Tomorrow, the children go back to school. Bethen starts at her new Secondary school; The Deanery School in Wigan. This is a Church of England school that has an excellent reputation, and if any school is going to get the best out of Bethen, it will be this one.
Jayne goes back to Primary School, and is not particularly happy at the prospect of going to school without her older sister, but I'm sure she will be fine.
Anyway, as a treat (well it was a treat for me!) we did a 20-mile ride along the canal. Not our normal route up to Wheelton, but east towards Manchester. Some very pretty places along the way, but on this part of the canal, you are never very far from buildings and sites that remind you that the real reason for canals was work. In particular, this stretch of canal has a lot to do with the transport of coal, iron and cotton, and there are reminders of these industries all along the canal. At Leigh, there are a cluster of 5 mills, now converted to other activity, but with a little imagination, you are transported back 150 years and you can hear the shouts of men and women as they maneuver their boats along the canal. You can see the blinkered barge horses as they strain against the rope pulling the barges along the reach, and over it all, the grey/black smoke from the mill chimneys as the wheels of industry were kept turning.
It was a reasonable ride, except for the gates that British Waterways place across the tow-path. Whoever designed these gates had a real hatred of cyclists, as some of them are really difficult to get through. Moreover, on some reaches, the gates are less than 100 meters apart.
However, we made it to Worsley which is a really pretty village on the outskirts of Salford where the Duke of Bridgewater lived. He was a prominent coal mine owner in the late 18th century who wanted to get his coal; to Manchester cheaply. Later it was extended to the Trent and Mersey canal which meant that he could get his coal through to Liverpool. The final part of the Bridgewater canal - the one we cycled, was completed in 1799 and linked his canal to the Leeds-Liverpool canal at Leigh. There is no indication as to where the Leeds-Liverpool ends and the Bridgewater canal starts, but by the time we got to Worsley, the canal is a bright orange, polluted by water pumped up from mines along the way.
From Worsley, we cycled the roads to Swinton station - about 2 miles away and mostly up hill!, and got the train back to Hindley. Just in time, as thunder and lightening started and the heavens opened.
Click here for map of the route.
One final thing. One ambition has been realised and Christine is now a blogger. All support appreciated and her site is Kitchen talk.