Friday 14 June 2019

Scotman's Flash

Today's Canal - Leeds and Liverpool Leigh Branch

Yesterday we dove up from Cornwall, leaving around 9.30. It was wet almost all the way and for the most part the spray from damp roads was the worst aspect. Traffic was not too heavy although just before Stafford the overhead signs warned of sever delays ahead (over 1 hour at one stage) so we took an alternative off-motorway route which the satnav claimed would save over 20 minutes. At least we were not in a queue (well, not all the time as there was one slow intersection even so). When we re-joined the motorway it was still slow moving but we were soon out of the worst delays. Overall this meant that we arrived at the boat over an hour and a half later than originally scheduled. Good thing we were not in too much of a hurry as we planned on staying on the mooring until morning.

By the time we had unloaded the car the evening improved water-wise and there was even some blue sky over Plank Lane lift bridge.

Today began damp so we did not make a hurried start! We needed to pop into Leigh to visit a supermarket as we decided to do this rather than load the car up from home.

There were quite a few CaRT and EA staff on the bank opposite and the reason was, alas, all too clear. The fish in the canal were suffering a significant lack of oxygen. Apparently this had been first  noticed yesterday evening and some oxygenating material had been added to the water but this did not solve the problem. We did not see any specific action - just a lot of looking, talking and consulting! However, by the time we set off, just before lunch, it did look as if matters were improving.

Local information from marina moorers suggested that it was because of heavy rain rather than a lack of it. This may have brought toxic leachate from the surrounding area which was once highly industrial, mainly coal mining, and has happened before. The official warning notice form CaRT only states 'a pollution incident' and nothing about the cause.

We passed through the lift bridge before continuing until a late lunch stop just before Dover Locks. Those who have looked at the foot of this blog post may be a little puzzled as it says 0 locks today.

Subsidence from coal mining created problems for the original levels of this branch and at one stage two new locks were constructed a little closer to Wigan at Poolstock. The level between them at the two former Dover Locks was lowered and today boats cruise straight through the old lock chambers. The construction was over time as the levels changed - at first only one Poolstock was built and one Dover decommissioned but further work was needed as well as gradually increasing the height of the banks on either side of the canal.

After lunch we pottered for a while closer to Wigan but felt that it was a bit too late to make it through and out into a rural stretch, especially as we will need to stop at the service point.

We passed under the West Coast Main Line - with four tracks it ought to be busy but we did not see any trains at all.

There are several large flashes - lakes caused by subsidence - on either side of the canal. This one, Horrock's Flash, seems to be a favourite of lots of wild fowl - and a few fishermen.

Sometimes there is a footpath on both sides of the canal but the next stretch has only one and a special turnover bridge carries it from one side to the other. This one is designed in the manner of later turnover bridges elsewhere in that it allows horses to pass over without the need to unhitch the tow rope.

It has also been rebuilt at some stage. The original wide stone arch is now just a narrow steel girder footpath with only enough room for one way traffic.

Finally we moored at a spot we have used before, alongside Scotman's Flash, the largest. All of these flashes are now being maintained for a variety of environmentally friendly uses. Some are  left as nature reserves whilst Scotman's is popular with water activities, such as sailing. Alas, the weather seems to have put everyone off today!

we are now very nearly at the end of the longest level pound on the canal system - from here back to Dutton Stop Lock, the other end of the Preston Brook Tunnel, there are no locks at all, almost 40 miles.

4.4 Miles  - 0 Locks


  1. I have a feeling that if you include the loops and branches then the Birmingham Level is a longer pound. From the top of Tardebigge to the bottom of Factory Locks, with branches to the top of Lapworth and through Netherton Tunnel to Hawne Basin and Blowers Green. Then various loops such as Soho and Icknield Port. It all adds up to about 45 miles. But not all in one line of course!

    NB Oleanna

  2. You may well be right but I made the mistake of quoting one of the guides without cross checking (bad mistake fro a researcher!) I may even have to find out where it came from, especially if the BCNS opt to sue me for defamation!