Sunday, 28 September 2014

Weekend on the Weaver

Barnton Cut amid the mellow colours of autumn
We have dawdled our way to Northwich this weekend – there's something about the Weaver which makes you dawdle rather than rush.
Yesterday we returned through the two locks we'd gone down through, at Dutton and Saltersford. Mac is the resident lady lockie at Dutton. She's lived at the pretty lock house and worked the locks for over 20 years, starting in the days when big coasters regularly made the run up to the Brunner Mond works at Winnington. A board at the lock displays some fascinating stats about the ships that have been through – including the fact that the lock uses nearly half a million gallons of water per fill!
Big boats on the Weaver
And the biggest of them, the St Michael (c.
We moored last night in Barnton Cut just beyond Saltersford in a tree lined stretch where the sun was beautifully highlighting the first hints of autumn in the leaves. It is here that the canal and river come closest together and just a short walk up the hill brings one to the canal between its two tunnels. The village of Barnton is just across the canal and had a shop for some emergency provisions and an SOS ice-cream.
This morning Brian managed to fall in once again while leaping for the bank from the moored boat – I think he needs a stronger pair of glasses. It wouldn't be so bad but the little chap is such a feeble swimmer. I think we'll take him to our grand daughter's swimming classes.
After wringing Brian out we carried on upstream, past the Anderton Lift and towards Northwich. Along the way we kept passing bags of rubbish floating in the water. After the first few we realised this was more than just a few lazy boaters or fishermen and as we came into the town we saw the cause: Saturday night scrotes had pushed a 'dumpster' - one of those big wheeled rubbish bins - into the water and it was slowly leaking out bags of litter. Wish I'd seen them, I'd have done a Brian on them and sent them overboard with the rubbish.
Local heroes: a salt miner, Paula Radcliffe and Gary Barlow
Northwich owes its existence to salt which has been extracted from the ground below it since Roman times. Unfortunately salt extraction almost killed off the town too. Originally the salt was mined but in the 19th century the extraction was made quicker and cheaper by pumping hot water underground in which the salt dissolved. The brine was then brought out and the salt extracted. Unfortunately this seriously weakened the land: the salt mines had been kept structurally sound by careful extraction but the brine process dissolved everything. Serious subsidence appeared in the countryside, creating 'flashes' or water filled lagoons and areas of Northwich too started to subside.
But a £28m project has now stabilised four old mines under the town, pumping them full of a cement based mixture, and enabled new development to begin. We are moored tonight opposite the first of these – Hayhurst Quay, a 40 boat marina, Waitrose and leisure area.
We were moored further upstream just across from Macdonalds but moved a  bit further from the temptations of the Golden Arches!
As well as its salt mines, Northwich was the shipbuilding centre of the Weaver. W J Yarwood's yard here built large numbers of working narrowboats from the 1900s onwards and the yard built many larger craft - tugs, barges and coasters - before it closed in 1965. Unfortunately all that remains these days is a small mooring basin; the rest is a neat little housing estate which at least has a memorial plaque.
We passed it on our afternoon walk along the town's 'water heritage trail'. It's a pretty walk along the Weaver and its subsidiary the River Dane,  but it's still a little sad to see some of the old navigation buildings now empty and sliding into disrepair.
The quirky Edwardian sewage pumping station house
And inside, its immaculately restored pumping engines
Much more cheery was the little Edwardian pumping station in Weir Street, in its quirky circular turreted home where a couple of jolly volunteer enthusiasts were running the pumping engine. This Crossley single cylinder four-stroke, powered by gas rather than petrol, and its stablemate, drive lift pumps that, in their day, pumped sewage from parts of the town to the treatment plant. Electric pumps do the job today but will people be coming to visit them on a Sunday afternoon in a hundred years time? I don't think so.
PS Found my Christmas present on the walk too: a quadcopter. What a great device; radio controlled and computer managed and with a built in HD video camera, it flies, hovers, manoeuvres at the flick of a switch.

All I want for Christmas is ... a quadcopter

1 comment:

  1. A Drone...I want one too....but I don't think Santa will be listening. A fellow snapper friend in Scotland had a Rib or a Drone on his wish list. Eventually opted for the started a series on Scottish Castles from the air with some great shots of those in remote locations like the middle of a Scottish Loch. Now if you can get Santa to buy you one maybe I could borrow!!!