I was heading for Sale near Manchester but decided to take the non-motorway route, sadly because I can't read a road map and drive at the same time and because I seem to have absolutely no sense of direction or spatial awareness, I put on the sat nav, and it took me straight onto the motorway. Thus getting out of Liverpool was quick and painless but didn't allow for a huge amount of random brown signs spotting. When I finally did get off the motorway I was ecstatic to see this sign...
I had no idea what the hell a boat lift was, well I knew it was probably a contraption to lift boats (duh), but as ever, I wanted to know all the whos, whys, whens and wheres, so I went right on in.
The boat lift was built during the industrial revolution to get boats from the river Weaver up to the Trent and Mersey Canal above. The system was an ingenious one and the first of it's kind., using hydraulic power to transport boats up and down to increase the potential of the local salt mining industry and opening up various other trade routes. Engineers working on this boat lift are now world famous and include Rolls (of Rolls Royce) and Citroen (of Citroen, obviously). What I love is the determination and drive of the people who broke through boundaries and drove the industrial revolution, I have so much respect for the forward thinking genius ideas which were all poo pooed at the time which are now all taken for granted.
These pictures were taken of the boat lift in it's hay day during the industrial revolution, in the late 1880s, and one hundred years later during the 1980s when it was closed for 18 years due to corrosion caused by the salty waste from the salt mining factories upriver, it was declared structurally unsound and unfit for use and abandoned. I love stuff that's a bit creepy and weird (like the chunked up U-boat in Liverpool) and this picture of the abandoned boat lift makes me feel all scared and creeped out, so I really like it. It wasn't enough to just look at the thing though so I booked myself onto a trip on a boat to get taken down in the lift.
It was all a bit embarrassing because usually on my random attraction visits there are only a few other saps like me doing them (in the day and in the week, when most normal people are at work) but this particular attraction was really popular and there were a lot of old people on it. I was the youngest visitor by about 38 years I'm sure of it. Maybe it was for this reason, whatever I'm not sure, but the skipper/guide directed his commentary about the boat lift to me throughout, and to me only it seemed. Some of the old visitors even turned around and looked at me it was so obvious. Being suspended 50 feet in the air between waterways in a canal boat made for a difficult if not impossible escape so I just had to deal with it and try to stop going red.
I would have liked to have spent more time at the visitor centre doing some more interactive exhibits but I didn't have any change for the car park and as my luck with parking is pretty bad (getting massively extortionate parking tickets, contravening highway codes and being towed away outside pubs etc.) I had to get my car out of that car park. Unbelievably I hadn't got a ticket so I sped off, I did park up on a narrow bridge making cars behind me wait while I took pictures of the pretty canal though. Renegade, I like living crazy.
After the boat lift (which despite having a brown sign didn't have a generic symbol, which is kind of the whole point of why I am touring around and seeing them) I decided I had to tick another symbol off the list. I tried Tatton Park, but on Mondays (like in China apparently) a lot of attractions are closed, another blind alley I ventured down was the Tabley House museum, no idea what it is because they wouldn't let me in. More fool them.
Expecting that another museum or historic house would be my next stop I was relieved and ecstatic when I saw this sign...
I love seeing these brown signs 1) because I love the brilliant owl swooping symbol and 2) because I love actual birds of prey. I really like their cunning natures, mainly, and the fact that they're scary of course. I got there before the last flying display, which is not usually my luck, so I had a look round and got squawked at by various birds.
I had half an hour to kill so to try and get way from my lunch diet of apples and gherkins I went to the garden centre next door where table service was provided, weird, I didn't leave a tip.
The flying display was brilliant, I was expecting it to be pretty crap, some places just fly the birds without much commentary, but the guy who owns this centre loves his birds of prey and when he was setting up the centre he lived onsite in a caravan and hunted with Harris hawks and falcons for his dinner of rabbits and game. What a dude.
I was impressed that there was a white tailed sea eagle there (left) which was half the reason my sister and I went up to Scotland recently to spot them. We definitely saw massive birds of prey up there but their numbers are still so low that I can't be sure that we did actually see one, so it was nice to see this gigantic bird flying around and nearly taking everyone's faces off when it flew low over the crowd (well, the 4 of us).
These are red kites, which are also a favourite of mine, mainly because there was a big reintroduction scheme in the late 1990s and Oxfordshire (where I used to live) is one of the places they thrived. Thus I spent many a happy (if dangerous) hour watching the circling red kites from the M40, those were good times.
So I left the bird of prey centre and headed for Sale where I met up with Eleri my travelling saleswoman and beater of loneliness. We are currently sitting in a rather strange hotel waiting for a funeral party to vacate the bar downstairs so we can go and have a drink, but to be honest it's starting to sound quite fun down there, so maybe we won't wait. Unashamed funeral crashers.
Off to the Peaks tomorrow, where there are lots of caves (they have their own symbol so I'll be ticking more off the list) and other such fun things. I'm also going to be staying in a single sex dorm in a hostel in the middle of nowhere until Thursday, which is sure to be interesting.
Wish me luck with the widower...