30th November 2019
We leave our overnight stop in Lymm and start a 14 mile journey to Runcorn. We pass through the urban district of Grappenhall and Stock ton Heath before the canal opens out into some rolling countryside. Watch out for the imposing tower of Daresbury Laboratories which opened in the 1960’s. The site chosen for the sandstone bedrock which would provide a stable base for delicate instruments and the canal a source of water for cooling. As we head south we soon approach the junction to the Runcorn Branch of the Bridgewater Canal. Here the busy M56 crosses the Preston Brook Branch and there is a boatyard beyond.
However we head West along the Runcorn Branch and cross the Norton Aquaduct over the railway. Watch out for the Norton Water Tower on the skyline ahead. We pass the short Norton Arm where the historic former warehouse is now a kayak centre, with Preston Brook Marina directly opposite. We continue heading West where the canal terminates at Waterloo Bridge, before the road was built here two of the arches led to a flight of locks down to the Manchester ship Canal and the River Mersey. Here we wind amongst the Bridgewater Motor Boat Club moorings and moor just before the Brindley Theatre.
We spent a few days here to explore the area. There is plenty of rejuvenation going on here but nevertheless less some great views of the old railway bridge, the Silver Jubilee bridge and the new Mersey Gateway. The town area is a bit tired looking but there is a well stocked large Co op store for groceries, a pharmacy and post office as well as a few independent stores.
28th November 2019
Leaving our mooring outside the large retail and leisure complex of Trafford Park, we travel in a southerly direction to Waters Meeting where we join the original mainline of the Bridgewater Canal and head south west.
Passing through the residential suburbs of Manchester of Stretford and Sale, watch out for the Victorian Linotype Factory dated 1897 where metal printing type was manufactured, snuggled in amongst the new housing being built.
After Sale the scenery changes to a more rural setting with views of open fields and it is here we find a lovely mooring within a short walking distance to Dunham Massey Hall.
We take the short walk up to Dunham Massey who are preparing the site for their Christmas Fayre. There is a large deer park here with plenty of Fallow Deer resident in the park for hundreds of years. The last time we visited they were wandering free in the sectioned of areas of the park but this time there were none to be seen so we gathered that they had been moved to a different area, we were really disappointed. However we had a lovely walk round then had a warm up with coffee and teacake in the local cafe on the way back.
21st November 2019
We leave our mooring next to Pennington Flash Country Park on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Leigh Branch and head in a easterly direction towards the mill town of Leigh, an industrial town with many textile mills still standing.
Here we stop to pick up some groceries before passing under Leigh Bridge and onto the Bridgewater Canal. The familiar stop plank cranes used to block off sections of the canal are evident here. We leave the town behind and pass through some flat countryside before arriving in Astley where a former colliery closed in 1970 is now the Lancashire Mining Museum. Approaching Worsley we make a sharp right turn, watch out for the black and white half timbered Packet House where passenger boats once departed for Manchester. You can just make out the short arm which leads to Worsley Delph, a deep basin where two tunnels took small coal boats into the mine to load coal.
We are soon approaching the outskirts of Greater Manchester and the remarkable Barton Swing Aquaduct which swivels through 90 degrees on a central pivot, set on an island to open up a channel each side for ships to pass on the Manchester ship Canal below.
From here we head into an industrialised section and moor up outside The Trafford Centre, a large indoor shopping centre and leisure complex.
As Christmas is approaching we took the opportunity for some retail therapy in the centre as well as enjoying our first meal out for some time.
14th November 2019
We leave our mooring at the top of the Wigan Flight and make our way down the 21 locks, a trip of 2 miles and turn left onto the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. A right turn here would take us to Liverpool. We are joined by a couple of friends who have volunteered to help us down the locks. Ted is another Bickerstaffe Boat owner and Paul is a soon to be Bickerstaffe owner. We also posted an entry on the Wigan Flight Crews Facebook page to inform them that we will be descending the flight, and we were very lucky that a volunteer lockie read the post and came along to help out. If you are going to use the flight it is well worth joining their Facebook page. We were very grateful for their help.
We descend through the two further locks and enter a lock free pound that eventually takes us onto the Bridgewater Canal to Preston Brook over 40 miles away. As we left Ted and Paul the sun was just starting to go down and there was the beginning of a beautiful sunset as we cruised the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
The Leigh Branch is seven miles long and has suffered over the years from subsidence caused by coal mining. This resulted in large flashes or lakes developing in what was previously farmland but has now been restored as parkland. The canal has been built up with pit waste while the land on either side has sunk considerably. However there are some great views on this section of the canal and we experienced a mix of different weather conditions which only enhanced the experience.
Watch out for the Plank Lane Swing Bridge which is sited where there was once a lock and for the views of Pennington Flash on a frosty winter morning.