Day 39 – On The Rack

We started the day with a walk into Garstang to visit a car care shop that had a variety of tools that should enable us to get the diesel filter off.  To be on the safe side we bought two different models.  Watch this space!

We departed at 10:50 and almost immediately crossed the Wyre Aqueduct.  We made quite slow progress as there were so many boats moored along the canal.  You may have guessed after yesterday but many of them were once again yoghurt pots.

Our plan was to get to Glasson Basin and spend the night there.  Peter did a fine job making the tight turn into the Glasson Branch just after 14:00 but we had to wait for the lock to be filled as a boat had just gone down.  We were assisted in this by some CRT staff who were there for engineering works.  Graham and Diane then kindly waited for us at the next lock and we completed the flight with them.

The locks have an unusual paddle arrangement with a door that slides across the gate opening.  This is operated by a rack and pinion which has a handle permanently attached so no windlass is needed.

It has to be mentioned that one of the crew, as obstinate as Theresa May, was determined to open one of these paddles in spite of not being able to reach the handle from the ground. Adopting a stance reminiscent of a mountain goat, a rather dangerous practice, luckily resulted in the paddle being opened without said member falling off.  We won’t mention the time this took but leave you to judge the advisability of such an approach.

Safety First
I WILL Beat This

Arriving in the Basin we spotted Colin and Jane, the rescuers of Peter’s camera last year, on “Itledoo4me”.  It was a very happy coincidence that gave Peter a chance to thank them personally.

Our Mooring – Glasson Basin

The CRT signs in the Basin could be better. One sign, a bit old and faded, says Permanent Moorings and a newer plan of the Basin shows that the same area is for Visitor Moorings.

Day 38 – In The Land Of The Yoghurt Pot

This morning Toby decided to start the 750 hour engine service.  The oil filter was changed in a jiffy and all went well until the diesel fuel filter refused to budge.  It was extremely stubborn resisting everything, including Peter’s previously irresistible device fabricated in the refinery workshops.  Leaving this for a future day Toby changed the air filter and then the engine oil.

We eventually set off at 11:15.  We called in Moon Bridge Marina by Bridge 36 in the hope of buying a “gripper” for the filter but the chandlery was set up to support the armada of yoghurt pots moored there.  The “store” was non existent and they said they had very little passing traffic.

In fact our impression was that this is the land of the yoghurt pot.  Most of them were moored in marinas or along the banks but the majority of boats actually moving were narrow boats – strange.

We stopped briefly at Bilsborrow, contemplated our plans for the rest of the day and opted to carry on to Garstang.  

We also had a brief stop just after Bridge 49 for the Spar Shop attached to a Shell Petrol station.  This turned out to have a rather poor supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.  We were however able to replenish our supply of milk.

The canal was very varied today.  The first section was what we might have expected on any canal but after a while it became quite a bit wider than we had anticipated.  There were stretches where the edges were quite overgrown with reeds, yellow iris and large clumps of cow parsley.  There were however many opportunities for mooring.

We passed one maintenance barge and a dredger but there were not many signs of work actually being carried out.

We saw several herons and were thankful for digital photography in which wasted shots don’t come at too high a price.  Our special duck today, not quite as special perhaps as the pompom ducks, was a bleached mallard?

The weather was much better than the forecast suggested and it was bright and sunny for most of the day though a touch chilly when the sun did hide behind the clouds.

Serious Business This Boating
Orange Hawkweed

We are now positioned nicely for a pub for dinner, some good shops and a convenient place to leave tomorrow for Glasson Dock.

Day 37 – Hey Diddle Ribble

There we were at about 8:30 poised to be at Tarleton Lock at the appointed time of 9:57 when a CRT man turned up and told us to be there by 10:45.  We could have had another hour in bed.

We were one of the first pair of boats through the lock having followed “Good Life” from the overnight mooring.

 

The journey down the Douglas around Asland Lamp and along the Ribble was fairly straightforward and uneventful.  We kept up a good speed between 3.5 and 5.3 miles an hour running the engine at around 2200 rpm – somewhat higher than Oliver’s normally sedate rev count. Some of the markers shown on the chart appeared to be missing in practice but that didn’t cause any problems.  It was a bit windy at times but stayed dry apart from a small shower early on.  The landscape seemed remarkably flat and the width of the river made it almost seem as if we were at sea.  Toby had a good time adjusting the tiller to take account of the varying tidal flows and the wind.  We sometimes seemed to be crabbing along at quite an angle.

Peter took photos while Toby helmed and Romy took on the task of feeding the crew.

Another narrow boat from Preston turned into Savick Brook just as we were arriving so there were two boats on the landing when we arrived.  We tied up alongside the first one and were then joined by two other  boats from Tarleton one of them mooring outside us.

We were lucky when we came to leave as we were second away and after the first CRT manned lock all the others had been set for us as far as the staircase.

Peter had helmed magnificently all the way up Savick Brook.  In spite of his obvious skills however Romy insisted that Toby took over for the tricky manoeuvre reversing into the staircase.  He pulled  his tummy in, pulled the tiller this way and that and there we were!  It has to be said he managed this and the very tight exit from the top lock with great aplomb.

Just after starting our journey along the Lancaster Canal we went past a rather tight looking space at the recommended mooring place. As there were no other decent options nearby we decided to reverse back and give it a go.  Toby was convinced we could get in and we did but only with touching fenders at bow and stern.

Day 36 – Into Every Life A Little Rain Must Fall

Last night there was a  lovely sunset as we walked back from The Rufford Arms to see Oliver bathed in the evening glow.

Toby and Sarah have had a few wet weeks and today they had to part company for a while.

Sarah changed the tiller for a steering wheel and set off to Oxford in Zena just after 9:30.  Tears fell like falling rain – but not for long as Toby was so looking forward to a week with his Mum and particularly with his Dad.

The new crew cast off just after 10:00 on a very leisurely trip to Tarleton.  Peter helmed the whole way with consummate skill neatly dropping the crew on and off so they could perform all their duties without risk to life or limb.  That was pretty arduous considering there were all of two swing bridges before tying up at Tarleton.

There we found a good mooring on bollards just before the very large Tarleton Boatyard which occupies a long stretch of what would be the towpath right up to the lock.

The lock itself is a little unusual as it has an extra gate to hold back high tides.  We are a bit concerned that Oliver will not fit between the gates!

We were not sure what the state of the tide was when we were at the lock and it looks as if Toby decided to do some serious calculations to ensure our safe passage into the River Douglas.

The weather was pretty good until we decided to go for a walk around the village which turned out to have a lot more shops than we anticipated.  The rain was only short lived and the sun soon reappeared and we walked back to Oliver along the towpath.

Peter cooked an excellent pork, apple and cider casserole for dinner and now plans to take a rest for the remainder of the trip.

We loved these Crested Ducks that swam around Oliver close to our mooring.

Day 35 – New Crew

Today we’re planning to take on new crew, in the form of my parents. Tomorrow Sarah will head back to Oxford for her supercharge drips – a whole week with the in-laws was clearly too much!

We’ll be on the Ribble Link on Monday, so this morning I checked the coolant and oil levels to make sure the engine is in good nick before we have to go out on the river. All looks good, phew!

We needed to get through one more lock and fill up with diesel and water, and empty the poo tank. It was really windy turning into the marina, and looked a bit hairy for a moment but we got in ok in the end. Talking of hairy, Sarah’s hair was looking rather windswept too!

Whilst we were in the marina filling up, we met Colin who has his boat there. Colin was on the River Avon last year, and found a camera that a certain person had left behind at a lock. After much palava, camera and owner were happily reunited. What a coincidence to find him here, and just when Mum and Dad are joining us too! He’s also going on the Ribble Link to Lancaster, so we may meet again.

Having filled up, we then met up with my parents and had a lovely lunch on board.

It’s Mum’s birthday today, so we also enjoyed some birthday cake, yum!

Suitable replenished, Sarah drove us in Zena (Mum and Dad’s campervan) to the nearby National Trust’s Rufford Old Hall. We had a walk around the gardens where they have some topiary “squirrels”, and then the house itself. Of course, we also had to visit the tea room where I had a brownie and Dad had an Eccles cake – warmed and with butter melted on the top. Mum and Sarah enjoyed a pot of tea.

We then returned to Oliver’s mooring so Mum and Dad could unpack and settle in, and then tonight we’re out for dinner at The Ruford Hotel for Mum’s birthday.

Day 34 – What A Difference A Day Makes

We woke up to more rain tip-tapping on the roof, and decided the best place was to stay in bed in the warm! We did eventually surface and I could wait no longer, Toby needed a hair cut – what do you think? The front cratch doubled up quite well as our very own barbers.

We cast off around 11am to dry and warm weather, it lifted our spirits no end (I admit to being thoroughly grumpy by the end of yesterday and the continued rain) . The lock in the photo below was interesting with quite an overflow after the lock, which called for full throttle and a steady hand.

There were a number of swing bridges, some electric, some hand operated and some with little use.

It felt like we were back in the countryside today, with sweeping views and quite a number of fields ready for sowing.

We turned on to the Rufford Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to be confronted with a swing bridge and a lock, I jumped off but no matter which way I pushed/pulled the swing bridge, it just wouldn’t budge. Toby had to come to my rescue on that one – much to the amusement of the gongoozlers on the bridge.

We’ve had quite an assortment of paddles on these locks, some were like a corkscrew and others that had long wooden handles that you had to lift – I wasn’t so keen on those, it was a bit near to the waters edge for my liking.

We moored up at 5.15, in the middle of nowhere but still had 4G! Toby started up the dremmel which made light work of cutting through the old padlock. The new padlock is much shorter, so if Toby does the same thing again, we can easily spin it round.

Day 33 – Tomorrow’s Forecast Looks Better

We departed promptly at 0930 this morning, as the swing bridge is closed for rush hour between 0800-0930 and we weren’t getting up that early! It seems everyone had the same idea, as we had another boat coming the other way just after us, and then another one came up behind us too. We only saw one other boat on the move all day after that little flurry.

Whilst waiting to pick Sarah up, I spotted some crayfish(?) hanging out on the water’s edge along with some other little fish. We decided not to have them for our dinner though.

There might not have been many boats out today, but we did see some hobies having a little race on a lake just across from the canal; their sails brightened up the day nicely.

Sarah did all the lock work today and everything was sopping wet, so she gets a magic beansprout for her hard work. It barely stopped raining all the time we were on the go.

Any fans of the “If Carlsberg did… ” advertising campaign would love this boat! Their famous tag line started back in the 70s and is still in use this decade.

Not too far to Liverpool from here – but we’re going via Lancaster so will take us over a month!

Every trip we still seem to come across some new contraption devised to (allegedly) make it easier to open paddles / gates. This one opens the gate using a curved rack and pinion type arrangement, which seemed to work well.

We went past Wigan Pier today. No sign of the beach though! At the end there’s an old covered wharf, still in use by a pair of boats. Sarah was ashore trying to find the C&RT offices – which we eventually did, but they were all closed up for the day it seemed.

Fun fact about Wigan – it’s the home of Heinz’s baked bean factory, the largest food factory in Europe, churning out 450 million cans a year of baked beans (plus lots of other stuff too!).

After passing through Wigan, we went past Wigan Athletic’s DW football stadium, and were a little bemused to see two policemen launch a drone and do a quick fly-by of the area. No idea what they were looking for, but they flew the drone pretty high, and far away enough that we lost sight of it entirely. Then the rain got a lot heavier and they quickly got the drone back and hurried to their car!

All in all it the wet and dreary weather is starting to get a bit tedious – here’s what we think of it!

Each day I check the forecast and it always looks like it’s getting better, so I tell Sarah it’ll be better tomorrow – but it never seems to work out that way. But tomorrow, surely this time, it will be better! The BBC says it will be by the afternoon at least, and for once the Met Office seem to agree with them.

Day 32 – The Water Wombles

It feels a bit like groundhog day with another wet and cold start. I don’t think I’ve used my hot water bottle as much as this holiday!

We were quite impressed with The Bridgewater Canal and their maintenance teams, one was resurfacing the path, and the other with a wonderful name of the Water Womble, was scooping out all of the rubbish and weed.

These waxis (water taxis) looked a bit out of place, sadly they’re no longer running. We stopped in Leigh, Toby walked to B&Q to purchase a new padlock (more on that in a bit), and I had fun in Tesco, perusing the goodie aisle, when I should have been in the fruit and veg aisle. We saw a dessert called a Manchester Tart in the pub yesterday, I asked if they sold them and sadly not. I was somewhat apprehensive googling Manchester Tart when I got back to the boat.

We soon passed the sculpture at Pennington Flash, with old lock gates with the word unlock. This is somewhat ironic as Toby has managed to shut the padlock on the water tank, and we’re unable to spin it round to get the key in. We’ve tried cutting it with a hacksaw, next will be the dremmel, failing that we’ll have to buy a pair of bolt cutters. Luckily we have another way of filling the tank.

We stopped for water before Plank Lane lift bridge. Why is it always me who looks like the wet soggy womble??

We planned to move back 100m or so for the day as it’s quite a busy road – easy right? I was ashore with the centre rope, I looked back and saw Toby had left the water connector on the tap, I threw the rope back and it missed and dropped in the water. Toby walked along the side of the boat to retrieve it, by which time Oliver is diagonal across the canal. A burst of forward, and then a burst of reverse and nothing, there was something around the prop. Toby managed to get the boat alongside on the offside, I was able to walk round as it was a housing estate. The breadknife to the rescue, and Toby cut away a bomber jacket. We moored the other side, and used the very same breadknife (washed of course!) to cut the bread for lunch. We finished with a much needed bag of rhubarb and custard squashies – after passing the swizzle factory, it felt like a compulsory purchase.

We were all alone until the local fishing club arrived and have a match until 9.15 – we’re surrounded by them. We can see chaps under umbrellas and long fishing rods passing the bow.

Day 31 – 1 month in

We had a bit of a lie in this morning – Sarah was tired from the locks yesterday, and I’d had the start of a migraine in the night so we both welcomed a bit of rest. Luckily the pills did their job so we eventually cast off for the short hop up to Astley Green.

We pulled over 30 minutes later to do a pump out at Brigewater Marina. The owner was great, and did a very thorough job for £12, one of the cheapest we’ve seen. We also got to see the “Floatiest” installation, knitted with 150 hours of volunteer time. The symbols on some of the squares are the old stone masons’ marks from the stonework in the locks and bridges.

After a little more motoring we reached Astley Green, and moored up on pins – any official visitor moorings have been removed, at least temporarily, and a new tarmac towpath has been laid very recently by the looks of things. It was raining and a little chilly, so we escaped to the nearby pub for lunch.

Bodies refuelled, we then went to check out the local colliery museum where they have one of the largest surviving steam winding engines. The sheer scale of it is staggering. The engine was installed in 1912 and ran until the mine was shutdown in 1970, but a team of volunteers have been working on restoring and maintaining it since 1983. In t’s hey day, it would winch up 9 tonnes of coal at nearly 60mph from a depth of 800m every two minutes.

The site was used for some filming of Peaky Blinders, and one of the set designers helped them create a replica miner’s cottage from the early 1900s, which really helped give a feel for what their homes would have been like.

The rain was really coming down by now, so we made our way back to Oliver for some hot drinks and got the stove going to warm us up.

Tomorrow will be another relatively short hop to Leigh for the supermarkets and then probably on to Pennington Flash Country Park.

Day 30 – Monday Morning Commute

Another early start today, as we wanted to get through the somewhat grotty underbelly of Manchester. We cast off by 7.15 with Toby doing a grand job of steering out of the basin and back on the canal.

We were going down the locks, the water was overflowing the gates which at least meant they were all full, but very hard to empty and open the gates. I ended up walking up to the road and asking a construction worker if he would help us, it took three of us to open one gate.

Our timing couldn’t have been better, the canal towpath was filled with folk in their work gear going to work, not a troublemaker in sight. The landing pontoons were a bit tricky for me and meant I had to get off the bow, Toby did a fine job of slowly steering in as close as possible. Every lock gate and paddle seemed like such an effort, all I can say is that it must be doing wonders for my thighs and bingo wings!

All nine locks done by 10am, and then we were on to The Bridgewater Canal (with no more locks – yey!) Toby gave a nod to his football team as we passed.

We went over the Manchester Ship Canal, it’s quite impressive although sad in some ways to see it in such a state of disrepair.

We moored up in Worsley in time for lunch and before the rain. Worsley is the birthplace of the Bridgewater Canal, The Duke of Bridgewater being inspired by the Canal Du Midi. It looks like the rain will be with us the rest of the week, thankfully we’ve broken the back of the locks.