scrummy.

Sarah then had an afternoon snooze whilst I read on my kindle and played some computer games. We’ve just had a lovely dinner of fajitas – though Sarah bought the extra hot ones by mistake so it was quite spicy!

Tomorrow looks like more rain, but no thunder or lightning forecast so hopefully it’s more a case of showers rather than downpours, and it’s only a short hop to Anderton.

Day 68 – Over and Under

We’d arranged a flyover with Neil and Christine on nb Comfortably Numb for today, and luckily it all went to plan and they passed under us whilst we passed over them. We were on the Barton Swing Aqueduct over the Manchester Ship Canal (MSC), and they came along the MSC from their overnight mooring at Salford Quays.

I was out with the binoculars to look out for them, but we knew they were coming around the bend as Neil phoned us just as they were going under the previous bridge. The boat looks tiny in comparison to the size of the canal.

We did deliberate trying to throw down half a loaf of freshly baked bread as they passed below, but thought it might do more harm than good if it landed in the wrong place!

After turning right at Waters Meeting and onto part of the Cheshire Ring, we saw noticeably more narrowboats on the move compared to all quiet stretches before. As we passed through Sale, we were having to share the water with a few other craft too, with a few rowers and paddlers out and about. Some of them clearly knew the rules of the road (or river I should say), others maybe not so much!

We stopped for the day by Dunham Massey, where there’s an offside mooring that looked perfect on the map. In practice it seems a little underused and overgrown, but perfectly usable once Sarah trimmed a few brambles back with the secateurs!

Sadly for us, the house is closed on a Thursday and Friday, but the park and gardens are open and we timed it well for a 1:30 pm guided tour of the grounds. They have around 180 deer in the 190 acres of parkland, plus some lovely gardens and a huge number of outbuildings such as the old wood mill below. The deer seemed totally unfazed by all the people about, we could even hear one snoring as it dozed!

Of course, no National Trust visit is complete without a trip to the cafe – Mum would love the cherry bakewell, yum! Sarah resisted the temptations and had a nice cuppa.

Back to Oliver and Sarah cooked a delicious Chinese-style lemon chicken dish for dinner. Tummy’s now full, if the wi-fi can handle it we might watch an episode or two of series 2 of Killing Eve. Highly recommended if you missed it before – it’s all on BBC iPlayer.

Day 67 – Men At Work

(and women too!), but more of that later…

We left the Leeds & Liverpool canal today and are now on the Bridgewater canal, retracing our steps. We were tempted to stop at Astley Green to sample the Manchester Tart at the pub there, but we wanted to get to Bridgewater Marina before midday as we knew they’d be closed for a couple of hours from 12-2pm.

We were glad we’d stopped on the way up to visit the colliery, as today they were busy laying a new footpath. They don’t seem to be leaving much room for mooring pins between the tarmac and the canal edging. Perhaps they’re more interested in pedestrians and cyclists. I wonder if they’ll put any mooring rings in later?

Leigh proved a handy stopover point for the shops once again, though some inconsiderate boater had already got in at the mooring by Aldi, so we had to moor the towpath side and Sarah walked over the bridge to get there. Sarah was in and out in record time, just 25 minutes between when we arrived and left!

We made Bridgewater Marina by about 11am in the end, so plenty of time to spare. The service was once again second to none – we got a pumpout done and replaced the gas bottle that ran out in Liverpool. Hopefully this one will last a bit longer. Sarah was very impressed by there little veg and flower plot, looked after by the marina gardening club. I bet they can’t wait for the new RHS Bridgewater Garden to open, we could see building work for it going on as we passed on the canal.

There were more busy bees as we arrived in Worsley, this time local volunteers clearing the towpath and tidying up the vegetation. They’ve done an incredible job, the results speak for themselves.

We moored up opposite an old boathouse, only a few dozen yards from where we moored on the way up. Two other boats were here already – they left shortly after lunchtime, but were soon replaced by two later arrivals. I had been a bit worried about finding space here but there’s still room for one more even now.

Sarah did some baking, making chocolate chip cookies and another batch of her renowned date balls. I nipped out to the shop for some more milk and bananas. I got a quick piccy of Sarah in the galley whilst I was outside the window.

Tomorrow we are crossing the Manchester Ship Canal on the Barton Swing Aqueduct. We’re hoping to time things so that we pass over as Neil and Christine pass under on nb Comfortably Numb. Fingers crossed I get out of bed in time and the timings work out!

Day 66 – A Perfect Pair of Pins

Toby’s migraine continues to linger. I expected us to be stuck in Parbold all day and was planning my bus route to Asda and an afternoon washing the boat. Toby said he was up to cruising and felt it couldn’t do any harm, so around 10am we cast off. The marks on the bridge are from the horse drawn days and the boat being hauled by a rope.

A tree had come down and was being cut into smaller pieces for removal, luckily it didn’t cause us any delays.

Eight double locks today, we met up with nb Pema after the first lock and shared the other seven which made work a lot easier, it was drinks, eats and pees on the go, we were sticking with them! Some of the locks are duplicated with one each side, although no longer in use, I did say to Toby we needed to go through this one, it’s only when I saw it closer, I realised we couldn’t and it was the next turning we needed.

With blue skies, we never tire of the beautiful countryside.

Toby and Lily having a natter in the lock.

We soon approached Wigan and Wigan Pier, it seems such a shame that it’s in disrepair, it could be such a wonderful place – although a pier inland is a bit strange.

We had some delays through the lock with a boat running aground in one of the pounds. We could see how much lower the pound was with the bank visible to the side. We stayed in the middle of the channel and made it to the next lock.

There was a timed road swing bridge which closes from 4.30 to 6pm, we increased the revs and made it at 4.25 – phew! After the bridge we stopped to fill up with water, a guy on a yoghurt pot asked us how to operate it as he couldn’t get it to work, he wasn’t best pleased to hear that he was stuck there until 6pm. We moored soon after, with Toby’s sore head, I offered to bang the pins in, and boy did I whack them in. Toby said they were a perfect pair of pins, I’ll take that, it’s the only time anyone will refer to my pins as perfect!

Day 65 – Gaining Confidence

A fabulous Monday morning with warmth in the air and blue skies. It wasn’t so fabulous for Toby with his continued migraine. If it had just been the two of us, we would have stayed put, we were on a mission of getting Anne-Marie and Simon back to Parbold and their car.

Toby stayed down below all day, and between the three of us we did quite well. Simon steered for the majority of the day, with me by his side, and I took over for any tricky bits including four swing bridges with drop offs and pick ups. Anne-Marie was great at taking big leaps off the bow and on to the bank, opening and closing the swing bridges – there is nothing quite like stopping all the traffic!

This sculpture of the half buried navvy marks the cutting of the ‘first sod’ of the Leeds and Liverpool canal on the 5th November 1770.

It’s rare a scene gets a second chance at the blog, but the five frogs have made it as I’m quite fond of them – I like Oliver’s reflection in the glass below.

We moored at Parbold in a perfect spot with Simon and Anne-Marie’s car the other side of the bank. Simon and I walked in to the village and found this delightful little fruit and veg shop in a converted house, this room used to be the sitting room.

It’s not often you see someone travelling the towpath on a mobility scooter!

We waved off Simon and Anne-Marie wishing them a safe journey back home. Now I’ve got Toby bending my ear ‘see, you can do it when you need to’, my answer is exactly, so leave me be and let me open the locks!

Day 64 – Farewell Liverpool And Friends

We said farewell to Liverpool, casting off at 7:50 am once I’d got a bit of weed root out from the tiller. It was also goodbye to some new friends; Fred and Lisa, Andrew and Elaine, and Ben. May we meet again soon. I was also sad to say goodbye to the Rough Bakery, but it’s probably for the best for my waistline!

Karen on Y-Knot had left just before us – we both had to hold off for a few minutes in Albert Dock for the CRT man to lower the gate, but we were soon on our way, out through Mann Island Lock and then Princes Lock, with the Royal Liver Building in the background.

The first lock gates going up the Stanley flight need to be opened and closed using a windlass rather than pushing on the beams. Simon did an excellent job supervising Sarah.

Looks like Barry’s taken up a new line in business….

There are quite a few swing bridges to operate around here. The first is the little swing bridge at Litherland, used mainly by Tesco shoppers. Just as we went through, we caught a load of rubbish on the prop and ground to a stop. We had to haul the boat through on the bow rope, and then get a jumble of weed and plastic bags removed. Everyone was very patient waiting for us, and a few helped us get the boat pulled through, so we weren’t delayed long.

Luckily we were underway again after only a few minutes – so we were still on schedule to get through Hancock’s Swing Bridge before it closes at 2pm. Anne-Marie and Simon both had a go at stopping the traffic and feeling the power of the magic button, and Simon did a great job doing the drop-offs and pickups.

Any fans of the Spice Girls reading? Maybe not, but this one made us smile anyway!

Once through Hancock’s bridge (with nearly an hour to spare), we slowed down a bit and relaxed with some Pimms and Lemonade, just as the sun came out too! Lovely.

We moored up for the evening at the Scarisbrick moorings by the New Scarisbrick Arms, with the sound of birds singing in the trees. An early night for us all I think, and hopefully a bit of a lie-in in the morning.

Day 63 – New Crew Aboard

After a very early night for me (about 4pm!!), I was full of beans this morning, sadly the same couldn’t be said for Toby who had a migraine. I popped in to to town via M&S and topped up supplies, along with an anniversary card after Toby told me he has got me one (no pressure then!!). Anne-Marie and Simon were due to arrive lunchtime, sadly a points failure caused delays so it was a late lunch on board.

We left Toby to snooze and walked around Albert Docks and had a hot chocolate at the Rough Bakery, it’s just chocolate twirls with hot frothy milk – delicious.

Anne-Marie and Simon took a trip up the Royal Liver Building, and I had a cuppa in the fab four cafe overlooking the Beatles statue.

In the evening we were treated to a fab Italian meal in town, Toby and Simon had some of the biggest pizzas I’ve seen.

After dinner we headed into town to wait for the Brasilica Samba Festival parade to pass through. We had to wait a lot longer than we were expecting, but there were over 500 people in the parade so it seemed to go on and on for ages!

We ended up heading back to Oliver at about 10:30, rather later than planned but it was worth it to see the spectacle. I had been wanting to get some pictures of Oliver in the docks at night, so this was the perfect opportunity!

Day 62 – Oh No! Another Leak!

After the shenanigans of the gas last night I was a bit behind schedule, but planning to have a nice shower and then get to bed in good time. It wasn’t to be though… Sarah phoned at 10:40 to say there was a leak in the toilet and water was coming through to the downstairs ceiling.

Barry and Rosemary were great and popped straight over to help out. By this time Sarah had turned off the water supply to the cistern and emptied it, and that seemed to have stopped it for now. By the time Sarah got to bed it was about 1am.

6:15 in the morning and Sarah was up to get ready for her morning drips. Barry and Rosemary came around at 7 – they’d stay in the house to let the plumber in whilst Sarah was out. Meanwhile, short of sleep and with an itchy bum from 4 insect bites that got her in the night, Sarah got her supercharge drips.

Luckily the plumber was there fairly early so by the time Sarah was back home, everything was fixed – a perished O-ring between the cistern and the toilet now replaced, and another slightly leaky gland fixed too. Without Barry and Rosemary I think Sarah would have to have stayed in Oxford a bit longer, so a big thanks to them for their help.

Whilst Sarah said goodbye to her parents, I said goodbye to Neil and Christine on Comfortably Numb, who were off at 7:40 to go back through the Liverpool link. We might see them again around Chester / Ellesmere Port, but they’re headed there via the Manchester Canal whilst we go around the other way.

Sarah was back in Liverpool on the 2:42. I was stood at the platform to meet her, but I wasn’t expecting the huge numbers of people coming off the train. Sarah later told me it had been packed, with lots of people having to stand in the aisles. The Netball World Cup starting today in Liverpool probably didn’t help.

As we walked back to Oliver we saw a Bumblebee.

We walked back through the Netball fan-park, where I’d earlier seen the Barbados team doing a photo-shoot. They also had a large drum band playing earlier – I could hear them quite clearly from Oliver!

Back on Oliver, we enjoyed watching Silver Fox‘s latest Vlog, where Oliver, Sarah and I make a few brief appearances on the Ribble Link crossing. We also saw Ben arrive on Breeze, so said hello and had a nice catch up with him.

Sarah is rather done in by the lack of sleep and the stress of the leaks, so an early night beckons. Hopefully, the next few weeks will be trouble-free!

Day 61 – Classical Gas

Sarah is back in Oxford this evening, ready for her ‘supercharge’ drip tomorrow morning. We said farewell at the train station – Sarah told me not to wait, so I hid until the train left and then ran up to wave her off. I had to knock on the window as she had the headphones on already!

You can see more of the Ed Sheeran poster in the reflection than you can of Sarah through the window, but nevermind! Beggars can’t be choosers, not many piccies for today.

Having waved Sarah off, I moseyed back to Oliver via the shops, stopping off en-route at M&S for the loo (as boaters tend to do!), WH Smiths to post a postcard for Sarah’s uncle Keith, and at the bakery in Albert Dock for a lovely latte and danish pastry (apple and raisin for today, it was scrummy).

Back on board, I thought I’d fill my boots playing computer games, but it didn’t quite turn out like that. Instead, I got a load of washing done. The duvet cover was done and dried in double-quick time in the lovely sunshine. The pyjamas and undies took a bit longer as the rain came along, but they’re pretty much dry now too.

Knightlow arrived whilst I was doing the washing – previously seen and befriended when we did the Ribble Link. You can just spot them in the background below! It was great to see them again.

Washing uses lots of water, so the next job was filling the water tank. The water taps are few and far between, so we have to double up with Fred’s hose to make it long enough. 4 of us then filled up one after the other using the same double-length hose – it was a good few hours before we were all done, so plenty of time to set the world to rights in between!

Before I knew it, it was nearly dinner time. Pasta carbonara for tonight (I cheated and bought the sauce!). And then the gas bottle ran out halfway… I can’t recall exactly when we swapped it, but it wasn’t all that long ago, so I was a bit concerned that there might be a leak. Sarah and I both thought it’d smelt a bit of gas recently, but not enough to be a big concern.

I swapped in the new bottle, and after consulting with Fred and Neil on the neighbouring boats, Neil brought out some gas leak detector spray. It’s the posh version of using some soapy water! I sprayed that around the joints and all looks well, so it seems like it was probably a dodgy bottle. A bit of googling suggests this isn’t as rare as you might expect, but we’ll have to keep an eye on things.

Gas bottle (hopefully) sorted, blog written – and now time for a nice long shower as the water tank is full and Sarah’s not here to tell me to stop using all the water 😉

PS – For anyone confused by the blog title, Classical Gas is a guitar classic.