Manchester to Wigan 23 miles – (483.35 total)

It is safe to say that today did not go according to plan. In fact, very little went right today; most of the bad luck was avoidable with much of the misery down to my own over-confidence. What should have been a testing 18+ miles canal walk to Wigan turned into a 23 mile rollercoaster journey.

To start with the weather forecast was, yet again, for showers. Regular readers will by now have realised that this is weather-speak for… wet! The rain was there when I set off at 9am, it was there when I arrived at 4.25pm and it was there for the full period in between. My pre-planned route was virtually all canal walking, but my smugness of 2 days ago, when I substituted an old-railway cycle route instead – at a saving in distance – got carried over to today. I pretty much changed the whole plan, deciding to now follow NCR55 plus a little canal. The major problem with this late decision was that my A4 printed maps did not accommodate the new plan.

Old Trafford (again)

Passing Old Trafford stadium and heading west along an ‘A’ road, rather than walking south to meet the Bridgewater Canal, presented me with my first obstacle. The whole road had major works going on and pedestrian access was patchy. Eventually I had to double back to try and cut my losses and find my original route along the canal. Of course, this took me through an industrial estate which does not recognise the existence of pedestrians. That cost me a mile… and I’d hardly started!

Bridgwater Canal

I followed the Bridgewater Canal past Trafford Park to Eccles where I hoped to bridge the Manchester Ship Canal by aqueduct. Sadly there was no pedestrian walkway but that was a minor inconvenience. Soon after this I joined NCR55 to once again ignore my plan, following the course of an old railway.

This part of the walk was a revelation because I shared this path with a modern ‘Busway’. This is a fascinating, channelled bus-route which follows a personalised rural track.

Bridgewater Canal Aqueduct crossing Manchester Ship Canal

Rather than follow this into Leigh I had selected a more northerly choice. This was a bad mistake. The cycle route followed an indistinct, muddy path, eventually coming to an abrupt end at a new housing development. I was now off map and not comfortable. At that point, I once again elected to cut my losses, doubling back and heading south, rather than west, to reach Leigh.

From Leigh I rejoined my original path, this time walking along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal towards Wigan. My final error was to leave the canal towpath too early, thinking I was closer to Wigan than I actually was. As I was following the main road, not sure how close I was to my destination, my ‘ state-of-the-art ’ GPS decided to stop working properly. Possibly the rain on the touch-screen was the culprit, but it shouldn’t have happened, it’s supposed to be weatherproof.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal (1)
Leeds & Liverpool Canal (2)

Today, therefore, became my longest day so far, mostly through my own fault. I will not be altering my pre-planned route again unless there is an exceptionally convincing reason to do so.

Pete, who is still suffering with his feet, prudently decided to opt out of today’s walk. A lifelong friendship may have been put under severe strain had he accompanied me. Tomorrow I’m looking forward to visiting Wigan Pier, of George Orwell fame.