Well we're now a mile and a half from the top lock of the Wigan flight and aim to go down tomorrow.
We've worked our way West through Lancashire in cold and sometimes rainy and even snowy weather. On Sunday we came through some poor areas with lots of litter in the canal which inevitably means odd forays down the weed hatch to clear the prop. We came through Church where you have to get off the boat to operate three swing bridges. We've had trouble here before with the local youths, but on a rainy cold Sunday morning no-one was about and it was fine.
In Church we passed the half way mark on the Leeds and Liverpool, being 63 and five eighths miles from each city. This ornamental steel sculpture marks the mid point. But I guess we cheated because we haven't started from Leeds.
Coming through Blackburn we passed Eanam Wharf, where you can see the old awning that covered boats being loaded and unloaded. By the brightly coloured boat is the old wharf building, now converted into a Caribbean Restaurant.
Soon you come round a bend and find the Blackburn Locks in front of you. When we came up here last September the locks were dreadful but we were pleased to find that CRT have replaced all the gates over the winter and they work beautifully. As you can see it is fine and sunny, but it was very cold.
On Tuesday we cruised a short way to Withnell Fold, a lovely sleepy little village built in Victorian times to house the employees of a paper mill there.
The road to Withnell Fold is surfaced with granite sets and only goes to the village, so traffic is rare.
The village has a shady garden set in the hollow that was originally a reservoir for the paper mill. Just above is this structure. Under the curved green grass by the fence is the water pipeline from Thirlmere in the Lake District to supply the folk in Manchester.
Not far beyond Withnell Fold we came to the top lock of the flight of Johnson's Hillock. This flight of 7 locks had been closed for five days for repairs, but opened at midday on Tuesday. It is a testament to how empty this canal is of boats that we only had to wait for a couple of boats to go down before it was our turn.
Here we are filling up with water just before the top lock. We came down with a couple of chaps on a boat called Fleur de Lys and enjoyed their company.
Our fellow lockers pressed on below the locks but we moored up. The bottom lock is on the right in this picture. To the left, under the bridge, is the Walton Summit branch which was originally the intended course of the Lancaster Canal which would have crossed the River Ribble on an aqueduct at Preston to carry on North. Sadly the aqueduct never got built, so we have to find an alternative route.
Today (Wednesday) we visited the retail emporium of Botany Bay at Chorley. This occupies five floors in an old mill and is mostly full of things with which to clutter your house. Interesting to visit but not our cup of tea. This afternoon we passed the boat owned by some friends, Helen and Chris. Though they were not on board, they'd left a message in the window:
Well tomorrow promises a hard day of locking dropping down over 200 feet into the valley of the River Douglas. Anyone fancy giving us a hand?