Worsley

Like Runcorn, Worsley is another place I would never think to go but for the canals.  Also, like Runcorn, it is on a branch of the Bridgewater Canal although in this instance it ultimately leads somewhere – to Leigh and a branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Despite its proximity to Manchester’s extensive motorways and the industrial centre of Trafford Park, Worsley is significantly more prosperous than Runcorn; it is almost prettified. The approach by canal requires a high level crossing of the Manchester Ship Canal, achieved by the remarkable Barton Swing Aqueduct – a waterborne route designed to swing open for the passage of ships beneath.  I don’t know if the aqueduct is still able to swing nor if it is ever necessary – large shipping into Manchester ceased many years ago. I last passed this way in 1980 when the bridge was still manned:

… crossing the Manchester Ship Canal by water.

… the Barton Swing Aqueduct – a view of the Manchester Ship Canal and Barton Road Bridge

The canal is at Worsley’s centre, overlooked by the magnificent Packet Housethis grade 2 listed building, and the Boat Steps directly in front of it, date back to 1760 and the half-timbering was added in c.1850 by the 1st Earl of Ellesmere. You would have purchased your ticket for the ‘packet boat’ at the Packet House and boarded at the Boat Steps.

To the right of the Packet House is the entrance to the Delph, a forty six mile underground canal system  which intersected with coal mines to the north.  It was built on four different levels and connected by a water powered inclined plane and lifts.  There is a neat symmetry to this engineering marvel.  The underground waterways provided a connection from the mines to the surface, transporting coal on narrow thin-ribbed boats nicknamed starvationers.  The canals provided an effective drainage system for the waterlogged pits and the water from the pits helped feed the canal.  The bright orange of the system around Worsley provides ongoing evidence that the supply system remains in place. The Delph and its tunnels are my idea of hell – the creepy 2926 yard Harecastle Tunnel is as subterranean as I am prepared to get.  The final image shows an inspector legging a starvationer in the 1960s (I assume the water levels have risen since the tunnels were last used commercially, that or working conditions were even worse than I imagined).

The Packet House

The Boat House

Filling the water tank

… heading back to the Bridgewater mainline.

This photograph was taken during an inspection of the Underground Canal in Worsley in the 1960s – sourced from: http://www.canalarchive.org.uk/Tpages/html/T1688.html

Advertisements

Runcorn

One of the benefits of travel on the English canals is that it takes you places you would never think to go, some by routes hardly ever used. Why else would you think to go to Runcorn. The branch that leaves the Bridgewater at Preston Brook once connected this stretch of inland water to the much grander Manchester Ship Canal but, no more. The locks that connected Runcorn’s Waterloo Basin with the Mersey and later, the Manchester Ship Canal have been filled in but their outlines remain and it is still possible to walk much of the route. The Unlock Runcorn website provides the full history and the hope that one day this route will return to navigation.

It is not the Bridgewater Canal that predominates in Runcorn, it is the bridges – the Runcorn Railway Bridge opened in 1868 (also known as the Ethelfleda Bridge) and the Silver Jubilee Road Bridge opened in July 1961. The bridges span both the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey at Runcorn Gap – I suspect most speed across without being aware of the town beneath. It isn’t pretty but it has its attractions:

Silver Jubilee and Railway Bridges, Runcorn

The bright side of Runcorn

Waterloo Bridge, Runcorn

Silver Jubilee Bridge, Runcorn

The Clarendon, Runcorn

The Chambers Building, Runcorn

The ‘beach’, Runcorn

More motorcycle diaries

I have been neglecting this blog.  The weather has been unusually good, flaming June has given Northumberland a taste of Tuscany or, should that be North-umbria. These images, which have all appeared on Blip, explain the neglect – there will be plenty of time to sit at the keyboard over the winter months 😦  – frost and snow are not conducive to bikes or golf:

Green Rigg

… to Carter Bar via Carlisle and Hawick – 134 miles

The Monster – clean and at rest

Press start for instant exhilaration

Skid risk … actually a certainty with steep gradients and hairpins.

To Vindolanda under hot Northumbrian skies

Distant relatives

It has taken time but, with the persistence of an unreformed trainspotter, I have concluded that this motorcycle is a Triumph 494cc Model P.  Standing proudly in front of the sidecar is my mother aged about four while Mrs Kipper sits, queen-like, on her mobile throne.  The motorcycle was introduced  at the 1924 Motor Cycle Show and fits perfectly with family chronology – this photograph was probably taken by my grandfather around 1926-27 and I would guess the machine is nearly new, just possibly on its maiden voyage.

Motorcycle diaries

The tell-tale signs are the shape and markings on the fuel tank, the forks and the size and shape of the guards which distinguish it from the Triumph Ricardo.  All of the minor details match images of other Model Ps. The number plate indicates it was registered in Portsmouth, an invigorating fifty mile ride from Andover.

According to Bonhams, the Model P was a landmark machine in the development of the motorcycle in Britain.  A no-frills, sidevalve-engined model, the newcomer was priced at £42 17s 6d, at which level it undercut every other 500cc machine then on sale in the UK. The first batch manufactured was not without its faults, but once these had been sorted the Model P was a runaway success. Output from Triumph’s Priory Street works was soon running at an astonishing 1,000 machines per week, and the Model P’s arrival undoubtedly hastened the demise of many a minor manufacturer.  At auction, a restored Model P will now sell for around £9000.

As the owner of a Triumph Scrambler, I now know there is a distant connection with my maternal grandfather’s choice of machinery, at a time when there were many more manufacturers to choose from. My Scrambler is an 865 cc, air-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin.  You can trace the origin of this machine back through the 1959 T120 Bonneville, the 1953 Tiger T110, the 1950 Thunderbird and the 1938 Triumph Speed Twin.  My bike and that of my grandfather’s are not so distantly related as might be imagined.

The Scrambler, back at Crindledykes on new rubber – Michelin Anakees

 

 

Going back

When I want to go back, I head for the sea.  For all our modern advances, our relationship with sand and water is unchanged in my lifetime.  These images could have been taken any time in the last sixty years. There is a quality of light in the sky as you approach the sea which is apparent long before you arrive at the coast. It is this I remember from long ago summer holidays, summers when the sands were too hot to walk on barefoot. I am still drawn by that light:

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

Alnmouth beach

Alnmouth beach

Alnmouth beach

Behind the dunes is the wonderful Alnmouth Village Golf Course, the oldest 9-hole course in England. On this day the fairways were brown and hard meaning the ball would run forever.  By comparison, the greens were islands of lush green.  I was frustrated not to be playing – in my head, sand sea and golf are inseparable.

Alnmouth Village golf course

George William MacKay

It was early morning, 12th April 1912.  The house was slowly coming to life and George was wide awake, in his excitement he had hardly slept. Some last tearful farewells to the early morning maids, a final check that his tickets were secure in his pocket and quietly he slipped the safe moorings of 11 Queens Gate, Kensington and his life as a footman.  Emerging from the collonaded porch, he touched the iron railings one last time, turned left and then right onto Prince Consort Road, heading for Waterloo and the 07:45 train to Southampton.  He was dressed in his Sunday best suit and wearing a Sunday smile, he did not look back.  The city was already bustling with the clatter of hooves and the too familiar smell of horse manure, soon to be replaced by the salt sea air he had known as a boy.

The young George had only just turned twenty but already he had travelled far from his humble beginnings on a croft near Tongue, in Sutherland.  One of twelve children to William and Christina MacKay, he was determined to better himself.  Too often he had heard tales of regret, of lives half lived in the bitter north. George, the Heilam Ferryman, spoke of nothing else, his plans as a young man to travel to Canada and how he was persuaded to stay by the Duke of Sutherland – this George would not make the same mistake.

The third class boat train from Waterloo pulled into Southampton Docks at 09:30, stopping at 43/44 berth. Clutching a small brown suitcase and ticket 42795, George alighted into the Dockside sheds, crossed the road, controlled by a man with a red flag and momentarily stood awe-struck by the sheer overwhelming size of the ship – it was beyond anything he could have imagined.  Nothing like this was ever seen in the Kyle.

As a third class passenger George had a simple berth, shared with six other passengers.  Keen to escape the claustrophobia of steerage and the company of strangers, many of whom could not speak English, he quickly found his way to the open decks.  He was there when the ship cast off and was towed into the River Test by tugboats, there for the near collision with USMS New York, there when Cherbourg appeared on the French coast and there when the ship set sail for Cobh in the dim light of an April evening.

All the while he grasped ticket 42795.  It had cost £7 11s, all his savings, but he was bound for Rochester and a new life in Detroit.  Of one thing he was certain, he was never going back.

… the memorial at Torrisdale Cemetery, Skerray, Tongue

Erected
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
GEORGE WILLIAM MACKAY
CLAICKBEA
SON OF
WILLIAM AND CHRISTINA MACKAY
WHO WAS LOST IN THE TITANIC
DISASTER, 15TH APRIL 1912
AGED 20 YEARS
“BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART
FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD,” MATT V, VIII
PUT UP BY HIS FRIENDS IN LONDON

George’s body was never found.

This imagined story is based on information kindly supplied by my friend and researcher Gillean Ford.  The details are gleaned from various sources including encyclopedia-titanica.org, nmni.com (National Museums Northern Ireland), titanicfacts.net and alookthrutime.wordpress.com – Third Class Life on the Titanic.

Orkney Light

“The essence of Orkney’s magic is silence, loneliness and the deep marvelous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light” – George Mackay Brown – 1921-1996

The Ring of Brodgar with incoming snow

Standing Stones of Stenness

.Across the Loch of Stenness

Across the Loch of Stenness

The Ring of Brodgar, one day later

Oil rigs on Scapa Flow

Skara Brae

The Orkney imagination is haunted by time – George Mackay Brown