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The 1999 "Earnest" Maiden Voyage Cruise

Index


7. Leeds to Manchester,  Leeds and Liverpool Canal and Bridgewater Canal.

The next day (Wednesday 21st July) we left early at 7.20am because we had to fill up with water just above the next lock (Office Lock), where we had breakfast. The time "Earnest's" large water tank takes to fill up was now being appreciated and we now try to do something else at the same time i.e. shopping, pub or meal. We wanted to get to the top of the Bingley Five Rise locks that night. We had a pleasant trip not meeting any yobs or swimmers in Newlay or Forge Three Rises. We thought all the locks this end were particularly tatty and needed a good paint up. We arrived at the bottom of the Five Rise at 5.05pm, here we met up with Andrew Hooke. Andrew was the boat fitter and he had cycled down from his van left in Skipton to spend a couple of days with us. While going up the Bingley Three Rise we met up with the first boat of the day, so they had company on the Five Rise. Barry Whitlock the famous lock keeper was not on duty and we were ushered up in a much more sedate fashion by the relief lock keeper. This was better for us because he left us more to our own devices, even letting us let some of the water down. We moored just at the top on the white wooden railings, in blustery conditions. Neil went to find a pub, but there was not one near, so we stayed in drinking the beer locker after another of Julian's well concocted meals. Julian always rises to the occasion of cooking in a cramped galley as opposed to his swish mega kitchen at Pepys Close!


Thursday 22nd July saw us leave at 8.00am after a Julian mega fry-up breakfast. Andrew was going to stay with us to just after Skipton and cycle back to his van. Julian also had to liaise with Gavin, his workmate who was going to join us at Skipton and stay to the end of this, the last lads week. Andrew was very keen and opened up most of the many swing bridges between here and Skipton. We arrived at Skipton at 1.00pm and dropped Julian and Colin off to do some shopping and meet up with Gavin at the station. Neil, Colin and Andrew went off to uncharted waters, The Springs Branch. There was no winding point on the arm so we adopted the approach of going straight up, then reversing all the way back. All went well up to the last bridge, then it became very incised with steep cliffs, on one side going up to the Castle. Beyond here it was very narrow and twisty and carved out of solid rock. Fortunately, although shallow, there did not seem to be much rubbish in the canal and we got within 4 ft of the end. At this point the bow started to rise over all the silt the Eller Beck had bought in. Reversing out was fun as due to being so shallow. Neil declared the bow thruster out of bounds. Andrew soon came into his own using the barge pole to place the bow in centre channel. At the junction we cleared the prop and reversed up the way we had arrived, so we could carry on. Julian was waiting impatiently with Gavin, we had been just over an hour! We stopped just round the corner for a late on board lunch of fish and chips from the excellent chippy on the Belmont Bridge. 2.30 saw us start off again, with the object of getting to East Marton and "The Cross Keys" pub, which is meant to be popular but has never been tried by us. Andrew left us after about an hour and we reached Gargrave bottom Lock, Holme Bridge Lock No 30 at 3.55pm. There was a fair bit of activity on the Gargrave Flight. It was most strange to see a fairly large ocean going catamaran  going the other way. Apparently the captain was from Hull yacht club and had sailed round Scotland to the Irish Sea.  Here he had injured his hand, so was taking the quick an easy way back, via the Manchester Ship Canal, Bridgewater Canal, Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Aire and Calder Navigation and River Humber. He seemed very prepared, a thick rubber sheet skirt protected both sides of the hull. He said that his keel boards could be raised and with his 4ft 6ins draught had not had any problem yet, bet he would not get far on the Grand Union Canal! We shared the rest of the Gargrave flight with another narrowboat and then caught up another one, one lock into the pretty Bank Newton Flight. Our new crew member, Gavin, was extremely keen and was soon whizzing up the over geared paddle gear. We arrived at the top at 6.20pm and the elderly couple let us out first as they were going to stop in the "wiggly bit" just before East Marton. We found the last reasonable mooring at East Marton, right next to some B.W. work boats, which of course as normal were on the best moorings! On day we will moor for the night in the lonely and remote "Wiggly bit", with superb views over the Dales. The elderly couple we had been sharing with soon came along saying that as it was a nice evening the had decided to go on. Neil directed them to the next best mooring, on the water point. Later on we went on up to "The Cross Keys", it was very disappointing and nearly empty of patrons. The restaurant side was permanently shut and the beer was on the turn (which as a shame as it was Black Seep Ale from Masham.) The landlord was friendly enough, but was a bit of a canal know-it-all, we soon put him in his place!


We started off at 8.20 am the next day, Friday 23rd July. We had to meet Linda and the kids Sunday for the change over, this was to be at the top, middle or bottom of the Wigan Flight of 21 locks. The summit, the top of the remote Greenberfield Locks was passed at 9.05am. Despite hurrying at the end we just missed the traffic lights at Foulridge Tunnel. They are on the hour West bound and on the half hour East bound. We have always found the section from Barrowford to Chorley lacking in boats as this is probably not the most scenic part of the canal. Blackburn and Burnley seem to not be used for overnight stops, and the M65 Motorway plagues the canal for this section. We have never had any trouble on this section though, in fact we have never had any thing thrown at us on any bit of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, and that includes going into Liverpool! Foulridge Tunnel, was started at 11.02am and we spent an hour going through Barrowford locks, starting at 11.30am. Eventually we stopped at 5.45pm just short of Blackburn at the not very inspiring hamlet of Rishton, just short of Rishton Bridge No 108a. While we were getting ready to go to the pub for a pint and a meal we were startled by what sounded like a minor riot going on in the cottages opposite. Gavin checked this out, only to find it was a minor family argument. Our port of call that evening was the "Roebuck", 5 minutes from the bridge. It was a modernised suburban kind of pub, but the beer was good, along with the service and food. 


The next day Saturday 24th July we started off at 8.20am, with the object of getting to Adlington the next night. We had already arranged to meet Linda at the top of the Wigan Flight at 11.00am the day after this. It was another nice day, in fact we can not remember it raining so far. Blackburn locks were started at 9.50am. Neil went ahead lock wheeling, having to cope with the now present handcuff security locks. He also took with him his trusty Sea Searcher magnet to try to find some more handcuff keys in the locks. Only two were found during a lot of lock fishing between here and Wigan. Several windlasses were found, only one being of sufficient quality or novelty value to keep. The other windlasses were kept as ammo to throw at yobs or give away to other boater's! Between locks 55 and 56 in the Blackburn Flight of 6 there is a (slow) water point, where we stopped for just over an hour to fill up. During this time Gavin went investigating, firstly he came back with teas and bacon rolls from the local cafe, then after a cash loan, a second hand hand mountain bike! For cash he had beaten down the price to 75. The bike was a recent Claude Butler model, it must have been because it has "V" brakes and looked almost new. We started off again and got to the bottom lock at 11.40am. Gavin stayed off on his new machine zooming ahead, then waiting for us to catch him up. Just after Feniscowles Bridge 93a Neil saw him actually disapear in the distance. When we got to the spot we found poor old Gavin and his bike sprawled in the side of the canal! This section has no bank protection and at this point there was a little inlet which had cut into the towpath track. We pulled right in and rescued Gavin and his bike. Gavin had a nasty graze on the side of his face and was dazed. His bike was OK and he spent a good while in the bathroom having a shower and trying to clean himself up. The wounds were extensive but not deep and he still looked pretty bad! (Gavin soon made a complete recovery.) The rural Johnson's Hill Locks followed at 2.00pm and we spent hour in the "Top Lock" pub which was very disappointing as they had no beer (well no real ale!) We had some crazy foam John Smiths and a snack here. Johnson's Hill Bottom Lock and the old stub of the Lancaster Canal junction was passed at 4.30pm and we arrived just above White Bear Marina in Adlington at 6.00pm. We went to "The White Bear" with the idea of eating and staying there the evening. It was very crowded and not doing any serious food. After a pint, Neil fancied a curry or a Chinese so we asked the barman if there were any such establishments in Adlington. He replied that the nearest was an Indian restaurant just up the road. It was just a short walk to "The British Raj" a hudge and popular Indian restaurant in an old chapel. Julian and Colin went in first hiding the scruffy Neil and injured Gavin. They did have a table and we then all marched in. It was an excellent meal in a fascinating conversion, afterwards we went back to "The White Bear" for another pint. 


The 25thJuly, the final lads half day was started at 9.05am. Wigan Top lock was reached at 10.35am and Linda an the kids arrived soon after. While Neil's Passat was being unloaded / loaded Linda phoned up Alan who lives just up the road. Gavin's new bike was disassembled and fitted in the back of  the estate. Julian had been insured to drive Neil's car back to London. Alan was dropped off soon afterwards and we said good bye to the lads. Yet another of Linda's pets has passed it's boat safety certificate, along with "Mandy" the Whippet. "Scsi" the Senegal parrot has just had her wings re-clipped an arrived in her new round cage. The changed crew started off at 11.45am. We knew we had not got enough time to get to Manchester that night, so we were to stop at Leigh or preferably Worsley. Linda, Alan and the kids stayed off for the Wigan flight along with the lock wheeling bike. This year we had a friendly lock keeper on his mountain bike, who went down the flight unlocking the paddles and setting the locks, a bit different from when Neil + family last did the Wigan Flight in 1997! Good progress was made, arriving at the Leigh Branch Junction at 2.00pm, a respectable 2 hour descent. Plank Lane Lift Bridge is the technical junction between B.W and the Manchester Ship Canal Co, Bridgewater Department. This is always keeper operated as the bridge keeper check the licenses of boats coming and going. The actual junction is the bridge in Leigh. The new crew ploughed on and we reached Worsley easily, arriving right out side the water point and sanitary station at 6.45pm. Just beyond the last bridge was a police notice demanding "That people using the towpath should keep their behavior in keeping with an area where families with children came and stayed". Yes you guessed it this was a local gay haunt, the focus being the locked public toilets and sanitary station. When Neil opened up the sanitary station to gain access to the water tap some nice young men appeared. Neil glared at them, put the connected hose under the door and slammed it shut! That evening Anna, Alan's niece was dropped off to spend a day with us.


The next day, Monday26th July we intended just to get into Manchester, stopping at the now recognised safest place of Castlefields. We can remember back to our first "Cheshire Ring" cruise in 1977, when you would not be seen dead stopping this side of the Rochdale Nine! In fact for a couple of years we stopped on Paradise Wharf, at the start of the Ashton Canal, a safe haven now denied because of the "club" barge now moored there. This is of course the no go area now! We left fairly late at 10.20am and passed the Barton Swing Aqueduct over the Ship Canal at 11.05am. Waters Meeting Junction followed at 11.45am. At 1.00pm we were moored up in our favorite spot  by the YMCA / swimming pool. After lunch Neil went on an extreme walkabout up the Rochdale Canal, getting as far as Oldham! Images from this walk along the unopened section can be seen in Canal Restoration Pages, Rochdale Canal. Neil arrived back totally knackered, just in time to have a shower before we went out to one of the numerous Chinese Restaurants in Manchester's large China Town area. 


Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Skipton, Springs Branch to right.

Start of Springs Branch, permanent moorings to left.

Springs Branch. Workman working on weir, final bridge in distance.

Springs Branch, start of final wiggly bit cut through solid rock.

Near the end, Springs Branch, Andrew on look out at front.

Springs Branch, missed the end by four foot!

Looking back from the end of the Springs Branch, Skipton Castle up on hill. 

Famous double arched Bridge 161, East Marton, Leeds and Liverpool Canal. "The Cross Keys" PH is up the road to the right.

Greenberfield Locks up to summit, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Water point between Locks No 55 & 56 Blackburn, Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Reliant Robin belongs to lock keeper!

Lock No 61 Johnson's Hill Locks, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Anna, Alan and Linda.

Unposed shot of Alan concentrating. 

Our moorings at Worsley by water point.

That famous house at Worsley, entrance to Duke of Bridgewater's mine tunnels to right.

Dry dock at Worsley.

Alan and Linda having breakfast on the poop deck!

The famous swinging trough, Barton Swing Aqueduct.

M.U.F.C. Old Trafford Stadium, Bridgewater Canal.

New bridges before Pomona Dock. Bridgewater Canal.

New tram station and track, not yet open, just before Pomona Dock. Ship Canal to left.

The replacement Pomona Lock down to the upper reaches of the Ship Canal, where we went in 1995.

The abandoned Hulme Locks down to the upper reaches of the Ship Canal.

Yet another new bridge just before Castlefields, Manchester. Bridgewater Canal.

The tour continues...


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