We were just getting ready to move off this morning, sorting out fenders and the like, when a boat came around the corner behind us. Good, someone to share Dean Lock with. Then another followed, and a quick conversation confirmed what I expected; they were traveling together and sharing the locks. Ah well, it was a good idea while it lasted…
I pulled pins and followed anyway. By the time I cycled the lock there was a chance of someone else turning up. I held back while the two preceding boats filled and entered the lock, then pulled forward onto the lock landing.
Waiting above Dean Lock
Dean Lock(s) are in a fine spot, and the old lock cut would make a lovely overnight mooring, if it wasn’t for the M6 running almost overhead.
The reason we’re facing the wrong way is that the water tap is directly below the lock so I turned around rather than bother with digging out the long hose.
Despite the decrepit condition of the disused lock, amazingly it still holds back the water.
All the locks from Wigan have derelict chambers alongside, some in better condition than others. They appear to be of the same dimensions as those currently in use, so I’m guessing that they were duplicated to improve traffic flow, and the earlier chambers since fallen into disuse. Coal from the Wigan coalfields to Liverpool was a hugely profitable cargo, so speeding up the journey would make sense.
We filled with water below the lock, then turned around again and headed off. The canal follows the valley of the River Douglas until Parbold, itself navigable after early 17th century improvements until the new canal took away it’s trade. The Douglas Navigation opened in 1742, well before “canal mania” struck the country. It connected a basin in Wigan and a short artificial channel to the Ribble Estuary, down through eight locks.
When the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was under construction, agreement was reached to use part of the Douglas Navigation. But to prevent any competition the L&L bought the majority shareholding in the older navigation in 1771, and initially used the section above Dean Locks up to Wigan.
By 1780, though, a new cut into Wigan, through Ell Meadow and Pagefield Locks, had been opened, and the final section of the Douglas Navigation to the Ribble was also made redundant by the construction of the Rufford Branch a year later.
Following the Douglas valley to Appley Bridge
We encountered our first Leeds and Liverpool swing bridges along here, but the first two, Fisher’s and Ranicar’s, are locked open and unlikely to be closed any time soon…
The third I had to deal with, Mags was having a sit down but with the recently installed landings on either side, single-handed operation is easy.
Finch Mill Swing Bridge
In Appley Bridge was moored George, a wooden Leeds and Liverpool Short Boat, restored and based back on the canal as a floating exhibit. There’s a blog post here from 2013 detailing it’s history.
Appley Locks are in another beautiful spot, and this time the old lock cut does make for fine, quiet moorings.
We’ve spent the night here ourselves on a couple of occasions.
There are two disused locks here, both fairly shallow in depth, in the old cut. The newer one replaces both, and is a considerable 12 foot.
This is the last lock for boats heading into Liverpool, until the Stanley Dock flight of 4 drops the canal down to the Liverpool Link through the docks. We, on the other hand, of another eight to deal with before locking down onto the tidal River Douglas and out onto the Ribble.
A couple of miles later we pulled in at Parbold.
It’s been another hot, sunny day. But tomorrow it’s supposed to be raining. So we’ll stay put, I reckon. We’ve time in hand.
Locks 2, miles 4