The spectacular Anderton Boat Lift, Northwich, Cheshire.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Another Sunday, another drive out to explore what there is to see around us. This time we ended up at a rather marvellous show of Victorian engineering - the Anderton Boat Lift. I don't think I can capture just how astonishing this is, even with pictures - so please, if you get the opportunity to visit I beg you to do so.

As you can see, the main structure is absolutely huge! I didn't anticipate turning a corner and seeing quite what I saw. Unlike Mike, I'm not engineering or mechanical minded - but this is something else. You walk down a hill from the car park, and the lift slowly comes into view - there are tended gardens and even a maze for the children nearby (the maze is made from the old weights used at the lift!) but the centerpiece is the lift itself.
It all started in 1875, when a gentleman named Edwin Clark recognised the problem faced by factories when transporting goods via the Trent & Mersey Canal and the River Weaver. Due to the fifty foot difference in height between the two, workers would have to unload the cargo, then load it onto carts, to load it back onto barges for it to continue on its journey to the major trading cities.
The solution: creating a structure which was made up of two huge water tanks, with sealable doors which could carry barges either up to the canal or down to the river. This was a marvellous feat of hydraulic engineering (although it was converted to electronics as the years went by), and it worked reliably until 1983 when it was discovered the structure had suffered some serious deterioration. Thanks to the work of volunteers, funding was raised (over 7 million pounds!) and the lift was restored back to its former glory.

Now you can visit the Boat Lift, and learn about the story behind both its construction and the restoration - two wonderfully enthralling stories which are perfectly illustrated in the museum located on site, along with a coffee shop which serves food - and of course, a gift shop selling various canal and waterway related paraphernalia.

Something I didn't expect to see while we visited, was the Boat Life in action! Unfortunately our memory card misbehaved so I can't share the video I did get, but I did save a snapshot of the boats leaving when they reached the bottom of the lift itself. It was a sight to behold - and the sounds of the lift working are worth a visit too.

We had a great day visiting, I only wish we'd have packed a little lunch and stayed sat out in the sunshine watching the lift a little bit longer than we did - the atmosphere was lovely, even with a wedding party in a marquee at the bottom of the lift in the field with us.

The map above highlights where you can find the Anderton Boat Lift - please let me know via comments if you end up going to have a visit, I'd love to know your thoughts!

Car-Care-101 How we get our car ready for a road trip!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

As you may already know, we spend a lot of time driving around the UK looking for places to visit and explore - either as a couple or with the children. Usually, Mike is the designated driver and that's 'his' side of things. That all changed this week as my provisional driving licence arrived, meaning that I'm going to be making the big step and learning to drive. Scary!

So on Friday morning, Mike took me out to our car and I learned the basics of Car-Care-101. Lets pop the hood and have a good look underneath!

Checking all fluid levels:
Make sure you check on the fluid levels in your car - from water to brake fluid, this stops any unnecessary breakdowns and stress when you're out in the middle of nowhere. The fluids you should be making sure you have topped up are water, windscreen wash, brake fluid and oil (which I'll go into detail with next!).

Checking the oil:
This can be done by taking out the dipstick, wiping it clean, popping it back in and then again pulling it out so you can get a fresh reading of the oil level in the car. If you think that you're close to needing to change the oil then do it - and replace the oil filter along with it. Something that you need to remember is that you need to change the oil completely - you can't just top up your vehicle with fresh oil because the waste from the oil previously in there will still be there. Oil is not screen wash!

Checking the lights and replacing bulbs:
We always have spare bulbs in the car as Mike hates it if one goes out and he can't replace it straight away. But try to get into the habit of having spare bulbs as obviously, its better to be prepared for the inevitable. Checking for faults with lights is obviously easier with two people so you can have one person testing lights and one person watching for any faults, especially when it comes to brake lights and indicator bulbs. This is also a good time to make sure your lights are aligned to your liking, especially if you are heading out on an overnight drive. Mike does this by using the fence in the car park near our home, at night. You can see where your headlights are aligned according to the lights visible on the fence in front of you.

Checking your tyres:
Checking the air pressure in your tyres is important and can be done at your local garage - you can find your cars ideal tyre pressures in the manual which came with the car. Don't forget to check the air pressure on your spare tyre too - it saves a lot of trouble if you keep the spare well maintained. The tyres themselves should also have a healthy amount of tread - too much wear and tear and you'll have to make the decision to buy new tyres. Centres up and down the UK such as Point S Colne Tyre Centre in Lancashire can make this much easier by ensuring you buy good quality, drive-safe tyres - unsatisfactory, unsafe tyres can lead to accidents so please make sure you take your tyre safety seriously.

So we are good to go - are you? What are your essential Car-Care-101 tips and tricks?

More importantly - what are your driving lesson experiences? I'm so nervous!

Sankey Valley, Cheshire - Part 3.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Another visit to Sankey Valley! This time we wanted to explore the visitors centre - unfortunately, it was closed on the Saturday afternoon we went so we made do with a little wander through the woods and around the area.

The trail is clean and tidy, and again - very busy with dog walkers. If you stay on the paved pathways you can have a lovely walk whatever the weather but if you go off of the main path be warned - it can be very muddy! I made the mistake of wearing my white converse for this trip and they needed a blitz in the washing machine when I got back (although I did collect a cute little sausage dog paw print on them from an excitable little friend I met)!

The canal is back for this section of the valley, as you can see, and its a popular feeding spot for a whole host of ducks and swans. They're well fed here as they followed us expecting food from us, too!

This area is commemorating an old mill which stood here back in 1773. It was called Stanley Mill and it was powered by water - hence the water wheels. A dam had been created in order to run this mill, and the canal helped transport the goods between Stanley Mill and the Carr Forges - which will be another post!

We decided to go off the beaten path at this point and had a wander in the woodland surrounding the old mill site. Again, it was well taken care of and there was no litter - but you can see why my white converse were a bad idea. I like wandering around these kinds of areas with the children, especially when I tell them to keep an eye out for Trolls.

I marked the visitors centre on a map, below - but make sure you call ahead and check whether its open or not. There is a large car park on site, and access to the trails as well as the centre itself. This was a shorter walk than our previous walks, so its perfect for little legs that don't like to travel far!

A day out in Manchester City!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

On Saturday Mike, the children and myself took a trip into Manchester to visit a travelling fair. As a family we do love visiting fairs, and this one didn't disappoint. The rides were all £3 each, apart from the huge spinning one which was £5 - none of us were brave enough for that one. Originally, we'd set out to visit a fair at a town not too far away from home, but when we got there and looked out over the empty field - we realised the flyer we had looked at online was for 2015. Oops.

The fair was behind the Corn Exchange - it did deceive us a little because there was a glorious carousel in front of the Manchester Arndale and we did think "is that it?". Thankfully after a little walk, we stumbled onto the main body of rides and entertainment. We did think of visiting the Football Museum, but we decided to save that for another day.

The children had a great time - thanks to the rides being varied, they each got to choose which they wanted to go on and there was minimal upset. Usually when we visit places like this, the little one wants to go on the big rides and we end up with a sulky situation. The weather wasn't too bad either - thankfully the rain held off and it was much milder than it had been!
Towards the end of the day, Mike and T decided to gang up on me. T asked to go on a ride with me - a simple spinning ride, pretty tame looking. They'd both been on it together earlier in the day and while I was designated coat carrier I hadn't had the chance to go on anything. Little did I know they'd schemed to get me onto one of the fastest rides I've ever been on in my life - I think the photographs speak for themselves!

As you can see, T is incredibly proud of himself for putting me through that ordeal. He did decide to let me know the true extent of his deception - when I was secured into the ride and couldn't escape. I felt so dizzy and nauseous for the next hour I can't even describe it.

When we were walking back to our car, we did have a discussion around how small Manchester makes you feel. Everything is so big - even when I lived in the city in Yorkshire, the world didn't seem as big as it was in Manchester - T likened it to New York a little. I have to agree. I can't wait to explore it a little more though, its packed with museums and restaurants I want to visit!

A wander around Pennington Flash, Greater Manchester.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

It was a wonderful Sunday afternoon and the sun was shining, so we decided to have a post-lunch walk around somewhere local to my new area, called Pennington Flash. It isn't far from us and once you get onto the East Lancs its very easy to find - the map is below with Pennington Flash marked with the .

The area is beautiful, and a perfect place for dog walkers and ramblers alike. The trails are well kept and even though the wintery weather has ravaged the local fauna there are some little signs that Spring is well and truly here at last. Its worth noting that its also free - at the second car park, refreshments are on sale and there is a park for the little ones which is actually built on sand, so it feels a little less accident worthy!

I love winter, but I also love the little signs here and there that spring is springing up on us. The little blossoms opening up, the daffodils pushing through the soil, and even the bashful little snowdrop has made an appearance. Spring is a wonderful transition between the gloomy browns and greys of winter, and I'm glad to see it happening.

One of the attractions of Pennington is that there is a great amount of work that has gone into facilitating spots where people can bird watch and do some photography. Our feathered friends have a pride of place here and they are well catered for. Bird feeders, places to buy special duck feed, and even huts where you can sit quietly and observe the birds.

As you can see, even now when the weather isn't as warm as we'd like it to be, the huts make quite a welcome little space for you to sit. These are dotted around the area in a variety of settings - woodland, shore side and marshlands.

I love bull rushes Reed Mace. As I mentioned in a previous post, I'd never seen them in person till a few weeks ago and I'm still a little crazy for them. So here they are again, making another appearance.

Another little visitor we had the pleasure of snapping while we holed up in the hut. He wouldn't stay still for very long so I do apologise for the blurred shot. I had to include his cute little face though!

After visiting out first little hut, we decided to wander through the woodland trail back towards the waterside. The walk isn't too harsh and is mostly flat, although it was very muddy when we visited thanks to the deluge of stormy weather we've had lately. If it has been raining and you plan on visiting, make sure you have a change of shoes in the car!

Some of the shots we took on the way back to the waterside - as all the ducks have been fed by the locals, they are a little fearless and you will get swamped within seconds. They're a friendly little bunch though, even with the odd hooligan or two.

Another hut we found on the way back, this time remembering to take a photograph. They're marked on the maps which you can find at the car park, and are relatively big - you could fit a family inside, or three to four photographers. I do encourage families to respect the bird watchers and photographers who use these spaces however - keep quiet and please don't do anything that could disturb the local wildlife.

The view from the birdwatching hut (Pengy's Hide, as named above). This is looking out over a smaller body of land, and not the huge body of water you walk around to get here which means its a nice space to watch the smaller birds feed on the bird feeders. We did see a few wrens here too.

How beautiful is the flash at sunset?

Its absolutely gorgeous and so tranquil as the birds quieten down and find their roosts for the night. We ended up sitting on a bench overlooking this and just watching the sun go down, as it was something quite unmissable. We don't often get the chance to enjoy sunset as our adventures usually mean we are driving back instead of taking a minute to enjoy the sun going down, so it was a real treat - even with the ducks looking at us rather hopefully for more food.

I really do recommend a visit to Pennington Flash for the walk and the chance to get to see some of the birds we take for granted in our back gardens, in a much more wild environment. Its a family friendly, free place to visit and in summer with a picnic I'm pretty sure it would be perfect*!

*As long as you don't set up your picnic near those ducks. Seriously, they'd have your sandwiches in an instant.
© She & Life. Design by FCD.