Thursday, 17 September 2015


As one door closes another one opens - or should I say, 'when one adventure draws to a close, another is waiting right around the corner'. This is certainly true on board nb 'Winedown'

After leaving our friends at Castlefield in Manchester, we set our sights on Liverpool, but first we had to stop at the CRT office in Wigan to book our passage into Salthouse Docks and our berth. Previously, one was able to stay in Salthouse Docs for 14 days but the CRT authorities decided to curb this and we could only get 7 days. We were naturally a bit put out by this, but 'rules is rules'.

Before Wigan, we stopped at Pennington Flash near Plank Lane, on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. It was a beautiful, if somewhat isolated point to stop, but near enough to a housing estate for there to be a constant stream of people enjoying the late summer evening, dog walkers and cyclists. I was just settling down to read a book when we heard a crash followed by a plaintive, childish wail. A little boy, out with his father and brother had fallen off his bike and grazed his knees, right next to the boat. Ian grabbed a packet of plasters while I got some wet-wipes and a small packet of sweets. In no time at all the boy was patched up and the sweets put a broad smile on his face. With a mouth full of the sweets he waved goodbye and wobbled off down the path with a grateful father close behind.

The following lunchtime (Wednesday 2nd September), as we tied up outside the CRT office, nb 'Indigo Dream' was preparing to leave. After completing the necessary paperwork in the office and filling our fresh water tank, we followed Richard and Sue on nb 'Indigo Dream' who had kindly waited for us so that we could share the locks. This proved to be the start of a whole new adventure and we had no idea just how fortunate we were. Richard and Sue were going into Liverpool too, but their passage was booked for two days before us. As ever, we had time to slow down. We shared locks and swing bridges with Indigo Dream' for the rest of the afternoon before bidding them adieu in Appley Bridge.

Thursday morning and we were looking forward to a leisurely day. We stopped off in Burscough Bridge to pick up some provisions and treated ourselves to tea and cake at a local tearoom before setting off again towards Scarisbrick where we moored for the night. Our passage into Liverpool was booked for Sunday 5th September and we only had 20 miles to go so the next few days was really 'laid-back' boating.

At the appointed place and time (above Stanley Locks) we met a team of CRT personnel. They were there to assist us down the locks, through a series of old working docks and tunnels and into Salthouse Dock, adjacent to Albert Dock, the vibrant heart of Liverpool's historic waterfront.

The next couple of hours was full of chatter, laughter and a history lesson, and by mid-afternoon we were safely berthed - as it happened, just a few slots away from nb 'Indigo Dream'.
Albert Dock - Liverpool

Albert Dock is an amazing place to visit and even more special since we had arrived in this unusual way. With the country's largest group of historical grade II listed buildings, we knew we would find more museums, galleries and a wider variety of venues to eat that we could possible visit in a little over a week. Attractions to suit every taste and shop-till-you-drop opportunities in abundance - wait a minute, I sound like a walking advertisement and Liverpool certainly doesn't need me to tell people what they can do here! We eagerly anticipated an experience packed with sights, sounds and adventure. We were not disappointed.

We were fascinated by the history and the architectural splendour of lofty colonnades that made up the old warehouses surrounding the dock, and even by the jelly fish that seemed to collect in their thousands in some places. Introduced to discourage people swimming in the docks, the jelly fish thrived.
Doug, Sue and Richard with Ian and Cherryl

On Monday morning, we went off for a spot of retail therapy. We were returning to the docks just after lunch when we were surprised to bump into James and Doug from nb 'Chance'. They had their hands full with the greyhounds that live with Richard and Sue on 'Indigo Dream'. Talk about a small world!

Doug and James were in Liverpool to meet Richard and Sue ahead of an epic adventure across the Mersey, along the Manchester Ship canal and onto the River Weaver.

By the end of the afternoon, (and after a cheeky nudge from Doug) we were invited to join the four of them - and the greyhounds - on their adventure. Wow, how lucky we were!

We had to be up early to catch the high tide out of Liverpool's Brunswick Dock. Unfortunately there was a light fog as we left the berth in Salthouse dock and it continued to roll in as we made our way through Wapping Dock, Queens Dock, Coburg Dock. and into Brunswick Dock.

'Into the lock and tie up to the port side pontoon', was the instruction from the lock keeper, and skipper Richard duly obeyed.

Richard and Sue on nb 'Indigo Dream' had secured the services of a maritime pilot as even on a good day this is essential - the river Mersey is used by many commercial shipping lines so only qualified personnel may take a vessel on the river. Stuart was certainly going to 'earn his keep' as we made our way across the Mersey with visibility at only 50 yards.

After Stuart had delivered a safety talk and we had all donned our 'life preservers' we were ready to leave.
Over the radio we heard the warning that the fog was getting thicker. 'No other movement on the river...' warned the disconnected voice on the radio. 'That means there is nothing to bump into...' was Stuart's reply, and then we were off.

As we left the security of the lock and the land marks faded into the fog, Stuart asked the question of Richard, 'Do you know how to keep your vessel in a straight line? You look over your shoulder and check that the propeller trace is straight.' he answered his own question. Since that too was fading quickly into the fog this should be interesting, I thought.

Sadly, the fog stubbornly refused to lift and all we could see besides the marker buoys were ghostly sights emerging from the gloom as we continued on our way. We didn't get a chance to see where we were going let alone get some great pictures on the crossing that took a little over an hour.

Our route was to cross the Mersey to the west bank then run down the shipping lane, close to the west bank to Eastham.
Eastham Lock

All too soon, Stuart said that the Eastham Lock (connecting the river Mersey to the Manchester Ship Canal) was ahead of us. I couldn't even see it as we moved confidently forward but slowly it become visible. Ten minutes later we moved carefully into the lock. It was so big and the fog was still cutting down the visibility; we couldn't even see the end of it!

Lady Sandals

MSC authorities held us at Eastham Lock for over an hour waiting for the fog to lift and in that time the motor yacht 'Lady Sandals' (owned by Gordon Stewart, chairman and founder of Sandals Resorts International) made the crossing and entered the lock that we had come through. Allowed to continue at last, we let the 'big boys' go first. It took 'Lady Sandals' all of four minutes to pass us , leave us behind and her wake to disappear leaving a mirror-like canal once more! The power of her engines left us stunned. But the fog had lifted and the day just got better.

Half an hour later, we passed Ellesmere port. Ian and I had been to the living museum in Ellesmere Port last year but it was a little strange seeing it from a different perspective. The camera was working overtime as we sailed on past, but there was more to see as we passed commercial ships in docks along the way. They made us feel very very small in comparison!

A little over two hours after the motor launch 'Lady Sandals' had left us behind at Eastham Lock, we were at Marsh lock that connects the River Weaver to the Ship Canal at Runcorn. This was as far down the Manchester Ship Canal as we were going. CRT personnel had the lock ready for us and we sailed in effortlessly, tied up and waited as the lock goats were swung closed behind us and the lock began to fill.

Leaving Marsh Lock brought to an end the first part of our trip and that, oddly, left me with a sad feeling - the most exciting part of the adventure was now behind us, but we still had the River Weaver to navigate up to Anderton.
A little sad it may have been but it was truly exhilarating nonetheless.

We stopped for lunch along the river bank and the four well-behaved greyhounds were allow to stretch their legs for the first time that day.
Sue looking very serious as she confidently took the helm

Stuart the pilot said goodbye to us all after lunch and we continued on up the river. All too soon, the iconic Anderton Boat Lift came into view, bring our boat trip to an end. What a marvellous experience. We wouldn't have missed it for all the world Thank you so much Richard and Sue for taking us with you!

A little over twelve hours after nb 'Indigo Dream' slipped her mooring in Liverpool's Salthouse dock, (and only a ten minute taxi ride followed by a 30 minute train trip) Ian and I were back at Salthouse dock where we had left 'Winedown'. Methinks we will be dining out on that marvellous tale for a long time to come!

The following day (Wednesday)  was almost an anti-climax after the excitement of the day before but I can tell you that we enjoyed a lay-in as we re-lived our Mersey Crossing adventure.

Ferry 'cross the Mersey

A visit to the Maritime Museum, Tate gallery, Liverpool Museum, a ferry trip across the Mersey (would you believe it after our epic adventure earlier in the week) and a full day of hop-on hop-off open-top buss trips around the city were all part of the next few days.

While on the tourist trip across the Mersey I was able to take a photo of the sea lock that we used when we entered the Mersey two days before. Pity we couldn't have taken this picture on the day.

We found that a visit to the Anglican cathedral, built on a prominent site overlooking the city was awe inspiring. So many of the buildings in Liverpool are claimed to be the largest, oldest, longest, newest, highest 'in the world', so too the cathedral has its 'first' place. It is claimed to be the longest cathedral in the world, although it 'only' ranks as the fifth-largest in the world and contests with the incomplete Cathedral of Saint John the Devine in New York City for the title of the largest Anglican Church building.(Just a small point to note... there is a church building that is longer than Liverpool Cathedral and that is St Peter's Basilica in Rome, however St Peter's is not a cathedral).
It is also claimed to be one of the world's tallest non-spired buildings. At 67m above floor level, the bells of Liverpool Cathedral are the highest and heaviest (those words again) ringing peal in the world.
Having taken nearly 70 years, the completion of the building was marked by a service of thanksgiving and dedication in October 1978. For all this magnificence, the building is not just 'another cathedral', it is so vast with so much to see, that we missed the last bus back to the docks so our exhausting day of sight-seeing was finished with a long (but not the longest) walk home!

Tony & Jo with Ian

My cousin Tony and Jo joined us for a day. We had planned a trip around the docks on board 'Winedown' but strong winds made us change our minds. Instead we headed to the 'Liverpool Arms' where we heard that they served a good 'Scouse'. Since we were in the home of Scouse, we had to try it, and a few days later we returned to try the Peawack, another Liverpudlian dish.

If you came and visit us on 'Winedown', don't be surprised to find either dish on the menu - we enjoyed both that much.

Another first for Liverpool was the enclosed commercial wet dock designed by Thomas Steer. We took the amazing 'Old Dock Experience' tour from the maritime museum. The old dock is currently below the Liverpool One shopping centre and can only be accessed via the guided tour but I have to say that the archaeologists, Danny and Yass, who conduct the tour are great.

A small corner of the Old Dock
After being buried since 1826, the Old Dock was re-discovered during excavations in 2001 and now for the first time in centuries, the bed of the 'Pool' (the creek that gave Liverpool it's name) can be seen. The Old Dock, constructed in 1715 at the mouth of the Pool paved the way to many decades of dock expansion on both sides of the Mersey and was at the heart of the town's success. The immense impact of this radical structure resulted in a significant loss of trade in London, Bristol and Chester throughout the 18th century, and it contributed largely to Britain's successful trading history that built the Great British Empire.

Thomas Steers Way

When the current shopping complex - Liverpool One - was being built, a pedestrian walkway, 'Thomas Steers Way' was marked out over the centre of the original river inlet to the old doc.

I wonder how many of the hundreds of people who use the walkway each day actually know that they are walking over a part of history that put Liverpool on the world trading map.

Overshadowed little by Thomas Steers and the first enclosed wet dock, was William Hutchinson, an English mariner and privateer who was appointed dockmaster at Liverpool in 1759. William Hutchinson started keeping detailed tide and weather records and these formed a significant part of the data that was used in Holden's Tide Tables,  published in 1770. The fountains that you see here has been designed to represent a full month of high and low tide times, taken from William Hutchinson's diaries.

On a lighter note, a pirate festival came to Albert Dock. On the weekend before we left (12th & 13th September) we enjoyed fun, festivities and live music, not to mention gunfire, cannon fire and a battle re-enactment or two.

We shared our Sunday roast dinner with Keith and Pam from nb 'Primrose' after we had enjoyed a sundowner on the front deck, all the while listening to Blues and Jazz. What could be better than that?

Keith told us about Baltic Fleet, a mid 1800's pub less than a 10 minute walk from Salthouse Dock. The pub boasts four ghosts but more to the point is the only brewery pub in Liverpool. The cellar has been used since 2001 for brewing a host of exceptional ales.

Ian couldn't resist a visit. Unfortunately, they don't do 'take-away' or he would have stocked the beer locker before we left, but he did learn of two tunnels leading from the cellar. One found its way to the docklands while the other went to the red light district of Cornhill. It appears that the Baltic Fleet connected crews of the square rigged ships to two of their fundamental needs, grog and 'ladies of the night'. How romantic! No, just good business.

As the sun set over the Mersey behind the statue of Billy Fury, the 1960's rock-and-roll star, it seemed a fitting end to a fabulous 10 days in Liverpool.

We prepared the boat for an early morning start on our scheduled departure from Salthouse dock, and although my brain couldn't take in much more information from the museums and galleries for the time being,  we are certainly not short of new stories to add to our limited repertoire.

A return visit is definitely on the cards.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

.."it all happened quite by chance

During the week that we spent in Manchester, we made the most of our time, visiting art galleries and museums as well as simply taking in the sights and sounds of the city. Ian found a Chinese restaurant above the Wing Yip supermarket and was determined to partake of their excellent Dim Sum. Of course, I would never disagree with my beloved husband so without too much persuasion, I joined him - not once but twice!

Gay Village - Manchester
All too soon it was time to set off again. With the closure of the Bridgewater canal near Castlefield in Manchester, we had a 95 mile detour to look forward to. This would take more then two weeks, so we thought we had better get started!

Much of the detour would be retracing our steps of the past few months and I didn't think that I would have a lot to write about, however it was certainly not uneventful, so much so that I hardly had time to write about it all. Well here goes ...

On Sunday afternoon we moved the boat from New Islington Marina on the Rochdale to Piccadilly Village on the Ashton Canal - a move of less than a mile with two locks - in order that we could get an early start up the Ashton flight. No sooner had we moored then Janice and Keith on narrowboat Bob moored behind us - they were on their way into Manchester. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening chatting to them and we were even joined on the towpath by one of the residents of the nearby apartments. Very sociable!

The Ashton canal is a short stretch of only six miles from Piccadilly Village to Portland Basin but this includes a flight of sixteen locks. On that first day (10th August) we were only going as far as Fairfield Junction and the Droylsden Marina. Contrary to most horror stories, the passage up the flight was uneventful but as we arrived in the marina shortly before noon, the heavens opened and dropped a deluge on top of us. We were soaked to the skin within a few minutes. Happy Boating.

We had the afternoon to look around and were pointed in the direction of the Fairfield Moravian Church, a congregational settlement that opened in 1785.
The settlement, built by its own people had all that a self-contained congregation would require. Besides the church there was a farm, a bakery, a shop, an inn, a laundry, a school, even a fire-engine, a physician, a night-watchman and much more. This sculpture is at the entrance to the settlement.
There was also a museum, but unfortunately it is only open on a Saturday, however we found the settlement intriguing enough.

Early morning mist on the Marple Aqueduct

Before we reached the Peak Forest Canal we had been warned that passage through lock 14 of the Marple flight was restricted (my heart sank, this is exactly the sort of news that we didn't want to hear) Fortunately, we found that the flight hadn't been shut. CRT were investigating a problem with lock 14 and were simply taking precautions. Nevertheless, we moored before the Marple Aqueduct so that we could get an early start up the flight the next morning.

And the day just got better as we ascended the flight. The picturesque setting was more impressive in the early morning light

At the top of the Marple Flight we left the Peak Forest Canal and turned onto the Macclesfield. Daniel, our grandson was going to spend time with us for the school holidays so we made arrangements to meet his parents, Tanya and David in Macclesfield on the weekend. this gave us a few days to spare so we moored in Macclesfield and made use of the extra time getting domestic chores (like laundry etc.) up to date.

Daniel was eager to do some boating (and fishing) so after a lovely Sunday lunch we said goodbye to Tanya and David as they made their way home to Chippenham and we set off down the canal heading for the top of Bosley locks. No sooner had we stopped for the evening, then Daniel set up his fishing stool. Sadly, no fish for dinner yet!

However, the following day, after working hard on the Bosley flight of 12 locks Daniel once again set up his fishing stool as soon as we moored up. it wasn't long before he successfully landed this beauty.

Les and Chris on narrowboat Eleventh Heaven had been similarly stopped in their tracks by the stoppage on the Bridgewater canal. As we negotiated the 95 mile (82 lock) detour, they were doing the same but from the opposite direction. We met at Porters Farm Bridge and aqueduct (on the Macclesfield canal) on Monday 17th August. Les and Chris had arranged to meet up with friends Doug and James on narrowboat Chance for the Manchester Pride celebrations on the August bank holiday so as they had quite a few miles and locks to put behind them they could only stop for that evening. The weather was good to us so we sat on the towpath enjoying the late afternoon calm. Predictably, after spending time with our friends, my cheeks ached from laughing and my jaws ached from talking. Not to mention, my head throbbed from consuming too much red wine!

In the morning, we left in different direction. Who knows when we will meet again! As it happened it was not to be very long, but I get ahead of myself!

Later that day we moored at Red Bull Aqueduct at the end of the Macclesfield canal. It had been an easy day and we stopped early so that we could do some shopping for provisions. It was here that we met Gary and Julie in narrowboat The Ellie Grace. Gary and Julie were going in the same direction as we were on the Trent & Mersey canal towards Anderton and on to the Bridgewater Canal at Preston Brook, so for the next week we travelled together sharing locks and swapping stories.

Daniel was an absolute star as he helped around the locks. Not only did he help me but he also helped other boats. In Middlewhich we were in a queue of nine boats all waiting to get through the locks and Daniel was helping alongside me as we got other boats through as quickly as possible. Poor chap was exhausted at the end of the day when we moored in Anderton!

At the Anderton Lift

The weather wasn't the best with a forecast of rain, rain and more rain so we decided to stay in Anderton for the weekend. We could then explore the Anderton Lift and museum with Daniel without being hampered too much by the rain.

Gary & Julie's family

And we were invited to share Sunday lunch with Gary and Julie's family at the Stanley Arms.

Our time with Daniel was coming to an end. His mum and dad thought that traveling on the bank holiday was ludicrous - and I must admit, I agree. Since his mum Tanya had to be in Birmingham for business, David decided to drive the extra hour and a half to collect Daniel. But that also left us with options. Les and Chris had previously asked us if we would like to join them in Manchester for the Pride parade, now we had the opportunity to accept the invitation.

The Bridgewater canal link was still closed so we couldn't get the boat into Castlefield Basin, we would have to leave her near Waters Meeting and take a tram, but besides that it was only Wednesday; we had time to kill before the weekend. We said goodbye to Gary and Julie as they continued onto the Leeds & Liverpool canal on their way to Salthouse Dock in Liverpool and we found a lovely mooring near Dunham Town Bridge. As it happened, Dunham Massey a deer park was within walking distance so we had loads to occupy our spare time - besides some odd jobs that always want doing.

We had only been on our new spot for an hour or so when we were astonished to see old friends wandering down the towpath. The narrowboat Aussies Bron and Bob on Celtic Maid, and Julia and Malcolm on Figment were moored just out of sight, around the corner. Naturally we all got together on Figment for 'Happy Hour'

The following day, the lads went off to 'play'. They found a brewery that was begging to be visited, and the girls went in the opposite directing, heading towards the deer park. I had left my camera on the boat but I was determined to get a photo of the deer using my mobile phone. I was so intent in 'sneaking up' on a lovely deer that I failed to see a large dry branch lying in my path. I stepped on the branch and the loud crack startled the deer. It was further surprised by an even louder roar of laughter from my companions who just loved my fail attempt at stealth. Needless to say, all I managed to capture on my phone camera was the rear end of the deer as it wandered off, nibbling on the grass between steps!

Friday morning, we all parted company again, heading in different directions.

First, Julia and Malcolm passed on narrowboat Figment...

...followed shortly by Bron and Bob on Celtic Maid. Ships that pass in the night (or rather, narrowboats that pass in the morning). That is the way of this nomadic life.

Still on the Bridgewater canal, we headed towards Waters Meeting. The Bridgewater link with Manchester was still closed and we didn't want to simply leave the boat on the outskirts of the city unattended so we put the boat into Stretford Marina (about 1/2 mile from Waters Meeting). here we would be able to use the metrolink tram into Castlefield where Les and Chris were moored.

Our detour was now complete. We had covered the 95 miles and 82 locks in a 20 days.

Narrowboat Eleventh Heaven (Les and Chris) had met up with James and Doug on narrowboat Chance as well as Andy and Rich on narrowboat Carpe Diem, so when we arrived in Castlefield on the Saturday to meet them all we had a lovely warm welcome celebrated with coffee and cake on board narrowboat Chance before we set off for the start of the parade.

Manchester Pride is an annual Pride festival and parade held over the August bank holiday weekend. It is one of the longest running in the country and attracts thousands of visitors to the city's gay village. Pride parades are events celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) culture and pride.

In 1989 the Northwest Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Equality organised Manchester's first documented 'Celebration of Gay an Lesbian Diversity'. However, earlier than that (sometime in the mid-1980's) the event began as a jumble sale outside the Rembrandt Hotel. It's purpose was to raise funds for AIDS and HIV causes. In 1991 the event was expanded to include a full program of activities and was christened 'The Carnival of Fun Weekend' and on the Monday night the celebrations ended with a firework display funded by the North West Development Agency. Good-Luck telegrams were received from Diana princess of Wales as well as other high-profile people.
Over the following years the event grew and was known as Madi Gras but went through 'ebbs and tides' with regard to the success of fund raising. At the closing of the 2003 parade it was announced that the event would be known as Manchester Pride and in 2007 it became a charity in its own right.

We enjoyed our day at the parade, but more so we enjoyed our time with old friends and new and we were reluctant to leave. As luck would have it, the link on Bridgewater Canal re-opened to allow boats into Castlefield basin so on Monday morning, we moved our boat and moored near the other three, Eleventh Heaven, Chance and Carpe Diem. We were then able to join Les & Chris, Doug & James and Andy & Rich for the candlelight vigil and firework display that marked the end of the Manchester Pride celebrations on Monday evening.

And so it was that we crossed paths with Les & Chris on nb Eleventh Heaven, Julia & Malcolm on nb Figment and Bron & Bob on nb Celtic Maid. In addition we made new friends; Gary & Julie on nb The Ellie Grace, James & Doug on nb Chance and Andy & Rich on nb Carpe Diem. None of that may have happened if the Bridgewater Canal had not been closed and we were forced to make a long detour.

Life does take some strange but wonderful turns.