Thursday, November 29, 2007

Canal Walk: Lydiate and Maghull

Off work today and away from my evil line manager, so it was off to the towpath to look for more World War Two defences. After seeing the very informative website http://www.worldwar2defences.co.uk/ I wanted to get photos of a couple of pill boxes I have missed in the past. I parked on the road by the MMBC clubhouse and walked Liverpool-wards. Along the way I noticed the wall with bricked up loopholes, they are not the pre-cast ones seen elsewhere. There were quite a few people and dog walkers on the towpath. On the canal itself there were lots of mallard ducks, some asleep bobbing about.
I walked up to Maghull hall swing bridge #12 and photographed the brick pill box behind the narrowboats there.
Then I turned around and walked back past Dicconson's bridge #17 and on to Lydiate Hill bridge #18. If you cross this bridge and turn left you will, if you are observant, notice a brick pill box hiding in the tree line on the far side of a small field. You could go and look inside but you would probably need the land owners permission.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Canal Walk: The Regents Canal

This week I have been down to London to visit my friend Katie and do some towpath trekking on The Regents Canal. After visiting the newly refurbished and very impressive St Pancras Station and platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station we walked to the canal near the London Canal Museum. The museum doesn’t open till 10am so being early we headed to the towpath. The Museum is off Wharfdale Road, we walked to the end and on to Caledonian Road which crosses the canal. You can gain access to the towpath from the bridge. We left the road and walked up to the Islington Tunnel and peered inside. The tunnel is 960 yards or 878metres long, the built by James Morgan. The opening to the tunnel is brick while inside the lining is of large blocks of stone. There is no towpath through the tunnel. We turned around to walk the short distance to Camden.
The area around Kings Cross is being redeveloped. The re-opened St Pancras Station has driven this regeneration. Many old buildings are being converted and many new buildings are being built. At one of the construction sites by the canal there were two barges being used to carry waste. They were unpowered and probably rely on the museums Bantum to be moved.
We carried on past the museum (now on the other side) and under York Way. To the left is the back of Kings Cross station and a gas holder. The canal is wide here and the towpath bends around. It is quite a sun trap and a homeless man had taken advantage of this and was sleeping on a bench. A little further on is a stop lock. The wooden gates are now rotten but the metal hinges are still there. This lock could have been to control boats for tolls or control water flow.
Next are St Pancras Locks. There were two locks here but one of them has been weir-ed leaving the other one in use. The lock gates are a bit different to those on other canals. The balance beams aren’t horizontal they are angled down to where they meet. There is a little lock cottage next to the lock. After the lock there is a basin which used to be a coal basin and is now a marina, St Pancras station was built on part of this basin. The EuroStar trains cross the canal here between Paris and London.
The towpath is concrete here with power cables running underneath. It is very popular with cyclists, and I guess these are the ones who give the others a bad name. They are fast and quiet despite the “Two Tings” campaign.
Royal College Street bridge and Camden Road bridge are both brick bridges that have been widened. There was a handsome heron at the next locks, again one lock was weir-ed and is obviously a good place for fishing. In the pound between these locks and the next is the former TV AM studios, which were originally part of a brewery.
Under the main high street in Camden and up to Hampstead Road Locks. Camden Market uses the old canal basin buildings. The trip boats moor here. Both the Hampstead Road locks are working. The balance beams pass over each other to save room. The market wasn’t open but some of the shops were and I got a free sample of chocolate cake while walking around the upper level of shops. It would have been nice if Liverpool had kept some of its canal buildings and had shops such as these at its terminus.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Canal Walk Saltaire to Shipley

Today’s plan was to drive to Saltaire and park at Salts Mill. Then take the train from Saltaire to Keighley and walk the 6 or 7 miles back to the car via the famous Bingley Five Rise. As we drove out of Liverpool there was no avoiding the fog, by the time we were on the M62 all the traffic had their fog lights on. So much for the landscape photos from the top of the Five Rise I had planned. But by the time we had reached the M60 the fog had lifted and it was looking like a nice clear sunny day, perfect for canal walking.
With the exception of one junction there are plenty of brown signs to Salts Mill making it fairly easy to find from the motorway. We parked in the large free carpark at the back of the mill. The station is on the other side of the mill on Victoria Road. It was only after buying our tickets that we noticed that there were no trains this weekend due to engineering works. Not to worry though the posters said there were rail replacement buses so we had a quick walk around the very pretty church which stands in between the railway and the canal. From the churchyard the canal looks more like a park lake than an industrial highway. The leaves had turned orange and yellow and fallen into a deep carpet which the squirrels were busily looking through. At the edge of the canal is a Leeds & Liverpool Canal Company boundary stone, looking like a small gravestone. Back at the station there was no sign of the bus to take us to Keighley. We waited and waited until it was clear no bus was coming. It was too late in the day to wait an hour in the hope that a bus would show up. £2.40 wasted on tickets.
Time to decide what to do. We could walk from Saltaire to Keighley and hope there was some way back (a long walk back if there wasn’t). Or walk to Bingley and then walk back (but I would have to come back to do the Keighley bit some other time). Or walk the other way to Shipley, or give up on walking and just look around the mill and town. While we were deciding a group of people had gathered waiting for the Leeds train and no bus showed up for them.
We decided to have a quick look around the mill, use their toilets and then have a short walk up the towpath to Shipley and see if we could find the junction with the Bradford branch. Not quite what we had hoped for but at least I could look for some mileposts. It wasn’t long before I found the first post, a quarter mile post you can see from Saltaire Bridge 207A. This post is 113.75 miles from Pall Mall.
The towpath is busy at Saltaire and easily accessible from the bridge. The towpath is part of the national cycle network, routes 66 and 69. There were lots of cyclists, some more serious than others. There were also lots of people out walking and enjoying the warm autumn sun.
We went under Saltaire Bridge and walked along the towpath between Salts Mill and the New Mill. The two mills form a deep canyon. You can see the loading bays where barges from Liverpool delivered Alpaca wool. Past the mills there is a line of trees, their orange and brown leaves reflected in the canal. Milepost 114 was there missing its plaques but painted white. At the next bridge 207E there are some old houses which pre-date all the buildings around them. There are dates about the doors but only the last number, 8, is visible from the towpath.
There are a lot of new buildings here, all empty on a Sunday, one belongs to the Inland Revenue. Before Victoria Street Bridge 207B is a red brick warehouse which was clearly designed to use the canal. It has a covered loading bay at the front and a basin to the side the end of which is covered.
After the bridge is a set of canalside buildings which look like they are either recently refurbished or newly built. They have covered loading bays, there is a glass section which is a bar or restaurant. The whole building is very well designed. Leeds is 13 miles away and there is an Ibis hotel right next to the towpath at bridge 207B.
On the other side of bridge 207B there was a heron in the water. I couldn’t tell if it was swimming or walking but it soon got camera shy and flew off. Under bridge 207D the evocatively named Gallows Footbridge is a half mile post.
At Junction bridge 208 there is a mix of empty old ruinous buildings and new apartment buildings. The canal is in transition here and it is hard to tell what its character is right now. There isn’t much of the Bradford branch left now, just a turning point. There have been plans to restore the branch as part of the redevelopment of Bradford.
The next bridge is Dock Swing Bridge 209 and when we approached it was being opened to allow Walrus to pass through. The crew were joined by 3 scally kids who found it all very interesting. There was no sign of milepost 115 beside the railway bridge 209A despite it being shown on the 2005 OS map. At Oddies Swing Bridge number 210 we turned around. Just 12.25 miles from the end of the canal.
Thanks to Northern Rail our day out wasn’t what we had planned. I felt cheated out of a really nice walk. We missed out on seeing the five, three and two rise locks. And instead of a 6 mile walk we did a mile and a quarter. Not much reward for a 140miles round trip.
As for Saltaire, it is a UN World Heritage Site. It’s a model workers town built by Titus Salt for the workers in his huge textile mill. There are small terraced houses and some public buildings. The stone lions have character and charm. Although it was clearly a great achievement to build this town it doesn’t have the impressive scale of Port Sunlight. Salts Mill seems to be a literal waste of space. It houses a rather disappointing art collection, a very popular cafe and a book shop in a space that once housed hundreds of people and machines. There is a timeline display showing the development of the site but it really needs a museum. The mill is clearly popular with the sort of people who like the sort of thing on offer there but there wasn’t anything for me to go back for other than the free car park.