Lymm to Castlefield, Manchester, Bridgewater Canal: 14 miles 0 locks
Another beautiful day for boating and the wide deep Bridgewater eats up the miles in no time at all. With maximum power, Zulu struggles to make 3mph on the canals, but today according to the satnav we were rattling along at a heady 4mph for most of the way. The canal is so wide that even when passing other boats a reasonable speed can be maintained without making any wake whatsover.
The Bridgewater is a very pleasant canal to cruise, passing through many suburban areas which tend to face the canal rather than turn their backs on it. I was pleased to find that Thorn Marine are still operating chandlery and boat services at Stockton Heath despite dire warnings that their historic site was scheduled for demolition and redevelopment when I last passed through here almost 4 years ago. I took advantage and topped up with Excel at £10.00 a bag, which isn’t too bad considering how much fuel has risen this year.
The last couple of miles into Manchester really are quite different with hardly a building still standing – acre after acre of waste land gives way to a massive container port followed by Old Trafford football stadium, past Pomona lock which would drop you down to the Ship Canal if you had the keys, and then into Castlefield which I really like. There are some really nice warehouse conversions, and some excellent moorings. You just have to ignore the new tower blocks on the way into the basin, where literally hundreds of absolutely identical apartments overlook each other. This was all just being built four years ago – it doesn’t seem to have done much for the area, other than reclaim a few acres of land.
There is however something magical about approaching a big city by boat, and this is definitley the easist way into Manchester. To be out in the countryside one minute, to being one minute away from the city is such a contrast, I still love the arrival – I don’t think there’s any better analogy than being in a time machine – plodding away at four miles per hour and suddenly arriving in the future, with a gentle nudge as you stop on your own private mooring bollard.