Sunday, 22 June 2014


We are moored in Blackburn at the wonderfully secure Eanam Wharf. I don’t know much about its history as the building is now used by a number of small businesses all fronting away from the canal. Only a small section of the ancient building is a restaurant facing the canal across the towpath with seating arranged for clients beneath the canopy.

At each end of the remainder of the towpath adjacent to the building is a large iron gate secured in the closed position with a Waterways Handcuff Key, making the covered mooring between them totally secure between 5pm and 8am in the week and for twenty four hours throughout the weekend. The mooring is long enough for two 57 footers end to end.

When we arrived on Thursday there was already one boat moored so we eagerly breasted our two boats together and moored them in the remaining spot and we’ve been happy ever since.

The building was obviously used as a warehouse and though I’m not certain what cargo would have been worked here undercover, it would probably have been Yorkshire wool that was discharged for the mills at Blackburn.

Beyond the canopied area to the north but adjoining is an ancient pub now called ‘The Wharf’ while directly over us, above the canopy, is a ballet and stage dancing school so for much of the day we have music. When it ends in the school at around six it begins at the pub as clients begin to arrive.

Perhaps the one drawback to the mooring is that though the Sun is shining brilliantly outside none of its life-giving properties reach our solar panels and we have to run our engines every day to boost the batteries.

Otherwise it’s wonderful; complete with security man patrolling during the day when the gates are open.


DSCN0987  Under the Canopy 

Under the canopy at Eanam Wharf, Blackburn


DSCN0989  The mooring from the tow path

Eanam Wharf


Apart from this mooring there is nowhere else suitable in Blackburn for mooring. Though the tow path lies along an embankment across a wide frontage of the city, it is all too shallow certainly for ‘Futurest’ to moor, with a rock ledge just below the waterline in many cases and lock landings at the six accompanying locks non existent.


DSCN0986  Swan family

The local Swan family


But the city is beautiful now, especially in the sunshine of course.

When the wool weaving industry died quickly at the end of the last century, unlike a lot of other northern towns we have visited this year that are ghosts of their former selves, the City of Blackburn appears to have re-invented itself somehow in this modern ‘IT’ world. There are many new and thoughtfully architected buildings and the work still continues today on a large scale to the south  of the recently extended cathedral. I was last here in the early sixties but cannot recognise any feature from that period even though many of the old buildings must remain.


Blackburn new Railway Station and newly extended Cathedral


DSCN0993  Indoor market under the shopping mall

The covered Market and Mall over


DSCN0994  Church Street

A view up modern Church Street


I do remember vaguely the covered market of those earlier years and that still remains today though relocated in a very recent building with an enormous and prestigiously designed shopping mall above. Blackburn looks on the up at the moment and feels thoroughly optimistic to me.

Inside Wetherspoons however, where I write this now, it seems the same as all the others that we have been to; only the accents of the clientele are different. Here the pub is called ‘The Postal Order 'and the outside is the frontage of what must have been once a very grand Post Office indeed.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Wigan Flight

No, I am not about to recount another exotic holiday that Janis and I have experienced with Virgin Airways but rather the somewhat shaky climb on Monday from the coal and steel besmirched town of Wigan, up that boaters Tower of Babel called affectionately by the locals ‘The Wigan Twenty One’, towards the green and undulating heaven that is The Pennines; that paradise portrayed in beautiful photographs with a waterway winding its way across a green rolling landscape dotted with the odd ancient stone built farmhouse and perhaps one peaceful lock in evidence.

But as in life heaven is not easy to attain and the Wigan Flight is no exception. Yet in Nicholson’s Guide there is just twenty one double locks to work; no more difficult than the Hatton Twenty One near Warwick surely, which I have done many times now in about four hours and have actually with experience, grown to view them even affectionately. So maybe I thought, this could be the start of a similar beautiful relationship with The Wigan Twenty One.

It didn’t bode very well however when ‘Futurest’, just as she was about to enter the bottom lock, caught around her screw a pair of trousers that at one time must have been draped around the loins of an enormous giant. This took a whole hour and a half of scrabbling upside down in the weed box to clear. It was therefore well into the afternoon before we were able to begin the climb.

The locks are spaced close together and experience in the past in this situation has taught us that the quickest and most efficient way of navigating through is for one of us to stay on the towpath and prepare all the locks ahead while the other, with the boats made fast together abreast, steers them through the pounds and into the locks using one engine only. Janis elected to go ashore leaving me in charge of the two ships.


DSCN0971  Rising in Lock 71 of Wigan Flight

Rising in Lock 71


DSCN0972  Unusual bottom gate supports

Unusual lock gate supports


Unusual balance arm counterweight


With a little difficulty, we raised ourselves up through the first unfamiliar lock. The gates were large, ill-fitting and heavy and the winding gear was not customary to us; the ground paddles needed a horizontal movement with the windlass instead of the vertical as down south.

It was hard work in all the locks, which were very ancient and each one needed attention of some kind. One inoperative ground paddle was taped off and had the ‘British Waterways’ aware notice still attached dated ‘2010’. We were slower than we could have been too as all the locks were against us due to a single boat one chamber ahead that was also slower than us. Janis was actually locking them through, as well as preparing their next lock.

However after steady though heavy work we reached the top and moored just beyond the water point at 9 pm, with the Sun right ahead and dazzling us low in the clear blue evening sky; it would not be long till the bright vivid sunset. Eleven hours ago we had set out from Wigan and we were tired. However we were up in the rolling countryside of the low Pennines and full of righteousness now that the passage was over.

Heaven was worth it and we celebrated with a late salad dinner and a couple of Gin and Tonics.


……..asleep or otherwise

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Wigan Pier and Ice-cream

Yesterday we arrived at Wigan after a beautiful day’s cruise in brilliant hot sunshine and we managed to tie up in between the town Top and Bottom Locks right outside the C&RT North West Office.

It makes me suspicious always when I arrive in a town on a busy canal in the height of Summer to find none of the visitor moorings, complete with securing rings, occupied on the tow path side of the water and it makes me grateful that here, right opposite we have this very secure forty eight hour mooring behind locked gates and just long enough for two 57 footers. What could be better?

We shall do nicely here until Monday morning when we plan to set off up the twenty one or so locks towards Skipton in the high Pennines.

So it is lovely to be back aboard ‘Futurest’ and cruising again. All this gadding about on landlubber type holidays is all very well for a change and with decent weather as we were blessed with it is sheer magic. But it’s good to be back among the every day things that I am now so used to and understand very well. It is delightful to feel the Russell Newbery throbbing again under my sandaled feet and the always lively pressure of the water on the rudder that I feel through the tiller.

‘Futurest’ is alive once more.

Luckily Wigan has plenty of shops and Janis and I have been ashore to replenish our stores at Morrison’s after our period of being away. The fridges are now back to their proper working temperatures and we can store all our favourite frozen delights again, including ice cream….. Yum Yum!



Green Lancashire Summer






The original Wigan Pier


DSCN0474  ......Another part

The part that is now a pub

Monday, 2 June 2014

A Postcard to ‘Futurest’

Dear Futurest,

I am writing this in case you think I may have abandoned you for good.

I assure you that this is not the case even though at the moment Janis and I are enjoying a few days here in the Lake District, which is in another world from you.

I used to come here and enjoy it a lot in my younger days but she and I will be back on the waterways, in no time at all to continue our cruise with you and ‘Roots and Wings’…. in just a few days. 

You perhaps feel as if there’s something a little odd with my behaviour at writing a letter to you, a manmade structure after all of steel and timber. But ever since living with you, I have felt your strong presence there, continuously with me, as if the very atoms of your existence contain some kind of consciousness or soul similar to that of we Humans, as well as the mere physical makeup of nuclei and electrons that give  you your mass. I have felt this too on the other ships that I sailed on in my professional career. I am sure other colleagues have too.

If this is the case then this letter will not be in vain and you will understand as well as appreciate what I have said. However it’s no problem if I am wrong, as I will then have had a good practice at letter writing which is what I seriously lack anyway.

But I’ve missed you and just wanted to talk to you.

So let me tell you what we have been doing since we left.

We have hired a car for the duration and we loaded it up with just about everything we had aboard both ships. You’ll be aware that your fridge is switched off; there was no point in running the batteries down if the Sun didn’t come out to activate the panel while we were away.

And we set off.

We travelled up the busy M6, exiting at Junction 36 and visiting the National Trust property of Sizergh Castle, on the way to our cottage at Fornside in the Vale of St John, deep in the heart of the Lakes and snuggled beneath the steep mass of Great Dodd.


DSCN0765  Sizergh Castle, front Aspect

Sizergh Castle, Cumbria


Ladies Slipper Orchid at Sizergh Castle


Bee earning his nectar on the blue Iris


….and on the Thistle


It’s beautiful here and couldn’t be better situated to suit all our needs. As I look now out of the large, floor to ceiling lounge window that was once a barn door in the side of our well appointed grey stone cottage, I see in front of me about a mile away the steep slope at the other side of the valley, where a ridge interspersed with grey weathered crags and clothed with the light purple and green of young Heather and Bracken, contrasts boldly with the darker colours of a thick belt of Fir and then a mixture of Oak and Willow that shades the meandering St. John’s Beck.



View from our lounge window at Fornside


In front of this the local black and white Herdwick Sheep graze contentedly while their young gambol with each other and chase for no reason at all except for fun, healthy looking free range hens that feed at will amongst them. Meanwhile in the same scene two ponies crop the short turf contentedly in front of an ancient dry stone wall, happily oblivious to what else is going on in the meadow.

This surely is bliss.

Janis of course is like a young mountain Gazelle in this country while I have done my best to keep up with her. Though I’m not as fit as I once was I am most pleased with my performance so far. On the first day here she and I walked in beautiful weather up to the Castlerigg Stone Circle and back via the tiny St John’s Parish Church at the head of our valley. This journey was getting on for ten miles which I was very pleased about.


Castlerigg Stone Circle



Tiny St John’s in the Vale Parish Church



Bramm Crag Bridge across St John’s Beck


Day number two took us by car, again in bright sunshine, to Buttermere from where we tackled the difficult track (in my terms anyway) up the southern slope of Warnscale Bottom and via Scarth Gap towards the summit of Haystacks sixteen hundred feet above us. I am sure that twenty years ago when I last did any serious climbing in these parts, this route would have been easy. But this time the path was steep and in a couple of sections just beneath the top I actually had to use rock climbing techniques that Janis assures me was only ‘rock scrambling’ really, but was certainly the most tricky bit of climbing I had ever had to perform in my whole life.


DSCN0806  The ascent of Haystacks from Buttermere

The ascent of Haystacks from Buttermere


The only way up



At the top


DSCN0819  Blackbeck Tarn

Blackbeck Tarn on the way down


DSCN0820  The path down on the other side of Warnscale Bottom

The path down seen across Warnscale Bottom


We reached the summit eventually with its unique tarn, and scattered somewhere close by are the ashes of the renowned Lakes wanderer Alfred Wainright and I was  happily satisfied with my performance. It was busy up there as we were not the only visitors. We ate our sandwiches and having asked someone else to take our photograph we began our descent via the Blackbeck Tarn and round the head of the valley close to the Honnister Slate Mine and down the other side of Warnscale Bottom back to the car.

It had been a long walk and I was tired as I removed my boots but very happy with my performance. Even Janis was feeling it a bit I think, since she was quiet after the arduous seven hour trudge.

On Saturday we were in Penrith shopping and meeting Raeleen, Janis’s elder sister from the train. She is staying with us here for a few days.

Yesterday, another beautiful day, (we have been so lucky with the weather) the three of us motored again to Buttermere and completed the walk around the lake, covering nearly seven miles altogether. Halfway round at Buttermere Village we were happy to refresh ourselves with a cup of tea.


DSCN0855  The whaleback of Fleetwith Pike from Buttermere end of the lake

Buttermere looking towards Fleetwith Pike


A foraging House Sparrow at the Café


The Tunnel at Buttermere


The girls have gone off today somewhere while I have a rest day writing to you. I have to admit that I’m very glad of the excuse to sit down for a change and think about other things other than where I am about to place my next foot.

I’ve enclosed some photos which I hope you approve of. I have taken lots altogether.

I hope all is well with you and that you don’t feel too abandoned. You do have your old friend ‘Roots and Wings’ snugly next to you so you shouldn’t be too lonely.

I am now looking forward to getting back to you and enfolding myself within your always and ever accommodating arms.


Old Salt, the Ancient Mariner. X