Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Website Problems

My website hosts are having problems so I cannot update my website this week, normal service will be resumed asap.

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 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.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Canal Walk: Haskayne

Just a short walk at Haskayne today, we parked by the Pride of Sefton's moorings and walked up to the cutting. The pill box by the cutting is being slowly revealed by the falling leaves. It looks to be circular brick built with loop holes all the way around. A few more weeks and hopefully it will be photogenic.
Under Halsall hill bridge there are numbers and letters carved into the stones, the masons equivalent of painting by numbers maybe.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dock Link Update

Just a brief visit to the dock link today. It's a shame my back has put me out of action, no trekking this weekend despite the sunshine. I got to go behind the barricades and saw the foundations and water tower of the new museum and the canal channel which will link the south basin and mann island basin.
Stopped off to photo the bridge on Chisenhale Street. Looking from the side you can still see the blue metal work of the bridge but no sign of the towpath or channel. Also took a photo of the pub nextdoor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Canal Walk Lathom Locks

After stopping at Appley Bridge for a sandwich in the car we moved on to Cedar Farm. I bought the Cicerone Guide to walking the Lancaster Canal and a small guidebook to the Pendal Way. After saying hello to the little goats we set off again to Parbold for a newspaper. There was no where to park at Parbold so we carried on to park at the Ship Inn at Lathom besides the Top Locks of the Rufford Branch.
Evidence suggests that the Ship Inn Lathom like the Ship Inn Haskayne is now a Cains pub. We went for a short walk about a mile down the Rufford Branch. The highlight of which were the exploding seed pods we found. They were tightly coiled and only needed a light prod to get them to spring open firing their seeds out.
Back at the top lock I had a look at the boatmens cottages, dated 1792.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Canal Walk: Lydiate

We parked on the road near Dicconsons Bridge and the club house of the MMBC. You can access the towpath from the bridge. There are a lot of boats moored here with only a few being narrowboats so they are an interesting collection. Although the leaves were turning and it is now officially Autumn the sun was shining and it was hot! There were a few cyclists, walkers and a young lad fishing. We stopped off at Lydiate Hills bridge formerly known as Billys Bridge. This bridge is slightly different to the usual stone bridge on the Leeds Liverpool Canal. It has buttresses at the sides unlike the other bridges. When we went up to the path across the bridge I noticed a concrete cylinder which I guessed was some sort of roadblock from WW2. We walked as far as Jacksons Bridge before turning round and heading back to the car.

We then drove up to Haskayne and had lunch at the Ship Inn which was very nice. While we were sat outside Ambush sailed past looking particularly big and high out of the water.

Dock Link Progress Check

Bright and early on a Saturday morning we were at the docks in Liverpool. The new multi-storey car park was almost empty when we parked before 9am. The buildings on the horizon, the cathedrals, Cains brewery, were still shrouded in hazy mist. The docks looked very picturesque with the blue sky and buildings reflected in them.
We walked up to Canning Dock, where the canal will eventually join the south docks. Work was continuing on clearing the site that once housed luxury car showrooms. The old yellow stone walls of Canning Dock are still visible but the brick basements and foundations next to them are being dug up. There are still mountains of rubble to be cleared.
The section of canal link which will pass by the new museum has had some work done on it. The tunnel on Mann Island and the tunnel from the Pierhead south basin have been finished for a while, they will be joined up to form one tunnel under the corner of the museum. There had been some work done towards joining the two canal structures.
The tunnel that will take the canal under a lawn in the centre of the pier head, in front of the Cunard building, has been completed. I photographed it before it is buried. The north basin on the Pier head has got concrete walls, and the opening to the tunnel under St. Nicholas’ Place is visible.
The road bridge down to the new floating landing stage is now in place. The site of the old floating road is now the route to the new bridge and is crossed by a canal tunnel. There is still no sign of any work being done between the St Nicholas Place tunnel and Princes Dock. I took another “before” photo of the site.
We walked around Princes Dock and then back along the river front and through Albert Dock.
Liverpool’s docks are already a great tourist attraction. There is a huge new shopping centre being built next to Canning Dock. There is a new Slavery Museum now open. The new Liverpool museum is being built now. When the canal link is open there will be plenty for boaters to see and do in and around the docks.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dock Link Work

It was a sunny morning in Liverpool and the docks are host to the clippers getting ready for the round the world race. Despite it being a Saturday morning and both Liverpool teams having early kick offs the work was progressing. The building rubble is still being cleared and sored into huge piles. The foundations of buildings which once housed fans for the underground railway can be seen. There are notices about the excavations and finds.
On the link itself, the culvert which will run under the lawn in the centre of the pier head is having its roof put on. Its looking like a tunnel at last rather than a hole in the ground. It will be covered over when finished.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Canal Walk: Burscough to Appley Bridge

Today was a day off work and a chance to get to the towpath for a walk. I had thought about going to Yorkshire but in the end settled for a walk closer to home. It’s a walk I have done before many times but one I don’t get tired of. I parked on the road by Burscough Bridge (#32A) and set off towards Wigan. Depending on the weather and how I felt I planned to stop either at Parbold, Appley Bridge or Gathurst and get the train back to the car at Burscough. The towpath was empty. There were a few people messing about with their boats but for most of the walk I had the towpath to myself. There is no need for mp3 players or mobile phones while walking, they just distract you from the things that make a walk worthwhile. What are those things? Every day is different and this is why I had no concern about walking a familiar route.
I was soon over the bridge that takes the towpath over the Rufford Branch and up to the Ring O’ Bells pub. No sign of summer time drinkers today. The sky was cloudy but it was getting warmer with every step. I had started walking at midday so when I came to Moss Bridge #35 I stopped to have lunch and take off a couple of layers. There are some large stone fish here, in a circle, one of the many art instillations along the canal put in place and then forgotten about. I sat on one to eat my sandwiches. On the other side of the canal is a pill box. This is part of the stop line designed to halt the Nazi invasion that never came. There are three concrete pill boxes on this stretch but it was a brick defence I was keen to find today. Just before Spencer’s Swing Bridge #36 there is a low brick wall with pre-cast concrete loopholes. At this time of year if you didn’t know it was there you would never spot it. This and the circular brick pill box near the Halsall Cutting are sites I will have to revisit when the leaves have fallen and the grass and weeds have died down.
Despite the summer warmth there is plenty of sign of autumn colours on the towpath. The hawthorn hedges have bright red berries ad the black elderberries were shining. At Giants Hall I took a diversion down the steps at the side of the aqueduct (37B) which carries the canal over a road. It’s an uninspiring structure, not quite up to the standard of Chirk or the Pontycillet (SP?) but it does its job. Near the aqueduct is milepost 27. It took me quite a few visits to locate it but now I have trimmed back the brambles it is fairly easy to find. I stopped to kick a few errant branches out the way. The milepost is once again green with whatever basic plant life it is that likes it so much. Maybe a new species has developed that is only found on this one milepost. It would look much better given a smart coat of paint.
I decided to carry on past Parbold. The little Spar shop has a To Let sign on it. Before Chapel House Bridge# 39 is milepost 28 which has been recently painted and looks much better than it used to. I went up and onto the bridge to see the WW2 concrete cubes. These cubes can be found at a number of bridges on the canal and were designed to stop the Nazis crossing the canal. There are large, about 5ft square with 4 metal girders sticking out at each corner on the top side. The concrete has a lot of large pieces of stone and looks like it was mixed for quick deployment rather than longevity. Some of the concrete has fallen away from the metal uprights. On Chapel House bridge if you look on the road surface in between the cubes, at the edge of the cobbles you will see two circles. They are what looks like to sections of sewerage or drain pipe set vertically in the ground in concrete. They would have been part of a moveable roadblock. Barriers would have been put into the holes when the road block was in place. I wonder if the men who put these defences in place really thought that German soldiers could be one day trying to cross the canal here.
The next two bridges also have concrete cubes although the ones on Hand Lane Bridge #41 are hidden among the plants growing on the unused road. A narrowboat had just left Appley Deep Lock so it was empty. The overgrown trees and bushes on the island between the locks and to the right of the towpath are all that remain of the backgardens of houses that once stood here. In more than one place on the canal the garden hedges and trees are the only sign that a lock or bridge cottage was once there. Often there is an overgrown section of land, separate from the neighbouring field.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Canal Cruise: Wrenbury to Nantwich

This Sunday I met the Albatross at Wrenbury on the Llangollen Canal. I parked opposite the Cotton Arms. The sun was threatening to shine so we hoped for a sunny afternoon cruising back to the marina at Nantwich. But the hope didnt last too long and the black clouds started to gather. There was a queue for the locks, mostly due to one of the locks having only one ground paddle.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Canal Walk: Maghull

After a visit to the Pierhead to check on the dock link construction, I went to Maghull for a short walk. I parked on the road in the residential streets near to bridge #17, Dicconson's Bridge. Stood on the bridge you can see the boats of the Mersey Motor Boat Club, the first leisure boating club on the canal. I went down to the towpath and headed towards Liverpool. It was a lovely sunny day and there were lots of people on the towpath enjoying the canal.
This stretch of canal has enough swing bridges to mke a boater wonder whether its worth geting back on board. There were a grand total of three boats on the move today. A cabin cruiser, a narrowboat and one of the tradtional converted lifeboats. At one time most of the boats belonging to th MMBC were these converted lifeboats.
There was a fishing competition but no one had any trouble getting past their poles. It is posible for cyclists walkers and anglers to use the towpath together.
I havent been down this stretch for a while and wanted to re-photo the blockhouse by the railway bridge 12 miles oout of Liverpool. The blockhouse is different to the one at Heatons Bridge, it only has loop holes on the upper level. It would have given a view of the fields opposite the canal, alongside the railway embankment. It turned around before the canal reached the M58, and headed back.
Its worth having a look at the boats of the MMBC, there are a couple of intereting ones as well as the classic cruisers. There were two converted lifeboats, one of which was manovering with a very musical engine.
This is a popular place for walkers and cyclists and is, in part, a bit of the traspennine trail.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Canal Walk: Tavistock

With an hour to spare in Tavistock, Devon, I took a walk on the disused Tavistock Canal. I parked at the Canal Wharf in Tavistock in the large pay and display car park which is inbetween the river and the feeder for the canal. The pedestrian bridge out of the car park crosses the feeder channel but the channel is over grown so you cant see much. At the other end of the car park are the wharf buildings, and from under the road comes the Tavistock Canal. It passes along the back of some buildings and then into the park called the Meadows. There are a couple of pedestrian bridges over the canal giving access from the street to the towpath. At the end of the park is West Bridge and a very busy road. Near here there is a statue of Sir Francis Drake who sailed sterner waters than the Tavistock Canal. You can either use the underpass or take your life in your hands and cross the road. The canal passes by a school and some housing before turning a corner andheading into woodland. There is what looks like a swing bridge by the housing but with no boats there is no sign of swinging here.
The canal was running low on water and only a couple of inches deep in places. The bankside seemed to be cut from the bedrock while the towpath side, on an embankment, is lined with local stones.
Past the housing estate there was no one else on the towpath. I walked up to the gate by the Crowndale Farm, the birth place of Drake. There is a long low farm building here and an information board giving history of the canal.
I turned around here. The sign says there is no public access to the aqueduct or the entrance to the tunnel.
Back in Tavistock we went to the bridge over the river to see if we could see the sluice that takes river water into the feeder. There was building work going on and the river side path was closed. The building work obviously explains the low water levels on the canal.
This is a nice place for a walk and I will be returning.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Canal Walk: Keighley to Skipton 10 miles

This was the first sunny weekend for months so it was off to Skipton to complete the stretch up to Keighley. We parked in the large town centre carpark by the junction with Springs Branch. It is £3.50 for over 4hours which isn’t bad. I decided to get the train to Keighley (pronounced Keith ley not Key ley) and walk the ten miles back to Skipton. We were early for the train so we got lunch from the Morrisons next to the station and ate it on the platform while we waited. We got a Metro train and it took about 15 minutes to get to Keighley.

From Keighley station turn right onto the main road, Bradford Road, and follow it over the roundabout, over the River Aire, cross at the crossing and then take next the left, Bar Lane. In front of you is Stockbridge Swing Bridge #197. Turn left for Skipton. It took us about 20 minutes to walk from the station to the canal, about a mile.

There are some canal-side housing here after which I found the first mile post which should show Liverpool to be 108miles away. A sign told me this was National Cycle Network route 69. There were quite a few boats on the move, all but a couple were trip boats and day hire boats. Most of the bridges on this section are swing bridges which gives the crew plenty of practice in stopping starting and picking up. I had forgotten my handcuff key so sadly couldn’t help out.

The canal is quite high up on the side of the valley with views across to Keighley town and its green domed mosque.

A mile on and there was milepost 107 again without its distance plaques. The canal passes through woods here; the trees meet and touch branches over the canal. We were passed for the first time by a group of cyclists we were to pass and be passed by six times!
On Lodge Hill bridge #194 you can find a metal plaque with the benchmark on it. The towpath turned quite muddy in places and I was glad to be walking not cycling. Another mile and another milepost, 106 miles to Liverpool. We were doing well.

The flowers in the hedgerow seemed to be coordinated; the theme this weekend was purple.

I couldn’t see the next milepost, 105miles, but had no trouble spotting a canal-side mill in Silsden. Silsden had some of the best designed new canal-side houses on the whole canal. They had the look of a warehouse or mill but with large windows and nice patio areas. Through Silsden Bridge 191A is the boatyard of Silsden Boats. Here there are some good ruined and abandoned buildings. One house covered by trees would be a lovely place to live. And for a neighbour you would have a baby shire horse. A bit further on and Raven was at its moorings, an interesting boat I had noticed last time I was near Skipton. The sun glistened on the ripples as the canal gently wandered along the contour.

After Cowling Swing Bridge #191 is milepost #104. After another mile of swing bridges comes Kildwick. Warehouse Swing Bridge #187 seemed to be getting engineering attention by BW who were also giving medical attention to a bridge user who had come off second best in trying to open it. Parsons Bridge #186 is fittingly next to a church and graveyard and has a covered gateway at one end. There is a small carpark besides Redman Swingbridge #185.
Milepost 102 was there with maker pen distances written on it. The canal again passes through woods and fields of cattle.
At Hambethorpe Swing Bridge #183 there is a war memorial. I had read about this and was keen not to miss it. As luck would have it a boat was passing through the bridge so I had to wait for it to go before I could cross to photo the memorial. There is an information board which gives the details of the Polish airmen who crashed their bomber here during WW2.
Not far past the bridge is milepost 101.
The canal loops around and comes close to Low Bradley before coming to Low Snaygill. There was a lot of activity around the boatyard and almost a coming together with two boats and one bridge hole. No sign of milepost 100, a bit of a shame or 99 but just before the end of our trek was the only milestone of the walk. A thin stone similar to one in Church.
Back in Skipton we dropped our things off at the car and went for a well earned tea at the very popular chip shop.

It’s a good walk but you are never far from the noise of the busy roads which follow the valley. It is similar to the canal around Appley Bridge but without the locks and with a bigger valley. It doesn’t have much in the way of industrial archaeology but is pleasant enough.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Canal Walks: a British Summer

This weekend was typical of the British summer. On Saturday it was cloudy but by the time I had parked at the new car park by Albert Dock, Liverpool, the sun was shining and I was over dressed. I walked up to the pier head and the building site of the dock link. The car show room was mid-demolition and the whole area looked like it must have done during the Blitz. I managed to take one photo before being accosted by a peg toothed local who either saw himself as an expert on canals or as Batman's nemesis the Riddler. His main point seemed to be that the canal was not a canal because it went underground. Any mention of Foulridge Tunnel was met with a blank look. After what seemed like Ages of circular arguments I shook him off and took some more photos. I walked up to Princes Dock and back. On my return the local yokel was having the same conversation with two other hapless tourists. Bravely I managed to stand next to them while taking a picture of the South Basin area.
the work seems to be progressing well. The idea seems to be to do the culverts first and then link them up with the open channels.

On the Sunday (which was predicted to be better weather) it was again cloudy. Hoping for an improvement during the day we planned a short walk in West Lancashire. Had the weather been better we would have gone up to Skipton but its a long drive just to sit in a car and eat sandwiches looking at the rain.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Canal Walk: Parbold to Appley Bridge

The forecast was for light showers and the black clouds above promised something heavier. But being Britain in June there was blue sky and warm sunshine enough to make my waterproofs feel unnecessary. After a snack from Tescos we parked on the road by Burscough Bridge and joined the towpath. Under the bridge there were a couple of boats moored by the old depot buildings. They were filling up with water and had obviously been in Liverpool for the Coal and Cotton rally. The rally had finished and there were quite a few boats on their way back. It was nice to see the canal with some extra boats on it. After Moss Bridge there was a mini rally with more narrow boats. Along the towpath were the signs that the horse drawn narrowboat had been passed recently but we had to wait until Parbold to see it moored up by the windmill. Milepost 27 is still visible after some of the brambles were cut back earlier in the year, this time last year it was completely hidden. We chose to push our luck and carry on from Parbold to Appley Bridge, the black clouds still threatening.
Approaching Appley lock a narrowboat that had been following us since Burscough caught up with us. By now my companion was drinking puddles so we decided to go to the station and get the train back to Burscough rather than carry on to Gathurst. We avoided any rain until we were back in Burscough.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Canal Walk Scarisbrick

Just a short walk today. The sun was hot and the sky blue in complete contrast to last weekends Bank Holiday rain. I parked at the small car park on the Halsall side of the canal by the Saracens Head pub. I went under the bridge and headed in the Liverpool direction. The hedgerow is now in full growth so there is no chance of finding hidden mileposts.
The usual peace and isolation of the Halsall cutting was spoilt by the noise of a farmers engine pumping water from the canal for irragation. towards the end of the cutting I spotted the Pride of Sefton heading out for a day in the sun.
A small group of boaters from Braunston were moored near the Ship Inn no doubt waiting for the Coal and Cotton rally in Liverpool next weekend. They had set up camp across the towpath with windbreaks, chairs, dogs and even home-made flag poles warning of a cat...
The Ship Inn was busy and didnt smell of shit for a change.
Besides Haskayne bridge I saw the NB Laura Knight which used to belong to my family, it is in beter condition now than last time I saw it.
The swallows were drinking from the canal and the coots and moorhens busy with their families as I reached Down Holland Hall where I turned around to head back. I saw 2 narrowboats, one cabin cruiser and the Pride of Sefton on the move today.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Canal Walk: Burscough to Appley Bridge

With the car parked on the road by Burscough Bridge we went underneath the bridge and set off towards Wigan. The cobbles around the former BWB depot are now overgrown. The depot is a sad sight indeed. Not far from the depot is another abandoned building, Ainscough’s mill. It was one of the last industries to use the canal for carrying. Now the building is empty with only trespassing teenagers able to appreciate its interior. The railway bridge here might be new addition as far as the canal is concerned but it pre-dates the American Civil War.
There are some interesting boats moored along the canal by the junction with the Rufford Branch and some narrow boats too.
Past the 25 mile milepost the canal passes through market gardens, where trees and garden plants are grown. Although I have walked this stretch before I did find two mileposts, a half and a quarter that I hadn’t spotted before. As well as the small mileposts there are rather larger canal features to look out for: pill boxes. There are three pill boxes that I have seen. They were part of the defences based around the canal that would stop Nazi paratroopers getting to Manchester. The weather forecasts threatened heavy rain by 12 noon but the sky was blue and it was hot.
At Parbold we saw Ambush, a working boat which once worked at Ainscoughs mill. It now sells red diesel and gas to boaters on the canal.
After a short break watching ducklings and baby moorhens eating midges we set off again. There were a few clouds on the horizon and by the time we reached Appley Lock there was some rain in the air. The Rose of Parbold was entering the big single lock heading back to its moorings at Parbold.
We got to the station in Appley bridge to see a train closing its doors, maybe if we had run we would have got it but we thought better of it. With half an hour to kill we went back to the canal and walked up to the swing bridge by the housing estate. The houses are built on the site of a factory and reflect how the canal has changed from trade and industry to housing and leisure. Somewhere along the way we managed to gain a towpath companion, a fat panting black lab/rotweiller cross. He waddled along with us, crossed the swingbridge and headed up to the Waters Edge pub where we saw his owner on the far side of the canal. We left the dog having a drink and went to the station to get the train back to Burscough Bridge. As we arrived in Burscough the heavens opened. I noticed some boats by the Bridge pub and looking over the far side of the bridge I saw a Callumcraft 17 on blocks. Then it was back to the car and home.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Canal Walk: Appley Bridge to Dean Locks

We managed to park the car on a grassy slope in the full car park at Appley Bridge. There had been a fishing competition on but we were soon past the men with the poles. The towpath was busy on this sunny Sunday, there were lots of walkers and too manyc yclists without bells. I managed to find and photo the two mileposts I descovered last time. We were also lucky to spot a kingfisher flying along the canal but it disappeaered before I could get a photo. Halle tried to roll in something smelly but was stopped in time. I think it might have been otter poo.

Canal Walk: Gargrave to Skipton

We parked the car at the free carpark on North Street in Gargrave; the canal is just around the corner at Higherland bridge #170. At the bridge we turned right and headed towards Skipton. Not far from Higherland bridge is Eshton Road Bridge #171 and Eshton Road Lock #31 which was being used by a hire boat. Past Holme Bridge and the lock and aqueduct named after it the canal passes open fields. What should be a quiet country walk is spoilt by the A65 which follows the canal. It might have been the wind but the noise of the road never went away making this stretch noisier than the M65. There isn’t much for the industrial amateur archaeologist to look at on this bit of canal, just fields with sheep and cows. There was one good thing to spot and that was the mileposts, there were almost a full set. Along with the metal mileposts there was one milestone. It was near the stump of a tree and had been turned around over the last couple of hundred years but other than that it was in good condition and had a benchmark on top.
Other than the mileposts there wasn’t much of interest until we got to Skipton. Skipton has some impressive industrial architecture and is also the most vibrant town along the canal. Other towns and cities ignore the canal but Skipton has embraced it. Around the junction with the Springs Branch there is a lively canal scene. You can hire a boat, visit boating and outdoor shops or have something to eat and drink at the bars and cafes. A complete contrast to Blackburn or Burnley.
We walked up the Springs Branch. It is a short branch, just a quarter of a mile long, which was once a limestone quarry with the stone being loaded to the barges below. Boats up to 35foot can go up the branch and there is trip boat for those who want a short cruise. Walking along the raised boardwalk you get a view which is unique on the Leeds Liverpool (as far as I know). There are plenty of mills and factories on the canal but this is the only castle. Skipton Castle was built to defend England from the rampaging and murderous Scots. It was besieged by Cromwell’s Parliamentarians during the Civil War and is now open to the public. It’s well worth a visit and has a nice gift shop, the most important part of any historical site.
After the Castle we looked around the shops then walked back to Gawflat Swing bridge #176 which is very close to Skipton station. It was £1.60 for a single to Gargrave and took 6 minutes.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Canal Walk Appley Bridge to Dean Locks

Its a lovely sunny day today. I passed long queues of traffic heading into Southport for a day at the seaside. I was going the opposite way, to the canal. Luckily there were still some spaces in the car park at Appley Bridge so I parked and set off towards Dean Locks. It was a bit odd without my usual camera and because I was cameraless I found two quarter mileposts. The towpath was busy with walkers and cyclists. There were a few boats on the move and I think I spotted a Norman 17 near the Waterfront pub in Appley Bridge.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Canal Walk: Scarisbrick

The sun is still shining so I went for a short walk on Easter Sunday. Parking at one of the former agricultural wharves I walked up to the MMBC moorings at Scarisbrick to have a look at the boats. For a change there were boats on the move, as many as seven boats including one cabin cruiser, the rest being narrowboats :(

Canal Cruise: Nantwich to Bunbury

It was Good Friday, the sun was shining and it was the perfect day for a sail on the Shropshire Union Canal. There was a lot of traffic on the road and for once the canal was a faster way of travelling. It’s a short sail from the basin a Nantwich to the staircase locks at Bunbury.
I was a good thing that I was sailing rather than trekking because the towpath was closed for maintenance. Hopefully they will continue this work along the canal as there are some very poor bits of towpath around there.
We stopped for lunch near Hurleston Junction and could hear the clatter of the lock paddles being wound up as boaters came back from their holidays on the Llangollen Canal. A little further on is another junction at Barbridge, the Middlewich Branch of the canal.
As well as he usual ducks, moorhens, geese and swans there was a cormorant on the canal. A bird I am more used to seeing in the docks in Liverpool
This is a rural landscape but there is some sign of industry. An old brick kiln can be seen by the canal, now covered in trees. It is hard to see how this could be restored in any useful way other than as a holiday home for TeleTubbies.
At Bunbury there is a two rise staircase lock which is popular with onlookers. By the side of the lock is a stable block which once housed the horses used to pull the narrowboats along the canal. There is a shop by the lock which was very handy for me to buy the latest Canal Boat and Inland Waterways magazine.
We didn’t go down the locks, instead we filled up with water and turned around and headed back for fish and chips at the new Olde Barbridge Inn.
A round trip of 12 miles and for once my feet weren’t hurting! Canal cruising does have some obvious advantages over towpath trekking. The Shropshire Union is one of my favourite canals and it is interesting to compare it to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. There is much more traffic on the Shroppie and it is much more closely connected to the rest of the canal network. It was nice to see some classic cabin cruisers amid the modern narrowboats. There were a few wrecks which is always a shame given how expensive it is becoming for new boaters to start a life afloat.
Tomorrow it is back to the Leeds Liverpool and back to the towpath for me.

Canal Walk: Gargrave to East Marton

I have been looking forward to this walk and when better to do it than a sunny Saturday at Easter. Gargrave has two free car parks, both close to Higherland Bridge #170. The canal is a popular spot for boaters, cyclists and walkers. There are hire boat centres nearby, the Pennine Way crosses through Gargrave and the Sustrans bike route 68 also comes through here. At the locks there is always something to watch. In Gargrave there is a post office, newsagent and Co-Op, a couple of pubs and tea shops.
I parked at the North Street car park within sight of bridge 170. At the bridge I turned left and headed towards East Marton. There was plenty of activity around the lock which has a lock keeper. Most of the boats seemed to be hire boats. Although it is great to see the Leeds Liverpool Canal so busy it is a shame the boats are mostly (95%) narrow boats rather than something traditional.
Close to Higherland Lock #32 I unexpectedly found a milepost showing I was 93 miles away from Liverpool and just 34¼ from Leeds. There are 10 locks over the two miles from bridge 170 to 165. There are a number of features which make these locks a bit different. Some of the locks have cloughs, like the locks on the Rufford Branch rather than ground paddles. The balance beams on at least one lock were angled rather than being horizontal. The locks also have the hooks used for pulling boats out of the locks. The hooks had no rope marks so may have had pulleys attached to them rather than having the rope around them directly.
There was no sign of any milestones on this stretch but there were plenty of mileposts, quarter, half and full.
At Priest Holme Aqueduct the canal meets the River Aire for the first time.
After bridge #164 the canal becomes serpentine following the contour around the valleys. This means you can see boats across the valley moving east to west which will turn the corner and head towards you going west to east. There is a television mast which is always present and highlights the lack of progress you are making. The canal takes a mile to travel about a quarter of that distance.
For the second time in 2 days I saw a dead sheep (doubtful that it was the same one), this one was floating downstream towards Gargrave and the crowds of day-trippers. It didn’t take long before I had reached the Double Arched Bridge #161 and milepost 89.
I stopped to see how my new walking boots (and my feet) were doing. With everything still in one piece I set off on the return trip.
For a change I was doing a circular walk, the return leg being via the Pennine Way which can be joined at Williamson Bridge #162.
The Pennine Way isn’t the most comprehensively signposted route. There are small arrows besides styles and gates but you just have to walk across a field and hope you will find the way at the other side. The scenery wasn’t as good as I had hoped; the canal is out of sight for most of the walk. The Way does save time on the return and gives a good view of Gargrave.
Back in Gargrave I bought some rather standard sized “Giant” doughnuts and took some photos of the St.Andrews church. After dropping my bag off in the car I walked a quarter of a mile up to Eshton Road bridge #171 and lock #31 where the lock keeper was preparing the lock for a pair of narrow boats.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Canal Walk Brierfield to Hapton 8 miles

Once again I parked at Blackburn station and got the train to my starting point. There is parking in Burnley but I enjoy the train ride. Today I was sat with a group of bell ringers off for a weekend of bell ringing. As the train followed the canal I saw two boats on the move, one was heading into Gannow Tunnel.
I got off the train at Brierford station which is a short walk past some inbred girls down the hill to the canal at Lob Lane bridge #137. I went up as far as the next bridge Clogger Bridge #138 to see if the 77 mile milepost had emerged from the undergrowth since I was last here. It hadn’t. With the sun shining and the sky blue I turned around and headed towards Burnley. Half a mile on and I did find a milepost that had eluded me on the last visit, 76.5 miles from Pall Mall Liverpool is a half mile post with the top missing. Near to the half mile post is the original milestone in better condition than its metal replacement.
Once past hawks House Bridge #136 I was on new untrekked towpath and with one of the seven wonders of the canal world ahead of me I went on.
Between Heald bridge #133 and the railway ridge 132A there are the remains of a wharf where coal boats once loaded from the mine. The is a photograph of this wharf in use in the Burnley canal walk guide. At Old Hall bridge #132 a friendly Muslim ask if I wanted to take his photograph and hoped I would have a nice time on my journey. There is something about towpath that makes people friendlier. The bridge itself has very high sides, I could only just see over the shelly sandstone parapet.
I took a diversion from the towpath to see the aqueduct which carries the canal over the River Brun from the bottom rather than the top. I was glad I did, it continue on without stopping would be to miss seeing an impressive piece of engineering. Another milepost,number 74, and it was off to find a wonder.
And then there it was. I came around the corner and saw a long straight stretch of canal, 60 ft above the town, Burnley Embankment. Unlike the aqueduct this is a feature best taken from the top. I have been to Burnley before and been within feet of the embankment not paying it any attention it despite its size. From the bottom its an overgrown embankment, from the top you can see the whole city and like Ewood embankment in Blackburn you can see the towns football stadium. There is access for those who can walk to the embankment at the town’s bus station or further along by the large Tescos which has a cafĂ©. I stopped off at Tescos for lunch and noticed my feet were beginning to hurt. I had worn the wrong boots for the job. Much of the towpath on this section has been very recently relaid so trainers would have been a better choice of footwear than brand new Royal Mail DMs. But I was stuck with them so had to carry on. At the other end of the Embankment is Finsley gate bridge #130E which gives a great view along the “straight mile”. Passed the old canal depot are some large mills and in a niche in a wall is milepost 73.
Unfortunately the visitor centre in the old toll house by bridge #130B was shut and not due to open until Easter but I did appreciate how well the warehouses have been renovated. The warehouses and redevelopment are similar to those at Wigan Pier and Eanam Wharf. A bit further on are the unique canal side houses for mill workers. On the bankside and fronting directly onto the canal. Now empty they would be worth a fortune anywhere else. Many of the mills are empty and I saw quite a few that were being demolished.
By the time I reached Gannow Tunnel my feet were hurting quite a lot. It was clear I had some nasty blisters developing on both feet. I had passed up the chance to escape at Mitre bridge #129A and get the train at Burnley Barracks Station. The idea of walking barefoot kept passing through my mind. Approaching Gannow Tunnel you can appreciate why it was needed, in front of you is a steep hill, to a sandgrounder like me it looked like Everest. All the directions I had read on how to walk from one side to the other assumed you were going the opposite way ad were in any case the bottom of my rucksack. Luckily two girls were walking ahead of me and I correctly guessed they were going the same way. Trying not to look like someone from Crime Watch I followed them to the other side of the tunnel. Its not the easiest of routes, via underpasses and across busy roads. I can see why some people get lost at this point. A few sign posts would be a nice idea.
Its about three miles from the tunnel to Hapton. I found milepost 71 though it was in poor condition. The river class barge Kennet was moored by Gannow Bridge. Milepost 70 is not on any maps, and now I know why. It’s under the railway. Its rather buried but it has most of its plaques and was a welcome find showing me I had only one mile to go to Hapton bridge. Even knowing the end was near I could only manage a slow trudge and by the time I got to the Hapton it was a limp. I left the canal at hapton bridge and walked up the hill to the station where I had just 20 minutes to wait for the train back to Blackburn.
I will definitely be going back to Burnley to see the visitor centre and have a look at the culvert under the embankment. This walk means I have now completed the first 89 miles of canal from Liverpool to East Marton.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Canal Walk: Hapton to Church

The weather forecast for Saturday had been changing daily throughout the week; it varied from light rain, to drizzle to cloud, to sunny spells with the threat of hailstorms and/or thunder. I decided to risk driving to Blackburn for a short six mile trek from Hapton to Church. I parked the car for free at Blackburn station and got the train to Hapton. The canal is a short walk from the station and the towpath can be accessed at Hapton bridge #121 via a short flight of steps. My maps showed a milepost just the other side of the bridge towards Burnley so I made a small detour to have a look for it. I had expected it to be the quarter mile post marking 69.25 miles to Liverpool but discovered it is in fact the full milepost, 69 miles to Liverpool and 58¼ to Leeds.
Hapton bridge is a sturdy thing, it has been widened in the past which is clear to see underneath. I passed under the bridge and headed out of town passing the boatyard on the way. After leaving Hapton the M65 makes its presence known. The canal looks to be on route to go underneath the motorway but it changes its mind and turns away from it at the last minute.
A mile on and I came to three bridges with similar names, Higher Shuttleworth Bridge, Shuttleworth bridge and Shuttleworth Hall bridge, numbers 120, 119A and 119. Number 120 is a metal bridge looking like being from the 19th Century, 119A is a modern concrete bridge and 119 is a typical stone bridge, though one of the bigger later ones. It is at this bridge I saw the first of many ruins on this section.
Here is a large concrete wall under the motorway which has been turned into an art gallery. I saw some of the artists at work with rollers creating works of art just for the people on the canal and the Shetland ponies and sheep in the fields.
The canal has had its banks moved and rebuilt along this section, concrete and metal pilings remind you that the canal is man-made. There wasn’t much sign of wildlife, just a couple of pairs of ducks and a small flock of Canada geese, but no coots or moorhens.
At Altham bridge #118 there are a pair of ex-working boats. One was the A41 the other had no name I could see. These boats are anything but narrow and despite being covered in a bad paint job and accumulated rubbish they still had the look of a serious working boat. On the other side of the bridge you can see the signs of an old coal pit and a disused quarry, both now covered over with grass.
The wind was picking up and there was the odd spot of rain but not enough to warrant unpacking my waterproof. After more ruins I found milepost 67 with only its tip showing about the ground. I should carry a spade with me for just such an occasion.
At some private moorings there were signs of boat life but no boats were on the move today.
He next set of ruins were perhapse the best. Just after the remains of a stone bridge, Smiths Bridge, and next to Smiths Swing Bridge is a large house no without floors or windows. There would have been three floors with the towpath at the same height as the first floor and the back yard at the lower floor level. Each floor had two rooms with a fireplace in each, 6 all together. Named as Lower Clough Bank on the 1898 OS map it has a reservoir below it. On the other side of the canal Altham Vitriol Works once stood but now there is little to be seen of it.
After Fosters Swing bridge the canal approaches Clayton-le-Moors. By Enfield changeline bridge 114A there is a set of canal warehouses, now abandoned like much of the buildings on this stretch of canal. Milepost 65 has survived though it needs a coat of paint.
Before the entering Church I stopped at Rileys Swing bridge (which has a large lock needing a windlass) to have a bite to eat.
The Peel Arm still survives though it is now closed to traffic and walkers and collects floating windblown rubbish. After seeing only a few walkers all day it was a bit unnerving to see a horde or hoodie wearing youths at Church swing bridge. I decided to give the bridge a miss and put the camera away while I passed them.
Near to Church Kirk Bridge #112 is the halfway point of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. This midway point is celebrated with a series of cut out metal panels and a milepost showing the equal distance to both Leeds and Liverpool.
I crossed over the changeline bridge and was soon on ground I had covered on my last visit. I had just missed one train so I walked back to the Bee Hive coke ovens to have another look.
You can leave the towpath near Simpson’s bridge 111D, Church & Oswaldtwistle station is a 5 minute walk from here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Canal Walk: Walton Summit Branch

I parked at Botany Bay just off Junction 8 of the M61 next to the half mile post. The weather was grey and a bit rainy so I had chosen a short trek to see what was left of the Walton Summit Branch. It is about three quarters of a mile from Botany Bay to the Junction. To the right are the locks at Johnsons Hillock taking the canal up to meet the Leeds Liverpool proper, to the left is what is left of the Walton Summit Branch. There is only a quarter of a mile of canal left with no winding hole or room to turn a boat that cannot turn on an ordinary stretch of canal and anyway boats aren't allowed down here. The canal ends abruptly at what was once the Johnsons Hillock bridge. Beyond its end there is no sign of there having ever been a canal here except the white Navigation House nearby which was once the Navigation Inn. I did find a battered quarter milepost at the end of the line.
After a quick look around I headed back to the main line and walked up the locks. The BWB mainatance boats Cornwall, Yarrow and Clitheroe II were at the locks fitting new gates.
By the small toll house at 4th Lock Bridge I tried to work out how the system worked for towing boats with no towpath under the bridge. There is a metal hook on the bridge which was obviously used and the bollards were well worn as were the stone work a the top of the bridge. The horse could cross the road and pull the boat out of the lock. The rope would go from the boat, around the hook, back to the bollard and then to the horse. At some point the rope would have to be detatched from the boat.

The buildings of Lock Farm are dated 1727, that is before the canal was started in the 1770s

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Canal Walk: Riley Green to Cherry Tree

I was hoping to walk at Hapton but there is nowhere to park at the boatyard by Knotts bridge so it was on to Plan B and Riley Green. There was a stretch of towpath between Feniscowles and Cherry Tree that had yet to walk so it was a good opportunity to complete the section.
Riley Green is just off Junction 3 of the M65. The Boatyard Inn makes it clear they do not want people to use their parking spaces while walking even if they use the pub during the visit. So, rather than risk the clamp and fine they threaten, I parked in the roadside parking on the A675 just off Junction 3.

Its a short walk down to the towpath at Riley GreenBridge #91A. There is a picturesque ruin besides the bridge. At the canal I turned right and headed towards Blackburn. The towpath is muddy here and a bit slippy but not so bad that it put off the families on bikes.
It didn't take long before I was at Feniscowles and at the border of Chorely and Blackburn. As the canal crosses and aqueduct next to the large paper works the M65 drones past on a higher viaduct. On the towpath it is easy to ignore the motorway behind the trees. There was a lone mandarin duck amongst the mallards, quite appropriate on Chinese New Year.
I found milepost 53 easily but 53.25 and 53.5 were a bit more of a challenge. The quarter milepost was almost completely buried, the half in a hedge. The stone marked on the OS map turned out to be the milestone for 53 miles, its near to the half milepost. The milestone is well preserved and has lasted better than the metal mileposts that replaced it. It has a bench mark carved on the top.
Between Feniscowles Bridge and Cherry Tree bridge there is a lot of new housing the only signs of the past are the remains of a railway bridge, an old cottage, some warehouses and the canal itself.
The towpath between Feniscowles bridge and Cherry Tree has been recently improved and is idea for people on wheels or those who dont like skidding about in mud. There is a new sign giving information about the towpath route.
Its a nice walk, popular with locals, although I much prefer walking the other way from Riley Green. Now I have done this section I have walked or cycled the first 63 and a half miles of the Leeds Liverpool Canal from Liverpool to Church without a gap.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Canal Walk: Church to Blackburn

After arriving in Blackburn far far too early for my train but not early enough for the train before it I had a wander about town and did some shopping. I had parked at the station car park which was free. Eventually it was time to get my train, it cost £2.20 for a single ticket to Church and took just 8 short minutes to get there. From the train you get a good view of the canal as you cross it three times and of Rishton Reservoir as the train passes by.
At Church turn right at the road and head to the canal at Simpsons Brdge 111D. At the bridge the canal makes a sharp turn at a large warehouse. Access to the canal is not at the bridge itself, something I didnt find out without a mile detour. Cross the bridge and walk down the road a couple of hundred yards and there is acess on your right. Once I got to the towpath at bridge 111D I walked on a quarter of a mile to thehalf mile post near bridge 112 Church Kirk Changeline bridge before turning around and heading to Blackburn.
The first stretch of canal through Church had a lot of quarter half and full mileposts in various states. There are also a set of brick kilns with their own arm of the canal to serve them.
The towpath was busy with dog walkers cyclists and other people out for a walk on a glorious sunny February Sunday. The canal in Church follows the contour which means you can walk for a while and look across to where you started. For a change the canal goes over a motorway rather than underneath it. The busy M65 was in complete contrast to the Leeds Liverpool canal which had no traffic on it at all all day.
Rishton is the next town after Church. I was dissapointed not to find milepost 61 and from then on I only found a couple more posts. There was no sign of any milestones.
At Whitebirk the signs of Blackburns approaching urbanisation are found, on one side there are fields and old stone barns and on the other side are modern retail parks.
On entering Blackburn there are a number of large mills some empty some used for offices (one by Granada TV). Near to Eanam Wharf there is an interesting wall with blocked up entrances. they have large pieces of red sandstone.
At Eanam Wharf I had the god fortune to look upwards and found the 57 mile post at the top of one of the pilars holding up the covered wharf! The old OS map didnt lie!
It is a short walk from Eanam Wharf to the station.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Canal Walk: Old Roan to Bootle

Today I decided to do a trek I have been meaning to do for a long time, a walk less than 10 miles from where I live. The canal at the Liverpool end is never far from the local railway lines and it is easy for walkers to use them to start and finish a walk. I took the Ormskirk train from Liverpool Central. The underground line passes close to the old canal terminus at Old Hall Street and then, when above ground, over the top of the Stanley dock branch. The train crosses the canal just before it stops at Old Roan station. Exit the station, turn left on the road and then right at the traffic lights next to the Old Roan pub. Old Roan Bridge #7D is a short distance up the road and access to the towpath can be gained here. This is about eight and a half miles from the Pall Mall terminus.
The towpath here is uninspiring but while other sections of the Leeds Liverpool Canal are a treat for the eyes this section I found was one for the ears. There were very few people using the towpath today, there were some dog walkers and a few cyclists but no fishermen and definitely no sign of any boats. It can be a bit strange walking on your own on a towpath like this; it can be a bit lonely in a way that a more rural setting is not. But the benefit of being solo, without an mp3 player to block out the world, is the sounds of the towpath. The hedgerow was full of songbirds in full voice, something I haven’t heard for a long time. There were blackbirds, thrushes, dunnocks and wrens.

On the water the coots and moorhens were feeling the coming of spring. Coots make a clicking/clucking noise, moorhens have their own cry. There were large numbers of coots and moorhens; they outnumbered the mallards on this stretch. There were groups of 15 or 20 coots while the moorhens stayed in pairs. Both coots and moorhens seem to do well on the remainder stretch, they even seem to like the floating rubbish. The coots are narky birds and adopt an aggressive pose before chasing each other across the cut. Moorhens will always make for the water when scared; they drop in with a plop and all the confidence of a non-swimmer. They will also run across the water if they are in a hurry.

Along the trek the sound of children playing carried across to the towpath from the schools along the way. At other times the pylons and electricity substations that follow the canal can be heard crackling and buzzing.

I passed the 8 mile milepost but couldn’t see any sign of the half mile post at Netherton Swing Bridge although there was a swan there. The seven mile milepost was last shown on an OS map in 1927 so I had assumed it was missing, possibly removed for World War Two. But OS maps are not 100% accurate. Painted black like the others at this end of the canal the 7 milepost was not in bad condition. An unexpected find. I walked on passed the six and a half mile post I had photographed on the bike ride I did a few years ago, a 35 mile round trip from Haskayne. Since that ride there have been a few changes. Factories have been demolished, brown field sites have become building sites and the building sites are now apartment blocks. There is a lot of new housing on this section as old houses and industry are cleared and new apartments are built. Some of the new buildings that were there last time I came passed do not look lived in, they are probably all occupied but there was no sign of human habitation. They all look like show apartments.
Milepost six is marked on the most recent OS map and is opposite some buildings which should make it easy to find. After finding number 7, number 6 should be easy. But as is often the case the easy ones are missing and the missing ones are sticking out like a sore thumb. It was while I was looking for the milepost that the old chap on the bike passed me, his radio playing. I tried a nod of greeting but just got a stare in return. Maybe bearded men looking in hedges don’t warrant a smile. Generally people were friendly and responded to a smile or hello.
At bridge 4 my fellow traveller had dismounted and was sat on a bench eating his lunch and listening to the radio. No response from him again as I took some photographs from the footbridge. I left him behind and carried on walking towards Litherland.

I arrived at Litherland and took some photographs of the site of the old lift bridge. It was a popular spot for photographers in its day, but not so popular with the drivers on the road who had to wait for it. The bridge keeper’s cottage is still there and just past it are the Litherland visitor and permanent moorings. These have nice new looking water facilities for boaters. The bankside is well kept; the only thing lacking is boats. To be honest I wouldn’t leave a boat here and would not spend a night here. The only boat I saw all day was the BWB water witch and that was sunk.

The original plan was to leave the canal at Litherland and get the train back to Liverpool from Seaforth and Litherland station. I was making good time so rather than leave the towpath here I pressed on to Bootle, only a mile and a half away but probably the worst mile and a half on the canal. The industry on this section turned its back on the canal it once needed. There are no new housing developments and while some industrial sites are being cleared their replacements are yet to be built. Some of the brick walls that line the towpath have doorways and gateways in them. They would have been used when unloading coal from the canal barges to the works behind the wall. They have now been bricked up as the door was closed permanently on the canal.

I did find two quarter mile posts: 4¼ and then 3¼. As I reached the end of the trek at the 3 mile milepost by Stanley Road Changeline Bridge #2A the chap on the bike cycled past and I got a wave: third time lucky!
I left the towpath at the changeline bridge which is next to the Strand shopping centre. On the other side of the shopping centre is Bootle New Strand station which has trains to Liverpool and Southport.

Canal Walk: Crooke to Wigan

Last time we came to Crooke the hailstones sent us running back to the car after 5 minutes. Today it was windy and grey but there was no sign of rain. We parked on the street close to where a railway once came down the hillside to canalside. The only sign of this railway now is a gap in the houses where it once ran. Presumably this railway brought coal from the pits at Crooke down to be loaded onto of the railway

We crossed Crooke Bride #47 and set off towards Wigan.
There is now a marina at Crooke where there was once an arm of the canal which went into the coal mines in the hillside. Opposite this arm there was a bridge of some sort from the canal towpath over the River Douglas. All that can be seen now is a raised bit of towpath.
Not far after the marina is the old Crooke lock. This lock was replaced by Pagefield lock after mining subsidence changed the levels of the canal. You can still see where the lock gates once were, the remains of their hinges and recesses they went into when open.
After Martland Mill Bridge #49 I took the opportunity to take a better photograph of a very sad looking milepost, it is still just about possible to see the plaque marking 33 miles to Liverpool.
Two more sets of locks follow, Hell Meadow and Pagefield, both were once duel locks and both now have only one chamber with gates still intact.

There weren’t many people about when we arrived at Wigan pier. The museum and shop looked shut but both were open. We had a look around the shop which always brings back memories of the IWA rally when this site was first redeveloped.
I bought a tin of Uncle Joes Mint Balls. Nice to see sweets with only three ingredients!
The wind was against us. On the return trip the wind was against us but I still managed to find a quarter milepost; one I must have walked past many times before. It marks 33.75 miles to Liverpool. It was so windy there were even waves on the canal, breaking ones at that!

For Sunday lunch we went to the Farmers Arms near Burscough by New Lane Swing Bridge #31. The pub and the carpark were both full of Sunday diners. A reminder not to take a place in a carpark if you are not going to use the pub. Roast lamb for £5.99 and Sherry Triffle (sic) for £2.50.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Canal Drive: Appley Bridge, Crooke, Gathurst

The weather was so changeable today we managed to park by the canal three times in three places inbetween rain and hail showers. At Gathurst I had one shoe off ready to put my wellies on when the heavans opened, so we drove on to Crooke. We did manage to stand on a bridge at Crooke and found how to get there by car and where to park. I plan to return when the weather is better and look for signs of the tunnel. The hail soon sent us back to the car and it was off to Appley bridge. We made it as far as the locks and took some photos before the rain came down again and we headed back to the car and went to Cedar Farm to see the little goats and guinea pigs.
With the sunshining and the hail falling it was no day for towpath treking.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Canal Walk: Farmers Arms to Burscough

After months of grey skies and rain it was nice to wake up to blue skies and sunshine. So it was off to the canal to find the Ribble (the boat not the river) and take some photographs. We parked at the Farmers Arms and headed off to the woodyard where the Ribble is usually moored. My companion for the trek, Halle, set off at pace and we soon got to the Ribble. While Halle investigated a interesting piece of carved sandstone I took photos of the barge.

After taking the pictures we turned around and headed towards Burscough bridge passing the milepost opposite the Farmers Arms which is only visible this tme of year. There were plenty of people out walking on the towpath enjoying the nice weather and for a change there were two boats on the move, Roma and Jules 2. A nice but short walk.