Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

  • Blog Index as a pull down

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta

  • Recent Comments

  • wordpress counter

The Odyssey 2009: Day 42

Posted by indigodream on 4 September, 2009

Saturday 29th August

Acton Swing Bridge to Northwich

A section of the Dutton Viaduct

A section of the Dutton Viaduct

After yesterday’s adventures, the Weaver provided a welcome chance to relax. The locks don’t open until 10am on the weekends so there’s no sense of urgency.

We decided to spend the morning tracking back to Weston Point. We’d rushed through from Weston Marsh yesterday and it would have been a shame not to explore. Our first stop was Dutton Lock. There was a boat coming up so we stopped at the generous upstream moorings where nb Penhale (who we came up the lock with yesterday) spent the night. Richard chatted with the crew while I supervised a dog rummage. Unusually, Lou formed a mini-pack with a resident black labrador cross and they strutted around like the king and queen of the lockside. Blue was off by himself in the undergrowth – typical.

The two tiny cruisers that came out of the enormous lock looked completely out of scale, but their departure meant that we were ready to go. There was a lady lock-keeper on duty – she was very chatty and exceptionally helpful. Being helpful seems to be the culture here – we told her our plans and she advised us to give her a ring when we got within sight of the viaduct just below the lock and she’d set the lock for us. On our way back she even let the next lock know that we were coming so that could be set for us as well.

Dutton Viaduct

Dutton Viaduct

There are some fantastic bridges along this river. Just below Dutton lock, the many-arched railway bridge towers above the canal – it’s a magnificent site. It still carries trains and Richard managed to get a Virgin train to beep – quite an achievement as the boat must have looked like a blue speck so far below the railway.

The Weaver swingbridges are massively built yet strangely delicate with their filigree of iron girders. I think they are all supported on floating pontoons which take most of the weight; this means that relatively little power is needed to swing them. There was no need to swing them on our account – there was plenty of room for a narrowboat.

Greygal very kindly gave us a list of good moorings that they’d used when they came here earlier this year. We passed a top spot on the way down – the Devil’s Garden. It’s  very shallow on the offisde here but the towpath side was very attractive with what looked like perfect dog rummaging. We made a note of it for later, knowing that we’d probably get further than that on our way back.

The entrance to Frodsham Cut

The entrance to Frodsham Cut

We were tempted to slip down the original route down the disused Frodsham cut, but BW obviously know their boaters – there was a boom across the entrance. It’s interesting that ships could once take either the new fangled Weaver Navigation as we know it, or cut down to the River Weaver itself.

The Weaver’s got a lot to offer as a navigation – living and historic industry with all its trappings, cocooned in the most beautiful valley. I’m so glad that we came here.

We soon got back to Weston Marsh and the city-sized polymer works which may have had its own power station – it’s quite a place. There’s not a human being to be seen – the site seems to be made entirely of pipes of different sizes – totally incomprehensible from the outside. I did think that whoever did all of this plumbing must have had quite a headache – just one wrong connection and BOOM!

Sutton swingbridge looking a bit the worse for wear (and it's a busy road bridge)

Sutton swingbridge looking a bit the worse for wear (and it's a busy road bridge)

Given the sheer size of the polymer works, and the attendant chemical taint in the air, I was surprised at how clean the water in the Weaver appears to be. It was the same on the Ship Canal, which I expected to have a slick of oil on the surface, but it was also clean. These industries must be very tightly regulated.

We did enjoy our trip past the polymer works – it’s an interesting place and I thought how wonderful it would be if they were to set up a visitor pontoon to offer guided tours around the works. Mind you, the signs warning boaters that “when the lights flash toxic chemicals are being loaded” dampened my enthusiasm a little bit! We saw specific signs warning of corrosive mercury compounds and hydrogen ‘lute’ – what an unsavoury brew that would make.

We were hoping to get all the way to the docks at Weston Point. I’d really hoped to find a spot where we could see across the estuary, but it wasn’t to be. The tiny swingbridge across the river was firmly closed with warning signs that this was the end of the navigation. It was a bit of an ignominious end to the navigation – there’s a lot of demolition going

That's a lot of plumbing! Polymer works at Weston Marsh

That's a lot of plumbing! Polymer works at Weston Marsh

on and it does have that ‘end of the world’ feel that Pearson’s mentions. There was someone on top of one of the asbestos clad sheds working away with an angle grinder so we decided that sneaky exploration was not on.  On our way back, the Dutton Lock-keeper was surprised that the swingbridge was shut – apparently it was still open the week before and you could get right into Weston Dock.

Having gone as far as we could, we turned back with the intention of having a less harried exploration of Weston Marsh lock. There’s a new pontoon there which, from a distance, looked to be a good landing point. Sadly, though, BW have put in pontoons made of hard plastic with a bit of a rippled surface to make them look like wood from a distance. The trouble is that the ‘ripple’ doesn’t do anything for the grip – they’re very slippery, especially for the dogs, their claws just can’t get a grip. Blue hopped off first and went slithering all over the pontoon – he soon came back on board; Lou ventured forth, but just one paw on the horrible plastic convinced her not to go any

The end of the navigation

The end of the navigation

further. But we dragged them off for a rummage anyway – Richard led Blue up the pontoon by his collar, keeping him stable on the slippery surface. I hopped up to the lockside to keep an eye on him and Richard went back for Lou. We then had one of those freak accidents that makes owning our dogs such an adventure. I told Richard to lift Lou over the wall rather than walking on the pontoon; he though I’d said to let her go, which he did, she got spooked and jumped up onto the wall, but unfortunately her back legs slipped from under her on the plastic and she didn’t make it. There she was – her little face and paws just visible over the rim of the wall before she slowly slithered backwards towards the river. Richard, on the pontoon, managed to catch her but not with enough grip to get her to shore, though he did manage to just twist her to a more safe position and into the river she went. Now, our greyhounds can swim, just not very well, and the pontoon was an awkward place to try and retrieve her. We couldn’t get her out where she’d fallen so we had to direct her to the boat side of the pontoon. I then held her collar (to stop her from swimming away from us) while Richard got into position to hoist her up. But I hadn’t realised that he was pushing the boat out slightly to make some room – I was leaning on the boat and started heading for the river myself. You couldn’t make the next bit up – I was holding on to Lou’s collar and Richard was hanging on to mine – don’t ask who was hanging on to him! He managed to pull me from the brink and with a bit of space available he managed to drag Lou out of the water.

Gathering of boaters - as we passed by they were being joined by a curious herd of cows...

Gathering of boaters - as we passed by they were being joined by a curious herd of cows...

After all that drama we still went to explore the lock – Lou didn’t seem any the worse for wear and trotted round the lock quite joyfully. I was a bag of nerves. At least we got back on board with no further drama – Lou spent the rest of the afternoon wrapped in a blanket – she’d been wet to the skin and was cold. A later ‘paw police’ inspection revealed extensive but superficial bruising to her chest and belly where she’d slapped into the wall. Time has proven that no real harm was done (I was looking out for the signs of internal bleeding which I’d learnt when Blue bashed himself a few years ago – “sigh”).

On the way back we stopped for water at the excellent BW services just downstream of Sutton Lock. We also got rid of our refuse here. Despite the busyness of the nearby road, it’s a nice spot and we had lunch here. There are visitor moorings here as well but they’re no good for us; the road’s a little too close and there’s a gap in the hedge which would have been like a magnet for Blue if we’d let him off the boat.

Massive salt works just outside Northwich

Massive salt works just outside Northwich

We made very good time upriver – the opposing flow is negligible. Or was it because Richard had a race with a local canoeist (the canoeist’s idea)! With a lovely bit of a skill the canoeist was almost surfing on our wake, shame we could not get up enough speed for it to work really well.

We enjoyed the cruise back upriver – the railway viaduct just below Dutton has 19 visible arches but only one is navigable – it’s quite a sight.

Thanks to the excellent communication between the lock-keepers we got through Saltersford lock in good time and, once again, the lockie was a mine of useful information. He advised us where to moor in Northwich as well as where to get a decent Chinese takeaway. He also checked our general welfare – had we found the waterpoints etc – how kind.

The Anderton boat lift

The Anderton boat lift

The stretch past Saltersford was new territory for us; except it wasn’t. We kept catching glimpses of things that we’d seen from the road. Indigo Dream was finished off by Olympus Narrowboats near Northwich and we’ve spent a lot of time around here (though without ever guessing that there was this lovely river nearby). This stretch is just what we like – lots of green vistas and a bit of industry in the form of giant salt works – the “Wich” in Northwich. The water where Lou fell in was salty – I’d assumed that it was brackish from the tideway nearby but I guess it could have been effluent from the salt industry – ugh!

I was so busy looking at the salt works I’d almost missed the Anderton boat lift on my left! It’s a wonderful piece of engineering but I’ll keep that for Day 44’s blog when we actually got the lift up to the Trent and Mersey.

Despite the bustle and industry around Northwich we saw several kingfishers – always too late for the camera (though we do have blurred pictures of metallic blue flashes in the reeds).

Our mooring in Northwich

Our mooring in Northwich

We got to Northwich at around 5pm after a fine day’s cruising (Lou’s adventures notwithstanding). There are good moorings just upriver of the town swingbridge – we moored up opposite the marina – just far enough from the roads to be safe for the dogs but not so far that we couldn’t walk into town. There’s plenty to see here – the floating hotel looks boarded up and derelict but it’s a nice idea – I hope it’s refurbished; there are good BW services just downstream of the Town Bridge; the bridge itself is worthy of note and there are useful information boards, there are also some handsome buildings in the town centre.

As it was early, and supplies were low, we headed into town – cross the town swingbridge and turn left at the traffic lights into the shopping precinct – keep walking up the hill and on the left (behind the high street) you’ll catch glimpses of a large Sainsbury’s; the decent Chinese – the Golden Horse, is near the top of the hill next door to the large Weatherspoon’s pub.

It was a bit of a trek back to the boat with our shopping but my ‘old granny’ shopping trolley helped! With the boat well-stocked we shut the hatches and settled down for a comfortable night watching DVD’s – we’re working our way through the TV series “Life on Mars” – it’s brilliant.

Greygal had advised us that the moorings in Northwich were quiet and secure, and so they were…..

Photoblog:

What's this rig doing?

What's this rig doing?

Typical Weaver swingbridge mechanism

Typical Weaver swingbridge mechanism

generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave
Remnants of an old swingbridge - now a stable landing stage for the local rowing club

Remnants of an old swingbridge - now a stable landing stage for the local rowing club

Low flying planes heading for the airport

Low flying planes heading for the airport

generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave
Beyond the end of the navigation - a view towards Weston Docks

Beyond the end of the navigation - a view towards Weston Docks

The derelict entrance lock to the abandoned Runcorn and Weston Canal

The derelict entrance lock to the abandoned Runcorn and Weston Canal

Alarming sign - I wonder if they still load chemicals here - the sign does look a bit battered

Alarming sign - I wonder if they still load chemicals here - the sign does look a bit battered

Flashing lights are obviously bad news in a chemical plant!

Flashing lights are obviously bad news in a chemical plant!

Water point at the chemical works - don't think we'll risk it, thanks.....

Water point at the chemical works - don't think we'll risk it, thanks.....

View from the Weaver onto the MSC

View from the Weaver onto the MSC

Weston Marsh Lock: The navigation notes suggest not using this side

Weston Marsh Lock: The navigation notes suggest not using the jetty this side

The crummy jetty outside Weston Marsh lock

The "good" jetty outside Weston Marsh lock

View up the Weaver from Weston Marsh - conditions are much more benign today

View up the Weaver from Weston Marsh - conditions are much more benign today

Marker posts for ships approaching a now dimantled swingbridge

Marker posts for ships not to approach a (now dismantled) swingbridge until signalled - typical for how the navigation used to be run.

2 Responses to “The Odyssey 2009: Day 42”

  1. Greygal said

    Always an adventure to be had when you’ve got greys….Hope Lou has recovered fully from her little Weaver wobble!

  2. indigodream said

    Lou has fully recovered – it’s my nerves that are still a bit shredded! Lou has had to put a brave face on it because of the sniggering coming from Labradors and other swimming hounds for whom a dip in the river is a ‘walk in the park’. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.