After a three year break, yesterday Sarah and I went back to say hello to the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

Hello you

In 2017 over twelve separate walks we got most of the way from Liverpool to Leeds before we decided to take the kind of break where you’re not sure you’ll be back. But now with the pandemic all around us a canal walk seemed like a good way of having the kind of socially distanced walk where we’d be mostly on our own. Thinking through our favourite bits of the canal to walk along again, we remembered that just after Burscough in Lancashire there is an extra branch of the canal which goes off towards Rufford and eventually enters the River Ribble near Preston. This being an extra branch we’d never walked along, we decided to go and have a look by way of saying hello to canal walking again.

Map from the Canal & River Trust

Stepping on to the tow-path at Burscough we remembered how returning to the canal always felt like coming home. The 130 miles from Liverpool and up over the Pennines to Leeds having its own linear sense of place. Even in sections never walked before we’d always know exactly where we were. And feel immediately at home.

Back again

Less than a mile along the main line is the Rufford Junction where we’ll now turn off onto the Rufford Branch.

And I’m not going to exclaim about the beauty of every piece of canal architecture, or show you all the bridges, or tell you the history of everywhere. There are already the set of twelve 2017 canal walk posts that do that, all gathered up together in their own section of this site if you want to read them. For now all you need to know is that we’re walking through the late eighteenth century here. The industrial revolution is happening in the north of England, pulling the population like it or not into the mills and growing cities, and needing faster transport than donkeys and carts to move their food and goods around. And for now this is that faster transport. In fifty years the railways will arrive and begin to make all the engineering beauty you’ll see redundant. But right now, in 1781, this cut through the northern lands is what we’ll later come to call the cutting edge.

It’s also a perfect summer’s day here in the middle-August of this strange 2020, so we’re also here for a picnic and to enjoy the wildflowers.

Along the canal banks and in perfect meadows like childhood.
Sarah gets down to some serious horticulture
Blue Water-speedwell
Here’s its flower

And on we walked into a perfect afternoon. Of conversation, water lilies and not caring about time. Knowing we weren’t aiming to walk any particular distance and would turn back when we felt like it.

Our day out in England. Where some of the photographs we’ve brought back look like illustrations from the Ladybird books we each grew up with, like these next three.

And all afternoon we saw hardly anyone else. Occasional other walkers or cyclists, some teenagers jumping in from the opposite bank and slow boats to nowhere in particular at the locks.

Time happened.
This precious beauty, the flagon shaped fruit of a water-lily
And orange balsam
To end our walk

A perfect day.

This short walk on a summer’s afternoon being our way of saying hello to the canal again. Of renewing an acquaintance we’ll be taking up, all being well, into the autumn of this uncertain year, as we’re now going to complete the walking to Leeds that we paused back in 2017.

It’s good to be back in our exquisite place.

Read all of our Leeds Liverpool Canal posts here at Walking The Canal. Soon there will be more.

Published by Ronnie Hughes

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: http://asenseofplace.com.

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for your piece. Having done a couple of stretches over lockdown (Vauxhall, Maghull & Lydiate) it seems that we need to venture further afield. Did you go past Tarleton lock onto the Douglas? I’ve not been up there since the 70’s & wondered if there is any path alongside (Google Earth isn’t really helpful for that stretch)

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