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The 1997 Mega Cruise

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11. New Springs to Lydiate, Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Friday 18th July we powered over to the water point, which is right on the corner of the turn into the top lock. The booked passages started at 9.00. By 8.15 we were all watered up and looking about for the arrival of the lock keeper. The bottom gates were padlocked up. At 8.30 we were surprised to watch a narrowboat, breasted up to a defunct Dawncraft Dandy come right passed us and into the lock! We shouted out to them telling them we were booked and in the queue, they were totally ignorant  and would not answer, just sitting there glaring at us! The lock keeper who had watched all this had arrived. 
We protested to him and got the same response! One thing he did rather stupidly admit, was that they were not even booked in! By this time Neil was totally pissed of and went off on the bike lock wheeling. The ignorant woman who was steering made some comment about how they were not going to follow a slow family down the  flight. We hassled them all the way down the flight, making them make a few cock ups! Once the woman really lost it and nearly removed the Dawncraft Dandy hulk they were breasted up to. Neil is glad to report that this caused a few arguments amongst their crew. No help was forthcoming from the two lock keepers on duty, they just seemed interested in helping this local pair down. The only thing the lock keeper said to Neil was to not bother doing up the L&L handcuff anti vandal locks. 
At this point Neil went back to the boat and got our L&L key with the large "T" bar just to make sure the locks were back on nice and tight! (Neil fished this out of the Wigan flight when fishing with his magnet on our 1995 passage through here.) We came out of the main flight of 21 locks at 11.40 (3 hours), which was fairly creditable considering we had the slow people in front! 
Unfortunately they were also going straight on for Liverpool, but they finally expired by Wigan pier, still glaring at us when we passed! Although we did not have a family argument over this, this incident ranks as one of the three worst we have experienced in 28 years of canal cruising. We soon cheered up as we were finally on a new bit of canal, something that was getting rare. It had developed into a hot sultry day, but onwards we motored having to get to Lydiate that night. The day before when Neil had booked the Wigan Flight with the Wigan B.W. waterway office he also booked the anti vandal and swing bridge opening team to get us into and out of Liverpool. 
Apparently this service is available any day with notice, but is guaranteed for a passage to Liverpool on Saturday with a return on Sunday.
(1999, this service has been discontinued on Saturday and Sunday, but is available weekdays if booked with Wigan depot.) All you had to do was to be just above Bell's Swing bridge No16, by the "Running Horses" pub at 8.30 and a B.W. team in a van would sort you out! Neil began to wonder what this service would be like, considering the welcome we had at the Wigan Flight! 
After Crooke you break free of the Wigan conurbation and this little used part of the main line becomes very pleasant, following the River Douglas valley. Just above Dean Locks the railway and M6 bridges become very obtrusive, but the locks themselves are a real gem. Here the locks are doubled up and we met up with another narrowboat. We took turns from here on opening up the swing bridges and shared the deep Appley Lock No91. Here the single deep lock is paralleled by a pair of shallower locks. 
These appeared in fair order, but were out of commission at the moment. The approach channel to these locks makes a pleasant mooring spot. Some of the electric swing bridges were a bit erratic and we needed some technical encouragement from the local crew of the other narrowboat. We passed the junction with the Rufford Branch, which carries on beside the River Douglas, still in convoy with the other boat. We finally left them at Scarisbrick bridge No27A. We said goodbye, but were surprised to hear them say that they had never been nearer Liverpool than this! 
The landscape from this point on flattens out into a flat plain, the main features being bridges, but at least most of them had a pub close by. It was a fine evening and we finally made Lydiate at 19.05. That night we ate in, so did not investigate the "Running Horses" pub.


"Beatty" just coming out of Wigan Top Lock. Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Wigan Flight, half way down, looking back up.

Wigan Flight, half way down, looking down.

"Wigan Pier". Trencherfield Mill in distance, canal swings under bridge in front of it. "Orwell" pub to left. On the way back.

Pagefield Lock No 88. Leeds and Liverpool Canal, main line to Liverpool.

Pagefield lock No88. Note remains of old doubled lock to left hand side. These abandoned ones were the old 60ft locks, all the new ones are70ft.

Gathurst Bridge No46. "Navigation Inn" to left.

Railway bridge and M6 Viaduct, just above Dean Locks No90.

Dean Locks No90. We have caught up with some other people going down in the other lock. We are in the short (60ft) lock.

Fisher's Swing Bridge No45. (left open)

The single deep 70ft Appley Lock No91, with a pair of shallower 60ft locks beside. (Out of commission 1997.) Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Appley Lock. Waiting for the other boat we shared with for most of the afternoon. (The name escapes Neil, but is the one with a picture of a BSA Bantam motorbike on the side!)

The old shop, Bridge No37 and windmill at Parbold.

Glover's Swing bridge No33, just before junction with the Rufford Branch. We continue to alternate bridge opening duties. Leeds and Liverpool Canal, mainline to Liverpool. 

Burscough, Junction Bridge with Rufford Arm. Alan informs us that it is pronounced "busker"!

Looking under Junction Bridge at The Lathom Locks, the top of the Rufford Branch.

Burscough, looking back.

Burscough Bridge. All B.W. services to right.

The "Lathom Slipway" pub, by Swing Bridge No32.  Alan gets stuck into another of these heavy bridges.

Swing Bridge No 31. "Farmers Arms" pub close by.

Heaton's Bridge, with yet another pub, "The Heaton Bridge".

Mersey Motor Boat Club moorings and clubhouse, just above Scarisbrick Bridge No27A.

Halsall Warehouse bridge No25. Popular boater's pub "The Saracen's Head" by the bridge.

One of the only features on this section, the Halsall Cutting. This is cut through solid sandstone, which was used as a source of stone for the bridges.

The tour continues...


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