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The Lancaster Canal and Millenium Ribble Link
Cruising Log part 6

Rufford to Wigan, Dunham Massey, the Runcorn arm and onto Middlewich

Friday 24 June
Rufford Lock to Crooke Cruising Club

The four boats joined up together and worked the remaining 6 locks from Rufford where we had moored. It was under 3 hours to the junction with the main Leeds and Liverpool canal, and then another 3 hours to Crooke Cruising Club.

Saturday 25 June
Rufford Old Hall

Having not been able to visit Rufford Old Hall on Thursday we were taken by car to see it this afternoon and have tea there. Rufford Old Hall has belonged to the Hesketh family for over 400 years. Pauline remembers working for Lord Hesketh in the DTI and one of the photographs of him with his mother, wearing his bow tie, are exactly as she remembers him. The House is a fine 16th century building, justly famed for its spectacular Great Hall with an intricately carved movable wooden screen and dramatic hammerbeam roof. There were suits of armour and dark furniture - all labelled "Please do not touch". Apparently real damage can follow from contact.

Some of the interesting contents of the House are on loan and there was real concern that some or all of the large tapestries might have to leave. Lord Hesketh has been selling items from his other house in order to fund his motoracing hobby.

The Old Kitchen restaurant shut at 16.30 so we made sure that we got seated and ordered scones and cakes well before. There was just time afterwards to stroll around the small garden, which borders the canal.

Then we had dinner with Malcolm and his daughter Bethany.

Sunday 26 June
Wigan

We had been invited out to lunch with Ken and Vera in Stockport.

Monday 27 June
Crooke Cruising Club to Astley Green

Early morning shopping at Chadwicks and Tesco meant that we didn't depart with Dugald until 11.30. It was a beautiful hot sunny day andwe had no problems with the journey to Astley Green.

Instead of going to the BoatHouse Inn we decided to have a change and walked up to the Ross Arms. It had a garden with a view of the Museum and the poppet head of the Coal Mine, which were next door.

Tuesday 28 June
Astley Green to Dunham Massey

We had seen the NT Dunham Massey Hall from the canal on the outbound trip, so wanted to visit it. And it was open on a Tuesday. We reached the Barton Swing Bridge just before 10.00 to find that it had been swung and was just being put back into position and there was only a short delay.

We arrived at Aqueduct 26A in sight of Dunham Massey before lunch, taking 4 hours. We were able to moor on rings. It was only a short walk past the "Swan With Two Nicks" to the large Corn Mill on the River Dune, now converted to housing, and then across the footbridge over the River Bollin.

Entry to the Park was free for pedestrians, although there is a charge for parking. There are 250 acres of parkland containing a herd of tame fallow deer. The Mill is free to visit. It was built in 1616 and was originally a corn mill. It was converted into a sawmill in the 1860s. It fell into disuse and in the late 1970s the water wheel and machinery were restored and are now in working order.

Tickets were needed for the house and for the garden; they were free to NT members and we used our reciprocal NZ Historic Places membership. After a nice and very expensive ice cream to refresh us we started with a visit to the House. It was built in the 18th century and filled with fine paintings, furniture and Huguenot silver by the 2nd Earl of Warrington. Recently the house was reworked. It is special because the House is filled with original contents from when the 10th Earl of Stamford died in 1976, and bequeathed it all to the NT. We happened to be still looking around when there was a fire practice, just before 16.00. This meant we all had to leave and meet at the front of the House.

The garden has a main feature of a moat, and includes a pretty Orangery. On entry we were told to make sure we saw the giant lily Cardiocrinum giganteum in flower. There was a large group of enormous stems, the largest being 9 foot high. They are special because they don't flower very often, and the last flowering was in 1996. After flowering the plants die but new shoots grow to replace them.

Returning to the Swan With Two Nicks for a drink, we found they had Timothy Taylor's Landlord, one of our favourites. One drink led to a second and we asked for the menu. We ordered a mixed grill, which was enormous with three sausages, a pile of lamb chops, liver, two pieces of gammon and a steak, and topped by two fried eggs. It came with separate dishes of new potatoes, chips and veggies. The mixed fish plat had four different pieces of fish, each of which would be a reasonable portion in a normal pub. Neither was cheap but it was good value and we definitely recommend the food for hungry boaters. Others should ask for a doggy bag.

Wednesday 29 June
Dunham Massey to Runcorn, then to Preston Brook and Acton Bridge

Neither boat had visited the end of the Bridgewater canal from Preston Brook to Runcorn. Having left Dunham Massey at 08.30 we reached the junction at 11.45 so we decided that we had enough time and would explore. It is 4 and 3/4 miles each way, in spite of our guide book insisting it was 5 and 3/4 miles. There are no locks. The canal was wide and deep, with good edges and was a ribbon of green along the side of neat housing. There were occasional fishermen but few other people. Everyone we saw was friendly. We were tempted to moor and visit the remains of Norton Priory, being attracted by the pleasant woodland and a glimpse of the sculpture gardens, but we wanted to get back to Preston Brook before the chandlery there closed. Only when we reached Ockleston's wharf, just 1 mile from the terminus, did we find it became more built up and unpleasant. In the clear water under bridge holes we got a good view of a range of discarded items, including the usual shopping trolleys and other lumps of discarded furniture. There was a table floating, but not in good enough condition to be useful even for firewood. At the end, at Waterloo Bridge, there was plenty of space to wind, take a few photographs, and inspect the weed hatch. The local cruising club has mainly small cruisers on their moorings, as well as a large restaurant boat moored under the bridge. We were back at Preston Brook at 14.35, taking under 3 hours for the return trip. Both boats were nervous about going there alone, but we enjoyed the trip and would go again, but not moor at Runcorn overnight.

After a quick shopping trip in the chandlery we reached Preston Brook tunnel, and the end of the Bridgewater canal, in plenty of time for the 15.30 entry. From the north you can only enter the tunnel between .30 and .40 each hour. We found no boats had come through from the south at 15.00 and it became clear that there would be no-one at 16.00 either. On entry our tunnel light was very faint, so we used a hand held torch as well. On exit we found that the bulb, which was almost new, was totally black and that was why there was no light. We worked through the Dutton Stop Lock and one hour later we were safely moored just before the Black Prince moorings at Acton Bridge.

We had arranged for a friend, who lives in Northwich and used to have a David Piper boat, to join us for dinner. The weather was kind and we were able to sit outside and catch up on what had been happening.

Thursday 30 June
Acton Bridge to Broken Cross then to Bramble Cuttings

We borrowed a new bulb so that we had no problems through the two short tunnels at Saltersford and Barnton. We had forgotten how serpentine they were, and entered Saltersford tunnel without having seen whether anyone was already in the tunnel. A long blast of the horn on entry stated our intentions and as the eyes became accustomed to the light it was clear that no other boats were inside. Barnton tunnel is better because it is almost straight and you can see the other end. Like Preston Brook tunnel, both tunnels are only single width. Diesel at Barnton Wharf was 40p, but we were too early in the morning and they were closed.

We needed to get rid of our rubbish and did a quick halt by Bridge 198 just beyond the Anderton Lift. It was very busy; as well as rubbish water and pumpout, there are free showers and you can pay for automatic washing machines now and several boats were cleaning everything imaginable. We had to moor beyond and walk back.

One problem for boaters is passing through Bridge 189, and the boatyard there. Boats were stacked two deep on the offside, as well as moored on the towpath, and there was hardly room for two boats to pass between. In addition, when we arrived one of the older boats which was moored on the towpath side had escaped, leaving just one mooring pin at the back, and was completely across the canal, scraping another very new boat. We heard that it was for sale and was moored on brokerage. The boatyard staff arrived with a hammer at the same time as we got our hammer out to help. Fortunately the boat had a centre rope and it was soon rescued and the missing mooring pin was found still attached to the front rope. They said that boaters went past too fast, hence the problem. We said that mooring so many boats across the canal should not be allowed by BW.

There was plenty of space at Broken Cross, so we stopped there and walked into Northwich. It was further than we expected but there are buses if shopping from Sainsbury's or Tesco is too heavy. We only had to do the bank then a few shoe shops and the fishmonger.

The Broken Cross Boat Club had created nice moorings at Bramble Cuttings, just north of Bridge 176. We have stayed there several times. On the south end there are mooring rings, and there is just enough length for two 50 foot narrowboats providing one ties to a tree. We settled down, got out our books, and planned the contents of our BBQ for later. As an alternative, the moorings in the various flashes are very nice, and there would be no fishing due to some unknown problem killing all the large carp.

Friday 1 July
Bramble Cuttings to Middlewich.

This would be our last day together. We were heading from Middlewich down the Shroppie towards Worcester; Dugald and Lesley were going back to their moorings at Red Bull Basin.

Having seen a motor and butty pass the previous evening we decided to move early. So at 07.30 we cast off ropes and set off for the locks at Middlewich. We passed the motor and butty, moored at Croxton, and got into the Big Lock together. Then we helped each other with the 3 locks up to the junction then went our separate ways.

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