Our recent passage to the centre of Liverpool aboard Areandare was a journey that had been postponed for almost two years. We’d originally booked in May 2020 – and we all know what happened to most plans that year! It’s been one of our ‘bucket list’ journeys on the Inland Waterways for many years.
Liverpool Canal Link History
The Liverpool link, which enables narrowboats to travel into the city, was opened in 2009 following a £22 million ‘facelift’, and is an incredible journey. The link takes boats from the four locks of Grade II listed Stanley Lock Flight on the Leeds Liverpool Canal, via Albert Dock and through to the South Docks. The passage is open for bookings on the CRT website from the end of March through to October each year (closed on a Tuesday).
Incredibly, there’s no charge to CRT licence holders, including one-week free mooring with electric hook up. You can pay for another week if you want, at £20 a night, which is what we chose to do. There are also water and rubbish facilities nearby, and we booked a pump out via the marina online. A distinct advantage over an elsan for which there are no facilities.
We’d got as far as Eldonian Village in 2016, where Barry traded as The Home Brew Boat at the IWA festival. During that stay, we walked down Stanley Locks and daydreamed of descending by boat.
Leeds Liverpool Canal to Stanley Locks
One thing this stretch of waterway is famous for is its seemingly endless swing bridges. We were overjoyed they all worked – once I’d found the mechanisms of each one! Many seem to have been improved recently. I’m not sure if any two are the same, and I had to really look to discover how to open a few. CRT has invented a new, sleek, streamlined, automated system since we last travelled the way.
We moored up behind Jules and Pete (and their canine family), of The Hippie Boat, at Parbold, and had a brilliant evening catching up with them after two years.
Continuing our journey, an appalling amount of flotsam and jetsam was sadly noticeable that’s found its way, intentionally or otherwise, into the canal. It’s most unsightly. We spotted Mattresses. Rugs. Pushchairs. Five shopping trolleys linked together. Bikes. Safes. Plastic bottles. Balls. You name it it’s lurking in these parts. What a shame.
There’s lots of idyllic countryside too thankfully.
And an excellent mooring at Litherland adjacent to a large Tesco store to stock up on provisions.
Descending Stanley Locks
This journey wasn’t just about us and our bucket list, it also involved friends’ lists – and friends of friends’ lists! I worked with Elaine at The Royal Free hospital in London from September 2002 to May 2003. She now lives in Chester with her husband Jon. We’ve caught up with them a number of times when in the area.
Earlier this year we chatted about our Liverpool Link plans, and Jon was extremely keen to share the experience. Something he’d wanted to do for many years. A few weeks later Elaine messaged to say a friend she did her nurse training with, who’s lived in Australia since 1982, was visiting with her husband in April. They’d both always wanted to experience a narrowboat cruise. What better way than to accompany us on the passage to Liverpool?
We scooped them all up, on the morning of Monday 11th April at Bootle train station, and made our way to the top of the Stanley Lock flight. Sid, who I hadn’t realised was quite infamous, telephoned that morning to check we were on our way. There was some confusion about our boat name. Which I didn’t understand until we saw who our link companion boat was.
Pulling up beside us at the top lock was a narrowboat called ‘A Little Bit of R & R‘! What do you think are the chances of that happening? No wonder Sid’s telephone call was so confusing. Apologies if they’re reading this – we can’t remember their names and didn’t see them again once we’d moored up.
The journey through the docks was breathtaking. There’s a few parts where you’re not sure which direction you’ll take. But Sid was with us the whole time – well he was on the other boat as ours was full! John, Elaine, Ginny and Mal loved every minute. So much so they treated us to a delicious meal at the Italian restaraunt Gusto – which was divine. John bought an expensive bottle of red wine to toast his recent retirement.
I’d chosen pontoon S9 for our two-week stay. Conveniently located near one of the exits, as an end pontoon. I knew we’d only have a chance of a boat on one side. We were very happy with the choice.
Grandsons On Board
The first week of our stay was packed with grandsons on board as it was the easter holidays. Our eldest stayed Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and the youngest Thursday and Friday nights. Exhausting but exhilarating at the same time – if you know what I mean?
On arrival, Leon immediately wanted to head to the Liverpool Eye. He’d wanted to do this when we’d visited before but it hadn’t been open. From the top, where the wind was whistling through the pod, we could see Areandare.
I’d booked an indoor funfair for Wednesday, at the Exhibition Centre on the dock, which was incredible. Just £10.99 each for a wristband which gave access to all rides for THREE HOURS! I managed to contain my fears and partake in a few. I only bought Barry a spectator ticket as I knew he’d detest anything else. Afterwards we noticed that the outdoor play at Wild Shore Liverpool was open. Leon was thrilled and went Wednesday AND Thursday.
On Thursday morning he was the only person on the inflatables, with two lovely lifeguards. I then asked if he wanted to Stand Up Paddleboard – which he did with Pete. It was fantastic. They both paddle boarded up to Areandare with me frantically following taking photos! They then moved into Albert Dock and played some games. Forward rolls along the board, jumping off and on again, and Pete even did a headstand on the board. I was so proud of our brave grandson.
We did a swap on Thursday for Ewan, and took the ‘Ferry, Cross The Mersey‘, on Friday morning. I’d booked a ferry and bus ticket in advance. Friday was so packed we didn’t get the bus tour in until Saturday morning. The ferry experience was marvellous, with a lunch stop at Birkenhead.
Ewan wanted to do the outdoor water fun with Wild Shore too, as well as a bit of shopping at B&M Bargains – his favourite store! He loved the open top bus, from where we hopped off to visit the World Museum as soon as heard they had an aqaurium!
We sat and gazed at the reflections on the water in the evening. Bedtime was rather delayed due to so much excitement around us.
What a fascinating place. we visited the aquarium, the planetarium, saw the bugs, and Egyptians. A plethora of fascinating things for kids for a £5 donation. Ewan impressed us and others at his vast knowledge, telling us how they removed the brains of the mummies with a fork-like instrument before they were bandaged. I wasn’t sure it was correct until I read it on one of the other exhibits!
Getting Out What You Put In
Like most things in life, you get out what you put in. Many peole we met couldn’t belive how much we were loving Liverpool. Or that we regaled the variety of activities and things to see and do in this city. The ability to moor up right in the centre was priceless.
Over the following eight days, we explored Liverpool sans enfants. With a break in between for a family wedding near Exeter. More about that, and our exit with Sid on board (yes THE Sid from Sid’s Ditch fame), in the next post.