Monday, 26 April 2010

Vale Royal to Thelwall

Vale Royal to Thelwall
Weaver Navigation, Trent and Mersey, Bridgewater
Easter 2010 - part 9
8th April 2010

16 Miles - 4 Locks (and a boat lift) - 10 hours

Whilst the top pound of the Weaver was very quiet, we didn't have it to ourselves. Just as we were making our way to the first emptying of Vale Royal Lock another narrowboat showed up, who had spent the night at the Red Lion Inn. There are rumours of trouble in Winsford,  but they hadn't encountered anything untoward.

Vale Royal Locks

On our approach to Hunts Lock we came up behind a big sea going yacht, which completely filled the smaller of the two locks and caused us to wait. The lock keeper was apologetic but with this delay came a silver lining. All along the navigation we had slipped under huge swing bridges and had been wondering if they still operated. The sight of an 80ft mast sliding serenely down the cut confirmed that they do indeed swing and that a BW employee was at that very moment dashing down the Weaver in his car, racing the yacht to each successive bridge. We were only going as far as Anderton but by following the yacht through Northwich we did get to see the mayhem a boat passage causes. It was a bit worring to her an ambulance siren wailing round the town, trying vainly to find a way across the waterway.

Hunts Lock

Northwich Basin

Northwich Swing Bridge

Now this was a Thursday, the day the lift remians closed for training till 11.00am ,so we were not surprised to be advised that the first passage would be at 12.30. This fitted very well with my need to be included in an 11.00am  confracall with out legal team, which I undertook from the stern of the boat. I thought that my location was unknown till comment was made about the "odd" background noise. I had to come clean and explain why a helicopter was hovering overhead.

This delay also meant I could attend to a mechanical problem which had been getting steadiIy worse. I had thought that the baffles in the exhaust had failed but it transpired that both the end of the flexible exhaust and the skin  fitting had worked loose and were rattling like nobody's business. I didn't have a big spanner with me so made to with twist of string and did a classic botch job.

The lift was in great demand that morning as a small flotilla of boats has arrived from the Easter Working Boats gathering at Ellesmere Port, coming in via the Manchester Ship Canal and Marsh Lock. The skipper of the boat we paired up with advised us that whilst the route has novelty value, the 8 miles on the MSC can best be described as boring.

 Anderton Boat Lift from the Weaver Navigation
Then it was back onto the Trent and Mersey and the paired Barnton / Saltersford tunnels, making the acquauntance of a boater on his way home to the Leeds Liverpool with his new purchase. At first glance this was a scruffy old 55ft boat but a closer look revealed a totally neglected 6 year old craft which had been bought for £10k - yes, thats right ten thousand pounds. Whilst it is is undoubtedly a great bargain, it does come with a lot of work needed. The engine was under water for 6 months but by a miracle roared to life when tweaked. The inside needs a complete strip down and the old gent that owned it seems to have sat in there for 6 years and smoked himself to death, blackening the interior beyond salvage. So really it was a sailaway that need to be stripped - hence the price.

We played tag with this boat for a few hours but lost him for a while when we stopped at Black Prince to fill with diesel and water plus have a pumpout. We pressed on down the quiet Bridgewater, eventually mooring up near Thelwall.


Anonymous said...

Great photos of those big swing bridges on the move - must have been quite a sight!

Sue, Indigo Dream

Captain Ahab said...

Yes it was quite spectacular, and well worth waiting for.