Sunday, 30 June 2013

Melling Church and Ainsdale Beach

So, for the next week we will not cruise far by boat but instead have the opportunity to explore the local area - or even a bit further away. This time the stop is not enforced by floods but rather by the limitations of the Ribble Crossing.

Melling Church
It had taken us a little time and debate last night, coupled with a couple of late phone calls, to sort out a church service for this morning. There were three within close distance of the canal each having its own web site. However, this was a fifth Sunday: almost unique in large organisations, churches often have a schedule that requires people to know which Sunday in the month it is. They often advertise a regular pattern for four Sundays in a month but the occasional fifth sometimes gets overlooked!

In the end we opted to go to the village church near to where we had moored overnight. Melling is a small village just outside the urban boundary. The service was at 10 am and in the form of Morning Prayer, based on the format in Common Worship. The team vicar explained to us that they are more traditional than two of the four churches in the team but not as formal as the main church in Maghull. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that although they see it as traditional, their liturgy would have been unrecognised only 15 years ago.

It was a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere with around 35 people, mostly those with more years than others! afterwards we were made especially welcome and Mike was even given a special tour of the west gallery!

There has been a church on this site for many centuries but the present building owes much to a structure from the 1830's, rebuilt and extended some forty years later after it had been neglected for a while. The present church was completely redecorated inside last year.

One of the stained glass windows had been given in memory of a husband who had died in the Hillsborough disaster over 20 years ago.

After coffee and biscuits we set off to walk back to the boat and almost immediately embarked on the long cruise of the day: just under a mile taking all of twenty minutes! All that we needed to do was to move up to Maghull where the car had been left alongside the canal.

We had lunch and then used the car to explore a little of the nearby coast. We headed first to Formby Point but were somewhat underwhelmed by the demand for £4.50 to park the car, whether all day or just for half an hour! We turned around and then went on to the National Trust car park a mile up the coast. £5!

Birkdale Beach - looking north
We continued to the coast road towards Southport and turned down the road to Ainsdale beach, next to Pontins. The highwayman here also demanded £5 so we decided that this must be the going rate in the part of the world (a sign on the main road warned of a lack of car parking in the main town centre, diverting drivers to a park and ride)

For the next two hours we walked along the beach - a huge, flat sandy area with the sea only just visible out in the distance! Apart from the sand, and above the beach seemingly endless dunes, the only immediate interest was in counting the millions of razor shells which are strewn across the beach.

Occasionally we saw what we presumed to be the remains of stranded jellyfish, between 200 and 350 mm across. At least they were in no condition to sting!

Southport Pier
Blackpool in the distance!
Southport pier and the amusement attractions gradually came into sight and in the very hazy distance we could just make out Blackpool tower and the roller coaster.

On the beach itself there were few landmarks - a large log and the stark outline of a long dead shrub were so unusual that they could be seen a long way off.

After almost an hour we looked for a way across the dunes to the coastal road but eventually concluded that it was perhaps to boggy so we returned the way we came, this time straight into the wind (which had not heard the weather forecast so failed to abate at all!)

Still we did see some different jellyfish remains this time - these were rather smaller, perhaps only 150 mm across but with four distinctive shapes in the centre.

Sand blowing and Mersey-bound ship
The wind was also blowing sand along the surface of the beach. A photo cannot capture the sense of the movement, almost like waves which were particularly striking when walking towards the wind. However, rather like a rainbow, the more you walk towards them, the more they seem to move away into the distance and cannot be seen at one's feet.

After two hours of fresh air we were ready to be tempted by the ice cream van we had seen when we arrived but alas it had already packed up and gone home! Nothing for it but to drive back to the boat and prepare our usual Sunday roast. At least we have Gary Dutton's lamb to look forward to!

1 mile - 0 locks

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Leaving Liverpool

Today we are booked to go back up the Liverpool Canal Link and have to be ready at Mann Island Lock by 9 am. There was enough time for Mike to pop to a Tesco (nearer than the one he had found previously) for a paper and milk (and garlic and strawberries!).

The first boat came through from Salthouse Dock at 8.30 but we were determined not to be too early as there are no landing stages outside the lock entrance and it was still rather windy. We had visions of being blown around in circles in a wide, open, dock!

As we made ready to cast off, another five boats followed through so we were at the end of the queue. The last one caught us by surprise as we thought that only six boats a day were booked through. As a result we ran solo through the link but this gave us time to chat to the CaRT staff who were operating the locks.

At least the day was dry and quite warm although generally overcast. Alongside Canning Half Tide Lock are some reminders of the equipment once used for operating the docks.

The graving docks were used for ship repair, especially for cleaning the hulls of wooden sailing ships whose speed would be dramatically reduced if the barnacles were allowed to develop too extensively.

Mann Island Lock is fitted with two sets of gates at the lower end - the outer ones would be used if the level of Albert Dock rises above that of the next section. As we were the last, the lock keepers shut both after us.

We again had excellent views of the surrounding buildings, many of which have only been constructed in the past five years, including the new ferry terminal building.

At this stage we were keeping up with the queue ahead of us as we waited for Princes Lock - this time operated for us by the keepers.

This time we followed the correct route through Princes Dock alongside the buoys - when we came down we (and the boats ahead of us) thought that they marked a channel, but the keeper gave us clear instructions today!

Looking back we gradually bade farewell to the Liver Building and continued through the various docks which so nearly all became landfill opportunities for the city council. We understand that the narrow channel section is the result of the start that was made with that scheme.

The size of the mooring bollards on the side of the dock wall is a reminder of the type of shipping that once made use of these facilities.

We learnt from the lock keepers that the two large buildings alongside Stanley Dock are not to be demolished - we felt that they looked a rather sorry sight when we came down. The warehouse that is in the same style as those around Albert Dock is currently being worked on - to be converted into apartments and the huge tobacco warehouse may possibly become a retail centre although this conversion is not easy task as the original only had six feet between floor and ceiling at each level.

The lowest lock in the Stanley Dock flight is currently only about half the rise of the other three (which are comparatively deep). As one of the keepers pointed out, the markings on the stones alongside the bottom gates confirms that there is up to 17 feet of water over the bottom cill. We presume that the dock level is now higher that it was when the locks were built.

All the chatting - and at the next to top lock Christine and one of the keepers kept the rest of us waiting for ages - meant that the other boats in the convoy were now well out of sight.

Bidding the lock keepers farewell for now we continued through Bootle and Litherland. These concrete chairs were a strong reminder of the Walker Art Gallery - see yesterday's blog.

We assumed that this piece of outdoor art depicts the range of tools that were once used in either the construction of the canal or perhaps used in the docks.

If you are going to build up from your pitched roof, be sure and make it a big one! (Alas, as we turned the corner the same decoration on the other sides rather gives the game away!)

We stopped at the Litherland services both to empty the elsan but also to fill our water tank which we had not got around to organising whilst we were in Albert Dock. This gave us a chance to take a close look underneath the East Lancs road bridge. Forty years ago the lift bridge at this crossing was demolished and replaced by the new road. The only indication now are the footings of the mechanism between the old footbridge and the newer concrete bridge. We missed the significance of these on the way down but had discovered them through the internet when we were back home.

Perhaps a little thankfully, we noticed that a number of the former swing bridges have now been removed - this one is now, on the right, someone's back garden!

Some sections, especially those bordering the country park, remain quite attractive - actually significantly improved from the dark days of forty or fifty years ago when much of the surrounding land was urban dereliction.

It is worth recalling that much of the regeneration - most notably that of Albert Dock - came into reality in the wake of the Toxteth Riots at the end of the Seventies. As the Tate and Lyle golden syrup tins used to remind us, sometimes good can come out of the saddest situations. Perhaps today it is also worth remembering that just occasionally politicians can make a difference!

We arrived at Bridge 6 with no CaRT staff in sight! However, after a short wait the arrived and proceeded to open up for us. We guess that we must have really fallen behind the convoy by now!

Not much later we also met them at bridge 9 where we were set loose on our own. At the following swing bridge a family enjoying the warm-ish weather helped operate the bridge. They were surprised at how easily the little girls were able to move the bridge as their father remembered when this was an old wooden bridge that could take four or fiove people to shift!

We had intended to moor in Maghull where we stopped on the way down but, in the end, decided to pull in just after the swing bridge.

12.8 miles - 6 locks

Friday, 28 June 2013

Liverpool as Tourists

A day to explore Liverpool city centre. sadly it started wet and stayed that way for most of the day. The only variation was between light drizzle and heavy rain! Nevertheless we did our best to ignore it and carried on walking anyway.

We stayed moored in Albert Dock - no-one suggested that we had to move into Salthouse Dock (the Wigan office of CaRT told us last week that there would be no need) and it was rather windy so that moving would have been quite tricky anyway. The only advantage might have been that we could have used the TV dish which here in Albert Dock would have to point straight through the former warehouse buildings that surround us.

Mike went off early to find a newspaper - the nearest was at Tesco about 12 minutes walk away.

After coffee we set off. Alongside the oddly-shaped oneparkwest apartment building we spotted a pleasing low-maintenance landscaping feature.

After passing the Liverpool One bus station we climbed a set of steps into one of the more recent shopping developments.

We walked up through the new and old shopping streets and emerged at St John's gardens - the only public green space in the city centre. The statues here particularly remember several thousand French prisoners of war that were imprisoned in Liverpool during the Napoleonic Wars.

Opposite these gardens we came to the Walker Art Gallery, which like all the museums in Liverpool, are free to enter. We found this gallery quite attractive and interesting. It houses a very varied collection from Renaissance to contemporary art.

A few of the works are well-known, such as the popular What happened to your father? depiction of the terror court of a previous generation.

Christine was taken by a painting by Herkomer of life in the Westminster Union Workhouse - the caption highlighted that the artist was unusual in showing the women's faces very sympathetically and with detailed individuality.

We had a short break, trying out a collection of post-war chairs including the Panton chair, the first to be made by injection-moulding in a single piece. It is surprisngly comfortable - unlike some of the others!

One of the special exhibitions was of work by the photographer Rankin which showed portraits of a number of people who had been diagnosed with terminal illness. Whilst this background detail was often harsh, the emerging feeling is one of hope and determination to make the most of whatever time or space is allowed to each individual. (Photography is not allowin in this gallery)

A sculpture by Henry Moore captures a soldier in the moment of falling.

Above the entrance Christine spotted a number of brightly coloured pigeons. At least these do not make a mess - but a cooing sound could be heard.

After leaving the art gallery we passed in front of Lime Street station.

By now it was time for lunch. We had planned to find somewhere for this evening but, in an experiment to find the best regime to combat acid reflux, we chose to have a fuller meal now. we had see reference to an asian style buffet close to the station. Whilst it was inexpensive, including an OAP (sic) discount, it did offer an amazing range of choices of different items. On the other hand, dessert was largely jelly and ice cream!

Next on our agenda was the Anglican cathedral. On the way we passed through Chinatown. Along with the Irish, Chinese formed a large community around the docks for some considerable time.

As we neared the huge building that, along with the Catholic Cathedral at the other end of Hope Street, dominates the city centre it was raining hard so a good photo was impossible!

Inside we found it a most welcoming place with several guides on hand to answer any questions. Below the large west stained glass window is an installation by Tracey Emin that reads I Felt You And I Knew That You Loved Me. Although it is in stark contrast with the main style of the building, it uncomplicated message is forceful.

An icon commissioned in 2008 pays homage to the fifteenth century version by the Russian artist Rublev. (Had to include this specially for Dom who used it recently a the basis for an excellent sermon)

As always with a cathedral visit we take far too many photos to include so only a small selection is possible. The Lady Chapel was the first part of the building to be completed, in 1910, and its style is quite a contrast.

A memorial to Bishop David Shepherd is carved into a wall and is full of significance as the accompanying stand explains.

A very recent poem by Carol Ann Duffy was written in response to the reaction to the inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster. It has been strikingly illustrated.

After a cup of tea in the attractive mezzanine cafe we were about to leave when Christine asked one of the staff about why the arch across the centre of the nave is called the Dulverton Bridge. Although it has a rather mundane reason to do with the original benefactor, it did result in an offer to show us up on to the top of it (it is normally closed to public access) We had a good conversation with the lady who accompanied us.

Following this visit we walked the length of Hope Street - in heavy rain - to visit the other cathedral, passing this quirky sculpture on the way. We could not find any information about it.

The entrance to the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral is at the top of an imposing set of steps (why is it that architects have such a passion for steps?) This building is uncompromisingly contemporary in style both inside and outside. It was built, like the other cathedral, over many decades with the Second World War interrupting work. In this case it was perhaps for the better as it meant that the design by Edwin Lutyens (for what promised to be the largest cathedral in Europe) had to be abandoned with only the crypt completed.

The main worship area is surrounded by eight chapels or other spaces - this one is dedicated to all those who die in childhood. The tapestry took six years to weave.

After this visit we made our way back to the Waterfront but as we passed through the main shopping area we did make one or two purchases - Mike wanted to find some new shoes and Christine had a number of M&S vouchers we expire tomorrow (but she did spend them on a shirt for Mike!)

We returned to the boat a little after six o'clock and 'battened down the hatches' in the hope that we could forget about the wind and rain outside!

Late evening, with the sunset promising a better day for tomorrow, Christine took a awalk around the dock to the river bank.