Pootling by the Potteries

After all the double locks, it’s lovely to finally be going down hill through the single locks. We have a slick routine going, where I get off the boat to close the rear off-side paddle and then walk up to open the front one, whilst Sarah closes the gate behind Oliver and then walks up to open the front paddle on her side . I then step back on the boat before the water level drops down too far.

It was cold first thing, but bright and sunny
It was a little chilly in the morning, but bright and sunny
Sarah steering during a lull in the lock action
Sarah steering during a lull in the lock action

We passed through most of the potteries, including the site where they film ‘The Great Pottery Throwdown‘, and some other sites which have been long since abandoned by the potters, but the old kilns have been kept

These reminded us of two champagne bottles fizzing open
These reminded us of two champagne bottles fizzing open

We got to Stone today, and were surprised to find the moorings extremely busy with boats. All was soon explained when we were told that the Stone Food & Drink festival is on this weekend. We got lucky and found a space that we could just fit into (with about 1 foot to spare!), so moored up and then went into town for some shopping.  Tonight we plan to visit Chico’s for some mexican food before bake off and another early night.

Heartbreak Hill

After our day of rest, we got up in good time to be first off, so we had the best chance of the locks being set in our favour.  We were just about to cast off when a boat went past…blast!  We held back and finished our morning cuppa, and waited for 15 mins.  Most of the locks today are duplicated, still narrow locks but there are two of them, side by side.  We ended up following two boats which meant that they all needed emptying and then filling.

Duplicate locks, on this occasion only one side is in use
Duplicate locks, on this occasion only one side is in use

In all we did 26 locks all going up, it’s not called Heartbreak Hill for nothing!

Toby approaching the lock
Toby approaching the lock

We managed to get to Harecastle tunnel before the 3pm cut off, where you’re guaranteed passage. Just as we arrived, the boats from the other direction were just exiting, we couldn’t have timed it any better.  It took 45 minutes to travel through the tunnel and Toby did a great job steering.  We made such good progress today, we decided to knock off early and moor up at 4pm

The start of Harecastle tunnel
The start of Harecastle tunnel

On the Straight and Narrow

An earlier than usual start (7.45) due to Saltersford tunnel which is one way, you only get a ten minute window to pass every hour, they’re some of the earliest tunnels and rather bendy! A few unexpected showers and Toby got to try out his new waterproof trousers which did the job and kept him dry

Two working boats delivering coal
Two working boats delivering coal

A lock free morning and then we hit Middlewich, a hive of activity with all the hire boats returning, and a flight of three locks on a bend which tested Toby’s steering skills.  We did think about mooring up for the day, but the sun was shining and the weather forecast for tomorrow was looking wet so we carried on.

It’s lovely to be back on the singles locks although not so good following another boat (why does that always happen on the singles and never the doubles when you can pair up?!)

Toby lining up for the lock after dropping me off
Toby lining up for the lock after dropping me off
Breathe in!
Breathe in!

We approached Wheelock visitor moorings  gone 6pm and didn’t think there would be a space, I went ahead and found the perfect mooring, and Toby steered Oliver in superbly.  We were just tying up when a boat came past the other way (after going down two locks) and said that he’d walked down, saw the same space and decided to move his boat.  Good job we got there first otherwise we’d have been going up the locks!  Toby topped up the stern tube grease and a quick pasta supper for tea.

The weather for tomorrow is forecast to rain all day so we’ve decided to stay put for the day.

Saturday Sale

Today saw us heading through Manchester and it’s suburbs. Passing over the Manchester Ship Canal was a highlight – the aqueduct over the top is designed to open so the really large ships can pass beneath, but I’m not sure that it opens all that often anymore

bridge3 bridge4 mscbridge2 mscbridge1

 

Hand powered crane for lifting the drop-boards to shut off the water to the bridge section
Hand powered crane for lifting the drop-boards to shut off the water to the bridge section

We also passed the Kellog’s factory – which outputs over 1 million packets of rice krispies, Cornflakes and Coco Pops every day!

After Manchester we went past Sale, and being a Saturday the rowing club was in full swing, with rowers out everywhere. Fortunately they were very considerate and got out of our way – I guess it was in their interests more than ours!

Oliver photo-bombed Sarah's photo of the rowers
Oliver photo-bombed Sarah’s photo of the rowers

After that we were once again back in the countryside, taking in the sights.

The largest boat fender we've ever seen on the canal systems!
The largest boat fender we’ve ever seen on the canal systems!

We moored up for the night at the start of the Trent and Mersey canal, which meant having to get through our first lock of the day – for a grand total rise in water level of 3 inches.

Goodbye Leeds and Liverpool Canal

A delayed start today due to a broken electric swing bridge which ordinarily we would have operated ourselves; until it’s fixed, CRT open it once a day at 2pm.  We used the down time to walk the mile or so to the local Co-Op and top up food supplies (no soup after counting 10 tins on board and no sweetcorn either as we have a similar number of those too!)

The compulsory daily selfie

The narrowboats all lined up ready for 2pm, we went first and greeted the boats on the other side of the bridge with a smug smile.  We left the Leeds and Liverpool, onto the Bridgewater canal.

The water changed today to a very deep iron colour
The water changed today to a very deep iron colour

We’re very much in a ‘ships routine’, morning and afternoon smoko (cake breaks to those not in the know), what’s the next bridge number, where is the next lock, do I get off front or back….oh and when will the new tank monitor  change to half full!

Wigan at the Autumn Equinox

It’s the autumn Equinox today, and as the nights draw in earlier we’re blessed with more beautiful sunshine and warm (for the time of year) weather. We were also blessed with the presence of Mum and Dad to help us through the Wigan flight. We’d been warned of the heavy gates and difficult paddle gear, but with their help and the sun on our backs, the task wasn’t so onerous as we might have feared – we got through it in under 4 hours.

Mum and I stayed near the boat as Dad steered Oliver through, and Sarah went ahead getting the next lock prepped

Teamwork was the order of the day
Teamwork was the order of the day

We had a little hiccup with one of the pounds running low and running aground, but nothing that couldn’t be sorted without a little jigging around! At the bottom we rewarded ourselves with a picnic lunch in the sunshine.

"That's the life, innit" as a passing cyclist commented to his mate
“That’s the life, innit” a passing cyclist commented to his mate.

Dad then cycled back up to get the campervan and pick up Mum – surely justifying his purchase of a new folding bike in one fell swoop!

Dad and his Dahon folding bike
Dad and his Dahon folding bike

Unfortunately the van had picked up a puncture, so Mum and Dad had a bit of a detour via Kwik Fit before meeting up with us again to deliver a mop, and have some dinner down the local.

Wednesday’s Sundae

We should have been full of beans by the morning, I fell asleep at 8pm and Toby wasn’t long after at 9pm, we both struggled getting up at 7.30!  It wasn’t long before the flight of seven locks hit us, we’re back to Toby steering and my brute force opening the locks – which suits me just fine.  A little bit of drama at Chorley with a moored boat that had come away from it’s mooring and was diagonally across the canal, there was quite an audience as a car boot sale was taking place on the other side of the canal.  Toby did a great job pushing it along side and I got on board and took a rope to the canal side and pulled it in.

We stopped off at Fredericks Ice Cream Parlour for lunch and had some quiche followed by the most delicious ice cream.  Toby went for a rocky road (chocolate, thunder and lightning and toffee fudge icecream), and I went for a hot fudge (rum and raisin, toffee fudge and rochelle icecream)

Hot fudge sundae
Hot fudge sundae
Rocky road sundae
Rocky road sundae

We moored up nice and early in a lovely spot overlooking the golf course, let’s hope we don’t get any stray balls!  Toby did the 50 hour engine service and changed the oil and filters.  A light dinner and we’re both in our PJs ready for bake off, and an early night for the 21 locks at Wigan

Toby in the engine bay trying to release the oil filter
Toby in the engine bay trying to release the oil filter

Drained

We set off around 8:15 into a lovely sunny morning, albeit a little chilly much like yesterday. We wound our way through the countryside, following the contours of the land wherever they seemed to want to go. We went under the M65 a few times; vehicles there probably traveled the distance in 5 minutes, but our roundabout ways took us more like an hour.
We arrived in Blackburn by late morning – after earlier comments from Dad, we weren’t looking forward to it much but to be honest we can’t see what all the fuss was about and there were some nice old mills and factory buildings

Blackburn wasn't so bad
Blackburn wasn’t so bad

It wouldn’t be a stretch of the canal either of us will miss, but at least in the sunshine it was just fine. What wasn’t so fine was the unknown boat in front of us, who left the gate paddles open on the final lock and thereby emptied the pound of water. We were forewarned by some people walking up the towpath, and once we reached the empty pound there were some C&RT folk there in the process of sorting it out.

Low water in the pound - and this was after they'd spent some time refilling it
Low water in the pound – and this was after they’d spent some time refilling it

In the end we had to wait for about an hour and a half for the pound to be refilled, but we made good use of the time to have lunch and finish cleaning the boat sides whilst we waited in the lock.

Making the best of it, we cleaned the boat whilst we waited
Making the best of it, we cleaned the boat whilst we waited

After Blackburn it was all plain sailing, with no more locks to worry about and a return to the countryside. We found a quiet mooring next to a nature reserve to spend the night.

Role Reversal

No mist this morning, although it was a bit chilly. We’re so used to swing bridges and locks throughout the day, it was some relief to have the first few hours just cruising.

Foulridge tunnel is one way and we hit the traffic lights on red.  We made good use of the time cleaning one side of the boat.

Toby the scrubber
Toby the scrubber

We then hit Barrowford locks which is a flight of seven, I offered to steer (in the hope it would get Toby off my case about steering – epic fail as he now wants me to do it all the time!).  Walkie talkie batteries died which wasn’t great timing and the locks were leaky and short so I was nervous and the air turned blue a couple of times.  Toby did OK with the locking, although room for improvement on the multitasking…he needs a bit more meat on his bum to push the gates too!

Toby opening a gate paddle
Toby opening a gate paddle

We continued through Burnley, and we’re moored in a little village called Hapton. Quite an early finish for us at 4pm, bag of maltesers already eaten and pie for tea, yummy

Picked up a plank off the bow, Toby to the rescue
Picked up a plank off the bow, Toby to the rescue

Summit Special

We awoke to a chilly misty morning and cast off early (by Toby’s standards!) at 8.15. The mist soon cleared, and the views opened up with some incredible views over the hills. Only three swing bridges today and lots of locks which are great for the bingo wings and thunder thighs!

Misty mooring
Misty mooring
Long distance selfie
Long distance selfie

We met a Scottish family on a hire boat, the daughter Ishbell  stayed with us and helped us through a flight of locks, she was a superstar and moved some of the heavy ground paddles that I couldn’t move. We went through another flight with another hire boat, they were so impressed with Toby’s steering, they asked if he’d been on a helming course.

53 half turns to open - and another 53 to close again!
53 half turns to open – and another 53 to close again!

We’re now at the summit of the Leeds and Liverpool canal, and tomorrow we’ll start our decent. Romy’s chocky cookies, birthday carrot cake and plum & coconut cake have gone down a storm.

The countryside at the top was summit special
The countryside at the top was summit special