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Archive for September 7th, 2009

The Odyssey 2009: Day 45

Posted by indigodream on 7 September, 2009

Trent & Mersey Bridge 209 to Runcorn (and back again)

Saturday 5th September

View down to Acton Swingbridge

View down to Acton Swingbridge

Aplologies if this post does not display correctly, wordpress is having a bad day. We got back to the boat late on Saturday night with some relief. It’s been a wearing week, in the way that only the last week before the holidays can be. Lou hasn’t been very well (nothing to do with her dunking in the Weaver last weekend!) and we decided to stay at home for an extra day until we were sure we wouldn’t need any more vet visits. She’s fine now, though a little sore – she had a few teeth extracted and an x-ray of her toe and knee has revealed quite extensive arthritis.

We had a great drive up on Saturday afternoon and arrived at Northwich by around 7.30pm. We divided our labours efficiently – I did Tesco while Richard and the dogs went to the boat and moved her down to a more convenient position right by Bridge 209. A local boater had given us the top tip that the long-term moorings just by the bridge were unoccupied (they’re apparently having trouble selling them) so they were fine for an overnight mooring. It felt a bit cheeky but it was a means to an end!

View across the Weaver valley from the Ternt & Mersey

View across the Weaver valley from the Trent & Mersey

Having sorted the boat, Richard indulged in some perfect timing – arriving at the Tesco checkout just in time to pay!

It was late by the time we’d loaded all the shopping and a week’s worth of clothes onto the boat but it was well worth it to give us a full day’s cruising on Sunday.

Sunday 6th September

The mooring by Bridge 209 was fine – there’s quite a bit of traffic noise from the nearby A-roads but there wasn’t a soul on the squishy towpath. We’re not surprised that BW are having trouble selling these moorings- there’s only 1 mooring ring and the ground is distinctly soft for pins.

We had a relaxed morning – Ken and Sue were joining us for the day – it’s been great to have plenty of time to catch up with them.

Beautiful in tis own right - a scenic bend on the Trent & Mersey (the photo doesn't quite do it justice)

Beautiful in tis own right - a scenic bend on the Tenr & Mersey (the photo doesn't quite do it justice)

We lost the men and dogs at Bridge 208 – they’d spotted a moored boat whose front had come adrift so they went off to rescue it while I turned the boat. It was an opportunity to repay, indirectly, the kindness of all the boaters that re-tied us in Brewood! In the meantime, us two Sue’s headed off for the winding hole past Bridge 207. There’s a very fine mooring by the bridge which we suspect is attached to the house opposite. Just as well that the other Sue and I haven’t won the lottery – there’d be no end to the houses that we’d buy!

The northern reaches of the Trent and Mersey canal have been a bit of a revelation. If I’d had to describe the T & M in as few words as possible I’d have said “heartbreak hill, harecastle, orange”. Beautiful certainly wouldn’t have been in the lexicon. But beautiful it is – both in its own right with green and pleasant surroundings and with its magnificent views of the River Weaver far below.

Socialising at Dutton Stop Lock - if you zoom in you can see the northbound opening times for the tunnel

Socialising at Dutton Stop Lock - if you zoom in you can see the opening tome for the tunnel

Of course, the T & M also has plenty of interest, here in the form of Preston Brook Tunnel. The tunnel approach is a bit awkward. There’s a silly stop-lock marking the boundary between the T & M and the Bridgewater canal and the approach is made narrow by moored boats. Funnily enough, the drop of around 2” took ages because the water was overflowing the top gates, even with the bottom paddles wide open – it’s a bizarre thing. Below the lock there’s a winding hole then another narrow stretch just before the tunnel. For information, when waiting for the tunnel (below the lock) do moor in the narrows – boats coming out of the tunnel can just about get past!

Blue and Lou had a good rummage at the stop lock – we had a bit of a wait for the tunnel; there’s only a 10 minute window per hour – it’s not very much but I think that BW have to allow for a certain amount of ‘cheating’

Our third greyhound in the Preston Brook tunnel

Our third greyhound in the Preston Brook tunnel

We had a bit of serendipity here – one of the boats coming out of the tunnel sells tiller-pins. We looked at their display as they went past, without much hope of finding a greyhound pin. But the woman on board said she had some in her store and we have finally got a stunning brass greyhound on our tiller. We had about 3 minutes to spare before we had to go through the tunnel so the woman named her price – a whopping £30. But Ken and Sue kindly bought it for Richard – he’s had a big birthday recently so they felt he needed some comfort!

Anyway, if you’re after a fancy tiller pin then watch out for nb. Pegasus No. 3 crewed by Barbara and Harold Schofield (0779 303 1743 barbara1515 at hotmail.co.uk

Well satisfied, we passed into Preston Brook tunnel just in time. The tunnel itself is dry and has an interesting ventilation shaft about halfway through which vents to the side rather than through the roof. I wondered what the geography was doing above in order make that work. Or was the setting out a bit out?

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Ken has tken this boat out on a cruise with kids from Barnado's - based on his past experience of steering Indigo Dream!

Ken has tken this boat out on a cruise with kids from Barnado's - based on his past experience of steering Indigo Dream!

Beyond Preston Brook there are outstanding views down to the Weaver with Acton swingbridge, Dutton Lock and Dutton viaduct clearly visible. It meant so much more to us having cruised the Weaver, though I never looked up to the canal when I was on the river – next time I will.

The canal got steadily quieter as we cruised along – I get the impression that maybe boaters go no further than Preston Brook. But once we’d turned onto the Runcorn arm we really did have the canal to ourselves. This is a shame, as the Runcorn Arm has many interesting contrasts – maybe you wouldn’t want to moor up for the night here, but as it’s an afternoon’s trip there and back it’s well worth exploring.

The first thing of note is the waterpoint on the canal just by the marina. It’s not marked on our Nicholson’s but it was signed as ‘Bridgewater Canal – Water’ so we filled up here. Sue is very familiar with this area as she works nearby and has to visit homes all around the area. It’s generally an area of high social deprivation but nothing’s clear cut. The houses can look rough but they’re in beautifully green surroundings; in other places, the flats look like a million dollars but they’re all social housing. The canal’s a bit grubby but it is scenic.

Our first view of the Runcorn Arm - that's a water tower in the distance

Our first view of the Runcorn Arm - that's a water tower in the distance

Where it passes through the woodland attached to the Priory it’s as beautiful a stretch as you could hope for. The locals that we met on the towpath, including the fishermen, were cheery souls and such kids as we met were too fascinated by the greyhounds to cause any mischief. The hedgerows were overladen with fruit and in one spot we stopped to pick a box of plump sweet greengage plums for Sue.

There are several boat clubs along this stretch with plenty of moored boats so I don’t this arm is in any danger of dying soon. But I do get the impression that most boaters just pass the junction and carry on straight up the Bridgewater without a sideways glance; I’d encourage you to come and explore.

Because surprisingly the end pays for all – not the basin itself but the nearby Mersey estuary.

The abrupt end of the Runcorn Arm

The abrupt end of the Runcorn Arm

I’d had this fantasy that the terminal basin of the Runcorn Arm would have a panoramic view down towards Weston Dock (at the end of the Weaver), poignantly reaching out but never touching it’s near neighbour. I was disappointed – the Runcorn Arm ends quite abruptly in a sheer wall beneath a road bridge (though there is plenty of room to turn). It’s a lacklustre place, despite the many boats moored offside. But ‘nil desperandum’, we locked the boat up thoroughly, left the dogs on guard and headed down towards the river (there’s a walkway under the giant road bridge). The road and rail bridges across the Manchester Ship Canal and Mersey are each magnificent in their different ways. The stone railway bridge was obviously designed y someone who had ambitions to build a castle, with its crenellated piers. The road bridge is a filigreed steel arch, reminiscent of Wembley, but so much more massive. Interestingly built by the same people as the Sydney Harbour Bridge but 2 decades later

The Manchester Ship Canal (foreground), dwarfed by the Mersey (beyond the 'wall) and it's monumental bridges

The Manchester Ship Canal (foreground), dwarfed by the Mersey (beyond the 'wall) and it's monumental bridges

Just a little to the right of the bridge, the path takes you down to a tiny park with a great viewing platform – it’s this that pays for the trip here. There’s a sweeping view over the Manchester ship canal, which looks narrow in comparison with the mighty Mersey beyond, held back by a solid concrete wall which looks flimsy when you think about the weight of the water it has to withstand. Seeing this view made me wonder whether a cruise right up the MSC to Pomona Docks would be feasible after all – there’s obviously plenty to see; maybe on the right day, when all the big ships are at anchor and the wind’s at rest……

We got back to the boat with mixed feelings. Once upon a time there were locks down to the MSC and the Weaver – what a ‘ring’ that would have made. There’s no sign of them now. Nonetheless, we had a great sense of completion coming here. You see, that’s it – we’re at the furthest point of our odyssey and we were now turning for home. Maybe the lock stoppages are doing us a favour – we’d never stop cruising if we didn’t have that limitation!

The Manchester Ship Canal and the Mersey beyond the wall

The Manchester Ship Canal and the Mersey beyond the wall

We were subdued on our way back to Bridge 209. The rain, which had held off all day, suddenly became as abundant as the autumn berries. Ken and Sue retreated indoors and I went with them – well, they’re our guests, it would have been rude not to, I’d have much preferred to be out on the rainy helm with Richard, of course I would have…..

We got back to our starting point in seemingly no time at all. We said a reluctant ‘goodbye’ to Ken and Sue and I decreed that we’d be spending the evening on board – no way was I walking to the pub in the rain through inches of mud on the squishy towpath. We watched the last two episodes of ‘Life on Mars’ – absolutely brilliant – another satisfying conclusion!

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Photoblog:

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Bold heron on the Runcorn Arm

Bold heron on the Runcorn Arm

Pleasant canalside housing near to Preston Brook Marina

Pleasant canalside housing near to Preston Brook Marina

Fast asleep duck, not at all bothered by the boat

Fast asleep duck, not at all bothered by the boat

Colourful mural on the Runcorn Arm

Colourful mural on the Runcorn Arm

It's greenly scenic on the stretch around Norton Priory (Runcorn Arm)

It's greenly scenic on the stretch around Norton Priory (Runcorn Arm)

The extravagantly turreted Runcorn-Widnes railway bridge

The extravagantly turreted Runcorn-Widnes railway bridge

And the equally extravagant steel arch of the Runcorn-Widnes Road bridge

And the equally extravagant steel arch of the Runcorn-Widnes Road bridge

Saying 'goodbye' to the Weaver Valley in the dramatic dusk light

Saying 'goodbye' to the Weaver Valley in the dramatic dusk light

Sun setting over the Weaver Valley

Sun setting over the Weaver Valley

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