The Road To Wigan Pier

From Grocer's Wharf to Henhurst Bridge No 52, a distance of 20 miles, 7¾ flg and 3 locks.

Overnighting in the city was very different to the previous night out at Little Leigh. You’d expect it to be noisy given where we were but it actually wasn’t that bad at all : it was much lighter obviously – out at Little Leigh it had pretty much been dark but here the street lights meant that even in the middle of the night you could see quite well in the boat. But the biggest thing was hearing the city wake up around you, the sound of rubbish collection trucks, the odd car starting, the bird call and then just a slow but steady increase in background noise.

On the way into Manchester we’d noticed just how many people were using the towpath and as we headed out the traffic was picking up again : people walking in and then the cyclists moving along at quite some speed. ….but just about everyone said hello : a habit we got used to over the next couple of days.

It’s very odd that Hulme Locks Branch Junction – Bridgewater Canal is still in water although the locks were closed off years ago

Hulme lock Junctiokn

Hulme lock Junction

They didn’t even bother removing the gates:

Hulme Lock

Hulme Lock

The new lock at Pomona Lock Branch Junction is, like most of the rest of canal, covered in graffiti and looks like its rarely used

Pomona Lock

Pomona Lock

There used be a large mural on the end wall of one of the warehouses here – now it looks like this:

Anvil Of Industry

Anvil Of Industry

Part of me hopes that the mural is still intact behind the covering – it would be a shame if it has been lost. Making our way back down the canal we met another heron

"Alex" the heron

“Alex” the heron

just next door to Old Trafford

Some sort of sporting team aparently

Some sort of sporting team aparently

Stretford – Waters Meeting junction sneaks up on you and unlike most junctions there aren’t any signposts! Turning towards Worsley the towpath became quieter although Kellog’s obviously use it as a way to work.

Got to protect those Corn Flakes.

Got to protect those Corn Flakes.

The air smells wonderful here – toasting cereal and slightly sweet .. however that all changes at Mosley Road Bridge No 44 because on the other side of the bridge to Kellog’s is a factory using tar and so the nice toasty smell is replaced by the strong acrid smell of phenols, luckily it doesn’t last long and with the canal being so deep you quickly put it behind you.
Like a lot of the canal there is very little to see along here and the Intu Trafford Centre Visitor Moorings are soon passing by.

Just what you've always wanted.

Just what you’ve always wanted.

For such an iconic structure the area round Barton Swing Aqueduct is pretty grim – the house by the end of the bridge is derelict and everything is overgrown which is odd given the amount of work done on the towpath on both sides of the ship canal. Even the aqueduct itself feels a bit neglected and really needs a coat of paint.

The Aqueduct

The Aqueduct

Monton Turn is where Mintball was launched back in 1986 and apart from the big mill being demolished and replaced by housing very little has changed.

Mintball's launch site.

Mintball’s launch site.

although the lighthouse does seem to have been enhanced and tidied up a bit

Monton Turn Lighthouse

Monton Turn Lighthouse

Worsley Delphis as picturesque as ever and the packet house stands proud

The Packet House.

The Packet House.

A few years ago they put in filters to try to stop the iron that leaches from the underground mines here from entering into the canal – by the looks of the water they’ve stopped working, and in a way Worsley wouldn’t be Worlsey without its bright orange water.

At Boothstown Basin the pub has once again re-opened and there were plenty of boats in the basin.

Booth's town Basin

Boothstown Basin

The water by now was no longer orange and in fact was so clear you could see the rubbish on the bottom on the canal and it was like that for quite a way.  The outskirts of Leigh soon approach and Leigh Bridge No 11 welcomes you to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The town itself seems to be slowly picking itself up and there’s quite a lot of newish build housing both in the town and on the edge of it.

I remember when all of this was slagheaps.

I remember when all of this was slagheaps.

Indeed at Plank Lane Bridge No 8 the old colliery site has been built over… I wonder how they filled in the shafts that were here.

Not so much a mineshaft in the back garden, more like under the living room

Not so much a mineshaft in the back garden, more like under the living room

There were some problems with the bridge which meant that it has to be operated by C&RT only – it certainly didn’t seem to be opening as far as I remember.

Plank Lane Bridge

Plank Lane Bridge

From Plank Lane through Dover Bridge No 4 and onto Poolstock Bottom Lock No 2 very little has changed – the trees have grown some more hiding even more of the industrial history of the area… and it still feels odd to reachWigan Junction and not see the cooling towers and chimneys of Westwood Power Station. Similarly not having to take your life into your hands crossing  Chapel Lane at Henhurst Bridge No 52 feels a little odd – the new bridge sited a few feet away from the lock with a towpath underneath it is a lot better although it now leaves the wonderful crank operated bottom gates on Henhurst Lock No 86 a bit obsolete if they chose to put full balance beams on.

There are plenty of moorings below the lock and so we stopped there rather than go through the next lock as the towpath is at a much more sensible level.

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