Janathon day two: canal

First off an apology – the link to the google bundle yesterday was the 2012 Janathon list – while there are quite a few repeat offenders on the list, if you signed up with that link, you might be missing out on the full Janathon experience. I’ve amended the link accordingly (thanks to the eagle-eyed Not Much of a Runner for pointing it out).

The advantage of working a late shift is that I had time for another daylight run this morning (I’m being spoilt now). The disadvantage is that I didn’t have time to blog (although I did manage to stick two loads of washing on, hurrah for the Athons…) and had to spend the day repeating the mantra “don’t forget to blog…”.

I had a parcel to collect from the post office, so porridge-filled and lycra-clad I trundled off into town and then drove down to the canal for a damp and drizzly towpath run. I’ve neglected my canal running since the “running the length of the Leeds-Liverpool canal” project ground to a halt last year (I did the better half in 2011, but the other side of the Pennines eludes me) and it’s gone on my stuff to do list for 2013.

This was an uneventful three miler along my home stretch, the drizzle was steady and I thought that the wind was gentle until I turned round and ran into it…

A strangely low water level

A strangely low water level

I saw some cows.

Especially for JogBlog

Especially for JogBlog

I finished the run by splashing fearlessly through the many puddles so that the gathering anglers would see that I was hardcore and not think that this was just on day 2 of a new resolution.



Oh, and himself did 16 miles on the bike.

Canal Adventure #14 – Eldonian Village (Liverpool) to Maghull

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).

Guard geese at the start of the canal

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.

The second lock was the scene of my actual and metaphorical downfall

Property prices have rocketed round here

They knew how to make a plaque those Victorians

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).

But I did take a photo of the sunken shopping trolley

The remains of old industry - boats would have been able to sail into the warehouse through the arch

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.

To bee, or not to bee

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.

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).

The previous milestone had been amended to read "Everton 3 L'Pool 2"

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.

King Heron

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.

A distant Aintree. If I was a horse, they would have shot me out of kindness.

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

Juneathon day 19: Canal adventure #12 – Maghull to Halsall

Back on the west side of the canal running today – this wasn’t on the official plan, but events conspired to make it a logistically viable plan. On Friday I ran and ate alone because Ginge went out for food and beers with work. Being the law-abiding souls that we are, he left his car at work and I did a 50 mile round trip through the wilds of Merseyside to retrieve him at the end of the night. A contributing factor to my poor sleep and reluctance to run on Saturday may have been the cement mixer-like snoring that I endured on Friday night, but I couldn’t possibly prove that. With Sunday came the prospect of another 50 mile round trip to collect Ginge’s car. After a bit of head scratching and map consultation, we decided that if I was going to drive that close to the Liverpool end of the canal, we might as well run a bit. Unfortunately, he actually had to do some work, so I sat around and did some work stuff and some knitting (it took me right back to being small and sitting around in hospital staff rooms waiting for my mum to finish being on-call. There was often watery vending machine hot chocolate and colouring-in in those days).

When he’d done what he had to do, we hopped into separate cars and did a convoluted there and back to the beginning and end of the canal route, dropping cars off as we went. Eventually we were assembled at Maghull train station and ready to set off from Bridge 11b.

Bridge 11B

First stop for a photo was Maghull cricket club, where some of the towpath benches face the ground so you can sit and do a sneaky bit of spectating.

Insert weak cricketing pun here

It was a bit warm today, but luckily there was a lot of shady greenery. This didn’t stop me complaining mind you.

Another lovely bridge

We spotted some Day of the Triffids style giant hogweed, which we steered well clear of. Giant hogweed was one of my more leftfield childhood fears.

Evil Giant Hogweed

There was a bit of a reminder that we’re in spitting distance of finishing the west side of the project…

So near!

…swing bridges both closed…

Closed swing bridge

and open…

Open swing bridge

…a field of sheep treading their own path of desire…

Sheep: clearly up to something

…and, two miles earlier than we expected (it makes up for my under-estimating last week), Bridge 21A.

Bridge 21A - welcome back to Lancashire

(but I actually had a double caramel Magnum)

Miles run = 5.1
Canal miles completed = 5.1
Total canal miles = 72.1/127*
Bridges = 11B – 21A

Juneathon Day 12: Canal adventure #11 – Gathurst to Wigan

Today’s canal running took us back to bridge 46, the site of the very first adventure.

The start and finish - Bridge 46

It was raining then and it was raining today, the important difference being that the first run was in February and I’m lead to believe that we’re now in June. We’d always planned this to be a tea-time run and (for reasons that we’re not quite sure about) we stuck with that plan, despite the fact that it was lovely and dry this morning, merely drizzling this afternoon and generally peeing down by 5 o’clock. Despite the weather and the fact that he didn’t have to join me (“It’s not my bloody Juneathon…”), Ginge and I duly trekked off to Gathurst to run the towpath to Wigan Pier.

As it was a there and back again, we ran the first half only stopping for one photo. This is the home of Wigan Warriors RLFC and Wigan Athletic and used to be called the JJB Stadium before its owner, Dave Whelan, had a fit of modesty and changed it from the name of his company to his initials (I know it was because there was some changes within his business empire, but he still named the bloody company after himself). In our house, it is merely known as…

...The Pie-dome

There was a lot of puddle dodging and nervous edge running because while I don’t mind getting my feet wet, I prefer not to in the first few yards of a run. Despite this, the first half went pretty quickly and soon we were at the halfway point – Bridge 52.

Half-way - Bridge 52 - the most glamorous bridge we've seen so far

Historical detail on Lock 86

We passed the British Waterways offices (incidentally, BW have denied by tweet that they are involved in a topless calendar, but may consider it in the future. I bloody love Twitter) and the Wigan dry dock…

British Waterways

Well at least something was dry

…before stopping for photos at Wigan Pier.

Gazing out on t'pier

The Pier was made famous by two Georges – Orwell and Formby Sr – and is disappointing if you’re after candy floss and arcades. It was even disappointing to George Orwell, who travelled there in 1936 only to find that it had been sold for scrap (at a price of £34)  in 1929 .

Wigan feels pier pressure when compared with Blackpool

A replica pier was built in 1986 and the area is now being redeveloped as The Wigan Pier Quarter (not The Wigan Pie Quarter as I misread). It is cobbled and as such, a pain in the arse to run on in the rain.

Did I mention that it was raining?

One of the features of canal running is the differences between towpaths – they can be tarmac, unmade paths, cobbles, paved, grassy, meaning that you can end up with a variety of running surfaces on one run. This run took in cobbles, unmade paths, block paving (complete with decorative features)…

East, west, home's best.

…and water.

We were able to run round this on the way out...

By this time, my feet were soaked and I adopted an approach of running straight through anything that didn’t appear deep enough to drown me. On we splashed, taking in this beauty…

Pure Genius

…and what appeared to be an ancient monument to the Gods of Lego.

We've no idea what this is.

I completed the run with a splashtastic sprint finish to the bridge and am now on the look out for a new camera as mine appears to be a little waterlogged. I dried out ok so fingers crossed that it does too and there’s no lasting damage.

Miles run = 6.8
Canal miles completed = 3.4
Total canal miles = 67/127*
Bridges = 46-52

*Officially over halfway there! Which is a little scary as I’m sure I have less than 11 remaining stages planned for completion.

Juneathon Day 5: Canal Adventure #9 – Burscough Bridge to Halsall

For starters, this Juneathon episode has me slightly twitchy because I have a standard format for my Juneathon post titles and a standard format for my canal running post titles. Today I have had to combine the two and I’m not convinced that it works as a title. Clunkiness aside, today was a good day. I had been out for lunch with my running friend (feeling slightly weird that I wasn’t wearing any kind of lycra or wicking fabrics) and had fuelled up on quiche (we both stared longingly at the pudding menu but resisted temptation) before going home and collecting Ginge for a drive out into the countryside and a spot of canal running.

We’ve been concentrating on going out eastwards towards Yorkshire, but we’re past day trips for that side now (we’ve got a few canal camping trips planned to get those done) so it’s back to West Lancashire to pick up where we left off in the sunshine at Bridge 28. Today was much more of a grey day, though it had stopped raining by the time we set off.

Bridge 28 - the start

The pub that we parked in had this in the beer garden. I think that it’s some kind of children’s plaything, possibly that’s been retrieved from a Communist state during the Cold War.

It's fun kids. No, really, it is.

Just yards after setting off, I pulled off one of my sudden stops that normally cause Ginge to nearly fall in the canal – it was well worth it to tiptoe past these sleeping ducks.

Sleepy ducks

The ducks were rapidly followed up by these chaps – nearly but not quite grown up coots (the waterfowl theme continues later in an oh so cute kind of way).

Teenage coots

As we were doing a there and back run, I didn’t take many photos on the way out and it gave us chance to get a nice pace going (stopping to take photos doesn’t help in getting into a rhythm) and soon enough we were at the halfway point (after a mild bit of heckling from a group of lads in a beer garden, who then thanked us politely as we stood to one side to let them pass on their bikes a few minutes later. Pah.

Bridge 21A - the turnaround point

There were lots of moorings along this stretch, but I think these were the two most interesting. Thor and The Pride of Sefton, the latter is is a barge converted to make the canal accessible for people with disabilities.


The Pride of Sefton

This area is still very agricultural and there probably hasn’t been that many changes over the years. For canal runners, the best thing about this is that there are few new bridges (and so there are few annoying As, Bs or anything elses between the round numbers), this combined with their even spacing and the canal’s straight route meant that the miles ticked quickly by.

The nicest bridge of the run

We passed this plaque marking the place where the building of the Leeds & Liverpool canal formally began and this is marked with an information board and sculpture just after.

Marking a little bit of history


After we’d stopped to take a photo of this bird house…

A room with a view

…Ginge spotted these little lovelies – aren’t they cute?

All together now...Awwwwwwww.

And I realised just how close we are to the Liverpool end of this escapade.


Miles run = 8
Canal miles completed = 4
Total canal miles = 62.6/127*
Bridges = 28 to 21A

*So very nearly halfway!