Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Grappenhall and the Ship Canal

Friday, 9th November

Hil fancied a look round the exhibition at the Anderton Lift (or "Anderton Lift Experience" as it's now known) this morning, but they don't open until 11 in winter and with the short days we couldn't spare the time. We got the timing right for Saltersford and Preston Brook Tunnels. Boats can only enter for 20 minutes in each hour at Saltersford and a mere ten minutes at Preston Brook, although I must admit that we cheated a little there. Northbound passage is from the hour until 10 past and southbound from half-past to twenty-to the hour. Unlike Saltersford you can see through the tunnel at Preston Brook so when at 1255 there was no sign of an oncoming boat and it was then too late for one to enter we "jumped the lights" so to speak.

We passed the rather sinister looking government complex at Daresbury (definitely NO MOORING!) and stopped at the handy canalside shop at Moore for some supplies. However, it was by now obvious that our original target for the night, Lymm, was a tad ambitious so we opted for Grappenhall, stopping in time to take a walk in the late afternoon sun.

Grappenhall is very much a village of two parts. North of the canal it is part of the amorphous sprawl of Warrington suburbia, but to the south the old part of the village remains, with the church and two pubs standing on the old cobbled main street.
Grappenhall church and one of the village's two pubs
Fancying a longer walk, we carried on along the canal for a mile or two then cut across the fields to the village of Thelwall and down to the "penny ferry" that takes pedestrians across the Manchester Ship Canal. I was vaguely aware that such ferries still existed but was still surprised to see a modern landing stage and equally modern open boat standing waiting.

The "Penny Ferry" at Thelwall
An old wetherbeaten sign informed that "From 17th October 1882" the ferry would operate between the hours of 7am and 9am; 12 and 2pm; and 4 to 7pm.  A more modern notice in the ferryman's hut window confirmed that these times still operate today (albeit in 24-hour clock!). The ferryman was there and would have been willing to take us across, but it was nearly dark and there's nowhere much to go on the other side so we'd have wanted to come straight back again. It didn't seem fair to put him to the trouble, especially as the fare is nominal. (It's not called the "penny ferry" for nothing.)

Instead we re=traced our steps tp Thelwall village and called in for an early pint at the pub.
Pickering Arms, Thelwall
Despite Thelwall being in a rather upmarket part of Cheshire the Pickering Arms turned out to rather more down-to-earth than we had feared. Unfortunately the only local beer they had on was a "blonde ale", which to my mind is just lager without the fizz, so I had to settle for a pint of Doom Bar - more or less a national brand nowadays.

We did think about venturing out again to try one of Grappenhall's two pubs after tea but the rain was so heavy and it was so warm and cosy on the boat that we couldn't be bothered!

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