There was mist rising from the canal when we woke this morning and there was a chill in the air, but the sky was blue and by mid morning the sun was out and we were very warm. The forecast for the rest of the day was good too.
We’d decided that from now on we would try to cover as many miles as possible and that at some point today we would be saying cheerio to Pip, Mick and Tillly with whom we’ve enjoyed six weeks of fun exploring the Lancaster Canal, with plenty of wine, beer and chilled medication along the way.
Both boats left the outskirts of Burscough once Mick had returned from the shop with milk for us and a few other items for them. I walked Max to the first of today’s swing bridges. The bridge opened automatically when the key of power was inserted into the console, but I had to manually close the barriers at each end once the console lights blinked at me.
Having waved both boats through I closed the bridge and reopened the barriers, retrieved my key and climbed back on board. We passed through Parbold ignoring the chilled medication cafe, as it was too early, and instead carried on to Appley Bridge lock.
Here Pip said that this was going to be our last shared lock together as they’d decided to moor just the other side of Appley Bridge and before Dean Lock. We said our goodbyes and promised that we would stay in touch and share other journeys together in the future.
We pulled away from the lock first and waved to them as we headed out of sight. However, they’d forgotten that there was another swing bridge before their desired mooring and so we waved them through Finch Mill pedestrian swing bridge that has a key of a power to undo the break on the bridge but after that it requires muscle to push it open and then pull it closed.
After that we followed behind them for a little while but then they pulled in in open countryside and we slowed down as we passed to say another ‘goodbye’ before we headed off towards Dean Lock at Gathurst where the M6 towers overhead.
With just one boat in the lock, I only opened one gate and one paddle at the next three locks so filling the locks took slightly longer.
We passed the Crooke Hall Inn pub from where this cruise began six weeks ago and on through Ell Meadow Lock.
As we pulled up at Pagefield Lock a boat was just about to pull away and the skipper came back to ask which way we were heading after Wigan.
When I said we were heading for Leigh, he asked if we’d like him to wait for us. “Yes please”, and so we shared the last four locks of the day.
The excitement wasn’t over though. At Henhurst Lock we had to wait for two boats to lock out and as they did, one of the skippers was frantically looking around. I tried to see what he was looking for and then I noticed a large greyhound cowering under the road bridge below the lock. The bridge is fenced off from the road and lock side to discourage rough sleepers finding their way under the bridge. The only way to reach the dog was to climb across the railings from the canal and risk falling in but you couldn’t rescue the dog that way. The only way to rescue it was by boat. The guy could have taken his boat back down the lock but we offered to help instead. With Max inside ours and the doors closed, we headed under the bridge and the dog’s owner, climbed across the railings. Thankfully he didn’t fall in. He lifted his dog onto our front deck and stood with him while we entered and rose up in the lock. That was our good deed for the day and I think they were both relieved and very grateful.
We continued on our way. We’d planned to try to reach Plank Lane Lift Bridge at least today.
They operate restrictions here at rush hour and as we pulled up it was 5.15pm and we weren’t allowed to open the bridge until 6pm. We had a cup of tea, laid the fire and prepared dinner. As Radio 4 sounded the 6pm pips, I turned the key of power in the console, stopping traffic in both directions. By now there were four boats heading for Leigh and by the time we’d all passed under the bridge there were long lines of traffic stretching away into the distance. Thankfully no-one tooted or appeared irate this time. A lot of boaters get grief here.
We’d decided to carry on until dusk and, having passed through Leigh, we finally stopped near the mining museum at Astley Green having done about 20 miles, eight locks and 3 bridges.
For the next two or three days we’re going to be getting up early and travelling late to get back to our permanent mooring. Then once we’ve checked in with the grandchildren for a couple of days we’re heading back home to Yorkshire. This isn’t the end of our canal journey but it is the end of our continual cruising and living aboard and this will be our last blog posting for a while. If you’d like to journey with us in the future, then please feel free to ‘follow’ and you’ll receive an email the next time we write about our travels. We hope you’ve enjoyed Blackbird’s story so far and thank you for your interest.