Monday, 3 October 2011
Sunday 2nd October
I got up to go to the loo about 12.30am and looked out of the window to see the Swan family swimming past us – I thought it was rather late to have such a young family out and the photo I took this morning at 10.30am shows that I was right – dirty rotten stops outs! We woke up to a grey day – not what we were used to or what we expected :-( In fact while we eating breakfast it started to rain a little. We set off in drizzle (the forecast was for the last nice day today) and I was down below working on the blog when I started to smell the Northwich Chemical Works :-( It really was awful. We actually passed a hire boat moored up just before the works – you would have thought that they could have found somewhere better! It wasn’t long before we arrived at the Anderton Boat Lift. The lift was designed by Edwin Clark and built in 1875. The lift was the world’s first and was built to speed up the movement of cargoes carrying salt, coal and clay between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal. The 50ft height difference between the two waterways was a constant problem and Clark’s solution was to use a revolutionary new system of hydraulics which could transport canals boats between the two waterways without the need for loading and unloading. By 1904 a major overhaul was needed but the use of river water has caused serious corrosion to the lift’s hydraulics. The hydraulic rams were removed and a massive assembly of shafts, gears, weights, wheels and pulleys were erected over the lift. With the addition of an electric motor the modified lift was completed in 1908. The lift was closed in 1983 after serious corrosion was discovered during a routine inspection. By this stage the lift was a Scheduled Ancient Monument but it laid silent for nearly 20 years until a successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund secured £3.3 million towards the £7 million cost of restoration. The main work commenced in March 2000 and finished in March 2002. The lift is now back to its original working order using hydraulic operation with the 1908 structure and pulley wheels retained as a static monument. We gingerly motored into a holding area and a large guillotine gate shut us in. Once that was shut another, in front of us, was raised and we moved forward into one of the tanks (caisson). Once that gate was shut we started our descent. Each caisson is supported on a single giant ram which is hydraulically connected to the ram on the other caisson so as one goes up the other goes down. Large pumps in the building below the aqueduct pump the hydraulic oil from one cylinder to the other lowering the upper caisson and raising the other. It is an amazing feat of engineering and a fascinating way of going from one waterway to another! All too soon we were out onto the River Weaver and heading towards Northwich. We moored up just after the town swing bridge just in time as the rain came down with a vengeance :-( Richard lit the fire so that we felt snuggy but before we knew where we were we had all the doors and windows open as we were far too hot!