Hot days, DIY and Beautiful Views!

  On Wednesday, 14th July, after a quick visit to the little town of Tarleton to go to the DIY shop, we cruised a short way to a lovely mooring overlooking the fields. It was quite a breezy day, so we were even more grateful that we’d been able to do the Ribble Link crossing the day before! Our plans were to get back to Burscough. We had booked the cottage that Jim and Livv had stayed in so that we could moor nearby and do some DIY. We wanted to re-varnish the floor and refurbish the kitchen worktops, neither of which you can really do whilst living aboard. The only problem was that a lock was closed between us and Burscough so we were hoping for a quick repair!

After a second day on the lovely mooring overlooking the fields, and a day spent in starting to sand the floor in preparation, we had an email to confirm the broken paddle had been temporarily repaired, enabling all boats waiting to go through to proceed. We decided to have an evening cruise – our first – so set off after dinner, stopping at the water point to refill, and mooring near Rufford Old Hall again, as on the way north. A quick shower and an early night was called for – sanding on your hands and (arthritic) knees is hard work!

On Friday, 16th July, we set off and called into the marina nearby to top up with diesel and to buy a new gas bottle. The old one wasn’t quite empty but it must’ve been near, so we took the opportunity of replacing it whilst we could, bearing in mind the shenanigans we’d had previously in trying to find one! We’d recently bought an electric kettle (Jim and Livv brought it with them when they visited) in order to preserve as much gas as we can, so it will be interesting to see how much longer a gas bottle lasts. We set off again with the intention of reaching Burscough by the end of the day. It was all going well, but it was very hot so we stopped in a nice, shady spot to hang the washing out. I did a bit more sanding, leaving only the part of the floor under the furniture left to do. After a couple of hours, and when it was a little cooler, we set off again to work the last few locks and the last mile or so. We got to lock 2, Tony emptied it and I steered in but we couldn’t get the lock gates to close and seal. It is quite a deep lock, Tony was up on the side and I didn’t want to shimmy along the gunwales against the very dirty and slimy lock wall,  so Tony climbed down the lock ladder, took the bargepole out of the mount and passed it back to me, climbing back up again as Sal was up there by herself. I fished about to see if I could move the obstruction but no joy so then Tony came down again to have a go, no luck. We tried various things to move it – flushing some water through, swishing the lock gate (as much as you can swish – they’re pretty heavy to swish very effectively!), even reversing back out of the lock with Tony standing on the bow with the bargepole whilst I held the boat steady from the side! We were singularly unsuccessful in all our endeavours so we had no choice but to call the CRT. By this time, it was just before 6pm. The agent said that it had already been reported earlier in the day and advised us to moor up and wait for help the following day as no one would be available that evening. We had no choice but to moor on the lock landing and thought it would be noisy as it was next to a road and a pub, but it was surprisingly quiet. 

The next morning, Saturday 17th, we awoke to find the boat listing, not dangerously but enough to make you walk in a comical manner up the boat. Tony went up to the locks to let some water down and met a CRT chap. As part of his job, he went to the locks every morning to check the water levels and was cross that they hadn’t sent someone to help us the previous evening and that we’d been told to just moor up! Apparently, the pound in which we were moored was renowned for low water levels and we could’ve been in serious trouble!? He said that we should’ve insisted on them sending someone but we’re not very good at insisting! Maybe we need to learn that lesson? He also said that the issue with the lock gate was an intermittent but ongoing problem. Apparently, boats going through the lock at low water levels sometimes dislodged a rock between the gates. Once the water levels were restored, it seemed to settle back in place! That was the case this time – the lock gates were shutting perfectly the next morning! Consequently, we were soon on our way, through the last two locks, and moored up in the only shady spot in Burscough by 9.30 am. I had to dash off to catch a bus to Ormskirk to pick up some deliveries of decorating materials which I’d ordered from eBay (no eBay Click and Collect point in Burscough) and Amazon. I’d also ordered from eBay the replacement for the British Waterways key that we’d gifted to the cyclists at Hest Bank, as we’d not found one at any of the chandleries on the Lancaster Canal or Rufford Branch. On picking up the first delivery, however, the large tin of floor varnish had come open in the parcel, leaving just a dribble in the bottom of the tin and covering everything else within the parcel – and also meaning that there wasn’t enough varnish to do the job – we needed another tin! By this time, with the lock being shut for repairs, the trouble at the second lock, and then the leaking varnish episode, I was beginning to think that this decorating exercise wasn’t meant to be! A quick Google, though, found a hardware shop in Ormskirk, so I went to find that and, luckily, they had some in stock! Another disaster averted! I caught the bus back to Burscough, now in possession of everything needed to carry out the job. It was another very hot day, so we agreed that Tony would do Sal’s second walk of the day whilst I went to Tesco, but we left both until it was a little cooler.

On Sunday morning,18th July, we set off early and cruised round to New Lane, with Tony and Sal walking and operating the swing bridges as they went. We moored up near to the cottage and started to dismantle the sofas. We put everything on the bed – both mattresses on their sides, with the parts of the sofas, the cushions and the barstools stacked in around them, leaving the floor completely clear. Just about got it all on there! Tony got things ready to decant to the cottage whilst I finished sanding the floor. By dinner time we had everything we needed out of the boat and in the cottage – a fair few trips up the towpath –  and all the preparation done on the floor and the worktops. A lovely hot, deep bath was worth the cost of the cottage alone!! ??

Monday and Tuesday was spent staining and varnishing the floor, as well as painting the worktops with the special kit we’d bought. With me being the decorator in the family, this fell to me, but Tony played his part in keeping me supplied with food and drink, as well as doing both dog walks every day. We are a good team! It was very hard and hot work, so we had early mornings so that Tony could walk Sal in the cool and so that I could get as much done before the heat of the day. I was still working in temperatures of over 30° once the sun was overhead, though. ? I ran out of stain (we thought we might get away with just staining the worn patches but no such luck, we had to stain the whole floor) so had to order more on an overnight delivery. Thankfully, it was received in time to finish the job. So, by the end of Tuesday, the floor had been sanded, stained and had had four coats of varnish applied and the worktop had been painted, sponged for a decorative effect and also four coats of varnish applied. The only thing was that the worktop varnish was drying so rapidly in the heat that I couldn’t spread it quickly enough to get an even finish and it has dried a little patchy. We’ll wait for a cooler day and apply one more coat of varnish and it’ll all be good. I’m really pleased with my efforts!  Having the cottage was a brilliant idea – it would’ve cost a lot more to hire a dry dock and pay for alternative accommodation, too. Having the bath was a definite bonus and it was put to very good use!

On Wednesday 21st, we checked out of the cottage, ferrying everything back along the towpath to the boat. We moved the boat round to a more shady spot and then set about putting the boat back together, cleaning as we went. It was all very dusty from the sanding! Walls and furniture were cleaned down and put back in their  places and the bed made up again. We had taken the opportunity of not sleeping on the boat to wash the mattress covers – seemed a good idea at the time. The trouble was that to put them back on isn’t easy – the foam seems to grip the fabric of the cover so you have to literally man-handle it back on, and, after three days hard labour and in a temperature of 33°C, it was a task I could easily have done without! Thursday, 22nd July was a much needed rest day. My body hurt!

On Friday, 23rd July, another scorching hot day, we set off from our (nearly) shady moorings and stopped, for the sixth time I think, in Burscough to do a supermarket shop. We set off again and cruised to Parbold, but moored this time on the other side of the town bridge in the shade of the trees – where we’d stopped before was in full sun and no boats were moored there! We had a takeaway from the village fish and chip shop, which was actually a Chinese takeaway in disguise. I asked what pies they had as there was no menu up for the small amount of English fayre that they served and could only understand “meat pie” due to the language/accent barrier, even though I asked twice. So, to save any embarrassment, I asked for meat pie and chips, twice. On returning to the boat and unwrapping our dinner, we saw the two smallest pies we had ever seen – they were about the size of a mini pork pie! Quite tasty, though (even though the meat was indistinguishable and could’ve been anything!) and fortunately, there were plenty of chips!

On Saturday, 24th we continued our journey back towards Wigan and stopped just outside the village of Crooke. We could’ve made it all the way to Wigan but decided that it was probably best to not be in Wigan town centre on a Saturday night. We moored on a fairly narrow section and we were a bit concerned when, in the evening, a massive party boat passed us – they did manage to squeeze past, though! It returned much later in the evening, in the dark, and all aboard were having fun, by the sounds of it!

On Sunday, 25th, we cruised the last 2 ½ miles, working 3 locks on the way, and moored in Wigan ready for our slog up the Wigan flight on Monday. We shared the locks with a boat we’d first seen on the Lancaster canal, NB Lass Straw, and having more time to chat whilst in the locks together, discovered that it was another JD Narrowboats boat! We enjoyed comparing notes about our boats.

NB Lass Straw was going south as we were going north the next morning, Monday 26th July, but we shared the one last lock with them before we went our separate ways at the junction. We had joined the Facebook Group “Wigan Flight Crew” and had put a post on the page asking if there was anyone going up who wanted to buddy up, but had had no response – looked like we were doing it by ourselves! We were delighted, and very lucky, then, that on coming out of that first lock, we saw another boat heading from the junction and going our way! By the time we got to the lock, they had drained it and were just going in, so we asked if they wanted to share. They said, yes, of course; it is much easier with two boats. There are 21 locks from the junction to the top of the flight – so anything to make it a bit easier is welcomed by all! Although Tony usually works the locks now, I said that I’d do the first one and that we’d swap over afterwards so that he could do the main flight. However, as he was already steering by the time we got to the first lock in the flight, and had steered straight in, that’s how we stayed! So, as the other boat had a crew of three, I went ahead to prepare the next lock, leaving the two from the other boat to work the lock the boats were in. It worked really well and we had a good system going. We met three pairs of boats coming down the flight, so there was a little delay whilst we waited for them to come down – the locks were in their favour, but we were soon underway again and this time, a volunteer lock keeper, John, who’d been helping the boats come down, then started to help us to go up. This was very useful as his knowledge of the locks was brilliant and he gave us little tips about the locks as we went. After about 4 ½ hours, we wearily reached the top of the flight and the mooring at the top was a definite cherry on the cake and totally unexpected! There was one mooring next to a wide expanse of grass, with shade under the trees, right next to the top lock  but to the right – the crew of the other boat didn’t seem bothered so we bagged that one; they went on the other moorings, perfectly pleasant in themselves, just on the other side of the locks to the left. We had heard horror stories about the Wigan flight, but, in reality, it was very nice – if a flight of locks can be described as “nice”!! The volunteers are a dedicated band and keep the locks and surroundings in tip-top condition and it really was a pleasant surprise that it was so well kept. The volunteers work tirelessly to help boats go up and down each day and the flight itself was surprisingly picturesque – I hadn’t imagined that a flight of locks in Wigan would be! In fact, it reminded me of the Marple flight and that is said to be one of the prettiest flights of locks. We were soon moored up, sitting outside, with a long, cool glass of lager in hand!

Having completed that momentous task, we decided to have a relatively easy day on Tuesday, 27th. We moved off the moorings at the top of the flight – we were aware that people wanting to go down the flight needed to moor the night before so didn’t want to hog the moorings, however nice they were! The weather wasn’t promising to be great for the next few days, so we cruised a short distance of 1 ¼ miles and moored in a lovely spot overlooking the golf course. The canal was quite weedy in this section, so it was quite slow going. We still needed to do some jobs – we hadn’t finished the final touches and cleaning after our DIY efforts, so we stayed there for two nights and removed the masking tape from the edges of the floor and cleaned through thoroughly. The worktops still needed another coat of varnish, so we ordered some from Amazon, to be picked up from Adlington, our next stop.

On Thursday 29th July, then, we dodged the rain and cruised to Adlington, an uninspiring small town. Unfortunately, the Amazon delivery was delayed, so we also stayed there on Friday, 30th, too.  Although there were a couple of small convenience stores, we took advantage of being near a recreation ground and associated car park on the opposite side of the canal and ordered an Amazon/Morrisons delivery to stock us up for a few days. We pushed the boat over to the other side of the canal where there were visitor moorings right next to the recreation ground, to await our delivery.  We selected the car park itself for the delivery address – the driver was quite delighted – “I like your style”, he chuckled!

On Saturday, 31st July, we left Adlington and cruised for 5 miles, passing the outskirts of Chorley. We stopped for lunch and were delighted to find Fredericks Ice Cream factory just the other side of the bridge – yes, of course I did! There was a fair queue outside and they were doing a roaring trade! We carried on and stopped just before a small flight of locks, Johnson Hill Locks. Another party boat passed us – they were having fun, too! We cleared the kitchen work surfaces and gave them a coat of varnish just as we went to bed, enabling them to dry overnight.

On Sunday, 1st August, Tony wasn’t feeling 100%, so I was on lock duty again. These locks, 7 in the flight, were particularly challenging in that they didn’t behave in the way locks normally do. The usual rule is that you open the ground paddle on the same side as the boat – this lets water in which bounces off the other side of the lock, keeping you nicely pinned against the wall on this side – only these didn’t work like that. Apparently, it was because the water levels were low – something to remember in future. Consequently, there was a bit of turbulence and a few bumps as the boat moved about. They were also slow to fill because you couldn’t go for it and had to open the paddles slowly. One thing about this stretch – there were loads of gongoozlers! I don’t think we’ve ever had so many in one place – and it really was on a very rural stretch of canal – we wondered where they all came from! Anyway, they are always happy to help and we like to involve the onlookers, so we had a few gates opened for us, which helped a bit. We eventually reached the top and moored on the somewhat unattractive moorings there. There was a pub there so the thought of a Sunday Roast was inviting, but it turned out that they’d stopped serving food two months previously – shame! With this in mind, and the fact that the mooring wasn’t overly special, after a restorative cup of tea, we decided to move on a bit – a good move as we found a lovely mooring about another mile further on. A final coat of varnish on the kitchen worktops was applied before going to bed.

We put a load of washing on on the morning of Monday, 2nd August, with the intention of stopping in the charmingly named village of Cherry Tree. We’d watched a Minimal List YouTube video and were looking for the same mooring on which they’d stopped, however, we completely missed it somehow. This left us in the “no-go” zone on the outskirts of Blackburn, so we found ourselves having no choice but to continue up the flight of locks in Blackburn and travelling beyond. The locks were similar to the Johnson Hill Locks but a volunteer was helping us so it wasn’t too bad. We also completely missed the water point as it’s marked in an incorrect place in our canal guide! We met a boat at one of the locks – they were coming down – and we bought the hand spike from them that we will need for the one of the other northern canals – they said they wouldn’t be doing those again – oh dear! I recognised them from some of their Facebook posts – “Dozy and Dim” We met another pair of boaters (one of them another JD boat – how strange is that?) at the top lock and they told us of a safe mooring just over a mile further on – thank goodness! Consequently, we pulled up outside the Calypso Restaurant having cruised for 7 miles, working 6 locks along the way. The restaurant wasn’t open but the owner was very happy for us to moor there overnight. We rather belatedly hung out the washing but it was a lovely afternoon and it dried in no time. It was surprisingly quiet for being in the centre of Blackburn – wouldn’t have been had the restaurant been open, I’m sure. We ordered takeaway burgers for our dinner – I went to collect and it was in a strange location in an old wharf building which had been converted into small industrial units – these takeaways don’t need a shop front these days – everyone orders and has it delivered now! We are still old school though and ordering food for delivery is still foreign to us! It was very tasty and a welcome meal after a busy, tiring day.

On Tuesday, 3rd Aug, we took the advantage of having the pub car park nearby and ordered another food delivery, this time from Tesco. Things seem to have got back to normal as far as these deliveries are concerned – we managed to get a slot for the next day – something we’ve not seen for many months and a welcome return! We did a good stock up of heavy items and a good few meals and then set off. The restaurant owner had told us of a lovely mooring so we were on a mission to find it. We stopped for lunch on the visitor moorings in Rishton, right next to a canal side cafe. After they’d closed, they were watering their hanging baskets and I, rather cheekily, asked if we could fill our water tank from their outside hose, having missed the water point on the Blackburn flight. He was very happy for us to do so and we gave him a couple of quid! Once we’d put a couple of hundred litres in to tide us over, we set off, passing on the way the halfway point of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, and eventually found the recommended mooring – and boy, was he right! The view was panoramic, far reaching and breathtaking! Unfortunately, photos never really do it justice, you have to witness it with your own eyes to appreciate it! We enjoyed sitting outside in the late afternoon sun, drinking in the view (and a glass of wine!)

We stayed on the mooring for a second night – it was forecast to be the last of the good weather for a few days, so we stayed put to enjoy it and the view. We took the opportunity of staining and varnishing the back steps – we’d decided to do this as a separate exercise to the rest of the floor, as well as spray painting the bases of our bar stools – they’d gone a little rusty and mottled over time. As the weather was so nice, we took the steps and stools outside and the varnish and paint  dried in no time – we were able to get four coats of varnish on the steps! The forecast wasn’t quite correct in that the rain came in at about 4 o’clock, so a dash to get the steps and stools in before they got rained on! Not only did it rain, but we had a fairly hefty thunderstorm, too, much to Sal’s dislike.

We had a decision to make on Thursday 5th August. The forecast for the next few days was pretty dire with more thunderstorms supposedly coming so we had to decide whether to stay put for another few days or to move to somewhere a little more sheltered. The views were lovely but it was very open and exposed – not really somewhere I wanted to be in a thunderstorm (I’m not very keen on them myself, never mind Sal!) We decided to move off and find a more sheltered spot, so we cruised for 3 miles to the nearby town of Hapton. We had difficulty getting away from the side of the canal – the wind was pinning us against the bank – just imagine if howling winds accompanied the thunderstorm! Our mooring in Hapton wasn’t particularly picturesque, but we can’t expect to have beautiful moorings every day! 

We stayed on the moorings at Hapton for two nights and left on Saturday, 7th August, travelling only a short distance (still rainy weather so we dodged the showers, although the thunderstorms didn’t materialise) to Rose Grove, where there are CRT services and a couple of secure moorings. We were going to have fish and chips but neither of the local chippies opened on a Saturday – evening or lunchtime. ? Is that a Northern thing? What was good, though, was that there was a Carvery very nearby, so we settled for a Sunday roast instead, which, although busy and with slow service, was excellent. (They have to serve the veg, too, at the moment because of Covid, so the queue along the carvery servery moved very slowly) We started off being moored next to the CRT service yard but moved up the next morning to the water point and then onto a vacated mooring against the wharf wall – a bit more picturesque! Even though we were on the outskirts of Burnley, it was very quiet and felt very safe.

On Monday, 9th August, we set off for the longish journey through Burnley – the advice is to not moor overnight in the town itself. We did need to shop, though, so we first pulled into the being-refurbished Finsley Gate Wharf but then realised that we were nearer the Tesco delivery yard rather than the entrance, so we cruised round the corner and moored on the rings there. On checking the map, though, we saw that there was a footpath a bit further up from the towpath leading directly to the entrance, so untied again and went another couple of hundred metres further up – third time lucky! (Every metre makes a difference when you are lugging your shopping!) I went off to do the shopping and after lunch, walked Sally whilst Tony steered. We hadn’t gone very far, though, when Sally, standing on the edge to make sure Tony was following, suddenly leapt away from the side of the canal, licking at her paw. I looked closely but could see nothing so we carried on for a bit but she continued to sit and lift her paw, licking at it, too. We decided to get her back on the boat and thoroughly checked her leg and paw but could see nothing, no cut or thorn or obvious injury. We concluded that she’d probably been stung by a wasp or bee. After a short while, she was fine, so that seemed to confirm it. We carried on cruising and stopped at a marina in the hope of getting diesel. It was 4.50 pm, so we weren’t overly hopeful, but a lovely chap said it was fine. ? We chatted to a couple on a hire boat who’d pulled into the marina to moor, they didn’t fancy mooring on the towpath in the area. We were on the northern outskirts of Burnley by then, so we carried on for a while. Our canal guide promised “excellent moorings” on the offside by Bridge 140, so we headed for there. We pulled in and immediately attracted the attention of a large group of kids, who were very interested (and were thoroughly delightful), but the large group of 20 somethings who came to check us out were a bit more intimidating, so after dinner, we decided on an evening cruise to go a bit further. You get a “feel” for whether a mooring is safe and we didn’t get that feeling there! We cruised on for another 1 ½ miles and moored on the offside at the bottom of Barrowford Locks, weary after a full and long day!

The next morning, Tuesday 10th, we pushed the boat over onto the towpath side ready to ascend the locks. (There was also a shouty man lurking in the trees beside us who said Tony looked like a Policeman – and he didn’t like Policemen. We thought it best to put a bit of distance between him and us!!) We waited for the couple on the hire boat from the previous evening as they said they’d be doing the locks and, sure enough, they duly turned up and seemed very pleased we’d waited for them. We set off and worked the 7 locks of the Barrowford flight, taking 2 ½ hours. The views were lovely, overlooking the reservoir which feeds the canal; Barrowford Top Lock being at the summit of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. At this point, we had worked 53 locks since leaving Liverpool – it was good to reach the top!! We moored up and enjoyed the views. We stayed at Barrowford for two nights as the weather, again, was forecast to be rainy, so did a few more jobs on the boat. We had evidence of a small leak which we thought came from the water filler cap not being sealed properly so Tony took it off, cleaned and resealed it.

On Thursday, 12th August, we set off early, Tony walking with Sally whilst I steered. We cruised the short distance to Foulridge Tunnel, which has timed entrances. We made it nicely in time, so after Tony and Sal got back on board, we chugged through. It is quite a long tunnel and it took us 19 minutes to traverse it. On exiting the other side, the village was very pretty and the scenery, again, was gorgeous. We continued on and moored on the outskirts of Barnoldswick. We moved nearer into the town the next morning, Friday 13th, and I went to do another food shop. We also had an Amazon delivery due, and so moved on after that had arrived, when it was time for Sal’s afternoon walk. It was only a short distance to the next three locks, but even though it was quite late in the day, we decided to work the locks and moor on the other side. That was the plan, but in reality, we couldn’t find a good spot where we could get near enough into the side – it was all very shallow. After walking/cruising for another couple of miles, we were very pleased to get a spot on the visitor moorings in the village of East Marton. Phew!

On Saturday, 14th August, we set off with the intention of stopping quite soon – this section is known as the Curly Whirlies and is very scenic – so we intended to stop in a lovely spot. It certainly was very “curly” and scenic but, unfortunately, any available mooring had already been taken so we had to carry on. (This was, and has continued to be, annoying – beautiful views which you’d like to stop and look at but you can’t moor as it’s too shallow!!! ?) We moored at the top of the Bank Newton flight for lunch, then carried on down the flight of 6  locks with a lovely family on a hire boat. These locks are quite leaky and, as they are quite short locks, and as I was steering, I was in danger of getting wet from the leaks from the gates behind me. We decided to keep Sal on the lock side and not on the boat – didn’t think she’d take kindly to torrents of water coming for her! We got to the bottom of the flight, (I’d managed to stay mainly dry!) – and moored up. We were very near a railway bridge, though, so decided, after a restorative cuppa, to work one more lock and moor overlooking the fields on the outskirts of Gargrave. 

On the 16th, Monday, we set off and worked the two locks, taking us into Gargrave, sharing again with a hire boat. We stopped for a coffee and to fill with water, then continued on to work the last three locks to see us on the other side of Gargrave. We stopped on an open spot overlooking fields and had lunch, but decided, as there was a noisy road nearby, to move on again in the afternoon. Sal and I walked and Tony steered. I opened two swing bridges on the way, one of which was TOUGH! I only just managed to open it – it took all my strength and effort to move it! We suffered from the same mooring problem – lovely views, couldn’t moor! We carried on until we were only 1 ½ miles out of Skipton before we found a spot where we could get into the side!! 

We stayed on our mooring just outside Skipton for a rest day on Tuesday, 17th. We had Ali and Rob coming to visit us for a couple of nights on the Thursday and Friday, so we planned to move round to Skipton on Wednesday in readiness for their visit. We were looking forward to seeing them!