Two boats NB Dabbling and NB The Great Escape met and set off from Middlewich on May 27th to explore the thrills and spills of the Bridgewater and Leeds and Liverpool Canals. We celebrated my 70th birthday the following day with a lovely meal cooked by Jan near Anderton. We cruised north, skirting the recent bank collapse at Soot Hill, through a one way system at very slow speed, supervised by CRT operative whose job it was to sit on a chair, saying “Slow down” Nice work if you can get it!
We cruised on and were able to pop in to Preston Brook to see fellow 4Cers Lynne and Roger Mellors for a cuppa and a chat. We made good progress and moored at Moore. Because of the reciprocal arrangements with Peel Ports and CRT we had a limited number of days in which to complete our journeys there and back. This was made more confusing by the fact that the two organisations seeming to have a different take on what the agreement involved.
However booking through the CRT website had at least been fairly straightforward and we booked passage both there and back to be on the safe side. Peel Ports are very hot on enforcement and employ local pram pushers and canal-side flat dwellers to report offenders and overstayers and exact licence fees out of unsuspecting boaters. Can’t think what they need to money for, they certainly don’t give back much in return! Very few water and elsan points and no facilities for rubbish disposal. Our weather was beautiful and mostly sunny, unlike the south which was experiencing thunderstorms and even flooding. We stopped for 2 nights as we were running ahead of schedule at Little Bollington and enjoyed lovely views and a barbecue with Ged and Jan’s daughter and son-out -law, who also took us for a big shop at Tesco’s in Altringham . Result!
We stopped at Stretford marina for water and pump out and they very kindly let us use their bins. the first we had seen since the Trent and Mersey. After a dash through Manchester and Trafford Centre, we found the facilities at Worsely chained up. Lucky we had availed ourselves at Stretford. At Leigh, where we met the Leeds and Liverpool Leigh branch, we managed to get a complete winter puffa jacket around the prop, which we managed to extricate with a commentary from two locals on the nearby boozers bench. We pressed on to moor in a lovely spot overlooking Pennington Flash, formed by subsidence from local mines. We stayed an extra night to enjoy the open aspects and good weather. The next big push was to get through Wigan. Here we again found the facilities block locked. The new “access” point by the CRT offices which are now by Trencherfield Mill, just before the turn to Wigan Pier, did not include anywhere for rubbish, on a steep bank with no proper moorings, unless you arrive by canoe, for which there is a small pon-toon. We were suitably unimpressed.
At the Pagefield lock west of Wigan our negotiating skills came to the fore. The lock was full and in our favour. However it was being used as a swimming and diving pool by local youths who seemed determined to make life difficult for us, closing gates as fast as we opened them, putting planks across etc. Eventually they agreed to let us through if we set the lock to refill after. It was no good lecturing them about leptospirosis. It was a red hot day in Wigan, we were on a hiding to nowhere. A night spent in by a leafy wood and a pretty meadow but in ear cracking distance of the M6, but it had been a long day and we slept soundly anyway. Our next stop was Parbold and fish and chips so brilliant we made sure to stop there on the return journey. We stopped at Burscough for services and shop-ping. The rubbish disposal was just a cupboard which you opened and threw bags into. Gross. It has been closed down too now, so no facilities till Litherland. Our last overnight stop before the entry into Liverpool was Melling and it was very quiet and peaceful. After using all the facilities that Litherland had to offer , including the best CRT pump out we have ever used, we prepared for our entry down the locks and through the link. CRT staff and vollies were very helpful getting us through quickly and safely. After a rather eerie journey through empty docks and past the Victoria Clock Tower, which must have been many emigrants’ last sight of home, we. once again. encountered swimmers at Mann is-land . Finally through and into Salthouse Dock and the moorings which we managed to reverse into on the third attempt due to the strong wind.
It was the last Sunday of half term and the world and his wife were out enjoying the fine weather. The Albert Dock are was heaving with visitors. I looked at a Liverpool Scene virtually unrecognisable from my student days in the early seventies! Only the Liver Birds looked familiar. We spent 5 pleasant days here with water and free electricity, and daily rubbish collection. It was marred only by a neighbouring boat playing Ken Dodd’s Happiness at full volume whenever they got back from the pub and a sad suicide early one morning in the neighbouring dock.
We had an open top bus tour and ate out at two lovely places, the Mowgli Street Food being the jewel in the crown. We saw a very good exhibition of work by the Don McCullin at the Tate Liverpool. We didn’t see as much of Liverpool as we would have liked due to Covid. Next time!
Our return journey was slightly more traumatic as Mike slipped getting on the boat after a lock close to Wigan and skinned his shin badly. Jan’s and Ged’s son-out-law came to the rescue took him to Wythenshawe hospital the next day to have it dealt with properly. We also encountered Giles Brandreth and Sheila Hancock (interviewing George Orwell’s Son) as we cruised past Wigan Pier where they were filming for Great Canal Journeys. Needless to say, we didn’t make the director’s cut!