Anderton Boat Lift
It was another cracking weather weekend for most of Britain which meant it was time to get out and enjoy the sun. The problem is that the local parks in this area are pretty poor places to spend an hour let alone enjoy a full day out. So, It was time to fire up Google and search for better parks within comfortable driving distance. This was how I came to find Anderton Boat Lift, as it is situated within a massive area of reclaimed woodland referred to as Northwich Woodlands, which is an amalgamation of a few country parks combined into one enormous haven of countryside just to the north of Northwich, Cheshire. A quick look at the map on the official Northwich Woodlands website and it was clear that this place had potential for a great day out... A network of walking paths, lots of wildlife to spot, an active canal network, and the thing that most drew my attention, the Anderton Boat Lift itself. My only hope was that it wouldn't be too busy to enjoy, considering the amazing weather would surely see every park in the country being overrun with sun-hungry families. It was a very pleasant surprise to see the car park fairly quiet when we arrived, and we even managed to secure a picnic table within seconds of leaving the car, a trend that continued for the rest of our visit... With the exception of the Boat Lift itself, which had a few visitors but you wouldn't call it busy, we barely encountered the general public all day. Probably due to the scale of the site, but we just couldn't believe the quiet, unspoiled feel of the place. We wandered for hours around a loop of walking paths that took us through the Anderton Nature Park, Marshal's Wood, round Haydn's Pool, up Marbury Lane, then we followed the canal through the marina and back to the Boat Lift. Only when you look at the map ( here ) you get an idea of the sheer scale of the area covered by the term "Northwich Woodlands". We'd spent the day and covered only about a fifth of the area, and there are many distractions along the way, with various nature and flower finding trails that you could embark on if you wish. The actual Boat Lift was a marvel... Built in 1875 and restored to its current condition in 2002, it's not changed that much in it's lifetime. Originally, it was completely water-powered (with a little help from a small steam engine). The two lifts (caissons) were each built on a massive hydraulic arm filled with water, and the lower lift would have a little of it's water drained off, making it lighter than the upper lift, which would then begin to slowly descend, pushing the lower upwards at the same time. When almost at the top, a small steam engine would take over to get the lifts into their final positions. In 1904, the lift was closed due to the salt water corroding the inside of the hydraulic arms, and it was then rebuilt as an electrical system, lifting with a system of motors and cables. This meant that the weight of the lifts would be carried by the structure itself, so a new beefier outer frame was constructed around the existing frame which hasn't changed from then until now. The original frame still sits within it's bigger outer structure. When the lift was restored, it was decided to return to the original hydraulic mechanism rather than use the electrical method, this time the rams would be filled with oil so the problems faced at the beginning of the century shouldn't resurface. It really is amazing to watch. Each caisson weighs 90 tonnes and, when filled with water, 252 tonnes each! Yet, it silently glides up and down, only taking around three minutes to complete each journey. There is an official tour which takes you, in a canal boat, up and down in the lift which I think lasts for something like half an hour... definitely something we'll do in the future.