I love canals as I’ve mentioned before and am fortunate living up here in the north that the cities, towns and countryside are laced with them as they were of course the motorways of their day. It’s fantastic how over the last few years more and more of them are being opened up for access and the Leeds – Liverpool canal now sees a fantastic bustle of varied activity. I think that without getting too political here they offer an interesting blueprint in microcosm of how all sectors working together improve things, public sector provides the money, third sector and quangos do the work and once the space opens up for use private sector provides housing, small businesses etc. I could be wrong but it seems to work. Although of course nothing like their heyday in the small stretch of riding I did today there was all sorts going on, besides the joggers, walkers, families, cyclists, fishermen etc there were of course a good number of people living on the canal as well as hire boats, marinas and boatyards, educational charities, coffee shops and pubs etc. For me though they act as the perfect place to go with the children to ride our bikes, traffic free, pretty flat with plenty to experience as you pootle along.
Locks provide their own fascination and having taken a barge through a lot of them a couple of years ago I’m in awe of the stunning simplicity but brilliance of their design. They make the perfect place to stop as well and watch them in action while scoffing on some snacks from the backpack to keep the energy levels up.
There are lots of old waymarkers along the canalside, some of which are quite tricky to make out but plenty of work has been done creating a series of new ones with this one being atop a 7 foot cast iron post that had a really interesting selection of designs on it.
With the weather we’ve been having recently it was pretty wet by the canal and it was not as busy as usual, which was great for those of us on two wheels as we could pootle along quite merrily. I’ve taught my kids that the essence of having fun on a bike is that you must get muddy and if you don’t have a muddy bum by the time you’ve finished the ride then you can’t have been having fun. So the puddles were attacked with gusto.
The only problem with this approach is that it adds to the amount of bikes that I need to clean and maintain which is something I’m appalling at. There is someone who reads this blog who I believe has a perfect step by step guide to cleaning and keeping your bike in tip top shape. I need to get my hands on that and then somehow put it into action.
A great muddy afternoon though and all got home tired but in one piece and it was a reminder to me that I think I need to do a really long ride up the canal at some point as they are lovely meditative places to be. I wonder will we celebrate the motorways of today in the same way in 100 years ?