Pies, piers, canals, cruises and art, part 2

On Wednesday morning I checked my Metro app and was delighted to find that the trams were back to 'good service'. Had to pay on the bus into Bury (£2.50) as it was ridiculously early and another £7 for the return tram ride to Salford Quays. The tram cruised through Victoria station without stopping and we changed at Cornbrook for the spur into what's now known as MediaCityUK, where both the BBC and ITV have their studios. We crossed a bridge towards the Lowry and round the corner spotted the 10am ferry - Snowdrop - it was 9.30am and already full of pensioners!

The Lowry footbridge

We joined the queue to get aboard and grabbed a bit of a bench on the forward left-hand side. I got some teas in before we set off -  bacon baps were already being prepared for the breakfast rush. It was a lovely day and we went under the Lowry footbridge (all the bridges, except the high level ones, raised or swung for us), past the Imperial War Museum North and Coronation Street and into the first set of locks, Mode Wheel locks (named after Maud, according to the woman giving the running commentary). There are five sets of locks in total, and they mostly account for the predicted six-hour journey to the Mersey. Out of Manchester it was much more rural than I expected, with lots of birdlife to spot: herons, cormorants, and baby ducks having to ride out the wash.

Mode wheel locks

We passed countless swing bridges, swing aqueducts and deserted railway bridges, and after Irlam locks, we had our first glimpse of the Mersey, which would join and leave the Ship Canal several times.

The River Mersey!

Apparently building the canal had cut through several ancient rights of way, so every now and again there'd be a ferryman to take ramblers across the water in rowing boats.


Eventualy the canal widened and we saw a lot more industry - oil refineries and chemical works, one with its own island church.

Island church

 But amongst all this industry there were islands where sheep grazed, brought over in the farmer's boat. Sheep jetty

As we approached Liverpool the weather had got worse, the sun went in and it was windy and cold. Finally we reached Eastham locks, where we had to wait for an age for a ship to come in - the tide was ebbing and it'd get stuck unless we let it through. It was fascinating however to watch the tugs (all with names beginning with V) inch the Gibraltan tanker into the lock and out into the canal.

 Eastham locks

We were now at sea and heading for the Liverpool skyline in the distance. It had taken around seven hours and we just had time for a couple of pints in the Pump House at Albert Dock before getting a coach back to Salford and home to Bury. A great day out! Book your trip here.

Career seeking missile 2011

On Thursday I was heading home to Brighton, but set off early to see if I could check out the Ryan Gander exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery (it used to be called Manchester City Art Gallery but must have changed its name after pressure from United fans). I'd never heard of him until a Culture Show on tv. I got the tram to St Peter's Square (£4.10 for a single!) and the guard at the art gallery kindly let me put my case behind his desk. It was the first day of the show and the staff were still putting final touches to installations. It was fascinating however, one of those shows where you have to question everything you see. Is that crumpled piece of paper on the floor art (yes)? Is that guard (or rather Gallery Visitor Services staff member) reading a book (William Morris's News from Nowhere) art (yes!). Are you allowed to take a badge from the ice cream container (no)? Are you allowed to look behind the curtain (maybe)?

 Investigation #14 The privilege of hindsight 2010

It was only later reading the guide on the train that I noticed I'd missed one or two pieces. Luckily, the friendly guard at the door had told me of other pieces scattered about the gallery: the Degas ballerina and Yves Klein blue cube (depicting the public perception of modern art) in the entrance hall, the chess set in the Design department, so thankfully I saw most of it! So glad I did. He's a sort of Jeremy Deller or Martin Creed but with a devilish sense of humour. Loved it.

It was time to hit the train. Manchester has free circular buses so I jumped on a Metroshuttle 3 right outside the gallery that took me directly to Piccadilly station, thence to Euston and via the tube (cos the train was delayed), back to Victoria and home.


Pies, piers, canals, cruises and art, part 1

I was to be Up North for a family wedding so I though I'd stay on a few days and book myself on my first cruise - down the Manchester Ship Canal from Salford Quays (now rebranded Media City) to Liverpool pier head, on a Mersey Ferry. When I told my sister about it, she booked my brother-in-law on the same trip, the Wednesday after the wedding.

Remains of Bury Odeon!

The journey Up North on Thursday 26 June was smooth as always, although the train I was meant to be on from Euston had been cancelled due to something at Watford. The next one, via Crewe (what was that steam loco outside the Heritage Centre?), got in in time for me to have a coffee and catch the bus to Bury, detoured around Victoria station.

Valerie's Snack Bar, Bury Market

Friday I had a wander round Bury, seeing the hole where the Odeon once stood, buying a Harrington jacket (£20 compared with the £30 I paid in Brighton) and waterproof flat cap on the market, taking photos of pies, having some black peas for lunch and finishing off at th'art gallery, where a text festival was going on. Had a coffee and cake in the little cafe upstairs, then explored the new sculpture gallery that has taken over half of the library.

Bury Sculpture Gallery

Saturday was the wedding and the splendid reception was in a country house called Haigh Hall (pronounced Hay Hall) near Wigan. We didn't see much of Wigan so I thought I'd return on Monday for a look around. On Sunday I used up one of my ELR member's free rides on a round trip, pulled by 80080. The only other steamer was W^D 132 Sapper pulling a lunch special.

80080 at Rawtenstall

On Monday I caught the bus to Bolton, thence another to Wigan, via Westhaughton (where the wedding was) which made several detours round housing estates and thought I'd search out the museum before my quest to discover Wigan pier. Wigan is quite hilly and after a stop at a Wetherspoons (The moon under water) to use their facilities, eventually found the museum, which had a very small display of George Formby memorabilia. What I didn't realise until back home was that there was a statue of George in a modern shopping centre that I'd walked past!

Wigan Pier

It was a bit of a schlep to the canal, via Trencherfield Mill, which has a giant steam engine open on Sundays, but I eventually found a sign pointing me in the right direction. Wigan Pier is basically a restored 'tippler', where coal was tipped onto the barges. Having taken some snaps I thought I'd pop over to The Orwell pub across the water, but it was shut. I got a bus back to Wigan, a pint in the Wetherspoons and a quick look round the market for the famous pie stall, to no avail. Well, it was a Monday! I got a different bus back to Bolton.

Heath and Safety, Bolton

Tuesday, I returned to Bolton, but by the scenic route. I popped into Bury to find out how the Metro was running for tomorrow. The staff at the travel shop at Bury Interchange were very unhelpful, pointing to a Metro person in hi-vis who told me to check the website in the morning. Today they were terminating at Crumpsall with a replacement bus to the city centre. The Rosso 480 bus I took to Bolton took me up Walshaw Road to Greenmount, Hawkshaw and Affetside with great views. After a walk round Bolton market, I popped into the art gallery to see Naughton and Moran's Paintings of the American West - one big painting by Thomas Moran (born in Bolton) and a few etchings and watercolours plus paintings inspired by them both big and small (I preferred the smaller ones) by James Naughton. No cafe at the art gallery so I popped across the road to the Octagon Theatre for a hearty soup and cappuccino. Very soon I was besieged by academics in their robes - they were installing a new chancellor or something.

To be continued...