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Thursday, 14 June 2018

Barton to Runcorn.

We continued down the Ship canal and as we had only come up things did look different on the way, and we were looking for different things.

Between Barton and Irlam Locks is the Hulmes Bridge Free Ferry. Beforfe the Ship canal was built there had been a low bridge and a back up ferry across the River Irlam in this area. This are was difficult for the construction team as there were 15 streams that ran across the cutting and each had to be accried in a trough across the dig until it was ready for watering. In 1885 the Act of Parliament for the construction of the Canal also incorporated the formation of the ferry and had to be paid for by the owners of the Ship Canal. It still runs between the end of April until the end of October.

The next locks are Irlam Locks and in the distance is the Irlam railway viaduct. To the left is Carrington combined gas power station that was opened in 2016 and replaced an old coal fired power station that ceased working in 1991 and was demolished a few years later. It is constructed where the River Mersey flows into the Ship Canal.

The Royal Charter survey boat has been called up to survey the canal where the ship had touched bottom so that the Master of the 'Arklow Rival' will know what draft to load to.

There was a bit of off side tree lopping going on, and periodically along the bank there were piles of well seasoned logs that were just calling out to be loaded on a roof!

Just after where the River Mersey flows out of the Sip Canal once more and after the M6 high level bridge is the other ferry on the Canal, the Thelwall Ferry. This time the ferry is not paid for by the Canal Company as there was only a ferry here previously. It is called the Penny Ferry still, after the initial fare, but now inflation has brought the price to a massive 11p!! It runs every day 7-9, 12- 2 and 4-6. Times are different on Sundays and Bank Holidays. This ferry is also different as there is no motor the boat is skulled across with a stern oar by the ferryman.

Latchford Lock is next and you can see down the reach with the Latchford Viaduct, Knutsford Road swing Bridge and Latchford High Level Bridge, with just the hint of Norwich Road Swing Bridge too.

There are still signs of the canal's heyday when large ships passed right through to Manchester and the bye laws were stringent about protecting the lock gates and these signs were there to warm the Pilot about stopping distances. Seeing that it is in metres though it can't have been that long ago. Along the route of the canal I saw signs of a signal system. I'm not sure whether these were the remains of the signals from a railway, (The MSC had a private railway system along the canal, or they had some sort of signal system to warn ships of movements in the canal etc.

Just after Northwich Road Swing Bridge is this little spur off the main canal. It at first looked like a little dock area but it turns out to the remains of Walton Locks that were built to connect the Ship canal to the River Mersey above Fiddlers Ferry, that was only accessible at high water, all via a short 1 mile cut. It was last used in the 1980's when carriage of grain to a nearby mill ceased. Interestingly one of the last vessels to use them was the barge 'Humber Trader'.

Periodically along the length of the canal are these little jetties that were used to moor up large ships to temporarily when meeting another ship on the move. In the Suez Canal each ship carried a boat and crew to take mooring ropes ashore in these circumstances. I'm not sure what the arrangements were here.

On Wiggs Wharf was this old coaster the 'Loach' of Rochester. It was built in 1968 in London. It seems that there was a sister ship built in the same year called the 'Locator' but built in Paull that is just a couple of miles away from where I live.

Runcorn 'Old' road bridge and Britannia Railway Bridge rise above the remains of Old Quay Lock. This was part of the Runcorn to Latchford Canal, or the Old Quay Cut, that cut out the shallows in the River Mersey round Fiddlers Ferry. It was opened in 1804 but was obviously made redundant when the MSC opened in 1890's. Other traces of the lock are still there at the Latchford end of the canal.

This is the Bridgewater Lock that penned out of the Canal into the Mersey. I assume they would have had to be built as there was a connection from the Bridgewater Canal down nine locks into the river to provide direct access between Manchester and Liverpool.

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