Walking to Leeds 1: Vauxhall to Aintree

A series of walks, in an as yet unknown number of sections, where Sarah and I will walk to Leeds along the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

It's the beginning of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Another way the North Docks area links to Liverpool's industrial past and the rest of north western England's industrial places.

 

We began this walk last Sunday by walking through this magic doorway and then having the idea of walking all of the rest of the way to Leeds over the next few months.dsc08243In the week since then our resident map maker Sarah has been planning the possible sections of the walk and we’ve both got quite excited about doing something so obvious we wonder why it took us so long to think of it.

Anyway the Sunday after we first have the idea we get the train to Sandhills and walk back a little way to Boundary Street to resume this Section One where we left off last week.dsc08294

Leeds is that way.

Leeds is that way.

Let's go.

Let’s go.

And by the way, I’m not going to catalogue the bridges and things along the way. As if. If you want detail Sarah recommends Towpath Treks.

The old British American Tobacco building, now apartments.

The old British American Tobacco building, now apartments.

The towpath is packed with bits of the past.

The towpath is packed with bits of the past.

dsc08302It is a slate grey bitingly cold day where we’re very grateful for our thermals, top and bottom.

The canal is busy with urban wildlife.

The canal is busy with urban wildlife.

dsc08305 dsc08307And gorgeous empty buildings.dsc08309

This end of the canal, from Liverpool to Aintree, is ‘remaindered’ Sarah tells me. Meaning structural care is taken but it hasn’t been used for trade since the 1970s and we’ll see no leisure boats today.

We think it's beautiful.

We think it’s beautiful.

Ancient rails and a turntable.

Ancient rails and a turntable.

A surprise garden.

A surprise garden.

We're in Kirkdale getting towards Bootle now.

We’re in Kirkdale getting towards Bootle now.

Neither of us have ever walked along here before and our sense of where we are at most times is disorientated. The canal being often concealed from the neighbourhoods it’s passing through by edgeland overgrowth and industrial walls.

Just the occasional clear view. "Oh we're just opposite Wallasey."

Just the occasional clear view. “Oh we’re just opposite Wallasey.”

In Bootle now, a sudden garden, with bees.

In Bootle now, a sudden garden, with bees.

dsc08322Then all along, graveyards of written off cars waiting to be crushed and sold as scrap.

"If society broke down we'd find ways to fix most of them and use them" says Sarah.

“If society broke down we’d find ways to fix most of them and use them” says Sarah.

Miller's Bridge, where I'm partly from.

Miller’s Bridge, where I’m partly from.

My mother was born in Canal Street, just by here. My father back near the secret door where we started. I am a child of this canal.

Passing Bootle Town Hall.

Passing Bootle Town Hall.

And where the Magical Mystery Tour buses live.

And where the Magical Mystery Tour buses live.

dsc08333

Not finding any welcoming canalside pubs yet.

Not finding any welcoming canalside pubs yet.

We saw the beginning of this trail last week at the Eldonian Village, where the canal now starts.

We saw the beginning of this trail last week at the Eldonian Village, where the canal now starts.

It used to go as far as Pall Mall and Leeds Street near the middle of town. And one day I’ll do a walk around there to find evidence of those long gone days.

The towpath changes sides. "A changeline" says Sarah, who's been reading up ready for this.

The towpath changes sides. “A changeline” says Sarah, who’s been reading up ready for this.

"The Carolina Basin" she tells me. "And it's thought that stump thing was part of a crane."

“The Carolina Basin” she tells me. “And it’s thought that stump thing was part of a crane.”

Relatively recent renewal. "City of Challenge 1994"

Relatively recent renewal. “City of Challenge 1994”

dsc08344

We're at The Strand shopping centre here.

We’re at The Strand shopping centre here.

dsc08347dsc08350

The old gasworks. I remember being brought from my Bootle school to here to draw it.

The old gasworks. I remember being brought from my Bootle school to here to draw it.

Urban goals.

Urban goals.

Bulrushes along both sides.

Bulrushes along both sides.

Beautiful and abandoned.

Beautiful and abandoned.

I think this is part of the Klondyke. A whole area destroyed by the Housing Market Renewal Initiative.

I think this is part of the Klondyke. A whole area destroyed by the Housing Market Renewal Initiative.

Think that’s the first mention for the loathed HMRI on here this year! Destroying neighbourhoods and communities so the housing market can be renewed by forcing people out of their homes and making them have to find new ones, maybe even buy some of these.

This'll be an HMRI bridge then.

This’ll be an HMRI bridge then.

dsc08360 dsc08361Let’s walk on.

By now you may be wondering, even worrying, where will they go for a wee?

By now you may be wondering, even worrying, where will they go for a wee?

Well there’s your answer. A Tesco megastore, with toilets, turning up just when it’s needed.

We're at what used to be the Seaforth Swing Bridge. Still some old canal buildings in use here.

We’re at what used to be the Seaforth/Litherland Lift Bridge. Still some old canal buildings in use here.

And the first barge we've seen.

And the first barge we’ve seen.

Some sort of canal cleaner upper.

Some sort of canal cleaner upper.

Well done you.

Well done you.

Probably the old bridge keeper's cottage.

Probably the old bridge keeper’s cottage.

Here’s what the old bridge looked like.litherland-lift-bridgelitherland-lift-bridge-2The Red Lion pub is still here.dsc08368I used to come to school in Bootle across the old bridge in the 1960s. Now it’s a major road bridge going down to the docks.

With just this small swing bridge to get us over to Tesco for the toilets.

With just this small swing bridge to get us over to Tesco for the toilets.

That done we continue into Litherland.

That done we continue into Litherland.

dsc08373For a good while now there have been no seats along the canal. Are we being dissuaded from ‘loitering?’dsc08374

A back fence done up as a barge called Anna.

A back fence done up as a barge called Anna.

Time for lunch then.

Time for lunch then.

And at last we find a bench.

And at last we find a bench.

Close to the river and the docks still.

Close to the river and the docks still.

But as we walk on the canal now turns inland past Rimrose and towards Netherton. We’re on the Lancashire plain now and the bitterly cold wind reminds me of being a child around here in the icy winters of the early 1960s.

Rimrose.

Rimrose.

Most houses we pass back onto the canal but pretend to ignore it for some reason. Some do a better job though.dsc08381 dsc08382While this development completely wastes its waterside location. Pathetic.dsc08384dsc08387

Unwanted Christmas present?

Unwanted Christmas present?

dsc08389

Early blossoms. Too early?

Early blossoms. Too early?

Well into Netherton now.

Well into Netherton now.

And a word about the walking.

And a word about the walking.

As you can see and possibly because of this beginning section of the canal being ‘remaindered’ the towpath isn’t being maintained. Making the walking along it fairly hard going. It’s ok in bits where it’s grassed over but the majority of it today where it’s broken tarmac is not a pleasure. We’re both hoping at this point that it’ll get better after Aintree?

dsc08400 dsc08401And here is Aintree, coming towards the end of today’s walk, the end of Section One.dsc08403 dsc08404Close to Switch Island and the motorways at the edge of the city.dsc08406

We walk up Wally's Steps.

We walk up Wally’s Steps on the left there.

Sarah conducted the funeral of a town planner. And was told about someone who loved fishing on the canal and became the leader of a campaign to keep the steps open so people could still get to their beloved angling, when plans were made to close them. The man, Wally, won and so the gracious planner named the steps after him.

A true story.

A true story.

Down the hill in Aintree to the railway station.

Down the hill in Aintree to the railway station.

Past the long shut Old Roan pub. A sad sight.

Past the long shut Old Roan pub. A sad sight.

Just in time for the train back into Liverpool.

Just in time for the train back into Liverpool.

Finally, for today, Sarah’s map of the route.ll1-done

Moaning about the towpath aside we really enjoyed that, and will be back for Section Two very soon!

14 thoughts on “Walking to Leeds 1: Vauxhall to Aintree

  1. Jimmy

    I’m sure you’re aware of the possible dock access road plans for Rimrose Park?.. Just seeing your walk in relatively hidden and quiet areas is a reminder of how little secluded space we really have and what will be lost if Rimrose is given over to the trucks.

    (..and your walk is also a reminder of the lost pubs of Liverpool… too many to name..)

    Reply
  2. John Viggars

    Interested to see your first days progress. We walked out as far as Bootle & back last autumn (for the canal Bi Centenary boats arrival) but your photos of the changes on the Litherland stretch (‘Lift Bridge’ to Cooksons) fills my mind with memories of playing on the banks and reminds me of a need to revisit some of the bits you covered today. Not brave enough to attempt your canal marathon! Hope the staged trek goes to plan and to your continued blogs of the trip.

    Reply
  3. John Morris

    Oh Wow, you’ve started already. Didn’t take long. I’m so impressed. And a little envious, even though I’ve been there before.
    And like all your blogs, great reading.
    However I’m not surprised, this canal is addictive.
    You and Sarah will love every mile. Even the monotonous ones through the Lancashire heartland, where there is sometimes little to see other than fields (and ducks!).
    I’m seriously anticipating the Wigan locks episode.
    J

    Reply
  4. Adrian McEwen

    A good read, as ever. A section of the canal I know well – I cycled out to just beyond Maghull coaches today, and often do as far as Maghull itself. One of these days I’ll copy you (but in the saddle) and work my way along the rest.

    The “Pop up Pub” in Bootle is (hopefully) an interesting sign, btw. Until recently it read “#destinationbootle”, and so the fact it’s changed shows that the project – http://destinationbootle.org.uk/ – is getting under way.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      The Liverpool/Bootle section of the canal could seriously do with at least one pub Adrian, so I wish it well. Equally, though, I don’t have words for how beautiful this whole section of the canal is. How much it deepened my geography of Liverpool.

      Reply
  5. Sue

    Enjoyed that thanks Ronnie, we’ve done lots of walks further along the Lancs section & you have some treats in store. Never done this part though. If you haven’t read Mike Clarke’s book (bible) of the canal I can recommend it. Lots of history & pictures.

    Reply
  6. Ian.

    Enjoyed that wander along the towpath. Looking forward to more from your adventure. The spiral staircase certainly was surprise.

    Reply
  7. Martin Greaney (@histliverpool)

    Great post. I don’t know that part of the city well at all, especially not from that angle. Looking forward to future stretches.

    I might be remembering wrongly something my mum told me, but I think I’m related to the Wally of Wally Steps fame. Though he’s a Crebbin, which isn’t a name I know in our family, so it might be via marriage somewhere along the line.

    Looking forward to future canal posts!

    Reply
  8. Phil Clayton

    Hi Ronnie, thanks for taking the trouble to write down the details of your journey. The canal has been a part of my growing up in Liverpool from when it ran next to Tate & Lyle’s to where it disappears under the M57 and beyond to Downholland Cross and Haskayne.
    I was surprised to read that the stretch from Eldonian to Aintree had been “remaindered” (I’m still not sure what that means) given the link from the canal to Albert Docks had been built specifically to attract the tourist traffic.
    Enjoy the walk along the next section, I’m looking forward to reading it, (the bridge at Green Lane, Maghull has an interesting footnote in UK history…)

    Reply
  9. Ronnie Hughes Post author

    Comment via email from my friend Mike Hogan

    “Reading this reminded me of the Songlines- we walk the past back into being, re-connect with the past that forms much of us, consciously and unconsciously. We need to shamelessly shout this as the past these days, for many, is only as important as the next profitable opportunity – development fodder …. ramble ramble.

    Reply
  10. Peter Shaw

    Myself and two friends, none of us born and bred Merseysiders, but having lived in the locality for many years, made this section of the canal our weekly Thursday walk having read your blog. We have all walked various sections, mainly between Upholland and Parbold, on a number of occasions over the years but never this first section. We started from the magic doorway and were immediately captivated by the peace of the canal and also the cleanliness of the water ( ie. little or no litter). Walking as far as Wally’s Steps it was as though, for most of the 8 miles, we were in the heart of the countryside and not walking through a, mostly, industrial landscape. A glorious walk on a glorious sunny day. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      So glad to have helped you and your friends find somewhere so special. Glad you had a sunny day too. It was literally Baltic when we did the walk in February!

      Reply

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