Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Road to Wigan Pier


We have left the Pennines behind us now, having come down the 23 locks of the Wigan flight yesterday.  Apart from those labours we have been taking things pretty easily and the weather has finally decided to become mainly hot and mainly sunny: quite a change for this year. 

The Leeds and Liverpool is the longest canal in the country at 127¼ miles and coming away from Burnley we passed the half way point:

Half Way Marker




We are now even further along having passed a milepost today showing we are now more than 100 miles from Leeds.








For several days we have been criss-crossing the M65 Motorway, a couple of times by means of aqueducts crossing over the road, here is a photo of the last of these aqueducts:
M65 seen from Leo on Aqueduct crossing the Motorway
Obviously the towns round here were once full of textile mills.  Though many of these have been demolished, most of those that remain have been converted to offices or flats and some look very grand, like this one at Blackburn.
Mill at Blackburn
We came down the Blackburn Locks with Luisa, a beautifully painted Braidbar boat with Peter and Janet and two dogs, Barney and Rupert.  It really is much easier to manage the locks with two boat crews sharing the work.  Peter and Janet worked well with us and we enjoyed their company.  Barney just watched without comment and Rupert stayed down below.
Leo and Luisa sharing a lock

A very leaky lock - the fountain poured onto Luisa's back deck






























Soon after clearing the suburbs of Blackburn we stopped for lunch and then took the Bromptons out for some exercise, climbing up a nearby hill to an old house called Hoghton Tower.  This house has been continuously occupied by the same family since 1109, but was extensively rebuilt in the 1500’s.  James 1 famously enjoyed a beef meal so much on a visit here that he knighted the remains, calling it “Sir Loin”, hence our name for the beef joint today.  Though we were too late to join a tour of the house, the gatekeepers were so impressed that we had climbed the hill on our little bikes that they told us all about the house for free.
Hoghton Tower
Burnley and Blackburn are the sort of places where litter in the Canal is common so trips down the weed hatch have been more frequent lately:
Ian investigating down the weed hatch
All the way along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal we have been anticipating and perhaps dreading the Wigan flight of 20 plus locks down to the lowlands of Lancashire.  We got to the top of the flight on Tuesday evening and found a boat we’ve seen a couple of times, Coventina, waiting to go down.  We readily agreed to go together and we tied the two boats together so that one person could drive both boats, as we have done previously with Pas M√®che.  So we had a lock crew of three down the flight and we all worked well as a team together.  Chris and Helen on Coventina have a lovely little dog called “Bisto” who sat calmly on the roof chewing a pretend bone and was not worried at all even when it was Ian, rather than Chris, driving both boats.  We had a great time with Chris and Helen who seem to share our sense of humour and we enjoyed a tea break part way down the flight with both boats sitting in a lock while the kettles boiled and we exchanged contact details.
Chris driving both boats between locks

Bisto chewing on her bone






























Once down the flight we continued through Wigan and down a few more locks out into open countryside.  We searched for Wigan Pier but this was the nearest we came:
All that remains of Wigan Pier - a coal 'tippler'
 It appears that the “Pier” was in fact a coal ‘tippler’ (the remains of this appear on the photo) designed for tipping rail wagons into boats on the canal.  The title of this posting on the blog is the name of a book by George Orwell about life for the workers in the days of the textile mills.  There is now a pub in an old warehouse by the Canal called “Orwell at Wigan Pier”, so the marketing men have obviously been busy.

We called in at the CRT (Canals and Rivers Trust) Office in Wigan and were delighted that someone had cancelled their booking to go into Liverpool.  A very helpful lady called Lyn Delaney discussed dates with us and we have now confirmed bookings that will give us an extended stay in Liverpool, going in on Sunday next. 

Today we have cruised another ten miles or so closer to Liverpool, passing the junction with the Rufford branch of the Canal which leads to the River Ribble and forms a link to the Lancaster Canal.  Tomorrow we plan to cycle to the sea at Southport and on Saturday evening we will hopefully be in position for our cruise into Liverpool where we’ll be staying for 10 days or so.  It is likely that the next post on this blog will be from Liverpool.

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