Narrowboat Tacet

Silent Movement - Our gap year travelling the inland waterways

Monday, 9 July 2012

"In England's Green and Pleasant Land"

We have been cruising the Leeds and Liverpool Canal through the Lancashire towns of Blackburn and Burnley enjoying the industrial towns where there are still a few of William Blake's "dark Satanic mills" but plenty more "pleasant pastures" to be seen

Although the guides tend to warn against overnight mooring in the towns, we have found it ok whilst we have had a wander around the towns and then found quiet peaceful spots to moor overnight.  The weather has been a real mixed bag, with warm sun for a while, then pouring rain.
Blackburn Cathedral's lantern tower was added to St Mary's parish church in 1961. However in more recent years it has had to be rebuilt as the 'innovative technologies' used turned out to be not so good. It has great stained glass all round the tower which gives a lovely light inside around a sculpture of the crown of thorns.

Blackburn and Burnley areas were built around the cotton industry and the early cottage industries of spinning and weaving became the main business of these towns. Many large mills were built to house the new spinning and weaving machines known as jennys, water frames and mules. The canal was used for water to supply the steam engines running the mill machinery as well as transporting the raw cotton and coal to the mills and the finished linens away.
According to the Blackburn textile museum, before the 1st WW, Blackburn could boast that it could produce a mile of cloth every 20 seconds on 100,000 looms.
Smaller mills can be seen along the waterway such as this one at Church and also at Oswaldtwistle (love that name).

The wharves at Blackburn and Burnley are in good condition though now housing visitor centres and restaurants.
Sandygate Mill, Burnley, for spinning and weaving built in 1862, is now under restoration. With weaver's cottages alongside the canal.

At Trafalgar Mill the single storey weavers' shed's roofs can clearly be seen, alongside the original spinning mill building. To the south they are slate tiled,
whilst on the other side they have north lights giving good light to the workers and helping to keep the humidity levels right for the cloth they were working with. This mill closed in 1990, it was the last to be weaving cotton in the area known as the Weaver's Triangle in Burnley
At Church the centre of the length of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal is marked.  At 127 3/4 miles long it is the longest single canal in the country, built by one company. It has or had several branches, to Leigh, Rufford, Bradford and in Skipton. The locks are wide but shorter than on other canals, so large loads were carried on each boat which had to pay tolls according to their cargo. Good for the shareholders! 
A number of reservoirs along the route were built to supply water to the navigation, but it has always had trouble during dry seasons. I think we shall be alright this year though!

One of the 7 Wonders of the Waterways is the Burnley Embankment,

taking us through Burnley high above the town.
Some of "our clouded hills"
Looking out to those "mountains green".
And "Englands pleasant pastures"

With last night's sunset to finish.
14 miles, 13 locks
8 miles, 3 swing bridges
9 miles, 1 tunnel


  1. Nice to read a positive review of the Lanky side of the L&L. You've made me feel quite homesick!

  2. Ian and Karen - some friends of mine (on a sister boat to Leo No2 called Leo) are making their way from the other side of the L&L - hopefully you may meet - their blog is


  3. Maybe I should try Blackburn by canal. Every time I've been there by car, I've managed to get lost!