From Alvecote to Liverpool by long haul
PUBLISHED: 09:58 29 January 2021
Julie and Tone Ferne fulfilled their dream of travelling to Liverpool by canal boat, helped by a dose of determination & a random OAP on the towpath
We had always wanted to cruise to Liverpool by boat – our friends told us how amazing it is - so this was the year to do it. Plus, I wanted to see an old friend who lives in the Wirral before she departed for her home in Spain, so we had a limited time window – and we were Covid dodging. We had to cruise some very long days (Harecastle Tunnel, the Cheshire Locks and on to Broken Cross in one day) to get there on time. It was worth it though – we had not seen her in 11 years.
Our planned was route was from Alvecote via the Trent & Mersey, the Bridgewater, the Leigh Branch, the Leeds and Liverpool via Wigan. We had booked the passage and mooring online with CRT and arrived dutifully at the top of Stanley Locks in good time to meet our fellow boaters and the wonderful volunteers together, with the magnificent Jules who co-ordinated the whole thing.
There are lots of swing bridges en route to Liverpool, some of them automated to stop the traffic (Oooh the power!) and some are manually operated. One of the manual bridges was particularly tricky and would not close securely. So, never being shy of asking for help from passing schoolchildren, big chaps and the occasional drug dealer I happened upon a random pensioner out for a walk. We still could not close it so my husband, Tone, stepped off the boat and with three of us grunting and puffing we managed to close the bridge. One thing we had forgotten, however, was that when leaving the boat you should take a rope with you. Muchgigglin was drifting around the middle of the Cut, out of reach. The random pensioner proved to be a resourceful godsend – rummaging around in the adjacent field he produced a plank of wood which happened to have a protruding nail at the end. I held Tone, the pensioner held me and Tone finally managed to hook the nail into the rear fender and we tugged the boat into the bank.
The Stanley flight completed, we hurtled towards the Mersey, past the Titanic Hotel, then left into Sid’s Ditch which led us through the final two locks, cruising whilst marvelling at the splendid architecture of the Liver Building and the Museum of Liverpool.
Entering Albert Dock was jaw-droppingly thrilling, leading to the entrance into Salthouse Dock which is adjacent. Jules seemed to beam himself up as he appeared at every lock and ultimately beam himself down again to greet us at our final mooring berth. The pontoon was superb, safe, secure and complete with free electricity and water.
Once in Liverpool – the city really is Party Central – there is so much to see and experience, so much history and culture, so much music and comedy as well as an incredible amount of pubs and restaurants. We were in slightly less restricted Covid times and the nightlife was thriving (subsequently Liverpool went back into more severe measures) but Salthouse Dock is relatively quiet and peaceful, and really secure.
Cruising to Liverpool means that you will become very familiar with your weedhatch – expect to visit at least once a day. This may be to cope with weeds but also included a duvet cover and floating sofa – sadly, this year we have viewed all manner of fly-tipped rubbish on urban canals and it was a struggle at times but, grumpy husband aside, we persevered and were so pleased that we did.
Our return journey was equally efficient through the Stanley Flight (Jules is a star) and the Leeds and Liverpool was equally weedy. So, having had so much excitement, culture and humour over the weekend we decided to return eventually via the more elegant and sedate Shropshire Union Canal back to base.
So, to sum up our experience? Put Liverpool on your Bucket List – it is so worth it.