Day 41 (15) – Blackburn 

One of the things we have learned on this trip is that you can never quite predict how your day will turn out and while a degree of planning is necessary serendipity / luck will all to often throw you a curved ball both good and bad and today was a great example of the former 👍We had a much delayed start due both to the pouring rain and also our limited destination distance to set us up for tomorrow so we left in full wet weather gear about 9.30 and arrived at Johnson’s Hill bottom lock about 11.15. This is a flight of 7 locks set in beautiful countryside but despite 10 hours sleep last night we were still feeling the effects of the Wigan Flight and not overly looking forward to having to work hard again today.
However, there was a boat waiting to share passage up the flight with an experienced crew and joy of joys 4 lockies all eager to help us through. We thought all our birthdays had come at once. Even the rain stopped and we locked through the whole flight in under 2 hours. Just as we exited the top lock the rain returned so it was a quick water fill up and then a very welcome (and surprisingly good) lunch in the Top Lock Pub.

While drinking & driving on the cut is not a crime (sadly) Steve wisely had only 1 pint of Guinness as we had to travel north a few miles to our moorings for the night. These are very pleasant in countryside just outside of Blackburn. We plan to be on our way no later than 6.00am tomorrow morning to get to and through the 6 Blackburn locks early. There is a partial canal closure due to C&RT repairing a leaking aqueduct a mile or so after the locks which will no doubt slow us up a bit.

Day 40 (14) – Never again!

The God’s be praised we are off the Wigan Flight! Despite some minor concerns our overnight moorings in the middle of the flight were trouble free and quiet apart from the Blackbirds that are omnipresent on this trip and start their cacophony around 4.00am. Far worse than railway lines and motorways. ☹️

We were up and going at 6.30am and by 10.00 we were exiting the top lock after locking through the final 13 solo! The Wigan Flight has a reputation on the canals amongst “them that know” (as opposed to them that talk) as being one of, if not the most difficult set of locks on the cut. The lock gates are ridiculously heavy and not balanced, the paddle gear is stiff and needs unlocking and the water levels in the pounds are very low. Give us the Huddersfield Narrow any day.
While there are C&RT lockies around (we saw 4) not once did we see them do any locking! One volunteer did go out of his way to give us useful advice on the idiosyncrasies of some of the locks ahead.

At the turn of the century, the area either side of the top 9 locks was surrounded by the massive Wigan Iron & Coal company works. The company railway bridge was at lock 2. In 1873 The plant included ten blast furnaces 65 ft high and five furnaces 80 ft high; three compound blast engines and a 350 ft chimney. Old photos show the canal passing through a Dante’s inferno! Nowadays, all evidence of the workings are gone replaced by housing estates and low level factories but it’s still not a pleasant place.

Though we say it ourselves it was a supreme achievement to have locked through with little or no help but we won’t be doing it again!

We took on water at the top lock and Steve made use of the C&RT shower facilities. Sharon refused to contemplate doing likewise 😝

We have moored up for the day on some very nice moorings at Adlington outside Chorley. We have resupplied at the local CoOp (despite our previous “moans” about stores like this they really have been a life saver on this trip (although Sharon is balking at the prices) we are happy hypocrites.

We have spotted a nice looking pub which may get a visit later on but for now it’s a well earned rest in the sunshine. Rarely been so simply physically exhausted but we’ve done it!!

Day 39 (13) – The Wigan flight

The hardest day so far. Of course it’s the L&L! 

We are finally back on the Leeds & Liverpool canal albeit the Leigh branch after leaving the Bridgewater canal at Leigh bridge. Our first welcome was the electric lift bridge at Plank lane which was very busy with motorists – we hate being a nuisance. Poor motorists confused by traffic lights which can’t be seen from the bridge control box so it’s impossible for the bridge operator to wait for a break in the traffic to raise the bridge. Nightmare. 

The canal was very pleasant to cruise on going through open countryside that had been transformed from its previous industrial past. The huge old cotton mills were an awesome sight – this place must have been terrible when they were all working.

By around midday we were coming to the outskirts of Wigan and the Poolstock 2 locks. They rivalled the Bosley locks for awfulness especially as from now on they are all broad locks. The Pound between the first and second locks was as low as we have seen anywhere including the Huddersfield Narrow. We only just avoided getting grounded – not helped by a hire boater ahead who had neglected to close the ground paddle after leaving the lock which drained the next pound. 

Anyway, we got through and arrived at Wigan Junction earlier than anticipated when we set off this morning.

So we were now stuck on the horns of a dilemma. It was only 1.30pm, a beautiful sunny day and we didn’t fancy mooring up just yet but we were at the bottom of the Wigan flight – 21 broad locks in less than an ideal state of repair, minimal mooring between the locks, no other boat in sight to pair up with and share the work and the first lock at least was set against us !😩

So in typical WYVERN stubbornness we set off up the flight. If anything it was more difficult and tiring than anticipated as we were following another boat so every lock was against us and it was taking around 30 minutes to go through each one. You don’t need to be Stephen Hawking to do the math – this was going to take an awful long time!

After a couple of locks the boat ahead (really nice couple on a wide beam) became grounded so with “permission” we took their lock and doubled up with another narrow boat for a few more locks. Around 3.30pm we were exhausted having set off at 7.00am and decided it was wise to call a halt between the only 2 locks on the flight with dedicated (safe) mooring. By then we had done 10 locks (8 of the Wigan flight proper) and 16 miles today so not bad going. 

On the last lock today we met a bunch of delightful boys of about 11, swimming in the lock, so gave impromptu lock lesson (with dangers stressed) and exploited them to help open and close the lock. We repaid by retrieving their swimming stuff with the boat hook. Really nice kids. The lockies who turned up later said the locks ahead on the flight are treated as swimming pools by the local kids and it’s locally fine. (?)

Not totally happy with the mooring but it seems ok, just a busy towpath and we are quite tired so traffic noise seems a bit grating. So early supper and early night I think. 

Tomorrow we will be off early to do the remaining 13 locks – it would be really nice if a boat came down tonight to set the locks for us 🤞. It has been a total hard physical slog today. Clothes were binned because they were beyond washing and instead of a glass of wine it was voltarol gel max all round (thanks mum!). 

The weather is on the change this evening, the barometer had dropped and it feels like rain although the weather app says not. We would much prefer tomorrow to be overcast, no sun and no rain. We don’t ask for much 😉