On the way from Manchester to Leigh there is a wonder of Victorian Engineering. This is the Barton Aqueduct which takes the Bridgwater Canal over the Manchester Ship Canal.
We stopped at Worsley, partly because it’s a nice place to be, and partly to have a look at the entrance to the 48 mile labyrinth of underground waterways that were tunnelled into the coal seams around it. These were the Duke of Bridgwater’s mines; to drain the water and to transport the coal from here to Manchester was why this, the first significant canal in the country was built, and why, more or less, all subsequent canals are the size they are. We moored up behind NB Hadar; a beautiful working boat that we’ve been leap-frogging for a couple of weeks, and met her very friendly owners, Jo & Keith.
This is Jo’s blog. It was one of the blogs we looked at when we were still in the planning stages of what we’re doing now. We learned a lot from other people’s experiences and it was lovely to finally meet someone we feel we’ve known for quite some time. Thank you for your prolific blogs, both of you, and thank you for all the help you unknowingly gave to a pair of wanabe boaters.
We had a night at Astley Green where there is a mining museum, including a massive 3300hp 4 cylinder steam winding engine.
Just before Wigan we stopped for a couple of nights at Ince Moss.
We’re thinking of being around here for a while before Christmas this year; what with interest rates being diddly squat we need to inject some funds into the coffers and we reckon that Wigan is as nicer place as any to get a bit of temporary employment. The North West Waterways office is here, with visitor moorings and very friendly and helpful staff so as we were passing we went in and got a booking form for the Liverpool Canal Link. This is the exciting new route into Liverpool Docks, passing along the river frontage, in front of the Liver Building and into the re-vitalised south docklands area. It’s an assisted passage and we’ve booked Legend on it in October, a week after we come back from the Lancaster. We’ll be in the basin on a pontoon mooring for a week, so if anyone would like to visit Liverpool in October we’ve got a spare bed in the city centre.
The Leigh Branch ends at Wigan Pier; once a joke in the style of left handed tea cups, spare spirit-level bubbles and long stands, but now a very real restored coal wharf, where it joins the L&L main line. We turned left there as we continue our journey to the most northern part of the system. We stopped at the bottom of Appley locks. Even though you now only go through one (very deep) lock, these are referred to in the plural because hidden away in the undergrowth alongside are two more derelict locks that used to allow traffic to go in both directions at once. Looking at them makes you realise just how close we came to not having a canal system at all.
Between Leigh and Wigan there’s a shiny new lift bridge at Plank Lane, but sadly no bridge keeper. These days you hold all the traffic up by yourself. Just before the bridge is a water point; we filled up with water and had a chat with a couple who’ve done the Ribble crossing three times. More useful advice, but with more than a soupçon of trepidation thrown in. We took their tales of boats run aground and struggling through vegetation with a pinch of salt, but not before we’d made mental notes. We are going to approach our upcoming tidal passage with the utmost care, and with our “Absolute Beginners” hats wedged firmly on our heads.