Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Burnley and Over the Summit

The weather forecast suggested sunshine in the morning with light showers in the afternoon. In practice it was either dull or just a little damp in the morning and, by the latter part of the afternoon, exceedingly wet!

We were due a swing bridge just after setting off but this clearly has not swung is a long time. It appears to have been mainly for access to a now abandoned building alongside the canal. A substantial construction but it did not look like a house. So what was it for?

We would have an almost endless succession of encounters with the M65 today, even more than yesterday as it closely follows the same route as the canal.

Rose Grove Services
We stopped at Rose Grove services. Whilst Mike and Andrew completed the usual round of filling and emptying, Christine popped to the local shops. A priority on the shopping list was sad cake, something we experienced for the first time last year with Alice and Jess.

Gannow Tunnel
Gannow Tunnel is wide and straight and there are no restrictions on the time of entry. However, you can see that by now light rain had arrived.

Mike was allowed to get off at several aqueducts to take a look at what is underneath - this one was just a motorway!

By now were were approaching Burnley and the first part is known as the Weaver's Triangle, a reminder of the concentration on weaving that once dominated this area. It is undergoing extensive regeneration.

Weavers Triangle Museum
 A former toll house has now been converted to a museum about the Weavers Triangle - but it is only open from 2 - 4 in the afternoons.

Around a corner and we started over the long Burnley Embankment. Part way across is an aqueduct across a main road and alongside a reminder of lost times when an Odeon cinema was close by. A local person walking by commented that it looked much better before people removed some of the tiles in it. Around the edge were quotes from people who could remember it at various times in its history.

We could also look down on the terraced house that were once an important part of the industrial development of industry in Burnley.

Another aqueduct crossed a river (Calder?) and it seems that a railway or tramway also passed underneath the canal, suggesting that the present structure dates from a time later than when the canal first built.

In the next stretch we passed many former mill buildings - sadly this one did not look as good as the detail suggests!

When we were moored up for lunch, a team of grass cutters worked their way past us. Whilst we read of reports of the experiences of others where they were covered by grass, we are delighted to report that this team took great care, not only making sure that they avoided us when moored but also paused whilst we passed them later on the move. Good team - thanks chaps!

Mid afternoon we arrived at the seven lock flight of Barrowford Locks. We arrived just behind a wide beam with a group of former youth workers celebrating the thirtieth year of the this boat - some of them were involved in the original project.

This flight lifted us up to the summit pound - we could see that Barrowford Reservoir is currently very empty - but this may not be a full reflection of the state of water supplies to the Leeds and Liverpool as a good flow was coming down the bywash at the top lock.

We had further glimpses of the surrounding hills as we continued along the summit pound to Foulridge Tunnel. Here we were fortunate that the lights which control access to the tunnel were in our favour, unlike last year when we had quite a wait.

Rain arrived as we started up the Barrowford Locks but by the time we emerged from the tunnel it was much heavier and Andrew and Mike worked through the three Greenberfield Locks - the first of the downhill through to Leeds - getting wetter and wetter! They were quite relieved to find a space on the visitor mooring immediately below the locks. In the first lock we noticed that many of the facing stone blocks had individual mason's marks.

20.3 miles - 10 locks

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Blackburn and Clayton-le-Moors

We were promised a reasonable day apart from occasional showers - in fact it remained pleasant, largely sunny, all day.

Top Lock before leaving
We set off in good time - today's cruise has three parts: a long level pound to Blackburn locks, six in the flight and then another long pound - further than we could go today.

War Memorial and Clock in Wheelton

Cobbled Terrace Street
Dressers Arms
 But first, here are some photos from our walk last night to the Dressers Arms in Wheelton. There were several industrial style terraces with cobbled streets. So far we have not really found out much about the basis for these developments other than some slight references to mills and quarries. Certainly, the Dressers Arms appears to be a reference to stone dressing.

There are many bridges on the Leeds and Liverpool and most are of a consistent design - usually it is the more recent ones that give variety. The original bridges are just wide enough to take the wide beam boats for which the canal was designed. Today it is rare to see anything on the move that is that wide but of course this morning we had to encounter one - a maintenance dredger - at a bridge hole!

The canal was again generally very scenic and the blue skies enhance the view!

Nearly an hour after setting off we made our first encounter with the M65 - we will do so several times again today and tomorrow as both the canal and the road use similar routes through the Calder Valley and the edge of the Pennines.

At Riley's Green, the house beside the bridge has a special view along the canal - not sure if this was originally part of the canal operation, although it is adjacent to a former wharf.

As we approach Blackburn, the canal level is well above much of the town, crossing at one point on a substantial embankment. Blackburn Rovers stadium can be seen to one side.

Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn Locks
We worked ourselves up the first two locks on our own but another boat which had left the Top Lock earlier than we did this morning spotted our arrival and waited for us to join them for the remaining four locks in the flight. Just as we reached the top a boat was waiting to come down: nbAshdown, one of the blogs on our regular reading list. Alas we missed taking a photo!

After the next bridge we tied up on the mooring rings as an Asda store is nearby - Christine also visited last year. She and Andrew went shopping whilst Mike minded the boat. They returned with, amongst other items, urgent replenishment of our coffee stocks as well as fresh baguettes for lunch. The latter were soon pressed into action along with bacon and brie!

After lunch we had a level cruise through the rest of Blackburn and then in and out rural and built up areas. All in all, the L and L is a good cruise and has lost almost all of the tattiness which was once its hallmark. In general it also feels quite safe.

A number of impressive information boards describing the canal towpath walk have been installed and so far they seem to have avoided the dreaded graffiti.

Eanam Wharf
Eanam Wharf seems largely to have turned its back on the canal. Although we could that most of it was in active use, there was little access from the waterside - although it has recently had a canal festival.

Daisyfield Mill
Last year ( we bemoaned the state of Imperial Mill (a little further on) which still stands derelict but it was good to see that at least this one, Daisyfield Mill, has been put to a new use as studios for Granada Television News.

Although sponsoring canal-side art is sometimes a controversial subject, there are many cases where the environment has been improved by its installation. This one unfortunately passed by too quickly for us to take in all the detail, but this one a little later is much clearer.

The hills started to make their occasional presence felt on the sky line.

Rail lines sometimes join the canal and the road to provide transport links between the many small industrial towns in this area.

A group of shire horses and their foals gathered in a field alongside the canal.

and the ducks . . .

Scenic views became more frequent and when, just after five o'clock, we spotted some mooring bollards in an isolated spot with an unimpaired view, about as far from the motorway as we could expect, we pulled in - albeit a little earlier than expected.

View from overnight mooring
18.2 miles - 6 locks

Monday, 29 July 2013

Johnsons Hillock

After yesterday's marathon we were not in a hurry to make a start today. The weather forecast seemed to suggest that we would have more rain than sunshine. We also had to make a start on a more permanent repair to the inverter mounting. Once Andrew had managed to put two screws in place it seemed sufficiently stable to make progress as we did not really have enough suitable screws.

The morning was, despite our concerns, generally bright and sunny although the occasional short and light shower led to waterproofs coming out for a limited period.

A low bridge carrying the towpath over the entrance to a small lake seemed too low to admit Leeds and Liverpool sized boats and we could find no mention in our guide books. For now it will have to remain a mystery, albeit a quite elegant one.

Arley Aqueduct above
Arley Aqueduct below
At Arley Aqueduct, Andrew and Christine suggested to Mike that, as there was a clear footpath downwards, he might like to investigate what lay below! He hopped off the boat and found that underneath the canal had once run a railway, now converted to a cycle trail and footpath.

This stretch of the canal is very pleasant and rural, even though built up areas are never far away. Increasingly the noise from the motorway could be heard even when it was nowhere to be seen. The towpath and canal edges are well maintained and could stand as an object lesson for some other regions.

Ominous black clouds started to gather . . .

Reminders of the days when canal boats were horse drawn keep cropping up - this rather surprising example is from an aqueduct wall and resulted from it having been built on a bend in the canal. As the long tow rope 'cut the corner' it rubbed against the stonework.

We stopped at the White Bear BWML Marina to take on water and to top up our diesel tank from the self service credit card machine. Christine popped to the same shop that she used when we passed this way last year. However, when she returned she realised that there were still a few items missing and sent Andrew off to complete the task. Meanwhile the water tap continued to fill up.

At times the clouds lifted and really bright blue skies made it very warm indeed. At the edge of Chorley we stopped for lunch and to give Andrew a chance to pop to a B & Q store for screws and glue. We were opposite the base for a trip boat which later returned with a group of young children having a party. They departed in a white double decker bus.

Preston Mormon Temple, Chorley
After a longer than usual lunch break we set off once more and in the distance we could see the large Mormon Temple. It was here in Chorley and Preston that the first Mormon Missionaries took root in the mid nineteenth century.

Soon the bottom lock in the Johnsons Hillock flight could be seen in the distance.

Walton Summit Branch
Just before the flight is the point at which the original line of the canal went off towards Lancaster, crossing the Ribble with a tramway near Preston.

The first pound was very empty and the boat would not pass over the cill when the top gates were opened. We had to wait a while for enough water to come down - the photo shows at about half time - and allow progress. Since there was water coming down the bypass weirs, it seems that a bad leak in the bottom gates is the culprit.

A bridge immediately above one of the locks was built without a towpath which meant that it was more difficult to work boats up through. Instead of having to pass the rope over the top of the bridge to the horse on the other side, a hook was let into the face of the bridge so that the towrope could be passed around it with the horse walking back the way it had come to get the boat moving. Whilst the boat drifted under the bridge, the horse was uncoupled, taken to the other side and re-joined to carry on to the next lock.

In case that explanation is not clear, here is a photo of the nearby information panel.

The clouds darkened and we heard several rumbles from not far away but luckily they did not pass overhead and we avoided and further rain for the rest of the afternoon.

Christine popped to the ice cream parlour at the Top Lock pub and then we all had a long debate about the merits of the food at nearby pubs. Eventually we opted to moor on the visitor mooring above the top lock and take a walk into the nearest village. The reason? Just to mark the passing of another wedding anniversary, this time the somewhat unspecial 46th!

12.8 miles - 7 locks