The metropolitan borough of Sefton might not hold the most beautiful section of canal, but after being cooped up for 8 months we smiled at CRTs latest advertising banner.
We woke to a family of goslings cutting across the calm reflection at Litherland, but knowing the forecast was predicted to hit the 30’s we didn’t hang around. And off we set, cruising freely again. Although we weren’t sure if the geese were seeing us off.
And the herons were providing a guard of honour
It was a joy to see such a variety of wildlife again
Perhaps some was a little stranger than we expected.
And we’re not sure that exercise suits everyone
One of the events to be cancelled during Lockdown was the Aintree Grand National. I wonder how many of those race goers have any idea what the turn at Canal Corner looks like on the outside of the fence.
There are too many trees for us to see the course properly
So we carried on our way. We had been worried that the canal would have become a dumping ground with the council tips closed. To some extent we were right, but although there were a number of big plastic items bobbing around, we only had to stop once to remove the urban jelly fish from the prop. We hadn’t expected our journey to be stopped by a carpet of waterlillies
We continued our journey though Maghull and into Lancashire, I’d had to open 7 swing bridges on today’s journey.
But I was well rewarded with views of fields with yellow rape and red poppies
And dog daisies growing along the bank.
Oh the sheer joy of being back on the canal, Anyone would think we hadn’t enjoyed Liverpool, which is wrong, we had made the most of a completely different lifestyle, it had been like being on a good holiday, but we were glad to be back home. One thing remained the constant. Our evening sunset.
At long last we’re able to cruise again. Back in March when the country realised the need to protect ourselves from the looming pandemic, we mulled over how we felt, were we safer or more at risk in a big city like Liverpool. There were pros and cons but on balance we decided safer. With a tall harbour wall protecting the handful of boaters from the general public and a fully serviced pontoon, we only needed to emerge when we chose, the food shops were an easy walk so we considered ourselves very lucky, when CRT made the decision to lock us in. Shortly after, the whole canal system was shut down with only essential travel permitted. Even the towpaths became off limits as well meaning passers by stopped to talk to moored boaters. We knuckled down for an unknown future, even fearing a second winter in Liverpool. I reinstated my nursing registration and volunteered to work at the Nightingale Northwest in Manchester, but thankfully the NHS coped and I wasn’t needed. Unsure of when we would be allowed to cruise, we lost our first companions in mid May, when they arranged to have their boat craned out and transported by road to where they needed to be.
At the end of May, 3 more of our friends made a bid for freedom even though the rules still remained not to use locks.
Another 2 followed the week after, we weren’t looking forward to cruising through all that weed and other debris thrown into the canal, whilst council tips remained off limits.
By now we were getting weekly phone calls from the CRT office as the guidance was updated. The final 3 boats agreed to go our on June 17th. We weren’t too pleased to get a call on the 16th asking us to stay put another week, but we dutifully complied. And at 8am on 24th June 2020 with huge smiles on our faces, we finally all set off.
The Green boat, as we affectionately called it cause their name isn’t painted on the side went first
We were next
One of the advantages of travelling in convoy is receiving photos of Firecrest in fantastic places
Thankfully the weed had been dispersed as we cruised under the watchful eyes of the Liver birds
The reward for waiting an extra week, was that lock keepers were back from furlough, so even though we had enough crew between us we only had to get off the boat to record the day
Sid has been looking after this stretch since it’s creation nearly 20 years ago and in recognition, the narrow channel between West Waterloo Dock and Trafalgar Dock is known as Sid’s Ditch. We had the honour of being accompanied by Sid as he hitched a lift on Bluebell’s bow.
The volunteers were out in force, all happy to do the hard work to help us through the Stanley flight
We weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to our friends as we all moored up for the night at Litherland. And I was rewarded with another evening sunset
We all slept well that night.
With many thanks to Andy, Angie, Avril, Becka, Darren, David, Freya, James, Kitti, Little Darren, Mark, Paul, Reuben, Sharon, Sid, Stuart, Tam, the bin men, the checkout assistants, the CRT team the Dock security, the volunteers, and our families and anyone whose name I have missed off by mistake. Thankyou for helping us through Lockdown, stay safe x.
As I’ve already said, there’s just so much to see in Liverpool, 8 months isn’t nearly long enough. I took full advantage of my daily outdoor exercise to explore. So here are a few of the people I met hanging around, watching the world go by . Obviously there’s the 4 lads from Liverpool strutting their stuff on the Pierhead. And if you’ve got the Beatles, you’ve also got to have “our Cilla” on Matthews Street.
where there’s always someone hanging around keeping the buskers in tune.
There are Beatles monuments everywhere, And several more representing their individual achievements The John Lennon Peace Monument which was part of a global peace campaign shows a world wrapped up in music and peace doves, just imagine….
Not all the sculptures are so modern with these wooden gargoyles keeping an eye on us in Dale Street
But I can give these guys a miss, the Lambananas. 125 of them appeared since 2008. As part of the European City of Culture, the 5m high original Superlambanana ( which has now been removed) was created to represent both the import and export of Sheep and bananas through Liverpool Docks and to highlight genetic manipulation. A lot of the 125 were sold off but there are 8 still scattered around the Pierhead
The Pierhead is quite a walk through history, remembering the rock stars
The workers, including the horses that hauled the cargo around the docks
And the innovative, this sculpture celebrates liverpudlian Jeremiah Horrock’s, astronomical discoveries, he was the first person to calculate the transit of Venus accurately, not bad for the early 17th century
The departing, commemorates emigrants leaving to start new lives in America, (I wonder if we will be worthy of a monument, narrowboaters finally allowed to leave liverpool)
The departed, Liverpool bares the pain of loosing many at sea, this particular monument remembers the engine room crew of the Titanic, many came from Liverpool.
The hero’s. Captain Frank Walker, who was the most successful anti submarine warfare commander serving in both WW1 and WWII
And the fallen, although these three monuments aren’t objects of beauty, they mark a communal place of rememberance , they hold plaques honouring the servicemen and women from various countries and services connected with Liverpool, who lost their lives at sea in times of conflict
The Tate Modern North has it’s home in the Royal Albert Dock, and there are installations outside as well as in. The art works certainly fall into the sculpture rather than monument category and I shall leave to ponder their significance.
This one grew on me, especially with a winter sunset to light it up
Although I think the buildings themselves are testaments to an era gone but not forgotten as the Royal Albert Dock is a grade 1 listed heritage site,
and there are strategically placed artifacts and abandoned industrial and maritime debris scattered around to marvel at.
I was a little saddened not to see any figurative monument directly outside the maritime museum, (which houses the museum of slavery,) remembering the transatlantic slave trade, that clouded Liverpool’s 18th century. But across the Strand is a magnificent horse sculpture called The Great Escape, the horse made out of rope, which unravels in a bid for freedom, it is meant to represent man’s effort to free himself from slavery. It’s a bit off the beaten track, (unless you’re walking to the Tesco express for icecream)
The monuments in the city centre continued to be thought provoking though for many reasons
Eleanor Rigby sits all alone on Stanley Street
Whilst one of Lewis’ stands proud over his department store. (which is sadly now closed, along side George Henry Lee’s and TJHughes about to follow suit-for those of you who remember the big old stores)
Liverpool is a mighty and grand city which liked to erect monuments to the great and the good of the victorian era. Although they are the ones I tend to hurry past without recognition, I’ve had the time to read up more about these people and the service they gave to our country.
Many just followed questionable orders out of loyalty and obligation, while others sacrificed much and build a city of extremes. Extreme poverty and wealth success and destruction, nothing can be taken at face value, there is always more than one side to the story. But throughout I get an immense sense of humanity.
As the Bombed out Church, St Luke’s, is preserved to remind us. The sculpture reminds us of the British and German soldiers, who were allowed to stop fighting on Christmas day so they could play football during WW1
As does one of the most beloved liverpudlian of all.
And you can’t beat a bit of well meaning graffiti
Even if there’s always a Liver bird watching over you
But we knew it was coming to a end and it was time to pack up our suitcases and move on
One of my favourite things about our Liverpool staycation has been watching the sunsets, I could nip out of the boat and be facing West over looking the Mersey in 2 minutes. I’d head to where Billy Fury was taking the pose
and usually there’d be a small group of us anticipating the end of the day. It created a sense of shared faith as we all reflected on our strange circumstances
During the winter we would get the occasional splash of pink lightning up Salthouse Dock
And if I walked to the far side of the dock I could look back towards Firecrest and the stunning backdrop. It was unusual to see the water as mirror still as this in an evening, much more common in the morning
Of course during the winter waking up early enough to catch the sunrise wasn’t too difficult and I didn’t even need to leave Firecrest to see views like this most January mornings.
Although some mornings were so shrouded in mist that we couldn’t see anything in front of us.
But it was always lovely to return to Firecrest after an afternoons winter shopping when everything was lit up
The first Sunday in December saw the annual Santa dash, I couldn’t count how many, but they raised a lot of money before setting off for Lapland to pick up the toys. I’m glad it was such a lovely day for them.
And it never failed to amaze me how dramatically the Liver buildings changed colour at dusk with the lovely reflection over Canning Dock
And despite all my evening walks I was surprised that I only picked up this view looking at the Liver building through the Albert Dock this week.
Possibly because I liked walking past the tall ships anchored in Canning Dock, which they have recently moved into the Albert dock. This is the Kathleen and May, back in April
One of the things I’ve missed during lockdown is spring in the countryside, no green fields full of frolicking lambs. But I know that when we start cruising again I’ll miss my evening strolls to see what colour the sky has turned, burning embers
Or soothing duvet
It would always feel hopeful, the way ahead lit up
That there will always be someone looking out for us
On Easter day in Suffolk the local churches would gather for a sunrise service by the river, in Liverpool that wasn’t possible, but I did see sunrise over the cathedral which helped me feel connected with my family and friends when we were all keeping apart.
January and February lived up to expectations of being damp and dreary. I’d been suffering from an increasingly painful foot, plantar fasciitis. And with so much to explore I’d been ignoring common sense and had continued pounding the pavements. Luckily I’d stumbled, quite literally, across a company selling innersoles claiming to cure everything. The very clever salesman insisted I tried a pair, and told me there were only 2 cures, complete bed rest for 2 weeks or 6 weeks of minimal floor contact wearing his soles. (I don’t like to advertise and I still can’t be sure if it was the rest or the innersoles that helped but they were called SoleMates if you’re interested) So instead of me exploring the beautiful buildings and museums I sat still resting. But it wasn’t time wasted. Aunty lives about 10 miles up the coast and I was able to hop on a train to visit her. And while I was enjoying her company she taught me how to make bobbin lace.
In January we hired a car and spent a week down in Suffolk celebrating a belated family Christmas and someone’s significant birthday….. we’ve all had birthdays during lockdown so I foresee another excuse for a big party later in the year.
Liverpool is a city of entertainment, with so many magnificent venues to choose from. We really did have to limit our ticket purchases so we didn’t bankrupt ourselves. But you can’t beat the atmosphere of a live performance. We went to piano recitals and orchestral concerts at the Liverpool Philamonic, Matthew Bourne’s ballet, The Red Shoes at the Empire, the Japanese Kodo drummers, and the Horse of the Year show at the M&S arena. And several live bands at the smaller venues, I couldn’t afford the available seats to see Rod Stewart.
Under normal circumstances the 4 month winter mooring period would run until end of February but we had already been advised that this year CRT was giving us an extra month free of charge because of on going winter maintenance . Our departure date was to be 29th March. The good life had taken it’s toll, and with my reduced walking we feeling decidedly unfit. What better cure than to take advantage of the local museums. The Museum of Liverpool on the Pierhead is a modern building overlooking the canal.
To reach the top floor there is a magnificent central spiral staircase. To Eric and I, this became known as “the gym”. At the begining of March, we started to take advantage and go for a daily workout, running up and down until our breathlessness drew too much attention.
In mid March, it didnt come as much of a surprise when CRT phoned us up to say they weren’t going to unlock the locks and we would have to remain here for the next 12 weeks. We don’t mind admitting we were quite actually relieved. We’ve had water and electricity on our pontoon, the rubbish is emptied daily. There are three Tescos and a Home Bargains all within 10 minutes walk. Our daily outdoor exercise was along a grade I listed heritage site, and not a muddy towpath in sight. We transferred our membership from the indoor gym to the outdoor steps of the museum. And I must admit running up and down stairs is an effective way of getting fitter.
Whilst we’ve been in lockdown it’s been frustrating not to be able to go inside all the museums and venues, but we’ve enjoyed some lovely summer sunshine, sitting on the pontoon. I even created my own garden, which has now gone to live at Lynnes as Firecrest can’t accommodate pots like this.
And I spent some quality time being creative, sitting on the pontoon with my spinning wheel, and even managed to knit shawls with my handspun.
We suffered some wild wild weather as storms and gales lashed the coast.
We’ve made good friends with our neighbours supporting each other with little acts of kindness. We were even given our very own engraved padlock to add to the chain around Salthouse.
And my cousin Lynne and I got into the habit of socially distant pontoon coffees, even in the rain.
We’ve learnt how to use zoom and reignited friendships with people across the globe. And we thank God that non of our immediate family have knowingly become poorly with Covid. Several have suffered indirectly but we’re still here to get used to a new normal. This manhole cover was created in March 2019, for an exhibition at the Tate museum, I wonder if they had any idea it would be so appropriate.
Yes that’s Buy One Get One Free. We began our Lockdown at the end of October when we paid for 4 months of winter mooring in Liverpool’s Salthouse Dock. Nearly 8 months later we are preparing to be released, back into the big wide canal system. But I can tell you, we are already talking about when we will come back for another winter here. There’s been so much to see and do I cant possibly do it justice to Liverpool in these few paragraphs. Salthouse Dock
November began with a bang with the River of Lights festival. An impressive firework display let off from three barges on the Mersey and huge art installations appeared in the dock around the Waterfront, and we were right in the heart of it.
The sparkle and bling didn’t diminish as Christmas consumerism took over well before Advent. The dockside decorations remained lit up and buildings all around us were illuminated.
Although all the “I want” culture makes my toes curl, knowing I’d have the bleak months of winter to explore the tourist trail, I set about enjoying the colour and frivolity, I had to start a diary to keep track of when various events were happening. We had so many visitors
We were going rounds in circles
And sliding around all over the place
Of course we also had to look the part so Firecrest sported some twinkle as well,
as we spent our very first Christmas day on board. In fact it was the first Christmas we’d spent just the two of us for about 35 years.
During December, I overdosed on music. Carols in the cathedrals, concerts and plays in the halls and buskers of varying degrees of talent on every street corner, we even got to hear a special performance of the Beatles Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts club.
I’ve been putting off sharing our triumphant entry into Liverpool for far too long, simply put, I’ve just been too busy enjoying myself. The history surrounding this area is so interesting, every time I start to gather up all my info to share I find another snippet to take me off on a tangent. So in order to actually share our own story, I’ll point you towards this website for some insight into this newest of canals. The Pennine waterways.
We turned and waved goodbye to the Leeds and Liverpool canal, and began our journey along the Liverpool Link Canal with James and his dad for company. Under several bridges that I’d be crossing by train later during our stay.
The four locks took us down into Stanley Dock On our left the derelict tobacco warehouse is awaiting it’s makeover into unaffordable apartments.
And on our right the developers have created the highly desirable Titanic Hotel where the bedrooms are in brick vaulted bays.
Stanley Dock is traversed by a Scherzer Bascule Rolling Bridge, similar to the one we saw near Keadby on the River Trent. The engineering involved in these bridges is amazing, just a pity they look like scrap metal now.
Collingwood, Clarence and Trafalgar Docks are wide open spaces giving us opportunity to look around. Most of the warehouses have been pulled down but the octagonal Victoria clock tower still stands proud telling the correct time twice a day.
Most of Trafalgar Dock has been filled in but the 2007 regeneration saw a brand new channel being cut, affectionately known as Sid’s Ditch.
Unfortunately there’s no Towpath along this section, although it’s clear the work is on going, as I’m sure the smart apartment owners would appreciate somewhere to walk their dogs. The waterway opens up again into Princes Half Tide Dock. The opening onto the Mersey currently closed off but it’s intended that this area should be the new terminal for the Isle of Man Steam Packet company. It’s an impressive skyline and reminded me of New York.
It’s where we got our first real glimpses of the Liver Birds, perched on their building.
Princes Dock lock took us down to enter the exciting tunnel section of Pierhead. Liverpool benefited from being European City of culture in 2008 and funding paid for this public space to be developed. Initially there was a lot of opposition for fear that the contemporary would obscure the beauty of the Three Graces.
However personally I love the way the canal is sunken in an open tunnel, looking up at the iconic Liver building, the Cunnard building and the Port of Liverpool building on one side, and going underneath the nautical Museum of Liverpool on the other.
Canal traffic is one way, changing direction in the afternoon, so no worries about meeting someone round the corner, weird to know there’s a building and pedestrians above you, and the Mersey tunnel somewhere underneath.
We had one more lock to go through, the Mann Island stop lock and flood gate,
And into Canning Dock with the pumping station and it’s chimney, competing with the tall buildings.
And some more 20th century dock yard relics.
It’s where thousands waited to board their ships before emigrating to America. And the permenant mooring of a couple of historic ships
But for us, we had to run the gauntlet of thousands of tourists all making the most of this historic site, passing under bridges into Albert Dock, the first Bonded warehouse which was used to unload the flammable goods back in the day.
We were almost there, one last bridge and we saw our mooring in Salthouse Dock.
We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw this amazing mooring. Spacious finger pontoons in the heart of the city.
Initially we made this journey at the end of September accompanied by Lynne, Freya, Reuben and Aunty.
And Eric has a new first Mate, Reuben keen to join him at the helm
We were permitted to stay for one week, which we did, but shortly after our departure, events overtook us and we realised we would be hard pushed to get through to Cheshire as planned before the winter closures. A chance comment from another boater made us reassess our plans and low and behold we opted to take a winter mooring here in Salthouse Dock, centre of Liverpool, still a city of culture in my opinion, close to family, easy access to trains and public transport, and best of all not a single muddy Towpath for the whole winter.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.