Up and down the Lift

From Marbury Woods Footbridge to Acton Bridge No 209, a distance of 12 miles, 5 flg and 2 locks.

It’s odd how plans change. When we originally planned this trip we’d talked about doing the Anderton Lift but we’d bounced schedules back and forth and decided that although it was a brilliant idea there was no real way we could fit it in.

So it came to pass that on this Monday morning we decided that we’d got time to go through the lift, assuming that there were free slots. But that is what boating is about, it’s about being able to make changes like that as you go along.

We arrived on the holding moorings and Nick leapt off and went into the office and came back about 10 minutes later to tell us that we had a slot on the next cycle. He’d checked slots in the afternoon and they were pretty empty so we decided to risk not booking.

I’d never done the Anderton lift before. Nick had last year when they’d done the Weaver, but for the rest of the crew this was a first. We were penned into the lift along with another boat who were going to be spending some time on the Weaver. It was the first time for them too and everyone was determined, despite the artic wind that was blowing, to enjoy the experience.

There were a few delays because they had problems with the seals but then we were on our way. You have to rope the boat up in the lift and when it first starts moving there is this “oh my god, we’ve not undone the ropes and we’re going down” moment but it soon passes and you can enjoy the whole experience which only lasts a few minutes.

Then we were on the Weaver and we headed up stream. Just outside Northwich we had to wait for a minute. There was a large BW crane and flat waiting for Northwich Bridge to be swung. They waved us past, and as they were going to be turning at the BW yard it probably made sense for us to get out of the way.

As we approached Hunt’s Locks No 2  it was hard to work out what was going on. The gates were open and there were two people mowing the grass but there was no indicator on the lock showing if we should go in. So we crept forward and as we approached the two grass mowers came over and took our ropes and worked the lock for us. They asked us how far we were going and we told them that we weren’t going through Vale Royal and they told us to phone them when we were coming back past the boatyard and they’d get the lock ready for us.

The small lock at Vale Royal Locks No 1 fell apart a couple of years ago and so the only lock open there is the big one which uses a lot of water and so they restrict the number of passages a day. Just north of Hartford Bridge they have put a temporary wharf in and there is another up by the lock, so they are obviously starting the rebuilding work and moving stuff by boat is obviously the easiest way to get it there.

We turned just below the lock and headed back downstream, meeting the tug, that had been moving the crane, heading upstream at a pretty impressive speed.

We went back through Hunt’s lock and moored up at the sanitary station by Northwich Bridge to fill up the water tank. This took longer than planned because we had to wait for another boat who were “filling” their tanks. Actually I suspect they’d filled up and just decided to stay for lunch. Certainly we managed to fill our tank in a few minutes as the pressure is pretty impressive and unless the other boat was nothing but a water tank I’m sure my suspicions were right.

We got back to the lift and Nick got us booked in on the 2:30 passage and this time there were no delays and after coming up the lift and turning at Anderton Winding Hole  (because you can only head south from the lift junction due to the way it is angled) we were on our way back North towards Wigan.

Neither Barnton or Saltersford tunnels were as bad as I seemed to remember them being. We lost the radio aerial in one of them on one of our trips south many moons ago but we got through them both with no real problems at all and we made steady progress to Acton Bridge No 209  where we moored for the night. One of the two pubs between the canal and the river has now closed which is a shame.

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