Friday, 19 August 2011

Down to the River Weaver

Friday 12 August – the ‘Glorious Twelfth’

John arrived to finish the electrical work in the bedroom so we left him with a key and set off for Anderton (Cheshire) where Ophelia is now moored. About halfway we got a call from John to say he hadn’t got a key... seems he had put it in his bag. (If we didn’t have mobile phones, we would have to remember stuff).


Ophelia in Anderton Marina

The people at Anderton were very friendly – previous reports had not been great – and we set off for the lift down to the river Weaver.

Waiting for the next passage down

Some years ago, when they were trying to raise money to restore the Anderton Boat Lift, we subscribed and helped raise the necessary funds. Because of this, we were invited to an event and got a free trip down and back up but this wasn’t in our own boat and was at about a third of the speed. We got to the holding moorings and booked our passage – about half an hour wait but it could be much longer. However, if you turn up on spec and are prepared to wait, it’s free – booked passage is £5.

Entering the lift caisson

Looking back at the Anderton Boat Lift

Down onto the Weaver and straining to remember the lock timings. I think she said we wouldn’t get through Saltersford tonight because the last passage is 15.45 and, sure enough, we were too late so we moored in warm if cloudy weather and settled down to wait for the morning passage. You can’t work these locks on your own; they are all staffed and are very large. Vale Royal Lock can hold 28 boats.

Himalayan Balsam at Saltersford Locks

We arrived at Saltersford too late to go down but there is a very pretty mooring with a path through the woods one way and through the Himalayan Balsam the other that goes to the lockside. We left a message on the answerphone saying we wanted to go down so the keeper would get it ready first thing.

Saturday 13th

Saltersford Lock - like all the lock, big enough to take seagoing craft

We went through just after 10am having had our bacon sandwiches and coffee. Just as we were about to go in, another boat arrived and went down with us – better use of the water. The Liverpudlian lock keeper was very informative and said he would let the keeper down at Dutton know we were on our way. It should take about 35 minutes. Because we were dawdling (no reason to hurry) it took us a bit longer and there was another boat in the lock waiting for us. The woman lock keeper said it was no problem; she had enjoyed chatting to the other owner.

After this, we cruised down past Devil’s Garden where we had been recommended to moor on the way back up. There was no-one there so we hoped there would be a place when we came back. The river is canalised all the way down to the Manchester Ship Canal and there are a couple of major swing bridges at Acton Bridge and Sutton built to allow ships up to 2500 tons to go through to the Ship Canal.

Acton Bridge


MV Chica

Forthe history and legends of MV Chica see

Dutton Lock with its very happy woman lock-keeper. Always cheerful and helpful.

Dutton Viaduct

The wind got up and it was rather cold as we cruised towards the industrial section at Weston. The factory goes on for what seems about a mile and the whole section is rather dreary. The only reason to go down is to say you’ve done it.

The Emerald City(?)

We cruised back in a bit of a hurry, wanting to moor and get out of the wind. However, as we came up, the wind got better. By the time we got to Devil’s Garden, it was almost full of other boats and we had to squeeze in at one end, mooring without a bow rope.

Devil's Garden

However, all is quiet, weather and river, so it doesn’t look like it will be a problem. Getting Molly off and on will be a different matter; she can be very nervous sometimes. I may have to lift her across the gap. The TV signal here was rather difficult. Why is it that the BBC stations are always the first to go? We played the DVD of the Nutcracker just for the music while we sat and read. Altogether a rather quiet evening, but that’s what we like. Tomorrow, we’ll head up the other section from the Lift towards Winsford Flash.

Sunday 14th

Woken early by Molly out of a very bad dream so my mood was low. I dressed quickly and took Molly for a walk which she needed since she hadn’t fancied getting off the boat in the dark last night. The Weaver way runs beside the river along here and is very pretty. At one point, I was reminded of the part in the Lord of the Rings film Fellowship of the Rings where Frodo says to the other hobbits “Get off the road!” and they hide while the black rider comes and sniffs around. I started re-reading Lord of the Rings for about the 20th time last week while I was on the Stone Carving course last week (subject of anothet blog entry when I have time); it seemed appropriate to lettered stone and monumental carvings. I have it on my Kindle so it’s really easy to read anytime. One day, I’ll write a piece about how I first read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings at the age of 18 and how it completely changed my life and gave me a whole new imaginative world to revel in.

Weaver Way - my Lord of the Rings moment

... and Molly the Spaniel

We decided today to have a lazy day so we came up through Dutton and Saltersford locks. It was rather cold and rainy so we moored for lunch in a little niche by a willow tree. Unfortunately there was a wasps nest close by so we had to be a bit careful. However, we sat and read our books for a couple of hours. There were occasional breaks in the dense cloud but it didn’t look like clearing up. Eventually, I got bored and decided to move so we cast off and moved up past the Anderton lift and moored for the night at the visitor moorings where there is a picnic area.

Visitor moorings at Anderton

The sun came out and it got a bit warmer. After a while, Soulbury came by (another ex-Ownerships boat) and we had a discussion about the future. Soulbury is independent, but he thought the owners would probably decide to sell before too long. The problem as he saw it was that there was no market for selling individual shares in an independent boat because no purchaser knew what was likely to happen in the future. Also, finding people prepared to do minor works and take responsibility for organising (licences, fees, etc) was difficult.

Like so many owners, he said he had always enjoyed OwnerSnips (the Ownerships magazine I used to edit) and had always meant to write something but never actually got around to it.

We tried to rescan the TV signal but there was nothing so we made do with Classic FM. There was a Brass Band concert at the marquee but we wanted an early night so we didn’t go.

Monday 15th

Off to Northwich

BW Regional Repair Yard

Approaching Vale Royal Locks

Inside the lock - heavy steel gates and freshwater mussels

Vale Royal

We set off in fairly cold weather to go up Hunts and Vale Royal locks. As we went through, the weather began to improve and, as we made our way up towards Winsford, the sun came out. We asked the lock keeper about moorings in Winsford and he was pretty scathing, saying there was nowhere; “Winsford has never come to terms with its boating community”. He recommended some moorings about 1000 metres above Vale Royal lock. The river above the lock is very attractive for some of the way, then it passes the salt/grit works and is a bit dreary. Winsford flashes are quite interesting – lined on one side with holiday cabins though we thought some or most were permanent dwellings.

Winsford Flashes

I re-tuned the TV here where it was very open, though the autoscan didn’t work; I had to manually scan those channels that showed a decent signal. Interestingly, the BBC channels I got were Midlands not North but they were very clear.

Goose washing... and drying opposite our mooring.

We made our way back to the suggested moorings and spent the afternoon reading in the sunshine.
We’ve decided that we will make our way back to the lift tomorrow because it looks like the weather is going to worsen so we might as well get home early and go to John Florance’s lecture on John Betjeman.

Tuesday 17th

We didn’t need to start off too early because the lock passage wasn’t until 10.30am so we took our time. We arrived in plenty of time – there was another boat waiting ‘Mrs Tiggywinkle’ so we moored to the pontoon. After a while, another – ‘Tempranillo’ came up and ‘loitered’ on the river waiting. As we were all waiting, the owner of ‘Mrs T’ came through and said the lock was almost ready so I stepped on board and loosed the rope; we drifted slowly towards the centre of the river at which ‘Mr Tempranillo’ got incensed and demanded to know why I had not stayed on the pontoon. Just at that moment, Molly the spaniel decided to be sick so I wasn’t in a mood to explain my actions to a very angry boater; angry, I might say, with no reason (I sometimes wonder why some people go through life believing they have the right to order everyone around.) Meanwhile, a wide-beam boat arrived and another small narrow boat. When the lock was opened, the wide-beam (naturally) was taken in first, then the longest narrow boat and so on down to the smallest. The owner of ‘Mrs Tiggy...’ was extremely upset; he had obviously set off early to be fist in the lock but, since it was easily able to accommodate us all, I didn’t see the problem. Anyway, he refused to tie up to another boat - we were all roped together – Mr ‘Tempranillo’ refused to take my rope and completely ignored me until the lock-keeper ordered him to take it so it was a bad tempered 25 minutes wait while the lock emptied and we all went down. To cap it all and the rain came down in buckets; it all seemed very appropriate, really. The couple in the last boat to arrive (‘Lily May’ I think, though they were waiting for a paint job and had no painted name) were extremely friendly and couldn’t understand why Mr ‘Temper...’ stood with his back to us all the way down.

We were positioned in the middle of the lock and the keeper said “As soon as there’s a 7ft gap in the gates, go for it!” so we were first out and on our way to Hunts Lock. After Hunts, the ‘problem’ boats decided to moor in Northwich so we didn’t have to put up with them any further.

Going up with nb Valour, an ex 'Challenger' boat

The tour boat which delayed us

A view back to the River Weaver

We moored at the Anderton Boat lift ready for our passage up at 2.15. However, because of the tour boat’s lateness in coming down, we were rather late going up. Now, it’s not generally known (unless you’ve been up on the lift) that you boat ends up with hundreds of muddy drip marks all along the roof and down the sides. These dry rock hard; the mud in the drips is very fine and they are extremely difficult to scrub off. Anyway, when we got to the marina and had filled up with fuel and water, paid for these and pump-outs and turned the boat around, we realised we could not leave the boat spattered with mud – we had already cleaned, polished the brass, etc., but we settled down to scrub every inch of the roof and sides with hot soapy water, and then rinse it all off. By the time we were satisfied that everything was clean, we suddenly realised the lateness of the hour. The secure car park where our car was sitting closed at 5pm – it was now 5.01 and when I ran over to look, it was closed and locked. At that moment, the heavens opened (I assume all this is literary ‘pathetic fallacy’ or something like it) so we were unable to do anything except move to our mooring and decide to stay another night. Lots of thing to unpack again and a meal to prepare. Still, we made the boat homely again and settled down to listen to Classic FM and read – no TV signal again!

Wednesday 18th

Packed and off quickly this morning; home by lunchtime to a garden that’s been very deprived of water, unlike us.