Monday, May 25, 2009

Walton Summit Branch: A Trek in 3 Parts

Bank Holiday Monday and todays mission was to find what remains of the Walton Summit Branch of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. 
The branch ran from the main line at Johnsons Hillock to a transhippment basin at Walton Summit where cargoes were swapped over to wagons which crossed the River Ribble on a tramway.  The tramway was a cheaper alternative to a large aqueduct. The branch was last used in the 1930s and was largely wiped out after the M61 and a housing estate were built. The spoil from the motorway construction was dumped along the canal, so now it is a raised embankment in places rather than a ditch. 

Part One
Only a quater of a mile of the branch line remains at the junction with the mainline. Look carefully and you can find a quarter milepost. The branch ends abruptly next to a small car park. We parked there and walked up the road to a public footpath which takes you to the line of the canal.
Along the former canal

The line of the canal is a ridge in a field. We walked along it, alongside the motorway, until we came to a steep muddy slope. At the bottom of the slope is a stream which runs under the motorway.
Subway under the motorway

There is a subway above the stream's culvert. The subway is long and dark, you cant see what you are walking on but it was clear and easy to walk through. 

Culvert under the canal

As we emerged back into the light there was what looked like a tunnel in front of us. The stream we had walked above, under the motorway, emerged from the culvert and ran into the tunnel. There is a path through the tunnel along side the stream. The tunnel mouth has some stonework typical of the style of Rennies canal work. The tunnel is a culvert which passes underneath an embankment which carried the canal above. 
The tunnel didnt look too inviting (or dry) so, instead of going through it, we went up a steep path to the top of the embankment. Following the public footpath signs we came to some buildings and some big dogs.
A big dog on the right side of the fence for now...

We were greatful the dogs were the other side of a fence, three large boxers and they weren't happy to see us. We had to get rather close to them as we went down the footpath along their garden fence. Then at the other end of the path, as we went into a field, there they were, two bounding, barking boxers.  Luckily the dogs were happy to see us leave their property alive.
Crossing the field we climbed over a gate and got onto Hill Top Lane. We followed the road, turning left to cross over the top of one of the canal tunnels. It is hard to see down to where the canal once was because of the trees.
Looking down to the canal cutting

We walked back along the line of the canal, back towards the motorway. There is a large quarry next to the line of the canal.  


We found a footpath and followed it through the trees and fields until we got to Town Lane. We then walked along the road back to the car park. 

Part Two
We drove up to the Top Lock pub on the main line for lunch. The pub was busy, a popular spot for a pint on a sunny Bank Holiday.
Moss Bridge

After lunch we drove to Chorley Old Road and parked near the former canal basin by Moss Bridge. The bridge is still there and there is a very short stretch of canal albeit shallow and weedy. We went under the bridge and followed the line of the canal towards the tunnel mouth.
Moss Bridge

Tunnel mouth

The canal is empty at this point, you can stand in the mouth of the tunnel and even walk through it if you want.
Down the tunnel

I chose not to as its a bit damp and dripping. The stonework is covered in damp-loving plants. We went back up to the top of the tunnels but there are so many trees you cant see much of the canal cutting or tunnel mouths. 
Back at Moss Bridge there is a display of millstones. Millstones were once loaded onto boats here. The basin is now filled in and grassed over.
Former Canal Basin by Moss Bridge

You can follow the line of the canal along a path behind houses. At the end of the path is the remains of another bridge, where Bridge Street crossed the canal. Beyond this there isn't much sign of the canal until its line crosses the motorway again. 

Part Three
We drove and parked at Carr Barn Brow, about as close to the Walton Summit terminus as you can get. Just a little bit south of Longacre is a subway under the motorway.
Subway under motorway

We went through the subway and turned left into the field. Looking across the field you can see a line of trees which is the line of the former canal. Following the edge of the field, alongside the motorway, brings you to Summit Bridge.

Summit Bridge

The bridge is recognisable but in a sorry state. Some of the stonework has fallen off. Above the fields were two birds flying around us calling, they looked like nothing I had seen before, black and white with unusual wing shapes. My guess was plovers and I think I was right with Grey Plover. Near the bridge is a path leading to the nearby farm,we followed that until we got to Pippin Street where we turned right. After a while we turned right again and headed down a farm track with two concrete strips running the whole length. At the farm a very b
ig Rottweiler made our presence known but was luckily chained up. Its smaller friend was not and wriggled under the gate to run after us barking. There was once another bridge by the farm but there is no sign of it. We crossed the line of the canal again and headed back to the subway under the motorway and to the car. 

There is enough of the canal remaining to be worth a visit. Moss Bridge and the tunnel are good. Summit bridge and the culvert tunnel are interesting but only for the keen. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very interesting walk.