Saturday, June 24, 2006

Canal News

The future is a slow boat to Bootle
Jun 21 2006

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is one of our city's most neglected assets. Now there are plans to change that with boat trips for tourists and shoppers.
[The] idea is for a canal boat to carry shoppers the four miles from Vauxhall in the heart of old Liverpool to the Strand shopping centre, Bootle. It is a modest enough start, but his ambition stretches into the future.
A £20m British Waterways project is already under way to extend the canal from the Stanley Dock to the Albert Dock with a cut across the Pier Head. It is hoped that it will be completed by 2008 when, as the whole world knows, Liverpool will be the European Capital of Culture.
This could be the opportunity for the city to benefit from one of its most neglected assets, as the boats would pass by the old Scotland Road area.

full story

This is a very good idea. It will bring people to a very quiet stretch of canal as well as providing training and jobs for young offenders. It is a shame that the canal was filled in between Pall Mall and Eldonian villiage as a link between Bootle and Liverpool would have been useful, with stops at Stanely Dock, Vauxhall and Litherland. Obviously there is the dock link but that link will have locks and wont be as direct as Pall Mall was. I look forward to taking a trip on this section of the Leeds Liverpool in the future.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Canal Walk: Barrowford to Foulridge

After a evening of popping blisters, sticking plasters and pouring on aftersun I was ready for another walk. A breakfast of one jam doughnut was more than enough for the six mile round trip from Barrowford to Foulridge. I parked at the Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford and walked up Colne Road to the canal at Barrowford Locks. At the canal I turned left where there are three bridges in close succession (#142A, #143, #143A) and walked north towards Fowlridge Tunnel. Barrowford Reservoir is alongside the canal between locks 49 and 45.

There was no sign of the 80 mile milepost but by the lock side buildings at the Top Lock there was a quarter mile post and then a 3/4 post past Blakey Bridge #144. After Wanless Bridge #145 there was a very well preserved mile post showing 46.25 miles to Leeds and 81 miles to Liverpool, 60 miles away from yesterdays walk.

We arrived at the western entrance to Foulridge Tunnel just as a boat was exiting from the dark. With the plasters holding the blisters in check we followed the towpath diversion across the top of the tunnel, alongside the Fowlridge Lower Reservoir, through Fowlridge to Fowlridge Wharf. Fowlridge Lower Reservoir doesnt have the man made look of the smaller Barrowford Reservoir. It looks like a scene from the Lake District and was a nice change from the thin strip of water I have become used to.
Foulridge or Foal Ridge is a mixture of 1960s suburbia and original housing from its days as a cotton weaving town. Unfortuantely the Hole in the Wall pub is closed so I didn't have chance to see the famous photograph of the cow that swam the length of the tunnel.

Foulridge Wharf is a sad sight, the buildings are disused and up for auction and there is nothing there for tourists apart from a canal trip boat which didn't look like it was open for business. Again timing was right and a boat was entering the tunnel in time to have its picture taken.

A tiny newsagent was the only place we found for any refreshment so we headed back with out much delay. The return trip didnt seem to take as long but my feet began to complain. On the way back past the reservoir the yacht club were out sailing about in the sunshine. Capsizing looked a good way to cool off. I am sure I will return here to continue my towpath trek. Driving along the M65 motorists can glimpse the canal beneath which was once the high speed transport of its day.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Canal Walk: Wigan - Scarisbrick 13.5 miles

Its a gloriously sunny day so a longer walk than usual was called for; 10 miles from Wigan Pier to Burscough Bridge. The train from Southport to Wigan follows the canal and crosses it more than once. It was while looking at the canal I noticed that the towpath at Appley Bridge was still closed to walkers. Not a good start to the day but the stoppage would be three miles into the walk so I carried on as planned.
Turning right out of Wigan Wallgate it is a short walk down hill to the old terminus of the Leeds Liverpool at Wigan Pier. The original 1770 warehouses are still there, now hemmed in by two very busy roads. The area around the pier is being redeveloped so I walked up to Wigan Bottom Lock (#87) to see if I could see any progress. Trencherfield mill has scaffolding on it and is now closed to visitors. There was a boat approaching the lock, the first of many boats enjoying the sunshine. I turned around at the lock and headed back to the pier. The museum is now closed and the area quiet once more. Near the pier is a milepost marked as 34 miles to Liverpool. The plaques are replacements and the location is wrong, this post is 34.5miles from Liverpool and should be a half mile post.
Leaving Wigan by canal the view is dominated by the JJB Stadium on the left and a large basin on the right. The hedges are now fully grown and the mileposts I found over winter have disappeared again like Brigadoon until autumn. I had a brief stop by the disused Crooke lock to feed a horse and put a plaster on my bleeding toe. The woods around Crooke and Gathurst were perfect for such a warm day providing shade and a beautiful leafy backdrop to the canal.
At Dean Locks the signs warned of the towpath closure and the lack of diversion. So I went onto the island between the duel locks and had my lunch. There were quite a few cyclists who went past only to turn reappear once they had been foiled by the closure.
As I ate a boat was descending the lock, I thought about asking for a lift past the closed towpath but not wanting to hurry my food I decided to head back to Gathurst and find the station.
The journey from Gathurst to Appley bridge on the other side of the closed path takes 4 minutes at most and costs £1, had I got on the second carriage I could have avoided paying but the inspector had just enough time to sell me a ticket before I had to get off.

I had missed about a mile of towpath by taking the train but it was all part of the adventure.
Leaving Appley Bridge I passed the 3 Appley locks, one deep and two shallow and the site of my childhood stickleback fishing days.
Next stop was Parbold where I had a sit down and a drink to let my feet have a break. Not long after Parbold I began to feel a bit weary so when I reached the junction with the Rufford Branch I stopped for another break and to use the BWB facilities.Afterr somesurreall heckling from children I pressed ontowards Burscough bridge. My break by the top lock had recharged my batteries so instead of catching a train at Burscough Bridge station I passed through Burscough and walked on to Heatons Bridge (#28) 3 miles further on. Here I stopped and had a well earned pint and a welcomed burger and chips. I had traveled about 13.5 miles and due to my boots being 2 sizes too small got a couple of blisters.
I recommend this walk, the Southport to Wigan line follows the canal from Burscough Bridge to Wigan and is useful for getting to and from walks. I saw the more boats on the move today than I have for a long time, but still the canal is quiet in comparison to other navigations. If my feet let me I have another walk planned for tomorrow...