The Canal to Wigan Pier

The Canal to Wigan Pier

Given that there is a book by George Orwell called The Road to Wigan Pier and being artlessly vague about northern geography, I assumed that Wigan was a dismal seaside town, and that Wigan Pier was some Victorian cast iron erection probing the Irish Sea. I imagined some cut price version of Brighton Pier but without the rides or the gay guys, attempting to convince Northerners that a few days getting their wind and rain direct from the ocean rather that with the added zest of industrial pollution constitutes a holiday.

I bet you did too.

Wigan, as it turns out, is miles from the sea, and Wigan Pier is a canal dock.
Wigan Pier
Yes of course there is a pub there called The Orwell. I’m not going to make jokes about it. The man deserves at least that much of a monument. I know he is famous for 1984, but his journalistic writing is at least as brilliant. If you want to know coal mining is really like, stop reading this, and go and read Chapter 2 of The Road to Wigan Pier. Even if you don’t care what coal mining is like, read it anyway. Otherwise I might just have to quote the whole thing, to convince you that bringing back coal jobs would be about the most oppressive thing you could do to the working class.

We made it down the twenty one locks of the Wigan flight with only minor breakages in about four and a half hours. At the bottom of the locks we ran into another boat in the Escape the Rate Race fleet coming up, so it was fun to chat to the couple on board Day Dream. We did not actually proceed to Wigan Pier, but turned aside onto the Leigh Branch canal. Last night a meeting of the steering committee (Paula and Andrew) recommended to the management committee (also Paula and Andrew) that we should not go further north this trip, or indeed attempt another crossing of the Pennines. Hebden Bridge (the lesbian capital of Yorkshire) will have to wait until we have a crew to help with the locks. We are going to zig zag slowly south in the hope of finding better weather, or at least a chandlery that sells our shade of paint.

The start of the Leigh Branch is surrounded by accidental lakes called the Wigan Flashes.
Flash lake
A flash is a lake caused by the subsidence of an old coal mine. They are great for fish, birds, and wildlife, but not so good for the local property values. Your home could be gone in a flash…

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