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.


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.

Gawthorpe Hall and the Shuttleworth Textile collection

Whilst we were travelling through the abandoned industrial heritage of the Lancashire mills, we came across a National Trust Property within walking distance of the canal. Gawthorpe Hall at Hapton.

Gawthorpe Hall
Gawthorpe Hall

Never one to miss an opportunity I set off to indulge in a bit of house fantasy. The Hall’s origins were in the 14th century when the pele tower was build to fend off the marauding Scots. As with most old buildings like this, it’s been added to to and renovated many times over as fortunes waxed and wained.  What we see now is basically a 16th century Elizabethan country house that’s had a Victorian makeover. The guides were keen to point out that a lot of the internal structure was designed by Pugin, who had a hand in the Houses of Parliament. It was intended to be, and is, all very grand and ornate. My house fantasy prefers something with a few less nooks and crannies that need dusting.

What an Artex ceiling could look like

I was however bowled over by the Rachel Shuttleworth textile collection. Rachel was the last of the “family” to live in the hall, she was a great needlewoman, educator and philanthropist. In fact my Aunty spent a lot of time studying lace making in the hall. It was all very inspirational.

Now that’s my idea of an office

The other artifact inside the Hall that caught my eye was the Davy Automatic Fire escape.

The Davy Automatic Safety Fire Escape

It’s gears and braking system ensure a controlled descent. And it reassuringly says “do not hesitate, it is perfectly safe” and that these mechanisms are still for sale today.

Safer than jumping from the top floor

I always like to look out of the window and the Gawthorpe Hall garden is bordered by the Lancashire River Calder. The course of this river has been altered several times to enhance to view and to allow opencast coal mining in the fields behind the tree line. There are several Calder Rivers in the UK. The word Calder derives from celtic origins, meaning hard rapid water.

Looking out towards the River Calder and the now landscaped opencast coal field

On the other side of the hall, in a drought year, you can look down onto a ghost garden. As the outlines of the old Elizabethan garden emerge through the grass. I’m not sure whether to say luckily or unluckily I didn’t get to see this phenomenon, suffice to say that the Leeds and Liverpool canal has not suffered from water shortages this summer.

The ghost garden ( photo from google)

We didn’t linger long, as we’d got a break in the weather and set off cruising south towards Blackburn with the Forest of Bowland to our north west.

Looking back over Blackburn

Lancashire’s industrial waterway

The next few days took us through some Lancashire mill towns. These places grew and thrived during the industrial revolution, when 1.5 million bales of cotton were imported through Liverpool Docks. Sadly as with so many areas like this, modern technology and cheap labour closer to where cotton is grown has left a lot of derelict buildings which didn’t encourage us to linger

What a sad state of affairs

but when the sun shone we certainly had something to reflect upon.

reflection of a Blackburn mill
Seeing the mills in a good light

We were very glad when we cruised through Nelson and saw this facility. Eric had just done a service on our generator so we had a few litres of dirty oil looking for a home,  a dedicated Canal Users Recycling Point and oil bank made us very excited and between bridges 141b and c has been marked on our map. 

Pendle oil bank

We made another stop shortly after this, as the huge Burnley Tesco is conveniently right next to the canal. Although I prefered the view opposite. And as the benches were inhabited by several drunks, not somewhere we wanted to stay overnight.

Looking towards Burnley FC

And the canal kept traversing the M65 motorway, which always makes us smile as we enjoy our snails pace.


And it’s here, by bridge 112, in a small village called Church, near Accrington, we realised that we had reached exactly half way inbetween Leeds and Liverpool. 63 5/8 miles each way. It had taken us 38 days to get this far.

Half way

As we were busy looking at the fancy art work we noticed a fire engine parked up and 3 officers throwing a rescue line into the canal.

Hope they know what they’re doing

Thankfully they were just practicing, so we stopped to watch and learn as we have also chosen to have one of these life savers on board in preference to a traditional bulky ring.

20m rescue throw line
Our 20m rescue throw line

Hopefully we’ll never have to use it, but as it lives on the coat hooks at the stern, it’s easily accessible should one of us ever go for an unintentional swim.

A beautiful but unwanted warehouse in Blackburn

Reaching the summit and starting the descent

Resuming our journey
Apologies for quite a lengthy absence, we had a significant family health issue to deal with, which is now fully resolved and not expected to cause any further problem.
However the account of our journey to Liverpool is now very behind schedule as we actually reached the big city a month ago now. (You’ll have to wait for photos) When I last wrote, we were in East Marton with its double bridge,

double bridge at East Marton
East Marton, double bridge

and it had started to rain. To be honest, it’s felt like it’s rained most of the past six weeks and as we were leaving the intense beauty of the Dales a grey drabness enveloped us.

Rain. Rain. Rain.

Being true codiwomplers we do have the luxury of time and are able to stay put inside if it rains. But undeterred we dodged the showers and continued up the last few locks at Greenberfield.

Arriving at the summit of Leeds and Liverpool canal

And shortly after crossed the border from Yorkshire into Lancashire at bridge 149.

Passports please, crossing the border.

Then came the one way Fouldridge tunnel with its traffic lights. Because of number of widebeams using this canal it’s inappropriate for CRT to ask them to restrict passage to 8am as they do for other one way tunnels.  So each direction has an allocated 10 minute time slot per hour in which to enter the tunnel and make it’s minute journey into the darkness. Can you imagine car drivers waiting 50 minutes for the lights to change.

Waiting for the lights at Fouldridge tunnel

We were now descending the Pennines and our first series of locks at Barrowford didn’t disappoint.

Looking down over Barrowford locks at Barnoldswick

In one sense going down is easier because I can open the paddles fully to empty the lock but on the shorter locks it’s harder to open the gates without the helm getting soaked under the deluge from leaky gates.

Cold shower anyone?

Skipton to East Marton

This is true Yorkshire Dales country. We’re high up and it feels like the  canal is still climbing although this is an optical illusion as we haven’t seen a lock since Bingley. It’s because we’re reaching the top of the valleys.

Heading towards Gargrave

But we still had a few hundred feet to climb before we reached the summit of the canal and locking up began again at Gargrave.

Super highway super slow way

We were a bit disappointed that the footpath closures meant the mooring in Gargrave was restricted and limited, which is a pity because it’s a pretty village, one that we have driven through many times. But the generous side of my nature says it’ll be a fantastic asset to the walkers and cyclists once it’s finished.

Overnight mooring just before

We moored one night but then took advantage of a fellow traveller to share the locks

Proof that it’s not just the women who like to chat

People aren’t wrong when they say this is the prettiest section of the canal, and I think the Gargrave flight definatelty makes it into my top 10 for views. We were lucky that our dramatic cloudy backdrop held onto the rain until after we had cruised.

Just another beautiful bridge

We were able to stretch our legs with some bracing walks

Bridge over the river Aire

Thankful that we didn’t have too strenuous a climb to reach the top.

Around Bank Newton

Sadly the weather didn’t play fair and we had to dodge some heavy downpours before reaching East Marton, though without rain you dont get rainbows and I was able to take advantage of a sunny break to show off my Towpath spinning.

100g Jacob wool

It would have been easy to slip through the tiny village of East Marton if we hadn’t been on the lookout for the water point. And the lock keeper had told us that the Cross Keys pub did a good Sunday carvery.

Looking down from the Cross Keys,

We could just about see Firecrest nestled below us, in the far left, as we ate the best roast beef and Yorkshire pudding we’d had since I last cooked it in Boroughbridge.

There’s Roast Beef underneath that Yorkshire pudding

Bolton Abbey

Mum decided to take advantage of the scenic drive over from the Lakes to visit us in Skipton. So we decided to take advantage of their wheels and asked for a trip out to visit Bolton Abbey.
I’d not been before and thought it was just the ruins of an old monastery .

Bolton Abbey
Bolton Abbey

Well I guess to some extent it is, but there’s oh so much more. Bolton Abbey is really the whole estate village, owned, run, and cashed in on, by the Duke of Devonshire and his family.

Bolton Hall

There is an active church known as the priory still attached to the ruins which is a place of beauty in its own right, with stunning stained glass

Pugin’s Victorian stained glass

And the most unusual painted alter wall, depicting Madonna Lilies and other symbolic plants.

We could have sat and absorbed the peace that flowed through this building despite its turbulent past, being partially destroyed during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, but the outside was calling us

Bolton Abbey

And as we sat to enjoy the view

We had to have a family photo

Those grey clouds were getting ominously closer so we decided to take a drive through the estate where we were able to stand in the ancient oak woodland and look down onto the River Wharfe and over to the Priests house in the distance

The River Wharfe towards the Priests house

The whole area of Wharfdale is stunning, and I was so lucky to be taken for a drive through it. Even though its so close, its quite different from the views we get from the canal.

Swinging through to Skipton

Oh good, I thought as we left Bingley, “No more locks for a while.” What I hadn’t realised was that by following the contours through farm land, was just how many manual swing bridges I’d have to open and close. Some were pretty and pleasant but a lot were simply fiddly hard work, needing a CRT anti-vandal handcuff key and help from passers by to get the heavy compressed mechanisms shifting.

Milk Hall swing bridge
Milk Hall swing bridge

But leaving the awkwardness aside we were travelling through some of the prettiest countryside.

Another lovely place to live

And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of stone bridges


Or houses that come straight down onto the canal

Kildwick Main Street

Even the mills across the fields were lovely

Cross lane Mill, Bradley.

We had to chuckle to ourselves that we used to drive this way to and from the Lake District not knowing there was a canal on the other side. Although we could say the same about our cruise, who’d have thought there was a main road just over that wall.

The super highway A65

We were looking forward to coming into Silsden because it’s one of the places we visited, if only because it was on our Lakeland route, when we were designing Firecrest.

Looking East from Silsden Bridge

But we’d never explored beyond the canal. So it was  a pleasant afternoon walking around this lovely little town, watching the dogs watching the river ducks

And finding out about the nail trade that arrived in 1776 in Silsden from the Midlands.

We also found out that in the 1830s 3 Silsden men were some of the first to be transported  to Austrailia rather than being hung for burglary. So we thought it was time to move swiftly on.

After a few more nights in the countryside

We moored up underneath the Victoria mill chimney in Skipton

Skipton visitor moorings

We rushed off to have fish and chips from Bizzie Lizzies, another tradition from our 4 wheeled travels. Skipton is overflowing with fine foods, and is the home of several award winning pie shops.

Champion pork pies

We sampled as many as our bellies would allow. So we burnt off a few of the extra calories doing a bit of walking, and discovered the Skipton woods by the castle, guarded by the Huntress of Skipton.

The Skipton Huntress