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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Memories from old. Bracken grounded under a bridge.

Thursday 26th

The drizzle stayed with us all night and most of today. Travelling was most unpleasant, tiny pinpricks of water droplets bombarding our faces. Ian's glasses were for ever needing a wipe. Anyone thought of making glasses with wipers???? We did the first of the Poolstock locks, a very slow fill as water poured out from the bottom gates almost as fast as the incoming water at the top. Just before I was due to leave, two small Goslings on the lock side and, all alone, were making their way toward the bottom pound. Normally this would have just got an Ahhhh from me but below lock, a swan family. After yesterdays incident I really didn't want the same fate to happen to these. So Ian rushed round to shoo them back to the top pound.

Poolstock locks

Keep going little 'uns

Trouble below.
 The pound to the next lock was quite low, not enough to stop me in my tracks but best to keep to the middle just in case. Obviously letting water down helped but leaky gates and paddles left partially up are the biggest reason why pounds get low, as is gates being left open!

The drizzle was relentless so glad to arrive at Wigan junction where we knew we would stop for a while.. We needed to take on water and do the loo and the facilities were almost at Henhurst lock so after completing the left turn onto the Leeds & Liverpool we pulled onto the mooring. And then another discovery made. No rubbish disposal or water point! Another amendment needed in the Nicholsons then. Thankfully the Elasn was still there but the next water point isn't until we reach Dean lock at Gathurst. and to get rid of the rubbish is even further away, another 8 miles!

Approaching  the junction

Ignore the sign. Only Elsan available.

Henhurst lock. Note the fence rails to the left of the lock by the road.
Wigan is as bad if not worse then I remembered. Moored boats right up to the lock landing and at lock 86 steel rails has been put up as a fence from the road to the lock so the offside paddle gear cant be operated unless you walk go up the ramp to the road, over the bridge and then down the ramp on the other side. Of course you could take your life in your hands and walk across the top of the gates, which, I might add, has no hand rails and no anti slip matting!. How health and safety hasn't got involved is beyond me. Then at lock 87 the lock landing below the lock is now owned by a private company and is inaccessible. The only way back on the boat is to step down about 3 feet from the high towpath wall.

I came up then on one paddle as I refused to allow Ian to walk across the gates. Took a bit of time but thankfully we didn't hold up any boats.  The bottom lock gates have no balance beam to push against either, just a lever that had to be wound and by the way Ian struggled, quite difficult to get moving..

No pushing or pulling on the gates. Just winding gear.

Looked blooming hard work though

 We cruised by Wigan Pier.  That's impossible I hear you cry! Conjures up images of of the seaside doesn't it but of course Wigan is inland and an industrial town. It was used to load the coal boats in days gone by and there is a ballad to the pier.

 So if you are told that there's a pier in Wigan Town, somewhere,  Don't laugh it off like others do, look round you'll see it there.

 Wigan Pier. That chap looks a bit fed up. Must be because it's raining.
We cruised past DW Stadium home of Wigan Warriors and reached Pagefield lock.

DW Stadium home of Wigan Athletic FC and Wigan Warriors.

That drizzle was still with us.
This lock brought back memories of 2008 when the BIF's  (Bracken, Icing and Free Spirit) were on the way back from the Lancaster Canal having crossed the Tidal Ribble and River Douglas and were heading for Leeds. The pound was very low and we had just gone into the bottom lock to ascend. Then came a frantic call on the walkie talkie. "Don't lift a paddle as we are stuck under the bridge." It was Dave on Nb Bracken. Dennis and Margaret on Nb Icing managed to pull into the side but I was down in the depths of Pagefield lock waiting to ascend. So there we stayed for several hours waiting for BW (as was then) to run water down the Wigan flight to flush Bracken off. Glad to say we had none of those problems this time as plenty of water in the pound.

Looking back at the same bridge as.....

Bracken well and truly stuck in 2008.

Icing managed to get into the side.
Last lock of the day was Ell Meadow Locks. Looking at this photo there appeared to be another lock next to it but so far I haven't found any information on why it is no longer in use. 

Ell Meadow locks, One disused and one still in use.
That's not the only lock not used any more. We cruised through another narrow section which turned out to be another lock. This was called Crooke lock which was replaced by Pagefield and Ell Meadow locks because of subsidence.

And another lock no longer needed. Crooke Lock
We made it to Crooke and here we stopped as the Crooke Hall Inn had been recommended for it's excellent food and real ales. Off for a meal tonight to see if they were right.
And to the wildlife.

The swan family below Poolstock lock

And one of the two orphans

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