We didn’t wake up till 8.30am after our exertions yesterday! We set off and soon arrived at Plank Lane Swing Bridge which is no longer a swing bridge but a lifting and boater operated bridge – all very smart with proper traffic lights! We stopped for water just after the bridge and were amazed to find a large expanse of water with posh fencing round it. I walked round to investigate and discovered that it is the Bickershaw Diamond Jubilee Marina which obviously isn’t finished yet. On doing some research on the internet I discovered that Deborah McLaughlin, North West Executive Director at the Homes and Communities Agency said in July this year when HRH The Duke of Gloucester formally named the site “With the new marina, infrastructure and outline planning in place, we are now seeking a partner to develop a mix of housing types and tenures for the local community”. It appears that the first phase of the building work should start later this year though the marina was started in 2009 and I can see from the internet that it looked just like my photo last summer too – why on earth don’t they put some pontoons in so people can use it?? The site is the former Bickershaw Colliery which was only closed in 1992.
Our next stop was Leigh where we stopped for lunch and a Tesco run. The Tesco is new and doesn’t seem to appear on any guide or map. After Leigh we changed from the Leigh Branch and The Canals and River Trust to the Bridgewater Canal which is owned and operated by the Manchester Ship Canal Company in conjunction with the Bridgewater Canal Trust. It was only a short hop to Worsley where we had decided to stop for the night. As the canal passes through Worsley, iron oxide from the mines has, for many years, stained the water bright orange.
Opened on 17th July 1761, the Bridgewater Canal has a special place in history as the first canal in Britain to be built without following an existing watercourse, perhaps more importantly it was used as a model for those that followed it.
The Bridgewater Canal was constructed to transport the Duke of Bridgewater's coal from his mine at Worsley. Coal was needed in large quantities to fuel the industrial revolution, the canal enabled coal and other goods to be transported efficiently and cheaply to the rapidly expanding towns and cities.
The Bridgewater Canal was built because of the Duke of Bridgewater's coal mines at Worsley. The coal seams ran under the higher ground to the north. The Duke's land agent, John Gilbert, saw that it was possible to connect the canal directly to the mines by way of an underground canal. This in turn could be used to help with draining the mines, providing a source of water for the canal.
The underground canal was constructed from Worsley Delph, an old sandstone quarry near Worsley Brook. At one time a million tons of coal a year passed through this tunnel. To relieve congestion a second tunnel was constructed which met with the original about 500 yards in.
Around 47 miles of underground canals were constructed, on four different levels, connected by a water powered inclined plane and lifts. The main tunnels stretch as far north as Farnsworth, with side tunnels running at right angles along the coal seams.
Specially designed boats were used in the tunnels. These were only four and a half feet wide with protruding ribbed sides and so were given the nickname of "starvationers". These were loaded with coal at the coal face, were hauled from level to level on the inclined plane and brought the coal out onto the canal. The remains of one of these boats can be seen near the entrance to the tunnels at Worsley Delph.
It was weigh day today and I’ve lost 4lbs in a week!! There have been lots of locks to do in the last few days so I guess that has helped. Still I am really pleased :-)