Tuesday, 17 July 2012

More second thoughts

I'm having a lot of these at the moment. First time around the Bridgewater was dismissed as 'boring' and merited only a couple of paragraphs of blog. Photos, too, were thin on the ground.
True, one can tire of the terrain; those endless miles of concrete lined canal passing between the scrubland that was once coalfields but is now being reclaimed by nature. Yet there are things to see.
For starters, the busy Plank Lane lift bridge is now worked by key and not keeper, who has gone the way of so many. And right by the bridge is a smart new basin which, though the signposting says it's a 40 boat marina is devoid of any pontoons or boats and is not expected to have any before next year. Maybe that's because 650 new houses are due to be built around it. It's all the site of the former Bickershaw Colliery.
Across on the towpath side, Pennington Flash, one of the many huge lagoons along this canal - again the results of mining subsidences - has had major nature reserve treatment with hides, walks, interpretation boards and a beautiful timber memorial/bench on the canalside. It also had what looked like a lock gate graveyard of decaying oak but turned out to be the building blocks for what will be a piece of public art called 'Unlocked'.
But you don't need to travel much further to glimpse the deprivation that the loss of collieries and other industry has caused. Leigh might have an Aldi and a Lidl for Starwoman but it's a sorry, shell of a town with empty shops, broken shop windows and that sign of unemployment - more men than women on the streets during the day, pushing pushchairs or just sitting around looking pale and glum.

Today we passed through Worsley where Britain's unique canal system began as a means to transport coal from the Duke of Bridgewater's mines. Last time, like most boaters, we took the obligatory picture of the handsome black and white house, where passengers stayed to wait for packet boats, on the junction with the Delph that once ran into the mines. This time we decided to stop and look around.
Walkways and interpretation boards guide you through what can be seen. And it's all being tidied up, not by the council "no money" but by volunteers from the local Civic Trust. Apparently the impetus is to smarten the place up because Olympic football teams are staying nearby.
Apparently there's also a £3.5m project to dredge and improve visitor access to the old canals and other parts of the local Bridgewater. All it needs is Heritage Lottery money!
After yet another thorough drenching we are now in Castlefield Basin, Manchester and the evening sun is shining.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Read your comment about Motorcyclists on towpaths....a sad outcome. However none motor powered cyclist are just a lethal hurtling along head down on their 'mountain' bikes thinking they are immune because they have the helmet on! Most likely have ear pieces in listening to the track of the day.

Glad the trip is working out well and that the waether hasn't been too discouraging.