Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Canal Walk: East Marton to Greenberfield

After a filling lunch in the Anchor Inn we climbed about Rocinante again and set off to find East Martin. East Martin is a small place, even smaller than it appears on the map. The road crosses the famous Double Arched Bridge #161, if you turn right at the Cross Keys pub and drive down the small road alongside it you come to some stables next to bridge #162. If you are lucky as we were you will find a space to park on the road, otherwise if you are going in the pubs you can use their car parks. We crossed the bridge and turned to walk back towards Greenberfield.
The Double Arched bridge is one of the most distinctive features of the Leeds Liverpool canal. Opinion is divided as to the reason why it is a double arch. Some think the road has been raised and a second bridge added on top of an earlier one, others say it was built with two arches because the engineers didn’t have confidence in the strength of a single arch. Looking at the bridge I could see no evidence for two stages of building so I would say it was built in one go.
Next to the Double Arched Bridge is milepost 89, over the next 2 miles there are the full set of mileposts: quarter, half, three quarters and full mile posts. In all we found 13 mileposts.
The canal was very still and there were some very clear reflections of the surrounding hills. We passed milepost 88 and arrived at bridge #159 and the furthest point of the mornings walk.
We walked 10 miles altogether and covered 5 miles of towpath. Although there is some light industry and housing there are some very nice views and interesting features on this section. The afternoons walk was a little muddy compared to the tarmaced towpath of the mornings walk. A glance through bridge 162 gave a preview of the next section up towards Gargrave, a tree lined cutting that looked very inviting.

Canal Walk: Salterforth to Greenberfield

We parked Rocinante in the car park by the canal opposite the Anchor Inn by bridge #151. Sancho Panza and I set off in search of a lost canal, a lost flight of locks and as many mileposts as we could find.
A mile down the cut we came to the spot where the Rain Hall Rock Branch joined the main line. The rock cut was a short arm of the main canal which was simply a quarry which boats could enter and be loaded directly from the quarry-face. Limestone was quarried here and was a good source of income for the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Company. When the quarry was closed parts of it were filled in with rubbish. Photographs show that an arch remained next to one of the tunnels on the branch. On the canal the wall by the towpath rises at the point where the branch was. There is a tree-filled gap between a fence and the foundations of a demolished mill which marks the course of the first section of the rock cut. Walking up to Long Ing bridge and turning right we followed a path up the hill. When we were inline with the higher towpath wall we could look downhill along the line of the branch, the path goes over the first tunnel, behind us was a wall with the last remaining section of the quarry beyond. We continued up the path past the farm buildings on the right and along the embankment on the left. Further up the hill the embankment is lower and we could look over it and down a steep slope to the quarry cut. There is still water in the cut but the section is completely overgrown with trees and it was not safe to investigate further. The path turns left and crosses the cut again cross what was the second tunnel. There is no sign of there ever having been a quarry further up the hill, to the right of the path the cut has been completely filled in and grassed over. We retraced our steps and returned to the canal at Long Ing Bridge #153. There is on road parking here.
We continued along the canal. Past Coate’s bridge #154A on the left is the Rolls Royce factory; from the towpath you can see the zigzag roof with its skylights at canal level. A bit further on we found milepost 86 and were passed by a proper Liverpool barge, romantically named “A40”. Barges on the Leeds Liverpool were a development of the Mersey flatboats that were used on the rivers. At 14foot wide they are definitely not narrow boats.
Through Greenberfield Bridge #156 you can see the old canal office building, now a house and BWB station. Greenberfield Top Lock and the start of the canals descent to Leeds from the summit level is next to the house. The locks have a car-park and picnic area. Even the sandwichless visitor should take a diversion into the picnic area to see the old route of the locks marked most distinctly by a bridge in a field with no canal beneath it. On the uphill side of the bridge the ground level is now at road level, on the down hill side there is a drop down to a dry canal. The backgarden of Greenber Field Cottage is the old pound between locks. The old route runs along side the locks to the bottom lock where you can see a reedy stretch of former canal.
At Greenberfield Changeline bridge #158 we met a very friendly horse who posed for photographs with the canal as a background. The canal show its age after this point. In the earlier age of canal building engineers followed contours rather than using the tunnels and embankments of the later stages. This section of canal up to Gargrave has some of the most serpentine twists and bends of any canal I have seen.
Passing milepost 87 we walked up to bridge #159. Before the bridge there are a pair of stone buildings which I guess were for transhipping coal from canal to cart.
We turned around at the bridge and walked back to the Anchor Inn for lunch where we caught up with A40. A40 was one of Rank’s the millers boats carrying grain to Blackburn, before it passed to Henry Crosedale in the 1950’s who supplied Blackburn and Wigan power stations with coal.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Canal Walk: Barrowford to Brierfield

As we sped along the M65 we caught glimpses of the canal running alongside and occasionally underneath the motorway. We left the motorway at Junction13 and entered Barrowford. Barrowford is much like the other northern mill towns, with the same rows of stone built terraced houses which once housed the mill workers. Beside the river is the Pendle Heritage Centre, opposite which is a free car park. We parked here and walked up the B6247 to the canal and Barrowford Locks.

The sun was burning up the clouds and the mist was hanging over Barrowford Reservoir. We took at short detour north as far as the lock houses and took the opportunity to have a second look for milepost 80, it is definitely not there. Turning south we passed locks 48 and 49 and went under the 3 bridges which are grouped close together before the next pair of locks50 and 52 (bottom lock).

A little further on is Swinden aqueduct which carries the canal over Colne Water. The canal makes a sharp right turn and walkers are faced with Swinden bridge. Swinden bridge, #142, is a changeline bridge, that means it carries the towpath from one side of the canal to the other in a way that allows a horse to tow a boat without the bridge getting in the way of the rope.

There was no sign of milepost 79 in the overgrown brambles before Hodge Bank Bridge, #141D. Junction 13 of the M65 is very close to the canal at this point but there is surprisingly little sign of this from the towpath. This stretch of canal is different to the previous walk. Although there are views of hills and valleys they are ones covered with terraces streets and mills and factories. It is areas like these that remind walkers that the canal is a man-made structure built during the industrial revolution for industrial reasons and not a natural feature even if its contour hugging curves at times suggest otherwise.

By the time we reached milepost 78 we had seen a number of mills. Although these mills may not be as big as some they are still impressive buildings. Over the next mile we past a number of mills, some empty with broken windows others still in use as warehouses or factories. These mills are in complete contrast to the modern aircraft hanger style of buildings which are now being built along the canal to house light industry. There was no sign of milepost 77 despite it being on the 2005 OS map; brambles again defeated me.

Lob Lane bridge #137 provides access to the canal and is close to a railway station. We were nearing the turning point of our walk. After failing to see a half milepost (76.5miles) I was very surprised to find one of the original milestones. To most passers-by it would look like a lump of stone or concrete but to those in the know it was clearly one of the shaped milestones, this one 76 miles from Liverpool. At Hawks House Bridge #136 we had a snack while a couple of boats passed by heading Leeds-wards.

On the return trip I spotted the elusive 79 mile milepost, hidden by brambles and missing its plaques but painted with the correct mile markings. This brought the total to one milestone, two mileposts, one half mile post and four quarter mile posts.

The bit of canal has been marked out for walkers as part of a heritage trail. Along the way you will notice some curious pieces of art work depicting canal scenes in brick pairs and mosaic tiles.

We returned to the Pendle Heritage Centre which has a very well stocked shop with books about local history and industrial architecture.

The walk totalled seven and half miles and while not the prettiest of walks it is certainly interesting. The towpath is tarmaced for the whole length which is good for cyclists and wheelchairs but a bit hard on the feet for walkers.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Canal Walk: Foulridge to Barnoldswick

We parked at the wharf at the north end of Foulridge Tunnel. The area has a few things to interest the industrial archaeologist. First there is the tunnel itself. It is 1640yards long and dead straight. Unfortunately it has no towpath so walkers (and horses) have to take an alternative route. But today we were going north and away from the tunnel. The wharf has a number of stone warehouses, a quarter mile post and a cast iron boundary post which relates to the railway line which until recently crossed the canal at this point. The railway embankments can be seen either side of the canal while the metal rail bridge would have gone over what is now the toilet block.
Leaving the wharf we set off north through the rolling countryside. The canal passes through green farmland for most of this walk. Along the way we found quarter, half and full mileposts. The most picture-esque being the 83miles post which is next to Mill Hill Bridge. there was no sign of the old milestones on this stretch.

The next town on the canal is Salterforth, 84 miles from Liverpool and 43 and a quarter from Leeds (but still in Lancashire). As the canal turns a corner under bridge #151 walkers might notice a post which would have had a roller on it to help stop the tow ropes snagging on the bend. Next to the bridge is the Anchor Inn, a public houses with more to interest a visitor than just beer and spirits. We didnt enter to experience the pub first hand but sat in the picnic area by the canal side car park. Maybe next time we will park here and have time for a pint.

After drinks and sweets we had enough sugar in our systems to walk another mile.
A mile away from Salterforth is the town of Barnoldswick, at bridge 154A. Our visit was one of missed opportunities though. First we couldnt find the 85 mile milepost (or the mill it was once alongside). Without realising it we were at the point where a small branch was cut to quarry rock. I had been keen to see if there was anything remianing of the rock cut, its tunnels, and arched aquaduct but it was only when we had returned home that I saw how close we had been. Looking at the guides there seems to be some debate as to where the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire is. Some guides say that we crossed over and others suggest we were safely on home soil the whole trip. Barnoldswick is in Lancashire but is its canal?
We turned around as the sun was going behind the clouds and headed back. Back at the Foulridge wharf we had a look at the old lime kiln which is in the car park. It was designed so the top had easy access for the canal. It dates back to a time when lime and limestone were the main cargoes on the canal, more important than coal.

This is a very good section for walkers. The car parks at Foulridge and Salterforth are very useful. There were quite a few people out walking or cycling and the towpath is very good. This section also had a few boats on the move, though it is still quiet compared to other canals.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Canal Walk: Halsall

Today was more of a towpath toddle than a trek. With my trusty yet tubby retriever in tow we set off for a short walk. We parked at near the Sarcens Head pub, near bridge #25 Halsall Warehouse bridge. In the carpark by the bridge are two new pieces of sculpture. the first and most noticeable is the figure of a man emerging from the ground. He is naked with a shovel to hide his embarrasment. The other is a large piece of rock with a fish carved on it which doesn't look finished. I will have to return to see what it looks like when completed.

the weather was nice and we werent the only ones out for a walk by the canal. We headed towards the cutting, though my companion had started to pant not far after the pub. We made it to the next bridge Halsall Hill bridge #24 with some dragging and encouragement. I took photos of a boat passing under the bridge as my canine companion had a sit down to get her breath back.

Break over we headed back to the car. The hedgerow was in full fruit and autumn was in evidence across the fields. Soon the hedges will have died down and the mileposts will come out of hiding ready for the winter season of milepost hunting.

The sculpture is very impressive and its nice to find such artwork in a carpark by the canal. I hope there are other works of art being put along this stretch of canal. They would certainly add to the towpaths.