Thursday, 24 August 2017


Today's Canals - Leeds and Liverpool, Main Line and Rufford Arm

We set off a bit early this morning for some complicated reasons, which only became more complicated as the day wore on! The initial reason was that last evening, quite late, we had a quick visit from an electrical consultant whom Beta had selected to check out whether there is an issue with our alternator - for some time we have had strange readings regarding the battery charging. Now is not the time to go into details, mainly because we do not at his stage have much of a clue as to whether there is a real problem and if so with what!

In any event, this meant that, having arranged with Fettlers Wharf at Rufford for our mooring during our next trip back home at the end of next week, we further arranged that we could arrive this evening so that the electrical tests can be more easily done from there, in a few days time. (We actually started to make this further arrangement when it might have been possible that the tests were done earlier but the Bank Holiday intervenes.)

We had, in any case, been planning to not go too far in the next few days but retrieve our car from Blue Water at Thorne so that we can perhaps make a few visits 'off canal'. Surprisingly, it takes around four hours to get to Thorne by train (neither end is especially main line!) and over two hours drive back.

It was damp at first but the promised rapid improvement to a pleasant day arrived on schedule and, with some great scenery, it was a very pleasant cruise - almost, but we will come to that in a moment.

Ah, we are back on a canal with plenty of milestones and a stretch where Mike has not collected most of them for his photo library. Bliss!

We had four locks to negotiate on the main line to Burscough Junction - all well spread out. At most of them it is possible to see where new, wider, locks were built at some stage alongside the earlier ones.

The levels of the locks must also have changed as we spotted this former chamber, now just a narrows. The OS map from 1894 shows Crooke Lock at this point. Also, amusingly, the previous lock is named as Hell Meadow - modern guidebooks call it Ell Meadow!

Crooke Marina was originally a longer arm, perhaps a mile long which the 1894 map calls Tunnel Canal. It appears as if it was constructed to service mines to the north.

Just after the marina we passed thew original barge Ambush which passed us after we had moored last night on its way up to Wigan and back.

Below Dean Locks we made use of the all too rare water point to fill our tank. Well, almost as another boat coming down wanted to make use of the same facility. (They caught us up at the next lock having discovered how awkward the water point is and that their hose was not long enough. Thankfully we were able to deploy our extra long one.

Also below the lock there was originally a lock down to the river Douglas - the navigation north from here was only replaced by a canal a bit later. It is far from obvious but the lock was just beyond this very short arm, currently used as the home base for a restaurant/tearoom boat.

At Appley, there were previously two locks but these have been replaced by a single lock alongside. The picture is of below the lower of the two disused locks. The new one is especially deep.

CaRT were recruiting Friends at Parbold - helped they hope with the old barge George which it seems was once used by the National Coal Board. IT was a particular Leeds and Liverpool 'short' boat, built of wood and horse-drawn. See here for some fascinating details of its rescue.

There are a number of swing bridges along this stretch, some are wholly mechanised, and others in between. One of them has metal landings either side, presumably to assist single handers who notoriously have found this type of bridge difficult to negotiate. Alas, this landing has some of the wooden structure, intended to protect boats from the sharp pieces of  the metal structure, seriously damaged and missing. Alas, we caught - but only just - the side of the boat on a less than obvious projection. This was enough to break the weld on the hinge of one of our side hatch doors which will now need a proper repair. Sadly this is party of the experience of boating in the less frequented, and hence perhaps less maintained, northern canals. However - the good news - it looks as if Christine's efforts to track down a welder at Rufford may be fruitful. This was another reason for wanting to make sure we reached Fettlers Wharf tonight. The above photo shows the bridge but we only captured the other side which has, as you can see, an undamaged landing!

We paused just before Burscough Junction to have lunch. By this time our intention of eating 'on the go' had evaporated!

The top lock proved a little tricky. There is a swing footbridge just above the lock and it is not the easiest to shift. Hence our photos only resumed at the next lock!

A couple of the seven locks down the Rufford Arm have this type of top paddle - more frequently found on the higher parts of the main line of the Leeds and Liverpool. Not a design we have encountered elsewhere.

More of the locks have this type of mechanism, some easier to operate than others

Eventually, almost on time by our estimate when we set off (more good luck than judgement) we came down the seventh lock an immediately into the entrance to Fettlers Wharf. Although this marina once had a 'reputation', under new management, it is quickly gaining a very positive reaction both from existing and new customers. Both in setting up our arrangements and the welcome when we arrived could not have been better and thus far we can only encourage people passing this way to give them a try. Our mooring is very good.

After we had moored, we hooked up to the shore line and also booked tickets for Mike to go over to Thorne tomorrow to collect the car from Blue Water, It will take pretty much all day.

12.5 Miles - 11 Locks

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