Millennium Ribble Link Exhibition
Cooking on the Cut
Recollections, Characters and Dead-Ends 2
Once again the outline of this issue has been on my hard disk for quite some time, changes being made as events have progressed towards an actual start to digging. I will be taking photographs of the start of work on the Link for the Web site and for this magazine.
Meanwhile, here is an abridged version, minus most of the photographs, of updates I have made recently to the web site -
Wed 31st January 2001: Gleesons have now erected their site cabins just out side the gates leading to the Ribble Link Centre and the services are going in at the moment. The ground clearance work should be starting soon, possibly as early as next week. The more detailed site investigations are continuing. The unseasonably dry weather is, no doubt, helping the work to go forward. Let's hope it continues!
Wed 7th February 2001: Gleesons site headquarters were nearing completion on Monday. Yellow pegs are appearing in various places along the route, trees & bushes are being marked for removal and the ground clearance work is due to start on Thursday.
Thu 8th February 2001: Work has now started on the ground clearance. The contractors, Ribble Valley Tree Surgeons, are using Predator an American machine which uses a hydraulically operated arm and grab to pick up and feed entire trees into its chipping machinery. I am hoping to take some photos tomorrow.
Fri 9th February 2001: Predator was at work to the east of Savick Way bridge. A close-up of Predator with Savick Way bridge in the background is on the front cover.
28th February 2001: The initial ground clearance work has now been completed and the erection of fencing around the site has begun.
Sun 4th March 2001: A group of volunteers from the Navvies Anonymous section of the Waterway Recovery Group (WRG), held a working weekend on the Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th March 2001 to clear rough grass and scrub from the banks of the Savick Brook and the footpaths which have been diverted to run outside the site fencing.
The volunteers made use of the facilities at the Ribble Link Centre during the weekend which was organised by Spence Collins of Navvies Anonymous along with Frank Parker of the Ribble Link Trust. The Trust wishes to thank all those involved for the help given towards the completion of the project.
Fri 9th March 2001: The site fencing work has been suspended due to the Foot and Mouth restrictions as the line goes through farm land below Lea Road, which the fencing has already reached.
Tue 20th to Fri 23rd March 2001: A Public Exhibition was held at Ashton High School, Aldwych Drive, Ashton, Preston between 6 pm and 9 pm each evening to present information about the building of the Millennium Ribble Link. The exhibition was provided by British Waterways, W. J. Gleeson (Main Contractor) and Ove Arup (Project Design). Representatives of The Ribble Link Trust, British Waterways, Gleeson and Ove Arup were on hand to answer questions.
The lock piling and channel construction are due to start within days.
David Baldacchino the British Waterways engineer in charge of the Link has advised our Vice-Chairman, Frank Parker, who is looking after the Trust's day to day running of the scheme, that a start on the main part of the works is imminent. British Waterways and Gleesons are finalising risk assessments which will allow all the sub-contracts to be let within the next few days.
In February a local contractor, who utilises a machine named as The Predator -- the only machine of its type in the UK -- completed the tree felling and shrub removal. Once the trees have been felled by chainsaw this very expensive piece of equipment is capable of picking up medium sized trees and shredding them in one go. The same contractor then went on to erect site fencing along the route as far as Lea road before the route, from this point onwards down to the River Ribble, became temporarily out-of bounds due to the foot and mouth crisis.
Following the tree removal program, Spence Collins and his team from Navvies Anonymous -- part of the Waterways Recovery Group of volunteers -- spent a weekend at the beginning of March cutting back the remaining vegetation in preparation for the main works. Gleesons and BW had made use of the Ribble Link Centre as their offices until the new site cabins arrived at the end of February. Once they vacated the Centre, Frank Parker & Chris Lowe spent a couple of weeks completing the hot water system and showers to enable WRG to utilise the Centre as their base for the weekend. Thanks go to Frank and Chris for a job well done.
John Clegg has also been very busy photographing all the work as it proceeds and updates our web page on the Internet as soon as is possible, therefore if you have access to our web page (http://www.clegg.fsnet.co.uk/rlthome.html) you will be informed of progress as it happens.
Due to pressures with regards funding a decision was taken two years ago to shorten the locks on the Link to 62 feet in length to keep in line with those of the Rufford Branch. After several groups complained to BW it was agreed that, if additional funding could be found, BW would reinstate the locks to 72 feet as was originally planned. For those who may be unaware, I am pleased to say that the Inland Waterways Association have pledged almost half of the additional £90 000 required to achieve this and The Waterways Trust have agreed to match the funding, therefore the locks will now be built to 72 feet. Anyone wishing to help with the funding can either send donations to the Trust or direct to the IWA.
Happy Easter-and I hope that the Foot & Mouth Restrictions have been lifted by the time you read this and that you are able to leave your moorings and sail your part of the waterways system.
Over four evenings in March, an exhibition of the scheme was held in a nearby school to enable local residents and any other interested parties to view the latest plans and drawings and to ask questions directly to the contractors and British Waterways, together with officers of the Trust. Wide publicity for the event was achieved with a local leaflet drop, mail shot, press and radio/television coverage.
This resulted in the first three evenings, in particular, being packed with people eager to learn more about the scheme, and all of us taking part were somewhat "parched" at the end of each session. Our editor remarked to me on the second night that the questions being asked were also becoming harder by the minute! (being a teacher, he should know!)
A visitors book was provided, giving people the opportunity to comment on the scheme / exhibition. I have chosen a varied selection of these (unedited) which I think gives a fair reflection of people's views and thoughts as we encountered when talking to them.
A few days after the event a meeting was held to discuss all issues that were raised and Dave Baldacchino-British Waterways Project Manager, said that the large number of people who attended was far greater than he had ever envisaged and he was highly delighted !
And now, what the world thinks about our (your!) scheme......
Oaty Cheese Flan
A tasty treat to serve hot or cold -serves 4-
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
6oz wholemeal flour
2oz porridge oats
2oz white vegetable fat
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
¼ pint semi-skimmed milk
4oz Cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and ground black pepper
To make pastry
Mix together the flour and porridge oats and rub in the fats.
Add a little water and mix until the mixture comes together.
Roll out the pastry to line an eight inch round flan dish.
To make filling
Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion until golden brown.
Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl then stir in the onion, 3 oz of the cheese, the parsley and salt and pepper.
Pour in the filling, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C/400° for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 190°C/375°F and cook for another 15 minutes. Serve hot or cold.
During July we had several delays and after a complete change of plan we headed south again in early August. At Stone we saw the first notice warning of cyanide poisoning in the water, by the time we were clear of the town the canal was littered with dead fish. A few days later another boater told us that it was by no means the first time it had happened in that area.
Onward then to the Coventry Canal and after a dusty walk to a supermarket one lunchtime we arrived at Glascote locks behind a pair of hotel boats which were sadly under-crewed. Once they had refloated their grounded motor a large middle-aged Australian passenger did his best to manoeuvre the butty but only succeeded in getting it broadside on in the middle pound. The down coming boat was, luckily, in the hands of an experienced steerer who, I know not how, managed to avoid him. Eventually, with, by now quite a queue behind us, we took our turn and arrived at the top to find the steamer Adamant waiting to go down. The following morning at Atherstone several downward boaters were grumbling, to put it mildly, about a pair of hotel boats ahead of us.
The Ashby Canal was to be our next dead end, and, as with the Caldon, the best part is near the far end. We winded by the terminus facilities and returned to Snarestone Tunnel where we narrowly avoided a small cruiser coming through without lights.
"Its a bit dark in there." said the man at the wheel as he passed.
Improvements taking place on the moorings at Market Bosworth made it temporarily difficult to stop and, therefore, to shop.
"Not to worry" said I "there are two shops in Golding."
There were four years ago, on this Saturday afternoon one was closed and the other no longer functioning.
By Monday shopping was becoming a necessity and we headed for Coventry wondering whether we would meet all the infamous piles of rubbish in the bridge-holes. We didn't. Yes, there was some graffiti and we did slow right down under bridges just in case but apart from the usual sprinkling of plastic bottles and take away trays we saw and felt nothing unusual. The basin was very smart and mooring appeared fairly safe.
The return trip was equally smooth and we turned through Hawkesbury stop lock to find ourselves in a different landscape. The water was covered in duckweed which continued, with one or two breaks, most of the way to Rugby. At least one boat had to turn back as the weed was clogging its filters badly. In places it was difficult to tell water from grass.
Having spent so much time in the area on our previous boat the sight of Braunston church spire almost seemed like home as we approached in the late August sunshine. Good weather continued to favour us as we moved on the next day towards Napton Junction. The canal was very busy that morning and an oncoming boater warned us that three hire boats were tied up just through Nimrod bridge. Indeed they were, all gleaming bright yellow in the sunshine, but the comments of ourselves and the crews of the 70 footer and a smaller boat both coming the other way, as we all tried to negotiate the bridge whilst avoiding each other and them soon had them scurrying to untie their ropes and move on.
After a brief trip home by train, we were off again cruising the Leicester Section. It was a pleasure to arrive at Foxton locks and to find Mick and Crystal still in charge, moving tirelessly up and down the flight keeping a watchful eye on boats and gongoozlers alike whilst dispensing humour (not to mention the odd practical joke) and local information. We arrived at Market Harborough to find, as Mick had warned us, that although the basin is now very tidy with lots of pontoon moorings all we could do was use the facilities, wind and return to the online visitor moorings outside. It was particularly disappointing to see most of the pontoons occupied by "coffin" boats, including two engineless wide beam boats which are apparently to be used as "floating cottages". If you have seen a certain fleet of time share boats you will know who they are.
Whilst up the Welford Arm I was chatting to a couple who ran a boat yard in America and it was interesting to hear them admit that they found they had to forget everything they knew and start again when it came to handling a canal boat but that they were enjoying the experience.
We never consciously set out to visit every branch and arm we came to but as we realised how many we had done, how could we not turn into the Saltisford Arm in search of a mooring. The man in the Canal Centre shop was welcoming and helpful. There was a small charge for second and subsequent nights but since the facilities and landscaping were provided by the Saltisford Canal Centre this wasn't unreasonable.
Rain curtailed our exploration of Warwick but the sun returned as we joined the cosmopolitan but very efficient crew of a hire boat at Hatton bottom lock. The crew of five, and a dog, included a lady in her mid eighties who had first been on the canals in the l960s. Later that day there was a telephone message from Cliff, he needed Frank's signature on some Trust papers and as he was going to be in Birmingham would like to meet us. Maps were consulted, and we met at Catherine de Barnes. Probably not a moment to go down in canal history but another small step in the progress of the Link.
Moving on we had Camp Hill, Ashted and Farmer's Bridge all to ourselves, no boats and very few pedestrians until we arrived at Old Turn. Here we met Bob May on Governor, on his way to a rally at Walsall.
"If I don't pick up too many saris on the way" he said.
We looked puzzled, he explained, "The brides throw their saris into the canal, they believe all waters lead to the Ganges".
We did see several piles of soggy fabric on the banks as we travelled along the Old Main Line where preparation work had already begun for the long stoppage to repair the motorway bridges. Sari free we reached the Black Country Museum and, effectively, another dead end as we couldn't go through Dudley tunnel.
The Museum is well worth a visit but the highlight was the Blacksmith's Shop where we watched fascinated as the Blacksmith worked, alternately heating and bending steel bar, measuring only with the span of his hand. In a strong Black Country accent we told us how he had learned his trade and his respect for the man who taught him. We stayed talking to him for a long time, first about blacksmithing and then about boating. He too was a boater and had already been to see if any boats were on the Museum moorings. When he realised that the only one there was ours he suddenly presented us with a fire tidy he had made, refusing to take payment. Embarrassed we eventually persuaded him to take the price of a couple of pints. Later he came looking for us again to say he would see us up north next year. We look forward to it.
Another early start next morning to beat the local yobs at Coseley Tunnel, about which our friend the Blacksmith had warned us, down Wolverhampton 21 and on to Brewood to spend the weekend with Geoff and Catherine on Tug Amos.
On Monday morning we waved goodbye and headed north. Red berries had long since replaced the May blossom, leaves were beginning to clog the prop, it was October and time to head for home, or was it?
Not quite, a wet and windy night at Market Drayton brought a telephone call from Chris Lowe, who announced that he had now put a new engine in Soggies Pride and that there was a good tide on the l5th. Did we fancy a trip to Preston? So it was that we found ourselves at Tarleton on 14th October awaiting Chris and Lesley's arrival.
Peering anxiously out of the window when we woke next morning the sky was grey but it was dry and calm, could be worse. Life jackets were found, anchors put in appropriate places, dogs walked, Chris and Lesley had three with them, and we were ready to go. Cliff and Pat Fazackerley and John and Chris Massey were coming with us and they duly arrived about eleven-thirty but we hadn't expected the coach-load of ramblers who arrived at the same time. The ramblers couldn't believe their luck and proceeded to surround the lock to watch us leave.
Out in the river both engines coped happily with the still rising tide. As we approached five-mile perch the clouds seemed to darken then suddenly the sun broke through and we were heading up the Ribble under blue skies. Two hours and twenty minutes after leaving Tarleton two dark green narrow boats waited patiently against the wall in Preston Lock whilst the somewhat surprised crews of quite a number of assorted yachts and cruisers struggled to keep their craft under control.
The next morning, before a rather wet but otherwise uneventful return trip we cruised round the east end of the dock, the ultimate dead end.
Frank & Irene Parker
The Henrietta was registered at Sallburg. In 1894, with a cargo of timber, she was in tow with the Vixen which did not have enough power, went aground and broke her back at ¼mile. She was bought by Allsops, taken to their yard and stripped.
Afterwards she was taken to vicinity of sewer farm, broke adrift and finished at 4¼ mile south.
The Zealandia of New York, owned by Fisk Trading Co. in the USA and en route from New York to Liverpool skippered by Captain Broadhead, was wrecked on 2nd April 1917 and sank in estuary of the River Ribble. She was carrying a general cargo including sheep.
Her cargo of sheep was taken off and brought ashore in Liverpool. Southport lifeboat did not put out but the above information was taken from Southport lifeboat records so they must have been notified. The first World War was still going on and there would be plenty of vessels about to help so there were very few life boat calls.
She was an iron steamer of 2,739 gross registered tons and was built by J. Elder & Co. of Glasgow (yard no 174) in 1875 with two decks and five bulkheads. Her approximate dimensions were 377 feet long by 37 feet beam with a draught of 18½feet. The 429 horse power 3 cylinder engine, made by her builder, was powered by two boilers and drove a single screw.
The site was marked by wreck buoy until at least the early 1950s as it was in the 1949 PN sailing directions.