I was surprised by the height of the canal. It was higher than the surrounding area in most places. After walking past Wigan Flashes we proceeded along the towpath which was our first mistake. The path got narrower and narrower. It came as no surprise when we came across a gate blocking our way. Unperturbed we climed over but the gate was there for a good reason, the path finished and we had to double-back and re-trace our steps. All the way back to Moss Bridge near Scotman's Flash - this mistake cost us almost an hour.
Do all geese hiss when you walk past them? We continued our walk past Ince Moss heading to Platt Bridge. The towpath was block paved which was easy on foot but you had to keep a constant look out for dog muck - it was all over the place. At Bamfurlong Road bridge a huge alsation dog surprised us, nay, scared the living daylights out of us! Barking frantically about 2 inches away - luckily the owner appeared and called the dog off. Onwards.
A few hundred yards further up and another alsation was eyeing us up, this time with no owner. We doubled back, crossed Bamfurlong Road bridge and carried on up the other side.
"Dad, can I have a drink?" followed by "I'm thirsty" - and not a shop for miles. We plodded on knowing that the Dover Lock Inn was getting nearer. In what seemed an age we finally made it and had a well-earned drink. I think it was around 4:30pm when we left. Wigan to Abram in 2hrs 40mins, not bad eh?
I have to say that along the walk, the people were friendly. From walkers to barge owners, all acknowledged you by saying hello, smiling etc... The kindness of the next person we met pleasantly surprised us, she must have been a Wiganer. A lady jogger came by. I asked her how far we were from Leigh and after a chat she summised we were around two thirds of the way there. Off she went. We noticed she stopped about 400yds ahead of us, then, she started jogging back in our direction. She showed us where we were on the map and very kindly gave it to us! If, by some strange coincidence you ever get to read this, thank you.
The next bird we met was close to Smith's Bridge. I have no idea what it was, it had a black body, white neck and red head. It looked like a turkey. This is one of those 'you had to be there' moments, it was hilarious. We risked life and limb climbing Smith's Bridge to get away from that bird. Give me an alsation any day.
Plank Lane lift bridge is an interesting little place. All the buildings are derelict and the place had an eerie feel to it. The once impressive Britannia Hotel stood empty - it more than likely closed when the collieries in the area ceased winding. Beyond this there wasn't a lot worth mentioning. The usual low surrounding ground and the canal elevated and supported by coal and waste. Pennington Flash country park could also be seen from the towpath.
I think this section was quite scary. I'm sure we will come across much worse in time to come. Does everyone carry an air rifle in Leigh? We passed three people with guns and heard a few more further on. The Atherleigh Way bridge was a hangout for some local lads. I asked about directions to the bus station and they were helpful enough complete with effing and jeffing! Directions were spot on, cheers lads.
The end of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Leigh Branch was not signposted. However, the start of the Canal was signposted on the other side of the King Street bridge. If we hadn't turned around, we would have kept walking along the Bridgewater Canal looking for the, er... Bridgewater Canal.
Total time from Wigan to Leigh? 4hrs and 25mins.
We left the canal via King Street, walked a couple of hundred yards to the bus station and waited a full 1 minute for the bus back to Wigan. Not bad timing. Shame the bus journey took 50 minutes (yes, read fifty, not fifteen) to get to Wigan, via Lowton, Golborne, Ashton, Bryn... Still, at £1.70 for both of us we certainly had our monies worth! After that trek with my dodgy shoes I would have paid ten times that, even though the bus was filthy.