My Monday walk this week is the on-foot version of a cycle ride I did ten years ago. Back then I was camping at Bridge House Marina by the canal on the far side of Garstang so my cycle ride had started from there, however this time my walk was starting from Garstang itself, at Bridge No.62 near Th’Owd Tithe Barn pub/restaurant.
Set back off the canal and next to the restaurant was The Moorings Basin with several colourful narrowboats moored up, then a couple of hundred yards away was the Wyre Aqueduct designed by John Rennie and built in 1797; at 110ft long it carries the canal 34ft above the River Wyre. At the far side of the aqueduct a set of steep wooden steps led down to the riverside where I was able to photograph the structure from down below.
Back up on the canal I passed a long stretch of modern houses and went under three bridges before I left civilisation behind, and apart from the sound of birds in the trees and an occasional passing boat it was very quiet and peaceful. Round a wide bend I could see the old Garstang castle, or what remains of it, standing on high ground in the distance at the far side of the canal; photographing it from nearby is something else on my ever-lengthening ‘to do’ list.
Greenhalgh Castle was built in 1490 by Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, and the land on which it was built was said to be a gift to Stanley from his stepson Henry Tudor for his assistance in defeating Richard lll at the Battle of Bosworth. Constructed of rubble and sandstone it stood on a small area of raised ground and was rectangular with towers 24 yards square at each corner.
During the English Civil War the castle was garrisoned by James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, in support of Charles l and it was one of the last two Royalist strongholds in Lancashire to succumb following a siege by Cromwell’s forces in 1644/45. The garrison eventually surrendered in 1645 on provision that the men were allowed to return to their homes unharmed, then demolition teams partially destroyed the castle to make sure it couldn’t be used again for military purposes.
After the castle’s destruction many of the local farmhouses, including the nearby Castle Farm, incorporated some of the stones into their buildings; following its continued deterioration over the centuries the only remaining part is the lower section of one of the four original towers and as it stands on private land it’s inaccessible to the public although it can be seen fairly close up from a nearby lane.
Approaching the next bridge I was quite surprised to see a couple of cows across the other side of the canal, standing well over knee deep in the water and slurping copious amounts from between the weeds and water lilies. Eventually I came to a marker post telling me it was 16 miles to Preston – I didn’t think it was as far as that but if it was then I was glad I wasn’t going there.
My goal on this walk was the Calder Aqueduct, again designed by John Rennie and built in 1797 but shorter than the Wyre Aqueduct. Carrying the canal over the River Calder in the Catterall area the aqueduct has an adjoining weir on the upstream side, built to lower the bed of the river under the canal with the river itself being channelled beneath the canal through a single elliptical arch. The riverbank on the downstream side was wide and grassy with a steep path down from the canal and ten years ago I’d stopped there for a picnic before cycling back to the camp site.
Heading back to Garstang I spotted something up ahead on the far side of the canal and getting closer I found it was a heron. It hadn’t been there earlier so I watched for several minutes, and unlike the statue-like one I’d seen on another stretch of the canal back in June this one did actually move. Eventually I came to the marker post which told me it was a mile back to Garstang although to get to there from the town earlier on had seemed to be more than a mile.
Approaching civilisation there was a small inset on the far side of the canal with three colourful narrowboats moored up and it wasn’t long before I began to see boats moored on my side. I’ve often wondered where some canal boats get their quirky names from and I couldn’t resist snapping a couple of them. One of the last in the row had some small brightly decorated barrels fastened to its roof and they looked so pretty I thought they deserved to be photographed.
Back across the Wyre Aqueduct, past the Moorings Basin and Th’Owd Tithe Barn and I was back at my starting point, Bridge No. 62 where my van was waiting for me just a few yards down the road. The walk was one I’d been wanting to do for a while, I’d really enjoyed revisiting a part of the canal I first went to ten years ago and it was another completed section to tick off my list.
The Glasson branch of the Lancaster Canal was built to connect the main canal at Galgate to the River Lune estuary at Glasson Dock, with construction starting in 1820 and the branch opening in 1826. Over its two-and-a-half mile length the branch dropped through 52ft, and while the main canal is lock-free for the whole of its 42 miles the Glasson branch was constructed with six locks between Galgate and the Glasson Basin.
I’d walked along a short section of the canal one day last summer but this time I intended to explore the whole two-and-a-half mile length, which I did just eight days ago. Starting from Glasson Basin it was only a short distance to the first bridge, which was technically the last one as the locks and bridges are numbered from the junction with the main canal. The footpath was wide and grassy, bordered by hedges on the left, open fields across the canal and with the Bowland Fells in the distance. At the far side of the hedge near the second bridge was Glasson Marina Holiday Park, a medium-sized static caravan site, and once I was past there I was away from any form of civilisation until I got past the third bridge.
A short distance past Bridge 6 was Lock 6 and The Mill at Conder Green, a canalside hotel, bar and restaurant, currently closed but under normal circumstances probably a popular place to stop off for a drink on a warm sunny day. Bypassing the far side of the lock was a canal overflow channel and standing as still as a statue in the bottom end was a heron; I watched it for several minutes but it never moved an inch.
Just past Lock 6 was a short mooring platform then the canal curved round to the right and in less than ten minutes I was at Lock 5. Nearby a mother swan and her two young ones glided silently through the water and the bottom of the hedgerows were interspersed with large patches of oxeye daisies growing just a few feet from the path.
A hundred yards or so past the lock and its mooring platform, and close to Bridge 5, was a gap in the hedge and a gate where I could see over the fields beyond. A herd of cows mooched peacefully about in the nearest field and a bit farther along the path was a second gate with a notice warning off anyone who might think of going in there for whatever reason. I’ve often wondered if such notices are just the farmers’ way of discouraging people from trespassing on their land but this time it was true – there was a bull in the field, a very handsome red beast, but he disappeared down a dip in the land before I could get a photo of him.
Another few minutes walking got me to Bridge 4 and Lock 4 and beyond the lock itself the land really opened out. The nearby hedges were low enough to see over and there were great views across the fields on both sides of the canal. Cows grazed peacefully by the waterside, some actually standing in the water itself; the field of cows changed to a field of sheep which then became a field of both cows and sheep, and there was no sound at all other than the various little birds as they flew about from one hedge to another.
At Lock 3 the landscape changed again with the far side of the canal now being shaded by more trees. Farther on a solitary cow paddled and grazed at the water’s edge and in a field on my side of the canal an old Massey Ferguson tractor trundled along, turning the previously mown grass with its motorised hay rake. With the wrong wheels and half its bonnet missing it looked a bit of a mess but it was certainly doing its job.
At Lock 2 the canal widened out a bit near its mooring platform then narrowed again as it got closer to Lock 1. About halfway between the two locks were a pair of swans with the female busy rearranging the nest, and on a wooden post closer to Lock 1 I photographed my second butterfly of the afternoon.
At Bridge 1 I was at the junction with the main canal and my turn around point, Galgate Marina, was less than a quarter of a mile to the north. I hadn’t gone far when I started to see boats moored alongside the far bank and in the marina itself, in front of a narrowboat, was a swan with nine young ones. I’d just taken a photo of them when a lady in one of the boats shouted across that they all belonged to that one swan and her mate, which quite surprised me as I’ve never before seen one swan with so many young ones.
Leaving the swans behind I set off back to Glasson Basin; I hadn’t started my walk until gone 3pm and time was now getting on so I walked back without stopping, though I did pause briefly by The Mill at Conder Green. The stork was still in the canal overflow channel, in exactly the same place as two hours previously – it hadn’t moved, and I was just beginning to think that it was a lifelike replica left there for some reason when it suddenly turned and looked like it was about to take off. I was glad it moved when it did or I would have wondered for a long while if it was real.
Just before I reached Glasson Basin I passed a shrub with some pretty pink blooms and with one final shot I returned to the van. Although the walk had only been a total of five miles it had somehow seemed longer so it was now time to head for home and chill out for the rest of the evening.
This short-ish unplanned walk was done on the same day as my walk along Skippool Creek, featured in my previous post. Driving home from the creek I passed Guy’s Thatched Hamlet and as it was still only mid afternoon I decided on the spur of the moment to stop and have a short walk along the canal. The entrance to the hamlet had been closed off so I parked on the road and took the steps down to the canalside; the hamlet itself was in complete contrast to when I’d been there last summer – back then it had been very busy, now there was no-one around except someone in a moored up boat and a couple of guys fishing from the towpath.
I decided to have a look round the hamlet first. With several overgrown flower beds, grass which needed mowing and no-one else around it felt very much like a ghost village but at least I was able to wander round and take a few photos without anyone getting in the way. On some of the whitewashed lodge walls I discovered various murals and on the outside walls of a couple of the shops were several old and quirky advertising signs.
Walking northwards first I passed a line of boats moored at intervals along the opposite bank and the pleasant looking back gardens of the houses and small businesses situated along the nearby main road. On my left was a caravan park and after a distance I came to a narrow road bridge so I made that my turn round point. Steps led up to the road so I went up to take a quick look and get a couple of shots from each direction then headed back towards the hamlet.
Back past Guy’s I walked under the road bridge and headed south for a while. Here there was nothing but open fields, sweet smelling hawthorn hedges and the pretty canal stretching in front of me, and away from any road noise the only sounds were birdsong and the occasional bleat of a sheep.
On such a glorious afternoon and in such a lovely location I could have walked for miles but having already covered quite a distance at Skippool Creek I didn’t go too far before I turned round and headed back to the van. This part of the canal was really lovely, and now having checked it out on Google maps it’s a place where I intend to do a much longer walk in the not-too-distant future.
As October seems to have been constantly wet and miserable, weather which now looks like it’s continuing into November, I thought I’d brighten things up a bit by posting a Monday walk which I did on a warm and sunny day in early August. Having been to Garstang only a couple of weeks previously I decided this time to go a bit further afield and have a wander round Glasson Dock, a little place on the River Lune estuary which I hadn’t been to for several years.
Back in the early years, before becoming a dock, Glasson was just a small farming and fishing community but because of the increasing difficulty of navigation up the Lune to Lancaster docks the Lancaster port authorities decided to build a dock there. Land at Glasson was purchased in 1780 and construction was started, with the dock finally being completed and opened in 1787 ; it was a well equipped place and could hold up to 25 merchant ships.
Construction of the Lancaster Canal was started in 1792 and finished in 1800 and during that time thought was given to making a connection between it and the sea, although the original plans weren’t actioned. Those plans were revived in 1819 and after additional finance was raised construction of a canal branch, later known as the Glasson Arm, was started in 1823 and opened in 1826. Over its two-and-a-half mile length from Galgate to Glasson the branch dropped through 52ft, and while the main canal is lock-free for the whole of its length the Glasson branch was constructed with six locks between Galgate and the Glasson Basin, with a seventh lock between the basin and the dock itself.
In 1834 a shipyard and Customs House were built at the dock, followed by a watch house in 1836 and a dry dock in 1841. The quay was connected by a branch line to the railway network in 1883, operating passenger services until 1930 then continuing with goods services until its final closure in 1964. The shipyards, which had been mainly concerned with ship repair rather than ship building, eventually closed in 1968 with the dry dock being filled in a year later. A limited amount of commercial shipping still uses the dock to this day, with outgoing shipments including coal for the Isle of Man and Scotland’s Western Isles and incoming cargoes of fertiliser and animal foodstuffs. Since the shipyards closed in the late 1960s the canal basin has developed over the years into a marina for pleasure craft, with mooring facilities for 220 boats and a wide range of boating services, and in more recent years the trackbed of the disused railway line has become a very pleasant linear park and cycleway.
The road into Glasson runs alongside the salt marshes of the estuary, with a large rough-surfaced car park overlooking the canal basin and marina. At the end of the car park and set back off the road was the Lock Keepers Rest, a permanently sited large caravan-type fast food place with tables outside, and across the corner was the white walled Victoria Inn. The last time I was at Glasson Dock the Victoria was open but due to lack of business it closed four years ago – a shame really as it looked like it would have been a nice place for a meal and a drink.
The road past the Victoria Inn led to a small car park at the beginning of the east side of the dock and across the far side a crane was unloading something from a cargo ship. Up ahead I could see a small white building with an odd-shaped tower at one end of its roof. Intrigued I went to take a look but was told by a guy in a nearby portacabin that members of the public weren’t allowed along the dock side – so I asked nicely and he said I could go and take a couple of photos if I was quick about it. The little building, apparently now used for storage, had originally been a lighthouse built round about the same time as the dock ; there seems to be very little information about it but it was classed as Grade ll listed in 1985.
Back past the lock gates which separated the dock from the canal basin I decided to take a walk along the canal, something I’d never done on any previous visits to Glasson. Close to the car park was a permanently moored ‘live-aboard’ narrow boat looking quite attractive with its bright pots of flowers on its roof, then a bit further along and in complete contrast was a sunken wreck with just its cabin sticking up out of the water. I think I remember seeing that boat years ago when it was complete and being lived on ; information tells me that it was called Kikobo and was an ex-fishing boat. During high winds in December 2013 it was repeatedly struck against the dock side until a damaged plank sprung a leak and it went down, although not as far as it is now. Because of bad weather it couldn’t be salvaged at the time and for whatever reason it was just left to sink even lower – a shame really that it’s ended up like that.
A hundred yards or so past the beginning of the canal was Christ Church, designed by Lancaster architect Edmund Sharpe and built in 1839-40. The east window has a modern design dating from 1979 while the other windows all date from the 19th century, and the churchyard contains the war graves of two soldiers from World War l and one soldier from World War ll.
Unfortunately being hampered by the restraints of work later on I had to keep my canal walk reasonably short as I wanted to make time for coffee and a snack at the cafe near the dock, so I only walked as far as the third bridge before turning round and retracing my steps. It was a nice walk though, and once I’d got away from the canal basin and past the first bridge the scenery was lovely.
Back in the village I crossed the end of the canal by the swing bridge and went to the café on the far side of the dock, ordering a ham and cheese toastie and a can of Coke as it was really too warm for coffee. It was really pleasant sitting out in the sunshine but all too soon it was time to have another wander round before I made tracks for home. Just along from the café was the Dalton Arms pub set back in a large car park on the west side of the dock, and just by the entrance was a long planter with a very pretty flower display which I thought was worth a photo.
Back across the car park and behind the Victoria Inn I got a photo of the view over the estuary looking towards Overton village, then with shots from the nearby bowling green and cycleway I headed back to the van. As I drove away from the village I stopped at the side of the road for one final shot of the view over the inner estuary then I headed for home without stopping again.
It had been nice to spend a couple of hours or so at Glasson Dock after not having been there for quite a while, and since then I’ve discovered details of a circular walk in the area which takes in a few points of interest so no doubt I’ll be making a return visit sometime next summer.
My Monday walk this week is more of a wander than a walk and takes in the delights of Guy’s Thatched Hamlet, a complex of thatched roof buildings sitting alongside the Lancaster Canal and just off the A6 at Bilsborrow, five miles south of Garstang. I’ve passed this place many times over the last few years and often thought how attractive it looks but I’ve never made a point of stopping off there until one sunny day just a few weeks ago.
The history of the hamlet goes back to the 19th century and one Thomas Duell who was born into a working Yorkshire family in 1804. In 1832 he moved across the Pennines to the village of Barton, north of Preston, and later that year was ordained into the church, becoming vicar of St. Lawrence’s Church and living in a small humble vicarage. Unfortunately the vicarage suffered a devastating fire and was burnt down, so while it was being rebuilt Reverend Duell went to Bilsborrow to stay at School House Farm which had been built in 1798, two years before the completion of the Lancaster Canal. While there he helped to tend the orchards and look after the pigs and during his spare time in 1834 he built a Dutch barn to store the crops and shelter the pigs over winter.
Among the items that had been salvaged from the vicarage fire were some sacks of barley ; the sacks had been scorched by the flames and the barley toasted to a dark chocolate colour. Not wanting to waste it Reverend Duell steeped it in water and boiled it up, then noting the colour and aroma of the brew he cooled it, added yeast and made a beer which, due to the scorched barley, was as dark as porter is today. Setting up a small brewery in a corner of the barn he began brewing beers for the farm labourers and his parishioners, with that very first brew at Bilsborrow considered to be a porter.
Fast forward to the present day and the seeds of Guy’s Thatched Hamlet were sown in 1980 when Roy and Irene Wilkinson opened Guy’s Eating Establishment, a restaurant and pizzeria serving authentic Italian food and sited where Reverend Duell had built the Dutch barn all those years previously. In 1986 School House Farm was purchased and extended to become Owd Nell’s Canalside Tavern, selling Tetley ales, Castlemaine and Moosehead lagers, with Boddington’s Bitter being added to the range in 1987. One of the farm’s two wells was situated in front of the farmhouse and in 1988 a local man, John Bamber, descended this well ; it was found to be brick lined to a depth of 30ft with a wider sand and gravel bottom 10ft deeper.
In 1990 more land was purchased and Guy’s Lodge was built, creating 26 en-suite lodge-style rooms (though interestingly there is no Room 13) and the name Guy’s Thatched Hamlet was created to encompass Guy’s Eating Establishment, Owd Nell’s Tavern and Guy’s Lodge. In 1991 another six bedrooms were added to the Lodge and three craft shops were completed, along with the cobbled Spout Lane which was built on part of the old original route from Clitheroe to Blackpool. Spout Lane is also the site of the second of the original farm’s two wells.
In 1992 the first Guy’s Oyster Festival took place, run in conjunction with Murphy’s Irish Stout and opened by Bob Kennefick from Murphy’s brewery and boxer Barry McGuigan ; this became an annual charity event with proceeds being donated to Guy’s nominated charities each year. 1993 was the year the cricket ground and thatched cricket pavilion were built and a cricket match was played against a select Lancashire XI which included David Lloyd, while the Guy’s Select XI included Sir Denis Lillie. The following year saw the founding of the Boddington’s Village Cricket League and the addition of another 21 lodge-style rooms.
In 1996 the crown green bowling green was built then in 1997 came the thatched bowling pavilion, staff accommodation and an extension to Durty Nellie’s Snug. Finally in 2002 another twelve en-suite rooms with spa baths were built, bringing the total number of en-suite lodge rooms to sixty five. Today Guy’s Thatched Hamlet is still owned and run by the Wilkinson family and their own porter is brewed using Reverend Duell’s recipe.
Guy’s Thatched Hamlet had proved to be quite an intriguing place with far more there than can be seen from the road or canal and I really enjoyed my wander round, but finding any information about the place since then has proved very difficult. However, my thanks must now go to Anne Musella from Guy’s who very kindly responded to my email enquiry and supplied me with details about the history and development of the Hamlet, enabling me to write this post. And if the weather is nice the next time I’m passing that way I may very well stop off for a coffee and something delightfully indulgent at Owd Nell’s Tavern.
**There’ll be no Monday walk next week as I’m off to Ireland on Wednesday for a week. Having some time off work but unable to go camping a short holiday on the Emerald Isle seems a reasonable alternative, so hopefully the weather will be good and I’ll be able to explore one or two new places – I’m looking forward to it.
My Monday walk this week features a section of the Lancaster Canal and the small historical market town of Garstang, both places which I hadn’t been to for several years until recently. Garstang itself lies just to the east of the main A6 about ten miles north of Preston and the same distance south of Lancaster, but my walk started on a country lane just to the west of the A6. Bridge House Marina is situated in a quiet location next to the very scenic Lancaster Canal and a few times in the past I’ve stayed on the caravan park there ; the last time was ten years ago though so with a possible future visit in mind and before the start of my walk I parked in a lay-by on the lane near the entrance and went for a wander round to see if it’s still as nice as it always was (it is) and to pick up a current brochure and price list.
Leaving the van in the lay-by my walk started from the entrance to Bridge House, and a short distance along the lane a hump-back bridge took me over the canal to the towpath on the far side. From there it was an easy and level 15-minute walk into Garstang, and with boats moored up in various places it was nice to see that nothing had really changed in the years since I was last there.
Heading into Garstang the canal wound its way past the outskirts and steps took me up off the towpath to a road bridge leading the short distance into the town itself. Just past the end of the bridge was Pickle Cottage, and with it’s very pretty and colourful garden it was worth a couple of photos. At the end of the road was a mini roundabout with the Farmer’s Arms pub set back on a corner, and going straight on took me into High Street and the main part of the town.
There were lots of interesting independent little shops along both sides of the road, several cafes and other places to eat, and a couple of pleasant weinds (side alleys) with more shops, and it was nice to browse in various windows as I went along. By the time I’d got towards the end of High Street the intermittent and often inconvenient clouds which had previously gathered were beginning to clear and the sun was shining in earnest ; an already warm day was turning into quite a hot one and as I knew of a nice place where I could chill out in the shade for a while I nipped into the nearby One-Stop shop to get a sandwich and a nice cold can of Coke for a mini picnic.
Across the road from the One-Stop shop was a very pretty little remembrance garden set back on a corner and a walkway from there took me past a small car park to a pleasant grassy and tree-shaded area by a bend in the River Wyre. There were plenty of people about, mainly young students, but there was lots of space so I picked a nice spot and settled down to enjoy my mini picnic, then following the river for a while I walked along until the path took me up onto a private lane past a playing field with a view over to the lower slopes of the Bowland Fells.
The lane took me back onto the end of High Street where I cut down one of the weinds to where a short but pleasant precincted area had been created since the last time I was there. At the end nearest the road was a low semi-circular concrete wall with an incorporated seat along its length and set in the ground was a circular mosaic featuring a very intriguing looking lion and an engraved plaque. The writing on the plaque reads “In 1314 a weekly market was granted to Garstang by Edward ll, renewed by Elizabeth l in 1597. The town’s charter was granted by Charles ll in 1680”
Information on the lion is very sketchy but it seems the original crest was designed as an official seal in 1680 by the newly-formed Garstang Corporation ; the mosaic has been designed by a North Lancashire mosaic artist and is based on images found in documents held by Garstang library. The word ‘villa’ has nothing to do with any large dwelling though, it seems to be a corruption of the French word ‘ville’ meaning town, so it can only be assumed that whoever designed the crest back in 1680 wasn’t the world’s best spelling expert!
From there I headed along the road in the general direction of the canal and just before I got to the mini roundabout near the Farmer’s Arms I came to The Wheatsheaf, made very attractive by the colourful hanging baskets along its front wall. Back on the canal I had another very pleasant walk with a couple of brief photo stops and arrived back at the lane leading to Bridge House Marina fifteen minutes later.
It had been interesting to see that although Garstang itself had undergone a couple of changes since I was last there the section of the Lancaster Canal between Bridge House Marina and the town was still the same – and the walk has prompted me to make another visit soon to start in Garstang and walk along the canal in the other direction. I remember how nice it was ten years ago so it will be interesting to see if that too is still the same.
After fine but heavy rain which lasted through most of yesterday afternoon and last night today turned out to be gloriously sunny, and with just a light breeze it was perfect for a dog walk. As I had to call at a store which was south of the town centre I decided to stay in that direction and go along a section of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury canal which I’ve been along several times before. My walk started in Moses Gate country park and after doing a circuit of the wildlife lake I made my way via a short bit of road and a footpath to the upper part of the canal.
The canalside path was extremely muddy in many places so I was glad I’d changed into my wellies before I left the van; there were a couple of spots where I had to be careful I didn’t slip and fall into the water but other than that it was a really pleasant walk. About halfway along I came across a pony grazing quietly in a rather waterlogged field, then a bit further on I was greeted by a family of three swans who glided along to say hello; they weren’t impressed by the dogs though and one of them hissed at Sophie. It was this section of the canal where the recent incidents concerning the other two swans had taken place, and other than a few ducks it seems that these three are now the only residents – I just hope that they are left alone to live their lives in peace and tranquility.
Eventually I came to where the canal had been blocked off to make way for a wide bridle path and though I could have gone further I didn’t want to run out of sunshine so I made that my turn round point and headed back the other way, then with one more photo taken I left the canal itself and took a path down through the nearby woods which eventually took me back to the country park.
By the time I got back to the van our rather muddy walk had taken its toll on both me and the dogs – their legs and undersides were completely black and soggy and my trousers, which I hadn’t thought to tuck into my wellies, were wet round the bottom and splashed with mud right up to my knees. It had been a very enjoyable walk though, and both the dogs and the trousers could easily be cleaned up when we got home.
Another gloriously warm and sunny afternoon saw me out and about with the dogs and camera again, this time along the Radcliffe to Bury section of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury canal. My walk started from the car park of the Last Orders pub on the A665 leading into Radcliffe; a short flight of stone steps led down from the car park itself to the towpath and I’d only gone twenty yards or so when I got my first shot, followed by a second one within another twenty yards. A bit further on was an old railway bridge in faded red paint and with lettering on the side, though I couldn’t quite make out what it said until I got closer to it.
The footpath over the bridge was part of a much longer path known locally as the ‘banana path’ (opinions seem to differ as to why it’s called that) and the slogan on the side of the bridge was one of the more obscure ‘artworks’ on the Irwell Sculpture Trail. Designed by New York-based artist Lawrence Weiner, one of the central figures of late 20th century art, the slogan is one of several in various locations around the world and is supposed to represent the artist’s attempt to understand the nature of water. Now I wonder, just how many minutes did it take him to think that one up?!
From the bridge the towpath was bordered for much of its length by hawthorn trees which had recently come into bloom and were giving off their lovely scent. I love the smell of hawthorn and often think it’s a shame that some enterprising perfume manufacturer doesn’t develop a fragrance like that; I’m not normally a perfume wearer but if there was a hawthorn one I’d have bottles of the stuff.
Across the far side of the canal open fields were dotted with sheep and cows, while in the far distance ahead and high up on the hills were the wind turbines of Scout Moor windfarm, the second largest onshore windfarm in England. As far as countryside goes I wasn’t that far from civilisation, there was nothing remarkable about my surroundings and there weren’t a great many photo opportunities as much of my route looked the same, but in the warm sunshine and with the sound of various birds in the trees it was a really pleasant walk.
Eventually I came to another bridge and the high bank of Elton reservoir over on my left; I’d reached the outskirts of Bury and I knew from cycling that way years ago that I would soon be approaching an industrial area and there wasn’t much canal left, so I left the towpath and followed the nearby lane over the bridge and up to the reservoir. Elton Sailing Club was nearby and there were several yachts in the process of going back to the clubhouse so I snapped a quick photo then set off on a clockwise circuit of the lake.
Away from the reservoir bank and over on the far side the land became flatter with several places where I could leave the path and get to the water’s edge so I decided to let the dogs have a paddle. Poppie however didn’t stop at just a paddle, she was so eager to get into the water that she slipped off the sandy edge and ended up swimming in water that was deeper than she’d expected. Sophie as usual stuck to just getting her paws wet but it wasn’t long before she too had an unexpected dip.
A bit further along from there the path veered away from the water and skirted a small creek with a stream running into it. The stream was crossed by a wooden bridge and I’d just stopped to take a photo when SPLOSH – Sophie, running around like she normally does, had misjudged the end of the bridge and fallen straight into the stream. And for a little dog who absolutely hates water she swam very well and was soon scrambling back up onto the path. So I ended up with two very wet dogs but I knew that by the time we got back to the van they would both be dry again.
As I got near to the sailing club the path became private so I had to continue my walk along the lane behind the clubhouse, then once I got back to the point where I started my circuit of the reservoir I made my way back over the canal bridge and down to the towpath to head back to the van. A few clouds had started to gather by then so the sun disappeared briefly a couple of times but by the time I got close to where I’d left the van most of them had cleared away, so I got one last shot before I climbed the steps back up to the car park.
At least I didn’t have to put two wet dogs in the back of the van, they’d both completely dried out on our way back from the reservoir and once they’d settled down I didn’t hear a peep from either of them all the way back home. It had been an enjoyable walk along a very pleasant stretch of the canal and it was one which I’ll probably do again in the not-too-distant future.
I’m linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this week she’s continuing her exploration of Bath – do pop over and join her for some architecture, quirkiness and a rhubarb and cherry slice or two.
Have you ever started something then after a while realised it’ll take longer than you think, but if you give up part way through there would have been no point starting it in the first place so you carry on regardless? Well that was me a week ago when I set out to walk a section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal. My starting point was Bridge 91A by the Boatyard Restaurant at the side of the canal at Riley Green on the A675, just a fifteen minute drive from home, and my walk was to take me eastwards to Green Park on the outskirts of Blackburn. I’ve been along that particular section of canal a few times, the last time about four years ago, but as I’ve always previously cycled with various dogs running alongside I would actually now be walking it for the first time.
I set off in glorious sunshine but I hadn’t been walking long before it clouded over so most of the afternoon was rather grey, although the sunshine and blue sky did return briefly a couple of times. The footpath was very wet and muddy in several places too and it was quite heavy going at times so I was glad I’d thought to put my wellies on – and needless to say, the two little dogs who started out clean and white very quickly became black and dirty.
The first bridge I came to was 91B, Finnington Bridge, and just beyond it was Finnington permanent moorings with half a dozen narrowboats moored up; most of them seemed to be uninhabited but a couple of them had someone living on board. Several more minutes walking brought me to a wide bend in the canal and after the next couple of bridges I passed a boundary marker and a derelict water tower, the last remaining part of what was once a paper mill – I would have taken a photo but it’s an ugly looking building. I remembered that once I was past there I would soon see some modern houses with boat moorings on the far side of the canal but somehow they weren’t as close as I thought they were – I came to them eventually but it took a while.
My next landmark was a block of modern apartments set right next to the tow path and again the distance to get to them was greater than I remembered. I seemed to have been walking for hours, I was beginning to get tired and my end goal, Green Park, still seemed a long way off. It didn’t help that I had the beginnings of a cold and I’d been feeling a bit ropey before I left home, but I’d thought a bit fresh country air would do some good – and I’d gone so far by then that to turn back without reaching Green Park would have made the walk pointless, so I kept on walking.
Beyond the next bridge, which was No.95, a large area of allotments ran parallel to the canal and stretched for a couple of hundred yards; most of them had greenhouses or small sheds on them and the side of one of the sheds had what appeared to be several dead wild animals nailed to it, though when I got closer I could see that they weren’t actually corpses but wood carvings, presumably done by whoever owned the shed. They were very well done and certainly looked quite realistic from a distance. Beyond the allotments and under the next bridge I came to four rows of red brick terraced houses set sideways on to the canal path; a large cat was sitting on the path up ahead but when it saw Sophie and Poppie it quickly scarpered halfway up a nearby tree and sat there looking daggers at us.
From there it took another three bridges and two relatively short sections of canal and I’d finally made it – Green Park was on my left down below the canal bank. Under normal circumstances I would have gone down to the park and lingered for a while on one of the benches but the afternoon was wearing on, I still had to walk all the way back to the van, and I didn’t want to run out of daylight before I got back there so I quickly snapped another couple of shots then set off on the return journey.
I’d been walking for a while when I came across an information board, which I hadn’t noticed before, set back off the path. It had a diagram of the canal and its bridges, with distances between various points; from there back to Green Park was 1.6 miles, and onwards to the Boatyard was three miles – so by the time I got back to the van I would have walked a total of just over nine miles. Of course Sod’s Law decreed that the late afternoon would turn out much nicer than the rest of the time I’d been out but I didn’t have time to linger – one final shot and that was it for the day, I walked without stopping again.
The Boatyard was lit up by the time I got back there, and although the sun had finally gone down there was still quite a bit of daylight left – with all the narrowboats moored up beside the restaurant it would have made a good picture but by then I was in no mood for any more photo taking. I was just glad to see the van, get in it and drive home – I think the dogs were glad too as they just curled up and I didn’t hear a peep from either of them all the way back.
Casting my mind back over my walk it seemed strange that everything along the canal which was familiar to me had seemed so far away and had taken so long to get to but thinking about it, when you’re tootling leisurely along on a bike in the summer sunshine and enjoying your surroundings you tend not to notice the distance – until you walk it like I just did. 4.6 miles wasn’t really any great distance but double it and it was far enough, especially as I wasn’t feeling 100% fit. I think next time I go along there I’ll be back on the bike!
Linking this with Jo’s Monday Walk where this time she’s back in England and walking through a pub!