The rain is pattering down outside, and judging by the look of the skies it seems there is more water above us than below, even though we’re already afloat. One of the joys of holidaying in the UK is the unpredictability of the weather, which brings another unknown dimension to the experience we’re having.
If we’re going to tackle the inclement weather head-on there’s probably no better way to do it than from the helm of our narrowboat. We’re not far from Lymm on the approach to Manchester, in a surprisingly rural spot in our green and lovely countryside. The city beckons ahead.
As always on our canal system, surprises are a regular occurrence. If you have any interest in our industrial heritage, or even if you don’t, you can’t fail to be impressed by the engineering skills that helped to create the system in the first place. From our 21st century perspective the canals are a quaint anachronism of a bygone age, green corridors through a verdant land. At their inception, though, they were a bold and highly innovative solution to moving goods and produce around the country in bulk and at speed. When Josiah Wedgewood first starting shipping his valuable pottery, the only way was by pack horse. If you think canals are slow, try taking one of those from Stoke to London laden with china.
This innovation resulted in wonders such as the mile and three-quarter long Harecastle Tunnel which we tackled on Sunday, and the amazing Anderton Lift yesterday (Tuesday). Although strictly we didn’t ‘tackle’ Anderton so much as visit it, a special licence being required to navigate the River Weaver to which the Lift transports boats and their cargo from the Trent & Mersey canal above.
Like so many features of the waterways, when it was first built in 1875 people came from miles around to see the Anderton Lift in operation. After falling into neglect it was brought back to its former glory as a result of a preservation campaign in the 1980’s, and now the site hosts a lively and instructive visitor centre which offers an excellent fried breakfast along with boat trips between the two levels on their resident narrow boats. If you’re in this part of the world an excursion here is highly recommended. Make time to do the trip and you’ll have a very enjoyable and informative day out. You can find out all about it on the Canal & River Trust Website here.
Sunday evening offered one of those magical Summer evenings that are special to England, with no wind, a balmy temperature and the sun casting deep pink and golden hues across the sky. Chugging along gently on not much more than tickover, watching the world go by and feeling connected with it all, was about as good an experience as there is.
So if we have to put up with a few drops of rain today, so be it. At least Manchester is living up to its ‘Rainy City’ moniker. Who knows what further delights are in store?