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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi me and my friends are 16 next year and have decided to travel the journey you have done on our bikes for cancer research we live in liverpool and would find this an adventure we where planning on camping the night then cycling back the next day any tips thank you michael