Wednesday 20 July 2022

Fettlars Wharf Marina

Today's Canal - Rufford Branch

We awoke to a day definitely much cooler than the past two. There was even quite a breeze much of the time. Mike had a Zoom meeting in the morning  - he is now officially a Waterways Chaplain having completed his probationary period. Christine took the time to sort out clothes to take back as by the time we return to the boat it is likely that hot weather clothes will be a minority interest.

Late morning we were ready to leave - but first we pushed across to the service block to empty the elsan and dispose of rubbish. Also, Christine had discovered that she needed a third box to pack  the clothes into!

We set off on the short journey today, back to Fettlars Wharf where the boat will remain for most of the next five weeks.

Half way and we passed through the final swing bridge for this trip - again quite an easy one to operate. Mike later saw a single hander coming through - not a common sight at the moment. 

The final fixed bridge on the canal before the turn into the marina is the back road from Parbold into Rufford - probably the way we return home tomorrow.

This time the marina staff were ready with a pontoon number even before we reached the service mooring. It seems that we have been allocated a space in the posh end!

After lunch while Christine  completed the usual end-of-trip clean through, Mike walked back to Spark bridge to collect the car, just over a mile away. He was really glad that we were not still in yesterday's heatwave! On the way to the marina he went into Burscough (OK, so it is not really 'on the way'!) for some rolls to make our packed lunch for tomorrow. Whilst we have been away the last part of the landscaping of our new garden was completed so that will be good to see - we have been sent photos but that is not the same.

1.0 Miles - 0 Locks

Tuesday 19 July 2022

Old Rufford Hall

No navigation today

If today's blog title confused you because it is the same as yesterday's, that is because the day was very similar - mostly differentiated by (a) a few degrees hotter and (b) the chapters of the books we were both reading and (c) Jannock moved a short way up the canal towards Burscough.

Christine took a short walk along the towpath to look at the lilies.

We changed the menu for tonight and tomorrow around, partly as we will be a bit busier tomorrow, with Mike on a Zoom meeting most of the morning and also so that Mike could prepare tonight's meal this morning leaving us rather less to do if washed out in the heat later on!

After a slightly early lunch we went back to Old Rufford Hall, warmly greeted by some of the staff we chatted to yesterday - they have not been very busy at all.

This time we found an even more shaded (nearly wrote shadier but that might be misconstrued!) very much in the shade provided by the canopy of this quite large tree.

After a couple of hours reading we went again to the tea room - just as welcome as yesterday. After finishing our pot of tea and scones there was still time for another shorter time for reading until we realised that everyone else had already left and we were in danger of being locked in for a night in the car park

Monday 18 July 2022

Old Rufford Hall

No navigation today

As expected, today was very hot indeed and, with little or no breeze, it gradually became more oppressive. The hottest time was around 4 - 5 in the evening.

This morning we made a good start (well, about 10:30!) by moving the boat across to the service block for the usual round of emptying and filling. After moving back again we did very little else until lunch time, other than Christine prepared most of tonight's meal.

After lunch we decided that there was no way we could make the inside of the boat any more bearable (and it was already not) so we decided to take advantage of our NT membership and go just up the road to Old Rufford Hall for the afternoon.

We have visited here before and remembered that the gardens were quite attractive with plenty of room to sit in the shade.

As we checked in and had our cards scanned we enquired about the best place for what we wanted - cool shade! We immediately set off as instructed. The first part by the canal was very cool and a slight breeze but alas all the tables were of the picnic variety so not so comfortable for sitting to read, or doze.

We passed a couple of statues - one male and one female (the editor is not biased but the other picture did not come out too well on account of the direction of the sunshine!_We felt it grossly unfair that they could strip off and get cool whilst we would probably be thrown out for copying them.

We continued a little further to one of the orchard spaces where there seemed to be just what we wanted. The only thing missing was a breeze - by now the atmosphere was really stifling but nowhere would have been any better. 

So we sat and read (sometimes dozed) for at least an hour and a half. There were very few people around - indeed we heard later that the garden tours had been cancelled today on safety grounds.

The tea room closed at 4pm so with little more than 20 minutes to spare we moved there and had a delightful pot of tea and a cake, sitting in the shade in the courtyard. Everything was uncharacteristically quiet.

There was still a short time left before the gates closed at 5 so we went back to another bench in the shade for a further read.

Sunday 17 July 2022

Burscough Church

No navigation today

It took us some time to look up details of the several church all about the same distance from where we are moored. None were in walking distance and several only had rather early times. If we were in normal cruising mode then we would probably have opted for an earlier rather than a later time especially as none were at our preferred time of around 10 - 10.30, which normally gives us time to change and set off for a short distance before lunch. Today was also forecast to be increasingly hot although the really hot weather is not due until tomorrow.

In the end we opted for the parish church in Burscough which has its main family oriented service at 11. We have been before when we came here in 2013 on Take Five.

The service was very much like last time -  a band of five musicians led the singing, rather more up tempo than we wrote in 2013. Apart from one leader, everything else was very well prepared including a tightly scripted talk (sermon). As might be expected with this style of church, all the words were displayed on screens. To`day there were around 70 people - few children as most go off to their own event in the church hall. (The above picture was taken when we arrived before most people had taken their seats!)

In the intervening time, at least one of us is less keen now on standing still for long periods and we do think that this church ought to think a bit more about their assessment of inclusion needs when asking the congregation to stand for 20 minutes at a time!

We then drove back to the boat where we stayed for the rest of the day! We were too hot to do much and as soon as we had lunch, Mike set about preparing the roast for the evening. Alas, the item that took the longest was the stuffing to accompany the pork but it languished unforgotten in the fridge until the meal was served! Ah well, it will go well with the cold pork another night.

Later, as the sun had just set, we did manage a short walk along the towpath but even at 9:30 it was very warm. However, we did manage to encourage sufficient air flow that we did not stifle overnight.

Saturday 16 July 2022


No navigation today

We opted to drive up to Fleetwood today - neither of us had been here before - the only time that Mike had been to Blackpool was for one night in 1964. It turned out to be a bit longer drive than we had expected not helped by several road works - "We are working hard to improve your road" - and a long time behind a pack of committed road cyclists.

Eventually we found our way to the Promenade. Parking was free but at first it seemed as if it was all already occupied but then we spotted the car park at Marine Splash with plenty of room. We could hardly believe it when we saw signs Free Parking!

A well-run cafe was opened here in 2021 by two local people. It seems to aim to offer a range of snacks but doing it well. We enjoyed our coffee especially when they changed Christine's cake as the first slice was rather stale (end of yesterday's cake!) We also noticed that they did paninis, a possible for a late lunch.

We the strolled along the promenade to the main headland at the entrance to Fleetwood harbour. On the distant horizon we could see Barrow-on-Furness, Heysham power station as well as several very large wind farms, all too far away for us to photograph.

Information panels set out the history of the town which was created in 1830s by Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood, a local landowner with the aim of improving life for many ordinary people. he wanted the new town to be great for those living here permanently as well as those making the journey by train from as far afield as London. He commissioned a new hotel - North Euston - to attract those who could afford quality accommodation. It is said that Fleetwood was a holiday destination by train several years before Blackpool.

As the town developed it gained a large ICI chemical works alongside the estuary, its own power station and a substantial fishing fleet. Ferries started, taking passengers and later  vehicles across to Larne in Northern Ireland and to the Isle of Man. Of course much of this has now disappeared and the rail connection was lost in the 1960's. However, a local manufacturer still produces the world famous Fisherman;s Friend lozenges.

It was RNLI day - the lifeboat led a small flotilla of sailing yachts out from the harbour and around the buoys and back into harbour.

We spotted several sculptures and memorials to those whose lives were risked or lost in this area. Welcome Home depicts the feelings of the families relieved when a deep sea fisherman father returns safely - so many did not.

A helicopter crash in Morecambe bay in 2006 took the lives of 7 people involved in servicing gas platforms just offshore.

At the launch site there were various fund raising stalls and an excellent local singing group sang Sea Shanties. reminded us of the Fishermen's Friends group that come from Port Isaac near where we lived in Cornwall.

We walked back to the cafe we visited earlier and ordered a couple of paninis which were accompanied by a good helping of freshly fried chips.

We sat outside in a little patch of shade in the public gardens, reading and following social media as  as well as people watching. There was a good breeze which prevented the temperature rising to an oppressive level as in other parts of the country - although hotter is forecast for the next few days!

It was not easy to stir ourselves when four o'clock arrived but we still had the long drive back. We were pleased to have visited Fleetwood - it felt an unsophisticated but safe and welcoming place where people, families, children and oldies can simply enjoy themselves without spending inordinate amounts of money. We made the return even longer by coming back via Blackpool, following the road along the coastline.

We passed the three piers as well as the Tower and ballroom (of Strictly fame) and finally the Pleasure Beach and its enormous roller coaster. The central area was crowded with endless burger and chips outlets alongside sweets and candy floss. Other attractions sought to fleece customers through all sorts of slot machines. Horse or pony hauled fairy-tale carriages also seemed to be doing good business. It has to be admitted that neither the thrilling rides nor the shops tempted us to stop!

Eventually we were on the way out of town heading towards the motorway and passing Blackpool Airport. Christine found an alternative way back that took us through Burscough so that we could call at the supermarket - we did not fancy the full meal planned but something a little lighter.

Friday 15 July 2022

Tarleton and Back

Today's Canal - Rufford Arm

Yes, that's right - we went for a morning cruise today! At some point we would have to do this trip in order to turn around and return to the marina at Rufford. From this weekend the forecast is for blistering heat so we took the opportunity today to enjoy milder weather. Actually, we had expected some rain this morning but it stayed away and instead we had some pleasant breaks in the otherwise dull overcast sky.

We set off around half past ten, passing immediately under Spark Bridge. Out mooring was between the bridge and the first boat on the left and we hoped that it would still be available on our return as this is convenient for both services and car. There is space on this (nearer to the camera) side but the piling is much less comfortable for getting on an off the boat.

Quite soon we reached the next swing bridge which we found remarkably easy to operate. If only they could all be like this - perhaps the local team need to give lessons to other regions on what they should expect to achieve! The only problem today was that the wind had sprung up and insisted on pushing the boat to the bank whilst waiting for the bridge to open or close.

Even though we have recently had quite a lot of cloud cover, these have still been excellent growing conditions - such as for this large bank of lilies which are gradually invading the navigation. This is the time when they also display their flowers!

Strand Bridge is alongside the former Sollom Lock and we will try to get a photo of that on the way back.

From this point down to the lock at Tarleton we are on the former river River Douglas and the difference was quite apparent.

This was the first large bank of flowering Himalayam Balsam that we have spotted this year - yet another invasive species although not quite as difficult as some but it does need to be controlled. Anyone for a bash?

This is as far as we can go today as there is no winding capability at the lock - just before the swing bridge by the mooring where boats waiting to cross the Ribble Link are asked to wait overnight. Although marked on our maps, this winding hole was very tight but we do have to remember that the canal was originally built for the shorter boats of the time. We probably tackled it the wrong way around - that is we pushed the bow to the left but the large lump of vegetation and the map marking led us to expect more of an indentation in the bank that side. Jannock, still moored next to us (and see blog on the list to the right of this page) turned at an earlier spot which is only on some listings. It probably would have been a bit easier but, in any case, we wanted to stretch out our cruise as far as possible!

The return trip was - surprisingly - unsurprising! However, we did promise you a picture of Sollom Lock from the opposite direction - the bridge is at the far end.

This was the point at which the branch joined the river when it was first constructed. We have not see a reason for this, but not a lot later Tarleton Lock was created (perhaps to enable the constriction of wharves and boatyards in the village itself?) The gates at Sollom were removed but the lock itself remains largely intact even after over two centuries, a tribute to the enduring work of the stone masons.

And yes, our mooring was still vacant on our return, almost exactly two hours after leaving. After lunch we popped into Burscough for a top up of our larder and ingredients for tonight's meal: tinned mackerel fillet fish cakes with a watercress mayo dressing and potato wedges!

Before the meal was ready Christine went for a walk along the towpath, almost to the swing bridge we passed through earlier.

5.8 Miles - 0 Locks

Thursday 14 July 2022


No navigation (well almost)

Not a lot of action this morning - we finally decided to order the parts for the fridge for delivery when we are back home. It is a sizeable gamble - a new fridge is around £1000 and the parts half that, so not cheap. If we found someone to repair it for us it would probably be about the same as new. Banking on doing it ourselves will save around £500 if we get it right but a tad expensive if we get it wrong. At least this way we do not have to worry about fitting the fridge back in as the door replacement should be possible with sliding the unit out just a little.

We also took the boat for a long cruise - from one side of the canal to the other! We wanted to do the usual empty and fill and we are moored directly opposite Spark Bridge customer service facility.

After lunch we opted to visit Liverpool Castle in Lever Park near Rivington, outside Chorley. The park was gifted by Lord Leverhulme (who made his money from soap) to the local people in 1909. He made sure that whatever happened the park would be available free of charge and in perpetuity whatever happened.

The park is to one side of the Lower Rivington reservoir that was opened in 1857 to supply water to the people of Liverpool (but now mainly to Wigan). It is part of a series of eight reservoirs and, after being owned by a series of local authorities, now belongs to United Utilities.

Liverpool Castle was created as a folly by Lord Leverhulme, intended as a scaled replica of the 13C structure that once stood in Liverpool 1 but which was almost totally destroyed by the 18C. The folly was started in 1912 and was little more than a hobby project to which a few labourers from the estate were allocated. It was not finished by the time its owner died in 1925. No more was done so it never reached the state that was originally envisaged.

There are narrow passages that lead nowhere and rooms that are roofless and barely larger than a cupboard. At least one set of stairs starts but ends a few treads above ground.

We suspect that Lord Leverhulme hoped that it would provide a pleasant place to relax with views across the reservoir but alas, little maintenance of the grounds is being done and scrubby bushes and trees have now over run the slope down to the water totally blocking the views.

It was about a 40 minute drive, passing through the centre of Chorley and a number of other villages. It took a bit of finding as the nearest access to the castle is a walk after leaving the car beside the country road. There are no signs. The information web site we looked before we set off simply told us that parking was available!

The walk was down a dead straight double avenue.

After spending some time poking around the 'ruins' we walked back the way we came, hoping to be in time for a cup of tea at the Great House Barn Tea Room just a short distance back along the road. We thought we were OK as we reached there just after 3:30 and it said it was open until 4 but it was clear that the staff were already packing up for the day. However, we were served by a very pleasant young man on a holiday job before college. Mike had an especially excellent scone and Christine a blueberry slice. We - and the only other two people left - were not hassled out and happily left to sit whilst clearing up was going on!

Wednesday 13 July 2022


No Navigation

We investigated a little more about what to do with the fridge. It seems that these are treated very much as non-repairable items - or at least most owners do not bother but simply replace but at around £1K it is a shame just to dispose of it when most of it is working fine.

Christine sent some more details to the spares compony that we have been put in touch with including some photos  but they do not really have any technical expertise in the products. However they did send us a spares list and said Take Your Pick! We now have their price for the two items which come to almost a third of the replacement cost. Also, they do not have a lot of demand so have to obtain them with a delivery expected 7 - 10 days!

Mike took a further look at the actual fittings and compared with the minimal manual. We are assuming that replacing the door is very much like changing it from left to right handed. He also took several more photos for reference.

In the process he discovered that he does not have the tool for undoing the various bolts involved. So, we included B and Q in an itinerary for the da

We set off towards Southport and our sat nav did take us through quite a bit of the town's suburbs! A very helpful chap in the store took one look at our photo and diagnosed a TORX screwdriver. As we did not know the exact size needed he directed us to a multi size set which turned out to be much the same price as just one of the full size drivers!
We drove into Southport looking for a suitable parking - none of it is free (ahh!) - and ended up on the main esplanade. Southport is an unusual resort as the main stretch is a little inland with no view of the sea.

Time was moving on and so we walked along the main shopping street. On our two previous visits (Christine was last here in 2019 when Mike was away in York) we had found a good selection of eating places with choice for a snack lunch we wanted, rather than a main meal. There was a wide range of shops and the place felt quite vibrant. Today was rather different, subdued and with a surprising number of vacant shop units. Food choices were especially limited - either burgers/fish 'n chips or multi course large meals. Eventually we found just one place offering sandwiches - no paninis anywhere. This was a cafe alongside Christ Church Southport. The sandwiches were well prepared and the service efficient and friendly, unlike a nearby place that we first tried but which had 'run out' of our main choices and were decidedly unkeen to take an order!

We returned to the car - we had only paid for two hours! We then drove through the smaller villages back to Hesketh Bank and Tarleton. We had hoped to visit Old Rufford Hall to find a place to skit in their gardens, using our National Trust membership. Alas they are presently not open on Wednesdays and Thursdays! On then to a wildlife centre we visited in the past but their car park charge was £4 even for a short visit. Cutting our losses we headed straight back to the boat for a leisurely read for the rest of the afternoon.

Sorry, but we did not find anything to photo for this blog . . .

. . . but just in case you are missing the images her is a close up of a broken fridge door (taken from above)! See, we do think of you, dear readers.

Tuesday 12 July 2022

Spark Bridge, Rufford

Today's Canal - Rufford Arm

Our plan for the day started as dropping down the three remaining locks and then going into Fettlars Wharf Marina to fill up our diesel tank and replace a gas bottle that ran out since leaving here a week ago. After that we planned to get down to Tarleton by lunch time with a short stop at the service block by Spark Bridge. This would leave us time to bring out the anchor and life jackets.

If only things were that simple! It was not far to the first lock and by now we knew what to expect - tough! But as long as we took it steadily it was not to exhausting. Locks never like to be hurried and these are no exception.

Alongside the next lock we could see a field of leeks being irrigated from the canal. Once set up it seems that the process proceeds automatically. The rate of progress of the sprayers looked as if it would take a couple of hours before they needed further attention.

The next pound was a little longer than those so far on this arm but a swing bridge gave an intermediate break.

We met a boat coming the other way and from a brief exchange we understood that they were not able to cross over to the Lancaster - it seemed that Thursday's crossing had been cancelled but that tomorrow's was OK.

We continued to the last lock before the end of the arm.

Immediately after the lock we turned into the marina where Colin very cheerfully filled and supplied as needed! We bade him farewell, expecting to see him again at the start of August.

Just after turning out we realised that we had a received a voice mail as we were filling with diesel. Christine checked the message and it was the local CaRT office telling us that we would not be crossing tomorrow - it had been cancelled because the staff had Covid and there was no back up.

After passing though another swing bridge Mike called the phone number in the message where we had further confirmation of the bad news. Furthermore, all those booked this week would only be offered a replacement passage at the next available free date - in our case that is now the end of August. In addition there are escalating problems at Poolstock in Wigan with only two days a week bookable slots to return back south - the route to the Leeds and Liverpool across the Pennines was already closed. We already knew that July was largely booked. We took what was offered on the basis that we could cancel if we could not make those dates work with our other commitments. We also managed to get dates for Poolstock that would allow us a trip south and back in time for the revised Ribble Crossing date (it later turned out that one of these was entered incorrectly anyway!)

Christine called Berni at Fettlars Wharf to see what availability there might be to leave the boat there - we had booked and paid for a fortnight but that was meaningless in the new context. She was really very helpful and offered to accommodate whatever seems best for us. 

Time for lunch and a Council of War! After checking and re-checking diaries etc and discovering that the situation at Poolstock is rapidly deteriorating (during the day we received a Notice that said that it was now completely closed) we feared that even if we could get a passage south we may well not be able to get back in time for the end of August!

The upshot is that we will stay in this locality for the next week - we have the car so can explore the area - and then go back home leaving the boat at the Marina for five weeks, returning just before the rescheduled crossing. At least we are not going to be stuck in Wigan for an extended stay!

To add to our troubles, earlier in the day our fridge door came apart - at least it still closes and opens and keeps food cold but we need to sort out a repair as soon as we can. Researching what that might entail took a good chunk of what remained of the afternoon. Whilst Christine tracked down a possible spare parts supplier Mike walked back along the towpath to the marina to bring the car close to where we are now.

3.1 Miles - 3 Locks

Monday 11 July 2022

Warper's Moss, Burscough

Today's Canals - Leeds and Liverpool, Rufford Arm

One of the hottest days this year but with little wind and high level cloud it soon became very stuffy and 'close'. We planned to o far enough today so that we could get close to Tarleton perhaps by lunch time tomorrow, leaving time to sort out ready for the Ribble crossing on Wednesday.

We set off as usual from our overnight mooring and continued back along the L & L towards Burscough.

At Heatons Bridge there are a few long term moorings and just a couple of spaces as 2 Day Visitor Moorings although we think that one of them was occupied by the same boat as when we went into Liverpool. What caught our eye was the double decker pill box, not something we recall seeing elsewhere. Anyone any ideas?

There are two swing bridges just before Burscough - this is the first. Both are fully mechanised. At the second what appeared to be a single hander was hovering on the other side of the bridge and set off as we came through. We suspected that she had been waiting until someone came along as swing bridges are quite tedious on your own, even though most of the controls are now on the towpath side.

We had to queue for the water point as a wide beam was already there. Eventually we were able to pull up - luckily another boat that stopped just before we arrived only wanted the disposal facility. One we were filled and emptied we moved forward to a mooring space in order to go to the nearby Tesco for shopping. We want to stick as much as we can in case supplies are not at hand on the Lancaster#. Back at the boat we flopped and had lunch until we forced ourselves to face the heat and move on a little further.

We turned at the junction onto the Rufford Arm. There were boats in each of the first three locks including one wide beam that 'kindly' left both gates open at the lock they had just left. Alas, this lock has no way across from one side to the other - so Mike hitched a lift from nb Alchemy to ferry him across the lock.

Alas he forgot to take a camera from the boat until Lock 4. We were able to take pictures both up and down earlier in the trip and we will have a further opportunity in a few weeks time when we return from the Lancaster.

We moored between Locks 4 and 5 glad to seek some respite - but then the sun largely disappeared and the temperature gradually moderated. Tomorrow is set to be overcast but back to sunshine for the Ribble Link.

6.8 Miles - 4 Locks

Sunday 10 July 2022

Halsall - again

Today's Canal - Leeds and Liverpool

For the first time in a while we had a pretty hot day from start to finish!

We went to the 10 am service at St Andrew's Church, parish church for Maghull. We walked along the towpath to the next swing bridge and then along a road to the church, taking about 15 minutes altogether,

There was no mention on the web site but it turned out to be a parade service for uniformed organisations - in this case two lots of brownies and one group of Rainbows. 

We were welcomed and several people thought to talk to us both before and after. The service entirely used material projected onto three screens and was very well suited to the youngsters present. There was a good group of the congregation as well, around 70 in total. Apart from the 'parades' most were from amore senior generation!

Afterwards we had a cup of coffee in the adjoining hall and chatted to several more of the congregation.

There has been a church on this site from the 13C - some parts remain and are used occasionally. In its grounds a new church was constructed and opened in 1880 with several late 20C additions including a hall. Three churches in Maghull and Melling form a team ministry. As it happens, the person who took the service last week at Halsall is being licenced as the Rector here next Saturday!

Back at the boat we moved on a short distance to the swing footbridge close to Morrisons and, before having lunch, we stocked up - we will be able to do more when we get to Burscough but  we had no potatoes for our roast this evening!

We then had lunch before starting again, then passing through the swing bridge where Mike had help from a little girl who was taking an interest in the canal. Watched closely by her dad, she was able to push the bridge almost on her own - this one is exceptionally easy to move.

He also had help from two children and grand parents (?) at the next road bridge - this one needed a bit more of a push and so there were four of us on the arm! They, and watching parents, seemed very pleased to have had the opportunity.

At several points as we passed through Haskayne we caught glimpses of a Red Arrows display that was the closing item in this year's Southport Air Show.

We moored at the same place as on the way in.

6.5 Miles - 0 Locks