Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Moored in Manchester

The Beetham Tower in the city centre
Here we are moored in central Manchester, looking out at the bright lights of the improbably proportioned 47 stories of Beetham Tower from our spot where the world's first industrial canal met the world's first passenger railway at the site of the Roman fort that marked the beginnings of Manchester.
Quite a historic spot and rightly designated an 'urban heritage park' though, in truth, history barely gets a walk-on part in an area that, despite its few bars and restaurants, seems just a little shabby compared to the nearby city centre.
Joining the queue for the daily Plank Lane bridge opening
It's been an easy run here – no locks on this canal - punctuated only by an enforced stop at Plank Lane lift bridge, a busy bridge which had failed to lift properly and was waiting repair, the queue of boats either side being let through each day at 2pm for a few minutes.
On the gloriously sunny Bank Holiday Monday, the watery procession became quite a local tourist attraction with a small crowd watching our progress through.
The whole of this length of canal is flanked by derelict mine workings which have been reworked into nature reserves and lakes. It has become a fantastic resource for local people in what is still a pretty deprived area and was teeeming with walkers, runners, cyclists and people simply hanging out in the sun.
Disturbingly, among the hangers-out we spotted a shambling drunk with can of Stella, Staffie, equally drunk female partner – and a couple of air rifles in a gun-bag over his shoulder. I'm not sure he was actually doing anything illegal but it was not a nice sight.
Last time we were in Leigh we saw a youth riding a high powered motorbike along the towpath and a couple of days later a youth riding a high powered motorbike along the towpath was killed when he crashed into a bridge. Leigh is not my favourite place!
At a bridge in the middle of Leigh the Leeds Liverpool Canal Leigh branch becomes the Bridgewater Canal in a seamless transition of ownership from C&RT to Peel Holdings marked only by a modest sign. There's a handy Aldi right by the canal here, too, (new I think) so that was a 'must moor' moment.
Tucked up for the night by the Swing Aqueduct
Re-stocked, we plodded on looking for a mooring, caught in that trap between it being too early to stop and then too late to be travelling but still unable to find a suitable spot. By now we were in the seedy edge of Manchester but finally we tucked into a handy spot on the moorings for the Barton Swing Aqueduct.
Modern Manchester is steadily moving outwards
Today we pottered on into Manchester along a route familiar from previous trips, past the massive bulk of the Man U ground, the high level Metrolink tramway and, across the Ship Canal as it now ran beside us, the modern towers of glamorous Salford's Media City.
The graffiti saturated lock onto the Ship Canal
Here along the canal was still the familiar graffiti ridden squalor, though the towpath itself has been much improved, but modern Manchester is steadily eating into the dereliction of the old as a mass of building sites testify.
Tomorrow it's time to tour Manchester.

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