Tag Archives: Leeds & Liverpool

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.

Day 60 – Going Underground

We start today’s blog with a jellyfish – not something we were expecting to see in Liverpool docks, but here they are, floating along with the weed beside all the narrowboats!

Also not far from where we’re moored, there’s a statue of Billy Fury. He’s popular with narrowboat dog owners, as the closest decent sized patch of grass!

Following a hot tip from Fred and Lisa on nb Chyandour, we were booked on the morning tour of the Old Dock. Our guides Yazz and Danny showed us some sights above ground first, including a series of fountains representing the tide heights, diligently recorded for 29 years by one man, but shown here for a one month period.

Built in 1715, well before any of the UK canals, the old dock was the first commercial wet dock in the world. It revolutionised merchant trade, allowing ships to load and unload their cargoes regardless of the state of the tide as the water was kept in the dock by massive lock-style gates.

The dock is now underneath the modern Liverpool One shopping centre; it was only relatively recently rediscovered and excavated in 2001. So under the shopping centre we went, to find the walls in remarkably good condition for their 300 year age.

Leaving the old dock, Sarah did some shoe shopping (not girlie shoe shopping, waterproof locking shoe shopping!) and then we had some lunch, before heading over to the Western Approaches war museum. This was a top-secret, bomb-proof underground command bunker, the nerve centre for the Battle of the Atlantic. Here they monitored ship movements in the Atlantic ocean and coordinated allied forces against the U-boats.

Communications were critical so they had quite an advanced switchboard for the time. There was a direct line to the war cabinet in London, and they also received a lot of intelligence on enemy movements from the code breakers at Bletchley Park.

After all that excitement, it was back to Oliver for a bit of a rest (well Sarah did some laundry, I put my feet up!), before meeting up with Fred and Lisa for an evening tour around the Queensway Tunnel, one of two road tunnels going under the Mersey.

The original control room is no longer in use, replaced by keyboards and digital screens, but it made for an impressive sight. We also got to see the massive ventilation fans, the emergency refuge stations, the side of the road itself, and the underneath of the roadway, where they’d originally hoped to run a tram. Mersey Ferries were horrified by the thought of having to compete against a tram and managed to put a stop to that idea; now the underside is mainly used for power and communication cables.

We wrapped the day up with some fish and chips – something Sarah had promised to treat herself to at some point on our holiday, and by the sea in Liverpool semeed the perfect place for it!

Day 59 – Ferry Cross The Mersey

Today we’re playing tourist, we started off with a visit to the Royal Liver Building, which is the leftmost building of the ‘Three Graces‘ below. It’s only been open to the public since April, so not that many people have done the tour yet. They had an excellent digitally projected film, not to mention some stunning views!

The clock face is bigger than Big Ben’s, and the minute hand is 14 feet long. The chimes are really really loud when you’re up there – but there’s no bell, it’s all electronic (originally it was silent, the chimes were only added later). The clock mechanisms are still the original though, ticking away nicely.

To the south, (left-hand picture below) you can see the Liverpool Port Building in the foreground, and behind that, the red brick buildings surround Albert Dock. Salthouse Dock (and Oliver) are in the dock to the left of Albert Dock. To the North you can see some of the other docks, which we passed through on our way in. In the background is the new Liverpool2 container port.

It felt obligatory to take the Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey seeing as we’re here. We got on at the pier head (very near to The Royal Liver Building) and were soon whizzed over to Seacombe where there’s a Spaceport attraction. We sadly had to pay the ferryman before we reached the other side.

The spaceport had a lot to see, including a planetarium style cinema short film exploring the possibilities of alien life (not little green men, more little green amoeba!).

I love stuff about space, but even better they also had a Star Wars exhibit, with lots of items from an anonymous private collector.

We then went for lunch at the cafe. Having paid, we then found out we had a 20 minute wait – and the ferry was due to depart in 25 minutes. Luckily, they were able to do a ‘takeaway’, so we took our lunches with us and finished them on the ferry! The next stop was at Woodside, where there’s a U-boat exhibition.

The U-boat was recovered from the seabed, and transported over to Liverpool. It was too big for the largest crane there to handle, but they made some cross-section cuts to split it into smaller pieces, and now you can look through each cross section. Obviously it’s a bit too rusty and fragile to actually walk in, so it seems a good way of letting people see most of it.

Sarah’s uncle Keith used to work on submarines. It looks awfully cramped, and the galley was tiny. I hope his was a bit bigger than this one!

After catching the ferry back to the pier head where we started, we enjoyed a walk back to Oliver around the docks. There’s a lovely looking bakery in Albert dock – I expect you’ll hear more about it in a day or two!!

We then met up with Janet from Pool of Life dragon boat team, who we first met when she joined us for the very first paddle at Oxford Paddlers for Life. She was out on the docks dragon boating with Amathus this evening. We were invited to join in, but the weather wasn’t looking great and we were both quite tired from our adventures, so we settled for taking some photos of them instead 🙂 Janet is at the back of the red boat in the blue T-shirt.

Day 58 – Am I Toby’s Long Haired Lover From Liverpool?

We had an enforced rest this morning with our passage booked in to Liverpool Docks for 1pm. Toby walked to Tesco and picked up a fluffy coffee, and I swept the roof, we both passed the time with the other boaters. We cast off at 11.30 for the short trip to the locks. We weren’t long underway when a dutch barge came past us, he was single handed and had left the docks in the morning.

As we approached the lock flight, the towers of Liverpool could be seen in the distance.

The weed is quite something on this stretch. All three chaps were down the weed hatch clearing the debris before entering the locks.

There were five vlockies (volunteer lock keepers) on duty who helped us all down the flight of four locks. We paid in chocolate brownies which were well received.

After the four locks, one of the vlockies, Stuart, hopped aboard to the next lock, it was like having our own private tour guide. We passed the huge Tobacco Warehouse which is being redeveloped and turned into apartments. It’s the world’s largest brick building, taking some 27 million bricks to build it.

We cruised past the Three Graces – the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building.

We worked our way through the various docks, with me getting my left turns and right turns in a bit of a pickle – good job Toby was chief navigator!

We entered Albert Docks and the huge red brick buildings, then a left turn into Salthouse Basin and the sight of the moored narrowboats – we made it.

We had a booked pontoon (S5). Toby did well reversing us in, I was just pleased there was a boat on the other pontoon as I had visions of stepping off the boat and ending up in the water.

The boat already moored next to us has gone a little over the top with the fenders, I counted 27 along one side. To say he was a little tetchy as we were coming alongside is an understatement.

Toby managed to get the very stuck diesel filter loose using the new tool, we also had a back up plan and a gadget from one of the other boaters. Filling the water tank wasn’t quite so easy as the taps are only every third pontoon, so we had to connect two hoses which worked well. I think that’s one thing I really like about the boating community, everyone helps each other – we paid in kindness with some of Toby’s beer.