Liverpool Docks and Jim and Livv’s Visit

     
  We enjoyed our stay in Worsley, a very pretty town. We bought a loaf from the “Village Stores” which turned out to be an artisan coffee shop – £7.35 for a loaf and a packet of cookies!!🙄 There were some nice walks and the Delph area, where canals were dug underground to mine coal, was very interesting. In the height of its working era, there were 46 miles of underground canals servicing the coal mines! You can’t go anywhere into the underground canals now, and even if you could, I wouldn’t! It was interesting to learn the history, though. 

We left Worsley on Sunday 16th May, in lovely weather for once, having decided to go a very short distance and to moor at a pub at the marina only about a mile away in order to have a Sunday roast . We moored up outside and were able to secure a table for lunch. We were so close that we were able to leave Sal sitting on the rear deck whilst we sat a couple of metres away having our lunch. It was lovely to be sitting outside in the sun but unfortunately, the roast was decidedly disappointing! Tough, gristly meat and soggy vegetables – the best thing about it was the stuffing balls. I had ordered pigs-in-blankets as a side but they had such a weird flavour I only ate one and didn’t even give the others to Sal!  Still, she had a good share of the gristly meaty bits I’d cut off, and a roast spud, so she wasn’t complaining! We hadn’t intended to move again but we were a bit like goldfish in a bowl – people were even walking past and bending down to peer into the boat, so we decided to move on, me walking Sal and Tony steering. We only went for about another mile but it was enough to get away from prying eyes! 

The weather was horrible on the 17th, again, so we stayed there and moved, on Tuesday 18th May to Leigh, where we stopped for a supermarket shop. It is at Leigh that the Bridgewater Canal joins the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, so we were now onto another new-to-us canal. We didn’t get a very good feel for Leigh, though – a burnt out cruiser on the moorings opposite, several dodgy looking characters hanging about, and a fisherman telling us that there had been a murder on the canal towpath a few weeks previously! Suffice to say, shopping done, we moved on again for another mile or so. We stopped at Pennington Flash. There are lots of bodies of water along this stretch of canal formed because of subsidence due to mining in this area. They now make very attractive water parks and nature reserves and Pennington Flash was a lovely place to moor. We were surprised to see a Police motorcyclist slowly riding along the towpath but we had no trouble at all there and it was good to see a Police presence.

On the 19th May, we cruised for a few miles and moored at Ince Moss, another body of water alongside the canal. We stopped here as, within a couple of miles, we would be in Wigan and we didn’t want to moor in the town centre. Ince Moss was a lovely place to moor – it was hard to believe that we were that close to a big town! Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t just rainy but absolutely filthy, so we stopped there for 3 nights and just sat it out. Again, we thanked ourselves for having the pram cover fitted over the back deck – such a resource in wet weather!

On Saturday, 22nd May, we set off in showery weather to cruise to and through Wigan. We planned a longish cruise as we had used up some of our contingency by staying at Ince Moss for three nights to sit out the bad weather. We, consequently, passed through a couple of lovely little villages but we will have the pleasure of stopping in them on the way back, so all good. We worked 8 locks and they were the first double locks we had seen in quite a good while – and they were big, heavy buggers, too! We buddied up with a single boater for a couple of them which worked well for all of us! Wigan, as you would expect, was interesting with all the old canalside buildings. The famous Wigan Pier had been refurbished and the buildings were now smart, residential conversions; whether it was an improvement was down to personal taste, I suppose, but I thought it was all a bit too modern and not really in keeping. There were several swing bridges along the way and our guide book reported that these were “usually left open” – we now know that this means derelict! After 9 ½ miles, 8 locks and an operational swing bridge, we were pleased to moor in the small and pleasant town of Parbold. The sides of the canal were sloping so Tony had to use some innovative mooring techniques in order to stop the boat bumping – Sal does NOT like it at all when the boat bumps! This meant that we were a fair gap away from the sides but we all managed the leap on and off!

Sunday, 23rd May saw us cruising the short distance to Burscough for our next supermarket visit. Again, the sloping sides presented a problem and we had to be so far out from the side that we had to deploy the gang plank. Our wide one needed a bit of TLC and repair (we hadn’t used it for about 18 months!) so we only had the 8’ long, narrow and bouncy one to hand. Although she jumped off the boat over the gap, she wasn’t going to use it to get back on, necessitating Tony lifting her and shimmying across said narrow, bouncy plank, carrying a wriggling Sal!! Mind you, I wasn’t keen on using it myself! Needless to say, whilst I was shopping the next morning, Tony modified the long, narrow plank and used it to refurbish the shorter, wider plank. Sal still wasn’t overly keen but with lots of encouragement, managed to cross over and back. (She was a pro on the Kennet and Avon and the Thames but it’s been a long time since then, she’d forgotten about using the gangplank!) We now have a more user friendly gangplank, should the rest of this stretch of canal have sloping sides!

Having been to the supermarket on Monday, 24th May, we cruised the short distance to Scarisbrick in the afternoon. We passed, on the way, the cottage in which Jim and Livv would be staying in June and managed to scope out possible moorings. The cottage is in a row of tiny canal side cottages right on the towpath and there were a few mooring options (and two pubs) within easy distance, so it was a great spot to meet them. We had identified that Scarisbrick would be a good place to stop in order for me to travel to the nearest Vaccination Centre for my second Covid jab and we arrived and moored up to sloping sides again, but just near enough for us to jump off. The weather was blustery on Tuesday, so it was just as well that we’d arrived a day earlier.

I successfully negotiated the public transport system between Scarisbrick and Ormskirk on Wednesday, 26th May, in order to have my second Covid vaccination. The vaccination centre was about a 20 minute walk from the bus station, on the University campus, and whilst walking there I spotted that there was a university bus on a circular route from the town to uni, so thought I’d catch it back to the town. Having waited in the queue to board said bus, though, I was informed, very apologetically by the driver, that it was for staff and students only at the moment, because of Covid. So, go to the university to get your jab but can’t get the bus there/back because of the thing you’re being vaccinated against!   Shank’s pony it was! When I got back to the boat, we decided to knock a few miles off the journey to get into Liverpool, so we cruised for an hour or so, getting our first view of the cranes on Liverpool dockside on the way, and stopped in a lovely, peaceful spot. I say peaceful but the local farmers were using gas fired bird scaring cannons which made it a little less peaceful! 

On the 27th, May, we had a longish cruise of nearly 11 miles, no locks but with 8 swing bridges on this section. Each one seemed to have a different operating system, too, and two of them have timed restrictions so can’t be operated at peak traffic times. Fortunately, I had no ill effects from my jab as it was quite a hard-going day. We arrived at the secure CRT moorings at Litherland and just managed to squeeze into the last free space. The moorings are lovely with an enclosed secure grass area beside the boats – we had the last spot at the end so we were able to let Sal have a wander about in our patch as no-one had a need to pass our boat. She made herself at home in the bushes, digging herself a little comfy bowl shaped, Sal sized hole to snooze in, out of the sun. 

On Friday, 28th May, we stocked up from both Tesco and Lidl, both close to the canal,  ready for our stay in Liverpool. We figured, with the weather forecast being for great weather during our stay, that Liverpool would be busy, so we went prepared to eat on the boat. We weren’t wrong so it was a good move! There is a very nice parkland near Litherland which made for some good dog walks – a nice surprise on the outskirts of Liverpool!

On Saturday, 29th, we set off at about 11a.m. and cruised for about 3 miles, ready for our passage down the Stanley Lock flight between 1 and 4 pm. This passage and the stay in the docks have to be booked in advance. We arrived at 12.30, (after two trips down the weed hatch to clear weed from the prop!) to find the two boats ahead of us already in the locks and going down, and were advised to get into position. We asked if we had time to make a sandwich and a cuppa before we set off! We were helped down the locks by volunteers, then transited the route into Salthouse Dock, through all the interconnecting docks and Sid’s Ditch and two more locks. It was a very interesting journey passing all the buildings along the dock sides, the Liver Building amongst them. We found our pontoon in Salthouse Dock and reversed in. We’d arrived!

We had a great few days in Liverpool. We didn’t do any of the touristy things as we’d previously been there and done all that we’d wanted to do, plus, of course, we had Sal – she’s not very into visiting museums and the like! We did some DIY jobs – Tony made me a seat for when we’re cruising so I can perch when he’s steering, plus removed and resealed our leaky porthole and I did a few remedial jobs. We managed to have some lovely walks with Sal all round the docks and along the sea wall in both directions. It was a continual battle to stop her eating discarded titbits – it was very busy with lots of people, and lots of people mean lots of dropped ice cream, sandwiches, crisps, etc. We met some very interesting boaters and we met Sid (The Sid from Sid’s Ditch) who works for the CRT and who was on duty.

So, on Thursday 3rd June, the time had come for our return passage through the docks and back up the locks. Because we had to walk Sal in the morning before we set off, we were the last ones to leave (still there at 8.02 for the first lock!) so Sid hitched a ride with us round to the flight of four Stanley locks to rejoin his colleagues. We cruised Sid’s Ditch with Sid on board! It’s called Sid’s Ditch as he was the first to steer a boat through the newly completed channel, so they named it after him! We arrived back at Litherland with only one trip down the weed hatch this time. 

We had planned on moving on again on Friday, 4th June, but having completed another Tesco shop, we set off but couldn’t open the first swing bridge just by the moorings! People were called and someone managed to open it after a while but we decided, as we wouldn’t get to the two timed swing bridges further along before they closed at 2.00 p.m., to reverse back to the moorings again. We thought we were better off staying here than being stranded where we had no choice but to moor.

We had a bit of a rescue mission before we left Litherland. A canoeist had had bricks hurled at him from a bridge nearby and had pulled into the edge in front of us on the secure moorings. He was very shocked and actually fell into the canal as he was trying to get out of the canoe. Tony and another boater went up to him to make sure that he was ok, but he was shaking and very out of sorts. His phone had got wet and wasn’t working and he couldn’t remember any of the numbers, so he couldn’t call anyone for help. After a discussion and a good, hot cup of tea, Tony decided to help him get back home, only a short distance away. Tony deflated the canoe, tied it up and put it on the frame and wheels of our faithful old shopping trolley and put the rest of his belongings in a bag and he walked the poor bloke home. My hero!! Unfortunately, and worryingly, you do hear about things like this happening in urban areas – another boater who’d just arrived at the moorings had bricks thrown at him from a bridge further back – whether it was the same group or not is only a guess. We had no problems ourselves, but did hear other stories of anti-social behaviour suffered by other boaters in that area. You do wonder at the mentality of the people that carry out these acts and what must’ve happened in their lives to make them think that such behaviours are acceptable!

We left Litherland, then, on Saturday, 5th June, the swing bridge having been repaired, in a convoy with the three other boats moored there in order to operate the 8 swing bridges on that stretch in rotation. It means that each boat had to open two bridges, letting the others through and then tagging on the back of the convoy. Tony elected to operate the first bridge as he had been chatting to the repair guys and knew how to best work it. So, the first three boats went through and I followed on behind. I went to pull into the bridge landing so that Tony could jump aboard but we had something of an incident! A lady was standing on the landing, she said something to me which I couldn’t hear so I shouted “I’m pulling in here”. She started to walk up the towpath then shouted at me again, I still couldn’t hear her and she started gesticulating and I finally heard her – there was a dog in the water! I immediately went into hard reverse and she started pushing the bow of the boat out from the side. I then saw the dog – it was swimming towards me along the edge away from the bow – phew!. At first I didn’t even think it was her dog, she had been standing nowhere near it or making any effort to get it out. By this time Tony had arrived, saw the dog in the water, immediately went down on his knees to scoop the dog out, thinking that it had fallen in and she needed help. Then the woman went off on one, accusing me of deliberately aiming for the dog! She said that she’d told me the dog was in the water, I explained that you can’t hear too well over the sound of a narrowboat engine, then she said I should have seen the dog, again, I explained that you can’t see something in the water right at the front of the boat 18 m away unless you lean right out. (I’d obviously looked before I steered in  – you always look for obstructions you might hit – but didn’t see the dog – it was a small brown dog with only his head showing in murky water!) She then shouted that I should’ve  steered away from the side or stopped when she told me about the dog, I said you can’t just stop or change direction that quickly  in a narrowboat and then “what was I doing coming into the side anyway, I should be in the middle and do I aim for wildlife with the intention of killing it?” Tony told her she was standing on a bridge landing and that I was coming in to pick him up – but she was having none of it, just kept saying that I had deliberately aimed for her dog. At this, Tony asked her why her dog was in the water and why she’d been making no effort to get it out herself – we still don’t know if it had fallen in or whether it was just swimming!! I got frustrated that she wouldn’t listen and understand, then angry (and quite, well, very sweary!) After some shouty, sweary exchanges Tony jumped on the boat and we continued our journey – but every time I looked back at her, she gave me the Vs! We realised she hadn’t even said thank you for getting the dog out – Tony said he was sorry that he’d fished it out but I said he should’ve got the dog out and pushed her in! (Not really but very tempting). The rest of the journey went without a hitch and it was a definite bonus to share the opening of the bridges! We decided to pull over and moor temporarily to have some lunch, though, and I took the opportunity of going to Home Bargains – they stock the Ginger and Pear Rum to which I’m rather partial! This meant that we had the last two swing bridges to operate ourselves, but I walked Sal and opened them on the way. Sal is very vocal at swing bridges, she doesn’t like that Tony goes through on the boat and is seemingly leaving her behind! She makes a right racket – then pulls like a train when the bridge is closed and we have to catch up! We moored for the night at the same mooring as on the way in, lovely, but with the bird-scaring cannons still popping away, much to Sal’s dislike. It had been a hot day and we enjoyed sitting outside with a nice cold glass of cider!

On Sunday, 6th, we set off late in the day, as it was hot and only a short distance back to Scarisbrick, and I walked Sal. We moored near the marina again but a bit further back, near to the open fields. It’s strange in that there are no hedges along this stretch, so you could look out of the boat windows and see right across the field at your eye level.

On Monday, 7th, Tony had his second Covid vaccination, so after Sal’s morning walk and a cup of coffee, he headed off to catch the bus to Ormskirk. He arrived to find everyone waiting for him – he was the only one there! I’d waited for about 40 minutes when I’d gone a couple of weeks previously, along with about 25 other people! Consequently, he was out and back much quicker than anticipated, so we decided to move that afternoon. We cruised for less than two miles but stopped in a lovely spot – very quiet, both generally and on the towpath, sunny but with shade from the trees. It was so nice that we decided to stay for another night.

On Wednesday, 9th June, we made our way back to Burscough, mooring, this time, on the other side of the town bridge, stopping at the water point before mooring for the day. Even though we were only about 500 metres away from where we’d moored the last time we were in Burscough, it felt completely different – could have been somewhere else entirely! That’s one of the things I love about this lifestyle!

After a quick trip to Tesco to get a few things for the weekend, we cruised to Parbold, on Thursday, 10th, winded and moored ready to meet with Jim and Livv. It was our 38th wedding anniversary, on June 11th, so we had a very nice meal in a local restaurant. We were struggling to remember the last time we had a meal in a pub/restaurant (other than the awful roast a few weeks ago), but we will remember this one – it was very tasty!!

Jim, Livv and Zula arrived in good time at Parbold on Saturday 12th June. We’d had the idea of hiring the enclosed dog field in Parbold for Sal’s and Zula’s first meeting so that they could have a good run around and we made our way to the enclosed dog field to introduce Sally to Zula on their arrival. Sal didn’t show much inclination to play and Zula respected her space, so initial meetings went off without a hitch. After our allotted hour, Jim and Livv made their way to the cottage and we cruised. Jim opened the two swing bridges near the cottage which made it a bit easier. We moored up and then took our chairs and set up in the courtyard behind the cottage, away from the busy towpath. It was lovely and sunny and very pleasant to sit out, although poor Livv was suffering terribly with hayfever! Having recently decided to eat vegan, they cooked us a lovely meal and when it started to get chilly, we put Sal back on the boat and went inside the cottage. 

 Sunday and Monday were much the same – chatting, dog walking, eating and drinking – lovely!! On Monday, we also had a visit from Alan and Sallyann, from NB RG Bargee, who’d passed the boat, spotted it and messaged to say they were nearby. They moored up and popped in for a cuppa and a chat before they went on their way again. Lovely to see them again, too! Livv cooked us another delicious vegan meal on Sunday and although there were two pubs very close by the cottage, the vegetarian options, let alone vegan, were very limited, so we decided on a takeaway on Monday evening. That made a nice change for us – it was an Indian meal and not something we ever order as a takeaway.

 Sal and Zula had some lively play sessions but got on very well. Zula is obviously very bouncy and full of energy and Sal was like the aged aunt, so we put her on the boat by herself a few times to give her a rest and a bit of peace and quiet!

Zula was very generous in sharing her chew toys and Sal took one off into the long grass – and it was completely hidden – none of us could find it!! 🙄An order from Amazon saw the replacement delivered but the neighbour took in the parcel when it arrived, but didn’t say anything to us about it! Livv was packing up on Tuesday morning and talking to the neighbour; she mentioned that we’d ordered something from Amazon and, according to  the website, it had been delivered but that we couldn’t find it.  The lady then said “Oh, I’ve got it”! Whether she thought it was for the owner of the property we don’t know, but at any rate, it was my name on the parcel! Odd.

On Tuesday morning, 15th June, Jim and Livv packed up the car and set off home, (after Jim dropped Tony back to Parbold to pick up a parcel that hadn’t arrived in time before we’d left), and we set off back towards Burscough town. It was wonderful to see them and to meet Zula; although we have been keeping in touch via video calls, there’s nothing quite like an actual hug!!!! They got home safely and in good time – here’s to the next visit!