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Thursday 31 May 2018

Out and about in the Pool.

After arriving in Liverpool Salthouse, and a bite to eat, we went exploring to see what was still going on at the tail end of the Tall Ships festival. There is always something to see in Liverpool, especially if you look above the shop fronts.

The landing stage at the Pier Head was crowded with motor bikes waiting for the Isle of Man Ferry to go over for the TT that is from 26th May to 8th June. There has been a constant stream of bikes down the roads too.

Behind the Liverpool Town Hall, in Exchange Flags, stands a monument to the death of Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar 21st Oct. 1805. There are four prisoners manacled at the base that represent his four victories at the Nile, Cape St. Vincent, Copenhagen and Trafalgar and the inscription quoting what Nelson was said to signal before the Battle, England Expects Every Man to do his duty'. In two months the sum required was donated by public subscription and it was unveiled on 21st Oct 1813. It was moved to this site in 1866 and was the first public subscription statue in Liverpool.

Also in Exchange Flags is this war memorial that was erected to the memory of the members of the Exchange Newsroom that lost their lives in WWI. It was unveiled by Lord Derby on 1st Jan 1924 outsider Derby House. It was moved to this location in 1953 when the Exchange was rebuilt.

The Exchange Station was a joint venture between the East Lancs. Railway and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and opened in 1850. It was rebuilt a couple of times until badly bombed in WWII but later reopened until Dr. Beeching succeeded where the Germans hadn't! There are thoughts that the HS" route may be brought to the station, but they don't make buildings like this anymore.

On Dale Street is the Prudential Building that was opened in 1886 in the Gothic Revival style. The tower was added in 1905 and make me think of an Italian church. The whole building in terracotta brick is gorgeous. It was designed by Alfred Waterhouse who built the Natural History Museum and Manchester Town Hall. 

Further up Dale Street are other lovely buildings with magnificent detail on. It always pays to look up.

The Queen Victoria Monument was started in 1902 ans unveiled in 1906 and has four groups of figures round the main figure of the Queen. She doesn't look very happy, maybe it is having to hold up the orb and sceptre all these years!

 The evening was lovely as it started to cool down and the crowds thinned a little with a nice light on the Echo Arena and big wheel.

The moon rose over Albert Dock and was almost full. It would be tomorrow!

It was lovely to walk by the river and see a ship leaving the Garston Channel and follow the RoRo from Birkenhead heading to sea.

As it got darker the curtain of spray right opposite our berths started and the droplets were used to project the image of a ship for the 'Ghost Ship' installation to round off a great day.

Wednesday 30 May 2018

I see no ships!

I had a good nights sleep as I got home an hour earlier than I expected and we were up at ready by 0900. At that time we were the only boat waiting, but as 0930 approached two more came along, one a single hander.

We got under way soon after 0930 and we went first so that we could operate the next bridge for the other two. Macy was not that pleased to be disturbed from where she was enjoying watching the world go by from under the solar panels.

Bank Holiday weekend was the Tall Ships race leg in Liverpool and we were hoping to get there to see at least part of the sail past as they left for the race, however the pace set was so slow that we were unlikely to see anything.

Amy spotted this turtle/terrapin enjoying the sun. It wasn't quite as large as the one we had seen on the Lancaster Canal. It is unlikely that these animals are breeding as they need a temperature of 25C for about 60 days to incubate the eggs.

We stopped for a bit of shopping and to dump the rubbish before heading down to Liverpool, but then I decided to fill up with water so we didn't have to just wait at the top of the Stanley Locks. When we arrived we were just right as the other two were just leaving the first lock.

We were a little concerned about these Canada Geese as two had wandered off in one direction and this group were marching off the other way. They were about two metres up on the dock side and they didn't seem eager to jump down in to the water, and the parent birds were nowhere to be seen. They were comical to watch though.

The Liver Buildings were built in 1911 and the two Liver Birds were erected one facing to the sea and one to the city, prosperity from the sea for the people of the city. It is said that they are not looking at each other so that they will not mate and then fly away so bringing bad luck to the city. That could also be why it is so heavily tied down!

We had missed the sail past of the tall ships but there were a great number of people around. These actor/musicians were entertaining the spectators outside the Museum of Liverpool and we had been warned that they were about.

The 'Daniel Adamson' was moored just by the drop gate into the Albert Dock. She was originally built in 1902 for the Shropshire Union Canal and Railway Co as the 'Ralph Brocklbank'. She was built to tow barges from Ellesmere Port to Liverpool and to carry passengers too. After 1915 it was just towing. She was bought by the Manchester Ship Canal for towing and in 1936 she was modified and the name changed to 'Daniel Adamson' after the first Chairman of the MSC Co. and used as a tug and an inspection launch.

At the entrance to Albert Dock there were these mice running away from......

this cat!

We got to our berth about 1530. There was a bit of confusion as one of the boats that came down with us moored on our pontoon. Somebody was on theirs. I was just going to slot in a spare but they moved over. I don't understand how you can accidentally get the wrong one! Still C&RT staff have been round to 'sort it out' before the next lot of boats come down today, Wednesday.

Once we were moored up we went for a walk to soak up the atmosphere in the beautiful late afternoon/evening, more of which in tomorrows blog I think.

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Flanders to France.

After our stop to see the Oppy Wood memorial we went on to another major battle site, the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The static trench warfare had been going on for several years by the time the Battle of Vimy Ridge started. Other assaults had occurred and had actually been taken by some Moroccan Troops of the French Army but they had to retreat as they were on their own. In April 1917 the Canadian troops were assigned the task. This was the first time all four divisions were to fight together. They had also prepared well digging tunnels from the back lines to get the troops to the front secretly. There had been training and communications were improved.

Due to the success of the operation and the sacrifices made by the Canadians the area has been given by France to Canada as a memorial site. Above is the modern lines of the actual front line advanced post of the Allied Lines. They were actually about 25 metres from the German Advanced post!

The whole area has been softened by the passage of time but the scrub has been kept down but pine trees allowed to grow. The ground has been left all disturbed by bomb craters, massive mines etc but with grass. It is quite amazing to think that there would be nothing green in the landscape at the time. Of 100,000 Canadians that took part 10,600 casualties, including 3,600 dead. Through the whole war Canada with a population of 8 million sent 650,000 men and women and suffered 66,000 dead and 170,000 wounded.

The Canadian National Vimy Monument is very bright in the sunlight of the day The design was by a Canadian who won a design competition and has about 11,000 t of concrete and 6,000t of limestone from the Adriatic. The figures are symbolic such as the figure of a woman as Canada, Faith, Honour etc. Carved on the walls are the names of 11,285 who died and have no known grave.

This is the figure of a female in mourning that overlooks the Douai Plain that shows what a strategic ridge it was. The spoil heaps are dotted all over this former mining area.

Also at the Vimy Ridge site are several cemeteries. This one is Canadian Cemetery No.2. There are almost 3,000 soldiers here, 370 Canadians. You can see the long line of stones are placed butting up to each other, where as the ones in the foreground are apart. The stones together indicate that the bodies were found together, killed at the same time, and sometimes could not be separated. There is much symbolism in the layout of the stones and the inscriptions etc. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission look after around 1.7 million British and Commonwealth soldiers graves at 23,000 sites in 154 countries. I have seen their sites in several countries and I can say that they are all tended with love and attention as these here in Flanders.

Our last night was spent in Arras, not far from the Town Hall on the Place Des Heroes. The town hall was completed in 1554. At the top is the crown of Emperor Charles V and the golden lion of Arras. The Belfry was destroyed by German artillery in 1914 and was recreated 'as was' between 1924 and 1932.

The houses around the Place Des Heros were constructed in 17th and 18th Century and are due to strict planning regulations that left us with these Flemish gables and Baroque facades. The Places was renamed for the Heroes, from being the Little Market, after the French Resistance fighters who were shot.

We walked to the Citadel that was built by Vauban between 1668 and 1672. It has been used as a garrison right up until the early 2000's. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site

After a walk round more of the sites we stopped for a drink in the Grand Place. There was a massive square here since the 12th Century. The brick built house in the photo is called 'The Three Leopards' and was built in 1467. You can see it has the 'sparrow steps' gables, and pointed arches of the Gothic period. All the others round the square were constructed in 17th century in the Baroque with Flemish Gables and round barrel arches. The square was left decimated after WWI but was rebuilt as it had been prior to the damage.

The Grand Place is much larger than the Place Des Heros but both are used for massive markets on Wednesday and Saturday. The Grand Place is used for a car park otherwise.

The Place des Heroes has the restaurants, shops and bars, and is where the night life is. This was the night of Liverpool's defeat in the Euro Cup Final.

The next day was Mother's Day in France, and our last day. We just managed to get on a tour of the Wellington Tunnels that started out as mines for the limestone used to build the houses. They opened a well and and then built a bell pit below taken all the stone out through the 'well'. In WWI they thought they could be utilised to house troops etc ready for a massive offensive in November 1917. Several tunneling company's enlarged and connected the old underground quarries. Welsh, Geordie and New Zealand miners were engaged in the work. This complex was named after the towns and cities of the Kiwi troops. 24000 troops were house here for up to eight days running up the start of the Battle.

We caught the TVR from Arras to Lille, and then the Eurostar to St. Pancras and the West Coast Mainline to Liverpool and the Merseyrail to Old Roan and then walked to meet up with Helen and Amy at Bridge 9 ready for the decent into Liverpool the next morning. The journey took 10 hours and all was on time!

Monday 28 May 2018

In Flanders Fields.

I have been missing for a few days as I have been over in Belgium and France with my brothers having a look around some of the WWI sites. We traveled via Eurostar to Lille and then one of my brothers drove us to Ypres.

We first visited one of only four German cemeteries in Flanders where,  after consolidation during and following the war, 44294 bodies are to be found, many is mass graves. The buildings are the original German bunkers that were  built as the lines passed through the area. The whole place had an atmosphere of brooding gloom. Adolf Hitler visited this site after conquering France in WWII

We then visited Tyne Cot cemetery. Tyne Cot is said to be named by the Tyneside soldiers that saw a resemblance in the German bunkers to there local cottages! I think it is the biggest Commonwealth Grave. There are 11954 graves here. There is a code to the stones erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commision. They are just about all made from white Portland Stone. If you see a flat topped stone it denoted that it is a grave of an 'enemy'. Otherwise they are arranged in rows with the Regimental emblem engraved, unless a Victoria Cross or George Cross had been awarded. There is also a cross, or other religious symbol, or non if required. The rank, unit, name, and date of death. Many also have an age inscribed. I personal chosen by the relatives can also be inscribed. If the stones are separate it indicates separate burials. The memorial cross that can be seen in the top left, was actually built on top of an old German pill box. Many of the graves have no information other than 'A soldier of the Great War' and 'Known unto God'.

Tyne Cot Cemetery is also the site of a memorial to the dead that have no known grave. All the dead who have no known grave following 15th August 1917 are listed on these walls. That is almost 35000 names!

We also visited Hill 62 near Sanctuary Wood, named as it was a quiet sector of the front at one time. Not later when it was fought over at Battle of Ypres and the Battle of Passchendaele. There is a small private museum that is run by the family that resettled the land following peace. There are doubts to it's authenticity but there are collections of finds and it is certainly interesting. Hill 62 refers to its height above sea level in metres!

By April 1915 both sides had started tunneling under the others lines. Oppositions tunnels were detected and blown up or infiltrated but on 17th April the British exploded huge mines under the front line of the Germans as a prelude to an attack. There are many memorials to regiments that fought here, but the most striking is the huge crater that is left from one of those mines. For scale you may be able to make out a bloke standing on the opposite side of the fend in line with the left hand bright tree trunk close to the middle, wearing blue.

We were staying in Ypres and later went to see the 'In Flanders Field' Museum that is housed in the cloth hall. This was almost flat following WWI and was rebuilt as an almost replica, as was much of the town.

A memorial to the missing with no known grave in the Ypres Salient was planned it was completed in 1924. There are 54 395 names inscribed on the memorial. However it was found that there was not enough room for the 90,000 that were neededs, and hence the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Since the day it was unveiled there has been a ceremony every night at 2000 when the last post is played by the locals of Ypres. Wreaths can be laid. When the Germans occupied Ypres the ceremony was stooped her but continued in a military cemetery in England.

On the way to our last days's accommodation in Arras we stopped over in Oppy where the City and people of Hull erected a memorial to the East Yorkshire Regiments and the 'Hull Pals' that fought at the Battle of Oppy Wood, where many friends and neighbours lost their lives together. The land was given by a local French family who lost their son in WWI.

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Back to winter quarters.

As you may have gathered these recent blogs have not been transmitted on the day they took place as I have been dashing backwards and forwards to home due to commitments, and I was again doing so today, the day of the Royal Wedding. I had booked us into Fettlers Wharf once again, and when doing so was told that a bit of a party was going to be held so we decided to be there by 1130 so as not to miss the big event.

Just as we were ready to leave the guys on the 'Wright Away' were ready to depart so we went togeher to shuttle through the bridges. We were both stopping at Rufford, us to enter the Marina and them to visit the NT property of Rufford Old Hall. As we moved up the Visitor Moorings we passed the Home Brew Boat 'Are and Are'. It didn't look like anybody was home though.

It was a beautiful morning to be on the water and the refelction of the bridge indicates that there was very little wind.

The old warehouse stands testament to the working days of the canal.

This section of the Rufford Arm of the the Leeds and Liverpool Canal is a canalised river and the bends have been left in. You can just see the roof of 'Wright Away' round the bend to the right of the picture.

Just to the south of the remains of the lock that originally allowed access to and from the canal to the river was this littl cruiser. I'm sure it wasn't there when we came down three weeks ago.

We were soon found a mooring at Fettlers, very close to our winter mooring. We were lashed up, filled with water and the flags up that Helen had bought after the last wedding that were being sold off cheap afterwards. She knew they would come in for something!

I was able to watch the ceremony and found it very moving, and call me an old romantic, but it did make me think about our big day 32 years ago. I missed the kiss outside as I had to catch the train back to Preston to pick up the car and drive back home for more history walks. I was to come back on Monday so as to be able to move on a little.

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Back in the system.

After about an hour plus, the C&RT bloke gave us a shout from the corner to say that there was enough water for the rotating gate to open so we were off. We were the second to last boat away from the pontoon.

 As we came to the narrows of the rotating lock gate the channel is restricted and the flow means that you hardly move as you pass through, and over the gate.

'Kai Tak' was the last boat away and with her pushing against the incoming tide it looked like she was making really good headway.

Once clear of the last lock on the Ribble Link, (Lancaster side), there is still plenty of curves before you get to the Ribble itself.

The Savick Brook meets the Ribble at 90degs and as the incoming tide is coming from right to left you will be set well up stream if not careful. The trick is to angle into the tide. There is a bank of mud at the entrance , to the right, but as the tide is pushing you off it, even if you touch it, you will be pushed clear. Unlike when inbound coming in the opposite direction with the ebb tide, you will be pushed on to it and so need to give it a wide berth.

If you are not careful you can get very close to a boat that has come out of the Brook, being set up river by the tide and is finally making headway down river. The second boat comes out just at the time the first gets to where the second one starts setting down. No problems this time though, you just need to allow for the tide coming in.

Much better weather than when we came in the opposite direction. I kept to the very edge of the channel so as to be out of the main tide. This meant that I was only on 2000 revs, where as in the other direction I was up to 2400 revs, consequently using loads more fuel etc.

As the leading boat of the convoy approached the Astland Lamp this Dutch barge was seen coming out of the Douglas, where we were heading. It could have been interesting, but before she got to the lamp she turned round and headed back to Tarleton.

The turning Light looked much better in the sun than the last time we passed this way.

Helen managed to get a photo of a Eurofighter that was flying out of Wharton Airfield just to the west of Preston. The airfield was opened in 1940 and was the main reception base for aircraft from America. In 1947 the aircraft company English Electric took over the airfield, and then BAC, and later BAe. It is now the main assembly point for the Eurofighter that is fabricated from parts from four countries. It is also home to two RAF Squadrons that are converting to the Eurofighter, so they are always in the air round here.

After rounding the lamp it seemed that the tide was still flooding up so we had its assistance so were still making a good speed. As we got close to the Lock there seemed to be a bit of a delay and it turned out to be this little fishing boat that was heading outward. You can see the Dutch barge approaching the lock and the two boats ahead of us.

There were plenty of waving on jestures from the lock so we cracked on, having thought that I need to hang back as they would only take two boats. But as you can see the Douglas was on a level with the canal and both gates were open and we could go straight through.

We got through and they were shutting the gates as we passed through. 'Kai Tak' and 'Wrights Away' had to pen through, but obviously the change in level was so small there would not be much delay.

The Dutch barge decided to swing and moor so we had to tread water a little while before heading to the visitor moorings. After a bite to eat we headed to the village for a well earned safe arrival drink. The we didn't need so many revs so we will have saved a bit of fuel on this transit.