Friday, 13 July 2012

Blackburn still a black spot

One of our daughters has a boyfriend who comes from Blackburn so I've tried to cast a kindlier look at the town than I did last time through when it really was as black as its name. As I said then:
"In a couple of miles we came upon:
A sofa
A bed
Some fence panelling
A baby buggy
Various car parts
Numerous shopping trolleys
Street furniture
A car axle
And any amount of general cr*p! Every now and then Star would bump and sway as we passed over some half buried mystery piece of rubbish in the silt below.

The locks when we came to them were a horror story too - old fires, smashed bottles, cans, pill packets lined the top couple. Only in the middle (where the lock-keeper lived!) were they clean and tidy."

Well things have improved. The canal has definitely been cleared of rubbish (though most of the plastic bottles have been piled up at the locks, presumably awaiting removal - or chucking back in.) This time around we only spotted two mattresses, a bed frame, a bath, two shopping trolleys and a vacuum cleaner. The locks, particularly the top lock, were still a sorry mess and the lock-keeper – as everywhere – seemed to have vanished. Even the locks themselves were tired and seriously leaky.
The trouble is that the canal takes three long miles to wind past a succession of grubby out of town sheds, scruffy factory sites and wasteland so there's time to grow increasingly depressed by the surroundings. There's none of the canalside history or green parks of neighbouring Burnley. What might be appealing about the town is always just a tantalising glimpse away in the distance. Including the smart football stadium.
We had no trouble at the locks, though, but a family of swans nearly did. The parents and two cygnets managed to get themselves trapped in the lock with us and another boat. Ma and pa hopped out but the littl'uns couldn't so Starwoman came to the rescue. She grabbed them by the necks and lifted them out onto the bank while the parents didn't know whether to be grateful or  grumpy. Fortunately they chose the former.
We moored the night before Blackburn in a remote piece of country and were enchanted by a solitary curlew circling around the hillside, his eerie call echoing across the sky all evening and again in the morning. We watched the sun go down in a technicolour blaze of reds and pinks and went to bed cheerfully remembering that old adage: 'Red sky at night, shepherd's delight'.
Ha! Wrong again. Today dawned drizzly, briefly improved then rained solidly all afternoon, driving us to an early mooring at Riley Green.

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