a canal wanderer 6

walking the cheshire ring

Croxton Flash, Trent & Mersey Canal by Dawn SmallwoodOver the past three years, I have walked on or off The Cheshire Ring with an intention of doing it either in a clockwise or anti clockwise direction starting at the Ashton Canal. It turned out that I walked the ring in no intended order as friends and family wanted to join me. I had opportunities to enjoy a number of return visits to the Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals. We didn’t literally followthe “ring” either way due to logistics i.e. transportation and in some cases we had to park the car at a nearest town and get the bus/train to the canal.

My Cheshire Ring walking experience is split into two articles and both will be feature in both the autumn and winter editions. My experiences include multiple experiences to the canals and they are consolidated into the canals’ summary as below.

Ashton Canal

Ashton Canal Manchester City CentreMy friend and I walked on the canal from Portland Basin, Dunkenfield Junction, in Ashton Under Lyne to Manchester City Centre. The stretch is approximately seven miles long where we walked through Audenshaw, Droylesden, Claydon, Beswick, Ancoats and eventually Manchester.

Initially we had concerns about walking the canal because of reputations of past events and incidents concerning boaters from bored young local residents. However we had no issues whatsoever and we met friendly locals and walkers enroute. We found the canal pleasant and interesting and seeing Greater Manchester’s suburbia and its industrial past. A lot of regeneration has happened around the City Centre particularly its warehouses and industrial buildings. My father had cruised this stretch when he was on a boating trip with friends a few years ago.

Lower Peak Forest Canal

I have walked this canal twice and thoroughly enjoyed this stretch. I remember how interesting the museum at Portland Basin was and pleasant Bridge View Café is for its homemade cakes and drinks. From there we crossed the canal via the footbridge to the junction where the Peak Forest Canal begins. Crossing the River Tame over the Dunkenfield Aqueduct we began our walking along the canal. I always remember the canal for its aggressive Canadian geese and more so, on my second visit, when we were greeted with the many goslings. The goslings are rather cute though they probably turn aggressive and unfriendly like their parents!

The Lower Peak Forest Canal passes through Hyde and Haughton Dale Nature Reserve where the canal becomes more scenic. Just before Romiley we transverse the 167 yards Woodley Tunnel, Canal’s only tunnel with a towpath and we had to use our torch to guide us. Dad and I took a stop at the Duke of York Pub, a welcoming place for refreshments on a very warm day. Afterwards we continued on passing Hatherlow and reaching the Hyde Bank Tunnel. We had to divert there are walked overland to the other portal and soon after we reached the Marple Aqueduct. The aqueduct is designed by Benjamin Outram and I noted on my second visit new railings on the other side - they may not be naturally and aesthetically pleasing to the structure but it’s a good thing for boater’s safety. As it’s so high up on the aqueduct we were able to look down to the River Goyt and look up to the Marple Viaduct where we saw a couple of passing trains. It’s beautiful scenery all around.

A short walk after we reached the beginning of the Marple Flight of locks and we ascended up the first half of the locks to where Station Road is. Logistically it’s a good starting/finishing point for walking the Peak Forest Canal.

Macclesfield Canal

Macclesfield CanalThe Macclesfield Canal, built in 1831, is one of the most beautiful canals I’ve ever walked. It is a canal where one sees that they are in the ‘middle of nowhere’. We began our journey by ascending up the remaining Marple flight of locks up to Marple Junction. We crossed via bridge to begin our walk on the ‘Macc’. We did the whole canal in three stretches with the first one from Marple to Macclesfield.

We passed Goyt Mill and the villages of High Lane (We stopped at the Bull’s Head Pub for refreshments), Higher Poynton, Four Lane Ends (I once stopped for a drink at the Miners Arms Pub) and Bollington. We enjoyed refreshments in its quaint and cute Happy Valley Cafe at Clarence Mill in Bollington and passing the Adelphi Mill we eventually reached Macclesfield after approximately 11 miles with well earned stop at the Puss In Boots Pub.

macclesfield canalOur second stretch was from Congleton to Macclesfield which is approximately 10 miles. I remember when I walked the stretch for the first time it was on a very hot day and my second time with my Dad wasn’t any cooler. The challenge was there isn’t really any shops/pubs/facilities canalised to have refreshments except very near Macclesfield. There was a closed down Pub, Fools Nook, at Oakgrove which would have been a perfect stopping point. The stretch was pleasant with the Congleton viaduct in the distance before crossing the River Dane via the aqueduct and the Bosley Flight of locks. We ascended up the locks towards Oakgrove and going under the stunning Folden Bank Bridge we eventually reached Macclesfield.

For the third and final stretch for completing walking the canal we started from Congleton and finished at Harding Wood Junction (where the Macclesfied Canal meets the Trent and Mersey one). From Congleton and via the Dog Lane Aqueduct and the town’s wharf we walked the remaining seven miles or so. When I visited the stretch the first time I did a side trip to Little Moreton Hall and enjoyed checking out the exterior though I didn’t want to pay a fortune to look inside. A pity really but couldn’t justify the price for the limited time I had to look around. We stopped at Scholar Green to have drinks at The Bleeding Wolf Pub. We crossed the Trent and Mersey Canal via the Poole Aqueduct and reaching Harding Wood Junction. On my first trip I enjoyed a celebratory drink for completing the canal at the Blue Bell Pub in Kidsgrove and had a little look at the Harecastle Tunnel at the Northern Portal. There I met Derek, the tunnel keeper, who gave me a map for walking over the tunnel (wouldn’t have known then that I’ve since done the walk).

What is unique about the Macclesfield Canal are the stone mile markers that show the distances from Marple to Hall Green and its beautiful roving bridges. We met a number of very friendly passer-bys including boaters (a couple offered me a glass of water as it was a very hot day), dog walkers and I met the cute deaf bull dog, Molly, who was sweet and soft as a brush and I remember how friendly the marine shop owner between Marple and Macclesfield .

Our walking adventures featuring Rochdale, Bridgewater and Trent and Mersey Canals on The Cheshire Ring will continue in the next article.

Dawn Smallwood, August 2019

Dawn Smallwood

Dawn Smallwood offers us a personal look at canals through a series of walks. She includes  some local history, comments on social and industrial landscapes, and gives recommendations for local attractions and places to eat or drink. She also raises a great deal of money for charity.

Contact details: Email



a canal wanderer 5

walking the montgomery canal

Montgomery Canal, Maesbury Marsh

Aston Locks, Montgomery CanalAt the end of April and beginning of May we spent a week in the beautiful county of Shropshire.  We stayed near Oswestry adjacent to the Montgomery Canal.  The Montgomery Canal is one of the most beautiful waterways on the network and appeals to many people particularly for its rural and rustic feel.

The Montgomery Canal was opened in 1821 from Welsh Frankton, Shropshire, to Newtown, Powys, and it officially closed in 1944 down to a lack of usage and then a recent breach.  The 35 mile canal goes through some incredible countryside and a 2.5 mile stretch, near Oswestry, is designated as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) for its natural/aquatic nature.

The canal is currently being restored and is navigable for boats from Frankton Junction (meets the Llangollen Canal) to north of Gronwy Bridge (Bridge No. 82).  We saw firsthand the current restoration work being done at Bridges Nos. 84 (Pryces Bridge) and 85 (Crickheath Bridge) and it’s also navigable from Ardd-Lin Bridge (Bridge No. 103) down to the south of Berriew Bridge (Bridge No. 129). 

Walking the Canal (Diary)

We walked from Welsh Frankton (Frankton Junction) to Four Crosses, Powys, in short stretches, during our week’s stay.  As the canal is rural we had to turn back and return to our starting point or where our car was parked.  Public transport is fairly limited in those areas we were walking through so doubling up was not an option.  We walked approximately 11 miles (22 miles in total) on the cut in the week and the Montgomery Canal is such a stunning waterway to walk on.  There is a calmness when you’re walking on non-navigable stretches as you realise how quiet and peaceful the cut is because of a lack of boating activity and canal life in general.  I look forward to seeing it fully restored in the not too distant future and further information about The Monty and its restoration work can be found here.

Friday Night (First Night) - Maesbury Marsh to Pryces Bridge

A beautiful stretch with the countryside surrounding us and we saw some of the restoration work in progress at Bridges Nos.  84 and 85.  We had to turn back just after Bridge No. 84 because of the towpath closure.

Frankton Locks, Montgomery CanalSunday Night - Maesbury Marsh to Queen’s Head

We ascended up the Aston Locks and passed the nature reserve, which is part of the SSSI section, and we turned back at Queen’s Head.  It’s another beautiful stretch. 

Monday - Frankton Junction to Queen’s Head

Frankton Locks, Montgomery CanalWe did a 4 mile stretch from Frankton Junction to Queen’s Head and did the same mileage returning.  We climbed down the locks and checked out the disused Weston Branch.  We continued our descent towards Perry Aqueduct – definitely a rural stretch until we reached Heath Houses where a road runs along the canal and thus noisier.  At Queen’s Head we stopped for lunch by Bridge No. 76 and then walked back to Frankton Junction.  As we approached the staircase locks we saw boats descending. Boat passages have to be booked ahead of time with the Canal and River Trust and they only operate just at lunch time on most days. We had glorious weather.

Llanymynech Lock, Montgomery Canal

Tuesday Night - Llanymynech to Crickheath Bridge

We had an evening walk from the village, which straddles on the English/Welsh border, and explored the disused section though we were able to walk on the towpath.  It was a pleasant stretch through woodland and countryside.  Reached Crickheath Bridge No. 85 where all the current restoration is happening between this bridge and Bridge No. 84.  Llanymynech and environs are known for its past limestone activity which is evident with its nearby limekilns. 

Carreghofa, Montgomery CanalWednesday Night - Llanymynech to Four Crosses

Our final evening walk of our trip and this is probably my favourite stretch so far on the canal.  We returned to Llanymynech and crossed into Wales for our walk down to Four Crosses.  We saw some interesting canal features including the paddle gear at Carreghofa Locks and the two aqueducts including the impressive one crossing the River Vyrnwy.  Reaching Four Crosses we were hoping for a celebratory drink at one of the pubs in the village but only to find that one of them has closed down and another is just a hotel (it appeared closed).  After our failed attempt we returned to the canal via its busy bypass’ subway, had refreshments at Bridge No. 99, and returned to Llanymynech. 

We will walk the remainder of the canal on a future trip.  We however made a stop at the stretch in Welshpool and were hoping to visit the Powysland Museum and Montgomery Canal Centre but it was closed as it’s earmarked for the town’s library to occupy the building in the future.  So we spent a brief time looking round the fairly quiet stretch including the wharf and town’s locks.



a canal wanderer 4 - canals for the better good

charitable walks by a canal wanderer

During 2018 I walked a considerable stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal during April and May for very good causes. Firstly (over two walks) for English in the Community, an ESOL project I run in East Leeds, and funds were also raised for Freedom4Girls, a charity which works with women and girls and tackles period poverty, and Leeds Conversation Club for Asylum Seekers and Refugees. Secondly in May, via work, for Candlelighters, a children’s cancer charity and part of the 'Just One Day' Lord Mayor (of Leeds) Charity Appeal.

Kirkstall bridgeKirkstall Bridge to Crossflats

The first walk was from Kirkstall Bridge to Crossflatts, approximately 13 miles. My family walked the first mile with me and I walked the remainder on my own. I had to battle all the weather elements from snow to heavy rain! I was soaking head to toe but it was for the better good. Did stop in Saltaire at The Boat Inn, to seek dryness and warmth and finished at Crossflatts where a welcoming lift home came my way.

Wigan to Burscough

The second walk, a month later, was a 10 mile stretch from Wigan to Burscough. Unlike the last walk we were greeted with blue skies and sunshine and contrasting hot weather. From the rich industrial heritage in the Wigan area to walking through the scenic Douglas Valley via Crooke, a former mining village, where we had a refreshment stop.

The walking was bit of a challenge at times because of the hot weather. Ice-creams and cold drinks were welcomed enroute in Parbold and near our destination, Burscough. We successfully finished at Burscourgh Bridge and we caught out train back to Leeds via Manchester.

dawn smallwod chrity wlkerSoltaire to Skipton

For the third walk we walked approximately 16 miles from Saltaire to Skipton with my colleague, Myrte. We met at Saltaire and we had the pleasure of Ozzy, Myrte’s dog, join us. We passed through Hirst Woods, Dowley Gap and of course the infamous Bingley Five Rise Locks where we sought refreshments at the Horse Stables Café. We were very fortunate with the weather – no rain and not too hot.

We had to divert after Riddlesden because of a towpath closure and we rejoined the towpath in Silsden after a well-deserved drink, Ozzy was very grateful. The stretch from Silsden to Skipton is pleasantly rural. We had a short stop in Kildwick and we spotted a deer distant in the surrounding woodlands. The stretch of the canal is a haven for wildlife and we saw a considerable number of geese with their goslings. A final stop at The Bay Horse near Skipton then we reached our destination. 16 miles of walking is a challenge and the most I ever done in one stretch but worth it.

The money raised from the walks will make a difference for many in need -  whether it be to help someone learn English or to support families of children suffering with cancer.

The canals are a perfect platform to make a difference for the better good!

Editor's note: Dawn is doing three sponsored walks over April and May this year to raise money for English in the Community, ESOL Sunflower Project and Freedom4Girls. Please get in touch with Dawn if you can help in any way.


A Canal Wanderer - 3

           Memoirs of walking the Leeds & Liverpool Canal 



Back in July 2016 our ambition was to walk the whole of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal (in stages of course). I also had planned to walk the Leigh, Rufford and Springs Branches. It was an exciting challenge to have had that opportunity to learn about the industrial and social heritage along the canal and be swept away with the beautiful Pennines countryside.

We completed walking the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in June 2017. Please note the walks aren’t strictly in chronological order as some of the stretches have been walked more than once and not necessarily in order. 

Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Leeds and Liverpool Canal is Britain's longest single waterway canal. The 127 miles stretch starts from Leeds, crosses the Pennines and finishes in Liverpool. 

It was built in 1816, engineered by John Longbotham (with involvement from James Brindley and Robert Whitworth). The original aim of the canal was to transport goods quickly and economically from city to city. Today the canal is used for leisure purposes such as boating, walking, running and cycling on the towpath.  

Further information about the canal can be found here

Part 3: Continuing from Chorley to Liverpool

Leeds & Liverpool Canal near ChorleyChorley to Wigan - Walk done in December 2016

It was called the “walk of walks” with it being the final one for 2016 and the fact that we are getting nearer to Liverpool and further away from Leeds.

The bus journey from Blackburn to Chorley was a long-winded affair which stopped at all the villages en route. The journey was almost an hour!

We began with glorious weather – what a contrast to our last walk (from Blackburn to Chorley) where rain and wind prevailed! We walked on the canal until we reached Adlington, a village on the outskirts of Chorley, and we had a drink at the White Bear Pub. We had originally planned to have a drink at the Bridge Pub but it wasn’t open (though it was advertised to open at 12 noon) so we went to the other pub. We were thankful for the comfort stop. 

We continued walking the Rotary Way on the canal and we passed Worthington, Red Rock and Haigh Hall Country Park. We did stop very briefly by a bridge to have our lunch. There were some parts of the tow path which were very muddy with puddles so it made walking a challenge in order not to fall!  

We had planned to make a stop at The Crown pub near Wigan at Bridge 69 but it was closed. Maybe the pub only opened at lunch time and evenings. We walked on and we eventually reached the top lock of the Wigan Flight (21 locks over 2 miles). En route was the Kirkless Hall pub so we popped in for well deserved refreshments.

Knowing it would get dark sooner than later we didn’t stay too long at the pub and descended down the flight. I was saddened to see the amount of litter in the canal pounds between the locks. This spoilt the experience a bit for me and I wished more pride is taken in preserving this magnificent feat of engineering. 

It took a good hour or so to reach Lock No. 86 and we decided to finish at Henhurst Bridge. We walked into Wigan town centre to catch our train home – we caught the Huddersfield bound train straight away and our journey was very eventful with some interesting characters onboard (one was rather up to no good with fare dodging and eventually was escorted off the train at Stalybridge). It was a short wait for our connecting train home. 

Things to see and do:

Rotary Way
Haigh Hall Country Park
Wigan Flight of Locks

Food and Drink:

The White Bear Pub
Kirkless Hall Pub

frozen canal, Leeds & Liverpool, Leigh BranchWigan to Leigh - Walk done in December 2016

I walked on the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool during the 2016 Christmas Holidays. I caught a later than planned train to Manchester Victoria and then decided more or less that I’d start the walk in Wigan rather than in Leigh. Getting a train to Wigan is considerably quicker than getting a bus to Leigh as the town doesn’t have a railway station. Besides it was the middle of winter and less daylight hours.

Half an hour later I was at Wigan Wallgate and walked down to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. I started at Lock 86 and soon joined the Leigh Branch at the junction. The branch is approximately seven miles and I walked through some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen on a canal. Seeing the Wigan Flashes in glorious sunshine is a highlight – the blueness of the lakes and the canal’s reflections made the walking enjoyable. It was very cold, however, evident from the ice that was layered on the canal.

I should have swapped to the other side of the canal at Moss Bridge (Bridge No. 2) but I continued on the right hand side until the fence didn’t allow me to go any further. So I had to retrace my steps back to Moss Bridge (probably a mile or so walking back!) and walked on the other side. As far as time was concerned it was a bit of a setback as I only had three hours or so day light and would have probably be still on the canal when it got dark.

Undeterred I walked on until I stopped at Abram for a quick drink and comfort stop at Dover Lock Inn. Very welcomed stops as there are no other canal side pubs or facilities on the Leigh Branch. A pleasant and friendly pub though it was very quiet when I visited. After 20 minutes or so I continued walking via Plank Lift Bridge to Pennington Flash where I stopped for a bit. Seeing the sunset over the lake was a memorable sight and there is nothing better to enjoy the view with than some mulled wine and a mince pie! 

I reached Leigh around 4.30pm as it was getting dark and caught the bus straight away to Wigan. Had to wait a bit in the town centre before I could catch the first off peak train to Manchester Victoria so I popped into Caffe Nero to kill some time – the café closed at 6.00pm so I had to still hang around Wallgate Station before I was allowed through the barriers to the platform. From Manchester Victoria I caught a Leeds bound train which stopped at every stop!

Things to see and do:

Wigan Flashes
Pennington Flash

Food and Drink:

The Dover Lock Inn, Abram
Caffe Nero, Wigan

Parbold, Leeds & Liverpool CanalWigan to Burscough - Walk done in February 2017

It has been a while since Dad and I last walked on the canal but we got up very early to catch up our train to Wigan, change at Manchester Piccadilly, and to our pleasant surprise we were able to sit together on a rush hour train. On arrival at Wigan Wallgate we had a spot of breakfast at the Station Café across from the station. 

We picked up where we left off last time at Henhurst Bridge and started our walk. We walked through the Wigan Pier Quarter and the outskirts of Wigan passing more locks and the JJB stadium, home of Wigan Warriors Rugby League and Wigan Athletic Football teams.  

We reached Crooke, a pleasant canal side village and once a busy area for coal mining and we stopped for a short break. The pub wasn’t opened so we sat in the beer garden admiring the ducks and older barges. The barges reminded me of the Leeds and Liverpool Society’s Kennet when it led the flotilla for the canal’s Bicentenary celebrations in October 2016.

We continued and walked alongside the River Douglas where this section once served as a navigation and originally linked to the canal. It’s a scenic area with plenty of walking trails – we saw a number of walkers with their dogs. We passed Gathurst and Wigan and we saw remnants of the original river navigation. A highlight for me was seeing a narrow boat tea room which was unfortunately closed. 

It would have been nice to have a cuppa and cake inside but probably only opens during cruising season. 

We had a scheduled stop at Appley Bridge where we visited The Boat Inn, an eclectic pub with contrasts ranging from very modern music to old and traditional panelling. The place was very quiet (we were the only customers) and it must have changed hands recently as it used to be called the Sams Country Inn according to our map.

After a drink we sat on a canal bench besides the bridge and we had our lunch. A swan must have known as it was waiting for us! Others joined in but didn’t get much from us! We have been advised not to feed them bread but sweetcorn, peas or seeds instead – I will need to bring a supply of the recommended on my next walk. 

Passing the final lock (Lock No. 91 – Appley Locks) we walked through some very scenic West Lancashire countryside before we reached Parbold. Parbold’s noticeable building must be the windmill building which is now an art gallery. The village has a railway station and caters for its villagers, walkers and boaters with its shops, pubs, restaurants and moorings. There is a nice atmosphere about the place but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to explore but we hope to one day in the future. 

We noticed a concrete pillar box between Parbold and Burscough which must have been used during the 2nd World War. We by then were ready for our second scheduled stop at the recommended Ring O’Bells pub. The pub didn’t disappoint and we enjoyed having a drink there. It’s a family/dog friendly pub which offers food as well as a wide range of drinks. There are moorings besides the pub which boats can stop, moor up and visit. 

It wasn’t far to Burscough (probably just a mile or so or less) so we ambled along the canal passing the junction for the Rufford Branch (another walk I’ve planned). We “signed off” at Burscough Bridge and walked down the main street to the station for our overcrowded train home via Huddersfield. It was a great day out and not long before we reach Liverpool as we have walked over a 100 miles. 

Things to see and do:

Wigan Pier
JJB Stadium
Former River Douglas Navigation (between Wigan and Gathurst)
Douglas Valley
Rufford Branch
Burscough Wharf

Food and Drink:

Station Café, Wigan
The Bridge Inn
Ring O’Bells

Rufford Branch, Leeds & Liverpool CanalBurscough to Tarleton – March 2017

A beautiful day awaited me for walking the Leeds and Liverpool Canal’s Rufford Branch. With an early start I reached Burscough Bridge Railway Station, changing at Manchester Piccadilly, mid-morning.

At Burscough I had a coffee at one of the café/bars at the wharf before I began the walk. At the beginning of the walk I met some friendly boaters and walkers and one of them told me about the cake sale at the Ship Inn in Lathom, at the junction of the branch. All the proceeds went to Comic Relief and when I reached Lathom I popped in the pub and bought some fruit cake – delicious I must say!

At the junction itself I came across a dry dock obviously disused now with only a cat in residence! There were facilities for boaters but I did see notices that are no longer in use (since 2007). The Rufford Branch is very rural with open fields and countryside surrounding the area. I didn’t see many walkers at all particularly at the latter stages of the walk - just a handful at Rufford Marina and the Old Rufford Hall, the busiest stretch on the canal. 

I visited the Old Hall and had a “Lancashire Tea” in its pleasant tea room. The tea wasn’t really anything special but gave the energy needed for the remainder of the walk. I decided to give exploring the Old Hall a miss but had a little wander in the grounds to take some photos. I diverted through the village passing its noticeable church to enter the grounds and backtracked on the canal afterwards to try and get photos of the Old Hall (the photos didn’t turn out too well unfortunately with the sun and the trees obscuring the building).

Beyond Bridge 10, at Sollom, the canal becomes more of a river with its twists and turns. The part of the canal is known as the “Old Course of the River Douglas”. The field acts as the tow path and I wouldn’t want to walk on that stretch on a rainy day! It has a wild feel to it and there was sense of being in the middle of nowhere with its rural surroundings. I reached “civilisation” at Bridge 11 and rejoined the somewhat muddy towpath at the bridge – the path underneath was flooded. The canal and the River Douglas run side by side.

I reached the final bridge in Tarleton and I was wondering where Tarleton Locks were. I entered via Tarleton Boatyard and despite its number of unwelcoming signs advising visitors of no “unauthorised access”. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to walk through to reach the final locks but in the end I walked through undeterred, subconsciously telling myself that the canal and its towpath (access to it) should be considered a public right of way, and got to the final locks. I saw where the both the canal and river meets and the course eventually links to the Ribble and eventually the Lancaster Canal.

I had a well deserved comfort stop by the locks before I made my way to the village for a bus back to Burscough. Luckily I only walked a few minutes for a bus (the bus service is hourly and the services in rural Lancashire aren’t the best in the world with regards to frequency) and it was a short bus ride to Burscough Bridge Interchange. 

I popped into The Bridge pub for a drink before catching my nightmare return journey to Leeds. Another classic Northern Fail with inconveniently planned engineering works! Nevertheless a beautiful sunny day for a beautiful walk!

Things to see and do:

Old Rufford Hall (National Trust)
River Douglas
Tarleton Locks

Food and Drink:

The Ship Inn
The Bridge

Leeds & Liverpool Canal near BurscoughBurscough to Maghull – April 2017

It was a very early start for our penultimate walk from Burscough to Maghull on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. We picked up where we left off last time at Burscough Bridge. It was a bit chilly out on the canal at the beginning but we got warm walking. 

This stretch is predominately rural with a scattering of small villages nearby including Halsall, Haskayne and from Lydiate it was built up as we neared Maghull. It was certainly quiet but peaceful and we didn’t see that many people on the tow path until the final mile or so to Maghull. It was nice to see a few boats cruising on the canal.

We stopped at the lovely tea room at Scarisbrick Marina for refreshments. The marina is big and we saw a lot of narrow boats moored up. We passed a few pubs enroute at the beginning of the walk but being morning they weren’t opened yet. 

A mile or so from the marina we reached Halsall Warehouse Bridge and we stopped there for lunch. There were a couple of sculptures including a “navie” depicting the canal’s history along with an information board. It isn’t far where the first digging happened for the Leeds and Liverpool Canal during the 18th Century. The site is known as Halsall Cutting. 

We soon stopped for a drink at the Ship Bridge Inn and we chose to stop earlier than later because of the lack of pubs from there to the outskirts of Maghull. The pub is pleasant with its “resident goose” looking inside from the window and it was busy with racing fans following the Grand National’s Ladies Day at Aintree – not far from here. 

We were conscious about time so we pushed on passing more flat open countryside until we reached Lydiate – the landscape became urban all of a sudden and reaching Maghull via its town centre including the pretty St Andrew’s Church. We made it to the railway station with very little time to spare for our train to Ormskirk – it only took us several minutes to get there and we waited for our connecting train to Burscough Junction (only a four minute train ride!).

It was bizarre to see a single railway track at Ormskirk Station with one half for the Merseyrail trains and the other half for its Northern equivalents. We felt that we were crossing an international border! I don’t think many trains run regularly from Preston to Ormskirk – a contrast to the Maghull ones! 

However it served as a useful link for us to return to Burscough Bridge for our eventual train home which took ages with delays and a missed connection at Manchester Piccadilly. 

We walked approximately 12.5 miles and my feet were killing me! It was worth for its rural scenery and peacefulness. What was impressive was the rich variety of birds and the stood out water reeds at the side of the canals which blended in the surrounding landscape!

Things to see and do:

Halsall Cutting
West Lancashire countryside

Food and Drink:

Scarisbrick Marina
Ship Bridge Inn

duck near reeds Leeds & Liverpool CanalMaghull to Liverpool– June 2017

We decided some time ago that we would do an overnight stay when doing the last stretch on the canal and because of logistics Dad chose to drive rather than getting the train. Dad booked accommodation in Brunswick, just outside the city centre, and Mum joined us. We arrived in Liverpool just before rush hour ended. We left Mum behind in the City Centre for a day of relaxing and sightseeing and we caught a train to Maghull (via Liverpool Central) which took us 20 minutes.

We picked up where we left off last time and began our final stretch. We enjoyed the rural stretch at the beginning passing Melling, Wadicar and reaching Aintree. At Aintree we didn’t see the race courses from the canal because of the tall concrete walls were obscuring it! It was there we experienced drizzly rain so the wet gear came out and Dad relied on his faithful brolly! The drizzle and light rain came and went though the weather cleared and brightened later in the day. 

We originally planned to stop at the Old Roan Pub and we left the canal near its station but the pub is closed down! It looks like the scaffolding around the closed pub has been there for a long time. Instead we stopped at Cooksons Bridge Pub further on instead for a drink and comfort stop.

On this stretch the highlight must have been seeing the abundance of baby chicks, coots and geese on the canal though they were ferociously guarded by their mums and dads! We were hissed a few times for getting a bit close but cute nonetheless. We also spotted plenty of nests on the cut and they were obviously guarded!

This stretch is residentially built up from Aintree with an interruption of a green belt, Rimrose Valley Country Park in Crosby. We saw a handful of narrow boats passing by however, on this stretch, boaters have to plan ahead for their assisted passage to Liverpool via a couple of swing bridges and the Stanley Dock Branch Locks. We met two friendly CRT volunteers, Len and Mel, in Netherton who were tidying up around the canal and towpath. It’s lovely to see and meet like minded people who care about their canal. 

We noted that many of the bridge number plaques were missing and we learnt that some idiots have removed them and sold them as metal for money. Out of Order indeed! It made tracking our progress harder but it did help that a couple of bridges along the way still have numbers/letters plaques on.

We stopped in Litherland for a coffee at Tesco’s. We thought it would be good to stop again not so long after our stop at the pub – there aren’t any other places very near to the canal to stop at before we reached the end.

After our coffee break we walked towards Bootle, then Sandhills and Kirkdale. We admired the buildings on this stretch of which some have been restored but others were still left derelict. We were taken by Bank Hall, a beautiful industrial building built in the 19th Century, and it would be great that the building is given life again. 

We made customary photo stops at every mile post; it reminded us that we were near to our goal. It was a good feeling when we reached the Leeds 127 miles post and only just quarter a mile or so to reach Eldonian Basin. We had to cross the bridge of Lock 1 on the Stanley Dock Branch flight of locks where a couple of bored kids were playing with the gates, but we crossed undeterred.

There wasn’t much at Eldonian Basin – just some visitors’ moorings and facilities. Beyond is a residential area with a parade of shops. It wasn’t the end one expects when completing the canal by foot but with the Liverpool Link it’s considered a mooring point. It is considered that the Stanley Dock Branch and Liverpool Link is a “canal continuation” until boaters reach Salthouse Basin adjacent to Albert Dock in the City Centre. We retraced our steps, descended down the locks and walked up the main road to Sandhills for our train back to our hotel.

Though the canal’s towpath ends there and the canal’s current terminus (the canal did continue on for a mile and half into the city centre but has been infilled since the 1960s), we felt a big sense of accomplishment walking the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. This is an adventure which I’ll treasure for the rest of my life and something I recommend anyone to do. A significant day indeed! 

Things to see and do:

Rimrose Valley Country Park
Eldonian Basin
Stanley Branch Locks
Food and Drink:

Cooksons Bridge Pub
Tesco, Litherland

Walking adventures from other canals to continue!

A Canal Wanderer - 2

           Memoirs of walking the Leeds & Liverpool Canal 


Back in July 2016 our ambition was to walk the whole of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal (in stages of course). I also had planned to walk the Leigh, Rufford and Springs Branches. It was an exciting challenge to have had that opportunity to learn about the industrial and social heritage along the canal and be swept away with the beautiful Pennines countryside.

We completed walking the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in June 2017. Please note the walks aren’t strictly in chronological order as some of the stretches have been walked more than once and not necessarily in order. 

Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Leeds and Liverpool Canal is Britain's longest single waterway canal. The 127 miles stretch starts from Leeds, crosses the Pennines and finishes in Liverpool. 

It was built in 1816, engineered by John Longbotham (with involvement from James Brindley and Robert Whitworth). The original aim of the canal was to transport goods quickly and economically from city to city. Today the canal is used for leisure purposes such as boating, walking, running and cycling on the towpath.  

Further information about the canal can be found here. 

Leeds & Liverpool canal near BarnoldswickPart 2: Continuing from Barnoldswick to Chorley

If we were walking the Leeds and Liverpo ol Canal before1974 we would have begun our walk in the historic West Riding of Yorkshire and eventually crossed into Lancashire. We walked approximately 13-14 miles from Barnoldswick to Burnley.

We passed Salterforth, crossed the historic border boundary, and reached Foulridge. There we had to take a diversion from the eastern tunnel portal to the western one via Lake Burwain Reservoir. There is no towpath under the tunnel.


The two mile diversion is scenic though it was grey and drizzly when we passed through. We sought shelter from the trees when we stopped for lunch. We rejoined the towpath at the western portal of the Foulridge Tunnel. We descended Barrowford Locks, the only locks on this stretch of the canal. We reached Nelson and stopped for a drink at its Morrisons.


After a cuppa we continued our walk passing Brierfield and Reedly. We could hear the busy and noisy M65 in the distance. We eventually arrived into Burnley via its Straight Mile, a canal world wonder. 

We finished at the Embankment where it was a short walk to the bus station. We boarded a bus, X43 Witchway, back to Barnoldswick.

Things to see and do:

Foulridge Wharf and Café
Foulridge Tunnel
X43 Witchway Bus

Food and Drink:

The Anchor Inn, Salterford 
Morrisons, Nelson

countryside between Hapton abd Clayton Le MoorsBurnley to Church - Walk done in October 2016

We caught an early train to Burnley Manchester Road. On arrival at the station we walked through the town centre and reached The Embankment to resume our 10 mile walk. We began walking at the town’s ‘Weavers Triangle’ which is linked to Burnley’s Industrial Past and heritage and soon after we crossed the M65 on its aqueduct. 

This is the first walk in a while where we wouldn’t come across any locks however we were rewarded with stunning scenic views from the canal between Hapton and Clayton Le Moors. We had to divert at the Gannow Tunnel in Whittlefield and rejoined the towpath at the other end. 

We made a stop at Clayton Le Moors where we had a drink at The Albion, the village’s pub, and it was just a short walk to the official half way mark on the canal. We stopped at the official half way marker for photos and soon after we finished our walk.

We got lost finding Church and Oswaldtwistle Railway Station but we eventually found it by ‘accident’ after we sought directions from a passer-by. We caught our train home via Accrington.

Things to see and do:

Weavers Triangle
Gannow Tunnel

Food and Drink:

The Albion 

countryside between Church & Rishton, Leeds & Liverpool canalChurch to Blackburn - Walk done in December 2017

It was quite a while when we resumed our canal walking. We picked up where we left off in Church for our seven mile walk to Blackburn. We passed industrialised Oswaldtwistle but soon we were out in the countryside passing West End and crossing Dunkenhough Aqueduct to Rishton. We briefly stopped in Rishton for a coffee and continued walking to Norden. We sought shelter under the bridges as the weather was miserable and grey with the drizzly rain thrown in. 

We stopped at the Tesco’s Café at Greenbank, on the outskirts of Blackburn, and we passed the Daisyfield Mills Building which used to house the former Granada Studios. We reached Blackburn and finished at its Eanam Wharf. We descended into the town centre for the bus back to Church.

Things to see and do:

Eanam Wharf

Food and Drink:

Tesco, Greenbank

Wheelton Boatyard & Boat ClubBlackburn to Chorley – Walk done in December 2016

Another early train to Blackburn and on arrival we had breakfast at the nearby Morrisons. After breakfast we made our way to the canal and we resumed our walk at Eanam Wharf. We met some dodgy characters who were probably up to no good but undeterred we continued onto the Blackburn flight of locks via the aqueduct over the River Darwen.

It is a pity we experienced rain and wind on our walk but we came prepared the best we can. We stopped at Riley Green for a coffee break and walked a further three miles to Wheelton Boatyard and Johnson Hillock’s flight of locks. There we stopped at the Top Lock Pub for a winter cap after which the weather deteriorated – my camera packed in as the cold weather affected the batteries. I couldn’t take any more photos.

Passing Walton Summit Branch and Botany Bay we reached the outskirts of Chorley. The canal doesn’t run through Chorley Town Centre so we had to walk 20 minutes or so from the canal to the bus station where we got our bus back to Blackburn. We reviewed our travel arrangements for our next walk because we waited a long time for our connections involving our Blackburn bound bus and Leeds bound train respectively.

Things to see and do:

Johnson Hillock Locks
Walton Summit Branch

Food and Drink:

Morrisons, Blackburn
Top Lock Pub


A Canal Wanderer - 1

           Memoirs of walking the Leeds & Liverpool Canal 


Part 1: The beginning from Leeds to Barnoldswick


Castleton MillLeeds to Kirkstall Bridge - Walk done in January 2017

One cold Saturday afternoon I re-walked this stretch with my Dad where we started in the City Centre. One must be impressed with the regeneration and restoration of the city’s waterfront and the ongoing prosperity with its businesses, hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants. We started in the Granary Wharf area and proceeded with our walk towards Armley.​

This stretch isn’t the prettiest and has been reputed for anti social behaviour and vandalism. The first few locks are usually operated by Canal and River Trust staff with use of their anti-vandal unlocking gear. There was nothing to worry about as this stretch was busy with walkers with their dogs, runners and cyclists. 

The Armley part of the stretch, just after the Industrial Museum, is insalubrious with its graffiti, litter and it does feel creepily and eerily abandoned. More so passing the former Kirkstall power station. We reached Kirkstall after three miles or so and popped into the nearby shopping centre of the same name for a hot drink at the Costa there. 

Things to see and do:

Castleton Mill
Armley Mills Industrial Museum

Food and Drink:

The Stables Café (by Oddy Locks)
Marks and Spencer Café and Costa at Kirkstall Bridge Shopping Centre 

Rodley, Leeds & Liverpool CanalKirkstall to Rodley - Walk done in August 2016

I met my parents at Kirkstall Bridge and we began our walk on the canal. We walked approximately three miles to Rodley. We passed some interesting staircase locks, the Forge Green Three Rise Locks and Newlay Three Rise Staircase Locks, and we even saw a boat descending down one.  

It was a pleasant day out with the sun shining and we enjoyed the woodland nature of Bramley Fall Park. We saw Kirkstall Abbey and Horsforth town centre in the distance. Just after Newlay Lock, we saw a variety of boats lined up along Fallwood Marina and we felt this stretch of the canal is better looked after and certainly attracts many users.

Things to see and do:

Kirkstall Abbey (The abbey cannot be accessed from the canal however a trail to the abbey can be accessed via the main road from Kirkstall)  
Rodley Nature Reserve​

Food and Drink:

Abbey Inn
The Tiny Tea Room

near Rodley, Leeds & Liverpool CanalRodley to Crossflatts - Walk done in January 2017

It was a very cold but sunny day and wrapping up wasn’t an option. The sun rays on the iced canal were a sight to see when we began our walk at Rodley. We ventured out in the countryside and in the distance we could see the Leeds/Bradford to Skipton trains roaring past. It felt silently rural and some of the stretches were covered in woodland at Calverley, Dawson and Thackley West. We ascended up two rise Dobson Locks, near Apperley Bridge, and the three rise Field Locks, near Esholt.

Seven miles later we reached Saltaire and we stopped for a hot drink at the iconic Salts Mill. Afterwards, we met some friendly Canal and River Trust staff and we stopped to have a chat. I was then considering becoming a friend and my desire to walk the 3,000 miles or so on the British waterways had grown stronger. We were also greeted by swans, cygnets, ducks and pigeons and this stretch is hustling with visitors to the World Heritage village.

We walked a further three miles to Crossflatts, passing Hirst Woods and Dowley Gap Aqueduct, crossing the River Aire, and the locks. On arrival at Bingley we ascended up the town’s three rise locks and the infamous five rise locks which is a marvellous feat of engineering. As the weather was glorious and we were warm from our walking we sat outside the Five Rise Locks Café having our drinks. Our walk finished, we went down to the main road for the bus back to Rodley.

We noticed on our walk the refurbished mile markers and I was puzzled whether the miles to Leeds and Liverpool were placed the wrong way round? When I enquired, The Canal and River Trust advised me of the following:

“Britain’s canals were the life blood of the Industrial revolution and a largely commercial machine. It was necessary for boatman and canal companies to be able to calculate precisely how far boats had journeyed along the waterways as these distances formed the basis of toll charges”

“Although the canal is 200 years old, the original cast iron mileposts date back to the 1890s. They were installed as a response to legislation introduced to regulate canal ​freight tolls – the Railway and Canal Rates, Tolls and Charges Order of 1893. This prompted the whole of the canal to be re-surveyed and new mileposts, along with half and quarter mileposts, installed along the towpaths.”

“Today we are so used to modern road signs that we assume the mileposts were there to tell boaters how far it was to Leeds and Liverpool, but most canal journeys were much shorter than that. In fact the posts served a very different purpose. Tolls were charged for each quarter mile that a cargo was carried. To calculate the length of a journey, the boatman would subtract the distance on the last milepost he passed from that on the first, then add in the number of half and quarter mileposts passed.”                            

Source: Canal and River Trust, 2017

Thanks for sharing and clarifying, Canal and River Trust.

Things to see and do:

Salts Mill 
Hirst Woods 
Bingley Five Rise Locks

Food and Drink:

Café into the Opera, Salts Mill 
Five Rise Locks Café 
Fisherman’s Pub

former Bradford CanalSaltaire Heritage Trail and Bradford Canal - Exploring done in April 2017

One spring day in 2017 I returned to Saltaire and on that occasion I wanted to check out the disused Bradford Canal. I kept passing it on my walks on the canal and said I would return to have a proper look. The 3.5 mile Bradford Canal from Shipley to Bradford opened in 1774 and closed permanently in 1922. There is only a small stretch in water from the junction of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and it is understood that some remains can still be seen en route to Bradford. There are plans to restore the canal but it seems nothing has yet come into fruition. It remains to be seen.

After checking out Bradford Canal I walked along the towpath to Saltaire where the village is celebrating World Heritage Weekend. I have been to Saltaire many times ​but it’s always nice to revisit the sights including the congregational church, Salts Mills and the almshouses. I also had a wonderful afternoon tea at Jeanette’s Cakery which topped a lovely day of exploring.

Things to see and do:

Bradford Canal

Saltaire (World Heritage Village)

Food and Drink:

Jeanette’s Cakery 

Leeds & Liverpool Canal between Crossflats and SilsdenCrossflatts to Silsden - Walk done in March 2017

We travelled by train to Crossflatts Station and on our arrival we walked up the hill to rejoin where we left off last time. It was another lovely day walking in glorious sunshine and spring has certainly sprung! We didn’t walk too far before we arrived in Riddlesden and down the road from Granby Swing Bridge we saw East Riddlesden Hall, a National Trust property. A visit is highly recommended. 

We had a drink at the Marquis of Granby pub. It is a cosy place though I felt it wasn’t necessary to have an open fire during mild sunny spring afternoon! The heat from the fire was too hot that we drank our drinks quickly so we can go out, cool down, and continue our walk. On this stretch there are no locks instead a handful of swing bridges. 

We walked through some scenic countryside with Keighley, an Airedale town, down in the distant valley. The final stretch, probably for a mile and a half, was a challenge as the towpath was wet and very muddy. We eventually reached Silsden and after a short wait for the bus we were on our way back home via Keighley.

Things to see and do:

East Riddlesden Hall 

Food and Drink:

Marquis of Granby Pub

moored boats on Leeds & Liverpool CanalSilsden to Skipton - Walked in March 2017

It was a wet and rainy day and it was no surprise that we had to deal with a very muddy and puddly towpath. Walking was a challenge as we had to watch more or less our steps so we didn’t slip or fall and it was also cold because of the wind. 

The stretch doesn’t have locks but a number of swing bridges. It goes through a number of small villages including Kildwick, Farnhill and Bradley. Dad checked out the St Andrew Church’s graveyards, one on each side of the canal while I stopped for a drink at the White Lion. It is worth stopping to see the Polish War Memorial at Hamblethorpe Bridge. It was a poignant reminder as the memorial is built in remembrance of a Polish crew who were killed immediately in a plane crash nearby in 1943.

The towpath improves from Bradley which helped us. To feel warm and dry we stopped in the Bay Horse Pub by the canal and the drinks were well received. The stop braced us for the final couple of miles to Skipton as by then the weather worsened with the persistent rain. We finished at Gawflat Swing Bridge for the railway station for our train home. 

Things to see and do:

St Andrew’s Church and graveyards, Kildwick
Polish memorial at Hamblethorpe Bridge

Food and Drink:

White Lion Pub 
Bay Horse Pub 

Skipton, Leeds & Liverpool CanalSkipton and Springs Branch - April 2017

We drove to Skipton for our walk on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal’s Springs Branch. The Branch is approximately half a mile and built in 1773 for Lord Thanet, owner of Skipton Castle, who wanted to transport limestone from the local quarries.  

It was originally known at Thanet Canal.

It took was next to no time for us to complete the stretch and we decided to continue walking through Skipton Woods, which are managed by the Woodlands Trust, and we enjoyed the beautiful woodlands with the smell of wild garlic and colourful foliage of the flora including its purple spotted bluebells.

We returned back in town via Bailey Street passing the castle and the Parish Church. We were there the same weekend of the Tour de Yorkshire and the atmospheric town was having its waterways festival. The narrow boats and barges were out on display with their themed décor. I spotted the Kennet boat which led the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal back in 2016.

We did some shopping in town and we had lunch at Bizzie Lizzie’s. We had to wait a bit to be served as the restaurant was very busy. It is certainly worth the wait for its delicious fish and chips and I can see why the restaurant is so popular.  


Skipton is an interesting market town which is proudly associated with sheep! The town is popular for the sheep festivals and is the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Things to see and do:

Skipton Castle
Skipton Woods
Skipton town centre  

Food and Drink:

Bizzie Lizzie’s

Leeds & Liverpool CanalBarnoldswick to Skipton - Walked in August 2016

This was one of our first walks my Dad and I did since we committed to walking all of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. This is probably the only walk we did going in the opposite direction from Barnoldswick to Skipton and the 12 mile stretch was a bit of a challenge.

Dad parked his car in Barnoldswick and we made our way down to the tow path which took us up in to the summit area with the Greenberfield Changeline Bridge and locks. Surrounded by the stunning views of the Pendle Hills, we joined the Pennine Way which covers some of the canal and led us to East Marton and the double arched bridge. It is certainly one of the most scenic stretches to walk on this canal. 

The canal zigzagged for at least a couple of miles and we eventually reached Bank Newton Locks. We descended down the six locks towards the outskirts of Gargrave. We probably had walked several miles by the time we reached the village and had then decided to stop for lunch. 

The remaining miles were a struggle and we had to stop constantly as our feet were hurting. It felt like forever to reach Skipton but we eventually made it. We weren’t used to walking 12 miler walks then so it took a lot out of us. We limped off the 

towpath for the bus station where we got the X43 Witch Way back to Barnoldswick.  

It was a 20 minutes ride - a contrast to our walk!

Things to see and do:

Pendle Hills
The Pennine Way 
Double arched bridge, East Marton

Food and Drink:

Cross Keys Pub