Saturday, June 30, 2018

Through Burnley

Yet another fine, sunny but breezy day. Good for us, not so good for those fighting the moorland fires up on Winter Hill. There is a suspicion that the blaze there was started deliberately… Several units from Greater Manchester and Lancashire Fire Services are committed. They are still busy also trying to stem the spread of the fires up on Saddleworth Moor. Soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland are helping with this one. The problem is that the recent weather has dried out the underlying peat, and once the fire takes hold in that it can smoulder for a long time. Several days of rain will damp it down, but there’s none in the forecast.

Looking across the Calder Valley towards White HillDSCF4409 
Three generations of transport – the canal from 1815, the Blackburn Branch of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway from around the middle of the same century, and in the distance the M65 from the 1980s.DSCF4412
The Branch line ran from Daisyfield Junction in Blackburn to Skipton, where it joined the Leeds to Carlisle line. The section from Colne to Skipton was closed in 1970, but there’s strong support for reopening  it.

The canal ducks under the motorway twice here, the second time marking the edges of the built up area around Burnley. We stopped for a short while at the services at Rose Grove, before going under the motorway again and then through Gannow Tunnel.

Moorings here at Gannow Wharf

Under the M65 yet again, Gannow Tunnel is just around the corner.DSCF4419

That’s the way to build a tunnel, wide, deep and dead straight.DSCF4423
It was pleasantly cool passing through the hill after the hot sun outside, but the cold water dripping through the ceiling halfway through was a bit of a shock on my unprotected noggin!

Burnley is built around the confluence of the River Brun and the River Calder, 50 feet below the level of the canal. It heads south-east from just above the tunnel to pick up the end of the Burnley Embankment, probably the most impressive earthwork on the navigation. On the way it passes the Weaver’s Triangle, the historic centre of the craft in the town.

A terrace of weaver’s cottages
Before mechanisation and the large mills, cotton weaving was essentially a cottage industry, with families living in the lower two floors of their homes and working a loom on the top floor where the light was better.
This terrace is due to be a part of the redevolpment called On The Banks, alongside the canal.DSCF4430  They are to be turned into office space.

It’s not just mill buildings that can be repurposed. The mill chimneys make good mobile phone masts!

Weavers warehouse, where raw and finished materials were stored and trans-shipped to and from the boats.

Not all the old mill buildings have been redeveloped…DSCF4435
There’s a remarkable number of mill chimneys still surviving, often in far better condition than their associated factories!

A sharp left turn takes the canal onto that high embankment which takes the canal above the rooftops of the town.DSCF4436

I pulled in here for a trip to the shops.

At the far end of the three-quarter mile straight the canal bends around to continue on it’s journey, now heading north after leaving the Calder valley. The built-up area slowly thins out as the navigation runs into a green belt between Burnley and Nelson.

Canal rubbish collection, using a pedal-powered water waterbike.DSCF4442
Nice one, ladies!

Reedley Marina

We came around the corner after passing the marina looking for somewhere to moor, and there was Whippet Express! We’d left them behind at Hapton this morning, but they’d passed us while I was in the town shopping.

Moored behind Whippet Express near Reedley Marina.DSCF4445
They really must think we’re stalking them!

Locks 0, miles 8

Friday, June 29, 2018

Through the Calder Valley mill towns

After a day off at Rishton we were up and away soon after nine o’clock. The canal makes a big loop south then back north into Church to get high enough up the Hyndburn Brook to cross it at the 400 foot contour. That way an expensive embankment was avoided, but it adds about 2½ miles to the route.

Leaving Rishton.
Engineers constructing both the railway and the later M65 had no such qualms, throwing up large earthworks across the valley. But they did have the advantage of a degree of mechanisation…

I wonder how many driver on the M65 realise that one of the many bridges over the carriageway is actually an aqueduct?


Derelict lime kilns on the edge of Church must have been busy, they had their own short loading arm off the main line.

We pulled over just before the village and I walked up to the motor shop for some oil for an imminent engine service, then we carried on. Church has the distinction of being the halfway point between Liverpool and Leeds, and marks it with a mural and a bit of ironwork sculpture…

The mural could do with a bit of TLC…


As the canal is officially 127¼ miles long, the halfway point is at 63⅝ – of course!DSCF4379
They were sticklers for accuracy in 1816!

DSCF4377Church always seems to me to be a little sad and depressed. These settlements that were so dependent on the cotton mills suffered badly when the trade declined after WWI. Some managed to reinvent themselves, converting the mills into apartments or offices, some didn’t…
They don’t even encourage boating visitors; the official moorings will only fit one boat and the rest of the canal through the town is too shallow at the sides.

The first of the swing bridges is on the edge of Church, and we dropped lucky. A boat, Otter, had not long passed us while we were moored and had passed through the bridge before we arrived. But the lady crew member saw us and opened it up again for us. Then she trotted on to the next one, 10 minutes away.

Riley’s Swing Bridge
Unfortunately she couldn’t manage to swing it on her own, so I pulled in on the towpath side to give her a hand.  was feeling a bit guilty anyway… Between us we got the heavy bridge open and closed again after letting both boats through.

Before the next one, couple of miles further on, we passed under the M65 then skirted Clay-le-Moors.

Under the M65 this time!

Old canalside warehouses at Clayton-le-MoorsDSCF4385

We deliberately overtook Otter so I could get Finch’s Swing Bridge. There are landings on the offside at these bridges too, making it easier for single-handed operation.

Meg’s not quite sure whether she should stay on the bridge or get off…DSCF4387

Beautiful views over the Calder Valley

Derelict Smith’s Swing Bridge and abandoned Lower Clough Bank FarmDSCF4390

From here the canal performs several switchbacks as it negotiates the streams feeding into the Calder. The M65 is close alongside, and at one point the canal was diverted to make way for the new carriageway and Junction 8.

A new bit of canal, built in the 1980s
The original line lies under the motorway behind the trees on the right.

More long views out over the valley as we approach HaptonDSCF4404

Coming in to moor at Hapton, that’s Whippet Express ahead.DSCF4406
Rob and Jane must think we’re stalking them!

Locks 0, miles 7¾

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

On a bit…

We did move on today, just around the corner to Rishton.
We had a couple of boats moving past early, probably intending to get a day’s cruise done before it got too hot. Not a bad move…
DSCF4356Then later the Leeds and Liverpool Fly Boat Dee came past. The canal was built for craft already working on the rivers, the locks being suited for craft 14 feet wide and 60 feet long. The Leeds and Liverpool Short Boats were specifically designed to make full use of the navigation. Dee was built in the 1940s, and these steel-hulled motor boats succeeded the earlier wooden horse-boats.
Dee has been restored and converted for leisure use.

We were away at around half-ten, cruising gently around the rising ground know as Cow Hill.DSCF4358

I think that’s Pendle Hill on the horizon, about 9 miles away.DSCF4361

Every so often the canal bank is interrupted by these up and down ramps.DSCF4363
A legacy of horse-drawn days, they allowed the horses to take a drink with hardly a pause. Down one side, a quick slurp, then back up the other.

We pulled in at Rishton at just after 11:00, having to pin in on the bank as the pontoon moorings were occupied. Whippet Express is here to, Rob and Jane having decided to push on a bit further than us yesterday. We’ll probably stay put tomorrow; I’ve a delivery to collect from Argos in Burnley but it won’t be there till Saturday. So we’re killing time again…

Locks 0, miles 2

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Another day, another flight of locks.

Today we tackled Blackburn Locks in what has since been identified as the hottest day of the year so far. We followed Whippet Express through the outskirts of the city to the bottom of the locks, taking about an hour and a quarter.

Old water works buildings now sport bat boxesDSCF4328

Crossing from the local authority of Chorley into that of Blackburn-with-Darwen.DSCF4329
The River Darwen forms the boundary here, we crossed it on an wooded embankment preventing any view of the river.

The canal enters the city through the normal expected zones; first there’s modern housing developments on the fringes, then light industry mixed with older housing. Finally old wharfs that would have serviced long defunct industry can be seen alongside demolition sites that have yet to be redeveloped.

Modern estates…

…light industry…

…and earlier high-density housing.

Another delivery to keep the locals lubricated.DSCF4333

Approaching Blackburn Bottom Lock.

The locks were against us, expected as a boat passed us heading uphill at half-seven this morning…

Above the bottom lock there’s a 200-yard pound, then the locks close up. We pulled in for water and disposal between the second and third and had a boat pass us heading down so the remaining four were set for us.

Topping up the tanks

The “Mike on a Bike” sculpture is still on the towpath…

…and he’s still looking grumpy!

With the locks empty we made good time to the top of the flight, mooring up for shopping just past Bridge 101.

Blackburn Top Lock

The Whippets were done first, setting off for Rishton or maybe Church. We followed on, the canal now on the hill to the south and above the city centre.
The tall spire just right of centre is that of the cathedral, built around 1825 and formerly the parish church. It was elevated to cathedral status in 1926. The body of the building is obscured by the Premier Inn.

Past Eanam Wharf.

The canal through the town is moderately clean, plastic bottles and cans float around of course, and I spotted a bed headboard and some seat cushions. Common stuff really in an urban canal. But this is a little less common…
A small safe with the back peeled open!

There’s not many mills left in the city now, but a few tall chimneys remain. Daisyfield Mill, formerly Appleby’s Flour Mill from 1870 is now office space…

…but the early 20th century Imperial Mill at Greenbank, built for cotton production, lies empty and forlorn.DSCF4350

Cotton spinning was the major industry in East Lancashire, Blackburn alone had 91 mills operating in 1891.  Of the turn of the century population of around 133,000 almost a third were employed as weavers or spinners.At it’s peak the Lancashire spinning industry produced 8 billion yards of cloth per year. But the industry fell into decline after WWI, and Imperial Mill was one of the last to be built. It finally ceased production in 1958, and has stood empty for several years.

The canal moves out of the town after passing under the bypass, Bridge 104C, just the extensive Whitebirk Retail Park on the left side for a quarter mile.

We didn’t go much further, pulling in just before Bridge 107, Cut Bridge.DSCF4354

It’s been a long, hot day. We’ll probably have a short one tomorrow.

Locks 6, miles 8¾