Waste of Time
Of course it's never a waste of time travelling along the cut, especially late afternoon or early evening when there's no one else around on a sunny, still day. The boat glides through the water, cutting through the mirror reflection and everything feels just a little bit better, even if only for a while...
We had previously travelled along the Rufford Branch with the ultimate aim of emptying our waste tank at the Sparks Bridge services. As we still had a week or so left before the job needed to be done, we moored up near the old hall on a particularly pretty part of the canal for a week.
The following weekend we were ready to move on. The services are only a little further on so Mr F suggested that we extend our cruising by going right to the end of the branch at Tarleton where there is a lock onto the River Douglas. This lock enables boaters to cross onto the isolated Lancaster canal using the 'Ribble Link'. There is a place to 'wind' (turn) the boat there (although we had never been in the current boat so we hoped we could get round or there would be a bit of reversing to do!).
It always feels a privilege to see a beautiful bird of prey hovering in the sky
Snow capped Winter Hill in the distance
Just after this swing bridge we got grounded on a really shallow concrete ledge on the bridge mooring. We should have known better as this has happened to us before but only when it has been really windy , making it hard to keep the front end out whilst trying to reverse or pole the back end out. It wasn't particularly windy but there was enough to cause us a bit of faffing with poles at both end of the boat for fifteen minutes or so. Normally when we go through this bridge it is just to turn round a bit further up, I usually wait at the bridge to save having to stop and Mr F turns the boat and comes back through. We decided that we would avoid getting stuck the way back, I would hop off at a convenient place and walk down to the open the bridge.
Cormorant taking flight
The canal becomes twisting and turning now as it follows the original line of the River Douglas that was diverted.
The cormorants disappear and pop up huge distances away in such a short time, they are amazing divers. They stand on the banks holding their wings out to dry which make them look like little pterodactyls!
After a mile or so of meandering though the fields with nothing in sight we happen upon a little bridge and old canalside mill
The engine does sound good with our tall exhaust stack reverberating off the stone
There is one final swing bridge and then a long stretch of visitor mooring, presumably for the boats waiting to do the crossing. At this time of year (before the crossings resume with the tides) it was just us and another boat. There is a boatyard just ahead and this was where we took our other boat for epoxy coating the hull.
The boatyard staff operate the lock and there are moored boats including some more seaworthy looking vessels. It's a bit 'industrial' but all the more interesting for it.
The lock on the right and the River Douglas on the left. The water level was low and the flow quite fast.
Having successfully turned the boat with an inch or so to spare, I managed to hop off at the point where the bow was in the bank. This meant I could walk up to open the swing bridge saving us stopping twice. It also afforded me this photo opportunity of the River Douglass and the Rufford Branch of the Leeds Liverpool Canal running alongside each other with only a narrow strip of land to separate them
Winding back through the open farmland, taken from the pointy end
The photo above shows where I decided to hop off in preparation for the swing bridge on the return journey. It used to be the river lock onto the Douglas until the new lock was built at Tarleton
The offending swing bridge
It's a bit blurred but the white blob is a barn owl. It is common for them to hunt early evening, especially in winter when food is scarce. It's always a delight to be treated to the sight of these graceful, silent hunters
We arrived back at the services at Sparks Bridge where we planned to stay for the week. Jack Snipe is a lovely looking boat that has just had a paint freshen up since we were last in these parts
Another boat moored just through the road bridge, framed nicely for the camera
The swans are never far away when there might be a sniff of some food
The following morning greeted by blue skies and perfectly still water...spring is definitely in the air
The next morning, true to form, the British weather gave us some frost!
And with the spring and the frost comes ...Lambs!