Today we completed the west side of the Leeds and Liverpool canal (well nearly, there’s an intentional gap in the middle earmarked for the final run of the project). This was one of our proper adventures involving a drive to Maghull, catching the train to Sandhills, walking a bit to the very start of the canal and then running back. All in, it turned out to be 11.5 miles.
The end of the canal is a bit disappointing. It just ends. There are no statues, fanfares or dancing girls. Just some particularly nowty geese (the one on the right of the photo was spectacularly grumpy).
Before today, we had done some humming and haaaaaaing about where to start the run. I’d thought that we would end up on the waterfront with all the iconic scenery, but when we peered more closely at the map, we realised that section is an extra bit of canal that is joined to the Leeds and Liverpool by the Stanley Dock Branch. I have nothing against branch canals, but when I started this I decided that they weren’t essential parts of the plan, so I don’t have to run them (yet).
This is the top lock of the Stanley Dock Branch. It is also where things started to go a bit tits up (to use a technical term). After a mere 2 minutes and 37 seconds, I caught my foot on something; there was a bang (from me), a loud expletive (from Ginge) and I lay sprawled across the (nicely maintained and good to run on, but also quite gravelly) towpath. Somehow I had managed to graze my right calf, my right little finger (now sporting a lovely bruised knuckle), my right elbow and (most bizarrely) my right shoulder. I sat up, slightly dazed and gathered myself together before standing up and nearly fainting (after a number of falls over the past few years, I recognise what’s happening and try my best to stop it). We could have walked back to the station and caught the train home (thank god we had enough money to do that if we wanted), but decided to carry on. If you find yourself in a similar situation and have the option of not running 11.3 miles home, take it – you’ll thank me for it.
This was probably the most urban of canal runs that we’ve done (round Blackburn was at the top of the leader board before today). It’s daft to think of the canal as a picturesque rural idyll (even though large sections are rather rural and idyllic) because it was built to link two industrial cities, via various busy, industrial towns. The first few miles were surrounded by residential areas, scrap yards and (mainly abandoned) warehouses, while the lily pads that grew along the edges of the canal were sifted up with flotsam and jetsam that suggested a very specific type of recreational binge drinking. I didn’t take photos of these (or the dead cat).
In the midst of all this, we were slightly surprised to see bee hives on the opposite side of the canal. It turns out that these are community hives installed by British Waterways, Art for Places and local people who have been trained in the art and science of beekeeping.
The bridges along this section of the canal are all lettered rather than numbered (I even took photos of bridge I, just in case it was bridge 1), but eventually we reached bridge 1.
Onward we continued, through Bootle and towards Litherland. I had needed the loo before we set off (and hadn’t been helped by my dramatic crash landing), however despite being bordered with bushes, the residential nature of the route meant that any sneaky wee stops would be hidden from the towpath, but would result in me flashing my bum to a whole cul-de-sac. Sensibly, we decided to hop off the canal and have a cheeky comfort stop at Tesco, Litherland (I may not have been a customer today, but I reckon I have enough Clubcard points to entitle me to pee in any of their branches). Whilst avoiding any Tena lady moments, this did mean that we had a break of 15 minutes or so, which messed up our rhythm quite a bit (note to self, don’t take a 15 minute break during the race next week).
After Litherland, things went much more rural. If nothing else, the route of the canal is a reminder of how much green space we have on our doorsteps round here. We also figured that, despite the litter, the water must be relatively clean to sustain all of the wildlife that you can see along the canal.
At around 8 miles, I was a bit knackered. There were long stretches of nothingness, half of my body ached from the fall and I found my posture becoming more and more hunched, while my steps became more and more shuffling. I managed to keep up a semblance of pride until we passed Aintree racecourse, but it all went downhill from there.
We limped on and it was with a huge amount of relief that we found ourselves back at bridge 11b in Maghull. We invested our emergency fiver in some chocolate milk, Oasis and a packet of Jaffa Cakes and drove home with the intention of doing nothing all afternoon but ended up repainting the bedroom.
|Miles run = 11.5
Canal miles completed = 11.5
Total canal miles = 86.85/127*
Bridges = C-11b