Saturday, August 15, 2009

Canal Walk: Bude Canal

We parked in the big pay and display car park by the beach in Bude. It was a very hot and sunny day. The beach was busy with tourists, the sea full of swimmers and surfers, and the sea lock was surrounded by people fishing for crabs and enjoying one of our unpredictable days of sunshine.
We walked up to Falcon Bridge and went to the Canal Information Centre. I bought a walking guide there for £2.99. It has walks along the canal and around the surrounding area. The centre has displays about the canal and is worth a quick visit.
We then went back to the towpath and walked up to the locks. Both locks on the barge canal have been refurbished in the last year. The stone work has been repaired and replaced. New gates have been put on and new winding gear added. Its great to see such an acheivement but what use is it without at least one boat to use them?
Just before Rodds Bridge there is a one mile cast iron mile post. Its nice to see it still in place, the 2 mile post also survives.
Past the bridges we soon arrived at Hele Bridge which unsurprisingly has some bridges. After a short stretch of canal, which has some surviving canal buildings along side it, we reached the end of the the line. This is the end of the barge canal. From here only the trains of small tub boats would continue. They went from the canal up to Marhamchurch via an incline plane.
There is a short section of the plane that has been cleared to give you an idea of what it looked like. Maybe it can be restored at some point. We walked up the hill to Marhamchurch and visited the church. St. Morwenna's is a very nice 14th or 15th century church with a distinctive floor. After the church we went to the pub and had a pint and a packet of crisps.
After the pub we went back down to the canal and headed back to Bude. We detoured from the towpath and took a path through the community woodland to the coast path. Unfortunately it is more of a insect infested swamp than woodland and we were eaten alive by huge flies. At the coast you get great views along the cliffs and of the geology down on the beach.
Back at Bude we had just enough time to get back to the car before the time was up.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Canal Walk: Tavistock Canal

Today looked like it had the potential to either be very nice and sunny or go back to rain and cloud. Luckily by the time we arrived at Tavistock it had decided to be a hot sunny day. The canal in the Meadows was full of ducks being fed bread. Although yesterday it had rained all day the towpath wasnt too bad. The water level in the canal was down, but that exposes the sides of the channel and gives you a chance to see how it was constructed.
It didnt take long to get to the lock and then the junction with the former Mill Hill line. Today we climbed the gate and followed the canal to the left towards the tunnel. Unfortunately the tunnel is in a cutting and was hidden by trees and bushes. I decided not to cross the bridge and go down to the waters edge. It was getting a bit hot and I have seen photos of the tunnel before. Besides I didnt want to explain to the person whose driveway I would have had to walk up what I was doing.
So it was back to the canal and back to Tavistock for a wander about and some lunch and an ice cream.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Canal Cruise: Farmers Arms to Spencer's Swing Bridge

Today we met the Albatross at the Saracens Head. There is a new sign by the Nudey Navvy which tells you all about building a canal. At long last Halsall is getting its recognition as the starting place of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

The new sign at Halsall

While we drove back to Southport Albatross carried on to the Farmers Arms. There were some electricians working on the bridge, there had been problems with the key. We met up again at the pub but didnt stay long. We carried on through the swing bridge by the Slipway. Again Albatross carried on while I moved the car. We met once again at the Blood Tub.

At the Farmers Arms

Albatross approaching the Rufford Branch

Albatross passing by the Rufford branch.

A huge fish from the Ship (Blood Tub)

Bridge control panel

We left Albatross after Spencers bridge, they continued on their cruise and we walked back to the car. Our own holiday is about to start, the Tavistock and Bude canals await.

Liverpool Dock Link Photos

Photos from our trip along the new canal in the docks.

Along the channel, looking back to Salisbury Dock

One of the new bridges

Leaving the lock and entering the tunnel

The Tunnel under the new Museum

In Salthouse Dock

A pair of ducks.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Canal Cruise: The Stanley Dock Branch and Dock Link

Today Albatross sailed from Eldonian Village to Salthouse Dock. I walked down in the morning to meet them at Eldonian Village. On the way I passed the Green Man, made famous by the Boys From the Black Stuff. Its about the only pub on this road that is still in business as a pub.

The boat and crew had survived the night intact. Troy had put his life jacket on, it means he cant bend in the middle but also makes him easier to see and grab hold of. He doesn't mind it but it isn't his favourite outfit.

We were early for our trip down the locks so we went for a walk up the canal a little way. The bridges have been repainted and now look very smart in black and white. The area around the canal and the junction with the Stanley Dock Branch has been done up.

We were very early for the trip down the locks, Troy had a sniff round the locks. We thought another boat was coming with us but they had only come to Eldonian for the night and gone back again. So it was just us today.

The two BW men turned up on time and we set off down the locks. There is a whole world of slime on lock walls. Some of the walls have leaks which you have to watch out for. The new gates hold the water very well compared to some on the system that leak like a fountain. It didn't take long to go down the locks, the wind blew us about a bit but there were no problems.

I have walked down the locks many times before, this is the first time I have been down them in a boat (that I recall). Out of the locks and into the docks. The scale changes and suddenly the canal boat is in a different world of huge warehouses and wide expanses of water.

Through Stanley Dock and under the lift bridge (which is being demolished sometime). As we headed towards the clock tower the batteries in my camera died, and so did the spares. So I switched cameras (photos to follow later).

There isnt much of a view up to Princes Dock, some landscaping is in order! We arrived at the lock in the dock at the same time as the BW crew and were soon locked through into the first tunnel. I have watched this tunnel being built so it was good to finally be sailing through it. There are stalactites already.
My sister arrived on cue to film us sailing in front of the 3 graces. Through the tunnels and on to Mann Island. The last lock into the south docks looks a bit different to the usual locks. Above it massive new glass buildings are being constructed.
Out of the lock and it was a short trip through the Albert Dock to our mooring in Salthouse Dock.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Albatross at the end of the line

Albatross returns to the end of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Troy is more interested in playing ball than anything to do with canals. The local kids were pulling down a tree, they had been doing it since 10am and by 6pm they had just managed to get it horizontal across the car park. Some others were having fun in canoes. All kids are the same, knocking on a boats windows and running (or paddling) away or asking stupid questions in silly voices is fun where-ever you are, apparently.
Maybe if more boats go to Liverpool the novelty will wear off.

Boats going to the docks have to wait at Eldonian Village, the end of the canal, from lunchtime through to the morning of the next day. Its a waste of time and something BW should look at.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Canal Cruise: Canal Walk Scarisbrick to Melling

As part of the on-going mission to take the Albatross to the Albert Dock today we were going from Heatons bridge at Scarisbrick to Hancocks bridge near Aintree.

My role today was opening the swingbridges. This end of the Leeds & Liverpool is infamous for its swingbridges. Today there were six to get through.

I dropped the captain of the boat off at Heatons Bridge and while the crew sailed on towards Lydiate I drove up to Maghull.

I parked by Dicconsons Bridge and walked towards Coxhead Bridge, where we planned to meet up.

Today was a perfect day for being on the towpath. The sun was shining, the flowers blooming, the fish jumping and the butterflies fluttering by.
The towpath was busy with walkers, cyclists and anglers.

I noticed a small pile of oyster shells by the side of the canal. Clearly something had collected them up and eaten them here. What would do this? Some kind of bird or maybe even an otter!

Oyster Shells

I was approaching Coxheads Albatross was arriving from the other direction. Not only are there too many swing bridges on this canal they are all different. They are all opened in different ways. the trick is to pay attention and read the instructions.

The first bridge was an easy one, all electric. You just put the key in and press a button. The barriers close and the bridge spins round. Once the boat has gone through you press another button and the bridge spins back and the barriers go up. As long as you remember to hold the button down you dont have any problems.

Through the bridge and back on the boat we all headed off to Maghull. The next swing bridge we came to is Bells Swing Bridge by the Running Horses pub (which was open for business). This bridge is electric but the difference with this one is you have to move it yourself. the trick is to pay attention to the display and when it tells you its ready push the bridge open. I am not sure why they couldnt make the bridge move itself like the other one...

Next is Methodist Swing bridge, once blown up by the IRA. This one you need to close the barriers yourself then open the bridge with the key and control panel. It was at this bridge that the local kids found us and subjected us to a barrage of questions. "Eh lad how fast does your boat go?" "Lad, where are you from?" "Have you got a cooker on there?" "Are you going to Liverpool?" "Are you going to Leeds?" "Your boats dead slow, lad"
They followed us up to the next bridge, Shaws Swing Bridge. This bridge is just a foot bridge so there are no barriers to close. You just open the anti-vandal lock with a handcuff key. The kids took great interest in the key, asking where they could get one, whether they could have mine etc They wanted to ride on the bridge when I opened it, I tried to get them to help me open it instead but it was obviously more exciting to ride on it as I pushed it open. Luckily none of them fell off or were squashed.
We left them behind and carried on in peace through Maghull up to Maghull Swing Bridge. This one you have to close the barriers yourself, unlocking them with the handcuff key, then open the bridge using the water mate key and the control panel. I managed to stop a good number of cars here, always satisfying.

Leaving Maghull behind the canal enters the countryside. With the sun still shining you wouldnt think we were heading to Liverpool. This bit of canal is every bit as nice as any on the system (as long as you ignore the floating cans and bottles.

Even with the new canal at the docks in Liverpool there are not many boats on this stretch. This means the canal is quite weedy. Not just weed, whole rafts of yellow water lillies. There was even someone harvesting water cress from the edge of the canal. If you eat water cress in a Liverpool restaurant you know where it comes from!

At the last swing bridge we caught up with another boat heading the same way. They had just gone through the bridge so I still had to open it. This bridge is manual. You have to use the handcuff key to open a guard which then lets you use the watermate key to unlock the handbrake. The instructions say a quarter turn but I eventually found you need to turn it more than that. Once you have undone the two locks and lifted the handbrake you can push the bridge open.

Melling Stone Bridge

We were now 3 miles from my car so rather than carry on to Hancocks Swing bridge where Albatross is spending the night I jumped ship and walked back. On the way back the questioning kids asked for another ride on the bridge, but sadly for them I didnt have my key.

Tomorrow Albatross will go through to Eldonian Village and spend the night there. Tuesday we will be going down the Stanely Dock branch and into the docks, then along the new canal to the south docks for a couple of nights. Then back home to Nantwich.