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.]

Dilly Dallying On The Leeds To Liverpool Canal

We spent the weekend (5th/6th August) moored by Fredrick’s ice cream shop (Giles Bridge #73), not necessarily because we loved the delicious ice cream, but because it’s such a nice place to moor.

Monday (7th August) was abysmal, it rained most of the day, and it didn’t take much to convince ourselves to remain put.

We did make a phone call to CRT though. We wanted information regarding assisted passage through the 21 Wigan locks. John’s arthritic knees are playing up, possibly through the damp weather, and I didn’t think I’d fair too well working Cyan down all the 21 locks myself (worse scenario). There is a place to moor halfway down the locks, allowing boaters to tackle the locks over two days, but that didn’t appeal.

We find CRT are always very helpful, and we were told that Tuesday is the day lockies assist boaters down the locks, but unfortunately tomorrow (8th August) was fully booked. There was nothing left for it but to book Cyan to go down the locks next Tuesday (15th August). This means we’ve to ‘hang around’ for a week. John also asked if they have two plastic ‘license holders’ to stick in Cyan’s windows, as the ones we have at the moment, have disintegrated. Lynne from CRT told John to call into the CRT office at the bottom of Wigan locks, to pick up a set.

Tuesday morning looked to be a day of sun and rain, though the clouds were stubborn enough to mostly hang around all day without letting the sunshine through. Nevertheless, we thought we’d make a ‘move’. We were in need of Services, Elsan, water, and the diesel tank was now only a third full. John likes to keep the diesel tank topped up as much as possible, something to do with ‘diesel bugs’! We should have topped up when we were in the marina, but we were remiss.

Our plan today was to aim for White Bear Services, top up with diesel, exchange a bottle of gas, top up with water, and to use their Elsan services. Then we’d moor up under the bridge, while I scoot to the Adlington CoOp for fresh provisions.

Now this is serious silting up of the canal.

Cruising on the way to White Bear Marina, we passed Ellerbeck Narrowboats Wharf, they had a notice on the wharf advertising diesel for 75p a litre. Not bad we thought, and we kept the price in mind. Shortly afterwards we arrived at White Bear Marina. As there were no notice outside for what they were charging for diesel, John popped into the marina office. He returned looking disappointed, and miffed that we hadn’t stopped at Ellerbeck Narrowboats, as White Bear Marina wanted to charge us 90p a litre. We jumped back on Cyan for a short 100m trip under the bridge, where we temporarily moored while I sought out the CoOp.

So now we’ve ‘Plan B’. We’ll cruise to the top of the Wigan locks, just to see what’s ahead of us next Tuesday, then we’ll turn or wind Cyan around, call at Ellerbeck  for diesel, and continue back to our mooring near Fredrick’s ice cream again.

After winding Cyan by Wigan top lock, two lock keepers hailed us; they had a fearful look about them, thinking we wanted to go down the locks there and then. Probably they were tired as they’d just returned from locking a pair of boats down the 21 locks. They quickly looked relieved when we said we had booked their help for next Tuesday, and that we were only casing out the locks.

Cruising back, the heavens opened, and we were pretty much forced into stopping on Adlington visitor moorings, just opposite where we’d temporarily stopped for the CoOp. These moorings proved to be great as they backed straight onto a playing field, which Rusty thought was marvellous. We stayed on that mooring for a couple of days.

At Ellerbeck we took on 150 litres of diesel (£22.50 cheaper than White Bear Marina), changed an empty gas bottle for a new one, bought a can of oil for the next oil change, filled up with water, and used the Elsan service.

We pootled back to our previous mooring by Fredrick’s Ice Cream shop for a few days, killing time until Tuesday morning.

We discovered a great wood walk, where Rusty turned into a ‘demon dog’!

We also reacquainted with the 5 heifers on a patch of land on the opposite side of the canal. Though there was a scary moment as we watched two of them try to ‘eat’ a plastic bag!

On Friday we cast off our mooring, cruising down the canal until the first winding hole, about turned Cyan, and set off to the Adlington Visitor Moorings which has Rusty’s playing field, and where a visit to the CoOp was once again in order.

This morning we made for the Wigan locks again, ready for our transition down the flights tomorrow.

Just love the amazing bridges!

Passing a very quaint, yet small bridge, where the canal flowed into a beautiful ‘lake’.

When we arrived at Wigan Top Lock, we met a single handed boater who we’ve been ‘paired’ with to descend the locks.

Early to bed, the lockies unlock the lock’s padlocks at 7:30 a.m., and we’ve to be ready for 8:30 a.m.!

The Seven Jackson’s Hillock Locks

Our aim for the day was to decend the 7 locks called Jackson’s Hillock Locks. Despite hearing the rain lashing on Cyan’s roof during the night, the day began relatively pleasant, weather-wise.

We left our mooring at about 10:00 a.m, after the decision that breakfast could ‘wait’ today.

We checked both the BBC’s weather website, and Accuweather website, and both results were conflicting. The BBC’s weather website forecast a dry day, while Accuweather said it was going to rain for a couple of hours around 11:00. We’re pleased to announce, the BBC’s weather forecast was the one that was accurate.

But just in case Accuweather turned out to be the accurate one, we took a picture of a few sunbeams while we could.

We cruised past a very salubrious bat’s residence. Basically it’s an add-on to an old concrete tower.

The journey was quite pleasant to Johnson’s Hillock Toplock, where we stopped to use the services. We also took the opportunity to have a sausage sandwich, and coffee for our belated breakfast.

Have to say the locks were hard work. We went down the locks by ourselves, but we were helped at the problematic first two locks by locals (think they were from the boatyard at the top of locks) who were taking down a wide beam behind us, they needed to drop the wide beam down two locks, turn the boat around, and then take it back up. Only half the mechanism on the top lock worked, which took ages to empty. The second lock was the same, except it was hard to fill it up as the water leaked out the bottom gates almost as quickly as we were filling it. One of the guys was very critical of the C&RT, saying the lock mechanism has been broken for three years.

There were lots of gongoozlers about, though these day I just get on with the locks, I used to worry cos I hadn’t put makeup on – oh the errors of my ways!

We were very lucky with the bottom two locks, they were full of water.

It’s a great sense of achievement getting through the locks as they are not the easiest.

After the locks we were rewarded with glorious sunshine, and a very pleasant cruise to where we are moored tonight, at Giles Bridge (#73).

The brickwork for some of these bridges are awesome, I can’t imagine how they were built.

While we were mooring up, people were watching us from the bridge eating huge ice cream cones.  When a couple passed us walking along the towpath each with an ice-cream, we couldn’t help but ask where the ice cream came from. We were told it’s from a shop called ‘Fredericks’ which is 100m from the bridge (see their website).

Of course an investigation was in order. I had to literally queue out in the road for our ice-cream. There must have been about six families in front of me, all with children, and they were choosing which homemade ice-cream from a range of about 50 flavours. Then they could choose which ice-cream cone, a chocolate covered one, or one covered with sprinkles, there were more but I didn’t delve. Before they received their ice cream, they could choose which sauce, chocolate, toffee, raspberry….. of course these decisions takes time! John had a ‘rum and raisin’ one, I had a ‘mint and chocolate chip’ one, both were in a chocolate covered cone, with chocolate sauce on the top.

The last time we had ice-cream, it was from a Mr Whippy van in Gargrave, two 99’s cost £6.50! Today our ‘luxury’ ice-cream cost us £4!

It was funny, when I returned with the ice-creams, on the towpath near Cyan, a lady cyclist was sitting on a stone. She’d just finished a milkshake from Fredericks, saying it was absolutely lovely, they’d used fresh bananas to make it! She reminded me of ‘Winnie the Poo’, with his pot of honey!

Today we’ve done about 11 miles, and 7 locks. We’re moored with 8Mg of Wifi, and a good digital TV signal.

Tonight we’ll be listening to the Proms on BBC4, as they’re ‘doing’ Ella (Fitzgerald)! We’ve been looking forward to this all week!


Grumpy Old Me!

Wide awake at 7:00 a.m. this morning, and pondering over a coffee, we wondered what’s the best thing to do travel wise. Outside the heavens had opened, and the rain was once again lashing down.

We double checked both the BBC’s weather website, and Accuweather to see if their weather forecasts had a general ‘theme’ to what today’s weather’s likely to be.  We were disappointed that both were rather negative. Though there looked to be a positive slot at 11:00 a.m. which made us optimistic.

For breakfast we had what John calls a ‘Scania Hubcap’, commonly called a full English breakfast – for the main purpose of cheering us up, and knowing we’ve got six locks to do in the dreariest of weather!

At 11:00 a.m as predicted, the sun came out, though the clouds still looked ominous, and were not to be trusted. Cyan was cast off for our 3 mile cruise to the 6 Blackburn locks. The cruise through Blackburn was not one of the best journeys, the canal was filthy with strewn office chairs, bottles, beer cans, the usual detritus. The scenery was of derelict factories, and office premises. We couldn’t wait to get through Blackburn (sorry if I’ve offended anyone – I don’t mean to offend).

We did pass a lovely swan family, mum and dad taking great care of their sleepy ‘big’ babies.

Eventually we arrived at Blackburn Top Lock, I was on locking duty as I’m craftily ‘saving’ John’s arthritic knee for lock duties when we go down the Wigan flight of 20 odd locks!

The wind at Blackburn top lock was vicious, and it was a taster for what was to come!

Just as Cyan was almost lowered to the bottom of the ‘top lock’, another boat appeared behind us. It was a hire boat, the crew consisted of Dad, Mum, an 11 year old boy, and (to the boy) his ‘annoying’ 6 year old sister. Both kiddies were lovely. As soon as Mum was within hearing distance, I told her we’d wait in the next lock for them, so we could go down the locks together. I did wonder at the time if I’d done the right thing, as the six year old was the sort who had bags of confidence, she was a lightweight, and the wind was fierce! Kids scare me at locks.

At lock 2, and just before the Mum and I opened the gates to let both of our boats out of the lock, two ladies appeared with windlasses in their hands. The gist of the conversation was, we leave the gates open for their boats, and they will leave the gates open for us at lock 3. Great! Except when I got to lock 3, the ladies’ boats were only just about entering the lock.

My thought at the time was for John steering Cyan, and the ‘Dad’ steering the hire boat; having to moor up, or tread water in the pound, between the locks in the wind. Mooring wasn’t possible as there weren’t any convenient bollards, and to hold onto the centre line was fraught with a battle with the high wind.

It appeared there was one man and a child helping to raise the two boats in Lock 3. When I got there I went over the bridge to shut the bottom gate, and then I opened the two sluices to let the water into the locks. Then it dawned on me, why were those two women waiting at Lock 2, when they should be helping lock their own boats out of the lock? I was now getting miffed. Hands on hips (typical stance when upset) I watched both boats sail out of the lock without a backward glance, I waited for a thank you! None came! Grrr so I shouted after them… I can’t remember what I said, but they knew I was angry.

John by this time had let Cyan settle on the off-side of the canal alongside a high stone wall, where the wind had pushed them. As one of the boaters passed John, the man said that they’d upset his ‘partner’ at the lock, and he didn’t know what he’d done wrong. But that he was very sorry!

The swell of water as the two boats passed Cyan, apparently pushed Cyan further into the bank by the high wall – lifting her onto a ledge! Disaster!

Cutting a long story short, after lots of rocking the boat, and attempts pushing Cyan ‘off’ with a pole, the situation seemed dire! In the end I jumped onto the bow of the hire boat at the bank, after which the ‘Dad’ reversed the hire boat until the bow was level with Cyan’s stern. At this point I caught Cyan’s stern rope, and tied it to the hire boat’s bow. Following a few ‘urgent’ revs of the engine which was in reverse, Cyan was freed!

At the next 3 locks, the sluices had been accidentally (or ignorantly) left open by the ‘troublesome’ boaters.

Not to worry, we’ve put this down to experience! Especially now that we’ve settled on our mooring in a rather nice area just before Riley Green.

Today we’ve travelled 6.5 miles, and ‘endured’ 6 locks. Wifi is around 14Mg, and TV is OK.

Tomorrow we’re going down 7 Johnson’s Hillock locks – ‘please kindly pray for us’ 🙂

Only Rely On Weather Forecasts Being Unreliable!

The weather forecasters appear to be having problems predicting the weather. With this in mind, we thought we’d ignore the weather forecasts, and that we should ‘man-up’ to the point of travelling in the rain. Otherwise, we’ll never get anywhere.

We left our mooring at Hepton Bridge around 8.30 a.m., now that’s early for us! Our thinking was to make for Bridge 107A early, before the (so called) predicted rain. We hadn’t been going long, before the rain started. Luckily the bridges are relatively high, so we could travel with the canopy up. Unfortunately we can’t roll up the ‘windscreen’, so visibility isn’t very good. Even my ‘good idea’ before setting off, of cleaning the screen with waxed furniture polish to repel the rain turned out to be less than a success!

We set off thinking how more beautiful our journey would be if only we could see the scenery.

Though the views still didn’t disappoint.

John’s arthritic knee is still playing up, so I volunteered to ‘swing’ the last three swing bridges on our journey of the Leeds to Liverpool. At the first swing bridge I set off with both a handcuff, and a CRT key. Mainly the swing bridges are locked with a handcuff key, though there are a few bridges that use a CRT key. The automatic bridges all use the CRT key.

Arriving at the bridge, it didn’t take long to realise that to swing the bridge a windlass was needed, as well as a handcuff key. I trudged back to Cyan in the drizzle to pick up a windlass (muttering with each step). Sometimes it’s impossible to preempt the ‘tools’ needed! Once ‘mastered’ the three swing bridges were easy to work. Basically the key unlocked the mechanism, the windlass lifted the bridge from it’s cradle, and with a gentle push, the bridge swung open.

With all the rain we’ve had, this lifeboat just might come in handy!

How the signets have grown, they’re almost as big as their parents. It seams ages since we’ve seen a brood of swans.

     Seating, Accrington style. To the right is a bridge.

The weather’s getting even more dreek!

We had anticipated to moor between bridges 107A and 107. Unfortunately the mooring wasn’t possible as overhead wires for pylons were either being replaced or newly erected. Beside the several areas of scaffolding, the twinging/whipping noise from the wires would have been an annoying problem.

We’re now moored for the night in the countryside by Bridge 106.  WiFi is 25Mg, and good digital TV.

Tomorrow we’ve a busy day ahead, we’ve the six Blackburn Locks to drop down, and have about 10 miles of cruising, leaving Blackburn behind.

Today we’ve cruised 9.5 miles, and ‘swung’ three swing bridges.

April Showers In August?

What’s up with the weather?

I’ve just snapped as best I could, a really heavy downpour while I’m about to start this post. What’s strange is that the sun is shining too. Just like April showers. We’ve also had hailstones and strong gusts of wind. It’s been like this for days!

We’ve been moored at Reedley Marina since Thursday. Having hired a car over the weekend to attend a family celebration in Suffolk.

The Marina is situated at the bottom of Pendle Hill, and we can vouch for friendliness of the ‘natives’. As seen from the picture below, the Marina’s restaurant/bar overlooks the Marina.

During the day we hardly got to see any of the half dozen or so swans, and even more ducks, that ‘live’ in the Marina. But when it got dark, the swans and ducks appeared. They could be seen bobbing in the water with their head tucked under their wings, asleep. It’s quite comical how they take up their positions every night, away from predators,  yet they disappear during daylight.

A sad thing about the Marina is that there’s a lack of songbirds in the vicinity. This is probably due to many boaters who’ve cats for pets. We know there’s quite a few as Rusty’s made it his business to ‘assess’ the ‘enemy’. I just wish he could make friends with cats, it would make life so much easier for us all.

This morning, after preparing Cyan for cruising, we said ‘so long’ to quite of few of the long-term residents we’ve befriended. In the future, if we’re down/up this way again, I’m sure we’ll spend time again at Reedley Marina.

We’ve had no locks, or swing-bridges to manoeuvre today, but we have had Gannow Tunnel to pass through. Think this is the last tunnel for us on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. Our biggest problem with today’s cruise was dodging the rain that’s threatened us all morning.

We headed away from Pendle Hill, which didn’t look too happy:

And we headed towards what we hoped was a little sunshine:

There has been some pleasant sunny moments as we passed through Burnley:

The ominous clouds soaked us a few times, but not excessively thank goodness.

At one point on the canal we saw a lot of feathers floating in the water, and wondered if a fox had managed to ‘bag’ a duck or a goose. It wasn’t till we rounded the bend, we discovered the area was a ‘preening station’ for geese.

This is the entrance to Gannow Tunnel. The tunnel is 511m long, and took 5 years to build. There’s no pathway for the horse to pull a barge through the tunnel; barges had to be ‘legged’ through, while the horses were lead over the top.

Poor Rusty, he really doesn’t like tunnels, he ‘shook’ all the way through, I know because I was tightly cuddling him.

This is the ‘other end’!

I discovered this old picture on the C&RT website, I’ve no idea how old it is. It’s a picture of ‘boys, being boys’ at one end of the tunnel!

Gliding over the Calder Valley Motorway, the M65. It follows the canal all the way from Burnley to Blackburn.

We’re still relatively high up here on the Burnley Embankment, cruising Cyan above the rooftops of houses.

The canal overlooks Burnley’s bus station.

We passed by ‘The Inn On The Wharf’, thinking how the wet weather must be having an effect on businesses in the area.

This area is also known as ‘The Weaver’s Triangle’, which is a Heritage Centre see more.

The biggest plant pot in Lancashire!

Another piece of ‘canal history’ going the way of the wind!

Tomorrow we’ve 3 swing-bridges to pass through – hope we can remember how it’s done! We’ve a plan to moor just before the six Blackburn locks, but that’s Thursday’s activity.

Today we’ve cruised over 7 miles, and passed through Gannow Tunnel. We’re moored on Hepton Visitor Mooring overlooking the Lancashire Moors, with 20Mg of WiFi, and a very good digital TV signal.