Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Monumental Manchester.

On Tuesday we went for our mid afternoon meal (carrying on the Liverpool tradition of eating just once a day). We chose Zizzi in The Corn Exchange …….


……. which is an awesome building in it’s own right.


Our charming waitress, Lola, recognised us (well, recognised James actually!) from last year and, after chatting for a while, found we had numerous mutual friends in the area. Half way through the meal she presented each of us with a glass of ‘bubbly’ to start off our Manchester Pride celebrations.


What a lovely thing to do! We hope we’ll meet up with Lola again during the Pride weekend.


On Wednesday James made his annual visit to the John Ryland’s Library in Deansgate.


From the outside the fine building looks like a cathedral – in fact, it could easily be mistaken for Manchester’s Cathedral.


Inside it gives an even better impression of being a place of worship.


A look upwards, wherever you are in the building, with it’s lofty fan-vaulting and intricate roof bosses the impression continues.


No expense was spared to present this building as impressive as possible.


The gothic arches, pulpit adornments, chandelier lighting and impressive stone staircases give a good indication of what is to come ……..


…….. which is the enormously impressive Central Reading Room. The tremendous space could well be the interior of a very important place of worship. The stained glass windows at either end give the chamber a very special atmosphere.


Down both sides of the central aisle are numerous open plan reading rooms which are lined ……….


….. with some very valuable and very old reading matter. In fact, the library holds nearly 1 million books and almost 1 million manuscripts.


At one end of the Central Reading Room is the marble statue of John Rylands who died in 1888 and ………


……. at the other end a similar statue of Enriqueta Rylands who had the library built in memory of her husband as a gift to the people of Manchester. It was opened in 1900.


And what a gift to the city it was, and still is! It is a place of worship of sorts – to the written word. That includes anything that can be written on – wood, clay, paper, parchment, papyrus, the list goes on.


The entrance to the Central Reading Room is a delight and continues the relentlessly superb workmanship and design throughout the building.


It could easily lend itself as the backdrop to Hogwarts! Harry Potter would feel very much at home!


There was a short lecture on Shakespeare which James attended with a very rare and early book of his sonnets on display. However, also on display was this papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John. With incomplete ancient Greek text it is considered to be the earliest portion ever found. (2nd or 3rd century AD). And it sits there right before your eyes!


One place that should be visited before leaving the library is the gentlemen’s toilets. They are the oldest working toilets in the country ………..


……. and well worth using before you leave. Sadly, the ladies equivalent is not nearly so good!


On Wednesday afternoon our friends Pam and Geoff came over to see us from their home in the Lake District. In an amazing coincidence our Facebook profile reminded us that it was one year ago to the very day that they came to see us in Castlefield last time! There was, of course, the very necessary chat over drinks on the back deck before ………


……. taking the short walk across to Albert’s Shed for a superb meal together. It’ll be a couple of months before we meet up with these very lovely people again (watch this space!) but we had the most wonderful afternoon with them – a great pleasure. Thanks Pam and Geoff for coming over.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Manchester Again!

After we helped Debbie and Danny fit their new aerial on their boat we’ve had several enquiries about it. Here are the details for anyone who is interested in this little marvel :-


And the link for the magnetic pole for it to fit on:

We can only go by our own experience with this piece of equipment. We’ve had one for five years now and it has seen better days (!) but it still works as if new. It’s mounted on a short (500mm) pole with a strong magnetic base. We just place it on the roof of the boat when we need to but a lot of the time it stays in the front well deck (where it’s normally stored when we’re moving) where it still works perfectly. The aerial has a booster attached and we also have a second booster inside the boat and run two TVs a lot of the time. We’ve had feedback from others who have fitted this product and are equally delighted. It’s very compact as well, which saves having a large, obtrusive thing on a long stick dominating your roofline. Good luck! 


We left our mooring at Lydiate on Tuesday which was a gloriously hot, sunny day. The flat land and alluvial soil from Lydiate right up to Rufford is mainly set over to the growing of vegetables and corn crops. The harvesting of wheat was well under way as we passed along and the air was full of a wonderful warm straw smell.


One interruption to the flat landscape is at Halsall where there’s a lovely, tree shaded cutting through a rocky outcrop.


The various pubs along the canal side were very busy with people taking advantage of the sunshine.


Not that we were wanting a mooring at Burscough but apart from the 1 hour service point in the town there seemed to be no facilities for visitors to moor. Instead, all mooring is set aside for permit holders and the general poor state of the craft on these moorings gives the town’s waterfront a very downcast look. However, one bright oasis is the regeneration of the massive Ainscough’s Mill which now looks rather splendid. We headed on to the much more attractive little Parbold for the night’s mooring.


This stretch of canal is periodically punctuated by well over a dozen swing bridges. Road users can get a bit frustrated sometimes when they’re met with the barriers coming down but we tried to be as efficient as possible!


From Parbold it’s not far to Wigan and it only seemed like yesterday that we’d stopped for a night there but this time we were cruising on through. Poor old Wigan Pier (on the left) although not looking too dilapidated at the moment, has been closed for a while it seems.


There was a major problem with the swing bridge at Plank Lane, which carries a lot of traffic, and we had to make it by 2 o’ clock Wednesday for the daily opening by CRT staff. We managed to make it by the skin of our teeth! Around the half finished marina next to the bridge (it was still only half finished when we last came 5 years ago) is a new housing development under construction. We were interested to see that all the houses have built in solar panels. They look a lot nicer than the ‘bolt on’ ones!


It was our second day of hot sunny weather and we chose to moor up mid afternoon just after the Plank Lane bridge on the Pennington Flash Country Park at Leigh. It’s rare to find a place where you can moor on either side of the canal but you can on this section (the opposite side being council owned land and used a lot by dog walkers and hikers) so that’s what we did.


It wasn’t long before we got ‘sussed’ as to our location and friend Scott (who joined us for the evening in Blackpool recently with his partner) called in to see us on his way home from work. Although only a brief visit it was great to catch up with him again.


On Thursday morning we noticed the weather forecast for Friday was for heavy and persistent precipitation so we decided to fold two days of travel into one. After a stop in Leigh for some much needed food shopping we set sale for a good days cruising.  At the, always very helpful, Bridgewater marina we stopped for water, fuel and a pump out before continuing. Further on, approaching Worsley, the water gets gradually more orange.


Worsley is really the birthplace of the canal system. This is “The Delph” which is the entrance to coal mines once owned and operated by the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater. In the mid 1700’s he built the canal to take coal from his mines to Manchester. It’s from these mines that the iron oxide now leaches and produces the odd colour of the water.


This part of Worsley, with “The Delph” in the far right hand corner is very pretty. 


It doesn’t take long before the canals offer us another surprise and at Parrin Lane there’s a lighthouse of all things!


Our good progress for the day was unceremoniously halted for a while at the famous Barton Aqueduct however. This ‘wonder of the canal network’ was built in 1894 to allow large vessels to pass on the Manchester Ship Canal. When we arrived the gates had been closed and the aqueduct, with canal water sealed in it, was being swung for the passage of something big to pass through on ship canal beneath. It’s interesting to ponder that the sealing gate in the picture holds all the water in the canal right back to Wigan!


We’ve approached this fantastic engineering marvel just twice form the Wigan direction and on both times we been halted for it’s operation. We don’t mind in the slightest – boat owners pass many times hoping to see the aqueduct swung only to be disappointed and we hit the jackpot on two occasions! The wait can be a long one so we put the washing out (as you do) and made a cup of tea.


In the end we were only delayed by half an hour and, after the massive caisson was swung back into position and the gates opened, we were on our way again.


Very sadly, the lovely wooden hut which housed the original hydraulic equipment for the bridge was burnt down a short while back and all that’s there now are safety railings around the charred, but still operational, workings.


It’s very very special to pass through this lovely old structure ……..


…… and to look to the right down the Manchester Ship Canal with the road bridge over.


And this is the view left.


The paparazzi were waiting for us and we’re now in someone’s collection of photos of the Barton Aqueduct!


Back on course again we soon pass the enormous Kellogg’s factory. You can smell it before you see it with various whiffs of Frosties and Sugarpuffs in the air!


It wasn’t long before we saw the first signs of our destination – Manchester’s Beetham Tower sitting head and shoulders above anything else in the area.


Astonishingly, when we turned the corner into Castlefield Quay and our favourite space was waiting for us! We’d managed to get to Manchester ahead of the rain forecast for Friday and we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sunshine.

We would like to dedicate this blog to Elaine McBride who passed away yesterday (18th August 2016). Many of us have had Elaine and Paul in our thoughts and prayers during Elaine’s illness and we send our heartfelt condolences to Paul and their families at this most difficult and sad time.  Rest in Peace Elaine.


From L-R:  Paul and Elaine, Neil, Pauline, Doug, Frances, Andrew. (July 2013) After a cruise on the tidal River Thames.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Last Day and Leaving Liverpool.


Our stay in Liverpool was coming to an end. Our mooring, in Salthouse dock has been superb. Water, free electricity and rubbish collection and a night time view from the boat like this our has been the icing on the cake.


During our last wander around the city on Sunday we came across the poignant and moving memorial to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster.


With one thing and another it was to be a very late Sunday lunch for us (we’ve been eating just one meal a day at mid afternoon this week) and this time we found another charming establishment called Dr Duncan’s.


It’s remarkable, when you to stop to think, the enormous pleasure the Victorians must have had in showing off their many achievements. The interiors of some non-municipal buildings are astonishing. The inside of this pub (originally some kind of apothecary but haven’t had time to investigate) is a celebration in ceramics!


Not shown is a splendid painted ceiling with wonderful tiled and decorated friezes and the present fittings and furniture are first class. The food – Doug had his ‘Scouse’ again and James had pie and mash, was excellent and good value.


A week in Liverpool is not nearly enough to experience its delights and, although this is our fourth visit (it’s the first time we’ve brought “Chance” into the docks) there’s plenty more to do next time. The Albert Dock, although right on our doorstep as it were, was to be last on our list to visit before we left. Its four colonnaded sides house food outlets, shops and a plethora of historical exhibitions. 


Our final Sunday had an exciting event in store for us – the Tri-Liverpool (triathlon). We were around to watch the final “elite men’s” event. It started with the swimming which took place in one of the docks.


When the starting gun fired the water erupted into a foaming white mass as about sixty very fit young men surged forward from the starting line.


As spectators we had to run to keep up with them!


As they powered from one dock, under the bridge and into the next we, as spectators, had to negotiate an assault course of barriers and road crossings to get to the next exciting viewpoint ……..


……. where we watched them turn the corner into the final stretch.


We raced round to watch them adroitly manage the exit pontoon and run towards their next event - the cycling. 


During the run to their bikes the contestants were cleverly divesting themselves of their wetsuits ready to climb onto their wheels.


The cycling was followed by the running and, finally the finish line. We’d seen the finishing line before the event started and so managed to take this rather deserted shot before they arrived! We didn’t stay for the cycling or the run as we had to get back to the boat ……


……. to meet up with Simon and Luke who had promised to pop round to see us. Luke is another ‘Doug’ and the two of them together was a bit tiring for Simon and James! Nice to catch up with you both though!


Well, 8 o’ clock leaving time on Monday morning arrived all to quickly so we untied the ropes and moved quietly across the very calm waters of Salthouse dock.


We passed under the bridge and into the Albert dock on our journey out of the city.


The city’s great landmarks, which had greeted us on our entry, were just as impressive again as they bid us farewell this time.


Looking back, as the Liver Building receded into the distance, we caught a glimpse of the the very upmarket cruise ship “Seabourn Quest” at the terminal.


We passed back through ‘Sid’s Ditch’ which is part of the remarkable new “Liverpool Link”, which now joins the east and west docks, and allows our little narrow boats to reach the heart of the city. Both the old and new technologies looked down at us as we finally left the docks behind and passed back up the Stanley lock flight. Again, we were cared for and helped by the wonderful CRT employees Paul and John.


Heading back the way we came, we passed back through Maghull where we again enjoyed the lovely houses and gardens which are so well cared for by their owners.





And finally back to ‘breast up’ (that’s two boats side by side!) with Debbie and Danny’s boat “Tickety Boo” where Debbie and her mum Mavis were waiting to give us refreshments.


Having had problems with their TV reception, we’d suggested to Debbie that she got an aerial similar to ours (which never fails to work and which, most of the time, we leave lying in the well deck!). When we got there the new aerial had been delivered and Doug, who can’t resist getting involved in things, got to work on the installation which was going to save Danny a job when he got in from work. As with most technical things a bit of chaos ensued (with Mavis taking photos on her iPad just in case there was to be any future litigation! Teehee) but it all worked out well and they now have first class TV reception.


The main reason for calling on Debbie and Mavis, of course, was the refreshments which consisted of a lovely variety of cheeses and nibbles and a wonderful coffee cake made for us by Mavis. The aerial installation and the eating, drinking and merrymaking were all over and done with by the time poor Danny arrived home from work though! Here’s Doug (far too close to the camera!) Debbie, Mavis and Danny.


And this is a lovely ‘family’ photo – thanks to Danny!


It was very kind of D & D to invite us to stay breasted up with them for the night but we decided to use a very nice mooring on the towpath side of the canal just 100 yards back up the canal so it was a quick reverse and a sad farewell to Debbie, Danny and Mavis. We’ve had enormous fun with these three guys. Although Debbie and Mavis had read the blog for years, we hadn’t actually met until we arrived just over a week ago. Adding to this week’s fun, it was a complete coincidence that we turned out to be “neighbours” in Liverpool docks! Thank you, all three of you, for your kindness and friendship – we look forward enormously to the next time!

We very much enjoyed our week in Liverpool. Nothing prepares you for the pleasure and excitement of entering the city by narrow boat. It has to be done to understand how awesome it really is – it’s by far the best approach to a city  we’ve experienced. Well done Liverpool for your generous, and complementary, accommodation and the wonderful feeling of welcome from everyone we met up with or had dealings with. London has an example to follow here with its waterways management. And with that, it’s onwards we go ………