Tuesday 12 September 2017

Leaving Ruffold and then Parbold

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

We drove up from Cornwall yesterday, leaving just before 8:30 but with a stop and a few delays for road works it was mid afternoon before we eventually reached Fettlers Wharf. The journey was not difficult, more tedious.

At least with this mooring we could unload the car right next to the boat. We had planned to do a full re-stock of our larder in the evening but in the end opted for the lazy plan - do it tomorrow morning!

But Mike did find enough energy to replace the broken mushroom on the roof - spares had been delivered earlier in the day. Howevere, this did not prove to be as straightforward as he had hoped and rather more engineering was needed - and more tools out of the box - that ought to have been the case. But then, boat maintenance is always like that!

Fortunately we had brought our evening meal with us, prepared yesterday and only needing to be put into the oven to heat through.

So, today we began by driving the short distance down to Tesco at Burscough Bridge. This is a reasonable store and we were able to find all the items on our shopping list - and, of course, one or two extras!

Back at the boat we moved the car down to the long term car park, mainly for residents and then unleashed the boat from the pontoon where it has been for a couple of weeks. The first move was just a very short distance to the service point so that we could top up our fuel tank before leaving. Not entirely necessary but as the next few days may well not take us past a diesel sales point, it seemed prudent. At the same time we emptied the elsan.

We bade farewell to Richard and his staff - they have been extremely helpful during our stay.

The exit from the marina is a very sharp turn. How boats made it when the wharf was first constructed is not clear but it is a little easier today as the other marina, St Mary's. is directly opposite so offers a better winding hole.

Although there had been a couple of very heavy and sudden showers whilst we were getting up earlier, most of the day was very pleasant with bright blue skies and fluffy clouds. It was sufficiently warm for this time of year as well.

Immediately after leaving the marina is the first lock. This one is separate from the others but the next pound is not plain sailing as there was the first of several swing bridges today. This one, carrying only a farm track, is manual but it is sufficiently well maintained to make it an easy push.

A little further on and we arrived at the bottom of the six locks that lead up to the junction - they gradually get closer together.

We have heard it said that when this branch was constructed, somewhat later than the main line, money was tight and thrift came into play so that they used up bits and pieces left over from earlier construction. In particular, the details of each lock vary quite bit. A couple of locks have this lift up clough paddle which was commonly used on one stretch of the western side of the main line above Wigan.

After a break for lunch above the second lock we continued up through the rest of the locks. Most of the flight had locks with remarkably small changes in level but the top two are much deeper, with the last one being the deepest.

Immediately above the lock is a small swing bridge just for pedestrians. On the way down we found it rather difficult to operate - local information had suggested that it is somewhat notorious in this regard. This time we were ready for it and with one of us on each end, gave it a very confident push! Even so it was reluctant to open fully, but did give enough space for a narrowboat. As we came through the last couple of locks it felt as if there was rain in the air but we fortunately kept dry.

We then turned out onto the main line, heading southwards (well in the short term it is more eastwards, but you probably get the drift!)

Shortly after the junction we passed this restored old barge, typical of those that were designed to trade along this canal. This style were called Mersey Flats and this one was built in 1932. Its original layout is shown here.

At Duttons Farm, Lathom there is a reconstruction of an Iron Age roundhouse. The stages of its build can be seen here. A lot of archaeological excavation has been done at this site and some remains have been found and dated back 7000 years.

We had a little bit of luck at our last swing bridge as another boat was coming the other way, had opened it and kindly waved us through.

At this time very dark clouds gathered rapidly behind us and eventually caught up with us, The result was a very heavy shower but it went away as quickly as it arrived. In any event, it gave us further encouragement to take a mooring in Parbold where we arrived shortly afterwards. There is further rain forecast overnight but also some very strong winds.

6.0 Miles - 7 Locks

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