The end of the Bridgewater

There’s very tasty ice cream in Dunham Massey, if you walk 3 miles from the canal to get it.

Don’t ask me why the cone is black

Although we were in a nice spot we had to move. As usual, we needed water. Most of the canals and rivers in England are owned and maintained by the Canal and River Trust. The Bridgwater is privately owned. We don’t have a licence for it, so we can only cruise on it for seven days at a stretch, with no return in 28 days, or we have to pay an additional fee. As we can’t linger on Sunday we pulled out our mooring pins and set off.

Once through urban Manchester, the Bridgewater is very pretty indeed. It’s wide and quite rural. We noticed lots of cabin cruisers buzzing up and down, far more than we’re used to seeing on CRT waters. Sadly a lot of them are a little tatty. Perhaps well-loved is a better description. I was spurred on to give Beau Romer a good wash!

No-one likes to see this

On Sunday night we stayed in Lymm. It’s a pretty village where the houses come right down to the canal. There’s a Sainsburys supermarket there, very useful. It’s also busy and we ended up mooring under a tree. That’s no good for getting solar power to charge the batteries.

Lymm Bridge is very quaint

We were determined to complete our cruise on the Bridgewater on Monday. We braced ourselves for our first tunnel. The Preston Brook Tunnel is 1239 yards long, and it’s the first one-way tunnel we’ve ever come across. Martyn’s an impressive helmsman – he didn’t touch the sides once. I don’t like tunnels. They’re creepy, they drip, and they are never straight.

Emerging triumphant from the gloom

The Trent and Mersey is different from the lovely wide canals we’d been cruising. It’s narrower, twistier, and it has more encroaching vegetation. So far it’s really rural until suddenly it isn’t and there’s a lot of visible industrial activity, especially around the Anderton Boat Lift.

Closing in on a familar vessel

We had a rendezvous with Colin, Debbie and their adorable Chihuahuas, Cyril and Gladys. Their narrowboat, Woody, is another Bickerstaffe boat. They launched Woody in February and have been a great help to us as we get to grips with our new lifestyle. I’m not saying we drank a lot of wine last night, but the evening ended with Martyn flat on his back on the towpath mumbling something about just getting him a pillow and leaving him there!

And I need to make a correction. Wigan isn’t a desert at all. James, the extremely helpful volunteer lockkeeper from the Rufford Branch, (time all ascents and descents for Monday when he’s on duty) sent me a message on Twitter. The water point is just after the CRT pontoon and has now been painted blue. So we’re sorted for the return trip. Thank you James.

Old King Coal

Pennington Flash is lovely. We stayed put for a couple of days, did a supermarket shop, hunkered down in front of the fire when it rained and had a good wander around when it didn’t.

Down by the water watching the birds

There’s a lot of new development on the other side of the canal, on the site of the Bickershaw Colliery. Martyn researched it and said there were several collieries there that amalgamated after WWII when the British Coal Board was formed. 90% of the coal went to fuel power stations and the remainder to the railways and the domestic market. It’s difficult to imagine what the landscape must have looked like then, it’s so beautiful now. The giveaway is the shoreline of the flash is black and littered with little lumps of coal.

Swanky new marina development at Plank Lane

Yesterday we moved on. Just the other side of Leigh we left the familiar Leeds and Liverpool Canal for the new-to-us Bridgewater. We needed to top up the water again. Our tank holds about 100 gallons, but I’m not frugal enough with the water and had been doing the laundry. No worries, we would pass two water points. But we couldn’t find the first. The second, in the pretty village of Worsley (where the water is the colour of yellow ochre from the iron in the soil), was closed up and padlocked. Oh dear, no shower for us!

So we carried on through the outskirts of Manchester. We’d save the turn into the city centre for another post-pandemic day.

Perhaps he’s dreaming of what he’d like to be

Twitter advice and Stretford Marina saved us. The marina has lovely people and free water. They also sell ice creams!

I had to wind to get to the water point. If you’re not a boaty person, winding is turning the boat around. Normally I get Martyn to do it. It’s a confidence thing, I had a fabulous teacher. Martyn was messing around with the hose, so I was going to have to go for it. And Beau Romer behaved like the lady she is. She rotated like the second hand on a clock, even though it was breezy. I was so pleased with myself!

A lot more industrial landscape than we’re used too – and a handy entrance to the Trafford Centre if you fancy a shopping trip

We passed the Kellogg’s factory. It has a wharf that’s probably been out of use for decades, they don’t bring the grain in by boat any more. We sniffed the cereals baking. It reminded us of being at home and driving past the Ryvita factory in Poole!

I hope this is being preserved and not demolished

After 19 miles we reached Little Bollington and moored up in a picturesque spot overlooking Dunham Massey Hall. If you’re ever in the area try The Swan with Two Nicks for good beer and tasty food. Again, we may stay here for a day or two.

This’ll do