Sunday, July 24, 2016

If you understand irony, Wigan's wonderful!

Scotman's Flash
We started off today up Poolstock Locks. Again, the gates have no gangplanks for crossing the chamber, so a footbridge at one end has to suffice. The unusual thing about this lock is that the bottom gates, being very heavy, are closed by means of a chain attached to the end of each balance beam, wound up by a winch. Useful.
We were delayed here by a dog named Keith. He fell off a boat coming down the locks. NB Jemine (a former colleague of mine's way of saying “Do you know what I mean?”). There was nowhere for the poor Labrador to climb out, the canal being bordered all the way along for some miles by a high, stone bank. Desperately trying to scrabble his way out, Keith was getting more and more tired by the minute. He started going under. The woman on board was clearly very anxious. The rather-more-laid-back man, having failed to get Keith to swim across to the other side, where it would have been easier to get him out, strolled over to where the dog was, and hauled the soggy doggie out by the collar. Keith survived, and rolled energetically on the ground in celebration.

The next lock provided no such excitement. The bottom gates were just as heavy as those of the first lock, but had no winched chains. This was a tough-it-out-yourself job. Not clever.

Coming to the junction with the Leeds Line of the canal, we turned left towards Liverpool, stopping almost straight away where there are full services. Except there weren't. There was a fairly obscure Elsan point, of which we were glad. Rubbish disposal and water, forget it.

The next lock was here. Someone had written in a very neat hand on one of the gate beams, “Missing, bridge gangplanks. Reward for finding them, easy access to the locks.” Their irony was not misplaced. Yet again, neither set of gates had gangplanks for people to walk across. Neither was there the customary footbridge at one or other end. At this lock, you had to cross via the busy road bridge. This entailed walking up two ramps onto the bridge, crossing the canal, and walking down another two ramps. But this isn't so much to do with how much walking is involved, it's about single-handed boaters having to leave their boats unattended whilst moving from side to side of the lock as they work the gates. It's not easy for them in the first place. This makes it really difficult.
From the road bridge
The bottom gates here had of necessity very short beams which would have been useless for opening and closing the gates. So this was done by means of a handle that operated gears that pushed and pulled a rack (a bit like a car's steering rack) attached to the stubby beams. Simple and effective.

We needed water. We needed to get rid of a very smelly rubbish bag, now days old. The map showed us that there was a British Waterways office just a tad further on, with full services. There was an office, long since deserted and weed-covered. CRT didn't want it, presumably, when they took over from BW, so I couldn't go and ask them where the “full services” were, because they certainly weren't there. A nearby CRT Dry Dock was closed, because of a “fire incident”. (Someone had set light to it.) There was a wall-mounted cabinet by the office-that-wasn't, inside which was a brand-new brass tap. I'd never seen one so spick and span outside of Wickes. Relieved to be able to fill our tank, I attached the nozzle and the hose, Grace manned the other end on the well-deck, and I turned on.

No water. Not a drop.

In a bit of a strop now, we carried on into the Wigan Pier area. It was dismal. All of the attractions that had been created there decades ago – museums, theatres, shops, pubs and restaurants – have now been closed because of insufficient custom, and it all stands empty and shoddy, like most of Wigan's ancient mills and factories. It's all very sad.

"And I came all this way - for THIS!!"
We moved on to Pagefield Lock, where we knew there to be a Co-Op nearby. We had a quick lunch there, too. The Wigan rugby league team's stadium glared at us across a swathe of waste land.

We moored at Crooke, and lovely spot immediately after Crooke Bridge 48, where the canal widened as it flowed on. Pinning was hard. The ground was very stony, and it took ages to do the job properly. But we did it.

And then saw on the map that we'd moored in a winding hole! Feeling silly, we moved up 50 yards and joined the end of a line of several more boats. It wasn't a bad spot, either.

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