Friday, 24 February 2017

Wigan to Burscough (February 2017)

It has been a while since my Dad and I last walked on the canal.  We had to wait until Leeds schools' February half term to continue our adventure from Wigan to Burscough.  We got up very early to catch our train to Wigan, changing at Manchester Piccadilly, and to our pleasant surprise we were able to sit together as we anticipated 'standing room only' trains because of the rush hour.  On arrival in Wigan we had a spot of breakfast at the Station Cafe across from Wigan Wallgate station.

Henhurst Bridge and Lock 86, Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Wigan
Start of our walk

Wigan Pier Quarter

We picked up where we left off last time at Henhurst Bridge and started our walk.  We walked through the Wigan Pier Quarter and the outskirts of Wigan passing more locks and the JJB stadium, home of Wigan Warriors Rugby League and Wigan Athletic football teams.

Crooke, a pleasant canal side village, Leeds and Liverpool Canal

We reached Crooke, a pleasant canal side village and once a busy area for coal mining and we stopped for a short break.  The pub wasn't opened so we sat in the beer garden admiring the ducks and older barges.  The barges remind me of the Leeds and Liverpool Society's Kennet when it led the flotilla for the canal's Bicentenary celebrations last October.

We continued and walked alongside the River Douglas which section served as a navigation and originally linked to the canal.  It's a scenic area with plenty of walking trails - we saw a number of walkers with their dogs.  We passed Gathurst, where the river navigation used to begin between Gathurst and Wigan and was part of the canal, and we saw remnants of this.

Narrow boat "tea room", Gathurst, Leeds and Liverpool Canal

A highlight for me was seeing a narrow boat tea room which was closed, unfortunately.  It would have been nice to have a cuppa and cake inside but probably opens only in the cruising season.  

We had a scheduled stop at Appley Bridge - we visited The Boat Inn, an eclectic pub with contrasts ranging from very modern music to old and traditional wood panelling.  The place was very quiet (we were the only customers) and it must have changed hands recently as it used to be called the Sams Country Inn according to our map.

After a drink we sat on a canal bench besides the bridge and had our lunch.  A swan must have known as it was waiting for us!  Others joined in but didn't get much from Dad's sandwich - we are advised to not feed them bread but sweetcorn, peas or seeds instead.  I will need to bring a supply of the recommended food on my next walk.

View of the Leeds and Liverpool canal from Lock 91, Appley Locks 

Parbold, Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Passing the final lock (Lock 91 - Appley Locks) we walked through some very scenic West Lancashire countryside before we reached Parbold.  Parbold's noticeable building must be the windmill building which is now an art gallery...the village has a railway station and caters for its villages, walkers and boaters with its shops, pubs, restaurants and moorings.  There is a nice atmosphere to the place...unfortunately we didn't have time to explore but we hope to one day in the future.

We noticed a concrete pillar box between Parbold and Burscough which must have been used during the 2nd World War.  We then ready for our scheduled stop at the recommended Ring O'Bells.  The pub didn't disappoint and we enjoyed having a drink there.  It is a family/dog friendly pub which offers food as well as a wide range of drinks.  There are moorings besides the pub where boats can stop,moor up and visit.

Leeds and Liverpool Canal Rufford Branch

Approaching Burscough

It wasn't far to Burscough (probably just a mile or so or less) so we ambled along the canal passing the junction for the Rufford Branch (another walk I plan to do soon).  We 'signed off' at Burscourgh Bridge and walked down the main street to the station for our overcrowded and claustrophobic two carriage train back home via Huddersfield.   A great day out...only 24 miles or so left before we reach Liverpool! It's a lovely feeling walking over a 100 miles* so far on this canal!

Just another 24 miles or so to Liverpool!
*Dad is yet to walk from Crossflatts to Skipton and plans have been made to walk this stretch next month.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Rewalking from Rodley to Crossflatts (January 2017)

Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Rodley

I had the day off from work so my Dad and I took the opportunity to walk (in my case, rewalk) on the canal.  We woke up to a very cold but sunny day and wrapping up wasn't an option.  The sun rays on the iced canal was a sight to see when we started our way from Rodley.

We walked approximately seven miles before we reached Saltaire first passing Apperley Bridge, Esholt, Thackley, Baildon and Shipley.  We took a comfort stop at Saltaire at its iconic Salts Mill.  I do love their Belgian dark hot chocolate at the Opera Cafe there.

Dad at Dobson Two Rise Locks, Apperley Bridge

We met some friendly Canal & River Trust personnel and had a chat.  We are now considering becoming 'friends' and my desire to walk the 3,000 miles or so on the waterway grows stronger.  The swans, cygnets, ducks and pigeons were pleased to see and they weren't disappointed with our snacks and lunch leftovers!  Will need to bring peas and sweetcorn on future canal adventures.

We did a further three miles to Bingley passing Hirst and Dowley Gap Locks.  From Bingley we ascended and passed the Bingley Three Rise Locks and of the course the infamous Five Rise Locks.  As the weather was glorious we sat outside in deck chairs at the Five Rise Locks Cafe.  The weather warmed up the more we walked and I didn't need to wear my gloves anymore.

Stretch between Saltaire and Bingley, Leeds and Liverpool Canal

On our walk we notice the refurbished mile markers and we thought the miles to Liverpool and Leeds were placed the wrong way round?  I mentioned this the Canal and River Trust and they advised me of the following:

Mileposts on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal
"Britain's canals were the life blood of the industrial revolution and a largely commercial machine.  It was necessary for boatman and canal companies to be able to calculate precisely how far boats had journey along the waterways as these distances formed the basis of toll charges"
"Although the canal is 200 years old, the original cast iron mileposts date back to the 1890s.  They were installed as a response to legislation introduced to regulate canal freight tolls - the Railway and Canal Rates, Tolls and Charges Order of 1893.  This prompted the whole of the canal to be re-surveyed and new mileposts, along with half and quarter mileposts, installed along the towpaths."
"Today we are so used to modern road signs that we assume the mileposts were there to tell boaters how far it was to Leeds or Liverpool, but most canal journeys were much shorter than that.  In fact the posts served a very different purpose tolls were charged for each quarter mile that a cargo was carried.  To calculate the length of a journey, the boatman would subtract the distance on the last milepost he passed from that on the first, then add in the number of half and quarter mileposts passed."
"It is for this reason that the distance plates are displayed on opposite sides of the post to what you might expect.  As the first plate seen displays the distance from your previous location." 
Yes it does make sense and also it marks the progress we made from the first milepost with our canal walking.   Thanks for sharing CRT!

Crossflatts is where we finished our walk

Just a short walk to Crossflatts where we finished for the day.  We caught the 760 bus straightaway to Rodley where we picked up Dad's car for the journey home.   Dad now needs to walk the stretch on the canal from Crossflatts to Skipton.