Monday, 2 January 2017

Wigan to Leigh (Leigh Branch) (December 2016)

Before I did the 'walk of walks' with my Dad when we walked from Chorley to Wigan I walked the the Leigh Branch.   

Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

I caught a later than planned train to Manchester Victoria.  I decided more or less then that I'll start the walk in Wigan than in Leigh.  Getting a train to Wigan will be considerably quicker than a bus to Leigh (Leigh doesn't have a railway station and won't need to walk through Manchester City Centre to catch the bus).  Besides it's middle of winter and less daylight hours.

After I bought an off peak day return for Wigan Wallgate it wasn't long before I boarded my train.  Half an hour later I was in Wigan and walked down to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Started at canal's Lock 86 (Bottom lock) and soon I joined the Leigh Branch at the junction.

The Branch is approximately 7 miles and I walked through some of the most stunning scenery I've ever seen on a canal.  Seeing the Wigan Flashes in glorious sunshine is a highlight - the blueness of the lakes and the canal's reflections make walking enjoyable.  It was very cold, however, evident from the ice that layered on top of the canal.

Wigan Flashes

I should have swapped to the other side of the canal at Moss Bridge (Bridge No. 2)...but I continued on the right hand until the fence didn't allow me to go any further!  So I had to retrace my steps back to Moss Bridge (probably a mile of walking back) and walked on the other side.  As far as time was concerned it was a bit of a set back as I only had three hours or so daylight left and probably be stuck on the canal when it gets dark.

Undeterred I walked on until I stopped at Abram for a quick drink and toilet stop at the Dover Lock Inn.  A very welcome stop as there are no other canal side pubs or facilities on this branch.  A pleasant and friendly pub though it was quiet when I visited.

20 minutes or so I continued walking on via Plank Lift Bridge to Pennington Flash. There I stopped for a bit...seeing the sunset over the lake and area was a memorable sight and nothing is better to enjoy the view with some mulled wine and a mince pie!

I reached Leigh around 4.30pm and as it was getting dark.  I caught a bus straight away to Wigan. Had to wait a bit in Wigan before I could catch the first off peak train to Manchester Victoria so I popped into Caffe Nero to kill some time.  The cafe closed at 6.00pm so I had to still hang around Wallgate until I was allowed through the barriers to the platform.

From Manchester Victoria I got a Leeds bound train which stopped at every stop! We almost had the carriage to ourselves until a group of loud ladies got on - thankfully they got off at Sowerby Bridge so we had some temporary peace and quiet until a male equivalent got on at I moved to a quieter carriage!

Pennington Flash, near Leigh

End/Beginning of the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Chorley to Wigan (December 2016)

Starting our canal walk from Chorley to Wigan

I call this the 'walk of walks' with it being the final one for 2016 and the fact we are getting nearer to Liverpool and further away from Leeds.

We travelled to Blackburn on the train and on our arrival we made our way to the bus station to catch a bus to Chorley.  It was a long winded journey; stopping at all the villages en route and taking us approximately 50 minutes.



We began with glorious weather.  What a contrast to the heavy rain and winds we had on our last walk (when we walked from Blackburn to Chorley)!  We certainly enjoyed walking in the sunshine and it wasn't too cold either (a contrast to when I walked from Wigan to Leigh on the Leigh Branch).  It looks like I've been lucky with walking weather during the Christmas/New Year holidays.

Privileged to have glorious weather at the beginning of our walk


We walked on the canal until we reached Adlington, a village on the outskirts of Chorley. We initially planned to have a drink at the Bridge Pub but it didn't open even though it's advertised for a 12 noon opening.  Instead we walked across the bridge into the village and saw that The White Bear Pub was opened.  Thankful for the opportunity for a comfort stop.



We continued walking the Rotary Way on the canal passing Worthington, Red Rock and Haigh Hall Country Park.  We did stop very briefly by a bridge for lunch.  There were some parts of the tow path that were very muddle with puddles.  So it was a bit of a challenge to walk without the risk of falling.  Luckily I just invested in some decent walking boots as I know the comfortable trainers I used for canal walking are a no go!  The boots paid off as I didn't slip or fall at once!

Top Lock of the Wigan Flight (21 locks over 2 miles) 

We planned to stop at The Crown pub near Wigan at Bridge 69 but it was closed.  Maybe the pub only opened at lunch time and evenings.  We walked on a little further to reach the top lock of Wigan Flight (of 21 locks over 2 miles).  A short walk was the Kirkless Hall pub - we popped in for well deserved refreshments and comfort stop.

Comfort stop at Kirkless Hall Pub, Wigan 

Knowing it will get dark sooner than later we didn't stay too long at the pub and descended down the flight though I was saddened to see the amount of litter on the canal pounds between the locks.  This spoilt the experience a bit for me and I wish more pride is taken in preserving this magnificent feat of engineering.



It took a good hour or so to reach Lock No. 86 and we decided to finish at Henhurst Bridge. We walked into the town centre for our train home and got a train for home straight away. Our journey home was eventful; two young women doing handstands on the seats and singing loudly...probably already in a party mood for their night out and a young lad fare dodging and was eventually escorted off the train at Stalybridge Station.  Then there was only a short wait in Huddersfield for our Leeds bound train.

Just another 35 miles to go!