Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

This is Wigan.

Following on from my last two posts which referred to Wigan, this one now gives details for the boater who may not yet have sampled the delights of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. I will describe the journey through Wigan from the bottom end of Wigan Flight, at Wigan Pier. This is right in the town centre, and to get here from the main canal network, you will have travelled up The Trent and Mersey Canal, joined The Bridgewater Canal, and then The Leeds and Liverpool Canal main line near to our starting point....

The journey on from here would take you on through the industrial landscapes of Blackburn and Burnley, through the weavers triangle , and then through the delicious countryside of The Yorkshire Dales, or Calendar Girls country, if you saw the feature film, and then to Leeds. The other direction would take you through to Liverpool, and it's city centre using the new Liverpool Link, or via The Rufford Branch and its produce growing lowland farming, through the Ribble Link, and on to The Lancaster Canal, where you could cruise as far as the southern Lake District. Both the Liverpool and Ribble link canals have restricted passage, which require pre-booking with BW.

First, let me make it clear from the start, that the mode of transport I used to gather information for this post was this, and not the boat......

My CCM 650cc, born and bred in Bolton!

Wigan town centre has been the subject of massive regeneration over recent years, and there are plenty of modern shopping centres and places to eat. All the big name shops are here. However, the corridor that the canal travels through has to be looked upon with a more historic view, as you often would do in other towns where canals go through. Once you have ignored the odd dash of graffiti, there are plenty of historic buildings and industrial scenery from a bygone age to look at. Wigan Pier itself, right in the town centre, was originally a coal loading staith, with a wooden jetty, where working boats would be loaded with coal from a nearby colliery. The method used was coal, loaded into waggons on rails, would be pushed up a ramp towards the water's edge, and then tipped into the waiting boat.

Wigan Pier as it is today.

The buildings here, until recently, housed a popular interactive museum of life as it would have been in the 19th century, with actors dressed in period costume mingling with visitors to tell "their own story". There were also set pieces, such as a Victorian school room, where visitors made up the class, and an actor was the (very strict) teacher. A trip boat operated between here and Trencherfield Mill across the way, where a huge mill steam engine is still operated and in steam on various days through the year. Well worth seeing, however, sadly, the museum has now been closed, and the building is currently looking for a new occupier. However, a new museum of Wigan life has recently opened. Read about it here: Museum of Wigan Life.

Canal warehouses at Wigan Pier built 1777, rebuilt brick by brick 1984, the trip boat stored underneath, where working boats once loaded and unloaded in the dry.

The entrance to Trencherfield Mill

For further information on this attraction, click here: Wigan culture.
I have a link with The Wigan Pier Quarter, in that my Uncle was Chairman of the local construction group that undertook the rebuilding of the area which was derelict. It was opened by the Queen in 1986 and he was presented to her. Also, at the end of another rejuvenation project in the early 1990's, this time a shopping centre, I was there at the time and was lucky enough to meet and speak to Princess Diana, who opened that, as part of the work I was doing on the day for the occasion.

As we continue our journey, we now have to prepare to tackle the infamous Wigan flight of locks I mentioned last time. These locks, being on a wide canal, are huge, and if possible, should be shared to conserve water. Being set in an urban landscape, the paddles are locked to prevent the pounds being emptied by vandals. A key will be required to operate the locks, which can be obtained from many chandlers anywhere on the canal network. Locks within other towns are often locked in the same way.

This is Rosebridge, halfway up the flight, a village just outside Wigan town centre, on the road to Hindley.

This is Kirklees Hall Inn, at the penultimate lock, pleasant on a sunny afternoon.

You eventually arrive here, Wigan, or Aspull as it is sometimes known, Top Lock.

This is taken from the service point moorings, where a 24hr stay is allowed, looking towards the bridge that is the start of a short, abandoned section, that was originally planned to take the canal through Westhoughton towards Bolton in order to service the many coal pits that were once in that area. It was never built. This section of the canal is actually part of the original Lancaster Canal, which was intended to cross the River Ribble at Preston. That was also never built, due to the problems related to the construction of a suitable aqueduct. When the canal was working, a tramway was used to trans-ship goods from one side to the other, and the northern section of the Lancaster canal remained cut off from the rest of the system, until The Ribble Link, Britains first new purpose built waterway for centuries, was constructed in year 2000. The overgrown branch that would have taken the canal over the Ribble, can still be seen a few miles north of here. Read about The Ribble Link here.

From here there is a welcome break from locks, and a pleasant cruise through open country, to Johnson's Hillock, the location of the next locks.

The above photographs were all taken around Wigan Top Lock, with views of the locks, to give you an idea of their size, if you have only ever been used to the locks on the narrow canals of Cheshire and The Midlands. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is the longest single canal in Britain, (excluding The Grand Union, which is made up of several shorter canals). See here for a Brief History of Wigan

I do hope you will now stop to explore Wigan rather than rushing through, it has a lot to offer.


  1. I agree with you about Wigan having a lot to offer but must confess to being biased as I am a Wiganer! The Wigan fkight is very hard work though and takes the best part of a day to get through so leave plently of time for the trip,
    The views from the top lock are worth taking time to ponder and the next stretch is very easy and peaceful passing Haigh Hall up to Red Rock.
    I am enjoying your webpage, thanks for doing it!
    Hilary from Redwing

  2. If any of you Wiganers need a new bed or mattress, Prestige Beds deliver beds wigan wide, delivering right across lancashire with next day delivery from our preston bed shop!


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