Intertidal Zone No.4 Spike Island Area

Last time the Intertidal topic was all about a true intertidal zone in the North West of England, with Canal and River and walk and cycling and an historic Pub! Accessible from the River Mersey and PART of the Sankey Canal and road and Trans Pennine Trail. This time we Go West! That is to say, further west along both the ‘interrupted’ lovely canal and further downstream of the River Mersey.Sankey Canal & Trans Pennine Way:

No. 4 is the location of Spike Island. Spike Island is an island between the Sankey Canal and the estuary of the River Mersey, part of Widnes in the Borough of Halton in north-west England.

The island contains parkland, woodland, a path along the canal and the river and is next to the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, the only science museum in the UK solely devoted to chemistry.

It also allows excellent views of one of North West England’s newest landmarks, The Mersey Gateway Bridge.

The Mersey Gateway Bridge is a toll bridge between Runcorn and Widnes in Cheshire, England, which spans the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal, unfortunately not the Sankey Canal!

Looking up river from Spike Island, you will have exciting views, bracing air and several opportunities for photography.

The crossing, which opened in October 2017, has three traffic lanes in each direction and is approximately 1.5 km east of the older Silver Jubilee Bridge. Above picture courtesy of The Mersey Gateway Project. You will see from the Google Map screen shot below that when the satellite took the picture, the bridge was not yet built, but trust me it is there and well worth doing some research into the project, sankey islandthe engineering challenges and the road that had to be built to facilitate the building. Just think, folks will be marvelling at this in in years to come in the same way as some of us marvel at our canal engineering and bridges now.

Spike Island was also the site of the now legendary outdoor concert by the Manchester group, The Stone Roses in May 1990 when nearly 30,000 fans headed for Widnes to be part of what became known as the 'Woodstock for the baggy generation'. 

Overlooking Spike Island is Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, a great action-packed family attraction, devoted to chemistry and how the products of chemistry are used in everyday life. (source: 

The information board at the site shows among other interesting facts a 200 year+/- timeline of events that impress the reader and help illustrate the rich history of Spike Island on the Sankey or St Helens Canal and River Mersey.

  • 1757 Sankey Canal opened
  • 1833 St. Helens to Runcorn Gap Railway line and Station opened
  •          Widnes Dock opened
  •          Sankey Canal extended
  • 1844 St. Helens Canal and Railway Company is founded
  • 1847 Hutchinsons Works Opened
  • 1850s Gossages Works Opened
  • 1852 New Runcorn Gap Railway Station opened following the Garston rail extension
  • 1932 Gossages Works Closed
  • 1975 Reclamation of Spike Island began
  • 1990 Stone Roses outdoor concert


Useful Links...
Trans Pennine Way 
Sankey Canal
Spike Island Nature Reserve
Way Marking (SpikeIsland)

bob sandersBob Sanders retired IT Consultant uses Canals, Rivers, Lakes and Sea to relax, exercise and reconnect with nature. Bob is a 'paddler' not a 'boater', licensed and inured though Canoe England who follow best practice for all users of the waterways.

Contact details:   Email


intertidal zone no.3

fiddlers ferry area

This time the Intertidal topic is all about a true intertidal zone in the North West of England, with Canal and River and walk and cycling and an historic Pub! Accessible from the River Mersey and PART of the Sankey Canal and road and Trans Pennine Trail. I say part of the canal, as unfortunately the canal is not linked end-to-end to the canal network. Arguably the oldest canal, but still suffering from the ravages of earlier 'filling in' and disuse in parts. The pub effectively sits on an island between the canal and the Mersey, unique I guess. So this article gives you a taster...

  • Sankey Canal & Trans Pennine Way

  • River Mersey at Fiddlers Ferry

  • The Ferry Tavern – over 250 years old

along with links at the end of the article where you can research further if you wish. Please note that some of my work is 'cut-n-paste' with acknowledgements, as my aim is to raise awareness for my readers, not to re-write acceptable coverage. The photo's are mine and so were the fish and chips!

Sankey Canal & Trans Pennine Way:

Sankey canal planOriginally known as the Sankey Canal, the St Helens Canal was built under an Act of 1757 for a river navigation following the Sankey Brook, canal acts then being a rarity. However, the engineers working on the project had other ideas and used a loophole in the act to build a ten-lock canal. It opened in 1759, and soon became busy with coal traffic for Liverpool and the salt works on the River Weaver (source:CRT)

Fiddler's Ferry, Penketh near WarringtonThe section at Fiddlers Ferry or Penketh area of Warrington is simply amazing. Picturesque with Tug Boat, sail boats, cruisers and the like. All contained in less than a mile of canal, with a River Lock for access to the Mersey. (Tidal), next to an unmanned railway crossing. From above you have; railway line, canal, Trans Pennine Way, Pub and River Mersey. All in immaculate, pristine condition for mooching about and taking in the atmosphere and a real mix of people and characters. This environment is further enhanced by the presence of a Boat Yard, Sailing Club and Antiques shop! A real intertidal gem.

The Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) is an exciting route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders linking the North and Irish seas, passing through the Pennines, alongside rivers and canals and through some of the most historic towns and cities in the North of England. The Trail from coast-to-coast between Southport and Hornsea is 215 miles (346km) long. (source:TransPennine Trail)

River Mersey & Fiddlers Ferry:

google map ferry tavern nr WarringtonThe River Mersey is a river in north west England. It is 70 miles (112 km) long, it stretches from Stockport, Greater Manchester, and ends at Liverpool Bay, Merseyside. For centuries, it formed part of the ancient county divide between Lancashire and Cheshire.

The name of Fidlers Ferry is said to come from the owner of the land Adam Le Vicleur who's name was abbreviated and became Violer which was abbreviated further to Fiddler and at that point on the Mersey was a Ferry crossing to Moore hence the name - "Fidlers Ferry".

Between 1762 and 1833, this was the end of the Sankey Canal, where boats joined or left the River Mersey. The lock became disused after the canal was extended to Widnes in 1833 but was restored in the 1980s by Warrington Council. (source:Ferry Boat Yard)

Standing on the bank looking off towards the marshes, you have a fast flowing river which bends and curves whilst offering good sailing and opportunities for bird watching. All can be seen from the comfort of the pub!

The Ferry Tavern (formerly The Ferry Inn)

ferry tavern,ferry inn, warringtonThe Ferry Tavern (formerly The Ferry Inn) is one of Warringtons oldest pubs. It has arguably the best setting in the town nestling on it's own island between the River Mersey and the Sankey to St Helens canal. It is in a unique position situated on the Trans Pennine Trail attracting hikers, ramblers, cyclists and horse riders as they make their way along the trail. A charming olde worlde inn, The Ferry is light and airy in the summer where customers can take advantage of the views over the river from the large beer garden and welcoming in the winter with a roaring stove fire. Andy and Jade have been licencees here since May 2005 after taking over the business from Jades parents Pat and Terry who took over the pub in 1992 after it had been derelict for 2 years following fire damage. (source: The Ferry Tavern)

flood marks, ferry inn, warringtonOne of the first things that visitors see when they enter the bar area, is various flood height markings that have occurred over the years! They have outside seating, but no parking next to the pub. There is however a large car park next to the railway, with only a short but enjoyable walk through the majesty of the area already mentioned.

As mentioned earlier, this little gem of an area can not be accessed from the canal network. It is a little bit off the beaten track as they say – but if you are mobile or can arrange transport, or if you are moored anywhere near parts of the the trail, you could enjoy a nice walk, drink, ride or fish and chips. Don't forget the Antiques too. I've include a rough map and below there are addition links to help with further research or planning. I've been twice and the next time I will have my canoe in tow. ;-)

Useful Links...

The Ferry Tavern 
Trans Pennine Way
Sankey Canal 

inter tidal zone no.2

sharing experiences

to LISTEN to my article please follow this link

Welcome everyone, to my second article, and please remember that I'm not a professional writer, although I have been 'published' before and have had my photos published on the BBC (weather) ;-) I'm just a Lancashire lad, more in to having a fireside chat than writing a column or knowing it all!

This time the Inter-tidal topic is all about sharing your experiences with others, adding photos to routes or maps on-line, of the places you have visited. Reviewing statistics on travel distances and Cities and Towns visited. In other words, opening up your water based world to others! Which includes folks asking you questions, e.g. does so and so allow dogs? Suddenly everyone is wiser in the same way as when you chat with strangers and fellow boaters on the tow-path, but this time all on-line, via your phone, tablet or laptop.

free tools on google

The vehicle for achieving all this good will and interest is Google, yes, the Google that people know as a place to search for information or look at maps. (I have no affiliation) They simply have some of the best FREE tools in the world that you may, as I did, find to be fascinating and easy to use to log your activities on and off the waterways.

By way of illustration, some notes and statistics from my own personal report from Google in January 2019.

  • I published 8 photos and answered 7 questions on-line, both up on the previous month.
  • For 5 days of the month, I contributed to Google Maps.
  • In January my photos were viewed 337 times.
  • In total, people have seen my photos on Google Maps 300,000 times.

By way of real world examples from the statistics above, it included Sankey Valley Park (near Sankey Canal), Three Sisters nature reserve (near to Leigh Branch of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal) and Potter Heigham, a town on the Norfolk Broads.

Just think, as you are reading this, you are somewhere, and have maybe found somewhere that we would all love to see or visit! Or, you are on Google Maps wondering if a place like Potter Heigham might be a place for you to visit, then you see my photo (or yours in the future) and voila, you or someone is convinced – it truly is a boater's paradise ;-)

Types of questions include; Is there parking? Is it dog friendly? Is it wheelchair friendly? So simple and so useful to us all, and you can be part of it.

" my maps "

Plus: “My Maps” or in this case yours – a lovely Google Maps facility is a tool that allows you to have one or more 'personal' maps. Where you can drop pins and comments that are of value to you, or whoever you want to share with. One of mine, for example, show all the places that I have paddled my canoe in the UK. For this particular old fella, a welcome reminder of places sometimes forgotten in old age. Others could identify your favourite canal side Pub or stunning pounds or even favourite moorings etc.,

ALERT: This tracking of movements and sharing of locations and giving advise is not for everyone. There is a lot of talk about 'big brother' and corporations and governments knowing too much about an individual, you must be aware that you are opting in to let Google track your location and interpret where you are and what is around you and where you have been. Some folks find it distressing when Google emails you and asks you to review Potter Heigham or post a photo of it to Google Maps, almost before you have tied up for a brew! I immerse myself in it and share my open book lifestyle and I'm hardly ever where I shouldn't be!

Basically you create an account with Google, many already have one, which then gives you access to the tools I've mentioned. The tracking is done via internet usage, mobile phone and GPS too, I think. There are even 'apps' in the various smartphone and tablet stores to make it easier on-the-go as it were. The links below will help you read up and decide if you want to become part of this sharing and interesting world.

Create a Google Account
How to use My Maps
How to become a Local Guide

to LISTEN to my article, simply follow this link

Intertidal Zone no. 1

Welcome everyone, and to get us off on the right foot, I'm not a professional writer, although I have been 'published' before and have had my photo's published on the BBC (weather) ;-) I'm just a Lancashire lad, more having a fireside chat than writing a column or knowing it all!

Getting down to it, did you know that some marinas based on the waterways network have actual camping and caravan sites? Like Bridge House Marina in Nateby Nr Garstang on the Lancaster Canal. They also have a licensed cafe as well as a Chandlery, but I digress. My point is that suddenly or silently we are all starting to 'interface' with other users and share potential needs and benefits. Me being a paddler as against a boater, this makes for an ideal mix of having somewhere to stay and somewhere to 'put-in' or ingress if you like the proper terms. Paddlers, I have to say, are not always welcomed by everyone on the waterways, but they mostly are, thank goodness. I think of it as some people are not welcome, as are some motorists or some kids! 

But generally, we all get on fine, enjoying our time on or around the water.

bob sanders kayak

Photo shows my Perception Kiwi 3 HDPE touring kayak near to the slipway at Bridge House Marina. 

Another marina I have used with the same facilities (no cafe) is Whitchurch Marina on the Shropshire Union, Llangollen Branch. 

Strange eh, me staying in my Bongo camper-van and paddling your canals and dare I say helping to sustain the whole intertidal landscape of the waterways and you folks doing the same for me, magic! Plus, worth knowing if ever you want to meet up with non-water-borne friends and relatives for a few nights when you may not have room on-board or just want to have a brew or day visit. For technology savvy folks on or around the water, there are groups for boaters as you may well know, but did you know that you can pick up help and info from other groups based around camping and caravanning. 

mazda bongo bob sandersPhoto of my Mazda Bongo 

Plus, there is another bonus for us all with this interrelationship that you may not have considered when looking for help and advice – FaceBook and their groups. For the technology savvy folks on or around the water, there are groups for boaters as you may well know, but did you know that you can pick up help and info from other groups based around camping and caravanning. 

May sound strange, but big topics are Solar Panels, Electric Hook-ups, Boosting TV signals, Leisure Batteries, Mobile Internet and of course security! So if you do get stuck and can't find it in your normal groups, try crossing over to the other 'off grid' folks and their groups.

I look forward to seeing you all in 2019 on the water or on the towpath. Next time, I'll share some useful tips around Google that will help us all.

Useful on-line links...

Bridge House Marina
Whitchurch Marina
CanalsOnline Magazine 
Mazda Bongo Owners