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The 1997 Mega Cruise

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13. Liverpool to Marple. Leeds and Liverpool Inc. Rufford Branch, Bridgewater, Rochdale, Ashton and Lower Peak Forest Canals. Inc. Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Stalybridge Basin.

Sunday 20th July saw us up and breakfasted for the 8.30 start. Exactly on time the B.W. team waved to us and off we went. The other couple had left as they were leaving their boat in the basin for a few weeks. It was yet another fine day and many people were out walking. The only strange thing we saw was a father teaching his young son how to shoot his air rife. Fortunately narrowboats were not on the hit list today, just floating rubbish. We made much better progress as we were not constantly waiting at swing bridges for the other boat to catch us up. All went well, the bridges opening with clockwork precision in front of us. At Bell's Swing Bridge 16 in Lydiate we said our good byes and thanked the B.W. team who seemed genuinely pleased that we had availed ourselves of this excellent service. They said it was much better today as we went at a nice reasonably fast constant speed which made it easy for them to judge where we were. They said did we have any thing to report back about weed or objects in the canal? Neil replied that the surface weed did not affect "Beatty" much at the speed we went at and no rubbish was hit. 
We ploughed on, with the aim of getting onto the Rufford branch tonight, preferably near a pub or restaurant that was doing food. We have found from experience that not many pubs do food on Sunday evenings as they tend to do traditional Sunday lunches. No traffic was met all the way to Burscough Bridge. The junction with the Rufford Branch was made at 15.30 and we were soon stuck into the Lathom Locks. The second of the Lathom Locks had been turned into a seething beer garden for the "Ship Lathom" pub. There were so many beer glasses discarded round the lock we had to be careful not to tread on them. All the drinkers were good natured, with many getting involved in conversation. They were mainly interested in why a crew and boat from London had a local crew member! (Alan denied being local to this area!) The weather had throughout the afternoon been getting very close, a thunder storm was imminent! 
Neil had gone ahead on the bike lock wheeling and at German's Lock No5 torrential rain and hail erupted. We all got soaked going through the lock, though Neil did manage to keep out it for some of the time, sheltering under the overbridge at the bottom of the lock. The storm soon passed and Linda phoned around any of the nearby pubs and none were found to be doing food. Eventually she managed to book a table at "The Rufford Arms", a restaurant on the A59, close to Spark Bridge No8A. The section through Rufford was wooded and attractive, just below Chapel Bridge No7 there are some good visitor moorings, handy for the town or visiting Rufford Old Hall, a N.T. property which is just by the canal. Below Rufford the landscape becomes very flat. By 17.50 we were moored on a nice deep piled mooring, just before Spark Bridge. The meal in "The Rufford Arms" turned out to be excellent.


Monday 21st July we set off at 8.10. Just above Strand Bridge No10 there is the remains of the old sea lock, which is now gateless and the canal passes straight through. The scenery below dramatically changes, for this used to be the old tidal course of the River Douglas. From just below Rufford the River Douglas has been rerouted in a straight drain with high embankments. From this point you could believe you were still on a river. Below Bank Bridge No11 the River Douglas takes back its tidal course and the canal continues again on the west bank. Town End Swing Bridge No12 is the nearest you get to the town of Tarleton. Just below were some brand new visitor moorings, which were about mile away from the centre of town. Soon after the ramshackle boatyard of James Maylor is reached. 
We managed to wind "Beatty" amongst all the strange varieties of craft here and then went astern to the tidal entrance lock. We arrived here at 9.15 and ate our fry-up breakfast, Neil also took a fair bit of video. One day we will go through here on to the tidal River Douglas and Ribble, to connect with the projected Savick Brook connection up to the Lancaster Canal. At 9.35 off we went, back up the Rufford Branch, stopping at the junction for water at 12.55. We had lunch while the tank was filling, eventually starting off again back to Wigan at 13.45. It was another fine day with no traffic. We stopped at Parbold to pick up Alan's Niece, Anna and his nephew Adam. The two new crew member's were very keen and soon got the hang of working the deep Appley Lock. 
That night we stopped at 19.05, in Wigan between Locks No87 and 86. Here Anna and Adam were picked up and the rest of us went into town for food. We did not believe Alan when he said there were no restaurant's in the centre of Wigan! Obviously Alan was right, all we found was a Mc Donald's which was closed due to a fryer fire and a Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was Hobson's choice, but at least the K.F.C. was a sit down one and the food was OK. We arrived back at the boat fairly early and had to open every thing up as it was another sultry night. Our mooring was next to a park, later on this became noisy with kids drinking and smashing bottles, but at least they left us alone.


Tuesday 22nd July departure time was 8.50, our destination that night was Castlefields in Manchester. We soon arrived at the junction with the Leigh Branch, which we went up at 9.05. The Poolstock Two Locks were exited at 9.30. Owing to all the mining subsidence beyond here these locks are a recent re-sighting of the two Dover Locks at Abram. Beyond the Poolstock Locks the canal has been built up on an embankment as the ground subsided. The great flashes left below have been tidied up and turned into sailing lakes and nature reserves. 
The gate less chambers of the Dover Locks were passed at 10.15, there is a pub here "The Dover Lock Inn", which celebrates their one time existence. We had to wait for the Plank Lane Lift Bridge for 5 minutes as the road traffic was heavy. This large electric affair has never been converted to boater operation as it is the new toll / license check point between the Bridgewater Department of the Manchester Ship Canal Co and British Waterways. The friendly keeper soon waived us through quickly jotting down the registration number and the license disc serial number. At 10.45 we were off again. A handy Kwik-Save supermarket stop was taken just above Leigh Bridge No66, which is the official boundary between B.W. and The Bridgewater Canal. 
This was for just 30 minutes. Just after Boothsall Bridge No54 is a new marina in an old lagoon where old working boats were dumped, this we saw being constructed when we passed here last in 1995. There is a new Wacky Warehouse pub / restaurant here, "The Moorings". Just after here the Water started to turn the characteristic Worsley orange colour. Worsley was soon behind us and the spectacular Barton Swing Aqueduct was passed over at 13.50. Just beyond in a canal side park an Austin Maestro had been dumped and a band of yobs wee gleefully smashing it up. 
Onwards we whizzed for the Bridgewater is deep and wide, turning left at Waters Meeting Junction at 14.35. Castlefields was reached at 15.20. Since the Northern basins have been restored we have always used these when mooring in Castlefields as we think they are more secure. We reversed up to the end of one of the two Kenworthy Arms after filling with water from the slow water point by the bridge. Alan and Neil were soon off on a walk about straight up the Rochdale Canal to Miles Platting, with Neil doing much video of the un-restored part of the canal. 
That night we went into the large China Town of Manchester and went to very good and well known, "Little Ying Sang" Chinese Restaurant. After we got back Neil and Linda rather bizarrely decided to go on a tram ride to Altincham and back! Yet another hot and sultry night followed and again "Beatty's" side hatch was on the towpath side, so we could not leave it open all night, owe for a hatch the other side as well!


Wednesday 23rd July we set off up the Rochdale Nine at 7.55. It is only the top lock at Duice Street that is locked, the key being available from the Rochdale Canal Office or car park hut from 9.00. When going up, this means you can get an hours head start heading into Ashton Canal bandit country. Normally you pay your exorbitant 29 charge when you get the key or more likely when you get caught by the roving lock keeper who lives in the little house on the bridge above Chorlton Lock No86. It was yet another fine morning, already hot where not in the shadows. 
Above Princess Street Lock No87, deep in the large gay centre of Manchester was the ridiculously low footbridge and the alfresco seating in a large moored barge, for one of the pubs. The newly opened out basin by the new Concert Hall could be seen above Tib Lock No89. This supposedly has visitor moorings in it, but they are probably impossible to organise. As is now usual there were some funny things happening in the subterranean vaults by the underground Piccadilly Lock No85. This was either drug dealing or gay goings on, the other side of the security fences now erected to cut off the dark corners under the office block. Dale Street Lock No84 was padlocked and we then had to get the key from the car park and get caught for our fee. We carried on at 9.15, doing the dog leg curve off the Rochdale Canal, under Duice Street Bridge and onto the Ashton Canal. 
We were soon at the bottom of the Ancoats Three locks and met the wandering B.W. lock keeper. He said that they were not doing patrolled passages as such this year, but he would look out for us further up the Claydon Flight. We were soon stuck into the Beswick and Claydon Flights of locks, Neil going ahead on the bike opening up the anti vandal straps on the paddle gear and setting the locks. There were quite a few kids about swimming and messing about in blow up boats. They were only interested in whether we were going to fill up the locks for them, which as we were going up would automatically be the case. At Lock 13 there used to be an old swing bridge across the lock (we can remember using it in 1990) and there is still a pipe bridge across the lock. 
There was a lot of kid (and adult) activity as the "Strawberry Duck" pub is beside the lock. Kids were jumping off the pipes into the lock, Neil gave them one warning when setting the lock and then carried on as if they were not there. They of course carried on jumping in, even when the boat was coming up in the lock. There was the normal requests for trips on the boat (which rather annoyingly for a hot day had to have all the doors shut) but we politely told them we could not as we have not got insurance for passengers, which is our normal excuse. After this a minor civil war broke out much to the enjoyment of the adults, as two kids had a fight, ending up with one kid puncturing the blow up boat the other was in, with a large knife! After this we had a quick escape up the rest of the flight, which was quiet and trouble free. 
We came out of Fairfield Top Lock No18 at 12.30 and zoomed off in the direction of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. At 13.15 we arrived at Dukinfield Junction, the burnt out warehouse over Portland Basin had been completely removed as the start of rebuilding it as a new steel framed structure was well under way. At Dukinfield Junction we proceeded up the small open section of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Stalybridge. Soon we passing under a new tunnel created by a new ASDA supermarket being built over the canal. We found it fairly easy going until we got to the first of the three restored locks. We locked up OK, but then found the water level rather low. 
We struggled on without letting any more water down until we got stuck in the narrow cutting beyond, that used to be a tunnel. Part of the trouble was a couple of Tesco trolleys, which we soon got out, but still we were stuck. Neil went ahead on the bike to find that the "top" pound containing the new Stalybridge Basin had a reasonable depth of water in it. Neil let water down so that "Beatty" just floated out of "The Tunnel" and then judged that we would still just have enough to get into the basin and get back. 
We let just enough water down to rattle our way through the next pound, which fortunately did not have any large objects in it as it has recently been dredged. Finally at 15.45 we moored in the basin after a rattley winding session. We felt a bit bad, because a friendly old fisherman was so interested in talking to a rare boater presence, that he fell in! Linda helped him dry out, while Alan and Neil went to investigate the old route of the canal through the town. The route is so built upon by a factory, leisure centre and a new bus station that it will be impossible to restore the canal through here. A new route is proposed which necessitates locking down again to the River Tame, canalising this and the locking back up the the old course. 
This will prove the biggest headache in restoring the canal. (1999, The Delta Cables Factory has closed, the leisure centre is being resited and the canal is going straight through the centre of town as a new feature!) 
We did not want to hang around as there did not seem to be much water coming out of the pipe in the walled up old next bridge, which was all that was feeding this canal! Off we pushed at 16.40. The locks had all been left filled and as the bottom gates did surprisingly not leak much, we left the top gates open. There was not going to be any other boat movements up here today. The uppermost locks No2W and 3W both had their bottom gates operated by rams and a manual windlass powered  pump unit. This was because the factory access bridge at the tail of the lock had been widened in both cases. Lock No3W was passed through OK and we drew a bit more water off the "summit" pound to make our return passage easier. At Lock No2W disaster struck as we were opening the lower gates to exit. 
The hydraulic pump box had a spline each side to put your windlass on, one side rotated uselessly as it was not connected to anything. Yes you guessed it, upon half opening the stiff gates the other one also sheared off! We were not going to get stranded here all night so thought it pointless to phone B.W. Neil took the law into his own hands and got out our trusty porto power 4ton hydraulic ram set he had over from his motor trade days. Neil and Alan tried jacking the gates apart, hoping the force would be enough to make the relief valves open, and open the gates. This did not occur, so "Beatty's" extensive toolkit was got out and we removed the hydraulic rams from their mounting on the gates. The porto power then soon jacked the gates open. 
We could not get the gates shut again to put the rams back, so phoned B.W. to tell them it was not vandalism and what we had done to free our selves. B.W. certainly thought we were enterprising. We securely put all the mounting nuts and bolts back on the end of the rams, let a bit more water down, then made a hasty exit! Dukinfield junction was made at 17.45, which considering the problems was not too bad. Obviously we wanted to get near the friendlier and more familiar surroundings of Marple that night, so we carried on until 19.40. Our mooring for the night was just before Hyde Bank Tunnel No15. We found a quiet spot overlooking the River Goyt Valley, which was deep and against piling. Linda had been preparing the meal, so we sat straight down to eat.


Looking down from Lathom Top Lock No1. It is a hot and sticky day, gongoozlers are overspill from "The Ship Lathom" pub. Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Looking back from the top lock at the junction bridge. Sanitary station / water point to right. Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Looking down from Lathom Lock No2.

Looking up at the second Lathom Lock. The excellent "The Ship Lathom" pub is in the terraced row to the left.

Looking down from Runnel Brow Bridge No2 at Runnel Brow Lock No3. Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Looking up from Runnel Brow Bridge No2.

Minimalist ground clough at Runnel Brow Lock No3. Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

The railway bridge No 2A. Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

The thunder storm finally broke at Baldwins lock No4. Neil is sheltering under the bridge!

Rufford Lock No7. There are some good visitor moorings for the village and Rufford Old Hall (N.T.) just below the next bridge. Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Town Meadow Swing bridge No8, just below Rufford. (On the way back)

The white building is the excellent "Rufford Arms" restaurant. Spark Bridge No8A is in the distance. Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Strand Bridge No10 and remains of old lock on to the river beyond. (On the way back.) 

The ex-River Douglas section below Strand bridge. Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Town End Swing Bridge No12, Tarleton. There are new visitor moorings above and below here.

Looking back at Town End Swing Bridge from an abandoned flood lock. Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

James Mayor's boat yard and Tarleton tidal River Douglas Lock.

The boat yard from Tarleton Lock.

Tarleton Tidal River Lock No8. Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Alan, Adam, Anna and Wendy try out Appley Lock No91. Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Anna seems exceptionally keen! Appley Lock No91. Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Upper Poolstock Lock, just outside of Wigan, at the top of the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Lower Poolstock Lock. The concrete chamber shows it is of recent construction.

Scotsman's Flash, just below the Poolstock Locks. Formed due to severe mining subsidence in this area.

B.W. hard at work, piling and dredging.

The two Dover Locks, now straight through and gateless. These have been replaced by the two Poolstock Locks due to the mining subsidence in the last section.

Looking back at the "Dover Lock Inn" pub and defunct locks.

The still keeper controlled Plank Lane lift Bridge No8. This is the license checking point between B.W. and the Bridge water Canal.

Leigh Bridge, Leigh. This is the actual boundary between B.W. and the Bridge water Canal. notice the first of the characteristic Bridgewater stop plank cranes.

M.S.C.C. work flat. Blokes are hard at work tea drinking!

M 62 Motorway bridge just before Worsley, Bridge water Canal, Leigh Branch. Start of tell tale orange water section.

Worsley. The Delph and mine tunnels are through the low bridge. This is the source of the iron stained water.

Looking back at the Delph, Worsley. Alan in command.

Aqueduct over Barton Lane, just before Barton Swing Aqueduct.

Barton Swing Aqueduct.

Control tower for Barton Swing Aqueduct and Barton Road Swing Bridge.

Looking up the Manchester Ship Canal from the Aqueduct. The green hulled ship is Arklow Villa, a bulk grain carrier at the Cerestar Wharf. 

Smelly factory, which claimed by many notices that it was non-hazardous! Bridgewater Canal, main line approaching Manchester.

Cleared dock land at Pomona. The Ship Canal is just to the left. Road bridge is over the new Pomona link Lock.

Approaching Castlefields, Manchester. Bridgewater Canal. The first railway bridge is in the Manchester Tram colours as it now forms part of the route to Altincham.

Castlefields. New bridge and new Egerton Narrowboats base.

Castlefields.

Castlefields. Yet another new footbridge. The warehouse just behind the bridge has been restored from the half collapsed ruin we remember from the 1970's. Castle quay is just beyond this warehouse. This was the first safe place to moor in Castlefields, but we now favour the Kenworthy Arm, which is the other side underneath the Railway bridges.

Castlefields. Evening shot of our mooring in the Kenworthy Arm.

Castlefields. Peter and Wendy, impatiently waiting for a Chinese meal.

Castlefields at night. Looking back at the Kenworthy Arm from the arena. Swimming Pool and Hotel in distance.

Castlefields. Our early sunny morning departure. Building work to the right is a new Y.M.C.A.

Castlefields. Looking back as we depart Kenworthy Arm. Hidden water point is just to the left.

Rochdale Canal, the Rochdale Nine Locks. Just entering the bottom Dukes Lock No92.

Rochdale Nine. "Beatty" coming up in Dukes Lock No92.

Rochdale Nine. Looking back at Tib Lock No89.

Rochdale Nine. Looking up the uncovered arm beside the new Concert Hall. Just above Lock No89.

Rochdale Nine Locks. Looking up at Oxford Road Bridge. Oxford Road Lock No88 is just beyond.

Rochdale Nine Locks. The gay centre of Manchester. The contentious low footbridge and pub barge just above Princess Street Lock No87.

Rochdale Nine Locks. The subterranean Piccadilly Lock No85. The security fenced to the side of the towpath have not stopped the funny goings on

Dale Street Lock No84, the last of the Rochdale Nine Locks. Having just paid and got the key Peter lifts one paddle, but it appears the water flowing over the top gate has nearly beaten him to it. Ashton Canal is to the right. One day we will go straight on!

Ashton Canal. Upper Ancoats Lock. Old hospital to right, which vandals kept flooding, is now boarded up.

Dukinfield Junction. Huddersfield Narrow Canal straight on, Lower Peak Forest canal is to right under bridge.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal, Ashton-Under-Lyne. Start of our trip up the first three restored Huddersfield Narrow Locks to the new Stalybridge Basin.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal, going up to Stalybridge Basin. The new ASDA supermarket Tunnel. Will it ever get lights and a towpath?

Huddersfield Narrow Canal, Lock1W (locks up to summit from west are numbered W and from east, E. Garden centre seems to have take over the lock side.

"The Tunnel" after Lock1W. Now mostly opened out. This was the shallowest section.

In "The tunnel". At this point "Beatty" ground to a halt until we removed the supermarket trolleys and let some water down.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal going up to Stalybridge Basin. Approaching Lock No2W. Pennines in the distance.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Leaving Lock No3W. We are now on the final pound, with Stalybridge basin at the end. Note the level, will we make it?

The little cast iron aqueduct over the River Tame.

Made it! Stalybridge Basin , after winding. Even with the level down, we still managed to find one mooring spot where we floated. Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

Lower Peak Forest Canal, Hyde. Warble Wharf, where some very expensive narrowboats have been built.

Wendy helping Linda prepare the evening meal.

The tour continues...


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