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The Wigan Flight

Wednesday 31st August 2016

I woke up really anxious this morning due to all the horror stories I had heard & read about this flight of 21 locks taking us down to Wigan. We cruised the mile or so to the services at the top lock with Phoebe Joan, water was topped up, toilets emptied & rubbish disposed of. The CRT man at the top was filling me with fear about broken paddles, leaky gates & dry pounds whilst he was letting some water down & clearing some of the thick weed around the top lock.

I had read FB posts & blogs recently with all sorts of horror stories about the Wigan 21, flooded decks, front fenders wrenched off, groundings, broken paddles the list goes on……

Nothing for it, we had to go. Rachel led the way into the first lock & the guys set themselves a time of 4 hours to complete the mission & seemed somewhat excited. I made a complete lash up of entering the top lock but I think in hindsight it was just nerves as normally I would not of had a problem, right I was in, lets get this done!

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Going down!

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Have seen a lot worse leakage.

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Gates in a lot better condition than I expected.

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The guys getting their system going!

Starting to relax, no problems so far, sun is shinning, guys are on schedule, Rachel & I are leaving & entering locks in single file. The flow into some of the pounds is quite strong so I have to let Rachel get well past as it would push me over to the side otherwise, but hey after what I’ve been hearing that’s no problem at all!

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All the pound were like this with good side flow.

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Looking down the flight.

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Letting Phoebe Joan out first as she’s shorter than us.

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Not far to go now.

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Looking back up the flight.

Already down to 81 & so far its been nothing but pleasurable, one other boat a widebeam coming up but apart from that no other traffic that we could see, no dry pounds, leakage no worse than some other locks we had come through on the Leeds & Liverpool so far.

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Looking back.

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81 to 82

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Bottom lock done….

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Under the bridge

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Leigh Branch Junction

As you leave the bottom lock & go under the bridge the canal opens out with a big car showroom on one side, just past that to the left you have the Leigh Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool canal which we will be going down in about a week to the Leigh Festival. Carry straight on, directly under Henhurst Bridge is Henhurst Lock which takes you down to 14 day moorings handy for walking into the town centre & visiting the newly located CRT  offices in Trencherfield Mill.

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Henhurst Bridge

We moored up opposite the old CRT building, knackered!  Mission completed from top to bottom lock 3.5hrs, maybe we just had a lucky day but I have to say it again as there are so many scary stories around about this flight of locks, we had NO issues what so ever & all my stressing was unnecessary, so be prepared, be sensible but don’t take everything you read as gospel.

 

3.5 miles  22 locks   0 Swing Bridges   5 hours (in total)

 

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Thursday 1st September 2016

There was no dancing at Wigan Pier, firstly because it is now closed & secondly I don’t think I’ve got a dance left in me!

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There is a water point along here after Bottom Lock before the bridge at Wigan Pier

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Wigan Pier a wharf on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was made famous by the writer George Orwell In his book, The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell highlighted the poor working and living conditions of the local inhabitants during the 1930s. Following the decline of industrial activities in the region, Wigan Pier’s collection of warehouses and wharfs became a local heritage centre and cultural quarter

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We said goodbye to our now dear friends Jeremy & Rachel on NB Phoebe Joan as they had a schedule to keep to get to Liverpool.

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Today we set off to explore the town & raid the charity shops. It is only a short walk to the centre but a longer stride in the other direction if you want Aldi, B & Q, Asda etc. We found the new CRT offices hid away amidst other offices in Trencherfield Mill via the entrance facing the town & up two flights of stairs. We got 2 pump out cards for emergency use & managed to secure ourselves a Leed & Liverpool 200th Anniversary brass plaque! (We didn’t manage to win one in a raffle at Botany Bay!)

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It is quite interesting around this are, a lot of the towns history explained.

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Statue gazing over to the Wigan Pier wharf

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This was the original Wigan Pier where the coal boats were unloaded, with another statue.

The first coal mine was established at Wigan in 1450 and at its peak there were 1,000 pit shafts within 5 miles (8 km) of the town centre. Mining was so extensive that one town councillor remarked that “a coal mine in the backyard was not uncommon in Wigan”. Coal mining ceased during the latter part of the 20th century.

Wigan Pier, a wharf on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, was made famous by the writer George Orwell. In his book, The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell highlighted the poor working and living conditions of the local inhabitants during the 1930s. Following the decline of industrial activities in the region, Wigan Pier’s collection of warehouses and wharfs became a local heritage centre and cultural quarter

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Later we had a wander around Wigan, all the usual stuff, but the supermarkets a huge Asda & Aldi are a bit out of the town centre.

Simon & Debbie nb Gloriana arrived later in the day after completing the Wigan flight.

0  Miles   o Locks     0 Swing Bridges    0 Hours

 

Friday 2nd September 2016

We made our way out of Wigan, through a rather drab previously industrial now retail landscape,

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This must be the poshest floating duck house on the canals

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3 locks & now back in the countryside we happened upon Crooke, there is a pub, historic fuel boat Ambush is often moored in front, there are permanent mooring on the offside & plenty of space to moor on the towpath side,

We decided it was a nice enough spot for the night & the animals needed the freedom after Wigan.

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3.5 Miles     3 Locks    0 Swing Bridges    2.5 Hours

 

Saturday 3rd September 2016

It was a damp rainy day today so we just did a short cruise to Appley Bridge.

You will see at Dean Locks to the right is the now unused old lock, it seems to have become a quiet mooring spot, there always seems to be a boat there!

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Appley Bridge is a very peaceful place, plenty of mooring, just a pub & railway station.

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The swing bridge as you enter Appley has a very modern landing platform.

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3 Miles    1 Lock      2 Swing Bridges     1.5 Hours 

 

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Tuesday 30th August 2016

Exhausted after a great weekend trading & very tanned we popped to Aldi for a top up of supplies then set off for a close but safe stop above the dreaded Wigan Flight.

We stopped at Ellerbeck Narrowboats for fuel as we were told his price was better than the nearby marina! we also had a pump out & topped up with water.

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The owner is really helpful & loves having the business of passing boats unlike some hire companies we’ve come across, he also has the maddest Jack Russell in the universe!

We passed the White Bear Marina, then on out into more open countryside again.

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We decided to stop the night opposite Haigh Hall Country Park golf course which is about a mile from Wigan top lock, it was a lovely spot but too much further on is not recommended apparently! Another beautiful evening, tables, chairs, food & drink outside again while we laughed for hours at Bailey cat terrifying every dog that dared to pass! one lady with a Labrador even turned back rather than pass our boat!!

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I have been making myself quite ill with stress worrying about the dreaded Wigan Flight, but tomorrow I will just have to deal with whatever it throws at us!

6 miles   0 Locks    0 Swing Bridges    3 Hours

 

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Thursday 25th – Monday 31st August 2016

We decided to pop into Chorley Thursday & explore the town before we spend the weekend trading, although the festival doesn’t start until Saturday we decided that as we are here we would have a trial run on the Friday, mainly because the bank at Botany Bay is so silted up & uneven that mooring close is difficult & even we you get as close as possible there are still dangerous holes alongside the boat. We mentioned to the management that they need to speak to CRT & get this sorted if they do a 2nd festival next year & want to attract more trading boats.

Chorley is a pleasant enough market town, you can catch the bus from the road bridge just past Botany Bay Mill. It has all the usual shops plus a great outdoor & indoo market 3 days a week, there is also a collectors\antique market at least once a week.

As in much of Lancashire, the town’s wealth came principally from the cotton industry, although it also became a major market town due to its central location between four other towns. As recently as the 1970s the skyline was dominated by numerous factory chimneys, but most have now been demolished: remnants of the industrial past include Morrison’s chimney and a few other mill buildings, and the streets of terraced houses for mill workers. Chorley is the home of the Chorley cake.

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Chorley cakes are flattened, fruit-filled pastry cakes, traditionally associated with the town of Chorley in Lancashire England.

They are a close relative of the more widely known Eccles Cake but have some significant differences. The Chorley cake is significantly less sweet than its Eccles cousin, and is commonly eaten with a light spread of butter on top, and sometimes a slice of Lancashire cheese on the side. A Chorley cake is made using currants, sandwiched between two layers of unsweetened short crust pastry whereas an Eccles Cake uses flaky puff pastry which after baking is normally a deeper brown in colour. The other difference is that the currants in the Eccles Cake are often concentrated together in the middle while in the Chorley and Sad Cake the fruit is usually evenly distributed.

It is not uncommon to see some sugar added to the fruit, or sweeter raisins or sultanas used. These sweeter varieties are sometimes referred to as “snap”. Locals often refer to Chorley Cake as Fly Pie.

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We did our shopping for supplies in Iceland & at the till they offered to deliver, that’ll do for me, so we returned on the bus with our market & charity shop purchases to await our delivery. Just as we got back Jeremy & Rachel arrived by taxi with their supplies from Aldi.

On Friday we set up for trading, there was a car boot sale on too today, we made quite a few sales & told lots of folk about the festival weekend, as they seemed unaware.

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Jeremy & Rachel’s friends Simon & Debbie arrived today too, looking forward to a very sociable weekend.

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Good Company

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Simon, master chef!

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The mill lights up when the sun goes down!

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Everyone put their bit in for a fab feast!

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Master chef still cooking!

Saturday, Sunday & Monday we traded by day & BBQ’d by night with our new found friends, it was a very hot sunny Bank Holiday & the festival was a great success for Botany Bay & us as traders. Rachel won “Best dressed Boat” with Phoebe Joan decked out with flags, bunting & the flowers we got them from the mill for their anniversary. Part of their prize was a brass plaque celebrating 200 years of the Leeds & Liverpool canal.

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We were the only trading boat at the festival, due to the fact it was under advertised too late. It was a great learning curve, we actually took some “proper money” & are now ready for the Leigh festival now in the company of 4 other traders.

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0 Miles    0 Locks    0 Swing Bridges    0 Hours

 

 

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Botany Bay & the Canal Festival

Thursday 24th August 2016

We set off around 10am from the peace of Withnell Fold heading for Johnson’s Hill Locks.

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Jeremy was chasing me today for a change, that’ll teach him to say I cruise too slowly!

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There are 7 Locks here & all relatively easy & in good condition, it was another scorcher of a day & I need my “Sisco Kid” hat on a Jeremy delighted in calling it.

We both needed water so we stopped at the top lock, we spotted a couple of other boaters that we had seen on our travels recently & realised they were headed to the same place as us.

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As you get closer to Botany Bay you are directly parallel with the M6 motorway & the constant drone of traffic is always in the background.

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Botany Bay loomed ahead along with another building resembling a very modern but huge Church, we later found out that it is the UK head office for the Jehovah Witness’s.

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Botany Bay refers to an area on the outskirts of Chorley alongside the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. It was instrumental in transport for the North West of England and was home to several mills during the Industrial Revolution.

During the construction of the Lancaster Canal, Botany Bay played host to the canal workers, and it is believed the name Botany Bay originated from around this time, due to the navvies occupying the area the locals saw it as an area to be avoided, much like the penal colony at Botany Bay Australia. By 1816 The Leeds-Liverpool canal had come to incorporate the Lancaster canal and by this time Botany Bay had become an important loading and unloading area due to its warehouse size and proximity to the canal

Due to the canal Botany Bay became a hub for transport, as early as 1830 services ran from Botany Bay wharf to Manchester, Wigan and Liverpool as well as others. This contributed greatly to Botany Bay’s importance in both the cotton trade and increasing communication in the local area.

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There were a few boats here already & markers for the designated area for the trip boats & we had been warned that the bank was very uneven & shallow in places so we managed to pick the best section right in front of the mill complex & carpark for trading over the Bank Holiday weekend.

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3.5 Miles    7 Locks     0 Swing Bridges    3.5 hours 

 

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Sunday 21st August 2016

It was still a bit cloudy & drizzly but warmer,  but we donned our macs gave Phoebe Joan a toot & set off for Blackburn with all the stories of prop fouls & rubbish in out heads!

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Just as we were setting off from Side Beet bridge!

Is this the start of things to come, we hadn’t even reached Blackburn yet!

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A lot of evidence of the old working mills & wharves, this area similar to the one we had moored at in Burnley a couple of days earlier. Lots of anti vandal fencing surrounding new industry.

Textile manufacturing in Blackburn dates from the mid-13th century, when wool produced locally by farmers was woven in their homes. Flemish weavers who settled in the area in the 14th century developed the industry. By 1650 the town was known for the manufacture of blue and white “Blackburn checks”, and “Blackburn greys” became famous not long afterwards. By the first half of the 18th century textile manufacture had become Blackburn’s main industry. From the mid-18th to the early 20th century Blackburn evolved from a small market town into “the weaving capital of the world”, and its population increased from less than 5,000 to over 130,000

Suspension of trade with India during the First World War resulted in the expansion of colonial British India’s cotton industry at the expense of Britain’s, and the imposition of an 11% import tariff by the colonial British Government led to a dramatic slump in trade in 1921,  this caused the number of stopped mills to increase to 47, with 43,000 looms lying idle. Two years into the slump, Foundry and Limbrick Mills became the first to close permanently. Not long afterwards, in 1926, the General Strike saw production suspended at half the town’s mills. There was another slump in 1928, and another strike in 1929, 40,000 cotton workers struck for a week and eight mills closed, making 28 closures in six years. By the start of 1930, 50 mills had shut and 21,000 people were unemployed.  A financial crisis in 1931 led to 24,000 unemployed, with 1,000 houses and 166 shops lying empty in the town. A total of 26 mills closed down between 1930 and 1934.

The industry experienced a short post-war boom between 1948 and 50, during which sales increased, industry training methods improved and automatic looms were introduced which allowed a single weaver to control 20 to 25 looms. Loom sheds were rebuilt to house new, larger looms. Despite the post-war boom, the cotton industry continued to decline and only 25% of the town’s population were employed in textiles by 1951; this : this figure had stood at 60% up to the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929.

In 1952 the number of weavers fell from 10,890 to 9,020. By 1955 more cloth was imported from India than was exported and between 1955 and 1958 another 16 mills closed. In 1959, due partly to the re-organisation of the textile industry as a result of the Textiles Act another 17 mills closed. By 1960 there were 30 mills operating in Blackburn.

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Albion Mill, closed in 1975, demolished in 2010

Since the 1950s the town has experienced significant levels of migration, particularly from India and Pakistan, and consequently has the third highest proportion of Muslims in England and Wales and the highest in the United Kingdom outside London.

The town seems to be embracing the canal more now as a visitor attraction & improvements are apparent.

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Two CRT workboats hogging the entrance to the next lock!

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This type of mechanism is used when space at the locks is at a premium & no room for long wooden beams.

 

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We saw no signs of rubbish, louts or drunks on our way down the locks through the town. The most inconvenient issue was the two workboats making entering one lock very difficult & making it awkward for two boats to moor up for water, hey ho we managed.

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A couple of rather odd sites as we started leaving the town behind!

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Green started to make an appearance again.

We stopped at Cherry Tree for some supplies, although not a brilliant mooring spot as its a bit run down & the side is shallow, it is handy for supplies as the village is right beside the canal along with a small Sainsburys at Bridge 95.

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From Cherry Tree onto Riley Green.

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A colourful yogurt pot at Riley Green & we moored up just by the cows which unbeknown to us were planning the great escape! …………to be continued.

8 Miles    7hrs     6 Locks       0 Swing Bridges

 

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Wednesday 23rd August 2016

We left Riley Green as the weather started to pick up & the rain eased heading for Withnell Fold.

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This is a lovely spot but only room for two 50ft plus boats on the pontoon otherwise the bank is a bit overgrown

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It was a glorious day by now & really hot, both of us had done a load of washing whilst travelling so once we had moored up our two boats looked like a Chinese laundry, it didn’t take long to get it all dry though, then it was time to enjoy the sun &a few glasses of wine in great company yet again.

Even Bailey cat was just chillin’ today!

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We had the pleasure of watching Short Boat Ribble pass through as we enjoyed the midsummer sun,

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tomorrow we head for Botany Bay & our first proper canal festival.

2 Miles    0 Locks   0 Swing Bridges   1 Hour

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