To Dutton, River Weaver (6 April)

The weather today was not the bright sunshine we had yesterday. As the day progressed, the weather deteriorated into rain. We went further upstream to the limit of BW navigation at the Red Lion, Winsford. Although the area is more industrialised than the Vale Royal Cut, it was still very pleasant with wide sweeping bends and wooded valley sides. The Salt Union rock salt mine just before Winsford was particularly interesting. There was evidence that, because of the hard winter, their piles of salt are a lot smaller than they had been. It was tempting to go onto the Winsford Flash but the dire warnings in the BW literature put us off, especially with Albert being deep-draughted. Winding at the Red Lion was tight, in river terms, but it was perfectly possible.

Salt Union mine near Winsford

We went downstream in time for the 10.30 locking at Vale Royal Large Lock. In response to Steve’s enquiry, at Hunt’s Lock he received an explanation of the operating principles of River Weaver’s un-mechanised larger locks from the lock keeper. The locks are “hand operated”, or more exactly, mechanically operated. The sluice (or ground paddle) mechanisms are circular, and are raised by a pulley and chain system. The gates are opened (and closed) by chains that go diagonally across the lock. Each gate has a mechanism for opening, and a mechanism for closing. The mechanisms are water-driven using turbines with the water supply coming from the head of water above the lock. The water turbines drive a 5-stage reduction gear connected to a clutch. To open the gate the water supply to the turbine is turned on (the sluice opened) and the turbines are spun up. The clutch is then engaged by lever. If the gate is a bit “sticky”, the process can be hand-assisted using a capstan When we went through Vale Royal Large Lock, the mechanisms had to be assisted.

Cylindrical paddle mechanism, River Weaver Navigations
Chain and pulley in foreground with paddle behind

Hydraulic operating system for lock gates, River Weaver Navigations
Capstan in the foreground with clutch in background and gear train below

We stopped for water and lunch at Northwich, by the swing bridge, and then went on past the Anderton Lift onto Saltersford Locks and then Dutton Locks. The locks downstream of the Anderton Lift are all electrically operated. Again all the operators were very helpful and obliging.

MV Chica sunk at Dutton Locks since 1993

We sought out the Devils Garden moorings, which the crew of Blue Toad, the boat we shared Vale Royal lock with yesterday, had recommended. Although not an official mooring, the lockkeeper at Dutton gave us detailed instructions of its location and we found it easily. The Devils Garden is indeed a delightful mooring although it it is now raining so we cannot enjoy it fully. You should note that uphill from Dutton Locks on the River Weaver is Dutton on the Trent & Mersey Canal, hence the title of this posting.

Devil's Garden moorings

Today we saw jays, and a shellduck. However, when were passed by an oystercatcher we knew we were close to the sea. Tomorrow we plan to get to the docks at Runcorn, to look at the Manchester Ship Canal, and then return up the Lift.