"It was 30 years ago now when I set about walking 127 miles along the Leeds&Liverpool Canal. My partner had just found out that her nephew had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and we all felt hopeless, at a loss for what we could do. I decided that I could do something practical and help by raising money through a sponsored walk.
At the time my wife and I were involved with the Canal & River Trust in helping to restore our local canal, so it seemed a good idea as any to use the canal as my chosen route. I worked it out to be feasible to walk the length of the Liverpool & Leeds canal in four days and set off. I took my dog Felix along with me, he wasn’t just good company he raised plenty of his own sponsorship money too. He probably ran five miles for every one of mine.
The thing I remember the most about the walk, apart from the terrible wet British weather, was the people along the way. At one point I met a chap who’d heard from the British Waterways depot that I was doing the walk and he invited me into his workshop for a warm cuppa. He told me that his wife worked in a tobacco factory along the canal and she’d been impressed when he’d told her what I was doing and why I was doing it. Sure enough when I walked past the factory, ‘Good luck Guy & Felix’ was emblazoned across the windows with all the factory girls waving out as we passed. It was the kindness of people like that which truly kept us going.
I’m retired now and my wife and Felix are sadly both gone, so with more time on my hands I decided to go on a voyage of rediscovery and started to retrace the steps I took all those years ago. I wanted to see what had changed. This time I started at the Liverpool end and took it at my own pace so that I could smell the flowers, listen to the birds and truly appreciate our canal heritage. And unlike last time I was armed with my electrically-assisted bike, a train pass and the weather forecast.
From childhood I have always been fascinated by the canals. My father once took me to his workplace, a bonded warehouse near Stanley Locks, and I was mesmerised by the mysterious waterway snaking its way through the industrial skyline. I’ve had an interest in our canals and their often industrial archaeology ever since. So when I made my way back along those 127 miles I was amazed by the difference in landscape from all those years ago. Many of the places are unrecognisable. Areas that used to be, ‘no-go’ zones have been transformed by regeneration.
The pylons, overpowering factories and semi-submerged shopping trolleys are now replaced by quacking ducks and blooming flowers. Of course traces of our industrial heritage remain, punctuating the landscape. But the biggest change isn’t the renovation of the landscape or the new buildings – it’s the people. People of all ages and backgrounds are out using and enjoying the canal like never before. On boats, on bikes and on foot smiling and happy, appreciating the peace and tranquillity of this rejuvenated green corridor through the city. Our waterways are our living link with our past and hopefully, to a bright future."
Guy, Burscough Wharf