More boaters are set to enjoy the delights of Liverpool in the Leeds & Liverpool Canal’s bicentenary year, thanks to new arrangements introduced by the Canal & River Trust.
The new procedures mean that up to six boats can travel each way along the Pier Head Canal Link every day except Tuesdays. This gives boaters more flexibility over arrival and departure days into Salthouse Dock, compared with the old system which had designated ‘in’ and ‘out’ days.
The new Liverpool Canal Link booking process has been trialled since August 2015 and was voted a winner by boaters using the new service. This flexible booking system will now be replicated for the 2016 boating season which begins on March 21.
One of the advantages of the new system is that boaters can now cruise straight to the end of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at the Eldonian Village without needing to book a passage from Aintree. This means that during popular times, such as the Mersey River Festival in June, boaters have the alternative of mooring on the main line of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to access the city centre attractions about a mile away.
With only 45 Liverpool Waterfront visitor berths available in Salthouse Docks, this will mean many more boaters will be able to enjoy the city, adding vibrancy to the canal through Sefton and North Liverpool.
Steve Bergquist, customer operations manager with the Canal & River Trust, explained: “This new arrangement is a huge step forward and it’s great that in the canal’s bicentenary year, many more boaters will be able to enjoy the fantastic facilities on offer in this amazing city.”
Roger Homewood and his two friends, John Owen and Chris Long, are all major converts to Liverpool as a boating destination. The three of them all brought their boats down the link last October to enjoy a week moored in Salthouse Dock.
Roger said: “I hadn’t ventured into Liverpool at all until five years ago. I came on the train for a walk round and decided at that point to bring the boats in. This is my fourth time in three years and my second this year. I don’t get tired of it.
“In terms of boating, it is a very, very interesting journey. And considering you are coming through the outer suburbs of a city, it’s a nice, friendly and interesting destination.”
Roger and John recommend staying overnight at Bridge 10 at Melling, Holmes Swing Bridge, next to the Bootle Arms, before coming down the Liverpool Link.
Favourite visitor attractions include the World Museum, Maritime Museum, the free guided tour around the excavated 300 year old Pier Head docks, and a trip on the Mersey Ferry over to Birkenhead and a train to Chester. Roger’s advice to other boaters: “Just do it!”
Assistance from Liverpool’s cheery volunteer lock keepers is all part of the experience of travelling down the Stanley Lock flight (past the biggest brick-built building in the world, Stanley Tobacco Warehouse).
John said: “This is the first time I have brought my own boat but it won’t be the last. The lock keepers were very helpful, very cheerful.”
Lee Cox (38) is a volunteer team leader on the Stanley Flight and loves the outdoor life and helping boaters travel through the six locks which connect the end of the Leeds & Liverpool canal to Liverpool’s southern docks.
He started volunteering four years ago picking litter but after 12 months became a volunteer lock keeper and has never looked back. He has even got his stepson Mark McCumsekey involved too. He also enjoys being out on the canal bank, keeping it tidy, removing rubbish, painting locks and clearing weeds.
Mark said: “There are loads of letters from boaters complementing us and saying how much they appreciate our help. We try to be as helpful as possible. We try and muck in and we’re not afraid of getting our hands dirty.”