We set off at 9-15 this morning heading for Runcorn, on the way we passed Dutton Dry Dock, this must be the prettiest dry dock still in use on the system. Dutton lock is a bit unusual as it has a fall of about an inch and the top date is narrower than the bottom gates. Preston Brook Tunnel is also time controlled but as its about ¾ mile long the entry times are only 10 minutes long, ie. from on the hour until ten past so we had a wait of about quarter of an hour. While we were waiting I heard a train go by and through the trees spotted it was all “slam door” carriages. The tunnel was quite dry. Now we have left Canal and Rivers Trust waters and are on the Bridgewater canal controlled by Peal Holdings who also run the Manchester Ship Canal. Holders of a CRT licence can use the Bridgewater for 7 days in 28 this is to give through passage to other CRT waterways.
At Preston Brook Waters Meeting we turned sharp left down the Runcorn Arm, but before we reached there we passed Stafford Warehouse, this was converted to flats and it looks as if part of the planning requirements was to rebuild the loading bay. We hadn’t gone far down the arm when we met a boat who informed us there was about a dozen boats following him, it was the Bridgewater Motorboat Club of a St Georges day cruise and one was even dressed as St George.
The old Runcorn Co-op building still stands on the bank of the canal. It is about 20 years since we have been this way and the pub that we stopped at for a meal is now under a block of flats. We motored right to the end before winding and mooring up. The canal use to continue via a set of locks to the Manchester Ship Canal but these were filled in when the built the road bridge over the Mersey and the Western Point Expressway. We took a walk along the route of the old locks, there is footpath following the line passing through the lock chambers all the way to the Manchester Ship Canal, all the locks and canal are under there and there is a slight hope that they may be restored after the old Mersey bridge is replaced by the new Mersey Link Bridge. Here are a couple of photos of the old line.
There was a second line of locks that went down to the Runcorn Canal which unfortunately have been obliterated and built over. These would have been a much better option for restoration as it would have connected to the end of the Weaver Navigation. See our Blog from last May.
Back on the boat we had a bite of lunch before retracing our steps. We passed under the bridge that will link the Expressway to the new Mersey crossing known as the Mersey Gateway Its some engineering with cast beams stacked along the road side. Approaching the new Gateway Bridge
We had to wait about a quarter of hour again at Preston Brook Tunnel until Half past the hour, there was a Claymore hire boat ahead of us, he had only done about half a mile, at half three he started his engine but was unable to select any gears, so we had to leave him there for the boatyard to come to fix, hopefully they had him away at half four.
In 1981 part of the tunnel collapsed and it didn’t reopen until 1984. The repaired section is only about 30 mts long and is of a different profile to the rest of the tunnel. Arriving at Saltersford Tunnel we again had to wait ten minutes for our entry time, whilst waiting we could hear a strange bird call, it turned out to be a pair of Buzzards talking to each other and nest building. We watched as bit of branch got carried through the trees, it wasn’t until they soared over the canal I was able to get a photograph, unfortunately by then the nest material had been delivered. The next tunnel is Barnton, a bit longer, not quite straight but with care you can see through it, even so as I entered I gave a long blast of the horn, half way trough and I could see out of the other end an approaching boat bow, but he would be unable to see down the tunnel from there, so another good blast on the horn had him stop.
As we got to Anderton the moorings that just had one boat yesterday, today had 14, it was the cruise from the BMBC we had seen earlier. I hope they are going back in the morning and not down the lift or we will have no chance. All the moorings south of the lift were still full and although these are 1 day moorings, several of the boats where there when we came through yesterday lunch time. We went as far as Anderton Marina and winded to get on the only vacant spot before bridge 198 right on a bend.