If there are any sections of canal that Mintball could cruise without anyone at the helm then this would be one of them. Trips from Crooke down to Rufford or Lydiate were a very regular occurrence because they were easy to do with a few crew and a long weekend. So steering it was almost a joy because I knew the canal so well that I could just relax and watch the world go by
It was sad to see that the second parallel lock at Dean Locks No 90 is pretty much derelict, we certainly avoided it and went down the one by the lock keepers house and it was sad to see the two small locks at Appley Lock No 91 have now fallen into dereliction as well. I remember when they used to be derelict and then BW refurbished them and they were a lot easier to use than the single big deep lock. But I guess not enough people used them and I’m not sure how long it took after the storm that washed out Fairy Glen and exposed its long lost tramway, which filled the intermediate pound with silt, for them to fall apart.
As we approached the turn at Parbold Spur we had to wait whilst a large trip boat cast off and turned, rather badly, right in front of us. We pulled in on the visitor moorings but found that the little general stores had closed, we didn’t need much, just some basic supplies like coffee and chocolate biscuits, so it wasn’t a major pain.
Oscar Moss sewage plant made its presence known as we got towards Newburgh Aqueduct No 37A but it was a lot less aromatic than it used to be, which is not saying much. Quite how anyone can live in the farm here I do not know, but its obvious why the canal, which would be ideal for mooring here, is never full of boats.
Glover's Swing Bridge No 33 was a lot of fun, not because of the bridge itself but because there was a large fake dutch “barge” moored on the landing stage so once I’d got through the bridge there was no where for me to pick up crew. The boat had a little notice stuck in it “Broken Down”. Well I’m sorry that you broke down but you got that far so why not pull the boat through the bridge and pull up beyond the bridge moorings on the other side… is that too much to ask?
The BW buildings at Burscough Bridge are derelict and looking sorry for themselves but the water point still works so we filled up with water and went and did our shopping at the store which is just over the bridge.
Not a lot has changed round here, the dumping ground for Silcocks Fun Fair trucks is still there, as is the factory that cleans and services container tankers. There are a few new houses but not the big sprawling developments like Nantwich.
Crabtree Swing Bridge No 32 is still a pain and quite why it never got properly mechanised I do not know, and the barrier locks are fiddly and the drivers are so very impatient for some reason, anyone would think that they had somewhere important to go.
As you approach Martin Lane Bridge No 29 you can, if the weather is right, see Blackpool Tower on the horizon. Its often harder to see it during the day than it is at night when its illuminated.
The biggest change on this stretch of canal has to be the new marina at Scarisbrick Bridge No 27A which looks pretty impressive, even if a little empty.
The pub at Downholland Cross Bridge No 20A is derelict and boarded up. The last time we went it there it had stopped being a pub and had turned into a very odd eatery where they seemed to have decided that cramming tables and customers in like sardines was a good business model. Of course that was many years ago now so who knows how well that idea worked.
It was good to see that MMBC are still going strong and their club house at Dicconson's Bridge No 17 is in good condition and the boats on their moorings do at least look like they go somewhere rather than just act as floating cottages.
We turned in Lydiate Winding Hole and headed back to Crabtree Swing Bridge No 32 where we moored on the visitor moorings right outside “The Slipway” (Which used to be called “The Lathom Slipway”) and spent the night. The pub had changed totally inside but the beer was still good.