Map Updates – April 2016 – Issue 49

I’m pleased to announce the April 2016 updates to my cruising maps are now available.

Extract from Cotswold Canals Map
Extract from Cotswold Canals Map

You can see a full list of the latest issue of the maps, but those with significant changes this month are:-

Remember, you can update your map to the latest version – free during the first year and a small charge after that.  You can also upgrade to a larger map.  Just email paul@waterwayroutes.co.uk with details of your existing maps for a no obligation quote.

Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust

We’ve just returned from our first cruise of the season over the past two days, from our home mooring at Sherborne Wharf to Wolverhampton and back.  It’s always nice to be cruising again, and we identified a few items that need fixing after the winter before we start cruising again.

New Swing Bridge across the Dudley No 1 Canal
New Swing Bridge across the Dudley No 1 Canal

On the way we stopped to see the Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust’s new visitor centre which was opened on 14th March 2016 by HRH The Princess Royal.

Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust Visitor Centre
Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust Visitor Centre

There’s a new swing bridge across the canal which provides a level link to the Black Country Living Museum and the boarding point for the trip boats into Dudley Tunnel.  The tunnel portal is just visible in the background.

Dudley Tunnel Trip Boats
Dudley Tunnel Trip Boats

The trip boats are electric and have a low height so they fit into Dudley Tunnel which has such a low profile that most narrowboats will not fit inside.

Helping Seyella

It was early yesterday morning when I arrived in Wigan by train.  I was on the way to help Geoff and Mags on Seyella come down the Wigan Flight.

Waiouru in Wigan
Waiouru in Wigan

I paused to say hello to Jan on Waiouru as I walked past on the way to the top of the Wigan Flight.

Seyella at Wigan Top Lock
Seyella at Wigan Top Lock

Meg spotted my arrival at the top of the flight as she waited patiently outside Seyella.

Wigan Top Lock
Wigan Top Lock

It was a lovely day once the sun had come out and Wigan Top Lock looked very welcoming.

Mags steering Seyella
Mags steering Seyella

There were no boats within the flight so I lifted one top paddle on the locks near the top of the flight so they would be full by the time we came down.  Geoff went ahead to open the gate and see the boat in safely as Mags steered Seyella and I shut the paddles and gates behind.

Geoff winding paddles down the Wigan Flight
Geoff winding paddles down the Wigan Flight

Geoff and Mags are used to working together and there was no need to hold the boat on the centre rope as the locks are gentle when emptying.

Jan arrives from Waiouru
Jan arrives from Waiouru

Jan walked up from Waiouru and met us part way down the flight, providing another pair of hands.

Jan winding the gate shut
Jan winding the gate shut

Some of the locks have winding hear to help close the gates.

Jan having fun on the Wigan Flight
Jan having fun on the Wigan Flight

Jan seems to be having fun – it’s not often that happens on the heavy locks of the Wigan Flight.

Meg, Geoff and Mags at Poolstock Bottom Lock
Meg, Geoff and Mags at Poolstock Bottom Lock

Jan left us at the bottom lock of the main flight and I stayed on board to help with the two Poolstock Locks.

I left Meg, Geoff and Mags looking very happy at Poolstock Bottom Lock.  It took four and a half hours from top to bottom, including a stop for a brew half way down with four of us working well together – it would have taken Geoff and Mags much longer on their own.  The 21 locks in the main Wigan Flight, plus two at Poolstock, are hard work, with some of them being very hard work.

I paused to help Jan with a minor problem as I walked back to the station and caught the train home.

10th Anniversary

Ten years ago today I sold the first Waterway Routes DVD.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal DVD Cover
Leeds & Liverpool Canal DVD Cover

After many hours of careful editing, I added the Leeds & Liverpool Canal DVD to my website and crossed my fingers to see how it would sell. The answer was very well and it led to the whole series of Waterway Routes DVDs.

Thank you to S who was my first customer, and to his wife L.  They became regular customers and now help with proof watching DVDs and, more recently, with crewing the boat and filming too.

A very big thank you to all my customers who have purchased DVDs (and Maps) and it’s nice to see many of your names appear regularly as you return each year to purchase more.

Bridgewater Canal Stop Gates – 2

I recently blogged about the new stop gates being installed on the Leigh Arm of the Bridgewater Canal.

Tom & Jan on Waiouru have cruised through the re-opened canal today and been kind enough let me have photos of the finished work, with permission to publish them.

New Stop Gates - © Tom Jones (Waiouru)
New Stop Gates – © Tom Jones (Waiouru)

I wonder what the mooring bollards are for.  Perhaps they will be handy for workboats when maintenance is being carried out.

The new stop gates have overlapping beams at different heights, although there is very little clearance between them.  It will take very little warping with age before they start touching each other and I wonder how long it will be before adjustments are required.

New Stop Gates - © Tom Jones (Waiouru)
New Stop Gates – © Tom Jones (Waiouru)

There are grooves for stop planks to be inserted so work can be carried out on the gates.  Hopefully that won’t be needed too often.

Map Updates – March 2016 – Issue 48

I’m pleased to announce the March 2016 updates to my cruising maps are now available.

Extract from Trent & Mersey Canal Map
Extract from Trent & Mersey Canal Map

You can see a full list of the latest issue of the maps, but those with significant changes this month are:-

Remember, you can update your map to the latest version – free during the first year and a small charge after that.  You can also upgrade to a larger map.  Just email paul@waterwayroutes.co.uk with details of your existing maps for a no obligation quote.

Hulme Locks Branch

The Hulme Locks Branch of the Bridgewater Canal was opened in 1838 to provide a link from the main line of the Bridgwater Canal to the River Irwell, then the Mersey and Irwell Navigation.  The branch closed in 1995 when the new Pomona Lock opened a little further along the canal.

Hulme Locks Junction
Hulme Locks Junction

There are two lock chambers still in existence, although the upper chamber, seen in the photo above, has no working gates so the intermediate pound is at the higher level and the lower lock is the full height.

The upper lock was certainly working in the 1930s, but with a much shallower drop than the lower lock.  The sides of the intermediate basin have been built up since then, and the lower lock made full height.  Perhaps someone will leave a comment to explain when and why this was done.

Junction with RIver Irwell
Junction with RIver Irwell

The bottom lock of the Hulme Locks branch sits under the arch of the railway viaduct and leads onto the River Irwell.

You can see a virtual cruise along the Hulme Locks Branch with a choice of starting points.

Precision Timing

While cycling along the Leigh Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal recently to check my map data I encountered new signs, intended for cyclists.

This was the first sign I found, at Leigh.

Signpost at Leigh
Signpost at Leigh

I was intrigued by the precision of the timings shown on the signs, with Wigan shown as 59 minutes rather than 60 minutes, or 1 hour.  As it takes 10-15 minutes to cycle across Wigan this must be to a very precise location, but where?

Later I found this sign at Wigan, at the junction between the Leigh Branch and the main line of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Signpost at Wigan
Signpost at Wigan

Leigh is 54 minutes and Wigan town centre is 6 minutes, a total of 60 minutes cycling, so where did the 59 minutes come from, was it to one end of the pier?

Hollinwood and Stockport Canals Map

My February map updates included an increase in the routes covered, with the addition of a map covering the Hollinwood Canal and the Stockport Canal.

Route of Hollinwood and Stockport Canals
Route of Hollinwood and Stockport Canals

Some might consider these to be called the Hollinwood Branch Canal and the Stockport Branch Canal and both to be branches of the Ashton Canal, but I’m using the shorter name they are gradually becoming known by.

The map includes the Fairbottom Branch of the Hollinwood Canal, and the Werneth Branch Canal, a stand alone canal, despite the “Branch” in the title which is often mistaken for a branch of the Hollinwood Canal.

Restoration of most of the Hollinwood Canal looks possible, excluding the most northern section after the motorway, but a link to the Rochdale Canal looks possible instead.

Restoration of the Stockport Canal might be possible for the northern half of the route but the southern part (within Stockport) looks unlikely as the route is blocked by too many developments and, regrettably, some of these seem very recent.

Extract from Hollinwood and Stockport Canals Map
Extract from Hollinwood and Stockport Canals Map

The Hollinwood and Stockport Canal Maps are free to download, as are all the maps for canal restoration projects, and available in both Acrobat (pdf) and Memory-Map (qct) formats.  They are included in the England & Wales Canal Maps from the February 2016 issue onwards.

Bridgewater Canal Stop Gates

The Bridgewater Canal has been closed since 2nd November 2015, just to the west of Worsley, for the installation of stop gates.

Advance warning of stoppage at Leigh
Advance warning of stoppage at Leigh

Large warning signs at each end, like this one at Leigh, handily positioned on the stop planks for a photo opportunity, tell boaters it will be closed until 29th February 2016.

Cycling along the Leigh Branches of the Bridgewater and Leeds & Liverpool Canals yesterday to check the data for my maps is up to date, I passed the work site as they were nearing completion.

New stop gates in the narrows
New stop gates in the narrows

The stop gates have been added at the Leigh End of the narrows for a former lift bridge which explains the old stonework in the photo.

Two sets of stop gates
Two sets of stop gates

Peering under the arm of the digger we can see one pair of stop gates closed and pointing towards us, with another pair behind them in the open position and pointing in the opposite direction.  With long lengths of lock free canals it’s important to be able to stem the water flow in either direction in the event of a breach.

Stop gates facing each way
Stop gates facing each way

The side on view show the gate beams at different heights so they can be opened and closed independently. These pairs of gates follow the convention of pointing away from each other. The water between them can be pumped out during tests every few years to check the gates successfully hold back the water.

Bunds at each end keep the water out
Bunds at each end keep the water out

They were clearing up the site as I passed and starting to take down the safety fencing.  They said they would breach the dams in the next day or two to check it all worked.  If they do that with the gates closed they can test for leaks into the central section which should remain dry, at least until filled by the inevitable small leaks, but that might cause another problem.

I could see no sign of any paddle gear and, having been separated for months the two ends of the canal are unlikely to be at exactly the same level.  When the leaks have filled the central section then one set of gates can be opened but any difference in water levels will still hold the second pair shut.

There could be a long wait until the levels in the two long pounds can be equalised if they test the gates this way. Removing the dams with the stop gates open, and testing by pumping might be a better solution.

Boaters who have been waiting for passage, like Tom and Jan on Waiouru, should find the canal open next week as planned.

UPDATE: New photos of the opened gates.