If you're thinking of walking the Rufford Branch, you can't! The first 5 miles or so is walkable, the last couple of miles has no towpath. We had to leave at Sollom (bridge 10) and walk the remaining distance by road.
We caught the 11am train to Burscough and walked the ½ mile from the station to the junction. Our walk started at 11.30am. The start of the walk is a consevation area with a few cottages and an impressive old dry dock. It was a very nice area.
There were a few locks straight away as the canal dropped to the level of the surrounding countryside. If you want peace and quiet this is the walk for you! We only saw about 5 people!
The marina at Rufford is now twice the size, it is massive and covered areas to both sides of the canal. I'm not sure if it has been extended or if a new one has opened next door to the old one. We came off here for lunch. There is a super cafe at the marina which I can recommend if you're passing the area.
Not a lot to report on other than the vast expanse of countryside all around and the peace and quiet. The canal towpath was mainly grass as it wasn't trampled on by many people. The water level was high as well which you'll notice in some of the photos. We walked as far as we could and came off at Sollom via the Strand bridge (No.10).
Sollom is a lovely little village and was a pleasure to see. Some of the properties were really old and quaint. It was a surprise to see some Wigan coaches (Hurst's) in a field there! Soon after Sollom we walked along the A59 which was a very busy and noisy road - not what we had been used to! After about a mile we came to Bank bridge (No.11) to see the canal and the River Douglas side by side.
Our last leg of the journey took us through the village of Tarleton (we called at the pub for a drink) to the north looking for the end of the canal. It was another mile or so before we came across a public footpath sign and followed it.
It took some finding I can tell you, that ever elusive last lock that joins the canal with the River Douglas. You'll see on the photos the little path we went along, through trees between the river and peoples' gardens. It was worth it though - we made it and had a good look around. What a sight to see the lock and to see the width of the River Douglas. It's much wider than it is in Wigan!
The 7¼ mile walk turned into about 9 miles or so because now we had to double back and head for Tarleton. We planned to catch a bus from the Cock & Bottle pub in Tarleton to Burscough and when we arrived, we had 40 minutes to kill. So, it was off to the pub for a pint. A pint and a glass of pop... £4.30! They must have seen me coming, £2.60 for a pint. The 10 minute bus ride back to Burscough cost me £1.80 plus 50p for my son. The bus company responsible for the route, 'Click', are based in Pemberton! You'd think they would've let us on for nothing. ;o)
At Burscough we only had 5 minutes to wait for the train. It was 6.30pm when we arrived back in Wigan, some 7½ hours later. I was as stiff as a brush and still had the daunting task of doing the weekly shop at Tesco, bugger!