A ‘Letter from Sarah’ here with a slight difference. She’s put all the structure together, taken and selected all the photographs and will be the main writer. But I went on the day out in North Wales too, so we’re going to sit and write together. My occasional contributions in italics.
So… with one thing and another it’s been a while since me and Ronnie have had a day out together. Me being up in Knoydart, off in my kayak, and of course, Ronnie not being well from early August, have all meant that we’ve simply not had the time or wellness until now to pack our day bags and go off exploring.
I’ve suggested that we come to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct today, out of sheer curiosity. (For those of you not fluent in Welsh, a helpful sign tells us, ‘Pontcysyllte’ is prounounced Pont-ker-sulth-tay.)
We arrive at Trevor Basin, not far from Llangollen.
It’s the day the clocks have gone back so we’re a bit disoriented. And after an early start from home we eat much of our packed lunch as soon as we arrive. Though our watches are telling us it’s only 11am our bodies know full well it’s lunchtime.
Earlier this afternoon I carried a bag of Sarah’s books down the road to our nearest charity shop. She’d sorted them out as being ready to go while doing some clearing yesterday afternoon. They were a mixture of horticulture, kayaking and even one about how to make books. I’d bought her that one as well as a couple of the others, but they’d come to the end of their time with her and are now gone.
When I’ve done with writing this post and need a photograph to illustrate it I’ll sort out a small pile of my own books and, once photographed, they’ll be ready to follow Sarah’s down to the same charity shop.
We’ve always done this, not keeping things we don’t need. These days we’re much better than we used to be at not acquiring things in the first place. But even so, things accumulate on shelves, in corners and even in plain sight, attempting to become part of the household landscape, until they’re noticed, identified as beyond their usefulness, and cleared.
We enjoy it and we like living in a home without much stuff, so there’s room for us. Clearing, be it books, furniture, music, gadgets, clothes or old interests, always fills us with the energy and ideas to do whatever’s next. And it always has. At times when we’ve felt our lives becoming becalmed and stale a good bit of clearing has usually helped us to move on and then look back and wonder ‘what was all that stuff for?’
After a few dog days, sorry about that, I’m glad to get back to canal walking, returning to our Barnoldswick base that we’re using to cover the highest sections of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, through East Lancashire into West Yorkshire. Over this weekend it’s our intention to cross over the top of the Pennines and begin our descent into West Yorkshire and Leeds. Let’s go.
Resuming our complete walk of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, by the end of this walk we’ll be very conscious that we are now walking through the heartland of the industrial history of the north of England. Burnley, as you’ll see from this post and the next one, is a fantastic place that is a privilege to walk through
These walks also mark the end of our doing each canal section as a separate day trip. We’re now too far from home for that, so have booked ourselves a long weekend away in Barnoldswick. A place so far into East Lancashire that it feels just like Yorkshire.
A friendly pub that we go to and a café that we don’t call their place ‘Barlick.’ so maybe all the locals do? We wouldn’t presume to know.
Now we’re precisely half way to Leeds and taking a weekend’s break from canal walking, Sarah and I have done a bit of reflecting on the eight walks we’ve done so far and a few things we think in general. So here they are.
1 Canal time is different
Now we’re far from home it’s been taking us a good while to get to the canal to start each walk where we finished the last one. But once we get there and slip onto the tow path we enter a very different place, where we’ve never walked before and yet it feels like we’ve never been away. Like setting off from the Harry Potter platform into our own magical world. A slow world too, where us and the occasional canal boat all move along at pretty much the same pace. Except we have the freedom to stop frequently, smell the flowers and gaze at, well, all the beauties and leftovers and canalscapes we’ve been showing you this year.
Losing track of the time and even of the century, because canal time is different.
2 Bikes are a problem
It pains me to say this, though I’ll say it anyway, because most of my best friends are enthusiastic bike riders. But bikes on the canal path are a nuisance. Not all of them of course, but too many of their riders to be comfortable with think us walkers are in their way. We might get an imperious ‘Get out of my way’ ring of a bell, but we pretty well never get a thank you. Two ‘thank yous’ I’d say we’ve had.
Local authorities themselves might be part of the problem here, including stretches of the canal in things like ‘The Chorley Trail’ to encourage bikes onto the tow path. But it means that particularly around towns, and because we’re walking at the weekends, we’re walking in single file to the side of the main path because of the bikes. Which are in turn, by the way, turning much of the main path into a narrow rutted groove of a path by their over use of it.
Another day, another Top Lock. We suspect this won’t be the last of these on our way along the canal from Liverpool to Leeds.As usual now, we begin the day where we aim to finish, parking the car here at Wheelton.
Sarah, to give credit where it’s definitely due, is the principal arranger of these days. Does all the maps, food and logistics and on this one will also do a good half of the photographs.