Saturday, October 31, 2009

Not a boat to be seen through Wigan…

We were hoping to be able to share the Wigan Flight with another boat today, but although someone was moored near the top lock, there was no sign of life when we arrived. Then it would have been useful to meet a boat coming up, leaving the locks full for us. But that wasn’t to be, either.

It was a misty morning when we set off from near Haigh Hall, and even mistier at the top of the locks.

Leaving our overnight mooring
Tanking up at Wigan Top Lock.

Looking down the flight, 21 locks to the bottom.
By the time we’d used the facilities the sun was breaking through, promising a fine day.

One down, 22 to go (including the 2 Poolstock Locks).
There were plenty of people about, walking dogs and kids, jogging and cycling. Meg made several new, if transient, friends.

Meg’s playmate.
Just over half way down and the spire of Church, Wigan comes into view.

Not long after here the flight starts to drop into the built up area on the edge of Wigan. Before this we’d been coming through reclaimed spoil heaps, now attractively landscaped and reclaimed by nature. It’s hard to imagine that alongside the upper section of the flight was a mass of industry, coal mines and iron foundries.

The last 3 locks run through another short ex-industrial area, this time the site of a coal fired power station. One towpath walker told me how, as kids, they used to cadge a lift on the coal barges coming from the pits near Leigh, in exchange for working the locks.

Two railway bridges bracket the last lock (Lock 85) before the junction and our left turn towards Leigh and Manchester.

Lock 85.

There are actually 2 more on the flight, but 86 and 87 are off to the right, on the main line to Liverpool.

Onto the Leigh Branch, and a couple more locks close together drop us onto the long, level pound which runs all the way into Castlefield Junction in Manchester, and down to south of Preston Brook Tunnel if you go right at Water’s Meeting. 40 miles of water, in all.

Poolstock No 2, the last for a while.

Heading towards Leigh, the canal passes through an area of mineworkings from which all trace of the industry has been removed, apart from the large flashes either side, caused by subsidence as the coal below was extracted.

Pearson’s Flash.

These are now nature reserves.

About 45 minutes from the last lock we pulled over at The Dover Lock Inn. No locks here now; there used to be 2 but these were moved to the other side of the junction when the levels changed due to mining subsidence. It’s a handy place to stop, there are a few shops to the north in Abram. And anyway, we’d all had enough by then.

Dover Lock Inn
The weather stayed fine for us, I was in T shirt and shorts most of the way, trotting up and down preparing the locks as we went.
Some of the gates were in poor condition, though. Gaps on the liners (the sealing edges of the gates) causing a lot of water to leak out. This is why most of the locks were empty.

Gate Garden?

Some interesting flora and fauna, though.

Locks 23, miles 7

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