Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Salthouse Dock, Liverpool

Today's Canals - Leeds and Liverpool, Liverpool Link

Although we did not have to be at Stanley Dock Locks until 1pm, we set off in good time as we needed to stop at Litherland for the services. It was a grey and blustery day. As a result we do not have particularly good pictures to show!

The road bridge at Litherland has had a varied history. Originally it was a swing bridge but as traffic grew an unusual lift bridge - the deck was lifted straight up - was here for a while along with a less than pretty footbridge. The lift bridge was demolished following the construction of the modern concrete road bridge but finally the swing bridge was re-instated for pedestrians.c

The handcuff key anti vandal chain that we had to unlock in 2019 has recently been replaced by a chain with two locks, one of which can be opened with a Watermate key. (The new instruction board is again out of date!)

We do not often complain about canal facilities but it has to be dais that the services here were perhaps in about the worst condition we have encountered and a serious health risk.

Litherland Road Bridge (not to be confused with Litherland Bridge mentioned just above!) is in Bootle and was obviously a proud corporation project when completed in 1888. It seems from looking at old maps that 30 years previously this area was open countryside but the rapid expansion of the docks and other industries led to large areas of terraced housing and by the 1880's this was now very much part of the Liverpool conurbation.

The 16 storey Irlam House apartment block was built in 1985 to provide 1 and 2 bed accommodation for  elderly people. It gradually became surplus to requirements, the remaining 100m tenants were decanted in 2018 and the building was sold in 2020 to a healthcare developer who gained planning permission to refurbish and re-clad it to a high standard. It was expected that the work would be complete in late 2020. It is obvious that the project has not happened and the sheeting which covered it to prevent falling masonry hitting people had been reduced to shreds. We have not found anything more up-to-date about its future so perhaps a plan to demolish it might be back on the cards.

This former loading wharf was used to transfer night soil from local outside toilets onto barges to be taken out to the countryside and spread on the land to create arable farming (see).

Just before the next bridge we were flagged down by a police diving supervisor on the towpath and 'asked' to wait for about 15 minutes as there was a dive team in the water. On schedule we were let through as the team were packing up.

This apartment block was created from a former tobacco factory - a significant industry in this part of Liverpool.

We arrived at the rendezvous above Stanley Dock Locks by 11:45 and found another boat, that had stayed overnight in Eldonian Basin, already in the lock. The lock keeper Sid and volunteer crew were not yet here so we had to wait until instructed further.

In fact they were ready to let us down by 12:15 but as they started to drain the lock a tiny, but noisy, duckling was spotted trapped by the top gates so they quickly re-filled and let it out to re-join its family!

Once down the flight - thanks to the volunteers we did this very quickly - we were went out into the first dock. On one side is the huge former Tobacco Warehouse built in 1910. (see here for some fascinating history of Stanley Dock) It seems that phase one is complete and ready for occupation but that must be a part not facing onto the dock.

By now we were very much aware that the wind had strengthened and we wondered what it would be like out on the open water of the docks. We would soon find out!

The prominent Victoria Tower once provided time to ships and dock workers - a clock on each face. Alas, they have not been preserved in working condition.

Next followed Sid's Ditch. Named after Sid the lock keeper who was in charge today, as he was on the first boat through when it was dug out. That dock had been filled with tons of Corporation waste but was the only part of the Link that had to be excavated until the tunnels beyond Princes Lock. This bridge was under construction at the time of our last visit and now, we believe, provides access to a new terminal for the Isle of Man Ferry which is under construction.

The wind was making itself felt and it was all that we could do to steer the tiller in the right direction. we arrived first of our pair at Princes Lock which had been left full but with the gates closed. Christine went ashore on the pontoon to open one gate. Mike indicated to the other boat to hold back as the pontoon is way too short for two!. Once he had brought Alchemy into the lock and behind the closed gate, Black Swan could follow in. The lock is only a short fall. We then entered the three tunnels that enable the Link to find its way under several substantial new buildings including the Mersey Ferry terminal and the Liverpool Museum.

We emerged just before the Main island Lock. Despite only having a nominal fall of a few inches it took longer than Princes Lock to empty as water was coming over the top of the gates!

Once through we did the 'left, left, right, right; to enter Salthouse Dock. By now we were a tad apprehensive as we did not have a boat ahead to give us any idea of the effect of the wind and we did want to moor stern in. We went forward close enough to check out the pontoon number - we had counted correctly from the map in the Skippers Guide from CaRT - so made sure that we were suitably upwind (buy only just it turned out) before turning sharply and reversing in to the space. The good news is that these pontoons are much more widely spaced than in a typical marina where the manoeuvre would have much more difficult in this wind.

Relieved to be safely tied up we connected up to the tap and thankfully had a (very) late lunch. Later we connected to the electricity and checked out that we were in supply. 

Around half past four we felt ready to take at least a short stroll down to the riverside. On the way through the link we had seen a large cruise ship, Celebrity Silhouette and we now heard a long blast on its horn to indicate that it was departing. By the time we could see it, it was well into its turning manoeuvre, helped by a single tug. It then set off to its next destination which we believe in in Ireland. This vessel can carry up to`2886 passengers, served by 1500 crew.

This area of the docks is a great place just to wander as at almost every turn there is something of at least passing interest. For example, this sculpture is a memorial to the Carters Horses who at one moved much of the goods around the docks.

Two of the graving docks are the permanent home for historic ships, including De Wadden, a three masted schooner built in 1917 which retired in 1984.

Quite different is this bright sculpture called Liverpool Mountain by the artist Ugo Rondinone which draws on the very ancient tradition of stacking rocks in seemingly impossible arrangements.

We then walked around Albert Dock, now very much the focus of the dockland regeneration and a magnet for tourists (judging by the goods sold in the many small shops!)

Just one example from a sweet shop that specialises in its huge range of jelly beans in many more colours than several rainbows. To demonstrate their range they pay homage to four Liverpudlians who still do much to attract visitors to the city in a display of over 15,000 beans!


7.7 Miles - 6 Locks

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Rimrose Country Park

Today's Canal - Leeds and Liverpool

As expected, the day began very overcast and before we set off there was a period of rain, sometimes heavy, mainly drizzly.

If we had still been on our overnight mooring, you could just make us out in the far distance - but we weren't so you can't!

We passed under the first of two motorways this morning - this one the M58 and the next one the M57. About a mile further on they converge before funnelling all their traffic into the main roads in to the centre of Liverpool.

We were so intent on working out which motorway was which that Mike completely missed seeing the remains of a former swing bridge. Alas this meant that he did not miss the abutments - just.

Then comes Holmes Swing Bridge which is manually operated. Back in 2013, we showed a picture of the unusual double locked bridge release mechanism. This required the use of both the anti-vandal (handcuff) key as well as the standard Watermate key. The bright new blue instructions board describe quite correctly how this worked.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the sign maker that the lock has been change back to a more conventional design and almost all of the steps listed are now wrong, including the direction in which to turn the Watermate key!

There is little remarkable about this picture of a newish housing estate just before Ledsons Bridge. Were in not for random Googling and studying old OS maps, we would have taken no notice at all.

However, where this apartment block now stands was once an important pottery - The Midland Pottery - which produced what became known as the Melling Jug. (It seems that the origin of the pottery name is not known) It was founded in 1872 by two gentlemen from an existing pottery in Scotland who brought skilled workers down with them. For many years it was managed by Edward Service who became an important figure in the local community.

He died in 1915 and by 1922 the pottery was bought be the Hartley Jam business who had a major factory in Aintree. They wanted to use it to produce the pottery jars which became the hallmark of their jams. Production of  Melling Jugs ceased almost immediately. Unfortunately there was a disastrous fire in 1929 which destroyed almost all of the works which were never re-built. As far as we can see, the site remained waste ground until it was bought by developers and this housing estate was the outcome. (Details from here and here)

Handcock's Bridge is known for the amount of traffic it carries as a vital communication route. As a result there have for some time been restrictions on the use of the bridge at peak rush hours (7.30 - 9.30 and 2 - 6) This was one of the reasons (as if we needed any) for not making an early start today. The bridge is much faster in operation that the busy one yesterday but even so we held up at least 35 vehicles by the time it was re-opened.

We also noticed a new sign indicating that delays may be made at non-peak times. We had not heard about this before but we were not subjected to any and the warning lights (wig-wags) started as soon as Christine pushed the Open button.

Just after the bridge we started to pass the famous Aintree racecourse. But first this section which looks nothing special, just scrub land. In fact, again from old maps, there used to be a very large set of sidings which have long since been taken up, although the main line they linked to is still in use. Just beyond the sidings were several significant institutions, a Poor Law Union workhouse, a Model Village of Cottages - essentially a Children's Home,  and two isolation hospitals. The larger site remains a hospital today.

The owners of the racecourse seem very determined to make sure that towpath and canal users cannot get free views of the proceedings on race days. These are two of the very few glimpses - further on the a very solid wall is even more opaque!

We managed to pass this very wide beam boat, just avoiding touching either it or entangling in the reeds and weed on the opposite bank. We really did not know what would happen if another boat of the same dimensions came along, especially if both were moving. (Not sure how often this is an experience for this boat)

When we came here in 2019 we noticed that at Bridge 6, the last swing bridge for today, a new landing had been constructed on the off side to make it easier for single handers, as the operating mechanism was located there. Mike, thinking that he would be clever, dropped Christine off on what was beginning to look a rather neglected landing. We soon discovered why as Christine could not get out through a locked gate and, in any case, a new control pedestal has been installed on the towpath side!

We continued a little further until lunch time and moored alongside the Rimrose Country Park. We found before that this is one of the last quiet and more secluded places before the start of the Liverpool Link - which we are scheduled to tackle tomorrow. There followed a rather lazy afternoon although Mike did check the prop and discovered a quantity of rubbish, mainly plastic, that needed to be removed. Christine then demanded, nay insisted, that he tidy his toolbox which was much in need!

6.5 Miles - 0 Locks

Monday, 4 July 2022


Today's Canal - Leeds and Liverpool

Our schedule for the run into Liverpool has to take into account suitable mooring places. Although almost all is no longer the treacherous cruising that it was back when we first came here over 50 years ago, it is still sensible to be careful, just as on any canal. Also, we need to take into account the possible direction for a tv signal, even though nowadays we have the alternative of streaming services via a mobile phone - but that of course requires a decent signal and it is surprising how many rural areas are 'not spots'.

The outcome of the above considerations is that we are only going a few miles today, ending up at a spot we have used several times before on the southern edge of Maghull. 

Hence we did not set off until a quarter to eleven! The morning was chilly, windy and very overcast. At one point it also threaten to rain but fortunately nothing came of it.

We have heard reports of The Wool Boat but never come across it until today. However, we were not looking for supplies so just passed carefully by.

There are four swing bridges on the way through Lydiate/Maghull and each of them is different. Christine went to operate the first one as she thought that it was mechanised. Having pushed the start button the barriers came down ans she waited but nothing more happened. Queues of traffic either side so she re-opened the barriers to let them through whilst she worked out what to do. As they were sorting themselves out she re-read the instructions and discovered in small print the instruction 'and then open the bridge by hand'. Fortunately it did not take much effort. 

The next lock proved to be fully mechanised - much easier. However, the strong wind made it difficult to hover and in the process of waiting for Christine to close the bridge Mike forgot to take a picture!
We stopped for lunch just before Bridge 14A as we thought that this was the best access for the small shops in Central Square as well as Morrisons. We locked up and set off only to discovered that there was no way out at this bridge despite reading our map as indicating an exit point. Still, it was not far to the next bridge, which is closer to the supermarket. As a result we did all our shopping here.

At the entrance to the store car park was this sculpture. There was no explanatory board but the inside of the frame work is gradually being filled with plastic bottles tops!

When we set off after lunch - now back to pleasant sunshine - Mike walked ahead to the swing bridge as we knew that this one is just a footbridge and wholly manual. having wrestled with the anti-vandal lock, it was then very easy to open and close.

The final bridge, perhaps the busiest of them all, was fully mechanised. However, Christine found that she could not turn the key in the lock - reminiscent of 2019 when several boats had to wait here for CaRT to come and reset the system! Mike was summoned and after 'jiggling' (a canal technical term!) the key finally unlocked the bridge. He waited while a queue from either side passed over until he pushed the button to start the barriers - the traffic was pretty constant. Two cars, no doubt aware of the length of the delay, jumped the lights and the second was very lucky not to have the barrier crash down on top of it. In fact this was also by far the slowest we have come across in a while and several cars and vans turned around to find an alternative route. Short cut it may be but not if the bridge opens.

Not much further and we arrived at our planned mooring. Since the forecast is for another day like the last three - dull in the morning and sunny in the afternoon - we included a shot of the mooring now rather leave it until tomorrow. On the right is a row of very neatly kept old persons' bungalows (can we still use that term?) - they have a pleasant area to catch the afternoon sun - and on the other side is a large playing field.

3.4 Miles - 0 Locks

Sunday, 3 July 2022

Coxhead Swing Bridge

Today's Canal - Leeds and Liverpool

The morning was grey but as we set out to walk the road to the church in the centre of the village of Halsall, there was the faintest hint of dampness in the air. Fortunately we arrived there quite dry (and the same on the return walk)

The church is a substantial building capable of seating well over 300 people! There was a positive welcome - lots of people were on the look out for visitors and the vicar came and spoke to su briefly before the start. There  were around 25 people. The service was a mind of BCP liturgy but following a slightly modern adaptation. The vicar preached a very well constructed sermon and was lively and challenging.

There are various interesting features - not all of which could we found out much information and in some cases the local poeeprl hard hardly noticed them! The space where the lectern now is looks as if it had a different purpose originally but we have not seen anything about it.

The pulpit still has a large egg timer. Although we were aware that these used to be commonplace in times past this is the first remaining one that we have seen. However, it was not used today!

We noticed one stained glass window and remarked that the children's' dress style was reminiscent of our own childhood. A closer look told us that the window is memory of Richard and Ellen Shawe who died in 1953 - but there were no further details.

The village has an annual scarecrow competition which was held mid June this year. Some of the entries were still on show. This one looked a well  crafted display - unsurprisingly, most had a Jubilee theme - two scarecrows for the price of one.

This garden went better by having twenty scarecrows - was this a record?

Back at the boat we had a slow coffee break and eventually set off about midday - we are pacing ourselves as we have a booking for the Liverpool Link into Salthouse Dock on Wednesday - only about a day and half cruising.

At the first bridge there is a memorial to the navvies that built the canal. The reason for the cars was that there was a popular fishing competition on the stretch between this and the next bridge.

A little later is where the official ceremony marking the start of construction of the Leeds and Liverpool was held.

We only cruised for about 45 minutes before mooring up for lunch. (Hammering in mooring pins which are needed all along here even at designated visitor moorings, is hard work here and Mike needs time to recover afterwards!)

We prepared most of the evening meal before setting off again for the next short hop. By now the weather was very different and we enjoyed the sunshine for the rest of the day.

When we came here last, Coxhead Swing Bridge was just coming to the end of a difficult period during which it was vandalised several times. We had been prepared for a delay but were delighted that the repair had been competed a day or so earlier and we passed through without a problem. Today there was no sign of these past difficulties. We  moored just beyond the bridge.

4.0 Miles - 0 Locks