Wednesday, 6 August 2014

"A day in the life"..........

(Boat Chalice- posted by Alan/Cath)
Retrospective post for Wednesday 6th August.

Initially there seemed to be just the one pony, but more then appeared.
For various reasons this is being written 3 days after the actual date being referred to, and increasingly I'm finding it hard to remember exactly what happened each day!

Sign says "Give us a tow - I'm ready to go" - looks risky!

The previous day had already brought us out on to what was starting to be some pretty spectacular scenery, but today would see a mix of that combined with passing through Blackburn, which was obviously going to be less scenic!

Blackburn locks
When travelling by canals in urban areas, opinions differ strongly between different boaters about what are "good" or "bad" areas, with some saying that you moor at a particular location at your peril, and others saying they regularly do, and have never had a problem.  Possibly sometimes we err on the side of "over-cautious", but our usual approach if we have never been somewhere before is to seek the advice of those who have.  Of course that advice will differ depending upon who is giving it, so we usually try and take a balanced view that ignores either extreme, and tries to average things out a bit.

Holes in Blackburn, Lancashire. (Sorry!)
What most people seemed agreed on is that Blackburn, whilst generally not a problem, is equally somewhere where people can experience problems, and, as such, would not be a good choice of an overnight stop.  (Another view, of course, is that even if it were 100% safe, why would you chose to stop there if the alternative was a remote location looking out over fantastic views!).

Yes, I know it has appeared in other blogs recently.
You can't just pass through Blackburn non-stop, anyway, as there is a flight of 6 locks there, and, like most on this canal, whilst not "killers", they are fairly heavy work.  You never know quite what to expect either - the locks are far from standardised, and there are many variations in the paddle mechanisms that at the end of the day do the same basic job.  This is particularly true of the ground paddles at the head of the locks, (which often don't work at all!), although it is too many days ago to remember exactly what the choices are a the Blackburn locks.  I do recall though that some gates have to be cranked open, being connected to the mechanism that does this by curved bars with many teeth on.

This really doesn't start to say how stunning the views are.
The reality, I felt, was that Blackburn felt no better or no worse than many other areas of urban canal which are very run down in parts, but where efforts have been made on some stretches to revitalise them, and integrate with new developments.  At the time we passed people were friendly, and nothing felt vaguely threatening.  I can see, however, that the high level of discarded alcohol cans and bottles could suggest that at other times it might not be so.

Whatever you are doing William Blythe Limited, I hope it never happens!
From memory we didn't see a lot of other boats moving, though did pass some at the locks.  We are starting to see the occasional "short boat" - the type of boat that once worked this canal commercially, and who's maximum size is determined by the wide locks, but which are some ten feet shorter than full length narrow boat - the latter not being able to use this canal at all, of course.  Most of the short boats have their former cargo holds now converted into a  spacious living area.

A Leeds & Liverpool Short Boat - now converted to live on.
At the natural end of long day starting where we did, you end up on a stretch of canal where the M65 shadows it noisily for many miles, and it is hard to find good mooring spots that take you away from such things.  A place called Hapton had been suggested to us, but still a mile from there we were on a large loop that swept away from the motorways, and suddenly placed you overlooking views that went away to hills clearly many miles away, (though I still have no idea which hills!).  This was a spot not to miss.

Starting to see the swing bridges, though not yet in large numbers.
Mooring proved slightly more challenging, as we found much of the edge here, on what was an embankment, had a concrete ledge not far below the waterline, often extending away from the bank by around 2 feet, but that you couldn't actually see this until you tried approaching the bank, but could get nowhere close.  With a bit of judicious use of our short shaft, (or "boat hook" to use a less correct term), we found a slot where the front would come to the bank.  Happy dog, and happy us!

Sunset from our mooring.
Both the scenery, and the sunset were stunning, but photos that could give any real idea of the splendor of it all proved largely illusive.

Johnson's Hillock to near Hapton
Miles: 19.8 (Chalice), 0 (Sickle), Locks 7

Total Miles: 466.8, Locks: 236

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