Anderton to Weston Point
Easter 2010 - part 6
6th April 2010
6th April 2010
16 miles - 2 Locks - 5 Hours (plus the Anderton Boat Lift)
Following the excitement of the Anderton Boat Lift we turned downstream past the old mills with their crumbling jetties, aiming to explore Weston Point near Runcorn.
I had imagined the Weaver to be a river and had half a mind to set up the anchor, but in the event I was glad I didn't bother. The Weaver is part river and part canal, more of a Navigation really! But this is a navigation like none other I have explored. It was built to carry coasters and has locks to match. Quoting dimensions does not do them justice so perhaps it is more helpful to say that the record number of boats held in a single chamber stands at 29, and they were not very tightly packed. Needless to say all these leviathians are lock keeper operated, who work their charges from 8.00 am till 4.15 pm with 45 mins for lunch between 12.00 and 12.45. If you want to pass through a lock you have to arrive by 3.45 pm, which makes for short cruising days and an enforced slow pace.
Weston Point Docks
Commercial traffic continued to ply these waters till the 1980's, and their ghosts continue linger directed by peeling signs and tying up to sagging jetties. It's a miracle that the navigation remaied open at all during the 1990's when traffic was reduced to a few river cruisers and sea going yachts seeking winter refuge. But I am so glad BW hung in there, saving an absolute gem of a waterway.
The lock keepers are uniformly helpful and enthusiastic, passing the time of day, recounting stories of the past and offering hints and tips for the future.
Bridges at end of Weaver Navigation
The Weaver winds its way north through a narrow wooded valley with the broad and deep channel taking up much of the valley floor in places. This woodland comes to an end beyond Frodsham Cut, an obsolete link into the tidal Weaver and it is fair to say that this marks the end of the picturesque. The valley then opens out allowing the westerly winds to whip up the estuary and through the rusting girders of Sutton Swing Bridge. This bridge marks the gateway to the back of beyond, framing the high Railway Viaduct and M56 Motorway Bridge to the north whilst far in the distance the Runcorn Chemical Works glistens in the sun, belching steam and vapour high into the sky.
Runcorn Chemical Works
But before you reach the interminable Chemical Works the flourishing Runcorn Rowing Club is found, it's enthusiastic members racing up and down the Weaver with their emblem "On the Weaver since 1884" proudly displayed in the boathouse.
Mooring at Worlds End
The chemical works are your constant companion for the final mile of the Weaver Navigation to Marsh Lock, the sole operable access point to the Manchester Ship canal. They then continue beside the short Weston Canal which terminates at Weston Point, site of Weston Docks and the bottom end of the abandoned Runcorn and Weston Canal, last navigated in the 1960's.
Runcorn and Weston Canal bottom lock
The guide books instruct boaters not to access the dock area, which is privately owned and an active storage site for compost destined for B&Q. Fortunately, we didn't read this page till it was too late so we tied up to the huge old bollards, collected some extra kindling and went exploring. Whilst we were spotted, no one challenged us as we poked around the docks and took a look at the smoke blackened Weaver Church, locked and folorn, devoid of any congregation.
Church on Weston Docks
This is a bleak place indeed, running cheek by jowl with the Manchester Ship Canal. It's banks lined with old MSC lock gates leant like giants crennelations against the sea wall repelling any invaders daft enough to try and come this way. Pearson accurately described this place as "not so much the end of a canal journey but actually the end of the world". Visit it for its history and it's atmosphere but don't expect much beauty.
Lock Gates on Manchester Ship Canal
We retraced our steps into the wooded valley beneath Duttons Lock where we moored in splendid isolation and watched the sun fall off the edge of the world.