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.

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