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.)
Meanwhile we’ve a train to catch to Burscough.
A bacon buttie for Sarah, a fried egg barm for me to set us up for our walking day.
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.
A mile or so after leaving Burscough we arrive at one of the canal’s several extra branches.
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.
Though nowadays as you see both banks can be cluttered up with largely stationary leisure craft.
Let’s walk on.
As we’ll see later in this walk railways would often follow the routes that canals established a few years before them.
Which will now stay close to us for the rest of the day.
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).”
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.
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.
And to set us up for the last couple of miles into Wigan.
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.
This is a ‘tippler’ which would be used by railway wagons to empty coal into barges.
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.
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.