Walking the canal: Blackburn to Clayton-le-Moors

There’s a place that I seek when I need somewhere to hide
It’s a place that I go when I need some peace of mind
Don’t seem to mind if I smile, don’t seem to care if I don’t

I’m a fly upon the wall, I’m in company and I am alone
There’s a message on the bridge in graffiti-written words
And it reads as an answer or it reads as nothing at all
Don’t seem to mind if I show, don’t seem to care if I don’t

I’m a bird upon the bridge, I look out and I look in
When the city’s back is turned it looks a lot like this
When a mind begins to burn it needs a place like this
Don’t seem to mind if I’m right, don’t seem to care if I’m wrong
I’m the dirty river flow, I need you so that I can let go

– Emily Barker,’The Greenway’, from the album Despite The Snow

Got started again on the canal walk. A gentle seven mile stage from the outskirts of Blackburn to Clayton-le-Moors, via the villages of Rishton and Church, to ease me back in, and attune the dog to hiking.

We started off from the car park of PC World at Whitebirk Bridge. The photo above gives a sense of the juxtaposition of urban and country landscapes here: a retail park to the left, pylons striding down the centre and open farmland to the right, with the wild Pennine moors in the distance ahead. All the photos posted today were taken on my new Canon Powershot S90 which produces pretty impressive results for such a small, pocketable camera.

There was a nippy breeze blowing from the east, keeping the temperature down, but it was a bright and sunny day nonetheless.  But there’s still not much colour up here: after the coldest winter for many a long year, these coltsfoot and celandine, one pussy willow and a lone flowering hawthorn were about all.

A tractor hauling a scarifier made turns around a field by the canal. Beyond, there were distant views of Pendle Hill and Lancashire fell villages strung out along the hillsides.

Rishton first became an important textile town in the 19th century, with cotton being brought in along the canal from Liverpool, and it was also the first place where calico was woven on an industrial scale, with 10 mills being in operation. All have now gone, or are in ruins.

A little further along the canal at Church, the family of Sir Robert Peel established an industrial community based on calico printing, with terraced housing, mills and a parish church featuring two windows designed by Edward Burne Jones. At Simpson’s Bridge, there is a fine old wharf building – now in a serious state of dereliction – with a large central arch.

Just before Church you reach the halfway marker on the canal – with 63.5 more miles to go to Leeds.

After an encounter between dog and horse, we arrived at Bridge 114A, and I got a decent fish and chips with mushy peas at the Hare and Hounds. The dog slumbered, and I learnt that while we’d progressed seven miles the nation’s airports had been clogged with people going nowhere as the cloud of volcanic ash from the eruption in Iceland grounded all flights over northern Europe.

Footnote: I later discovered that Nimrod, the osprey whose annual migrations I have followed on the Highland Foundation for Wildlife site, was at one point somewhere over the canal at Chorley, heading back at 3000 feet to his summer home in northern Scotland after wintering in Gambia.

Next: Accrington, Burnley and Nelson


2 thoughts on “Walking the canal: Blackburn to Clayton-le-Moors

  1. Gerry, that was lovely. We enjoyed the different pics of the dog! So much history is kind of still there but derelict. Round here, any building like that would have been bought up, demolished and turned into a block of ugly flats.

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