When I set out to run all 127 and a quarter miles of the Leeds-Liverpool canal, it didn’t really occur to me that I would have to do some actual planning. God only knows how I thought that I would manage to balance the logistics of (a) not being able to run that far and (b) running in places that are far away, but it’s only this week that I’ve actually made A Plan to do the Here Be Dragons section of the run (i.e. Yorkshire).
And so, ladies and gentlemen, let me present the first of several camping and canal running expeditions as we venture across the Pennines.
Home from work, change clothes, pack car, drive a whole 50 minutes up the M65 to Salterforth, which is to be our home for the next 2 days. It’s grey and a bit breezy. We’ve not put the tent up for nearly twelve months, so it all becomes a bit haphazard. I fling tent parts around with wild abandon, while Ginge is methodical and organised with his conventional approach of putting the groundsheet under the inner tent and using pegs to stop it flying away…. Once it’s up and everything’s inside, we nip to the shop to pick up things that we’ve forgotten (something of a tradition when we go away), come home, have tea and a glass of wine before settling down to our first night on the air mattress.
SATURDAY – Burnley to Salterforth
One of the best sounds in the world is rain pitter pattering down on canvas. More specifically, one of the best sounds in the world is rain pitter pattering down on canvas when you’re warm and dry in the tent, possibly with a cup of tea and some flapjack. When you wake up to the tent leaning sideways in the wind and the rain and you realise that you have to go out and run an unknown distance along a canal because that’s the daft idea that you had back in February…let’s just say that it’s not quite as romantic.
Once again, we were relying on public transport to maximise our mileage, this time catching the number 28 bus to Burnley whilst dressed in our running kit and clutching bottles of water and Powerade. Needless to say, we were the only people on the bus who had picked this look out of the wardrobe that morning.
Last time we had visited Bridge 131, it had been a gloriously sunny day and I had spent much of the run complaining that I was too hot. There were to be no such complaints this week. Instead, I embraced the ridiculous plan and the fact that we were presented with the choice of run or, well, run. We had one-way bus tickets, a whole £2 to our name and we weren’t entirely certain how far away from home we were. Ah well. Off we went and were treated to a set of lovely mosaics…
…four different walks (plants, birds, bridges, locks) illustrated with tiles made by local schools…
…a warning for speed demons…
… and Foulridge Tunnel.
The Foulridge Tunnel is a mile long and is at the summit of the canal. There is no towpath through the tunnel – barges would have been pushed through by the crew lying on their backs and ‘legging’ the boat along the tunnel’s roof (until the advent of steam tugs). In 1912 a cow fell in the canal, swam through the tunnel, emerged the other end and was revived with some brandy at a local pub. The cow’s name was Buttercup.
It turns out that the route was 9.75 miles and we were both ready for a shower (which was worth the £1 token) and a sausage butty when we saw Bridge 151 at the Anchor pub. The rest of the afternoon was spent pottering around the tent and enjoying a (several) very nice pint(s) back at the Anchor (Jennings Cumberland for me, Theakston’s Lightfoot for Ginge). The Anchor also does very good pub food and has stalactites in the cellar – what more can you ask for in a pub?
SUNDAY – East Marton to Salterforth
We awoke to the same sound as the previous day, only louder. Kit on, banana eaten, tent packed up to be off site by 11, in the car, windscreen wipers on… The previous day, Ginge and I had discussed whether he wants to run the entire length of the canal. So far he’s done all but a few miles with me and I think that it’s mad that he’ll end up running nearly but not quite all of it. He says that it’s my daft idea and he’s just there for moral support, safety and logistical reasons. Normally I would argue, but it was peeing down and I could either run a pointless 5 miles in a 10 mile there and back, or be dropped off and run 5 miles to meet Ginge running the other way. No contest. I was dropped off at Bridge 162, which wasn’t half as interesting as the double arched bridge, Bridge 161.
I can’t really describe this run without running the risk of sounding whingey. It rained non-stop, I was running into the wind and if I could have weaseled out of it, I probably would have done. Having said that, everyone that I passed (on foot or on boats) responded to my cheery if damp “Good mornings!” and I didn’t even consider punching the man who shouted “You must be keen!”. The route took me past an important milestone as it was the first time that I’d set foot into Yorkshire, although I was a bit disappointed that there was nothing to show where this was – these are two counties that don’t like to see a boundary unmarked – but it was somewhere between bridges 149 and 148.
Despite the weather, we had a fantastic time and I’m looking forward to the next weekend adventure that will take us past Skipton and even further into Yorkshire – it might even be part of Juneathon!
|Miles run = 14.9
Canal miles completed = 14.9
Total canal miles = 58.6/127*
Bridges = 131 to 162