Sunday, 28 August 2016

The road from Wigan Pier

A last look back at the final Wigan lock
Goodbye Wigan Flight; we won't be seeing you for a while – a long while, I hope. As a lady boater going the other way said: "the Wigan Flight and I are old enemies." A sentiment we share after our fourth traverse of the 21 locks.
To be fair, it wasn't such a bad day. The forecast rain held off and, indeed, the sun shone almost too fiercely at times. We were on our own (only once have we done this flight in partnership with another boat) but we are a skilled team: I lockwheel; Mrs B brings the boat in and out and, after coming in, pulls her gate shut and works the paddles on her side.
The view that says one hour done but three more to go
We are, as I said, razor sharp and but for the fact that we were following a somewhat slow moving pair in front, would have been down in rather less than the four and a half hours it took us. It wasn't their fault they were slow: one was single handed so they strapped the two boats together to free up an extra lock operative.
Ah, but the Wigan doesn't take kindly to such tricks: some lock gates don't open fully so a pair of boats struggle to get in together and the devilish Lock 75 (is this the worst on the system?) has a final trick - should you open both bottom gates fully, you'll need a passing rugby team to haul them shut again. Open them fully? I barely managed to open them at all!
A lock-keeper was on duty but his main duty was clearing out the ever present weed and keeping lock pounds full. He helped us through one lock but for about 17 of the remaining 20 we had to do the full George – fill them; go in, empty them and go out. In other words, very few boats were coming up the locks: its reputation goes before it.
A shame; it's not that bad (well, actually, it is) but the locals are largely friendly and you get considerable job satisfaction at the end of it all. With just a tad more maintenance, though, it could be so much better.
Anyway, we finished the flight and turned onto the Leigh branch of the canal where two final locks are waiting like a couple of after dinner mints. Despatched, in each case, before a fascinated audience of families and small children (BTW in sufficient numbers these are admirable lock beam operators) we were finally free of locks for the next few days.
I'd been wearing my old pedometer for the occasion and gave it a check: it reckoned I'd walked 7.5 miles. It certainly felt like it!

Some serious walking the plank tonight
But the views across the flooded mine workings are fine
The Leigh branch is surrounded by old mine workings, now water filled nature reserves. The views are fine; the moorings are not. We hung ourselves a few feet from the shallow bankside and settled down to enjoy a suitable post Wigan feast, prepared in double quick time by Mrs B – pork fillet followed by the traditional lockwheeler's dessert – steamed treacle pudding. And a bottle of red wine to dull the aches of weary muscles.

Wigan volcano erupts? No, just clouds

1 comment:

  1. Like it!
    21 of Wigans finest!
    Cheers for sharing