Friday 31 May 2019


Today's Canal - Bridgewater

Another fairly grey day but at least the rain held off - helpful as Mike really did want to wrap up this phase of painting maintenance!

Mike made an early foray into the shopping centre to look for a newspaper only to discover that it does not open until 10am! Late night shopping seems to be more popular than early bird! The route through to the Asda supermarket which we have used in the past was also blocked with extensive construction works, perhaps part of those associated with the latest Metro extension.

Back at the boat a quick change into painting clothes and a start on the latest coats of paint. At this stage we are largely dealing with smaller chips, just a few larger damaged patches where the paint has lifted.

Then there came a lengthy phone call for Mike and whilst dealing with that Christine returned to the shopping centre - by now open.

It was after 11 by the time we were ready to leave and, alas something happened with the camera for the first part of the day so limited photos. Although this route is more urban and there are points of interest, it is not that exciting.

Well, the passage over the Barton Swing Aqueduct would have been a highlight if not for the fact that all the pictures are missing! We are left with just a picture of it receding into the background.

Worsley was the impetus for the original construction of the Bridgewater and, fittingly, there are several significant features. At the wharf we passed one of the restored fly boats - these at speed, pulled by horses must have been some sight when alternative transport was minimal, little more than shanks' pony and the occasional horse ride.

Just round the corner is another one - and since we are short of pix, here it is!

That's the iconic picture at the point where the canal originally linked into the coat mines behind.

The service block at Worsley remains definitely closed so we carried on to Bridgewater Marina at Boothshall. They were very friendly and welcoming even though we were not (directly) paying customers. We filled with water (just as well as the washing machine was rapidly depleting our tank) and emptied the elsan. After our experience here and yesterday we are beginning to wonder if this is a Peel policy to locate the facilities at boatyards or marinas who can then look after them.

We only went a couple of hundred metres beyond the next bridge to moor up for lunch.

Towards Astley we could see a team of workers laying tarmac on a section of towpath which seems to be being upgraded for a better cycling experience.

A little further and around a bend a boat coming the other way shouted a warning to us even though we could not make out what they were saying. Clouds of diesel fumes also alerted us. We soon saw that there was a blockage as two workboats were manoeuvring alongside a loading wharf. They apologised and said that they would be around 20 minutes. They were picking up a load of top soil which would then be taken down to where the new towpath is being finished in order to tidy up the edges alongside the tarmac. Although the colour of the surface is currently black, once it has had a chance to set properly it will be top coated with much lighter coloured chippings. Fortunately we were not in a  great hurry.

Once on the move again we soon passed under the East Lancs Road. This was constructed in the 1930s and was the country's first purpose built inter-city highway. Phase 1 opened in 1934 and runs from Liverpool to Salford. There were several innovations including the very straight route that was taken. The second phase, which would have linked to East Lancs (and justified the name) was never built. the road remained isolated From the rest of the country's growing road network although eventually have interchanges with the M57, M6 and M60.

We continued until just outside Leigh - with a still rural outlook although the houses of the town do start on the opposite bank. The reason is that tomorrow is the car shuffle day. Normally we do this on the day before we return home but public transport from here back to Uplands Marina is almost non-existent on Sundays. The planned route for tomorrow involves three buses so lets hope that tomorrow's log reports successful timekeeping! We will need to make a prompt start in the morning to move into the town centre.

7.6 Miles - 0 Locks

Thursday 30 May 2019

Trafford Park

Today's Canal - Bridgewater

We awoke to grey skies but a weather forecast that promised that it would be dry all morning with the hope of a little sunshine in the afternoon. So, Mike started by preparing a few more of the chipped paint areas ready for touching up later on. No sooner had he sorted out the equipment and made a start but he could feel dampness in the air. Alas, before he could make much progress, real rain arrived and stayed until lunch time.

No excuses, it was back to finishing off a report that he has been drafting for the past few days.

It was coffee time before we donned waterproofs and set off. Immediately we passed the end of the North Avenue of Dunham Massey Hall which we had seen from the other end yesterday. We have passed here several times in the past but never really noticed the avenue.

Even with the photo zoomed right in, only a small part of the house can be see, no real indicator of the size of building that lies behind that view.

Not sure why this boat got its name but perhaps the owners think it looks a picture. (Joke, geddit?)

The well-known landmark of the former Linotype Works came into view. Work was already in hand two years ago when we last passed by and the last section is now having the footings put in, for yet more housing. Much of the property already finished has a decidedly industrial character to it - if you like that sport of thing.

Another older building, now derelict (although Google Street View dated 2018 does seem to show a To Let sign) is part of this once busy industrial area rapidly being overtaken by little more than insatiable hosing schemes. We have not been able to find from old maps what the purpose was for this building but it does appear gto have been linked to the canal at some stage. All that the OS maps say is that the canalside next to it was a coal wharf.

We continued along the two mile straight section to Sale where, after passing under the main road bridge, we moored for easy access to the shopping centre. We did not need a lot but did spit a specialist fish shop who proved very chatty whilst filleting our fish for tomorrow evening.

Back at the boat and we had lunch before continuing our journey. The verge of grass between the canal and the cyclepath had recently been cut but we saw that some patches had been left uncut.

Closer inspection showed that these had been loft so that the wild orchids could continue flowering.

We also saw a short stretch with water lilies on either side. Not remarkable except that they had much smaller flowers than we normally find.

That's the River Mersey - not too far after its main source at Stockport. It will grow quickly and soon will join the Ship Canal.
We were especially looking out for Stretford Marine where we expected to find water and elsan - Christine was especially keen on the water so that she could process a load of washing. The people there were most chatty - Christine tried to buy some cleanser for the stove glass but was persuaded not to bother but try tea bags instead. It seems that they do work!

Oh, look! Some blue patches at last. (Except that they did not last)

Shortly after leaving Stretford Marine we turned left at the junction and headed towards Leigh. Almost immediately our noses thought of breakfast as we neared the Kelloggs factory (except that it is a long time since either of us had Corn Flakes to start the day)

Only a little further and we moored at the entrance to Trafford Park, once of the few places along here that is marked for mooring. Alas, most of the edging stones with rings in them seem to have been tipped into the water so one end of the boat needed a pin to be hammered in - the ground did not like it!

Still mid afternoon so Mike returned to his maintenance mode whilst Christine went to explore the shopping centre. Although the afternoon remained dry (just) the sky was persistently grey. Can't have everything.

9.2 Miles - 0 Locks

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Dunham Massey

Today's Canal - Bridgewater

The morning was quite sunny but during the afternoon some light rain occasionally put in an appearance. Overall, it was rather chilly.

Our main aim today was to visit Dunham Massey Hall, a large National Trust property close to the canal north of Lymm.

We set off in good time but had some support calls to make along the way.  We passed the Waterwomble  that plies up and down the Bridgewater collecting rubbish.

The first stop was at Lymm to visit the nearby Sainsbury Local for a newspaper and a couple of other items. The town centre is compact with more eating places than ships selling everyday goods. Mike found a local bakery and picked up a loaf of brown sourdough bread and found the rest of his short list at Sainsbury.

In the centre there is a clock tower commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. It has three different sundials, each adapted to the direction in which it is facing. Note also the stocks!

On again and we paused very briefly at Outrington to use the elsan facility one of just a few. The canal here is well maintained and open but with little remarkable about the immediate landscape.

We continued then to the mooring spot for Dunham Massey, pulling in just after passing over the River Bollin. We tied up and then walked the short distance to the entrance to the hall and grounds.

The Hall is very much larger than many we have visited but, on the other hand, it felt much more like a family home, albeit a very wealthy family. The estate dates back to the Norman Conquest when the land was given in recognition of efforts in putting down the angry Anglo Saxons! The house today was started in the early 17th century by the Booth family which later became the Grey family. Along with a number of marriages, each bringing in more land, the estate became one of the wealthiest in the country and its owners equally influential.

Not sure if this statue outside the front door is now PC!

This did not stop Henry Booth, First Earl of Warrington, from squandering much of his inheritance in a dissolute life and when it was left to his son,  George, it was in financial ruin. However, the Second Earl set about restoring its fortunes through determined improvements, investment, and innovation.

Roger Grey, the last family owner of the estate, the 10th Earl of Stamford, never married and when he died in 1976 both his titles as Earl of Stamford and Baron Grey became extinct and he had already arranged to bequeath the estate to the National Trust.

A condition of that bequest was that nothing should be thrown away. One of the first rooms in the house that we visited was his study and that has been left jut as it was when he used it. It also meant that the Trust has a lot of 'stuff' that needs either careful conservation or restoration.

The Reading Room had this little cameo of practical everyday life - at least for those with time to read.

The house once had a conventional moat but in one of the re-developments much of it was widened out into a lake for boating.

When we arrived we began a walk around the house but we kept an eye on the clock as the person who welcomed us at the door also told us about the talk she would be giving at 1 o'clock.

One of the rooms contains the State Bed, a huge traditional four poster but with very expensive original hangings.

Another room is set out as reminder of the time when much of the house became the Stamford Hospital, caring for men who returned from war badly injured. The servants of the house often tackled difficult nursing roles whilst still running the house for the family who continued to live here.

The talk was in the portrait gallery where there is presently an exhibition in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery showing pictures of people who have made a contribution to environmental concerns - some of them rather controversial! Each guide giving the talk has been encouraged to pick out three that mean something to them.

Our guide began with a portrait of Octavia Hill who took an interest in a number of issues but is perhaps most well known for developing models of good social housing. especially in Dickensian London. The portrait was commissioned by friends for her 60th birthday and she certainly looks a formidable person. Our guide said that her friends felt that although the picture was a good likeness it made here more serene than they knew of her in real life.

The second portrait was of Gertrude Jekyll, who developed a reputation as a leading garden designer - she based her ideas on scientific work she did on he effect of different colours in pictures. She looks somewhat austere but, this portrait took Lutyens a long time to arrange as she was a very reluctant sitter and by this tine was 90. Again, a person not to be messed with!

The third person our guide chose was Prof James Lovelock, famed for his Gaia Theory - but perhaps the least said the better . . .

After the talk we went down into the working' area of the house, the kitchen, larders, scullery and laundry. These were amazingly extensive, some almost as much floor area as some modern houses.

In the kitchen, on one wall are the earlier cooking ranges, initially fired by wood and then coal and finally early gas supplies. But eventually they could not be converted further and in the period just after the last war they were rep[laced by specially commissioned 'modern' appliances which were installed on the opposite wall. Apparently these still work and sometimes the educational team use them to bake scones for visiting schoolchildren. However, they lack temperature control so it takes some skill to make sure that the scones are not Alfred-burnt!

The laundry was huge and alongside it an almost similar sized room was used for ironing. It is hard to imagine just how many servants were employed in these places. Some of the displays told the story of one woman who became Housekeeper early in the 20th century and worked there for nearly 40 years. Although she was given the courtesy title of Mrs, in fact women in service were not then allowed to marry.

Outside again we headed for what turned out to be a highlight of our visit - the garden talk. Just four of us, later increased to six, followed the volunteer gardener who gave us a continuous and amazing commentary as we walked around the different areas of the formal gardens. Unlike inside the house where the conservation staff focus on maintaining the rooms just as they were, the gardens have been continually developed since the National Trust took ownership, following in the traditions of the many previous owners, each of whom made sometimes sweeping changes following the trends of their times. The talk was so detailed and full of information not only about individual plants but also how each section is being improved to give even better visitor experience, that we cannot do justice to it so we will let the pictures speak for themselves. Except perhaps to say that we were shown several rhododendrons that were developed from the same species with a snow white flower. They have seven different varieties and guess what they have as names . . .

The North Avenue - somewhere in the middle distance is the canal!

After the talk and walk we adjourned for a cup of tea by which time it was too late to return to the house to see thew rooms we had missed earlier. Hence we walked back to the boat before ore rain arrived.

6.1 Miles - 0 Locks