• Still water 11 February 2019 | View comments

  • 11th February 2019 | By David Jolley

    Wolverhampton does not have a river of any significance, but it does have canals. One of the pleasures of life there was to live on the bank of the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal at Newbridge. The Midlands has a network of canals, Birmingham bizarrely boasts a harbourmaster. These man-made channels were constructed to ease the transport of freight in the 18th Century. After many years of disuse and neglect they have been reinvented as a leisure facility for boaters, walkers and others; and affordable homes for more and more people. Currently there is real interest in returning freight to the canals of Salford, London and Leeds.

    The problem is that while bodies of water mean there is the possibility of floating along in one dimension, there is a block to those who want to cross to the other side. In some instances the lock system allows passage for people on foot, but for bigger canals such as the Manchester Ship Canal, something different is needed: Hulme’s Ferry continues an ancient tradition to help people across from Irlam to Flixton – at some times in the year https://irlamandcadishead.net/locations/hulmes-ferry/ . Cars and other vehicles need roads and bridges for their journeys. Traditional canal bridges are almost always narrow – not allowing the passage of larger vehicles and requiring their drivers and Satnavs to find another route.

    At Warburton a toll bridge crosses the Manchester Ship canal – using this cuts out many miles of main road and motorway travel when heading from Altrincham towards Warrington, Wigan, Liverpool and other North West towns. The cost is wonderfully 12p for a single journey and 25p for a day pass. I love the interruption of the flow to be part of this ancient ritual – but not everyone feels the same: https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/warburton-toll-bridge-queues-complaints-14817403

    So what is all this about? Well I think it is about finding your way – as in Pathfinders rather than Pathways. For there are some routes which suit some people and others which suit others. There are recent and modern routes, older and ancient ways. Beyond roads and canals there are railways, rivers, tramways and so on. Individuals will often want to go ways which use different modes in sequence, rather than stick to one. Sometimes you have to go a long way round to get where you want to. Sometimes you can use an older way and get there – but it may take time and research to learn about it.

    So it is with trains of thought or feelings – what is causing puzzlement, confusion or fear just now may be based in old times, old losses or mistrusts. Know about them and proceed gently. There will be a way.

     

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