Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to all our readers whereever you are ... We will be continuing our travels on NB Oakapple in the early spring . It's great to know you are all out there and hope you will continue to follow us next year

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Chance meetings and rounding up.

since my last blog we have been slowly making our way down the Shroppie, heading back towards Stone where Oakapple has a winter mooring booked and the Captain has a hernia repair op. in November.
It is strange how things happen. As we aproached Market Drayton last week we were wondering where our friends Roly & Bev were and lo and behold, there they were, sitting out in the sunshine with Sally, another of last winters gang. It was great to catch up with them.
The weather has been exceptionally kind, very little rain and lots of sunshine. It has been a joy to cruise and appreciate the autumn colours developing.
This week we met up with another of the gang, Sue & Andy from Festina Lente. Happy Friday in the 'Radford Bank' and an 'all you can eat breakfast' followed yesterday morning. Mmmm!
While we were there the fuel boat Halsall came through and supplied us with six bags of coal, now neatly stacked on the roof ready for the stoves when the weather finally breaks.

Since leaving Stone in the spring we have covered nearly 800miles and worked about 400locks. We have attended some great events. The Braunston historic boat rally in June, always a great show, and more recently the steam rally at Acton Bridge on the river Weaver.
The highlight of the year has to be our trip into Liverpool Docks. The whole experience was stunning. From the passage in through the docks, to our mooring right in the heart of the city. It was a total contrast to the usual canal cruising we do and we are already planning to return next year.
We are off to see family and friends on the south coast next week and looking forward to catching up with everybody.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Steam and diesel on the river

Moving south, we left the Bridgewater canal and rejoined the Trent & Mersey at the shallow stop lock at Preston Brook. Hardly worth having a lock at all, since the diference in levels is only a matter of inches.
Passing through Anderton we couldn't resist another few days down on the river Weaver which has become one of our favourite haunts this season. We were soon down on the lift and heading for Northwich for the night. The town moorings were a lot quieter this time since the piling work which has been going on seems to be almost finnished.
While we were there we got wind of a steam event happening at the weekend down at the Leigh Arms at Acton Bridge. Never able to resist a steam engine, the captain announced that we must go!
On Saturday we walked down to Acton from our mooring near Saltersford lock.
It was amazing to see the car park so full of steam rollers and traction engines. There were a few old cars as well as 1/4 scale engines weaving around the place.
While we had our lunch in the pub we watched the engines queuing to fill their water tanks.  Down on the river there was a steam powered narrowboat which the owner was pleased to show us over.
With the boiler and fire tucked into the corner, it was a very different engine room to what we are used to. The boat was apropriately named 'Whistle Down the Wind', which he certainly did on his way back up river on Monday.
One of the boats attending was the fuel boat 'Halsall' so we arranged to have our diesel tanks filled on Sunday afternoon.
Just before our Sunday lunch went on the plates, (luckily), a vigorous hooting announced his arrival and Halsall glided alongside in a very professional way. We soon had both tanks filled, taking 160Ltrs in all.
Within ten minutes we parted company, Halsall on up river, and us down below for our roast lamb, mmmm!

Monday, 28 September 2015

The Pit, Operations, and a Blood Moon.

Our first goal after leaving the outskirts of Liverpool was to get to Astley Green, hopefully on the right day, to visit the pit museum there. The pithead winding tower can be seen for miles. This is the only example left of what was once a common sight in the area.
The museum is staffed totally by volunteers. As You speak to them, it becomes clear that they all once worksd in the mining industry and have a wealth of information to pass on to visitors.
The main reason for the site being preserved is the pithead winding engine. It the largest one in UK, the drum alone weighing 400tons. and powered by two double expansion steam engines. The whole museum is run on a shoestring budget, asking only for donations from the visitors. We found that the basic style of the museum, coupled with the obvious enthusiasm of the volunteers, gave the place an immediacy, lacking in many slicker operations.
After spending the night moored in the shadow of the tower amidst a landscape devastated by past mining activity we moved on through the edges of Salford and Sale, all part of Greater Manchester, to reach the next place on our list, Dunham Massey Hall.
This NT Property was used as a military hospital during WW1 and has been furnished to accurately show the way it was then. You can see the way the operations were carried out as well as follow the fortunes of some of the patients who were treated there. A lot of these stately homes were used in this way, often, as here, staffed by the families and servants that occupied them. There were actors taking on the roles of staff and patients, mingling with the visitors and bringing the the whole place to life.
The hall is set within a large deer park, and, being so close to Manchester, is very popular at the weekend. The deer however, seem quite used to the number of people there, and can be seen quite close up, allowing us to get some good pics.
The weather was quite stunning over the weekend and the clear skies allowed us to view the total lunar eclipse last night. Setting the alarm for 2.45am, we tumbled out of bed to put the kettle on and watch the moon slowly disappear, to be replaced by a red disc, the classic 'blood moon'. After seeing the'blue moon' earlier in the year it just had to be done! It will be another 30yrs before we get another eclipse like this.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

BBQ at Tesco's

Our first stop outside Liverpool was at Litherlands. There is a services facility there with moorings inside a locked gate. Outside the gate is a large Tesco's store, very convenient.
Moored in front of us was NB Winedown, which had been in Salthouse Dock with us. One of the other boats there had sugested a BBQ, so, back to Tesco's for some suitable supplies and the charcoal was soon smoking away. Even though the weather was a bit marginal, we all had a great evening. It is always good to get to know different boaters, and hopefully we will meet again on our travels in the future.
There are two swing bridges to be opened by the waterways people on the way out, so we organised ourselves to be there at 1.00 pm. With four other boats we were let through and on our way, finally stopping for the night near Maghull.
Just as we were about to leave next morning the four boats passed us. We joined onto the end of the convoy, very convenient as the swing bridges come quite frequently. With five boats passing the waiting cars, the drivers can get a bit impatient. We passed on our way, at Halsall, a statue dedicated to the Navvies who dug the canals. It is rare to see the contribution of these workmen recognised.  We finally lost the convoy when we stopped to fill up with diesel, and we spent the night at Burscough.
We have now arrived back in Wigan, just in time to find the local Wetherspoons for a Sunday lunch, plus the usual extras. Don't ask!!
It has been a great couple of days cruising. The sun shone yesterday, very warm. Today started misty and never got going, but it wasn't cold or windy, which is a bonus.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Leaving of Liverpool

wednesday morning came round all too soon and we left our berth in Salthouse dock to meet the
C & RT staff  to see us on our way.
We spent our last two days catching up with the rest of the sights of the city. On Monday we went on the 'Magical Mystery tour' which took us to see all the beatles related locations around the city. All the Beatles childhood homes, Penny lane, Strawberry Fields, and a host of others. Some were as we had imagined, and others came as a surprise. Inevitably the tour finished up at 'The Cavern' where we spent the afternoon enjoying the live music and their own 'Cavern Ale'
We had been told that a visit to the Central Library was a must, so, on Tuesday, after breakfast in the North Western, one of the many 'Spoons' in Liverpool, we made our way there.
The original facade gives no clue to the new interior that lies behind. Stairs and escalators climb up the floors to a dome in the roof which floods the building with light. As the Captain spent 18 yrs. working in a school of Architecture, it is inevitable that an apreciation of some of this stuff will rub off. When it is done well it can be stunning. Unfortunately it is not always done with the skill that this mix of old and new has been.
At 8.00am we threaded our way through Albert dock, into Canning dock and the entrance to Mann Island lock. There were three boats going out on Wednesday. It was gloriously sunny morning, with hardly a ripple on the water and we were soon making our way through the various docks and tunnels until we reached the landmark clock tower where we turned right, towards the old tobacco warehouse, the largest brick building in the world! The clock tower has six faces, and was used by ships to set their chronometers as they left the port.
After being worked up the stanley locks by our team of waterways staff, we are now back on the L&L Canal and heading back into the countryside.
I have added a pic. of Oakapple on her berth, and a photo of the same dock full of sailing ships taken around 1890. You can see a forrest of masts in the other docks along the waterfront.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Sights & Sounds of Liverpool

we are now on our fourth day in Liverpool docks and we have made the most of our time. Taking in the two Cathedrals, the Anglican first, huge with superb views from the tower, and the Catholic one second. A very different building but stunning in its own way. We visited the crypt underneath, which is the work of Lutyens. If his original design had been finished it would have been the largest Cathedral in the world.
Still underground, we visited the remains of the first dock to be built in Liverpool, which can be seen beneath the John Lewis store. A fascinating piece of history.
In Hope Street, between the two Cathedrals we found the Philharmonic Dining Rooms pub, a little gem, incredibly ornate with wood paneling, mirrors and victorian detail. Even the mens toilet is a work of art which the ladies will sneak in to admire, amazing, but it still smells like a gents lavatory!
Of course, you can't visit Liverpool without going to the Cavern Club where the 60's music revolution began. We have spent two afternoons there, one with solo artists performing on stage, and today, we were treated to the whole Beatles tribute band playing all of the early Beatles numbers.
Another 'must' is a trip on the iconic Mersey Ferry. A round trip, with a break to visit the UBoat which was raised from the seabed off the coast of Norway.
There has been a pirate festival in the docks this weekend. Sea shantys, cannons and dressing up. I don't know why pirates are so popular with the kids. They just Arrrr!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Liverpool 1, inward journey

Yesterday we made the trip into Salthouse Dock in the heart of Liverpool.
on tuesday we had arrived at bridge 9 to wait for the waterways people to swing it open on Wednesday morning. Much to our suprise they were there and allowed us through, which gave us a chance to get to Litherland and stock up at the Tesco's alongside.
We had been warned about the amount of litter in the canal so were a bit apprehensive when we set off yesterday to meet up at the top of the Stanley flight of locks. Perhaps we were lucky but we got there in plenty of time without stopping to clear the prop.
The same cheerfull gang worked the locks for us, (quite a luxury), and let us down into the dock complex. First through Stanley and Collingwood docks past the vast tobacco warehouse, now derelict, and into Salisbury Dock. At this point we were heading for the old clock tower and the lock down onto the Mersey.  A nifty left turn took us through the remains of more old docks and into the Central Docks Channel which led to Princes dock and another lock.
We passed the three iconic buildings known as the three graces, (the Liver Building, the Cunard Building, and the Port of Liverpool Building), and passed through a tunnel under the museum to arrive at another lock. Through this and we were into Canning Dock. It was a bit of a wiggle round into Albert Dock but we were nearly there. One last bridge and we entered Salthouse Dock where our pier awaited us.
We soon had the shoreline plugged in, set for our week exploring the sights of the big city.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Liverpool calling

We are getting closer to Liverpool daily. We spent yesterday moored in Burscough. The Captains Sister joined us for the day. It made a pleasant change to have a visitor. We took a stroll down part of the Rufford branch which leaves the L&L Canal at Burscough and ends on the estuary of the river Ribble. From there it is possible to cross over to join the Lancaster Canal, but not for us. Apart from being to much like the sea for my liking, we are too long for the locks on this stretch. It was however interesting to see some of it and look at the paddle gear on some of the locks. As on the Wigan flight, they are also totally different to what we have seen before.
After a couple of pints in The Ship at the junction we had lunch on board and caught up with all the family news.
It has been a fine, mostly clear day today and we had an excelent cruise as far as bridge 20, yet another of those pesky swing bridges, the fourth today. It is a lovely quiet spot in what is probably the last real countryside before heading into Liverpool. The landscape is very flat with wide open skies. The Captain swears he can smell the sea. A look at the map showed the Irish Sea is only about 8 miles away to the west, and with a northwest wind blowing, he is probably right!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Water Road to Wigan Pier

It was a very early start on Thursday as we planned to get through Manchester in one go. Well, actually just the edge, Sale and skirting round Salford. Turning left we avoided the centre of Manchester and headed towards Worsley, crossing on the way, the swing aqueduct at Barton which crosses the Manchester Ship Canal. Although we were looking out for it, crossing over was something of an anticlimax. Not as impressive as expected. It is, however, quite a feat of victorian engineering.
On the subject of engineering, we soon after passed through Patricroft, where the Gardner works used to be, and our engine was manufactured in 1952. One feature of the Bridgewater Canal is the little cranes at strategic points to lift in the stop planks which are used to block the canal for maintenance work.
After a long day we eventually stopped near Astley Green in sight of a pithead winding tower in an area reclaimed from the ravages of the local mining industry.

Yesterday we travelled as far as Wigan. The landscape still showed signs of its mining past in the form of lakes and flashes caused by subsidence. Aproaching Wigan we encountered our first locks, (apart from the river), since middlewich. Being on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, they have some different paddle gear to what we are used to. One had a curious drum and chain arrangement to close the gates.
After spending a quieter than expected night moored in the centre of Wigan, we set off this morning past the iconic Wigan pier. Not particularly awe inspiring, but we knew what to expect. Still, a photo had to be taken.
The landscape improved dramatically on leaving Wigan with some lovely tree lined stretches and numerous sightings of Kingfishers along the way. The only down side was the number of swing bridges we encountered. They were easy to work but I hate having to stop the cars and put up with the scowling. Still, the canal was here first and they just have to put up with it!