Words: Abigail Whyte
Posted on 14/06/2019
Over 140 years ago, hordes of barges loaded with salt would have been seen making their way along the River Weaver, before being hoisted 50ft into the air by the Anderton Boat Lift onto the Trent & Mersey. Today, holiday makers and day-trippers can make that very same journey thanks to the £7.8 million restoration project in 2002, which saved the lift from rust and ruin. Visitors can also enjoy the cafe and visitor centre, as well as a walk around Anderton Nature Park – another legacy of the salt-mining industry that blooms with rare wild flowers in the summer months. We spoke to some of the visitors watching the lift in action.
Stuart Hill and Tony Cottam
We’re friends from a long way back, both retired. We’re railway enthusiasts; there’s lots of heritage steam railways where we’re from – Bury, near Manchester. My car’s just having its regular service, so while that’s being done I tend to come down here, kill some time and chill out for a few hours. It’s a smashing place. A few years ago my brother came over from Australia and bought a boat and spent two summers cruising the network, including the Anderton lift and the Weaver. He’s still enamoured by it, but his family is in Australia so he’s back over there now. He can’t wait to come back.
Colin and Val King
We thought we’d ride the lift as we’ve never done it before. Apparently the canal splits in two just after it, and we’re not sure which direction to take. We’ll decide when we get to it. It’s been interesting navigating the Weaver, but I think we prefer boating on canals rather than rivers. We’re on holiday, cruising for five months on our boat Dawn Chorus. It’s wonderful to be able to do this; to have no plans, no worries and just phone home to check in once in a while. We don’t know who’s paying the bills while we’re away, though – we might get home and find we’ve been evicted!
Tricia Roberts and John Kinsella
It’s my dad’s first time visiting here; I’m taking him out for the day. We went for a walk around Marbury Country Park then stopped for a coffee, now we’re having a look at the lift. It’s very impressive to see it in operation, especially after all those years of it being out of use. The gardens and surroundings are lovely, too. I live near the Bridgewater Canal and I’d definitely like to give boating a go. One day.
I’m down visiting from Perth in Scotland for a few days. I was actually here in 1999 before the lift was restored. It was a rusted wreck. I gave a donation to help towards the restoration, so it’s amazing to see it working now. We’ve got the Falkirk Wheel up in Scotland, which is very modern, while this looks of its age. It’s remarkable.
I’m here on a bit of a pilgrimage. Many years ago, back in the 1960s, my father brought me here with my younger sisters. We so wanted to go on it, but back then it was a commercial lift and very expensive to go on, so my dad said no. Then it broke the following year. I’ve always thought it was a shame we didn’t do it, but it’s since been restored, and for my mother’s 80th birthday we went for a ride on it on the trip boat. This year I’ve done it in my own boat. It’s another tick off the boating bucket list, like the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Chirk Aqueduct. There’s only one more thing I’d like to see, and that’s the Kelpies on the Forth & Clyde up in Scotland.
It’s my 60th birthday today – I’m here for my birthday treat. I don’t like heights but I went up on the lift and loved it. I’ve always enjoyed holidays on the canals. I’m a taxi driver back home, so going from 30 miles an hour to four miles an hour is such a big difference. I don’t like getting back in my car after a week of boating. I prefer the slow place. I’d love to live on a narrowboat when I retire in six years’ time.
Gary and Jean Smith
I’m an engineering nut, so I love to see structures like the lift on the canals. We’ve got our boat Damsel as part of a boat-share scheme – she’s quite old but she’s got plenty of life left in her. What we like about the canals is it’s such a slow pace of life; you’re never in a rush to get anywhere. You can stop and start wherever you want. You can be on your own, in total isolation. It’s so tranquil.
Photos: Colin Nicholls