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Cycling the Liverpool to Leeds Canal 28th – 30th May

The cycling trip over the late May bank holiday has become something of an institution.  We have normally teamed up with the GoBike cycling club in Glasgow which makes for eclectic company and this year was no exception.

Last year we cycled from York to Newcastle over three days in pretty cold (but dry) conditions.  This year a flatter route was chosen cycling from Liverpool to Leeds along the canal that connects these two cities.

The Liverpool to Leeds canal was completed in 1816 after much pontificating by the canal’s backers about the route. (By the way, the fact that it’s the 200th anniversary of the canal this year is a coincidence and was completely overlooked until I noticed it just now). Originally the canal wasn’t going to go anywhere near Wigan, taking an easier more northern route to Preston and the Ribble Valley but the Lancashire coal fields were too important to bypass so a more convoluted route through Wigan was chosen.  If the Ribble valley route had been chosen then we wouldn’t have been able to spend the first night of our trip in Wigan’s Premier Inn and would have been somewhere on the outskirts of Preston instead.

A group of 22 gathered at the Pier Head in Liverpool at 11 am on the Saturday morning for the usual group shots before departing to bring chaos to the dog walkers and joggers on the canal towpath. Lunch stop was in Magull and afternoon ice cream in Burscough before arriving at Wigan's said Premier Inn for dinner and bed for the night.

The middle day was always going to be the toughest day, with over 60 miles climbing over the Pennines and negotiating some poorly signed routes around the tunnels of Padiham and at Foulridge (the summit of the canal). The group fractured somewhat with the advance party arriving in the pleasant Yorkshire village of Gargrave (also equipped with a Premier Inn) at about 6:30 in the evening.

The final day was thankfully shorter but started on some of the roughest sections of towpath so far encountered, passing through Skipton with lunch at the café at the top of the five locks in Bingley.  Early afternoon saw us all in Leeds, the canal being a particularly pleasant route into the centre; we decamped to a nearby Whetherspoons for refreshments while waiting for our various trains home.

A great trip with good company; thanks to Douglas for organising.  Options being considered for next year’s ride is the Way of the Roses – a coast to coast ride from Morecambe to Bridlington, something to look forward to.

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