As the crow flies this section would only be about three and a half miles but the canal does a large loop towards the Fylde, an extension to Fleetwood was originally planned. My plan was for an easy level walk on the towpath and this worked well until out in the country where the boggy terrain was extremely troublesome, why didn’t I anticipate that. I was trod in lightweight trainers which quickly became sodden as I slithered around in the mud cursing my stupidity. But the sun shone and it was a glorious day to be out so the benefits outweighed the negatives.
Dismissing the Ribble Link and the Tramway across the Ribble the canal now starts in Aqueduct Street, that’s a clue to its former route through Preston Town centre. Some inauspicious steps lead to a grubby basin with no room to swing a cat never mind turn a boat. I guess no one comes this far on the water. A finger post gives distances, there is only one way.
The towpath is on the left bank and I think remains so for the length. On the far side are waterside houses. In the background is the iconic St. Walburge church spire, the third tallest in England. Housing lines the cutting and above is another iconic Preston site Tulketh Mill with its towering brick chimney – cotton was king.
The first bridge is numbered 11 so a lot have been lost. I creep under Blackpool Rd. reputedly a good place to see kingfishers and on to the edge of Haslam Park. Bridge 13 is the first aqueduct, here above a diminutive Savick Brook which remarkably hosts the Ribble Link further on whose basin and locks are soon encountered. I’ve been this way before.
More pleasant housing on the right bank is passed, I could well imagine canal side living with a canoe to take me shopping. Bridge 17 gives access to a lovely cafe and the busy UCLAN sports grounds. Massive housing developments are taking place on the far side, Cottam. At last open countryside is reached. a former farm swing bridge has been removed with little trace. Salwick Hall is seen across the fields to the right, what must they have thought of the construction of Springfields BNFL plant nearby. One of my climbing partners spent most of his working life there producing Nuclear Fuels. ‘Reassuringly’ signs by the canal tell you what to do when there is a nuclear catastrophe.
A cutting takes me safely past and at bridge 26 is The Hand and Dagger Inn, not yet open this morning and I suspect with a change of name no longer a canalside pub but an eating ‘place’. The mud kicked in by now as I ducked under the busy M55 with distant views of the Bowland Fells.
The milestones are not all intact but those that are prove useful.
Further on there is a marina hiring out and selling boats, a friendly worker is busy cleaning his stock. Further on a dog walker and I agree grumpily about the devastation all the excessive house building, often on flood plains, is having on the local area. I dare not mention fracking. Crossing Woodplumton Aqueduct I drop down to examine Rennie’s design, apparently no two aqueducts on the canal are alike. At one point I’m listening to a tuneful bird call I don’t recognise, eventually I spot high in the branches a tree-creeper. I then struggle in the mud to complete the section to bridge 35 near Woodplumpton and a bus. Enough for today, if my hip is OK I’ll be back tomorrow.