Anderton Boat Lift (Twice!)

  We left the gorgeous moorings at Bramble Cuttings on Thurs, 13th Aug, to make our way towards the Anderton Boat Lift area – we had booked passage on the lift for Sunday 16th. We found, though, that we’d run out of water filters for our jug, so put a quick Amazon order in and moored near to the pick up point, which turned out to be a very nice spot! It backed onto gardens and Tony got chatting to the chap who lived there. (for 2 and a half hours – really????) We are good neighbours – we don’t need to run the engine to charge the batteries, so are nice and quiet and fume-free, so we don’t cause much inconvenience to house-dwellers. I decided to have another go at Fertaning the bowthruster chamber as I wasn’t convinced I’d managed to get into all the nooks and crannies the first time. I tried a different tack – instead of the long-armed roller, which couldn’t bend round the corners,  I used the short-armed roller and the grabber, enabling me to get right down under the bowthruster tube – a much better result.  The parcel didn’t arrive until 4.30 p.m., so we decided to stay there for the second night and move early the next morning.

So, on Saturday, 15th, we set off early and cruised through a very industrial section for about a mile – Tata Chemicals has a huge Works on both sides of the canal. Once we’d passed that, though, the canal became rural again. We arrived in the Anderton area and stopped for water, then continued on to find a mooring. It was rammed, though, and we had to go past the Lift but did manage to get a mooring there. The canal is quite narrow there and with moorings on one side, made it even narrower. There was a fair amount of shenanigans going on! A widebeam boat came through and had a hissy fit when it met boats coming the other way – not sure what he expected them to do, but apparently it was their fault!! We saw and had a quick chat with Anne and Steve and Val and Ade, who’d just come back up on the lift. Apart from a near sinking, they’d had a lovely time on the Weaver!! We had a walk up to the lift and round the grounds, watching the lift in action, then we walked round the Nature Park. It was a hot day again, so we decided to move the boat a little further up into the shade when we got back from our walk. 

On Sunday, as we had only been able to moor on the other side of the Lift, we had to turn the boat, so we set off and cruised for about a mile, turning and returning to the Lift, mooring on the holding moorings ready to go down onto the River Weaver. We had a short briefing then went into the holding pound and then into the lift chamber. I was a bit nervous, being afraid of heights, but it was OK and I was so busy taking photos and filming that it didn’t really bother me. The descent is very slow, too, you can hardly tell you’re moving. Once we’d got to the bottom, we turned right out of the Lift basin, heading up towards Runcorn. The River was beautiful almost straight away (it is industrial on the bank opposite the Lift, but that’s why the lift was there, so not surprising!) and we had a gorgeous cruise to the first lock. The locks are all manned on the River and, due to Covid, only open at scheduled times at the moment, so we had a short wait. We moored up and had a stroll, met the lockkeepers, returned to the boat and went through the lock when it opened. The same lockkeeper operates both locks at this end of the River, so they drive up to the next lock in time to open that one. He knew we were coming so the gates were open ready for us when we got there. We carried on our cruise and moored overnight at Devil’s Garden, a farmer’s field. We had to be careful as there was a wasp’s nest in the bank, but we managed to moor without exciting them too much! Sal and I had an “interesting” walk – our canal guide book shows a towpath either side of the River in that area but it was more like an obstacle course! Scrambling up and down banks to skirt round fallen trees, crossing rotten walkways (tentatively!) and a very narrow footpath with a sheer drop about 10 feet down to the River. When it got to a deep muddy bog, stretching the entire width of the path, we gave up (well, I did, Sal would’ve carried on quite happily!) and retraced our steps. We walked a short loop round a Nature Reserve but that was nearly as bad. I was pleased to return to the boat. That evening, whilst reviewing some of the footage I’d taken of the lift, I made the mistake of having the light on with the windows open. A fly buzzed in my ear, causing me to look up from the computer – there were HUNDREDS of flies and mozzies in the boat, with little bitey bastards amongst them!! Tony was in the bedroom listening to music, in the dark, so hadn’t noticed them, and we spent the next hour with the spider catcher and the hoover getting rid of them. Spider webs, which we didn’t even know were there, were plastered in flies and one resident spider was doing such a good job, we let him stay! Normally, any spider is evicted as soon as they’re spotted, but he was only a little ‘un, so he stayed for a while.  Lesson learnt – NEVER have the windows open and the lights on!!!! 

On Monday, Tony did much the same walk with Sal, then we set off to cruise to the end of the Navigation, or as far as we could go, at least. The last two miles are bordered by another Tata Chemicals plant – two miles!! We turned the boat at the end and returned a short distance, mooring on the lock landing for the Weston Marsh Lock, the access from the Weaver Navigation onto the Manchester Ship Canal. This passage has to be booked and is rarely used, so we were fine to moor there for an hour whilst we walked Sal. (We’d been told by another boater who goes onto the River very frequently that this was a good place to stop for a walk) We walked on the bank between the Weaver and the Manchester Ship Canal, with great views beyond the canal over to the Mersey. We returned to the boat and had a cuppa sitting outside on the lock side before we headed off again to find a mooring for the night. Black clouds were rolling in so we decided to stop at the Rocksavage Visitor Moorings. They are right next door to the Runcorn Rowing Club but also very near to the M56, high up above the River. It was very interesting sitting and watching the rowers do their thing, but also, surprisingly, we both said that we enjoyed looking at the traffic on the road above, wondering at the people going about their lives. The noise from the road wasn’t bad, either, and once we were in and tucked up, we barely noticed it.

On Tuesday, we set off and cruised back to the first lock, meeting two other boats waiting to go through. We had to breast up with another boat, which was a little tricky as Tony had to shuffle along the gunwales to the front of the boat to tie on to the other boat. On exiting that lock, we had to put a spurt of power on to reach the second lock in time – we were going against the flow in this direction. It was quite good to give the engine a bit of a workout! We made it in time and, despite one of the boats not going through the second lock, the lockkeeper still wanted us to breast up so we had the same shenanigans in the second lock. Much easier to just go alongside the wall, there was plenty of room,  so we couldn’t work out why he wanted us to breast up – a bit of entertainment for him, maybe, seeing us faff about getting into position? We passed the Boat Lift again and moored up next to the Nature Park for the night.

On Wednesday, we continued on towards Northwich and, after trying to get onto a mooring by a high wall, one of the boats moved off the floating pontoon, so we grabbed that one instead. (I wouldn’t have been able to get off the boat, much less Sal, as the wall was higher than the roof of the boat plus the bollards weren’t very well spaced) We only wanted to stop for a supermarket shop, but having then got a mooring on the pontoon, decided to stay overnight, as Sal and I were no longer prisoners on the boat! It was a little bit rainy, too, so good to be able to stay put and not have to move in the rain! We did a good shop in the Asda which was only a short walk away, and as McDonald’s was right next to the mooring, I availed myself of that, too. Tony chose to cook himself a steak sandwich, not being a lover of a Maccy D’s.

Thursday, 20th, was forecast to be a lovely day so we set off early and cruised further up the River, passing through the other two locks at the southern end of the navigation, the first opening at 9.00 a.m, hence the earlyish start. They use the smaller locks at that end of the River and we went in both of them three abreast. (There are two locks at each location, one much bigger than the other, although the small one is bigger than any canal lock! They use the bigger locks at the northern end and the smaller locks at the southern end – we don’t know why and we didn’t ask!)  We got chatting to the couple in the middle boat – they asked us if we knew Bill and Brenda from NB Bridge Street. We did indeed know Bill and Brenda and we didn’t know whether to be more amazed that we did actually know them, or at the fact that the couple even asked us, as though there are only a few boats on the system and everyone knows everyone else!! Having got through the two locks, we stopped at the very beautiful Vale Royal moorings to hang out a load of washing. It was quite windy and the washing dried in no time, so we continued on our journey to the end of the navigation at Winsford Flash Marina. The Flash is a large expanse of water that does continue on, but all the advice is to not attempt to go any further than the marina in a narrowboat as it is very shallow. As it was quite windy, it was tricky to get into the marina and another boat was really struggling to turn and moor. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant spot, either, so we decided to reverse back out of the marina and return to the lovely moorings at Vale Royal. 

We stayed put on Friday, both because the weather wasn’t too good – rainy and windy – and also because the locks weren’t being operated on a Friday, so we couldn’t really go anywhere anyway. I continued on my bowthruster chamber project, wiping down the surfaces after using the Fertan, ready for painting. That was a messy business!!

On Saturday, 22nd, we set off in the rain and found a queue at the first lock! It didn’t take long for us to get through, though, and we caught up with the same queue at the next lock. Having got through that one, we cruised back to the Anderton area, dodging the rain – coat on, coat off/ hood up, hood down! We moored near to the Boat Lift again, ready for our slot on the Lift to return up to the Canal on Sunday. Just as we arrived, someone was shooting in the firing range right next to where we were mooring, but after a couple of shots, Sal showed no signs of distress other than a cocked ear at each shot, so it wasn’t a problem. She hates the boat bumping, but gun shots 20 metres away? No probs!! She never ceases to amaze and surprise us!

On Sunday, we had a leisurely morning and meandered round to the holding mooring in time for our Boat Lift passage at 2.30 p.m.. By coincidence, the boat that went down with us was going back up with us! When we got to the top, we stopped at the water point to top up and drop off our rubbish, then continued for another couple of miles and stopped at Lion Salt Works. (Salt used to be extracted there and it’s now a museum, although not open whilst we were there) We knew that there were no other decent moorings after that for another 3 miles as it was all rather industrial. It was 5 o’clock by that time, too, so if we’d carried on, we would have been having a very late dinner!

On Monday, we made our way back to Middlewich – we had ordered a few things to be collected on our arrival back, including some bowthruster parts. We moored on an offside mooring just on the outskirts of the town and had a walk with Sal in the afternoon and picked up our parcels at the same time. 

The weather was terrible again on Tuesday – rainy and windy. We had intended to do a bit more boat maintenance anyway, so it wasn’t a problem. Tony replaced the broken part on the bowthruster – with a very large element of difficulty – it is very confined and you can’t see what you’re doing! Unfortunately, it still didn’t work so we had to have it looked at by a specialist – we were very fortunate that the boatyard in Middlewich is both a Vetus stockist and repair agent! Couldn’t have planned it better! We booked it in for Friday of that week – it was worth getting it looked at whilst we were here. I primed the bowthruster chamber and it was already looking much better. Unfortunately, Sally wasn’t herself, she seemed to be in pain with one of her legs and started limping on both walks, although we couldn’t identify what the problem was. We gave her an additional dose of painkiller and happily, she was back to her normal self within a couple of days. 

On Wednesday, 26th August, it was painting day for the bow thruster chamber. It was a difficult job, being so cramped, and I got just about everything covered in paint – the grabber, the roller handles, the torch, the bed slats, not to mention my hands, but it all came off with a bit of white spirit, so not a problem! I poured the paint directly into the bow thruster chamber and just used the rollers to swish it around a bit which was quite effective! It certainly wasn’t one of my best jobs but given the restrictive nature of the access, I was happy that the finish was as good as possible.

On Thursday, we moved the boat round to the moorings nearer to Lidl, as we needed another shop. The weather came over rainy again, so apart from the shop and Sal’s (wet and rainy) walk, we didn’t do much else. We confirmed with the boat yard that they were still able to see us the next day, so, on Friday morning, we went up through the three locks and moored outside the boatyard. The owner and Vetus specialist, Steve, turned up as promised, quickly diagnosed the problem and set to to sort it out. Unfortunately it was pretty damaged by the condensation, so we ended up having a whole new motor section of the bow thruster. Now we know how damaging the damp can be, we will be taking steps to mitigate the amount of condensation arising in the bow thruster chamber – a repair bill of £750 kind of focuses your attention! After Steve had finished, we moved the boat back round to the same moorings as it is a nicer spot – the canal and boatyard were right next to a main and busy road.

On Saturday, having collected all our parcels, and with the shopping done and bow thruster mended, we were free to head back on up, retracing our steps, to continue our journey northwards. We set off but stopped after a couple of hours in a lovely spot that we’d seen previously, and hung out a load of washing. It was quite a breezy day and we were in an open area at another Flash, so it had to be pegged on the line well! This Flash didn’t appear to have a name, so that is what we’ve called it – The Flash With No Name. It is a very popular mooring place and it was soon quite full. When Sal and I had our walk, we came across a few Damson trees and I had trouble stopping Sally eating some of the fallen Damsons – she doesn’t like fruit as a rule, but she did like the Damsons and must’ve eaten about 6 as I was dragging her past the trees! We thought she might end up with an upset tum, but she’s been fine, thankfully.

On Sunday, 30th, we set off early for a longish day of cruising. We went through the not-so-pretty part again around  Northwich and continued on, passing the Anderton Boat Lift. For some reason, it was very quiet and, whereas the previous week there had been nose to tail boats, there was only one boat moored there this time – odd! Loads of Gongoozlers wandering around, though. We continued on and arrived at the Barnton Tunnel – as with all tunnels you have to  line up so that you can see if anything is coming the other way, the problem with Barnton and the next tunnel, Saltersford, is that they both have slight kinks in them so you can’t easily see the other end. We poked our nose into the entrance, saw a light and were just musing whether it was the end of the tunnel or a boat, when a horn sounded – it was a boat! We reversed the nose out again and waited on the side. Three boats came through then it was our turn. Saltersford is actually a timed passage – going North you can only go through on the hour to 20 past the hour, so as long as you stick to that, you’re fine. If you don’t, you’re an idiot!! We waited on the tunnel landing and went through at the allotted time. We carried on for about another 4 miles and moored just before Dutton Stop Lock, which is just before the much longer Preston Brook tunnel, at 1239 yards.

Monday, 31st, saw us going through the stop lock and heading for the Preston Brook Tunnel, which is the start of the Bridgewater Canal. The passage is timed again, and as it is longer, and the time taken to traverse it is obviously longer, the passage is only a ten minute window to allow a good period of overlap, I suppose to accommodate the aforementioned idiots! We were in a queue of 4 boats so we all chugged off and through like a row of ducklings, come the chiming of the hour.  It took us about 20 minutes to get to the other end, and then we stopped at the Midland Chandlers just about half a mile after the tunnel.  We didn’t really need anything but it’s a good opportunity to have a browse and stock up with any bits and pieces you might see. We did, indeed, find a few things to buy! We left the Chandlers and turned left up the Runcorn Arm, which, not surprisingly, goes to Runcorn. We passed only one boat, and no moored boats, other than those on permanent moorings, which was odd. We got to the end and turned, having spotted a mooring with rings outside the Brindley Theatre. We moored up there for the night. During the afternoon, we’d received a message from Ali and Rob saying that they were free in w/c 6th Sept and that they’d like to visit – lovely! We looked at our rough plan and decided that our current itinerary wasn’t very conducive – either we’d have to cruise like crazy to get past Manchester and all the locks in order to meet Ali and Rob on the other side, or hang about and subject Ali and Rob to all the locks – and Manchester! Not good either way. We decided that we would be better to return to Anderton, go down on the Boat Lift onto the River for a couple of days, which is a lovely trip, which also meant that Ali and Rob could also leave their car in Anderton Marina – a much better plan. So, on Tuesday 1st Sept, after Tony walked Sally along the Runcorn prom overlooking the Mersey and walking under the second longest arched suspension bridge in Europe, and after a quick trip to the local shops, we set off and retraced our steps back down the Runcorn Arm. We turned right at the end, going through the long tunnel again. This time, though, I walked with Sal over the top, as it was time for her walk, and Tony came through the tunnel by himself. We moored in the same spot as Sunday night at Dutton Stop Lock. 

We stayed there for two nights and I started to sand down and varnish the window and porthole liners that had suffered from water damage due to condensation – the wood was starting to turn black in places and it’s very hard to bring it back from that, so I wanted to refurbish them before the condensation of this winter started to appear. I had purchased some outdoor matt varnish in the hope that it might be a bit more hardwearing. We moved only a short distance on Thursday, 3rd Sept, and moored at Dutton Bridge, which had been the site of a breach in 2012, and by the end of that day, I’d painted the cills of all the windows and two of the portholes, the other two requiring a little more work. I was pleased with the results of my efforts!

On Friday, 4th, we cruised back to Anderton, through the two tunnels, and moored on the visitor moorings just by the Boat Lift, for two nights. We had some pleasant walks around the Nature Park and on Saturday, walked into Northwich to pick up an Amazon delivery – our 12V usb plug in adapter had given up the ghost so we’d ordered another. (We’d ordered one so that Ali and Rob could bring it for us but it hadn’t been delivered in time for them to pick it up before they left Bournemouth – the second Amazon delivery in a row which hadn’t been delivered on time! We had to order a second one to be picked up from Northwich).

On Sunday, we moved the boat round into the marina to await Ali and Rob – it was laid out such that a longish boat like ours was better reversing onto the pontoon – particularly in our case as we have no bow doors, so we had a bit of shenanigans in turning the boat in the marina entrance and reversing up to the pontoon – a bit of a tricky manoeuvre! Ali and Rob arrived soon after, loaded with shopping (mostly booze!). We unpacked, had lunch sitting out on the pontoon and then had a stroll round the nature park. We had an early roast dinner in the gardens at the Stanley Arms pub – very nice and our first meal out since 20th March – and returned to the boat for a few drinks before bed.

On Monday morning, after a leisurely start, we left the marina and moved round onto the holding moorings for the boat lift. They didn’t seem to be sticking to the times as much any more as we were told to go straight in – about ½ an hour before our allotted time. Once we were on the river, we moored for lunch on the visitor moorings at the bottom of the lift – we’d spotted there was space from the lift as we were waiting to come down. After lunch, we turned and cruised up to the first lock (not open on Mondays at the moment) and moored on the lock landing. Ali, Sal and I set off to walk back to the Barnton moorings where we were stopping for the night, and Tony and  Rob turned the boat again and cruised back. Once moored, Tony and Rob joined us girls and we continued Sal’s walk, going on a footpath up from the river to the canal at the Barnton Tunnel and a circuit back to the river. The weather was a little changeable but we decided to have the BBQ we’d planned for one evening’s dinner – we had a nice wide towpath and a bench to put all the BBQ bits on. Whether it was the incline of the bank or whether it was due to the wine and beer, I’m not sure, but Rob did a rather elegant roll sideways out of his deckchair and down the bank – a cause for much merriment – for the other three of us at least! When we’d eaten and the coals had died down, we kept warm by putting a little foraged wood on the fire. We stayed out there until well after it was dark – it was lovely with our small fire going! (We made sure that there was no trace of the fire left behind!)

On Tuesday, 8th, we set off and cruised back towards the Boat Lift, passing it and continuing on to Northwich and beyond to Hunt’s Lock and then to Vale Royal Lock. We arrived at the lovely Vale Royal moorings and had lunch sitting outside in very pleasant sunshine! At 3.00 pm, Ali, Sal and I set off and walked back to Hunt’s Lock, leaving Tony and Rob to go through the Vale Royal Lock on the boat and meeting us again at Hunt’s Lock. It was quite warm and Sal and I were happy to sit in the shade beside the lock when we got there, waiting for them. Ali is a sun lover so sat in the sun. We got on the boat again when it was in the lock and cruised, all together, back to the floating pontoon at Northwich. Ali and I had a quick trip to Asda for more wine and then Tony cooked a chilli, which we ate sitting on the pontoon. Sal elected to stay on the boat as she’s not a fan of floating pontoons!

We’d booked the first passage, 10.00 a.m., on the Boat Lift on Wednesday morning, so we set off and arrived on the holding moorings. When we got to the top and back on the canal, we stopped near the boat lift car park, had toast and coffee and then Rob went off to collect the car from the marina car park. We helped them load their bags back into the car then said our goodbyes and waved them off. It had been so lovely to see them and we were glad that we could show them a little of what our life is like, now. Meanwhile, I’d spotted a wallet, earlier, laying on the towpath, containing a driving licence and various other cards, and by the power of a Facebook search, had found a likely owner. I messaged him to say we’d found the wallet, but shortly after spotted a chap walking past the boat who I thought looked like the man in the photo on the driving licence and called out – it was the man and he was very pleased to have his wallet back! We had intended to head off back northwards again, but having sorted out after Ali and Rob’s visit, decided to stay where we were for the night. I decided to attack the worst porthole and liner which had suffered from a leak as well as condensation damage, so I removed the lower half of the liner and started to treat the water damage on the wood.

I have made a short video of the footage and photos from our Boat Lift and River trip, here’s the YouTube link…..