We decided that today would be something of a rest day, between the hard slog that was yesterday and the long day that was coming up on Wednesday.
There was only one lock for the whole day (the same pointless one inch drop that we went through on Saturday).
Rather than getting up and eating breakfast on the move, we actually had a civilised start instead, breakfasting all together at the table. Apart from Jerry, who decided to stay in bed.
As we were continuing to head south, we knew that at some point we would get to Anderton, which is not only where we picked up the boat in the first place, it is also home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Inland Waterways: the Anderton Boat Lift.
The boat lift was one of the main reasons for choosing this particular canal for our holiday, and so it was both frustrating and disappointing to find out that we couldn’t book a time slot to go on it.
We tried using their website, but it just wouldn’t allow us to pick a time that worked for us. We tried phoning them, they couldn’t book it for us, but promised to phone back when they’d sorted out some kind of licensing problem (which sounded very much like an excuse).
They never did phone back. But we phoned them, several times. Eventually we were told that all the time slots for the day were taken. Sorry.
It was a shame, but we didn’t let it dampen our spirits. There were plenty of other interesting things to do today, including the three tunnels that we’d gone through when we were here earlier in the week.
To prevent boats from accidentally meeting head on in the middle of the darkness, there are only certain times when you could go through the tunnels. In the southbound direction that time was generally half past the hour until about ten minutes to the hour.
We arrived at the first tunnel, the one that takes 20 minutes to get through, about half an hour before we were allowed to go in. We moored up, and took the opportunity to have lunch (salad, scotch egg, ham) and explore the local area. There was a free book stand, but nothing worth taking.
We were the third boat in the queue to enter the tunnel, but we had moored up a little way back, and some sneaky people on a hire boat barged in front of us, hitting our boat in the process. This gave us all the inspiration we needed to finish up eating quickly, free up the boat and get going – we weren’t going to let anyone get ahead of us!
The Great Duck Food Study continued today, with the first set of experiments – homemade oat biscuits – proving to be a great success.
There are many boats, hundreds of them, moored up along the canal. Some look like permanent fixtures, like they haven’t moved in years (or even decades). One boat though, had moved a lot more than was intended – it was no longer tied to the side of the canal, and was instead blocking the canal completely.
It was time for the not-so Famous Five to leap into action. Elaine hopped onto the towpath, to check if the wayward boat was still tied up at the back. Trevor dashed to the bow of our boat and leapt across onto the bow of the wayward boat. Jerry remained with the Captain, who was driving our boat and shouting orders (as all good captains should), and I… well, as junior member of the team I just sort of stood there and watched it all happen. Best just to keep out of the way, I find, and let the experienced crew save the day.
Within moments it was obvious that there was no crew aboard the wayward boat, and with some gentle nudging from our boat, and a lot of pole action from Trevor, we soon had everything back to where it should be. The wayward boat all tied up. Hopefully when her crew returned, they wouldn’t even know what had happened.
Things settled down for a while after that, and we passed through the next two tunnels without incident, eventually arriving at Anderton.
The Captain, determined to get us on the lift, decided to give it one more try, so she and Elaine got off the boat and enquired about the possibility of going down and up on the lift today at the Anderton Lift visitor centre.
Not only were we able to book a time slot, that time slot was right now, and it was half the price we were quoted on the phone earlier in the day. Bargain.
In a further stroke of good fortune we would be sharing the ride down from the canal to the river (some fifty feet below) with Mr Socks-and-Sandals!
Meeting him again gave Trevor all the excuse he needed to slip on a comfy pair of socks to go along with his sandals, then go and have a chat. Elaine very kindly let Trevor know that if he ever wanted to set foot on the boat again, he’d better take the socks off.
The Anderton lift is over 140 years old, and other than being updated to use electricity in 1908, it remains as it was in 1875. Which means it’s a huge metal construction, with pipes and cogs, and dripping water everywhere.
It is a smooth transition from canal to river, if you closed your eyes you’d barely notice you were moving.
We waved goodbye to Mr Socks-and-Sandals, who headed northbound on the river, and turned our boat around to head straight back into the lift and up to the canal.
Apparently there was a problem with the valve thingy that prevented the big whatsit from doing whatever. To be honest I didn’t listen to what the operator was saying, after 45 minutes of hanging around for a 60 second lift ride I just didn’t care.
Still, we did eventually get going and resumed our journey southward.
Whilst in the Anderton Lift visitor centre earlier, Elaine bought a bag of duck and swan food, and so our second phase of experimentation began. Would the “official” food do any better than our previous offerings?
The short answer is no. No it wouldn’t. Generally most birds turned their beaks up at it. Stuck up ducks. Some however did eat it. The research continues.
We ended the day moored up in a beautiful rural location, perfect for both a barbecue and a few rounds of Uno before calling it a day.