Thursday, 17 August 2017

Salford Quays

As well as getting up late we (ie Christine and Jess) made sure that all of Jess's belongings were packed ready for her return home tomorrow. As a result it was late in the morning before we set out, first to walk to Piccadilly to catch a Metrolink out to Salford Quays.

Along the way we were amused by this sign - as if (the water were deep!)

We went right to the end at Media City UK where we took in the huge scale of all the buildings around the open square that are all part of the tv production which takes place here since much of the BBC moved north some years ago.

Jess spotted a sign to the Blue Peter Garden which we followed - although it has the famous head of Petra it was perhaps a lot smaller garden than we anticipated.

Still, a chance for Miss Poser . . .

We continued our stroll around the large arms that once were the docking place for ships from all over the world.

We reached the Lowry but first checked out a place to have lunch - we aimed to be quite late eating - and found a Chinese buffet restaurant and booked to make sure we would have a place at 1:30.

But first we went into the Lowry and found a small craft activity feature where Jess was shown how to gather the materials to make her own kaleidoscope. This took some while so Christine went back to Real China and put off our arrival for another 15 minutes. Actually, by the time we reached there it was not too busy.

It is an 'all-you-can-eat' buffet with a wide variety of items to choose from. Jess is well versed in selecting Chinese food and really led the way. She especially liked the spare ribs and the aromatic shredded duck, but also sampled a lot of other things.

The rest of us also did quite well but it was hard to compete with Jess.

After quite a long lunch we eventually paid up and left, with just a short walk back to the Lowry where, alongside the permanent collection of LS Lowry's work there was a special display of photographs taken in 1966 by Clive Arrowsmith, then at the beginning of his long career. These photos had long been forgotten but were recently re-discovered in Arrowsmith's attic by his daughter.

The original brief was to spend two days with Lowry, firstly at his home in Mottram-in-Longenden. The house was quite spartan and somewhat untidy but Arrowsmith was able to capture the feeling especially of the even then dated domestic equipment. The other part of the shoot took place around Salford, the area that Lowry knew when he was much younger and inspired his most famous works.

Although most of the photos show a genial old man with a wry smile on his face, this one perhaps best captured the loneliness that Lowry described of himself and as the essence of his work.

Jess had a quiz sheet given to her at the front desk when we arrived and really enjoyed finding all the items somewhere in the paintings. She also talk at length about how the pictures seemed to her.

Time was passing and so from there we walked back towards Media City UK as Jess wanted more time to explore the gardens. She especially liked this very unusual climbing sculpture - she found that it was best used as if she was a penguin (don't ask!)

We sat in the sunshine and were watching daytime tv on a very large screen (Tipping Point, would you believe) when we noticed that there was a tram ready to leave going back to Piccadilly. Thus tempted we abandoned our previous plan to walk back as far as the Harbour City stop! We needed to do a little shopping on the way back to the boat.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017


 (almost) No cruising today

We took full advantage of being able to moor in the centre of Manchester. Jess had long been asking to visit the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) which her dad had told her about. We did not make an early start! But we eventually set off and walked across the marina to the New Islington Metrolink tram stop.

We were able to see both of the iconic buildings that were some of the earlier parts of the re-development of this former decaying council estate. The Chips building has that name as it is said to resemble a stack of (only three) chunky chips.

At the tram stop we had to study the information board to work out what tickets we needed but soon our tram arrived - at the same time as one came from the opposite direction.

We alighted at Deansgate-Castlefield having passed through the centre of Manchester. Jess spotted that the tracks here are in-filled by dense sedum planting. A helpful station guide pointed us in the best direction for the museum.

Having orientated ourselves at the main entrance and then bought a souvenir guide, Jess decided that the best place to start was the Air and Flight Hall - but that was back outside and across to another building that was originally constructed as a market hall.

The exhibits showed some of the earliest planes, including the first all-British plane, that led soon after to the formation of AV Roe, one of the more famous engineering companies of the first part of the 20th century.

At one time it was possible for talented amateurs to build planes at home - although this one eventually had to be scrapped as it had serious design faults.

All three of us bought tickets to take a ride in the Red Arrows simulator. It proved rather interesting as we were taken through a typical team display. However, we were sure that the real pilots would be subject to much stronger forces than we were! What did surprise us was the speed at which the manoeuvres take place and other planes appear as if from nowhere.

Overall, the hall had examples of many important landmarks in the evolution of air flight developed by companies in and around Manchester.

From there we headed back to the main site and into the Power Hall where we saw both static engines and locomotives.

The earliest First Class carriages were based on designs for horse-drawn stage coaches with which they initially had to compete.

Back outside it was time to find something to eat. We opted to go to the Bistro on the top floor. The food was good quality at a reasonable price and all enjoyed what they ordered.

We took our time and after a look around the Experimentation gallery with its hi-tech displays of basic physics, it was time to go back to the Power Hall for the 3 o'clock demonstration of one of their engines.

It turned out to be the hydraulic pumping engine that we had taken a good look at earlier. Long before the National Grid, the hydraulic companies were the first to be able to supply energy to a number of premises, both homes, businesses and hotels. It was originally steam powered but later converted to run from electricity.stamp making and printing activity

A brief look at several other galleries, and a chance for Jess to have a go at the stamp and printing activity, kit was time then to head to the Textile gallery for their demonstration at 4 o'clock. Here, in one close collection, we could see the process of producing cotton cloth from the huge imported bales of raw cotton, through the carding and spinning right through to weaving.

By the time that had finished we felt that it was time to head back to the boat. Walking back to the tram stop we took a brief explore of Roman gardens which Christine and Jess had noticed on our way this morning. Fairly recent excavations when sites have been re-developed have given a better idea of how the Romans built their fort here - in the distance of the photo can be seen a reconstruction of what the fort main gate might have looked like.

We only went as far as Piccadilly as Mike wanted to pick up the train tickets for Friday which we had ordered on line last night. Just as well we had the chance of a rehearsal of the route between here and the marina as we went a rather circuitous way that took rather longer than it should!

The reason for the 'almost' in the title is that, just before dinner time, we moved across to the opposite side where there is a water tap. The gauge for our tank was at its lowest we have seen! However, we left it late to avoid the possibility of someone coming in and attempting to occupy 'our' mooring.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

New Islington

Today's Canal - Rochdale

We always knew that today would involve a lot of locks. Although many parts of this stretch have the appearance that would suggest that we would normally be content to moor overnight, a lot of the towpath has no green edges for a mooring spike but, more importantly, there are few places where a boat can get anywhere near the bank. For the person steering, it is a constant battle to keep the boat in the centre of the channel and any deviation can have unfortunate consequences. As a result, where we moored is about the only sensible stopping point before the centre of Manchester. (We did meet one boat coming up that had moored near the centre of Failsworth but that was out of necessity as they had a rather badly fouled prop)

So, we set the alarm for seven and made ready in double quick time, ready to start drawing pins at five minutes to eight! As we cast off, so did the other boat that had moored at the Irk Aqueduct and they clearly expected to share locks going down.

Jess and Mike set the first lock and all was going well until both boats attempted to exit the lock in parallel. The other boat opted to make speed ahead with the result that Christine was left stuck on the mud.

However, by this time Mike had walked on the short distance to the Grimshaw Lane Lift Bridge. He had it open ready for our lock companions to pass through but there was no sight of Alchemy. Jess arrived report the problem and so Mike decided that the longs queues of traffic either side of the bridge meant that he would have to close it before sorting out the boat problem. Down came the bridge deck but the barriers solidly refused to raise. He tried three times and eventually they opened - no doubt the 'bridge closed' sensor is a little unawake at this time of day!

Once the road was opened, Mike returned to the previous lock and found that the boat was well and truly stuck. The boat pole may no impact and ropes pulled from each and every direction were equally unsuccessful until three suited men on their way to their office kindly offered to assist and the combined strength eventually shifted Alchemy sufficiently that it could free itself.

Back now to the bridge which again happily opened to let Christine through but once more failed to close and created long lines of rather unhappy motorists. So, Christine rang through to CaRT emergency number and was reporting the problem when, at yet another attempt of raising and lowering, the barriers suddenly lifted. Hooray! Overall we probably lost 45 minutes through this sequence of events . . .

There was now a long level pound as the canal threaded its way through several road crossings including a motorway. This short tunnel may not look much but it is the result of a lot of negotiation and skilled planning and ingenuity that made it eventually possible - the motorways of course grew up whilst the canal was closed to traffic and there seemed no prospect of it ever opening again.

The long pound came to an end underneath an old railway bridge, now taken lover by the new tram system.

Although the day had started grey, with a short time when it looked as if rain was heading our way, it soon became very pleasant which lasted for the rest of the day.

By now the other boat was well ahead of us and so we went through the next few on our own. However, Jess was now well into the swing of things and we made good time.

A couple of pounds had signs warning of  under water obstructions - the sign was clear enough but the line of poles after were barely above the water and perhaps cannot even be spotted in this picture.

We eventually caught up with the other boat which had itself had to stop to clear wire from around its prop.

Lock 69 at Newton Heath had this mechanism for just one of the bottom gates, meaning that there was only room for one gate paddle on the opposite side. However, it was a double gearing and took 117 full turns of the windlass to lower.

Newton Heath once had a swing bridge whose remains can be seen just before this new footbridge.

Several locks now had a different bottom gate mechanism. Some were hard and some were easy.

There was a lot of water coming down the bywashes - at a couple of points this resulted in the towpath being inundated; at the first, much to the disgust of a boat coming up - not sure what they expected us to do about it as one lock-ful had already been used to fill the lock.

The locks are often located in what seem quite rural - or at least very green - situations.

For the second half of the locks we were joined by an unofficial volunteer who proved very useful - at least he did not try to tell us what we should be doing. He seems to travel around various canals and plans to be on the Wigan flight tomorrow. Alas, we never did get his name.

Anthony's Lock 77 is especially deep - it appears that it was raised considerably during the restoration and, we understand, combined the job of two locks.

In the view behind Lock 80 is one of the many splendid mills that have been converted to other uses. Not only do they give cause to think about the hard work that went on inside the mills - with very young children joining with their elders in difficult conditions - but also the large number of bricks that were made in order to build them.

By now we were really motoring but it was with some relief that our final lock at Butler Lane came into sight.

The only time we have navigated the Rochdale before was in 2013 and our memory was of bow difficult this first day's section was. However, there was little to complain about this time although perhaps the amount of water coming down the bywashes and the benefit of previous experience helped. Several boaters we met earlier were very caustic about it - there are plenty of other places at least as difficult and they do not all have the benefit of the scenery. There is little industrial dereliction or urban deprivation close to the canal.

The canal then narrowed and was hemmed in by increasingly tall buildings. However we soon arrived at the turn into New Islington Marina and we felt fortunate that there was a visitor mooring available. The other boat, having left the last lock saying that they were carrying on ahead, turned in ahead of us and went straight to the service bay. After completing a pump out they opted to moor behind us - the closest anyone has ever moored to us and they enjoyed the sunshine sitting on their front deck looking straight into our back door!

By now it was shortly after 2 o'clock and Mike was famished - Jess had managed her lunch on the go and Christine had snacked. It was a while later that we got around to the rubbish and elsan - going back across to the water tap can wait! The caretaker of the site proved an interesting mine of information - he has worked here for nine years, ever since worked started on the Urban Splash regeneration and well before the marina itself opened.

Christine amused herself by entertaining a group of three young students from Denmark who are training to be Urban Planners and are doing a case study of New Islington - they were interested in life aboard a narrow boat. But the also wanted to hear about boat communities and asp they were pointed towards one of the residential boats that has been temporarily re-located whilst remedial works are done of their mooring arm. At least this gave them a different view on boating things. A lot of work needs to be done on the whole site and one story is that the original architects failed to take into account of the effect of water coming down the locks as boats arrive. This can raise the water level several inches which then seeps down behind the coping stones which were never meant to be waterproof! As a result a lot of the ground under the edges has been eroded.

6.8 Miles - 18 Locks

Monday, 14 August 2017

Irk Aqueduct

Today's Canal - Rochdale

After heavy rain early morning, the weather today turned out much better than we had expected. For most of the time it was pleasantly warm with plenty of blue sky.

We planned to stop early today as we were aiming for the last sensible place that we know about to moor before Manchester itself. So we had a late (after 10 o'clock!), a good lunch break and an early mooring.

Before setting off, Mike and Jess took a wander to see how much they could discover of the old canal route before it had to be diverted during the restoration. The old line could be clearly seen leaving opposite our overnight mooring. The new line utilised a small under bridge that had been left for the farmer alongside the motorway to gain access. He, however, was never reconciled to the plan, despite the compulsory purchase and construction of two new bridges top give him a new road in, and pursued a long campaign of vandalism until he was finally sent to jail for his actions.

One result is that the towpath is carried through the canal bridge on a floating pontoon that leaves just enough room for a narrowboat. Anything wider has to make arrangements with CaRT to have the pontoon moved whilst they pass through.

Shortly after leaving we saw this ornate seat beside the towpath. Alas, we do not know which four characters are depicted.

The first of the Slattocks Locks, which come close together, saw us resuming the same pattern of lock operation that we honed up yesterday. Jess is now well verses in what her role is - although she did combine it with serial blackberry picker as well.

As these photos show, the canal is lined with rural scenery - even a long distance view of the hillsides that we passed close to much higher up the canal. There is one of the country's largest distribution centres very close but only rarely is there any opportunity to see that it is there.

Of course, housing estates are also not very far away and on a day like this in the school holidays, many onlookers are attracted to the rare sight of a moving boat. One young mother with a small girl - who helped Jess push a lock gate and hold the centre line, remarked that although they live in a house very nearby, she had not seen the lock operated before.

A couple of fields away from the canal we could see some sport of activity taking place. A short while later we could see a tractor pulling a train full of riders around a complicated route around the field. (we later discovered that it is Lancaster Park and Animal Farm see here)

Finally our last lock for the day and we arrived at the designated visitor moorings beside the Irk Aqueduct.

After a rest for a mug of tea we walked to the nearest supermarket, a Tesco Express that was about ten minutes away from the next bridge. Jess had requested Pork in Cider for the meal tonight and we were, unusually, totally out of cider. She also pointed out that at lunch time she had finished her favourite green peperami!

Whilst Mike and Christine booked on line the train tickets for Jess's return home trip on Friday, Jess decided that the boat roof really did need a clean and set about mopping it down.

2.2 Miles - 10 Locks