Monday, 11 May 2015

Bridgewater Canal,Leigh Branch.

Hi all,
We cruised away from Manchester last Monday morning and made our way along the Bridgewater Canal with the intention of getting to Worsley,the place where the Duke of Bridgewater had his coal mines.The Dukes desire to get the coal from his Worsley mines to Manchester was the reason for building the Bridgewater Canal.After filling our water tank at the services just outside Castlefield Basin,we made our way slowly Westward along the Bridgewater Canal,on our right was the Manchester Ship Canal,at times only just a short distance from us.We passed the original link between the two canals,the Hulme Lock Branch,now derelict but in use for over a 150 years before it was replaced by the new link at Pomona Lock,just a bit farther along the canal.As we passed under the Throstle Nest Bridge we had Salford Quays to the right and a tad further along on the left we could see Old Trafford,the home of Manchester United,overlooking the canal.
Throstle Nest Bridge.

Old Trafford,the home of Manchester United.
 About a mile from there,we turned North West onto the Leigh Branch of the Bridgewater at Waters Meeting.Just beyond the junction,on the left,is the massive Kellogs factory and its disused arm.Kellogs opened the factory in Trafford Park at the end of the 1930's,possibly because grain could be delivered by barge.As you pass,what is the largest cereal factory in the world,you can smell the delicious aroma of Cornflakes and Rice Crispies being made.
After another couple of miles we came to the famous Barton Swing Aqueduct,the aqueduct swings to allow tall vessels to travel along the Manchester Ship Canal over which it crosses.The swing aqueduct first opened in 1894 when the ship canal was built,it replaced a masonry aqueduct built in 1761.It is a one hundred metre long iron trough weighing just under fifteen hundred tonnes,it holds eight hundred tonnes of water and swings through ninety degrees to lie parallel to the ship canal.There's the Barton Road Swing Bridge just to the West of it that was built at the same time and by the same company,Andrew Handyside and Co.of Derby.They actually assembled and tested both bridges at the works in Derby before shipping them to Barton.
Crossing the Barton Swing Aqueduct over the Manchester Ship Canal.

Looking downstream of the aqueduct there's the Barton Swing Bridge.Both are controlled from the Control Tower in the centre.
After crossing the aqueduct we cruised another mile or two to what we had hoped would be our destination for the night,Worsley.We stopped there five years ago while on a hireboat and it was fine,this time,sadly,that was not the case.I had expected it to be busy at Worsley,with perhaps only a few empty moorings,but it was virtually empty,only two boats.The first boat we saw had a crew on it and they appeared to be leaving but it turned out that their ropes had been cut and the second boat was in the same situation so we decided not to stop at all and continued on our way.We understand from talking to other boaters that rope cutting at Worsley has been going on for a while and the Police have become involved,such a shame 'cos it's a lovely place.
The Packet House at Worsley with the Delph under the bridge on the right.The house was built in1760 and you could buy a ticket at the house for the Packet Boat and walk down the steps to board.There were regular Packet Boat sailings to Manchester which took two and a half hours and cost as little as Sixpence.The Delph is the exit from the  Duke of Bridgewaters mines.Coal was brought out of the mines by small boats called Starvationers,there is still one visible in the mud outside the mine entrance,the coal would then be loaded onto barges for delivery to Manchester..There are forty six miles of mineworkings underneath this area.
We carried on past Worsley for another mile or so till we arrived here just to the East of Bridgewater Marina at Boothstown.Thanks to the wet weather we remained here for three days relaxing.
Our next port of call was a small place called Astley where there is a Mining Museum at the former Astley Green Colliery.If you look closely you can just about make out the Pit Headgear beyond the pub and us moored on the canal.The pub is called The Boat and serves a nice pint of real ale as well as serving good,inexpensive meals.

The Pit Headgear at the museum.The pit was worked for over fifty years before closing in 1970.

Inside the Engine House at Astley with the absolutely awesome Steam Winding Engine,the largest steam winding engine used in the Lancashire Coalfields.16 Lancashire Boilers, nine feet in diameter and thirty feet long supplied the steam for this 3,300 hp engine.
Just one half of the Twin Tandem Compound steam engine.It was built by Yates and Thom in 1912 at their Canal Ironworks in Blackburn and took two years to assemble.
The huge Winding Engine drum weighed a hundred and five tons and was twenty seven feet in diameter at it's widest.The wire ropes were over two and a quarter inches in diameter and weighed eighteen tons.
On Friday we moved a little farther along the Leigh Branch to Leigh itself where we planned to stop for the weekend.I also had a hospital appointment in Stockport on Saturday and we needed to be somewhere where we could get Public Transport.Leigh is a nice place to moor with all the shops,a covered market and of course a Bus Station with regular services to Manchester and beyond.We moored opposite The Waterside Inn by bridge 11 where there were good moorings and it was close to town,the only drawback was the Inn,it has music till three in the morning on Friday and Saturday.We'll know better next time.Yesterday we moved again,this time just three miles to The Dover Lock Inn at Bridge 4 and the site of two former Locks that were removed when a new channel was constructed because of mining subsidence.We're actually moored on the Bollards of the old Lock Landing of the second lock.On our way here we had to pass under a Lift Bridge at Plank Lane which has now to be operated by the boat crew i.e. Lisa,who was a little concerned at the prospect but she managed it admirably,only holding up at least twenty cars either side.
Plank Lane Bridge with Lisa at the left end at the Control Panel as she raises the bridge.
This morning we left Dover Bridge and made our way three of miles or so and through two locks to Wigan Junction where there are services for boats.After doing our bits we returned through the two locks and another mile or so before mooring in a lovely place alongside Scotsman's Flash.Scotsman's Flash is the largest of the flashes near Wigan and was formed when the ground subsided above old mine workings,it's said that water from the canal filled it but I'm not sure about that.
Approaching Poolstock Lock 2.The two locks here replaced the two that used to be at Dover,where we stopped last night.These locks aren't too difficult though we had a bit of help from John and Ann on NB Slievenamon who shared both locks with us and also some CRT volunteers at Lock 1

NB Slievenamon ahead as we travel between the locks.For those of you who aren't Irish,Slievenamon is a mountain in County Tipperary and means Mountain of the Women.

Well,that's all again for this week folks,since our last blog we have sailed through 4 Locks,the same two twice,and cruised 15 Miles giving us a Grand Total of 1,154 Locks and 1,837 Miles since we set off in October 2012.Take care everyone.

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