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Day 9 – Crooke to Tarleton

Michael Tyler


Owner and main contributor to the site.

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Today saw the introduction of swing bridges to the list of contraptions I need to man and manipulate.

During the course of my journey from Crooke to Tarleton, I had to pass through 9 working and perhaps 3 or more derelict.

Swing bridges on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Finch Mill Swing bridgeFrom what I can make out, these exist way rights of way still exist to cross the canal.

Sometimes they are passed by road, sometimes by tracks, sometimes by paths or seemingly nothing.

But they’re still there, adding something to the countryside I guess. And I have to pass through them. Nearly 10 of them on the course of my journey.

For those on the top of my journey, where I as sailing alone, not in convoy, the moorings were always on the other side.

That meant, once I’d operated the machinery, my boat was not reachable.

All swing gates are the same. In theory it takes 2 people to operate them. One to operate the machinery and push the bridge, and the other to man the boat.

For me, this wasn’t possible. Passing through on my own meant I had to be flexible with my mooring.

I practice, I had to moor the boat to the bridge itself, which would pull it through when I opened.

Then I would drive in through at an angle and jump of the stern, and moor it again, to the swing-bridge whilst I closed the bridge.

Probably took about 20 minutes.

Had to do it 3 times. The last time, I nearly fell in the canal and smashed my knee on the gunwales. Kept me awake. So it’s safe to say, these swing bridges are not my friends.

Locks on the Leeds and Liverpool

Expect to be using your ‘handcuff key’. You will be needed it.

Every lock up to Tarleton on the Ribble has them. They look like this.

BWB Handcuff Key
BWB Handcuff Key

You can pick them up from Canal and River Trust shops.

They cost £5. The girl that I was locking up and down with on the Leeds had one spare which I swopped for a leek.

These things are sometime called ‘water conservation keys’ which is a bit of a misnomer, as swing bridges up here have them on as well.

Believe me, they don’t conserve water. They stop people fiddling with the locks. Which in the middle of no-where, like the swing-bridges, seems nothing more than a remnant of the past than a virtue or asset to the British waterway system.

Still. I suppose it’s ‘traditional’ and it stays.


So… Got stuck behind the duck race in Parbold. Took the opportunity to knock up a sandwich and chat to the people at the CRT, who had a stand right next to where I was moored.

It was a festival…

They don’t usually have ducks racing, they’re not that cruel.

I waited had a tea, when the ducks had all disappeared and the hullabaloo had died down, I cleared my stuff and got underway.

Shortly up the canal, you come to the Rufford branch of the Leeds and Liverpool. This leads all the way up to the Ribble via the Douglas river.

Burscough to Rufford

Shortly outside the Glover’s Swing Bridge in Burscough, I was approach by a woman wanting to double up on the locks.

My locking partners were stopping in Rufford and I planned to do so also, but didn’t like the look of the moorings, so continued on to Tarleton.

After telling them my story, and how I was planning to stay in Rufford because I needed an anti-vandal key, she donate one of hers. I believe she had three. I said thanks. She wanted me to do a good dead for a fellow boater, so we’ll have to see what comes along.

There are two marinas in Rufford, her and her husband were moving their boat to St. Mary’s Marina. They feature in the timelapse video below.

River Douglas old path

River DouglasShortly after Rufford, you enter the old path of the river Douglas. In the 18th Century, this was used as a navigation channel for coal boats passing on to the Ribble.

The Douglas follows a new path to the East.

After negotiating the Town End swing-bridge, my journey is over.

Tomorrow, I have to catch the tide from Tarleton locks and sail onto the River Ribble which will take me onto the Lancashire canal and the final leg of my northward journey.

Map of Day 9

Video – Day 9

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One comment:

  1. Looking good. I know what you mean about swing bridges they are really difficult for a lone boater I never found them very friendly either 🙂 It was nice of that lady to give you a key……I’m sure you’ll have pleanty of opportunity to do a good deed for another boater 🙂 lots of locks today we watched the video….it was good that you had company. Nice countryside too.
    Looks as if the weather is being kind to you…lucky fellow

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