Wednesday 23 August 2017


Today's Canals - Bridgewater, Leeds and Liverpool (Leigh Branch an Main Line)

Initially the day was very grey, almost misty, with some light rain. However, this quickly cleared and by mid morning the promised sunshine had arrived.

This photo not only shows the early greyness but also that the Canal Company have been upgrading many of their stop points, installed in case there is a breach in the canal sides. Originally they were like lock gates, sometimes with a pair facing each way, just in case. Although these have been renewed, the points have also been fitted with new light (ish) weigh stop boards.

After about two miles we came to the end of the Bridgewater and the start of the Leeds and Liverpool. The meeting point, end to end, is at Leigh Bridge where we planned to pull in and do some shopping. We recalled that there were several useful shops as well as stalls at the indoor market. In particular we wanted to check whether the pork pies from a local butcher are still as good as they were last time! Fortunately - and it does not always work out this well - we were as pleased as before. Leigh is not an especially up-market kind of place but its shops are well-stocked (not too many charity shops and pound stores!) and equally well-priced.

Much of the Bridgewater passes through land that has been subject to substantial subsidence in the past. Here, it is possible to see that the canal is at the level of the roofs of the new houses not far away.

We also passed a number of flashes, the first and one of the larger ones is Pennington Flash and Country Park. Nature is taking over well and restoring the otherwise waste ground (or at least until some developer gets the idea that they can now build another block of houses on it). In addition, some parts have been designated as public amenities and do seem to be popular. This one also has a nature reserve. They all result from the effects of former coal mining, which was once extensive in this area.

Alongside the canal is this sculpture made from old lock gates and, perhaps with tongue in cheek, called Unlock.

When we last came this way, a large area of open water had been created alongside Plank Lane lift bridge, apparently as a potential marina, but wit h no-one making any use of it. Now there are pontoons and about half already occupied as well as considerable housing development alongside. It is beginning to look as if it will be rather attractive when complete.

We were fortunate in not having any problems at all with the bridge as we later heard that several boats had been held up this morning with a failure in the operating mechanism.

Dover Lock was once actually a lock but subsidence rendered it unnecessary and so lives on only in the name of the pub. The lock itself was where the narrows are alongside the bridge.

At Scotman Flash, where there are water sports facilities on the far side, we could see a group (they looked like youngsters) have an exercise on the water. It really looked as if they were learning how to walk on water but we presume that there must be a long spit of land just under the surface (spoil sport!)

There are two Poolstock Locks just before the end of the Leigh Branch, on the edge of Wigan. Another boat, with two Australians who spend six months of each year on their canal boat and the other half of the year back home. They were preparing the lock and kindly waited for us to join them.

Shortly after the second lock we arrived at the junction and turned left towards Liverpool. Our guide book promised both water and elsan above the lock but although the latter was there, no sign of a water point.

As a result of the lock having very leaky bottom gates and therefore taking a long time to prepare, we were still able to lock down with the other boat even having made our service stop (if there had been a tap then we would probably have mot made it)

There was no water point below the next point ether (despite what our guide book insists) so we continued through the bridge to make a sharp turn at Wigan Pier. A reminder, should one have forgotten, is engraved on some steps.

Some say that the name applies to a large former warehouse at the junction, now converted into a restaurant. There was also a popular night club in another building since demolished but said to be much lamented!

Others say that it refers to a former tippler where coal was loaded into waiting barges as a small feature suggests. The figure also evokes the hard life that women, especially, endured in the work that they undertook just here, but like so many other places in former industrial areas.

Other stories are available!

We continued just a little further to the edge of the town, close to a sports stadium, but where it seemed sufficiently quiet to make a stopover.

10.7 Miles - 4 Locks

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