Hello Bridgewater Canal!

We woke to a glorious day, on this beautiful canal, the Leigh Arm of the Leeds to Liverpool.

We said ‘good bye’ to our neighbours who had ‘kindly’ woken Rusty at 5 this morning!

Passing a very busy swan who was concentrating on her morning preening.

We are cruising in an area where coal mining was the main industry. We can now only imagine what this area must have looked like.

Each coal/slag area has been replaced with ‘flashes’ or lakes. With all the recreational facilities on these expanses of water, it must look like utopia to the old miners and bargees that worked and lived in this area.

Personally there’s a ‘belonging feel’ about this area, I had a relative on my mother’s side who was a coal bargee on this stretch. Though the family didn’t live on the boats here, as they did in the Midlands. On my father’s side there are generations of coal miners, the first generation coming from Mold, Wales, about 1800 to work in the Leigh coal mines. My grandmother was in fact born in Leigh.

Sharp eyed John spotted a winding head. It wasn’t working of course, yet it looked like a ‘ghost’ from a by-gone age.

It’s the first time we’ve seen this type of wharf, the wharf has ‘bay areas’ giving the side a jagged edge.

On this stretch, the water is definitely a different colour. We’re imagining the area is rich in iron ore.

We arrived at the Plank Lane lift bridge around 10:30 a.m., well outside the rush hour restrictions. There was no sign of ‘John 2’, and we didn’t expect we’d see him.

John manned the electric lift bridge, and I took Cyan through. With the sharp wind that was blowing, I was pleased there was a narrow ‘throat’ leading to the the bridge. It kept Cyan ‘still’ while the automatic procedure worked its sequence of sounding an alarm, turning traffic lights red to stop the traffic, dropping traffic barriers, then lifting the bridge. Obviously when Cyan had passed through, the sequence set off again, though in reverse, eventually John’s waterway key was released.

The picture is looking back at the lift bridge.

By the lift bridge a new marina is being built, along with a new housing estate. It’s great to see the canal is a feature in the architecture.

The new houses have solar panels incorporated into the roof. Sad they couldn’t do the same with satellite dishes, and burglar alarms. I’m sure one day every house will be like a pod, generating its own energy, rather like narrowboats.

The picture below is not very clear, but this sculpture looks like a book standing on its end, its constructed with old lock gates.

Remains of an old railway bridge, tidied up, with a grass planted on top.

Eventually we came to the end of the Leigh Arm of the L&L, the cruise was nothing as we imagined, it was beautiful, and it’s thoroughly recommended.

Before we passed onto the Bridgewater we’d planned to stop by the ‘Waterside Inn’ where there’s an Aldi next to the mooring; our cupboards are getting bare. When we arrived we were disappointed to find all the moorings were taken. It wasn’t convenient to moor on the other side of the canal, using the bridge, as the bridge was on a busy road, and the door to Aldi was rather far to carry bags of shopping. So we moved on, to formulate another plan later.

Hello the Bridgewater!

The entrance to the Bridgewater is understated, and its without a stop lock. Basically we sailed under Leigh Bridge #11, coming out of the Bridge and onto the Bridgewater. On the Bridgewater side there’s a lovely wooden sculpture of two arms linking, one ‘arm’ is the Broadwater and one is the L&L.

We passed the new bridge, which looks to be still under construction. We had been told (unconfirmed) the original bridge had been pulled down, and that bit of the canal filled in, a temporary road was placed on top, This bit of road was used by contractors building the new estate that’s close by.  The work had stopped boats passing through the length of the Bridgewater for several months.

It’s lovely to see, what was an old derelict wharf, planted up and made into a peaceful garden.

We arrived at our mooring at Worsley Delph. Unbelievable to think the Canal went underground to carry coal from the coal face and drainage water out of the mines. Here’s more information.

Our mooring’s at a lovely setting, in the middle of Worsley, and right next to a small memorial park.

Mooring right next to us was the ‘Water Womble’!

The Water Womble works up and down the Bridgewater, collecting rubbish from the canal.

A member of the crew explained to John about the history of the ‘Water Womble’, it appears an owner of a trip boat was so fed up, and embarrassed over the rubbish in the canal, that after he moored up his trip boat, he went out on another boat to collect the rubbish. Eventually, over 20 years ago, he bought the ‘Water Womble’, employing staff to collect the rubbish. Nowadays, I believe the Water Womble is paid by the owners of the canal.

When the owner first bought the ‘rubbish collecting’ boat, children in the area would throw things at it, they didn’t like it. Until he came up with the idea of calling it a ‘Water Womble’, and painting a womble on the front. Children now love it, and look out for it and throw their rubbish ‘into’ the boat! What a great idea for a Franchise Operation on other canals? How about it CRT?

It looks to be very successful too as the Bridgewater canal is pristine!

Worsely is in bloom, making it a lovely place to visit.

Today we’ve travelled 10 very enjoyable miles. WiFi is barely available, and only a small digital TV signal.

[NB: We’ve now started on our ‘new’ mini journey, which will take us from the start of the Leigh Arm on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal, and ending at Aqueduct Marina on the Middlewhich Canal; the journey will be 64 miles, and will transit through 9 locks, one lift bridge, and the Anderton Boatlift.]

Descending The Wigan Flight Of Locks

Today’s the day we descended down the Wigan Flight of 21 locks.

At 8:30 a.m., as requested by the lock keeper, we were ready on parade.

John was taking down Cyan through the locks, while I helped the Lock Keepers. We were going down with a boat which had a single handed boater, also named John, whom for the day was known as ‘John 2’.

Just before 8:30 a.m., with windlass and a handcuff key, I wandered over to the top lock to introduce myself to the two lockies. Joe was the permanent lock keeper, and yet another John, whom we named ‘John 3’ for day, was a volunteer lock keeper. We soon got into a system, which took us down the locks quite quickly. We were also helped by another lock keeper from the ‘Liverpool’ side, who ‘set’ (filled locks with water) many of the locks for us.

We did notice last evening that another boat had insisted on going down the locks last evening, the lock keeper kept asking the ‘crew’ if they were “Sure”. This morning, as we were descending, we met them coming up the locks, returning to the top lock. They looked pretty shaken up, and told us the boat’s rudder had bent, making it difficult to steer the boat. Apparently, they had ‘cilled’ the boat on one of the lock’s cills.

In the picture below you can see the cill, there are white line markers on the side walls, which guide the helmsman to keep his boat clear of the cill. On descending the lock, as the water is let out, the boat can easily catch on the cill, tipping the boat up at the back – resulting in a disaster! Bending the rudder was mild to what could have happened.

Joe the lockie, and his friend from the ‘Liverpool side’ know the flight very well, and kept pointing out different points of interest, while all the time keeping mindful of safety. Little bits of information, like telling John to watch the next lock because the walls were leaking badly, and he was likely to be drenched.

Despite me personally dreading going down the locks, the whole experience was really enjoyable. The locks are difficult, and no doubt I’d have struggled quite a bit without the lockies.  Thank you guys, you are magic!

Eventually, we reached the bottom of the locks. We moored up on rings, while John went to see Lynne in the CRT office.

The iconic building across the canal was once the site of a coal fuelled power station. Up until the 1970s coal barges were still delivering coal from the many coal mines in the area via the canal, to this wharf. 

The Lockie from Liverpool showed John how to get to the CRT Office – without him John didn’t think he could have found it.  On the way there, they saw a policewoman taking notes, as she stood by a cruiser which was moored on the canal. In broad daylight someone had broken into the boat; as luck would have it, a kind person saw what had happened, and had alerted the police. The problem was that the owner was not around. CRT, because they would know the boat owner’s details, agreed to contact him/her.

Lynne from the CRT office had the license holders ready for John. During a conversation with Lynne, John mentioned the fraught trip we had through the Huddersfield narrows. He told her that we are now on our way to a marina to have Cyan taken out of the water for re-blacking as the blacking looks badly scruffed (it was only blacked 12 months ago), and for the skeg bearing on the rudder to be inspected as John believes it’s been damaged by repeatedly running aground through lack of water. Certainly the stern tube gland which we had to have replaced by the boatyard at Aspley basin at the bottom of the Huddersfield narrows, was caused through the Huddersfield being short of water.

Lynne sympathised, and gave John an ‘Incident Form’ in case he needs to make a claim from CRT’s insurers. She mentioned, if Cyan was damaged through there being a lack of water, then we could make a claim. We never knew that!

After John returned, we had lunch and decided, mainly because of the other boat getting broken into, to continue our ‘journey’, turning left to go down the Leigh Arm. John asked ‘John 2’ the single handed boater who came down the locks with us, if he’d like to join us as we’ve two locks, and the ‘Plank Lane’ electric lift bridge to go through. We had to get through the lift bridge by 4:30 p.m., otherwise we’d have to wait until 6:00 p.m. Lifting the bridge is also forbidden between 8:00 a.m., and 9:30 a.m all in aid of road traffic rush hour.

‘John 2’ jumped at the suggestion, as going through locks, and lift bridges are difficult if there’s only one.

This time I steered Cyan through the two locks, while John did the locking.  At one of the locks, John noticed Cyan was pushing a wooden pallet along (I didn’t notice though, which is a little worrying!), it took him quite a bit of effort to fish the pallet out of the water.

The Leigh Arm canal is very beautiful, especially as we passed through the  ‘flashes’ (that’s what they are called) of water where the mines used to be.

The weather has really held up today, and sailing through the afternoon was pleasant. ‘John 2’ was cruising in front of us, and when it became obvious we weren’t going to make Plank Lane Lift Bridge before 4:30 p.m., we tried to attract his attention.  It had been a long day for us, we’d gone down 23 locks, and didn’t fancy waiting until 6:00 p.m. to start again. We hooted ‘John 2’ but couldn’t get him to look our way. In a really pleasant area, the temptation was too great, so we moored up!

Sorry ‘John 2’ we never got to say ‘So Long’ – no doubt we’ll come across you on the canal another time.

Today we’ve travelled 6 miles, and 23 locks. WiFi is 5Mg and there’s no digital TV.

[NB: We’ve now completed our ‘mini’ journey which started at the Huddersfield Narrows on 12th May 2017; finishing at the bottom of the Wigan Flight on 15th August 2017:

The journey took 95 days, 157 miles, and 190 locks.]