Walking the Leeds Liverpool Canal

 

 

Last month saw the 200th Anniversary of the completion of the main line of the Leeds-Liverpool  Canal – Britain’s longest artificial waterway at 127 miles. 

Living in the age of high speed everything it is difficult for us to appreciate that the quiet waters of the remaining canal system once represented a transport revolution that helped transform Britain from an agrarian into and industrial economy.

 

The Leeds-Liverpool Canal was conceived as way of providing trade links between the growing port of Liverpool and its industrial hinterland of cotton manufacture in Lancashire and wool manufacture across the Pennines in Yorkshire. Starting in 1770 with the first cut at Halsall near Ormskirk the waterway took 46 years to complete.

 

Earlier this year to mark the anniversary the Dotcom Walkers enjoyed a special excursion through Foulridge Tunnel.

 

We met at the wharf at Foulridge and boarded the Marton Emperor manned by Martin and Matthew who took us through the 1640 yard tunnel. Tunnels represent the height of engineering achievement but are difficult to appreciate. Aqueducts, viaducts and bridges display their splendours obviously. Tunnels on the other hand are by nature dark

 

which hides the skill and endeavour of pushing through rock, clay and soil. Nonetheless our cruise through the tunnel was one of the highlights of the year.

 

Joining us on that occasion was Musmoo's husband David. He was possibly the most excited of our party to go through the tunnel. In part because he happens to be the membership secretary of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Society and also because of his intention to walk the length of the canal and some to mark the 200th anniversary. He had worked out that by starting in Hull he could create a coast to coast route including the Leeds-Liverpool of 200 miles. The 200 for the 200 was a way of raising funds for the Society.

His walk coincided with a cruise by the Kennet an interactive museum on the narrowboat owned by the Leeds-Liverpool Society. This recreated the first passage with great celebrations along the way. The Leeds-Liverpool Canal is a remarkable waterway. That its use has been transformed from an industrial artery to a recreational amenity to be enjoyed by the people of Lancashire and Yorkshire is thanks to preservation groups like the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Society. And of course walking 200 miles in 15 days is a pretty impressive achievement in itself. And just one other thing about David - 5 years ago he underwent a quadruple bypass heart operation.
 

Over the past 8 years this column has featured many walks that have either crossed the canal or have included a stretch of it. Walking its entire length is a somewhat different proposition but there are numerous factors that make it worth considering as a challenge.

1. Public transport - especially by rail makes it easy to access. The Northern Service from Blackpool to York will give a direct link to the start (or finish) in Leeds as well as several towns near or on the canal. Once in Lancashire the train/bus network can be used to your advantage.
2. Accommodation - since public transport is so easy it may not be necessary to spend many nights away from home but if you do need to book a few overnights accommodation of all types is plentiful.
3. Ease of walking. Laws of nature dictate that canals have to be built on the level. To carry the canal across the Pennines a series of locks were constructed to allow craft to move from one level to the next. This means gradients are gradual.

 

4. Ease of navigation. (See below)
Start: Leeds. Victoria Bridge.
Finish: Liverpool. Eldonian Basin
 

Fact file:

Distance: 127 ¼ miles
Time: Depending on your pace between 7 and 12 days.
Grade: length of walk aside - easy
 

Map: So long as you stick to the canal a map is unnecessary but to help you work out logistics a book - North West & the Pennines ( No 5 Collins Nicholson Waterways Guides) is an invaluable aid providing detailed maps for every section of the canal.

 

Directions. Join the canal towpath at Leeds and keep on it until you arrive at Liverpool. There are two necessary diversions as you reach first Foulridge and then Gannow Tunnels. Three aids - Bridge numbers, lock numbers and mile posts. Bridge numbers go down - starting with 225H.

 

Lock numbers go up finishing after lock 91 (it has to be said some 29 miles after 91!)

 

Not all mileposts are in place but sufficient are to allow you to time your progress.

 

For more information about the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Society go to www.llcs.org.uk/
Readers wishing to contribute to David's cause please go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/David-Morley200

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