22. Sep, 2021

As mention in the last blog the dear old Captain was having problems scheduling our next 2 pump outs. A plan had been agreed to return the 3 locks and one swing bridge to Plank Lane were there is a CRT machine. But it was obvious that this plan did not sit well with him. As Friday was meant to be a nice day he decided we would do the run from Wigan to Scarisbrick marina, a total of 15miles, 5 locks and 3 electric swing bridges in one day (a very long way for us). This meant passing through Burscough, a small town that I wanted to stop at, as there is a large Tesco there and I needed some shopping. He said not a problem, we would get the pump out and return to Burscough next day. So this is what we did.

It also meant I could dispose of our rubbish (or so I thought) as there are bins just outside the town we have used before, and if not a small bin compound at Burscough wharf. But it was not to be, the first bin, which is actually a skip was full, with rubbish bags all a round it on the ground, and even on top of the skip lid. I couldn’t add to the mess, so on to the wharf, only to find out this had been closed a few weeks earlier due, according to CRT, to misuse. This means that there is only the 1 bin location for over 80 miles from Anderton boat lift to Liverpool, and it was unusable. I have reported this to CRT via Twitter, and emailed the regional director and the CEO of CRT with the pictures that I took. It is not really good enough, and with more people taking to the water the problem will only get worse.

As we cruised through Burscough I was hailed by the Captain of NB Union Belle who reads my blog. Thank you very much sir.

We reached Scarisbrick Marina and phoned them to book our pump out for next morning, then moored up for the night.

The gentleman who did our pump out next morning was very chatty and friendly. We also bought some coal, which is a terrible thing to do at this time of the year. But hopefully, we shouldn’t need it until October, fingers crossed.

We were soon on our way back to Burscough where we squeezed in behind Union Belle. We had a chat with her Captain (who is starting his own blog) and a passing boater called Ken. The conversation soon turned to the situation with the bins. We were all in agreement that CRT are not doing enough for boaters. Union Belle’s Captain also informed us there are bins at Appley Bridge and Litherland, but these do not appear on the CRT facilities map. So how are boaters to know?

My complaint to CRT has had a number of interesting responses.

As the regional director was on holiday my complaint was handled by Liam Cooper, Boating and Customer Service Manager, who replied to all the points I raised in a very detailed email. I agreed with some of his answers, but not with others, so I fired off another email and then had a surprise phone call from him to discuss the bin situation, and other boaters concerns around the facilities in the area. It turned out he is a boater, which didn’t come across very clearly in some of the answers in his email. He is based at Red Bull, which we will pass on our way back to Coventry, so I hope to say hi to him there in person.

Ken turned out to be a member of the National Association of Boat Owners and tried to recruit me. I am thinking about it.

Helen Hutt a Boaters Rep on the CRT council has taken up the baton about the bins also.

And finally, I got a mention on Peter Underwoods ‘News from the Water’ podcast, fame at last.

At least I seem to have made a small difference, making life better for boaters.

In the midst of all this we found a lovely little bar at Burscough Wharf called The Thirsty Duck. They had a Rum porter on for the Captain, and I was very happy with Freedom 4 lager. We also tried a packet of Black Pudding and Mustard crisp from Fiddlers, interesting.

We continued our journey towards Liverpool, next stop was the Ship Inn at Haskyne, but not before passing NB Huffler, whose Captain recommended an all you can eat Asian buffet in the St John’s area of Liverpool, we will definitely be looking into his recommendation. At the Ship Inn no darks as usual, but the Captain took a liking to Manchester Craft lager by J W Lees. I will convert him back to lager eventually.

Along this stretch of canal there are quite a few swing bridges, and I was very pleased as some of them had been converted to all electric operation since the last time we were here, so all I do is put the key in and push the button. Even the ones were some manual input is required (pushing the bridge open) seemed easier than before.

As we cruised I spotted a sweet little water vole climbing out of the water and disappearing into the bank side, and a heron caught a fish as we passed by. The Captain even spotted a kingfisher, but I missed it, sad face.

The night before we were due to go down the Stanley flight into Liverpool, the Captain received a phone call from Sid the CRT employee who organises the passage on the locks, asking if we wanted to go down earlier, around 10am, as opposed to the normal time of 1pm, this been due to youths jumping in locks and making a general nuisance of themselves. Of course we jumped at the chance. We were joined by Sam and Mark on NB Scallywag and Frank on NB Hector.

We stayed the night at Litherland, the bins there weren’t in great shape either, but as we moored up a skip turned up and a guy from CRT started clearing the mess, and he made a very good job of it too.

An early start next morning, and we set off in convoy with us leading the way. At the first lock I was pleased to see a plethora of volunteer lockies, and of course the all important Sid. These are double locks, so we paired up with Scallywag and I jumped off to help out. We were soon down the 4 locks and we led the way having done the trip before, and although Sam is a true Scouser it was all new to her.

The trip to our moorings in Salthouse dock is amazing, as you see Liverpool and its docks in a completely unique way.

Our time in Liverpool is for next time folks.

13. Sep, 2021

As we all know the English summer can be unpredictable, and this year is no different, the forecast has been wet, dull and windy. Not great cruising weather, but we make the most of a bad job on days like this.

We stopped at Leigh for the night and took a walk to The Bobbin micro pub which was great, with a good selection of ales on and very friendly staff.

We also tried one in the White Lion, a dark on for the Captain so a happy bunny, the regulars were watching the football which gave it a friendly atmosphere. But when I tried paying with my Tesco club card I don’t think the barman knew what to make of it. So he and the Captain had a laugh at my expense.

Leigh has a brilliant indoor market which doesn’t seem to have suffered as badly as some others we have visited, we really enjoyed walking round and picking up some great bargains, including Bury Black Pudding and Henderson’s Relish.

We are planning to stay in Wigan for a couple of days before heading to Liverpool, however this has caused a problem with our pump out schedule. There is a serious lack of pump out locations in this area, and no matter how the Captain tried to work it out we ended up with being a couple of days early on the next one, or a couple of days late on the one after that, which is not really doable, early yes late no. Its still all in the air, he will make a decision eventually.

On the way to Wigan is Plank Lane lift bridge which is electrically operated, all I need is my BW key. This is where I love to say ’I have the power’ as I stop the traffic with the push of a button. There are quite a few of these bridges on the way into Liverpool, so I will be power mad by the time we reach there.

I must admit I have had a quiet time recently with no locks for me to do, but going into Wigan there are 3. At the first a single hander turned up when we were already in the lock, it appeared he was going to turn (it was only a short boat), but he couldn’t manage it and moored on the lock landing. As I let the Captain out he asked me for help. As he had vertigo and couldn’t climb the ladders to do the lock. I of course agreed and sent the Captain on his way. I am not sure how long he had had NB Hecate, but he didn’t seem to have much experience. Whilst waiting for him to enter the lock I was joined by the crew of a boat coming down which made life easier. As the Captain of Hecate took so long to enter the lock another crew member came down to see what the hold up was. Eventually he was in and I walked up to the next lock with the lady who had come to see what was occurring. We had a nice chat, then we waited and waited for the little boat to appear, but it didn’t, instead the crew we had left behind came up to tell us he had decided to try and turn above the lock. My Captain didn’t think this was a good idea as the pound was quite shallow. So up we went and left NB Typhon and crew to deal with whatever situation Hecate was in.

We moored up in Wigan just before the rain came and were joined shortly by NB Ebony. I went to help them moor and had a quick chat with the Captain, Steve and crew Ann. Of course in the conversation beer came up and Steve turned out to be a real ale lover, so of course I told him about the Wigan Central micropub which we would be visiting later.

As usual we headed to the pub around teatime, and just as we stepped off the boat Steve and Ann were taking their 2 dogs Sharkey and Milo for a walk. We walked together to Trencherfield Mill before going our separate ways and they said they might join us later.

The Captain was very happy in the Wigan Central, they had Porter O’Call by Bank Top Brewery, and before we left they put an Oatmeal stout on too. We had 3 pints and were just thinking about heading home when Steve and Ann turned up. We had a lovely night (and another pint) with them. They are reasonably new liveaboard boaters and seem to be loving the life.

I managed to say goodbye to them as they left next day. We will keep in touch through facebook and hopefully meet up again.

We tried another real ale pub next day, The Swan and Railway, it has recently undergone a major refurbishment and is beautiful inside, with wonderful tiles and woodwork. They usually have at least 6 hand pulls on, and to make the Captain even happier London Stout on tap. The Porteresque, salted caramel porter from Hophurst Brewery was lovely. The staff were very friendly and the landlady had just found out they had won CAMRA’s Historic England Conservation Award, and well deserved too.

Next day we caught the train and headed for Bolton to meet up with his sister Sheila and her husband William.

But before we did we had a quick chat with Barbara and her family on NB Wild Ishie in the pouring rain.

We were visiting his Auntie Rita, a lovely independent lady in her late 90’s. We were meant to be taking her out for a meal, but she had had a fall the previous night and didn’t feel up to it. So we called at the Southfields, a Sizzling pub, for a bite before heading off to see her. She seemed a little out of sorts, obviously, but brushed off our concerns about her fall whilst we were there. It was great to catch up with her. Unfortunately we found out next day that her neighbour had called the doctor and she was in hospital with fractured ribs and bruising. A very brave lady.

Wigan to Liverpool, but that’s for next time folks

7. Sep, 2021

As some of you may know I am having to move my blog on to a new platform as Simple Site wish to charge me £13 per month from next month. I do this as a hobby and to give people an insight into our unusual way of life not to make any money or the like. 

My new site will be: 

Hope you will all join us there,

Helen and Pete

Before getting on the Bridgewater canal at Preston Brook we had to negotiate 3 tunnels, not the Captains favourite thing to do. As a precaution he removers the front catch cover corners so if we hit the wall they don’t get damaged

Firstly Barnton Tunnel, 572yards long, one way working but at least you can see the other end, so its straight in.

Then the Saltersford Tunnel, slightly shorter at 424yards, but this one has a kink in it so you can’t see the other end.. One way working again, but timed to ensure 2 boats travelling in opposite directions don’t meet in the middle. We could enter the tunnel on the hour until 20past the hour.

And lastly Preston Brook Tunnel, 1239yards long, one way working and timed again, at this tunnel we followed a boat through.

On exiting we we’re now off CRT waters and on the Bridgewater canal owned by Peel Holdings. We had to book, but it doesn’t cost anything as long as we only stay on for 7 days outward journey and 3 days return. 

This canal connects the Trent and Mersey Canal with the Leeds Liverpool canal at Leigh.

We decided to take the short trip down to Runcorn were the canal also used to connect with the Manchester ship canal and Mersey using 2 sets of staircase locks, the old and new lines. The old line locks fell into disuse in the late1930’s and were filled in in 1949, and the new line was closed in 1966, these lock gates were removed and installed at Devizes on the Kennet and Avon canal. There is a plan to reinstate the old line, as a considerable part of the lock chambers are still intact, and this would allow a new cruising ring, linking the River Weaver via the Manchester ship canal with the Bridgewater without using the Anderton Boat lift.

It was well worth the visit. We enjoyed cruising the 4 ½ mile, lock free canal, it is a very pretty and peaceful. At the basin at the end we winded and moored up outside the Brindley Theatre (as recommended by facebook). We walked the site of the old line locks all the way down to the Manchester ship canal, we could see what was left of the locks and the route the new locks would have to take, which included right through the parking for some rather posh flats over looking the ship canal. It could be interesting to see the residents reaction to the plan.

At the end of the walk is a rather splendid Georgian house which looks out of place amongst the new building. This is Bridgwater House built in 1771 by the Duke of Bridgewater for himself to live in whilst the canal and locks were being built, he liked to know what was occurring. After his death it became the offices of the Bridgewater company.,_Runcorn

The walk back took us past the local Wetherspoons the Ferry Boat, although they had Cherry Dark on by Titanic brewery the Captain decided he wanted something cold and refreshing, so we both had a bottle or 2 of Singha lager and he treated me to a burger for tea.

One more fascinating fact about the basin at Runcorn. The pub that features in 2 Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, starring Will Mellor and Sheridan Smith, is located by the basin and is now a Buddhist Meditation Centre, it was called The Waterloo in real life and the Archer in the series.

We only spent one night in Runcorn but we will definitely be back, I would highly recommend a visit to passing boaters.

A friend I have been trying to catch up with is Chris on NB Ceiriog, unfortunately we only managed a wave as we passed going in opposite directions, maybe another time.

A night was planned at Lymm, so we set off early to ensure good moorings there. It was very busy but we found a great spot and headed off to the Brewery Tap, this belongs to Lymm brewery, and they always have a stout or porter on. The Captain wasn’t disappointed as they had 2 to chose from and he opted for the Dunham Massey Porter which is brewed by their sister brewery

Whilst enjoying our pint we were regaled by a fellow customer who was telling his companion, (rather loudly) all he knew about boating and electrics. I could tell the Captain was tab hanging intensely and was not too impressed with the guy who we dubbed Mr Know-it-all. It was not unkindly meant but I think we have all come across people like this. And it turned out he was moored opposite us.

Off to Sale next and a bit of shopping. We were pleased to see a couple of new micro pubs had opened in the precinct but didn’t give them a try, one was extremely expensive (£6 a pint) and the other had no darks on. So strangely for us we didn’t venture to the pub that night.

We crossed the wonderful Barton Swing bridge next day and were very sad to see it looking very tatty and uncared for.

In previous blogs I have ranted about the lack of bins on the system, and I think this stretch of the canals is about the worst. There are no boaters bins on the Bridgwater, so this means you have to cruise a staggering 40+ miles from Anderton to Burscough, which can take a while depending on your cruising habits. All the time we accumulate food waste, packaging, bottles and cans.

So when we got to Worsley and stopped for water, which was no longer there either, I was desperate, and ended up using the public bins in the park to alleviate the problem. Now I don’t like doing this as this is not what they are there for, but sometimes needs must. I would love to see a proper survey and consultation between boaters and CRT aimed at improving the facilities provided and their locations.

We moored up in lovely location and settled down for the rest of the day. Around teatime our peace was shattered when a hire boat sped past us, it was so fast I thought it had lost its water skier. We both yelled and the Captain and crew jumped like naughty children and slowed down. Well until they had passed us, then they sped up again. Now we don’t usually report such things, but on this occasion it just had to be done ,and the Captain sent the hirer company a message on facebook. Much to our surprise we got an almost immediate reply, full of apologies and assurances that they would be contacting the errant boat forthwith. This they did and assured as that the hirers sent their apologies and it wouldn’t happen again. We met them the next day doing a very sedate speed, which was great to see, and hope they have learnt that canals aren’t built for speed.

Next day and we were back on CRT waters and the Leigh Branch of the Leeds Liverpool canal at Leigh.0

That’s for next time folks.

31. Aug, 2021

As we have 3 weeks until we go into Liverpool, and it isn’t really that far, we have decided to go down the wonderful Anderton Boat Lift, on to the River Weaver, and moor at Northwich for a couple of days.

But I am getting a head of myself, as we were in Barbridge at the end of the last blog.

We had 4 locks and 10 miles to do before we reached Middlewich and joined the Trent and Mersey. We split the journey in 2, and on the first day we did 2 locks and 5 miles.

It was a very entertaining day as the canal was awash with boats of all descriptions, hirers, share boats, private boats and day boats. This caused a boat jam at the first lock we came too, luckily for us the jam was in the opposite direction with at least 7 boats waiting to come up the lock. So off I went to help. With so many people helping out it didn’t take long to get a boat up and one down. But I still found the time to chat to the crew off a hire boat, turned out her boat was 6th in the queue but like me she loved helping with the locks. She also told me they were in the process of buying their own boat, a 57ft cruiser stern, unfortunately I didn’t get the her name, or the boats name but I wish her luck.

At the second lock we met another boat jam, with 4 or 5 boats waiting to come up and a couple plus us waiting to go down. So off I went to help and was soon joined by the crew from one of the boats waiting to come up. We helped a few boats up including hers, then it was our turn to lock down. She stayed to help as they were waiting for another boat to join them for a cruise, and then a curry in Nantwich. As I left to rejoin the Captain she was helping a single hander up the locks, but no one off the next 2 boats showed any inclination to go and help her. They were both hire boats and too busy chatting amongst themselves. As we passed by the Captain pointed out to the hirers that she was now on her own, but it did not galvanise them into action. I hope she just left them to it. This wonderful ladies name was Leslie we found out as we passed her friends boat heading for the lock.

After a night in the MONW we headed for the last 2 locks and the junction with the Trent and Mersey canal at Middlewich. We also went on the shortest canal in England, the Wardle Canal, its only 154ft or 47m long, so don’t blink or you will miss it.

After mooring in Middlewich we did some much needed shopping and headed to the pub. The White Bear first, nothing on to the suit the Captain so only the one and then we tried the Narrowboat, again a disappointing selection for the Captain so not a successful night for him.

The next day we headed to Broken Cross, the canal is made very narrow in places along this stretch due to the encroaching reeds, which at times were growing over 6ft from the bank. They also make seeing approaching boats difficult, another thing for CRT’s to do list. We moored outside the pub with help from another boater and had a bit of a chat (in the rain). He had just come up the Anderton boat lift off the River Weaver. He told us of a disturbing rumour going about that the lift is to close in Feb 2022 for 18months and may not reopen at all. I found this hard to believe and did a little investigating but could find nothing. I have passed this titbit of information on to Peter Underwood, a boater who is also a journalist to investigate.

We tried the pub, called the Broken Cross, and although they had no dark ale on they did have John Smiths and Black Sheep bitter on, which the Captain found quite quaffable.

The Captain had booked the boat lift for 4pm next day and we made our way to the lift moorings a couple of hours early. He popped off to see the lift keepers and came back saying we could go down straight away. The lift keeper was an extremely friendly, chatty person and I quizzed them about rumours we had heard, but being a sensible chap he agreed with me that CRT would not dare to close the lift completely. Good News (I hope). The Anderton Boat lift is a magnificent feat of engineering and a joy to use, as we went down 2 boats were in the other caisson coming up, so of course we waved and smiled at each other.

On exiting the lift we turned left to head to Northwich and the Captain recognised the boat coming towards us as NB Poppy. Now as you may know the Captain is well into vlogs, especially boating ones, and Poppy and its Captain Matt and crew Dawn have a very good channel called Boating Beyond. He called over and asked how Dawn’s finger was, in the last episode we saw she had cut it quite badly, but as with the majority of these vlogs (and my blog), they are weeks behind and her finger was all healed up.

Now the last time we were in Northwich we found 2 good real ale pubs, a decent Wetherspoons, and a rather pretentious expensive craft ale bar. We started in the Penny Black, the Wetherspoons, as I had promised the Captain to treat him to tea. They had a decent ruby ale on called Nosebag by Tring brewery, and I decided to try one of their new bottled lagers, Singha from Thailand. It was really nice, the Captain tried it and agreed. After tea off to the Barons Lounge, which last time was the best, but horror of horrors, although they had 4 hand pulls and 6+ taps not one dark ale. So out we came and off to the Salty Dog were he found Marble Stout by Marble Brewery of Manchester, plus 2 others on tap. It was band night and we enjoyed our pint whilst watching the band setting up, but we couldn’t stay as it was ticket only, and tbh not really our cup of tea.

We topped up on the essentials (beer and wine) before heading back to the lift and our onward journey. We shared the lift with NB Anvil and chatted with her Captain and Crew. Turned out, like my Captain they had been in the RAF, so plenty to talk about.

And now we have decided on another slight change of plan, we are going down the Runcorn arm of the Bridgewater canal to explore Runcorn.

25. Aug, 2021

Our journey to Market Drayton was 11 miles and 5 locks. It snakes through the Shropshire countryside and has some of the narrowest parts of the canal.

Most of this stretch is just wide enough for 2 boats to pass, but the encroaching trees and bushes make it difficult to see what’s coming, and the majority of the bridge holes are only wide enough for 1 boat, as sods law always says this is were we meet most of the other boats coming towards us.

It was in Woodseaves Cut, probably the narrowest place, we not only met 2 narrowboats coming towards us, but 2 inflatable dinghy’s. Why anyone would pick such a narrow place to use them is sheer madness. But they did.

The first dinghy was coming towards us, it was bright yellow and the occupants were wearing bright red life jackets, so they we easy to spot but still not something we wanted to see. They smiled sweetly as we crawled past them, we did not respond in a similar fashion.

The second dinghy was in far more danger, going in the same direction as us, it was grey in colour with a darkly dressed guy on board, the only good thing was his mate walking by him on the towpath had a red shirt on. The boat was cruising down the middle on this very narrow part of the canal as we caught up with it. The Captain sounded the horn but the guy seemed unperturbed as our 16 ton boat bore down on him, he slowly pulled into the side to let us past and the Captain had a few choice words with him which fell on deaf ears. By being in the middle of the canal he would have been in the blind spot of any approaching boat, which surely would have spelt disaster and death for the guy. Some people.

At the 5 locks at Tyrley there was a boat going down in front of us, a little more work for me but hey, I needed the exercise. These are still single locks with double gates at the front. With 2 locks to go I realised that the boat in front was grounded in the pound below, so being a helpful soul I ran some water down in an attempt to free them. After a bit of effort they got free and into the last lock. I went down to help them. The crew complained there was no warning of the shelf in the pound they had been suck on. As I set the lock I read a notice on the lock gate telling boaters not to try and moor in the pound because of the shelf, but to set the next lock before leaving this one and cruise straight through the pound. There had been a similar notice on the lock above, but it was so faded I could not read it.

CRT’s decisions do make me wonder at times, as we approached Market Drayton we found a long stretch of visitor moorings were closed for towpath improvement, the busiest time of the year and they close essential moorings. On the other side of the town there are more moorings, but another problem reared it head here. The problem of boats leaving ‘git gaps’. I understand that you need to leave some space between boats, but on this stretch nearly every boat moored had a large space in front and behind, but not quite enough room for an average size boat to moor. The Captain worked out there was room enough for another 3 boats at least. This was highlighted even more strongly when a boat moored in front of us leaving similar gaps as we had seen. Next day when this boat left 3 boats got into the space he had taken up.

We went to the pub of course, The Red Lion which is the Joules Brewery taphouse. The Captain was very pleased with their Slumbering Monk, so we had a few.

After checking the town web page which said there was a Saturday Market we walked into town again, but the information was wrong and there were only a couple of stalls. The indoor market was nothing like last year ,when it was bustling with people and stalls. Such a shame.

With nothing to keep us in Market Drayton we decided to set off and do the 5 locks at Adderley and moor up at the bottom. We met NB Joka II going down in front of us and its crew were very helpful setting the locks for us as no one was coming up.

Next day and we did 11 locks in only 2 ½ miles to Audlem. We like Audlem. 3 pubs, a chippy and a Coop make it a good place to moor. As we left to try the pubs NB New Dawn moored in front of us and we had a chat with its Captain and Crew Alan and Dianne. They like us are Ccer’s (continual cruisers) but unlike us they are brave enough to keep going through the winter. As with most people who CC in the winter, they say it is the best time of the year with the canals being so quiet. I will take their word for it.

The first pub The Shroppie Fly was ok but no darks, so onto The Bridge Inn, no darks again but to make up with it we met a very very friendly cocker spaniel called Arthur. Then the Lord Combermere but still no darks. Not a successful day for the Captains palette.

6 locks, the last 4 of the Audlem flight and 2 at Hack Green, were the Not so Secret, Secret Bunker can be found.

We were heading for Barbridge, where we would leave the main branch of the Shroppie and join the Middlewich Branch of the canal. Also along this stretch is Hurleston Junction, this takes you on to the Llangollen canal. At Barbridge there is a pub (of course) and we were lucky enough to moor outside. But the choice of beer was disappointing again, and this is were I must have a rant.

Quite a few of the pubs we have visited seem to be of the opinion, that having hand pull real ales on does away with the need to have a bitter on. On the taps there is a multitude of lager and ciders but no bitter. Now this is fine if one of the hand pulls is a bitter, or even better a stout, but we have been finding that more often than not they are all pale ales or amber beers. This limits the Captains choice even further (he is not a big fan of Guinness, unless its at our local Irish pub). And I am sorry to say he has resorted to becoming a lager lout once again. Bitter used to be a staple of any pub but things they are a changing, and not for the better.

We are now on the Middlewich branch and on our way to the River Weaver for a couple of days.