Day 31

Wigan to Rufford – 15.35 miles (498.7 total)

After yesterday’s discomfort, today’s walk could only be an improvement. And so it turned out. The weather, at last, took a turn for the better. I’d had a good night’s sleep so felt in a positive frame of mind for the day ahead. It was nice to wake up to a blue sky for a change, something we hadn’t seen for a few days.

Pete decided to get the train to Hoscar and meet me at the Ring o’Bells pub, about 10 miles into the walk. My route today was fairly simple, follow the Leeds & Liverpool Canal westwards to Burscough then take the Rufford branch of the canal and head north to Rufford.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Wigan

No sooner had I joined the canal in the centre of Wigan than I arrived at Wigan Pier. George Orwell wrote a well-known book in 1937 about the plight of the working classes in the 1930s with the title ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’. It was a bit of a disappointment, unfortunately – the Pier, not the book! Wigan is probably not an obvious tourist destination but they are missing a trick by not making more of this landmark.

Wigan Pier (1)
Wigan Pier (2)
Wigan Pier (3)

As I left town, the canal passed by the local Wigan Athletic sports stadium, with staff busying themselves preparing for the afternoon’s football match. For much of the morning I was flanked by the River Douglas on one side and the railway line on the other. The walking was easy and, like Bristol, previously, I enjoyed observing the Saturday morning routine of locals and visitors alike: joggers, walkers, canoeists, cyclists and the occasional barge.

The DW Stadium, home of Wigan Athletic Football Club and Wigan Warriors Rugby League Club

My intermittent companion, the M6 motorway, appeared on the horizon again. Like me, it is heading north towards Carlisle. I walked underneath it at Gathurst.

M6 motorway again

Near Appley Bridge I walked by an inviting little tearoom which was a converted barge moored at the side of the canal. At a different time of day I would have been seriously tempted to sample the tasty-looking cakes winking at me through the windows.

The Narrowboat Tearoom

Not long after Parbold I reached Hoscar and arrived at the pub before Pete. He soon arrived to accompany me for the rest of the walk. Because there was no pressure today, we had a leisurely drink before continuing on our way while listening to the football on the radio.

Windmill at Parbold

A small shower of rain caught us out just before reaching our hotel, located a short distance beyond Rufford. It didn’t spoil a satisfactory day.