Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Burscough to Tarleton (Rufford Branch) (March 2017)

A beautiful day awaits me for walking the Leeds and Liverpool Canal's Rufford Branch. With an early start I reached Burscough Bridge,changing trains at Manchester Piccadilly, mid-morning.  

Approaching the Rufford Branch Junction, near Burscough

At Burscough I had a coffee at the wharf before I began the walk.  At the beginning of the walk I met some friendly boaters and walkers - one of the walkers told me about a cake sale at the Ship Inn in Lathom, near the Rufford Branch junction.  All the proceeds went to Comic Relief and when I reached Lathom I popped in the pub and bought some fruit cake, delicious I must say!


Looking down the Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal
Comic Relief cake sale at the Ship Inn

At the junction itself I came across a dry dock, obviously disused now with only a cat in residence!   There were facilities for boats but I did see notices that they are no longer in use (since 2007!).  The Rufford Branch is very rural with open fields and countryside surrounding the area.  I didn't see many walkers at all particularly at the latter stages of the walk.  Just a handful - the busiest stretch was at Rufford with the marina and National Trust's Old Rufford Hall.


Burscough through the bridge and locks!

I visited the Old Hall and had a 'Lancashire Tea' in its pleasant tea room.  The tea wasn't really wasn't anything that special but gave me the energy needed for the remainder of the walk.  I decided to give exploring the Old Hall a miss but had a little wander in the grounds to take some photos.  I diverted through the village passing its noticeable church to enter the grounds and backtracked on the canal afterwards to try and get photos of the Old Hall (the photos didn't turn out too well unfortunately with the sun and trees obscuring the building).

Rufford Marina
Rufford Old Hall

'Lancashire' tea at Rufford Old Hall

View of the canal between Bridges 7 and 8

Such a beautiful stretch on the canal

What a beautiful day to walk on the canal!
Beyond Bridge 10, at Sollom, the canal becomes more of a river with its twists and turns. This part of the canal is known as the 'Old Course of the River Douglas'.  The fields act as the tow path and I wouldn't want to walk on that stretch on a rainy day!  It has a wild feel to it and there is this sense of being in the middle of nowhere with its rural surroundings.  I reached 'civilisation' at Bridge 11 and was greeted with a 'Welcome to West Lancashire' sign.  I rejoined the somewhat muddy towpath at the bridge - the path underneath was flooded.  The canal and the River Douglas run side by side. 

View from Bridge 10.


Approaching Bridge 11

Back to 'Civilisation'

I reached the final bridge in Tarleton and I was wondering where Tarleton Locks were.  I entered via Tarleton Boatyard despite its number of unwelcoming signs advising visitors of no 'unauthorised access'.  I wasn't sure if I was allowed to walk through to reach the final locks but in the ended I walked through undeterred, subconsciously telling myself that the canal and its tow path (access to it) should be considered a public right of way, and got to the final locks.  I saw where the both the canal and river meets...the course eventually links to the Ribble and eventually the Lancaster Canal.  


Tarleton Locks
Continues is the River Douglas

Where the canal meets the River Douglas

I had a well deserved comfort stop by the locks before I made my way to the village for a bus back to Burscough.  Luckily I only waited a few minutes for a bus (the service is hourly and bus services in rural Lancashire aren't the best in the world with regards to frequency) and it was a short bus ride to Burscough Bridge Interchange.  Popped into The Bridge pub for a drink before catching my nightmare return journey to Leeds - a classic Northern fail with inconveniently planned engineering works!

Tarleton Village

A beautiful sunny day for a beautiful walk.  Just 24 miles or so to go to Liverpool and there is the Springs Branch in Skipton to do as well! 

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