Saturday 24th August.
We set off very early (6.00am) from our mooring just west of Hapton where the canal opens up a little in the countryside. We set off early despite the rain to make sure we got through Blackburn in plenty of time. We passed through Church and the swing bridge there, and were glad to be not stopping in this area which is generally pretty run down. Church is however the half way point of the Leeds and Liverpool canal so noteworthy for that at least. We soon hit the industrial outskirts of Blackburn and the old wharf before descending the 6 locks which are probably the best bit of Blackburn, having met a boat at the top named Inertia who were heading for Skipton. They gave us useful tips on the otherwise unfamiliar locks.
We worked well through the locks only taking 2 hours to do the flight of 6. We continued to our mooring for the evening at Riley Green.
In the afternoon we went to Blackburn to watch Barnsley play - not their best match unfortunately but good to be an away supporter when moored so nearby.
We ate at the pub The Boat Yard which was lovely food and local Thwaites beer. We had an early night as we were a bit tired after our days boating!
Sunday 25th August.
Sunday's scenery couldn't have been more different to Church and Blackburn. The canal here is rural and very pretty up to Johnson's Hill locks. There was a boat 'Olivia' already coming out of the top lock who was single handed and happy to wait for us in the second lock. Thank you Olivia! This flight was very pleasant.
We then skirted around the edges of Chorley and Adlington which were pretty in places. We moored for the night at Wigan Top Lock, hoping another boat would appear to share locks down the Wigan Flight the following day. They didn't!
Monday 26th August.
Up at 6.30 to head down the Wigan Flight of 21 locks. We didn't get up straight away as we hoped another boat would show. They didn't so we set off at 7.45. Dave was keen to get going and as the Leeds & Liverpool has been pretty quiet we thought we could end up waiting forever for another boat. Little did we know there was one on its way just behind us!
It was a really hot day. Victoria wore running kit in an effort to keep cool and ran between locks setting them and closing them etc. If you are a boater and you have done the Wigan Flight you will appreciate this, if you're not then the Wigan flight of double locks with only 2 crew and one boat is really really hard work. The flight drops over 200 feet into the Douglas valley and the views on the way down give an idea of how far you have left to go.
We were happy to see a lock keeper about half way down. The lock keeper informed us that there was another boat 5 locks back from us if we wished to wait. We did and we had a much needed break. The pounds were OK water level wise but the locks were quite leaky and the paddle gear was stiff in places. We were soon joined by narrowboat 'Spuyten Duyvil' and it was a pleasure to have a boat and good crew to share with. We met a few boats ascending the flight - some interesting characters and one boater explaining it had taken them 3 hours to do 3 locks - well we were doing better than that at least.
The canal into central Wigal turns more urban but was fine. We parted company with Spuyten Duyvil as they turned towards Manchester. We passed through Henhurst lock and moored in Wigan for a much needed lunch. After this we continued through a further 4 locks, totalling 25 locks this day, and moored in Gathurst for the evening. Basically the first nice mooring spot after Wigan as we were so knackered after the locks.
Tuesday 27th August.
We set off reasonably early as we knew we had a significant day of boating to get through. We passed NB Coventina in Appley Bridge and their crew Chris and Helen who we had previously shared locks with back in May from Leeds to Rodley. Nice to say hello. The canal was pretty uneventful with a series of swing bridges and it was very flat. A bit like being back in Cambridgeshire. After meeting L&L Short boat Dee we made it to swing bridge 10 where we moored with other boats who were also heading for Liverpool the following day. Had a run along the canal past Aintree race course. Dave significantly quicker than Victoria but waited for her occasionally! !
Wednesday 28th August.
Today was the big day into Liverpool. Quite something. For this stretch of canal you have to book with the Canal and River Trust. The lock keepers meet the boaters at Swing Bridge no 9 at 9am. All the other boats we were moored with left our mooring about 8.10-8.20 so Dave being Dave, he made Victoria get dressed and ready for us to leave too.... only to wait for half an hour by the swing bridge. We were last in the convoy of seven boats.
It was quite exciting. The entrance to Liverpool is very industrial but you can see the beauty it once must have been as a working waterway. We had heard tales of rubbish etc but we only had two clearings of the propeller. We stopped to empty toilet at Litherland services (recommend boaters do this as easier than once in the docks). Once we reached the locks we had plenty of help from both lock keepers and their volunteers. In the fourth lock all crew must be aboard to head straight through the docks. The architecture through the docks is amazing, yet a lot lies derelict in the initial part of the link route from the canal. The scale of the docks really dwarfs a narrowboat and makes this an unforgettable experience.
The later part of the link has benefited from extensive regeneration, which was evident as passed under the Liverpool museum, through Princes Dock and Albert Dock to our mooring in Salthouse Dock where we are staying for several days. Do visit us if you are passing - you can't miss us!