Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Lucy and I travelled along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 2003, from Leeds as far as the eastern portal of Foulridge Tunnel on the summit level. So when Paul and Christine invited me to join them on Waterway Routes for some filming of the western portion for the latest in their series of DVDs, it was too good an opportunity to miss. The boat was moored on the western side of the tunnel; I parked the car in Colne and walked through to the canal near the bottom of Barrowford Locks.

Walking up the locks
A relative lack of rainfall means that the water level in Barrowford Reservoir is well down
Next morning we started by heading the wrong way, through Foulridge Tunnel to where Lucy and I had reached, then winding the boat to come back through – enabling me to avoid having a tiny gap in the middle that I hadn’t visited. Depending on how Paul ends up editing the DVD of the canal, it might help with a suitable chapter break, too. As the day progresses, after descending the Barrowford Locks there is a long pound with lots of good Lancashire scenery.
We moored above Altham and I went for a run to explore a bit more of the canal
Nearly half way there!
The Haweswater Aqueduct crosses the canal
Next day, descending the Blackburn Locks
Moored in the distance, near Riley Green
A late evening walk
Descending to the River Darwen
Reaching the river and heading downriver
The river becomes quite constrained
Passing beneath the viaduct carrying the railway from Preston to Blackburn
After a climb to cross the railway on the level, surprisingly extensive views opened up, to the Forest of Bowland to the north on the right of picture, and to the Lake District with Black Combe centre of picture about 77km to the north-west.
Heading back towards the canal, with Darwen Tower (or Jubilee Tower its formal name) about 8km away to the south-east visible on the horizon
Next day, we have reached Wigan. This is the end of what was originally the Lancaster Canal before its southern, isolated, end was absorbed into the route of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
From the same spot in the other direction can be seen the route we’ve travelled along , with the start of the long descent of the Wigan flight of locks to the left as we look, behind the tree.
Looking down the locks – tomorrow’s job! There are 21 locks in the main flight, descending 61.16 metres.
Some of the afternoon was taken with a walk down the flight of locks, measuring lock depths for fine tuning the data on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal map
Next day, we have successfully negotiated the Wigan flight, and are continuing onwards. Here we pass the famous Wigan Pier. I had expected it to be really diminutive and inconsequential, but was disappointed that the care taken of this piece of history (which is signposted from the M6 motorway) was such that it was almost invisible behind vegetation.
We’ve reached Lathom Junction and moored for the night, so a bit of exploration on foot. Here is Bridge 1 of the Rufford Branch, seen from the Top Lock Swing Bridge
Cottages and an overgrown pool at the junction
Descending lock 7 on the Rufford Branch, the penultimate lock, but the final one of this route for us today
Here’s lock 8, connecting into the tidal River Douglas. This is the route onwards for those heading for the Ribble Link onto the Lancaster Canal.
At the base of the lock, in addition to the normal gates for the final descent out of the canal onto the river, but also gates pointing the other way to protect the canal from high tides when the river is higher than the canal.

And thus ended our journey. The original plan had been to continue in to Liverpool, but a breach a little further along the canal from Lathom Junction meant that wasn’t possible, so we’ll need to return another time to complete the journey to Salthouse Dock.

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