Monday, 21 September 2009

Wigan Pier

The rather sorry for itself Wigan pier

It does exist - just. A couple of stumps of rail track edging into the canal is the restored remains of the old coal staithe that gave it's name to George Orwell's literary institution.
I wonder what he'd make of the town around it? The canalside has been pleasantly restored with cobbled towpaths and converted warehouses but, sadly, one of these housing the major Orwellian attraction 'The Wigan Pier Complex' is boarded up and shows no sign of re-opening. Unlike the one next door that's now 'The Orwell' pub!
Impressions of Wigan were not unfavourable, though. The the canal is generally rubbish free, the two locks through the industrial town are tidy, and the BMX pedalling kids and beer can-carrying youths who watched us through were friendly and interested in the boat and our route. A far cry from Blackburn!
Not content with doing the 21 lock flight, though, we did another four and finished a long but fun day moored just beyond the last in the shadow of a huge M6 viaduct.

Footnote: I've often doubted the merits of turning Britain's industrial past into 'experiences' or 'themes' rather than finding a genuine new use for the buildings or accepting that the past is the past, demolishing and moving on. Wigan seems to demonstrate that, well meaning as it is, embalming your heritage into some sort of cosy experience just doesn't work. People visit once or twice then get bored with it and find the next 'experience'. There isn't enough there to draw a big enough audience of regular visitors to a modest couple of warehouses and some cobblestones.
Nor do these experiences - save for the really good ones like Ironbridge, Black Country Museum, Etruria - give any real feeling for what life was actually like in those days. Hard, grinding, filthy, smoke filled, unhealthy and usually short!

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