Friday 15 September

Pip and Mick came up with the idea of what to do today.  They needed to restock their food cupboards and rather than arrange an on-line delivery, cycle, walk or catch a bus to shop, they decided to take the boat back to Garstang.   As we needed to do a wash, we followed after we’d filled up with water.   The 4.5 mile trip would be just long enough for our washing machine to complete its cycle.

It was forecast to be a nice day.   We headed off in sunshine and moored up in Garstang on the first ring we came to and before the avenue of trees that would have cast the boat into shade.  We put up our whirligig (rotary drier to those who wonder what a whirligig is!) and hoped the sun and light breeze would last long enough to dry the jeans I’d washed.

The bigger plan for the day was that once Pip and Mick had done their shopping, and our washing was dry, we’d untie, wind, and head out back into the countryside and have another BBQ.

I popped to Sainsbury’s while the washing was drying to pick up a couple of things I’d missed off our internet order.  Pip and Mick were already in there and I left them shopping and went back to the boat to make some bread and a new batch of coleslaw.

A couple of unexpected short lived showers mid afternoon kept me busy bringing in washing and then putting it out again but after the second shower I gave and put the, by now nearly dry, jeans over the indoor airer.

We untied, went to wind and followed NB Oleanna back to Bridge 56 where they’d identified a spot where we could get into the side without running aground.

We had a tow path pow-wow about whether the rain would hold off for the rest of the day, and we decided we’d risk it.  We lit the BBQ’s early and made the most of the mid-September daylight.

A beautiful rainbow appeared.  Unfortunately the camera doesn’t do it justice though.  Thankfully the weather behaved itself and we had a lovely evening chatting until the dark, and the cold, ushered us back indoors at 8.30pm.   We lit the stove, just to guarantee that the washing would be completely dry by morning and settled down to watch the telly.


Thursday 14 September

Steve from CRT rang this morning to say he’d come up with another plan.  He would let us into the Brook on Sunday (not Saturday as per his original plan), we’d overnight on the pontoon above lock 8 and then once the tide was high enough he’d let us out of the Brook and we’d be on our way.  He asked if this was alright with us but as he’s the keeper of the keys, so to speak, we have little choice but to go along with his plan.

I went to tell Pip and Mick the news.   Another day to wait.

In the meantime, Storm went down into the engine this morning to check oil and water levels and afterwards he ran the engine for an hour just to make sure all was well as he thinks we may have had some air in the engine cooling system as the water cap had been under quite a bit of pressure.

A reader of Oleanna’s blog had suggested that a visit to Barton Grange Garden Centre was worth the mile or so walk from Bilsborrow.  It was a nice sunny morning so we all went for a look.  It was billed as a “Destination Garden Centre” and seemed to be the destination for lots of drivers judging by the size of the carpark and the distance of the buildings from the road.

The pedestrian route in was not straight forward.

It wasn’t dog friendly either and with only one seat positioned in the shade, Storm was left to wander around in the sunshine.  Surprisingly there was a pet shop area inside the centre though with everything you would need and more for your pet.  We could have bought Max a halloween suit that would have turned him into a walking skeleton if you’d come across him in the dark!

Physically, the garden centre was so big there were many things on sale you wouldn’t expect to find in a garden centre,   It was a ‘house’ than ‘garden’ centre.  They had kitchen gadgets for every conceivable job and even for some jobs that you didn’t realise you needed a gadget!  Prices were generally beyond our budget although we did come away with a couple of stocking fillers.

That took care of the morning.

Pip has been putting me to shame with all her crocheting and knitting so yesterday I got out my box of fabric and started to make a material collage.  This kept me busy all afternoon and I’ll finish it off when I get home to my sewing machine.

Following Storm’s running of the engine we had a tankful of hot water.  I was in need of a hair cut so  Storm set up the hair trimmers and selected the correct comb for a number six all over.   My hairdresser does quite a good job.  Afterwards I needed a shower to wash away the hair trimmings.

This is what happens if you sit still for too long…

After tea we took Max for another stroll around the village and it felt very Autumnal with a real chill in the air.  We came back to the boat, lit the stove, and settled down to watch Film 4’s The Legend, a biopic of the Kray brothers, exploring their rise to power from the point of view of Reggie’s wife Frances, in which Tom Hardy plays both twins.   The stuff of nightmares!

Wednesday 13 September

What to do today?  The only pressing engagement was our grocery delivery drop off between 19.30 hrs and 20.30 hrs.

After a clean through of the boat I set about making some bread and while waiting for this to prove I also made some houmus and some smoked mackerel pate.  Well, we needed something to spread on the bread!

After lunch, needing a walk, we took Max along the bridle path towards Myerscough College campus.  The path takes you past their vast array of sports fields; golf, rugby, football, tennis, their stables and international indoor arena, before taking you past the classrooms and accommodation blocks where finger posts direct you to their plant centre, motorsport area, and many equestrian and animal care courses.

From there we followed the path out onto the road and back along the footpath into the village.   We stopped for an ice-cream before heading back to the boat.

This evening we decided to treat ourselves to fish and chips from the village chippy.  Storm could have treated me to a meal out there but instead he headed off on the bike so he could dash back with them before they got cold.  They were delicious and as there was no skin on the fish, Max didn’t get a look in unfortunately!

Our grocery delivery arrived without any problems mid slot at 8pm.  The van pulled in to Owd Nell’s car park and the guy offered to help us carry the groceries back to the boat but we’d taken the bike down and so once we’d waved him off, we loaded the shopping onto the handlebars and headed back to the boat.

Tuesday 12 September

Our slim chance didn’t materialise today as the Met Office had just issued another severe weather warning when Steve’s assistant, Chris, came to talk to us this morning.   As we now know we’re not going to enter the Brook before Saturday, we decided to move the two boats out of the basin.

Both boats were going to need water and to charge batteries.  Food stocks were also getting low.   We decided to head back to Bilsborrow where there is a sanitary station for water, the 10 mile cruise would help charge our batteries and there is a carpark beside the canal so we could arrange an internet supermarket delivery.

We’ve been experiencing quite a lot of short burst showers over the last couple of days, but thankfully we had a six hour spell of dry weather today which was long enough for our cruise and also allowed a couple of hours clothes drying time as I’d put on a wash as we left Preston.   We filled up with water before mooring and while the tank was filling we both had a shower to take advantage of the hot water generated by the heat from the engine.

The afternoon was spent shopping on line.  At one point I lost internet connection but it didn’t lose my basket of goods, so this wasn’t as frustrating as it might have been and my shopping is due tomorrow evening at 7.30pm, at a bargain delivery price of £1.50.

Before tea we went across the canal to the newly opened White Bull pub.   The pub was closed when we first explored Bilsborrow and we think it has re-opened under new ownership.  It certainly hasn’t reopened following any refurbishment as it wasn’t the smartest canal-side pub we’ve ever visited but they did serve Wainwright beer so we had no complaints.

We lit the stove before we went out so we came back to a nice cosy boat.


Monday 11 September

We knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere today.  The wind and rain we’d experienced yesterday evening and overnight had taken their toll on the Brook with the water at least a foot above normal and navigable levels.

The swollen beck

Boiling water in the beck

Steve from CRT arrived for a chat and to discuss options for the rest of the week.   There is a slim possibility that the weather may improve tomorrow.   The CRT website suggests that if we don’t leave Preston tomorrow then we’d have to wait two weeks until the tides on the Ribble are high enough and we’d been considering leaving the boat for ten days and catching the train back to Chester.     However, Steve had another suggestion.   The weather forecast for the coming weekend looks more settled.  If by Saturday, the forecast for Sunday looks good, then we would move down the brook to Lock 8, overnight on the pontoon there and Steve would let us out of the sea lock early on Sunday when the tide is right.

This is now a waiting game and rather than sit around, we headed out to Preston Dock.    Mick had done his homework and knew which bus we needed to go straight to the docks.  We caught the bus on Blackpool Road and after a short ride we arrived on the quayside opposite Morrisons – there is a lighthouse in its carpark!  Modern flats overlooked the dock on the opposite side.  If there had been any warehouses, these were long gone.

The dock had only a few boats close to the lock gates where there were rows of pontoons for yachts, cruisers, and the occasional narrowboat; the rest of the dock just a huge expanse of water.   The huge mooring bollards all around the edge were the only indication that Preston must have welcomed some very large boats at one time.

It was breezy but dry as we got off the bus, allowing me to take this photo.

Ten minutes later, this was our view ….

Once the shower had passed, we left the dock behind and followed the quay wall towards the river.    We were glad we weren’t on the river today as it was quite swollen.

We crossed the lock and walked along the north bank of the river a little way to see if we could see any of the rolling stock being restored by the Furness Railway Trust.  The views were limited so we headed back to the dock and called in at at the Dock cafe for refreshments.

By the now the wind had whipped up the waves in the dock.

Sunday 10 September

The alarm was set for 8 this morning but we needn’t have bothered as we were woken instead by our smoke detector alarm.  No smoke but perhaps some condensation had been the trigger!

Once up Storm went to check the water levels in the brook and this had dropped back to normal and with no breeze we were hopeful that the decision would be positive.

Steve, from CRT, arrived at 9.30 am to tell us the bad news – we wouldn’t be going today or even tomorrow, as Harry’s concerned about the strength of the wind on the river forecasted from lunchtime today and through tomorrow.   Oh dear!  We’re to try again on Tuesday.

Steve suggested, that as he’s expecting eight boats to make the crossing on Tuesday, we move our two boats into the lock today to free up room in the basin for the other boats expected later and that will also mean we’ll lead the way when conditions are right.   While we pulled Blackbird backwards into the lock Oleanna went in search of water and when they returned they came and moored up along side us.

We’d intended visiting Preston Dock this afternoon but by the time we were ready it was raining and the wind had got up so we decided it wouldn’t be much fun getting wet and instead lit the stove and spent a quiet Sunday afternoon reading.  At least Harry’s information had been correct!

By the time we’d had dinner, the weather had worsened.  The torrential rain on the roof drowned out the sound of our TV and even on full volume we couldn’t hear anything so we connected our Bose speaker which booms out the sound.    As soon as the rain abated we turned it down again before we got complaints from our neighbours!

Saturday 9 September

The alarm clock was set for 7.30 this morning so we had time to have breakfast and make sure we had everything ready and done all our checks for 9am when the CRT were scheduled to turn up and confirm whether today’s crossing was going to be possible.

There had been heavy rain overnight and a couple of early morning downpours but the skies overhead appeared to be brightening and the forecast for the rest of the morning and early afternoon looked promising.

The CRT guys turned up and announced that the crossing would have to be cancelled today as there was too much water in the brook.  They’d also checked with Harry, the river expert back at Tarleton, and he was concerned about the likelihood of strong winds later in the afternoon.

Savick Brook feeds the Ribble Link and starts way up in the Pennines so after heavy rain the brook floods rendering The Link impassable as the flow is too strong and there is insufficient headroom under bridges.

We knew that the Ribble Link wasn’t going to be straight forward as we’d heard different tales from people who’d made the crossing before.  There are so many conditions to satisfy before a crossing can take place.   We must have hit it lucky last month when crossed at our first attempt.

Anyway, with our plans for today dashed, we asked if any boaters would like a paper and we headed off to the local newsagents with orders for three.   Our walk took us alongside Savick Brook and the water going over the weir was roaring – a sound we’d not heard when we came up the brook last month!   It’s reassuring to know that CRT aren’t willing to take unnecessary risks with us.

In the afternoon we visited the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in the centre of Preston.  From the towpath we walked through Haslam Park to find a bus on Blackpool Road.  This was an under used space with only a few walkers and cyclists enjoying the peaceful surroundings.

As it is Heritage Weekend, we were able to visit the Egyptian Balcony on the third floor of the museum.   This is usually closed to the public.   We joined the queue on the second floor to climb the stairs.  Only a dozen people are allowed up there at a time and we were greeted at the top by a volunteer who was keen to  tell us something about the gallery.   The walls appeared to be covered in murals but were in fact paintings on canvas.  John Somerscales, had been commissioned to visit the pyramids and tombs of Egypt just before the outbreak of WW1 and return to create a number of landscape paintings and illustrations that would be hung in the gallery.

The only criticism we had was  that there was no information about the scenes and we were advised that  we could book on one of the guided tours held at other times.   We recognised the pyramids though as we visited Egypt ourselves in 2005.   The painting doesn’t include the sprawl of Cairo  nor the tourist facilities that would be visible now.  A lot has changed in a hundred years.

Looking down through the building to the cafe below

After we’d walked round the upper balcony and admired the view from the top we returned to the second floor and toured the art gallery that contains fine art from the 18th and 19th centuries and includes works by Dame Laura Knight, Bridget Riley, Magritte and many others.

The building has an impressive central lantern and we headed to the cafe where we could sit and gaze upwards to the glass roof.  Our waitress came to take our order and we had just enough time to order two teas, one decaf and a coffee and before we could draw breath she’d scuttled off and missed our order for four cakes.   She reminded us of Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques.   Never mind, she saved our waistlines.

We caught a little bus back to the boat which dropped us off beside Savick Brook.  By now the water had gone down quite a bit and the weir was much quieter.  Fingers crossed for tomorrow.