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.

The handcuff key anti vandal chain that we had to unlock in 2019 has recently been replaced by a chain with two locks, one of which can be opened with a Watermate key. (The new instruction board is again out of date!)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 said 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 100 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 has 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 sent 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 accurate 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 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 is 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

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