And we have been doing just that, because we have had to stay in the Wigan area for a week or so, to attend the christening of Stanley George, the Captains young grandson. But before I get ahead of myself, a quick recap on where we went and what we found.
Our first port of call was Leigh, and this part of the canal system is called the Leigh Branch of the great Leeds Liverpool canal. It links the L&L to the Bridgewater canal and Manchester.
After doing some much needed shopping we set off to find a micropub called the Bobbin, it was a bit of a walk but well worth it when we got there. We did discover, from the local CAMRA magazine, it was not the only decent ale pub in Leigh, and we headed off to the White Lion after one very enjoyable pint. But before the White Lion we spied the local Wetherspoons, The Thomas Burke, a little disappointing as no dark ales on for the Captain. He was happier at the White Lion, and we tried to finish off the afternoon in the Waterfront (we were moored opposite) but it was a walk in and straight out affair, not our kind of pub at all.
I forgot to mention that Leigh has a great indoor market, it appears to be well supported by the locals, and had a good selection of stalls including a couple of butchers and greengrocers, sadly a dying breed on most high streets.
The evening was filled with the noise from the beer garden of the Waterfront, but it didn’t discourage a furry visitor to the cratch, as a nosy, but shy black and white cat came for a look round.
Next day we unfortunately came across the results of a recent pollution occurrence, and saw many dead fish of all types and sizes as we travelled. Strangely they do not seem to know what caused the fish to die, but I was told by a local boater that it was reckoned about 3,000 to 5,000 fish died. A terrible thing.
Sunday and we found ourselves in Wigan, and there was nothing to be done but head to a little micropub we had found 5yrs ago when it had just opened. The Wigan Central is to be found in the Railway arches, and we were overjoyed to find it had expanded from 1 arch to 2 since our last visit. And around it other arches were being used by different businesses.
The Central has a great vibe and great beers, and on this afternoon a great singer on to entertain the punters. We joined a family group at a table and soon got chatting. They advised us to try the John Bull Chop house, and the Tap and Barrel so off we went and both pubs were lovely, but for different reasons, the Tap and Barrel had a band on, well they were in the street outside the pub and had drawn a big crowd. The beer was good, and we found a seat in a kind of beer garden at the rear of the pub, it was astro turf and had a roof, and was far enough away from the band to be able to have a conversation and hear the music. The John Bull is a very old building and very quaint, and the music there was supplied by an old looking jukebox, with a very interesting selection of tunes.
After a great time in Wigan we went to Crooke and then on to Burscough. We shared the locks and swing bridges with NB Thomazina and her crew from Gloucester. At one of the locks is water and we both needed to fill up, there was already a boat using the water point, but not to fill up their tank, but to wash their boat, and even though they could see the 2 of us waiting they didn’t stop or hurry up but carried on, some people !!!
We are back in the land of the swing bridge, most canals have a few, but the Leeds Liverpool has loads ,and as with everything on the canal no 2 are the same. The best are the completely electric ones, you put your key in, press the button, and everything is done for you, and I like to cry ‘I have the power’. But I have also had ones were you have to do everything, no power at all, to ones were you have to put the road barriers down but push the button to make it swing, and then one which the barriers are electric, but you have to open the bridge yourself. You never know what it’s going to be, it doesn’t half make life interesting.
At Burscough we had arranged to meet 2 groups of friends, one at lunch and one in the evening, but both had to cancel, shame. We had planned to go for lunch with Den and Jackie to The Hop Vine, but the Captain still took me, and very nice it was too.
We turned at Burscough and headed back to Wigan, as we approached one of the locks there was much waving and shouting from a moored boat, it was our friends Fred and Lisa on Chyandour (we had met them at the IWA festival a couple of years ago) we pulled over and had a long chat. They were heading into Liverpool for the week and we would be joining them after a couple of days. It turned out we were both leaving on the same day, it will be nice to have company.
Unfortunately we missed our other friends, Janis and John on The Oak, who were also in the area, we must have been ships that passed in the night.
So back to Wigan, and we had been following the Women’s Football World Cup, England were unlucky to be knocked out in the semi final, but they still had to play for third place on the Saturday, so we went to The Berkley and the manager put it on for us. It was a shame there weren’t more people interested in the game and to cheer on our national side. We lost. But it was a close game and the girls did us proud.
Sunday and the special reason for being in the area, the christening, Den and Jackie had very kindly offered to pick us up and we were soon at the church. There were 3 christenings taking place all at once, so the little church was packed. It was a lovely service and too soon it was over.
The celebration party afterwards was held at a local pub called the Plough, it was a beautiful afternoon and we sat in the beer garden with the Captains family and had a lovely time. A quick mention of a very good dark beer the Plough had on called Barista stout by Theakstons, it was very rich and tasty.
Den and Jackie came back to the boat for a cuppa, and when they went we headed off to the Wigan Central to finish the day off nicely.
Now it was time to head to Liverpool, unusually for the canal system you have to book your passage and moorings a head of time, and this had caused the Captain many a sleepless night trying to get all the dates to marry up. Unfortunately we had to take the decision to give the Ribble Link and the Lancaster canal a miss this year, it just wasn’t doable. So that’s on the cards for next year.
Our journey into Liverpool, and our time there I will save for the next blog.