Friday, 31 August 2012

Lowry and MOSI

A bright, clear blue sky greeted our day in Manchester - although clouds returned by lunch time. Rain kept away until after we had returned to the boat for the evening.

Reconstructed Grocers' Warehouse
Metrolink Tram (going the other way!)
We began with a Metrolink tram trip to Salford Quays to visit the Lowry Centre and its current exhibition of Lowry art works. On our walk to the tram stop we took a closer look at Castlefield basin and explanatory displays. At one time it was dominated by a large transhipment warehouse designed by Telford. He introduced water power to mechanise the lifting of goods from boats into the warehouse floors above. Sadly the original building was demolished some time ago but the first two floors were reconstructed to show what it was like.

From Harbour Quay we walked across a footbridge crossing one of the former docks that were once so important to the life of Manchester.

There is much variety in the architecture of the modern development of this area.

Lowry Centre
MediaCity UK
We soon arrived at the Lowry Centre and also had a view of MediaCity UK across the other side of the dock.

Inside the building is most impressive - strong colours dominate much of the space. As well as the gallery there are three theatre spaces and conference facilities, but we had a little wait before the exhibition opened so we visited the coffee shop first!

Photography is not allowed in the gallery so, dear reader, you will have to rely on words to gain some feeling for our experience (although here is a photograph of the exhibition flier)

For this summer the gallery have assembled the largest collection of Lowry works ever displayed and it certainly was an amazing variety. As well as many of the better known industrial paintings, there was real insight into his later life with many of the pencil drawings, quite a few of which only came to light after he died and his 'workroom' was dismantled.

Far from the rather naive painter that Lowry has sometimes been portrayed as being he was obviously exceedingly complex. He had a long art school training which developed considerable draughtsman skills which he cherished throughout his career.
In his later years he moved away from portraying the industrial scene, many based on the mills he saw around him in the Manchester area. He turned much more to sketching people - his last phase had strange animal-like creatures alongside the people.

He probably never really overcame the negative domination of his mother, whom he cared for over several years when she became bedridden after his father's death. As well as spending a lot of time looking at the exhibition and the careful comments alongside the pictures, we gained further insight from the curator who was conducting a tour and commenting on some of the key items. His summary of the Amy painting (with which Lowry surprised the Royal Academy) and many other drawings of the same - still unidentified - person. Lowry, it seems, delighted in telling journalists and other enquirers quite different stories about who she was and where she came from - all probably fictional!


By the time we were able to tear ourselves away from the gallery it was definitely lunch time. A gentle stroll from the Lowry Centre gave a chance to see more footbridges, including one that seems to be a lift bridge, and the Imperial War Museum North on the other side of the ship canal.

Imperial War Museum North

The space in front of the Lowry Centre - people walking in different directions much as we had earlier seen them depicted by Lowry.

We took a look at the different options in the Retail Outlet Centre and opted for an oriental buffet lunch. Absolutely wonderful - a good selection of dishes to choose from and all you could eat! We friendly service we were really pleased with our choice. No need for dinner tonight!

We wandered across to MediaCity, passing one of the sculptures that have been commissioned to recall the almost lost history of the docks - only a few indications, apart from the stretches of water, can now be seen.

We took the Metrolink tram back to Deansgate and then visited the Museum of Science and Industry. Spread across five buildings, each of which was important in the industrial and commercial development of the city, MOSI is a fascinating and informative array, ranging from computers, textiles, steam and many other aspects - well, that's the parts that we had time to investigate!

Reconstruction of Baby - an early computer
Spinning Mule
There were a number of talks and demonstrations - we managed to catch most of one about the cotton spinning and weaving industry. We were taken through all of the stages from sorting the bales of cotton when they arrived, through the formation of rovings, the operation of the spinning mules to the looms where the cloth was finally woven.

After a mug of tea we left and walked back to the boat - we had to pick up some rolls as we no longer needed the dinner that we had planned!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Into Manchester

The forecast was not very promising for today but it turned out rather pleasant, if initially a bit chilly - almost like the end of September! We had by now decided that today would be the car transfer day - we normally leave it to the day before we return home but as we wanted to visit Manchester at least for a day it seemed sensible to do the journeys from here.

First we had the remaining 7 miles or so into the city centre along the Bridgewater Canal. There are no locks nor even any swing bridges - except for the Barton Swing Aqueduct but it takes a bit of luck to be there when it opens!

So, we set off quite early, just after 8 am to give Mike as much time as possible to catch trains to Shipley and collect the car. We soon came around the sharp corner at Worsley where the Duke of Bridgewater's mines were the reason the canal was first built.

The lighthouse is a well-photographed landmark.

The Packet House pub is presumably a reminder of the times when fast passenger services(packet boat) into Manchester were the quickest way into the city.

The approach to the Barton Swing Aqueduct is quite inauspicious and we arrived suddenly around a bend with no warning signs for the unwary. It was not obvious how boats are told when the bridge is about to open! It does not take long to cross over and there was no traffic on the ship canal that we could see.

Entrance to Kellogs Arm
A long straight section eventually brought us past the Kellogs factory and the entrance to the short arm that once served the works.

Waters meeting Junction

We emerged at Waters Meeting Junction just as another boat - the only cruising boat we saw all the way into Manchester - came up the other line and we followed it all the way into the city.

Water Womble
The Water Womble came towards us, collecting litter as it went along - perhaps something that could be done elsewhere!

Old Trafford
The Man U football ground is hard to miss and towers above the canal - it made us recall that we have passed several football grounds close to the canal on our journey this year.

Although the Bridgewater Canal runs close to the ship canal there are very few opportunities to catch a glimpse of it - this one underneath the Metrolink near Pomona Station.

A strange sculpture caught Christine's attention.

The city centre gradually hems in the canal as it ploughs its way into the Castlefield basin. We stopped at the service point before we managed to find a space to stay for the next couple of nights.

Mike set off for the station as soon as possible - the journey worked out quite smoothly and the car was duly collected from Shipley and transferred to Nantwich Marina ready for our arrival next week. We will be leaving the boat there whilst we return home for just over three weeks. He returned back to the boat just after 6:30.

Manchester Town Hall
Meanwhile, Christine took the opportunity to walk into the city centre and visit the tourist information centre - also seeing the magnificent Town Hall.

7.7 miles - 0 locks

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


After yesterday's effort, we slept longer this morning and were slightly slower leaving our overnight mooring alongside Scotman's Flash.

Scotman's Flash
With no locks and only one lift bridge ahead of us it was set to be a much easier day. The forecast was for rain almost all day and for thunder and lightning storms around noon. However as we set off it was cold but dry and remained so until midday. the cloud was not uniformly grey and some interesting patterns arrived.

One or two other flashes could be seen through the hedgerow together with occasional glimpses of the Pennine hills in the distance.

Site of former Dover Lock
The two Poolstock locks we passed through yesterday evening were built to replace two older ones at Dover Bridge - the remains of one are clearly visible.

How long since this last spanned the canal?
Plank Lane Bridge
The only movable bridge today was at Plank Lane. Despite still having the name Plank Swing Bridge, it is actually a lift bridge. It carries only a minor road but one which is well used - so much so that operation of the bridge by boats is not allowed during rush hours. Still, there were satisfying queues of cars that built up on both sides!

Just after the bridge is a newly constructed area of open water, quite empty and we did not discover what purpose it has. As the photo shows, the sky behind us was by now quite blue, but darker clouds were arriving from the east.

Waterside Inn, Leigh
At Leigh there was a convenient mooring alongside the Waterside Inn (just to the right of the photo) and we could at least see that there was an Aldi next to the canal.

However, we opted to walk into the town centre, only five minutes away. Although quite austere in parts it was a thriving shopping area, mostly the less expensive chain stores, but we found a Pork Butcher down a side street with various local specialities. Sadly the pork pie lasted only as long as lunch time!

Alas, the rather grand looking Boulevard is an entrance merely to a gaming centre! A good indoor market provided most of what we wanted - vegetables, fruit, fish but not bread. Local information suggested that freshly baked bread was best at Lidls. With only ground coffee left on the list, a visit to Tesco ended the shopping trip but we felt that we had made maximum use of local shops. However, back at the boat, Christine realised that we were almost out of yoghurt so Mike quickly popped back to Aldi - so we did use the nearest shop after all!

By now it was well past 1 o'clock so we stayed put for lunch. Just as we were stirring ourselves to set off again, the black clouds turned to thunder and lighting and very heavy rain fell for about half an hour. The thunderstorm then preceded us as we headed towards Manchester , with the blue sky coming along behind.

A number of old industrial buildings stand close to the canal - unfortunately many of them still await a new use.

Graffiti is often obscure to the uninformed viewer - we wondered who Anthony Grainger might be. Google later revealed that he was shot and killed by police in Salford earlier this year.

It was not always easy to be sure whether the extent to which the canal stands above the surrounding levels is due to the way in which it was constructed and developed or what might have once been at the same level. However, this older pub has its sitting area well below the coping stones and must be an indicator of where the canal once ran.

By now we were on the Bridgewater canal - wide and generally straight. Although we could not capture it on camera, lightning continued to brighten the sky in front of us for quite some time. Although once very industrial, the canal is now enclosed by quite well developed shrubs and trees.

Before long, the sunshine caught up with us and then we moored, just before Worsley, it turned pleasantly warm.

10.5 miles - 0 locks