Saturday, 30 April 2016

Goodbye Manchester

Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday.  It was a very long day with us finishing cruising at 8.30pm.

The weather in the morning was a mixture of strong gusts, rain, hail and snow.  Despite this our youngest and I ventured out to Argos in the Arndale Centre to collect a item he had purchased online.  My umbrella decided to invert itself during one heavy gust but the two of us managed to reverse the ribs without any damage occurring. 

Once back at the boat we dried ourselves out whilst checking the weather forecast.  This indicated the afternoon would be mostly dry with the following day reverting to rain.  Consequentially we decided to cruise up the Ashton Canal to Dukinfield Junction in the afternoon.  We have an additional crew member which enabled me to work the locks and allow Jan to stay inside Waiouru where she can recover from her bout of bronchitis.

It’s two years since we last cruised up the Ashton Canal and it’s condition has deteriorated in that time.  I calculate the cruise took an additional three hours which was a combination of obstacles/silt and the poor condition of many of the locks.  Most of the locks were in our favour with one or both bottom gates already open.  It quickly became apparent this wasn’t due to a boater leaving them open coming down.  They wouldn’t stay shut when closed.  In the end I resorted to getting Waiouru into the lock and then half opening one top paddle.  I then shut the lower gates which allowed the water pressure to keep them shut.


Goodbye Manchester

We lost the top of the stove flue on a low bridge at Cambrian Street.  I did fish for it with the boat pole recovering two other flues and a steel pole.  No luck finding our flue.  It’s made of stainless steel so a magnet wouldn’t have been any use; even if we had one!  The cowling on the flue was already dented so we were always going to need a replacement.

P1020616-1 Fun and gates at Beswick Top Lock.  There was a large sheet of thick plywood wedged across the mouth of the open bottom gates and the lock was empty.  I decided to open both top paddles and that freed it, flushing it away from the lock approach.

There were problems with the handcuff locks on most of the paddles.  The exterior diameter of the shaft on one of our handcuff keys was too big to fit the hole on some of the locks.  Our second key has a smaller diameter shaft which would fit the locks our first keys had problems with but then it wouldn’t fit others.  As a consequence I was constantly juggling keys.  Most of the paddles had a hydraulic mechanism and several were obviously low on oil because I had to rapidly wind like hell for ages to get the paddle to raise and lower.

The boat went aground on several occasions but we managed to wriggle it free.  I walked up to Clayton Top Lock to find a dozen youths loitering around the full lock.  They were taking it in turns to run and jump across the lock.  I put on my friendly face and unlocked the lower paddles with the handcuff key before commencing to empty the lock.  That’s when I noticed the very large tractor type tyre lurking in the lock.  It was obvious the tyre was going to be a hazard if I left it in the lock.  The bottom paddles were closed and I refilled the lock before opening the top gate.  The tyre was too large and heavy for me to drag out of the lock with my boat pole so I pushed it out of the lock through the top gate.

P1020618-1The lock was then emptied and I worked Waiouru up. I needed to get the tyre away from the top gates and turned to get the boat pole only to find it was missing.  I eventually cajoled the youths into returning the pole.  One of them left the lock returning several minutes later with the pole.  He then requested a ride on the boat to which I agreed. 

You get an idea of their socio-economic environment when you get asked questions

Youth 1  “Are you from Australia?”

Answer “Yes”

Youth 2 to Youth 1  “Where’s Australia?”

Youth 1  “The other side of the world”

Youth 1 (airing his knowledge to his peers) “What city do you live in?”

Answer “Sydney”  (only because it happens to be the biggest and most well known city)

Youth 1 “Where’s that?”

Youth 3 “Where are you going?”

Answer “Huddersfield”

Youth 3 “Where’s that?”

Answer “A little further up the canal”

You get the picture.

At 7.30pm we completed the last of the 18 locks and stopped for water at Fairfield Junction.  The area didn’t look that salubrious and despite the late hour we continued on to Dukinfield Junction finding a mooring just before the entrance to the Peak Forest Canal.  Along the way we passed yet another sunken fibreglass cruiser.


Fairfield Junction with Waiouru on the water point.


But at least it didn’t rain!

The boat that was moored two behind us at Manchester is again moored behind us.  They came up the canal in the heavy rain the day before us and the lady wasn’t pleased with the condition of the canal. 

I’d actually prefer the weather here to remain poor in the hope it will keep most of the bored local youths at home in front of their Play Stations.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Thoughts of Spain

Something happened today which reminded me of the young Australian backpacker exploring Spain during his European OE.  He had reached a smallish rural town and seen the town attractions along with attending a local bullfight.  Eventually he found accommodation in one of the town’s small hostel’s before heading out for a late evening meal.  He came upon a small cafe/restaurant with a vacant table in one corner.  With almost no knowledge of Spanish he randomly pointed to one item on the menu.  The waiter duly returned with his selected dish which consisted of a selection of boiled and roast vegetables along with two large meatballs covered in a dark sauce.  He was pleasantly surprised to discover his selected meal was both tasty and filling.

He spent the following day exploring the local countryside on a hired bike returning to his hostel on dusk.  Because he had enjoyed the previous dinner he returned to the same small restaurant and pointed to the same dish on the menu.  The waiter delivered his meal and it was exactly the same except he noticed was the meatballs were considerably smaller.  He wondered if he had offended the staff or given too small a tip the previous evening.  Nevertheless it was a very tasty meal.  When the waiter returned to take his empty plate he asked the young Aussie in very poor English if the meal had been satisfactory?   The young Aussie confirmed it had been good but mentioned the meatballs were smaller.  The waiter paused and then in broken English explained “Ah senor; the bull…… sometimes he wins!” 

Now my reason for mentioning this is because the following is on tonight’s dinner menu.


No…. I’m not singing with the sopranos and the bull didn’t donate them!

Our youngest has returned from a day trip to Scotland with some Haggis for us to try Smile

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A mixed day

Today’s weather has been very unpredictable.  If you look the the following two photos taken from the side hatch early this morning you will notice the blue sky and bright sunlight.


We completed a few small jobs; including booking our passage through Standedge Tunnel on 6 May; before going out for a better look at our surroundings.  NB Burnt Oak (Braidbar No158) is moored behind us.  Her fit out was completed last December and the owner told us he had a miserable winter on the Macclesfield Canal waiting for spring.  Note the dirty brass…. he has now been reported to the owners club and disciplinary action is pending! Smile


Note the cloudy sky.

There are just enough mooring rings here for three boats and we have the centre spot.  It appears to be a ‘safe’ mooring, although the high volume of pedestrian traffic does make it slightly noisy.

I had planned to moor in the basin on the right a couple of hundred yards further up the canal.  This is where NB Firefly NZ moored when we were last this way in 2014.


Entrance to the basin is just beyond the bridge to the right


I reversed into the basin only to discover it’s too shallow.  This meant I then had to reverse back down the canal to our current mooring.

Today we’ve had bright sunshine, rain, hail, snow and more sunshine.  Not that we’re complaining after such a mild winter.

The area around here is a warren of former canal arms suggesting it was once a hive of industry.  In 2014 this canal side property was undergoing renovation.  Now it’s completed and looks rather good.


Note the remains of a former arm immediately in front of it.

Just beyond the lock and to the left is pedestrian access to New Islington Marina.  The OSM seems to indicate there is boat access to the marina from both the Rochdale and Ashton Canals.  However this isn’t correct as the water access is divided by Old Mill Street.


Old Mill Street at the end of the arm.

This area is Ancoats and until the late 18th century it was mostly rural on the eastern outskirts of Manchester.  The transformation of the area began in 1775 when much of the land was sold off for development.  Within a decade the area was a grid pattern of densely packed factories and terraced houses for the workers. 

The Ashton Canal opened in 1796 pre-dating the Rochdale by 8 years.  The arrival of the canals attracted large scale development to the area and the construction of numerous canal arms.  Many factories were built along the banks.  The arm in the above photo served as a coal wharf and also supplied water to the adjacent cotton mills.  it was expanded in 1820 to service a new dye and glass works.

By 1851 Ancoats had a population of 53,737.  Sanitation was very poor and overcrowding common.  In many cases entire families lived on one room of tiny multi storey terraced houses. 

All the worker housing and most of the factories were demolished in the 20th century.  I did notice one former factory had been converted to apartments.  It’s rather interesting that the developer retained some character by keeping the chimney.

IMG_9716-1 New Islington Marina has had a bit of a mixed reputation.  The area had been frequented by “yobs” and last time we passed through there were two sunk and burned out boats.  However I think that is going to change.  The area surrounding the marina is currently undergoing major redevelopment as a modern residential area.


It wouldn’t surprise me that in 5-10 years time instead of residential boaters complaining about the unsavoury locals, the ‘new’ locals will be complain about the unsavoury looking boats spoiling their picturesque vista. Smile

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Rochdale Nine

The weather forecast for today was rather grim, but despite that we decideed to move.  At Waters Meeting we turned right instead of left and cruised the short distance to Stretford Marine Services where we winded (turned) Waiouru and took on 182 litres of diesel. Only 50 litres into the engine tank in the stern with the rest going into the bow tank for the stove.  We didn’t fill the engine tank as I want to keep the stern as high as possible when we go over the Huddersfield.  We’ll also do a pump out immediately prior to entering the Huddersfield.

It was then a case of cruising into Manchester and commencing our ascent of the Rochdale flight of nine locks.  I managed to wangle the locking job today leaving our son to do the steering.


Dukes Lock at the bottom


The recent renovations to the Dukes Lock pub appear to have been completed.  It was my lucky day as one of the grey haired elderly locals assisted me with the locking duties.


Canadian illegal immigrants squatting beside the canal.


The predicted poor weather put in an appearance and it started to snow at the third lock.  However it wasn’t all bad news as we also met a Black Prince hire boat coming down the flight.  That meant all but one lock was now empty and in our favour.  The buildings around the flight are a mixture of urban regeneration and “grotty”.



We reached Chorlton Street Lock adjacent to Canal Street.  This is definitely a “grotty” lock.  Our first trip up the flight was in 2005 and Jan was doing lock duty on that occasion.  A male leaned over the fence and looked down at Jan working the lock before exclaiming “Ooooh…. you’ve got a big one!”  Followed by “Push harder!”  Jan replied “Would you like to come down and give a demonstration?”


Two CRT employees were working above the lock and called out a warning to avoid the “undesirables” at the next lock.  Piccadilly Lock is almost subterranean and people have been living ‘rough’ on the off-side beside the lock.  Today it was deserted, however there was a strong urinal smell.  The top gates were also a bugger to open.


We turned right at Ducie Street Junction and moored just before Store Street Aqueduct.  Shortly thereafter a near new Braidbar boat arrived from the opposite direction taking the last vacant mooring.  It then started to snow once again.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Leigh to the Trafford Centre

It was a relatively late start this morning with a stop at the Leigh water point to top up the tank.  We didn’t start any serious cruising until after 10am and reached The Trafford Centre by 12.30.  With no locks or swing bridges it was an easy day.

Just west of Worsley I noticed a working boat coming from the opposite end of the straight.  It had a bright blue and red colour scheme which suggested it had to be Jo & Keith on Hadar.  I guessed they wouldn’t be able to identify us in the distance, which gave me time to warn the rest of the crew.  Our photographer managed to record the event.


I think Jo might have recognised us Smile


A lovely couple and it’s great to see them back happily cruising.  We hope they enjoy Liverpool as much as we did.

Worsley is an attractive spot on the canal so our photo opportunity was repeated.



I still believe this is the most unusual “man shed” I’ve ever seen!

We moored outside the Trafford Centre and then I walked to B&Q to buy a length of 3x2.  We’re planning to go over the Huddersfield and if my memory is correct we will need a handspike to work the lock paddles on the far side.  The handspike replaces the usual windlass and can be purchased for approximately £10.  My plan is to make one.  Well I couldn’t buy a 1.2 metre length of 3x2 but for £2 I managed to buy a 2.4 metre length.


Back at Waiouru I had Jan extract my Aldi 3 way saw from deep storage and cut the length in half.  We now have a spare handspike.  This involved a little blood, sweat and tears.  My sweat and Jan managed to cut herself on the saw blade.  To both our surprise her blood wasn’t blue.

Sunday, 24 April 2016


A very brief post today as much of the day was spent entertaining and being entertained by Peter & Margaret.  We first met them in 2011 and have considered them great friends ever since.  It was Peter & Margaret who kindly let us live on their boat Kelly-Louise when we were attempting to sort out our own boat problems.

Today we had a very convivial time over Sunday lunch at the nearby Robin Hood pub.


poor phone photo Sad smile

They have only recently returned from Spain having avoided much of winter, hence the cheerful disposition and suntanned faces.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Back in Leigh

It’s just over a month since we last arrived in Leigh where the Bridgewater joins the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. There are no notices but apparently CRT licensed boats are only allowed to spend 7 days on the Bridgewater and may not return until 28 days have elapsed.  We are moored just short of the Bridgewater.

My musing over the junction at Parbold has resulted in yet more useful information from readers.  Don informed me the Leeds & Liverpool Canal was supposed to turn north at Parbold for Leyland with a branch to Wigan.  Then Jim sent me an extract from a leaflet published by the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society as far as the Parbold - Leyland route is concerned:

The canal between Parbold and Dean was originally known as Leigh’s Cut after the main owner of the old Douglas Navigation, which was in operation from 1741 to 1781. The canal opened from Liverpool to Parbold in 1774, when Parbold was intended to be a canal junction, with the main line of the canal from Liverpool continuing to Leyland on a line through the dry dock. From Leyland, the canal was to follow the Ribble Valley, crossing the Calder by a large aqueduct at Whalley, and reaching the canal’s summit level at Foulridge through Padiham. At Parbold, a branch canal — Leigh’s Cut — gave access to the Douglas Navigation at Dean. The canal’s route was changed in 1794, and today the branch canal is the main line, providing a route to Wigan and the ‘new’ 1794 route. It is the reason for the sharp bend at Parbold, as this was designed as the junction between the two canals.

I’ve attempted to show the very rough route of the proposed canal on the following map extract.


The red arrow points to Wigan.

I’m grateful to Don and Jim for the additional information.

This afternoon I went exploring around the northern fringes of Leigh.  The route took me through Lilford Park which is a large expanse of grass and woodlands.  The park was gifted to Leigh by Lord Lilford. In the Victorian era it had a crescent-shaped lake, about a kilometre in length spanned by a three-arch stone bridge constructed in 1724, It was popular with visitors. The bridge was known as Lions Bridge from the carved stone lions on pedestals at intervals on its length. The lake dried up in the 19th century and the bridge collapsed in 1905.  Whilst there were no obvious signs of the lake or bridge it was the following that came as a surprise.


This looks very similar to the O-Bahn in Adelaide, South Australia and it looks new!   When I returned to Waiouru I examined the map in an effort to identify what was going on.


The bottom right arrow points to where the above photos were taken and the map does show an almost straight track.  The two other arrows also point to straight tracks.  My guess is these are former railway lines.  Things became clearer when I did some internet searching.  Wikipedia was very useful.

Leigh is one of the largest towns in Britain without a railway station since the closure of the Tyldesley Loopline in 1969 and suffers from poor connections to neighbouring towns. The Leigh-Salford-Manchester guided busway was proposed to improve access to Manchester city centre from Leigh, Tyldesley and Ellenbrook and regenerate areas of the former Lancashire Coalfield

The Leigh-Salford-Manchester Bus Rapid Transit scheme is a guided busway and bus rapid transit (BRT) scheme promoted by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) opened on 3 April 2016. From Leigh, a limited-stop bus service joins 7 km of guided busway to Ellenbrook, 6 km of bus lanes on the East Lancashire Road and sections of reserved bus lanes through Salford and Manchester city centres.

So the BRT commenced operation only 20 days ago. 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Wigan to Plank Lane

An interesting (and slightly surprising) comment from reader Laurie Williams regarding my query regarding yesterday’s post and the possibility about a canal junction once existing at Parbold.  Laurie suggested I research “Parbold Graving Dock”.  It appears this was originally planned as a canal junction with a canal heading towards Leyland.  Well I didn’t know where Leyland was on the map and had to look.  The canal was never built and the start at Parbold was converted into a large graving dock and wharf.


So Leyland is more than a model of truck Smile  Would I be correct in assuming the plan was for the canal to Leyland to connect to the Lancaster Canal?

Oh… my surprise about the comment from Laurie is that he is in far west New South Wales.  I might have expected a comment from a local, but a comment from almost outback Australia!

This morning Jan and I walked into Wigan to collect the last of our mail.  Whilst she did the important task I took photos in the hope one might be reasonable.


We had a late departure and by 1pm I was feeling hungry.  We’d made a large quantity of piklets two days ago so I decided to eat a few before they went mouldy. Unfortunately we are currently carrying a large male rodent and when I opened the home baking tin I found……


I should have drowned him at birth.

It was an uneventful cruise to Plank Lane where there is a small boating community.  No doubt due to the services, proximity of shops and the car park.

IMG_9680There is a new housing sub-division under construction here.  It looks like every home will have solar panels.

IMG_9679There’s a large open area of water beside the lift bridge which looks like it might be a marina someday.  I went for a walk after dinner and that day may be getting closer as this banner was tied to the boundary fence.

IMG_9681There is a plan of the marina here.

I do wonder how long it will be before this boat is sunk.  I’ve gone from being sad to annoyed about sunken boats.  So many of them seem to be abandoned yoghurt pots.  This one isn’t displaying a licence or boat number.  I guess it will be CRT who eventually pays to cost of removing it.