Wednesday 13 September 2017


Today's Canals - Leeds and Liverpool Main Line, Leigh Branch

The overnight storms did not materialise - at least not with the force predicted. When we awoke it was a bright and sunny morning, with just the occasional shower.

Before leaving Parbold, Mike walked into the village and took a look at a number of the interesting buildings around. The old windmill has long ceased to be used for its original purpose - it was replaced by a steam mill until local milling died out. From the canal, only the uppermost part can easily be seen.

The village was for a long time no more than a number of assorted small groups of houses, not really joined up at all. The canal brought some development to the area but the main thrust of expansion was stimulated by the arrival of the railway. The eponymous pub sits alongside the station. In modern times the expansion has come mainly from the demand for ever more houses.

Mike also found a new small butcher and deli. They were out of pork pies but had several other close  cousins - he bought both a stilton and a chorizo one (nothing to do with the 50p offer, of course!) He also spotted a delicious looking fruit cake, sold by the slice, called  Bara Brith. We had it, as instructed, with our tea later when we moored.

Shortly after we set off there is a very sharp bend. At the apex, straight ahead where the trip boat is moored, was once a graving dock and housed a local boat builder - the last boat was bult in 1926 but a boatyard continued for a another three decades.

In the sunshine there were some very pretty sections - but sometimes showers changed the view entirely as in this photo just before we arrived at Appley Lock.

The second lock has long since been disused - it was slighly narrower gauge than the current one. There were two originally but the replacement single lock is, as a result one of the deepest in this area.

Above the lock the backwater leading to the old locks can be used for mooring, including by work boats. As we and our companion boat left the lock a large work boat came haring out but swung quickly around to enter the lock we had left. We did not find out where they were going to be working. However a couple of CaRT vans were parked by the lock so perhaps they will be doing some work close by.

At Finch Mill Swing Bridge we kept resolutely to the towpath side.

Here is the damaged landing stage on the operating side which caused us the damage to our side hatch and a lot of effort to get it repaired.

At Deans Lock we stopped for water, again with a sudden sharp shower to make life a bit more interesting!

The rain cleared as quickly as it arrived each time - in this picture Deans Lock is just in the distance. The higher bridge is the M6 which we crossed over a couple of days ago on our way up from Cornwall.

More rain as we passed Ambush and Viktoria at their permanent mooring.

Just around the corner it was sunshine as we passed the entrance to Crooke Marina - originally a short canal leading up to some collieries. Only the bottom section and a couple of loading basins are now accessed.

One of the houses in a newish development at Beech Hill has built this amazing structure giving several levels of leisure space, including a short mooring on the canal.

Just below Pagefield Lock is marked a winding hole but it is the entrance to a larger expanse of water with the railway at the back. Looking at the early OS maps, this is land adjacent to the former Pagefield Iron Works, now replaced by more modern industry. (See here for a list of some of the very varied products that were once made on this site) At the turn of the 1900's a small indentation at the edge of the canal was enlarged and was then marked basin. The next bit of land was shown as marshy land right until the 1948/51 edition of the map, with a small pond close to the works. The whole of that marsh land is now under water as can be seen from current maps and aerial photos. We can only guess whether this came about from subsidence or from neglect but we saw no indication that it has had a deliberate purpose.

Arriving into Wigan we turned sharp right under a bridge just after the Orwell and Wigan Pier. Towering above us is the restored Trencherfield Mill - we wondered what the occupants of the older lock cottages must have made of the new development when it so overshadowed them. For us, the mill had a strange effect. As Mike 'hovered' the boat waiting for the lock to be made ready, the wind seemed to be blowing from right to left but actually the boat was blow from left to right as the wind was reflected off the large building.

The top lock was a bit tedious to work as the towpath-side ground paddle lifted but let no water through. The access to the opposite side is a long walk up and over the road bridge. Before leaving the lock we emptied the elsan. No rubbish disposal - the sign indicates nearest facilities at Burscough and the top of the Wigan flight - however there its nothing listed for our direction, but this is what we thought we had discovered on the way up.

Then it was a sharp right onto the Leigh Branch and the first of the two Poolstock Locks. We passed a boat coming the other way so expected the lock to be easy to open. Alas the level had dropped and it seemed to take forever to fill - Christine had to recruit a likely passer-by to lend a stronger push. She then discovered that one of the bottom paddles had been left just a little open!

After the locks we went just a short distance to moor alongside Scotman's Flash- but it take a few attempts to find a spot where we could come close enough to the edge to moor. However, it was a beautiful, sunny evening. (Until it rained just after Mike had put primer onto the damaged side hatch!)

Cleaning up the wet floor later after we had restored the hatch to its proper place, we wondered what we would do without our regular supply of yesterday's newspapers. The online version of the Guardian just does not have the same effect!

8.9 Miles - 8 Locks

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