We had to have a cruise on Wednesday as we wanted to get to Wigan by Thursday. We were lucky with the weather, even though rain was forecast for most of the day, as we ended up in sunshine and changing into shorts and tee-shirts.
|Fully prepared, with waterproofs at the ready, before setting out on Wednesday|
The section of the Leeds & Liverpool canal we have been travelling along since Leigh is in an area that used to be riddled with coal mines. The mining caused the canal to subside over its lifetime and each time that happened the banks were built up with pit waste. This was done to such an extent that the canal now runs on an embankment through the surrounding countryside.
The surface signs of the mines have long gone, and a lot of work has gone into preserving the areas alongside the canal as nature reserves. During the day we passed many mosses, meres and flashes; couple those with the meadows and woodlands along the way and it must be an ornithologist’s dream. Not so good for butterflies though but I did see my first common blue of 2018 when in one of the locks 😉
Talking about the work that has been done on creating the nature reserves, a lot has also been carried out to encourage the towpath walkers, including using old stanking planks as benches:
Several of the original locks were moved to different sites or removed completely to counteract the rebuilding due to subsidence over the last two centuries. A good example is by the Dover Lock Inn which was named after a pair of locks that were built there when the canal was first commissioned.
Over the years, the effect of local subsidence and subsequent raising of the canal meant they were no longer needed and the rise/fall was repositioned nearer Wigan by the newer Poolstock locks.
The Dover Lock Inn at Abram – currently closed down
|Leaving the remains of Dover lock #2 with the Dover Lock Inn in the background|
At our first proper lock of the day we met up with Frank and Doris on their boat Bowland that they live on for six months every year. We ended up going through several locks with them before we stopped for the day, but they carried on as they were in desperate need of a pump out. We do hope they got one in time ☹
|Entering a lock with Doris and Karen on the gates and a ‘f*ck off’ broadbeam (thanks Aileen 😉) exiting|
After the first couple of locks we approached Wigan and the junction with the main line of the Leeds & Liverpool canal; we had been on the Leigh branch that was built later (1832) to join Wigan with the Bridgewater canal at Leigh to provide access to Manchester and the Midlands.
|About to turn left towards Liverpool|
I have to mention the mileposts on the Leeds & Liverpool canal as they are cast iron rather than the stones we have passed recently on the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals. The main line of the canal is 127 ¼ miles long and each post shows the distance from each end of the canal. The posts were installed at the end of the 19th century using Liverpool as the base point; also installed were smaller posts indicating the intervening quarter miles with ¼, ½ or ¾ embossed on them.
|Just one of the posts we passed today|
We topped up with water in the centre of Wigan opposite a grade II listed mill called Eckerlsey Mill which reminded me of a work colleague from the past of the same name. I secretly think he would have been rather proud of such northern heritage.
|Waiting for the tank to fill whilst reminiscing about my working life|
Many people know about the irony of the name of Wigan Pier, so I won’t repeat the history here, but I will include a few pictures we took whilst going through town:
|Trencherfield Mill complete with its restored and working steam engine powerhouse generating 2,500 hp|
So where does northern soul fit in other than the fact we are in Wigan? Well, we both really enjoy listening to Craig Charles’ radio shows as he plays a lot of funk and soul and sometimes focuses entirely on northern soul.
Anyway, back to boating: we moored up for the night and, although some rain fell in the evening, it didn’t amount to much.