From Litherland to the Stanley Lock Flight

Farewell Leeds and Liverpool canal. Today we were about to complete the final 5 miles our 127 mile journey from Leeds into Liverpool Our passage through the Stanley flight onto the Liverpool Canal Link was booked for 1 o’clock. Our family wanted to share the experience of this epic stage with us, so we stocked up at Tesco and collected Aunty from the train station, and off we set. The astute with realise my diary is being written from memory as this was actually 2 months ago at the end of September. We said goodbye to Litherland

Litherland terraces

And set off through Bootle, not the most desirable places to visit.

Hurrying as quickly as possible, though quickly wasn’t really an option as the water was still diluted with weed and plastic and the best way to avoid fouling your prop is to take it slowly.

One Mile Marker

We did get some tantilising views of what was to come, as the Anglican cathedral came into sight in the far distance, although the sunshine wasn’t making it easy to look straight ahead.

First glimpse of the cathedral

Under the Boundry Bridge, although the area is so built up I’m not quite sure what Boundry it sits upon, probably Bootle and Liverpool.

Boundary Bridge

And into Eldonian village, which is the end of the line, the 127miles of the Leeds and Liverpool canal,

 where we picked up Lynne and Reuben

Before turning right into the Stanley Lock Flight, the Liverpool Link Canal

Arriving at the Stanley flight

And we’re now waiting in the top lock of the Stanley lock flight waiting to go into Liverpool. It’s not often I’ll split one days journeying into two pages but the passage into Liverpool deserves it’s own page.


Another Place, coming home to Crosby

It was with a little trepidation that Firecrest cruised through Crosby, to Litherland. It is the very last stop before we reach Liverpool. Why? Because Crosby is where I started life’s big  adventure over 50 years ago. And I had such a happy childhood. Unlike Eric in Leeds, I was reluctant to go and see if the palacial mansion with a 100 rooms that I knew as home, was really just a Victorian red brick semi, like everyone else’s. It’s also where I first ventured onto a canal when Dad thought it would be a good idea for me and him to build a Canadian canoe in the cellar of our home. I was about 7 or 8. He built a wooden frame, then my job was to staple and glue on three layers of mahogany veneer strips. She was a beautiful boat, big enough to take all 4 of us and a tent. We launched her on the Leeds and Liverpool canal, probably somewhere around Lydiate, though I can’t be sure. But who would have thought that over half a century later I’d be living on a narrowboat with a man born in Leeds, reminiscing about my early years.

Of course so much has changed, these southern Lancashire towns have been swallowed up by the borough of Sefton and become part of Mersyside. And what I remember being grand and palacial is now littered with run down boarded up eyesores. And ironically what I remember as being dodgy areas, including the flotsam strewn sandunes of Crosby beach and the Liverpool Docks have been revitalised, made accessible, and are now the place to go.

Crosby Beach has now become quite a tourist attraction because of a permanent art installation called “Another Place.”  It consists of 100 cast iron figures placed over 2 miles of sandy beach, all looking out to sea. Initially they caused some controversy as they are modelled on the artist’s, Antony Gormley, naked body, but nowadays they are adorned with barnacles, rust and occasional dressing up clothes provided by concerned passers by.

Another Place sculpture

I’m a great fan of installation art. I don’t like it all, but I do like that it makes me stop and think, and look at the surroundings. I do like this piece.

Crosby beach has always been a vast open space, facing west so commandering spectacular sunsets, (clouds permitting) and on clear days you can see across to Wales, and I’m sure I remember the Blackpool tower being pointed out to the north, but perhaps that was from Southport. Today it’s an off shore wind farm and drilling platform that dominates the horizon.

 And looking south takes you towards the mouth of the Mersey, its the towering cranes of the modernised dockland.

Firecrest was moored in Litherland, on the official visitor moorings. waiting for our booked passage through the Stanley flight. Not the most salubrious of places but with a giant Tesco right next door  and boaters “facilities” certainly very convenient.

Browsing around Burscough

We’re always excited by how much there is to see in an area, and saddened by how blinkered we were when we were land based. Usually  we don’t feel the need to go beyond walking distance of Firecrest, but Burscough has a train station so I took the opportunity to visit Southport, where my Aunty and cousins lived during my teenage years. Then I’d been interested in cheap fashion and exploring my “new romantic” image, it’s where I saw the first Star wars film and had a crush on Mark Hamill. Now I saw the beautiful Victorian buildings and the covered walkway and arcades along Lord Street. Sadly Southport looked tired and run down, which is such a shame, it’s a high street worth celebrating even though I am no longer a fashionista, (was I ever) Red Rum still stands proudly in Wayfayrers Arcade.

Southport

Burscough also is home to Emma Maye, The Wool Boat, yes a whole narrowboat dedicated to selling wool,

Home of the wool boat

Although they were cruising in Cheshire they had returned by road to attend the knit and Natter at the Slipway Pub, and I was able to catch up with them and a super group of knitters, who made me very welcome when I joined them.

The Slipway at Burscough

There are some gorgeous cottages along the cut

Cottages on New Lane

And some “Interesting” homes between here and Liverpool

Merseyside madness

A Family Affair

Now that Firecrest has passed through Wigan, we have reached the area I grew up in. For despite my numerous addresses, I’m a Lancashire girl-or was until they redrew the county lines and it became Merseyside. I have fond memories of place names, places we drove through before the motorways made escaping north to the Lake District a more sanitised journey. I still have aunties, uncles and cousins in this area, all wanting to see Firecrest and our alternative lifestyle. So when we got to Parbold, Aunty Avril, Mum and Mike joined us as we cruised from Parbold to Burscough

Any excuse for a party

It was a good day to have company, showing off all the lovely aspects of narrowboating, pretty bridges

 And colourful countryside

pumpkin patch at Burscough
Pumpkins at Burscough

And me hopping on and off, showing just how capable I am at hauling the boat in and working locks and swing bridges.

Looks like I’m enjoying myself

We cruised past the Rufford Arm, that’ll be next years route, and moored up in Burscough just in time to enjoy a perfect sunset

Sunset at Burscough

Cousin Lynne and her children Reubin and Freya joined us a few days later,

They were keen to join in and help with the swing bridges, and they made a good crew.

That’s lorra lorra locks

Not far now

There are a lot of locks on the 127 miles of the Leeds and Liverpool canal, 91 to be precise, and the next 12 miles of our journey was to include 30 of them.
We started our week at Johnson’s Locks visitor mooring where the Top Lock pub serves pizza and charges you the time on clock face. So at ten past three we were ready for a very late lunch/early tea and had an acceptable pizza for £3.10

Johnson’s locks visitor’s moorings

We were well fuelled and geared up for what lay ahead but when Heather and Anthony said they’d like to visit us, we made sure we “just happened” to be at the top of the Wigan flight when they arrived. Knowing I’d have a crew and hopefully some volunteers to feed I made cake and cookies.

Wonder if that’s enough

But it was the bacon butties that tempted Tim to hop on a train and join us for the day.

What a view

The Wigan flight descends 200feet through 21 locks. Sadly these locks are old and leaky and prone to vandalism so they are kept locked and passage is restricted to certain times of the day. We made it to the top lock just in time, before they were fastened shut for the day.

Arriving at the top lock

It’s the first time Anthony has been narrowboating but he took to locking like a pro.

We’re on our way

It’s always a debate about who has drawn the short straw, the helmsman or the lock labourers, but I knew the Wigan locks are short and leaky and it would be Eric that had to dodge the deluge. I’ll take the dry land any day.

Arriving at the bottom Lock

We made it through the bottom lock in 3 hours 2 minutes. And we were all still smiling. We even had enough energy left to walk further along to find the famous Wigan Pier.
It’s thought that Wigan pier became an icon when a train excursion to Southport was delayed and to keep the passengers amused this little coal loading jetty was given an elevated status. That particular “pier” was demolished in the early 1900s, so various protrusions in the location claim the historic title now, this one being the most like the original.

Tim and Anthony on the pier

Tim could only stay for the day but Heather and Anthony enjoyed another night on board, if only so they could have a proper boaters breakfast.

That’s a good breakfast

And as a final reward for all their efforts, Ant got to prove that he doesn’t just like fast cars but slow boats also have a certain appeal.

Anthony at the helm

 We’d better watch out he’s a natural. But we had to say goodbye to our helpers as they had to be at work the day.

What a team

Only 30 miles to go now.