Sunday, 9 October 2011
Wednesday 5th October
When I opened the curtain this morning I saw cows and panicked! As there hadn’t been any sign of cows in the field last night we hadn’t worried about my plants but I was not extremely concerned that they might have eaten the plants during the night – but all was well :-) We had a fairly early start as we wanted to get down to the end of the river and then back to Anderton as we were booked on the last lift at 15.45. The countryside was quite open down to Frodsham. We went under the Sutton Swing Bridge carrying A56 which, as a child, I travelled along many times as my aunt used to live in Frodsham. I even remember having to wait at the swing bridge but don’t remember any ships going through! After the swing bridge is a viaduct for the railway and then the M56 bridge. After that the huge Weston Point chemical works. The earliest reference I can find to a plant being on the site is 1840 when the landscape was dominated by the giant chimneys (the largest being about 100 metres high) of the two soap and alkali works (Hazlehursts and Johnson) which were of national importance. By 1863 Johnsons had switched from soap manufacture to heavy chemicals and changed their name to Runcorn Soap & Alkali Co. Ltd. After the difficulties of the 1890s the chemical industry expanded again and The Salt Union built a vacuum plant at Weston Point. In 1916 the company became associated with Brunner Mond & Co. and eventually four chemical companies merged to form Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in 1926. In 1939 the Salt Union became the Salt Division of I.C.I. and has remained the largest single employer with about 6,500 in the 1970's. In the 1980's the number employed in the chemical industry began to decline rapidly, and in the 1990's I.C.I. sold its factories in Runcorn to INEOS. All this is a long way from when my two cousins and I used to sit on the top of Frodsham Hill and yell ICICI – get it? Well we were only about 12 at the time I guess! We carried on to Weston Marsh Lock where the river goes into the Manchester Ship Canal. It was very windy down there so we didn't linger and went back up the river at a rate of knots with a strong wind behind us. Upstream of Dutton Locks are two interesting craft. One is a sunken fishing boat called Chica and the other a lovely tug called Kennet. I asked the lock keeper about both and she said that Chica had been a fishing boat which was converted into a hotel boat. She ran between Liverpool and the Anderton Boat Lift and spent the winter moored up at Dutton Lock. As with many wooden boats Chica leaked a bit. She had a wind powered bilge pump but in March 1993 there was a period of about 10 days or so when there was no wind which meant that the generator had not been able to top up the batteries sufficiently and the pump stopped working and within ½ hour Chica had sunk. The tug Kennet was built in 1931for the Thames Conservancy and was used for many years towing maintenancers on the river above Oxford. In 1973, she was rescued from an Iver scrap yard, starting a Thames pleasure craft life, based at Windsor and visiting Henley. For many years she was loaned to Gloucester Docks and Sharpness Canal Museum until she was sold in 2008 to Tim Leech who owns Dutton Dry Dock, near Preston Brook on the Trent and Mersey but who lives on the River Weaver. We were booked on the last lift at Anderton and had arranged to meet Richard’s friend Dave there. We were a little early so went up to Northwich to empty the toilet and get rid of rubbish and then went back to the lift. We shared the lift with another boat and seemed to get up much quicker than coming down!! Dave, who is with us for 24 hours, met us at the top and we moored up just outside the lift. We went to the Stanley Arms for dinner and had an extremely good meal but they could do with sorting out their wine!