The Road to Wigan Pier: Walking to Leeds, Section 4

The fourth section of our walk along the whole of the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

This time we’re going to be walking from Burscough, where we left off last week, all the way to Wigan. Though in fact our journey begins where it will end, at Wigan. (Now we’re walking a good way away from home we’re beyond local Liverpool transport and so are driving to where we’ll finish each day and using their local transport to get to where we’ll walk from.)

So here we are in Wigan.
Where our walk will end later.
On a quiet Sunday morning in a beautiful place.

Where the heritage industry hopes of the 1980s…
Have not survived the financial crash of more recent years.
But more of that later.

Meanwhile we’ve a train to catch to Burscough.

But not before stopping for some breakfast here.

A bacon buttie for Sarah, a fried egg barm for me to set us up for our walking day.

Then we get the train from Wigan Wallgate.

And take around 20 minutes getting to where we’ll spend the next seven hours meandering happily back from. We’re absolutely loving this walk, the slowness, the detail, the beauty, the surprises.

Let’s go.

Springtime, pollen on willow on the canal side.

A mile or so after leaving Burscough we arrive at one of the canal’s several extra branches.

The beginning of the Rufford Branch.
This goes from here, through Rufford to Tarleton, where it joins the River Douglas and flows into the River Ribble near Preston.
We will walk it one day.
But not today.
We’re off to Wigan.
Meanwhile, a word about the boats.

Once we left Liverpool behind us we began to see a good amount of craft on the canal. Some of it, as you may have noticed from previous walks, actually moving along. But not a lot of it. Lots of the boats look pretty permanently moored and have even sprouted small gardens around themselves. So that in fact they look very much like static caravans on water.

Also, most of them are narrow boats. Not something I ever remember seeing on this canal when I was young. The working boats from those days were more like the one pictured above.

And this one ‘Ambush’
The Leeds Liverpool being deliberately built wide enough to allow two of these working boats to pass.

Though nowadays as you see both banks can be cluttered up with largely stationary leisure craft.

Let’s walk on.

Sunday lunchtime at the Ring O’Bells.
Curious about this blue and white plastic bags form of agriculture?
A field of leeks, looking particularly blue.
Crossing the River Tawd.
Approaching Parbold, getting hillier now we’re leaving the coastal plain.
The train often close by.

As we’ll see later in this walk railways would often follow the routes that canals established a few years before them.

“It’s so beautiful” Sarah says. “Quietly and intensely beside us all the way”
Arriving at Parbold.
Along with the River Douglas.

Which will now stay close to us for the rest of the day.

We stop here for lunch on the canal bank.
Followed by ice cream from here.
A great day just got better!
Willow and boat.
Less than a hundred miles to go!
Though the next few are particularly muddy.
A tangle of tree roots on the opposite bank.
Just gorgeous.

Somehow more gorgeous because it’s not a busy road bridge, but an ‘accommodation bridge’ as explained in a blog comment last week by Robert Day:

“An ‘accommodation bridge’. When the line of the canal cut through a farmer’s field, the canal company had to build a bridge so that rights of access to the rest of the field were maintained. The same goes for railways. It’s laid down in the Act of Parliament that authorised the building of the canal (or railway).”

A little further along, beyond another accommodation bridge, an accommodation tunnel under the railway line.And while we sit on this other accommodation bridge, a word about maps.

Sarah shows us the map of today’s walk!

Yes, she loves a good map and makes these meticulously for each section of our walk. Marking on significant places so we can know where we are, and also pubs and other places we might want to stop at.

Like the place in Parbold where we just had the ice creams. Sarah had it planned as a possibility.
A train interrupts our peaceful musing and it’s time to walk on.

Through Appley Bridge, The Boatyard.

First dead swing bridge of the day.
By another accommodation tunnel.

As we’ve walked along today we’ve talked wistfully about the short time canals had as the brilliant new mode of transport before the railways came and replaced much of what they were for. “The railways won” being our general conclusion.

Now and very dramatically we see who really won.

The M6 Motorway crossing the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

Though to the canal it’s merely ‘Bridge 45aa’

Unperturbed the canal just carries on being gorgeous.
And making us happy.
Arriving at the Crooke Hall Inn in Standish something else will make us happy.
Perfect for a sunny evening by the canal.

And to set us up for the last couple of miles into Wigan.

A beautiful sight.
The Leeds Liverpool and the Douglas guiding us to the end of our walk.
Past the stadium.

Both football and rugby league get played here, which makes sense. But on non-match days, which is most days, it’s an arid place surrounded by locked roads and car parks. Stadium developments often get sold as being “good for the regeneration” of places. I think they more often kill them and we find it an eerie experience, as the light begins to fade, walking through such a planning blight. Eventually though ‘proper’ Wigan turns up.

And we arrive at Wigan Pier.

This is a ‘tippler’ which would be used by railway wagons to empty coal into barges.

But it’s not the real Wigan Pier.

That apparently went for scrap in 1929. So George Orwell couldn’t find in in 1936 when he was here writing ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ and I couldn’t find it in 1971 when I came to Wigan Tech to do my A-levels.

I was told then that the jetty at this warehouse was Wigan Pier.
Then years later when the place became a ‘heritge’ attraction the whole area became Wigan Pier.
But now what?

Wikipedia has this to say about round here:

“The future of the immediate area has been severely impacted by the financial crash of 2008. The Wigan Pier Quarter project proved partially successful in redeveloping Trencherfield Mill, the Mayors Boatyard and several small connecting sites before the crash occurred. However, the cultural quarter concept underpinning the project had to be abandoned. Wigan Council decided not to proceed with the arts centre-cum-theatre that was to have replaced the Way We Were, as the main local tourist attraction. The massive Eckersley Mills complex remains in an advanced state of dereliction because of the difficulty now of attracting sufficient levels of inward investment and external funding. Finding new uses for historic industrial buildings clustered together on such a scale is currently impossible.”

So if the future’s not to be found in the past maybe it could be found in the future? All this gorgeous canal side space could make great offices and maker spaces and get your new idea going spaces with the right local support? But that’s for another day and another blog post about Beautiful Ideas and what you can do with them!

For now, this has been one of the best of days, and as it ends we’re both glad we’ll soon be back in Wigan to continue our walk to Leeds. Just 92 miles to go now, a quarter of the walk done.

Thank you Wigan, for a beautiful day.
Today’s route.
And here’s where we’re up to. Wigan’s the yellow dot just before the canal turns seriously North.

Search on ‘Walking to Leeds’ to see all of our other walks along the canal.

Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place:

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  1. Talking of stadium projects Ronnie, what do you reck to Everton-Bramley Moore? I’m pretty pro it but then I’m a blue. Better than all the previous new ground suggestions I think at least. They’re going to have to work hard to try and knit all of the projects around there sucessfully though.

    1. If the Everton stadium were to end up anything like the Wigan one it would be a disaster for the North Docks, Kenn. The place is coming to life as you know, so needs very great care as the new businesses and the old ones there create their futures. Miles of car parks plus expensive ‘match day’ hotels is not what we’re all thinking of.

      I’d also like equal care taken over whatever will happen to Goodison Park, by the way.

      1. Indeed. I hope more thought is put into it. Possibily the best site in the city for a stadium though. Thought does need to be given to the grand old lady as well. I’d like to see the old part of the main stand retained at least, and perhaps a new community sports centre to replace the one lost by Stanley Park.

      2. Naturally we could spend many hours discussing what ‘more thought’ might look like!

        But I do like the idea of at long last replacing the much missed Vernon Sangster sports centre as part of whatever happens at Goodison.

  2. I went cycling and got lost last year near Wigan and ended up in exactly the same place as yourself near the stadium. I couldn’t agree more about that area, empty, barren, unloved and little more than a car park waiting for the next match.

    Whatever happens with EFCs move to Bramley Moore, Wigan should be a warning. Busy for 3 hours on a weekend and maybe a mid week match isn’t enough to call an area ‘regenerated’. Certainly I couldn’t see any evidence that the stadium had brought other businesses into the area.

    On a different note – always good beer in the Ring ‘o’ Bells!

  3. Yes indeed. Community sports facilities should be vital to any Goodison replacement.

    I’m glad they giving Regional Growth Funding to the Invisible Wind Factory. And also that they seen to be going for the Community Interest Company model in ‘Ten Streets’. Hopefully the CIC will have more space/support/power than in Baltic and not be as easily boxed in. Proper zoning this time around.

  4. Parts 3 & 4 of your walk are the area of the canal we know best & walked through many times. There is always something new to see. The Rufford branch is good too, particularly The Ship Inn (or The Bloodtub as it’s known to locals) at Top Locks. A good pint of Black Sheep! Looking forward to the next instalment.

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