Posts Tagged Union Canal
Thirteen miles in six photos, the second part of my walking blog along the Union Canal from Linlithgow to Ratho.
I started off from a free, long-term car park in Linlithgow near St. Mary’s Hospital, walking into town to join the towing path where I left if last week… and it was still there!
The boats in the basin have changed around, giving me a clear photo of Victoria, the steam yacht I seen last week, so that was nice. Walking out along the tow path I seen a canal boat round the corner and disappear, a lost opportunity I thought then I realised that I was catching it up, my 3 mph ish walking pace was actually faster than the boat’s cruising speed.
Catching up with it, I joked about the Tortoise and the Hare and then left if in my dust as I strode away from it. I’m not that daft as I know that I will soon start to tire while that engine will keep on plodding along all day at the same speed but the thought was nice when it lasted.
I discovered a new stone on the tow path marked “L PB.” Checking up on some old maps I found out that it marked the border of the Linlithgow Parliamentary and Police boundary, perhaps shades of the wild west with the boats sprinting away from the cops, giving up the chase at the county line.
About two miles out of Linlithgow I came across The Park Bistro, it looked like a nice place to stop and rest, too early for me plus I had already brought my sandwiches so I kept on walking.
This was certainly the busiest stretch for boats meeting another coming towards me a mile or so later, a veritable rush-hour on water.
I took this photo near Philipston, the colour was just too good to convert to monochrome
The blue skies were deceptive as there was a wicked wind blowing behind me… good for pushing me on but not so good for keeping me warm, although I did manage to walk for almost all the way wearing a T-shirt.
The red topped shale bings of Philipston dominates the next part of the walk. This was the site of Scotland’s first oil boom, were oil was extracted from shale by heat, the red stone residue being dumped in huge spoil heaps that are dotted around West Lothian.
The bings gave great shelter and it was really pleasant walking here, so much so that I found a place to stop and have lunch and that canal boat, which I left behind at Linlithgow caught me up.
A car park about a mile past Philipston gave a degree or mirth, the Police are trying to curb the off road motorbikes and they urge anyone to report bikes, giving the “locus as Philipstoun North Bings.” Who else would use the word Locus but the polis?
The view at Bridge 38
Bridge 35 gave some variety, with a monogrammed key stone and iron balustrades. It seems to be over a minor road bridge but they must have been out to impress someone as monogrammed stone work costs extra.
Another stone, which proved to be a real oddity came up near Winchburgh, it stood beside a regular mile stone bearing the inscription ” DIVISION BETWINT SECOND AND THIRD STACKS.” Strange enough that it is in old Scots but just what was the second and third stacks?
Further on, past Winchburgh, a canal barge lies rusting in the weeds on the opposite bank its side half gone.
A contrast as a modern barge with crew accommodation and a hydraulic grab moored up a while later.
Another oddity, all the British Waterway gates across the tow path that I have encountered since leaving Falkirk have been open but one at Winchburgh which was locked closed.
Uncharacteristically Bridge 31 bore the date of 1820 on the key stone, the canal being opened in 1822, provided some interest. A little while later at Bells Hill Wharf and the headquarters of the Bridge 19-40 Canal Society, no disputing their territory then. More power to folk like this as they believe in the canal and it’s future.
Out of town and the partially restored Niddry Castle comes up on the left, the folks have taken a long time to restore this old tower house. A little further on and the Broxburn Alps comes into view, this large collection of shale bings dominates the view as the canal curves around them.This is taken from a distance with the town of Broxburn at the foot of the bings and a hail shower is threatening. The canal contours for five miles, when the direct route is only two, but then again no locks were needed to be built so money was saved.
I nearly caught up with that canal boat again as I was nearing Broxburn, the wind must have played merry hell with its speed. I could have overtook it once more but I still had a long way to walk so I screwed the bubbin’ and kept my walking pace at a sensible rate.
The trip through Broxburn wasn’t that bad except for the large number of dog-eggs by the path, that’s folk for you.
A sign on the outskirts of the town welcoming you to Port Buchan. I wonder that that was for?
I kept on going under the A8 road bridge, which didn’t have a number, indicating that this route was made later, after the opening of the canal and the original route of the A8 may have went through Broxburn at one time.
A strange piece of sculpture on the opposite bank, I later found out that it was entitled “Jupiter” part of the Kirkhill Pillar Project. “Saturn” appeared under Bridge 25. Stopping for a rest in the lee of the bridge I read a plaque that this and other art works were inspired by the Earl of Buchan’s 1775 Solar System, when Saturn was the furthest known planet and the drawing represents the motion and nature of Saturn’s rings as described by James Clark Maxwell.
Port Buchan for the Earl of Buchan, that makes sense now.
I took the picture of the above Broxburn Alps from near here.
The canal goes under the M8 motorway, it’s course being changed as the canal was closed to navigation with the building of the motorway. The new bridge built for the Millennium celebrations bore the usual inscription MM, standing for Millennium Money… and you thought it was the Roman numerals for 2,000?
The noise of the motorway is an unwelcome intrusion to the peace of the canal, it dies off but unfortunately comes back later on.
The Almond Aqueduct is not too far away, it is smaller than the Avon Aqueduct but none the less as impressive.
One more Aqueduct over a small road and you arrive at Wilkie’s basin with an island in the middle and a wooden fort, it must have been put there to amuse the motorway traffic, and although I have been driving by here for years and I can’t say that I have ever noticed it.
The Indoor climbing area come up on your left as the canal skirts past the old quarry and then you know you are nearing civilisation when the wall appears by the tow path, obviously built to keep people off the land. Rounding a corner you see a low building ahead, which is the beginning of the end as that’s Ratho basin and the end of the walk.
It started to hail again as I neared the Seagull Trusts’ building, sensing the end I never even bothered putting on the fleece, just took it in my stride and walked on. Finally leaving the path at Bridge 15 and a bus stop to the right. I only waited 10 minutes on the Lothian bus only to get chucked off because I didn’t have the £1.60 fare in the correct change, so I had to make a 3/4 mile walk down to Ratho Station to wait on the No. 38A First bus to take me back to Linlithgow and he had no problems taking my money.
I think the Lothian bus drivers are not allowed to count for themselves but keep that quiet.
So there we go, only eight miles left to do and I think I will cycle out and back along the tow path rather than rely on the Lothian buses as I now grudge them their money. All I have left to do now is find some place to leave the car and it’s done but there’s one thing for sure….
The next long distance walk that I would like to do is one that has also been on my to-do list for some time.
However, when I looking into the practicalities of doing it as a series of day walks I soon discovered that it was going to be harder than I thought, so I had to change my plans, turning my attention towards the Union Canal instead.
The Union Canal, was opened in 1822, linking Edinburgh with the Forth and Clyde (F&C) Canal at Falkirk. Having closed to commercial traffic in 1933 and officially closing in 1965.
The canal had a resurgence with the re-opening of the nearby Forth and Clyde Canal for leisure purposes.
The problem for the Union Canal was the final locks joining it to the F&C were filled in and the land developed for housing. The solution was the Falkirk Wheel, a modern engineering masterpiece, being able to lift one boat up, while lowering another down and all for a pittance in power consumption.
My goal for the day was to walk the first 12 miles of the Union Canal, from The Wheel to Linlithgow.
I am going to spare you a blow by blow account because navigation is straight forward and to be brutally honest it is less than interesting in places. It does have a few spots of interesting industrial archaeology, which I happen to be interested in, so I thought that I would cut the trip down to just six pictures.
The biggest thing in the area are the Kelpie Sculptures, which are located beside the F&C at Grangemouth. The prototype for the sculptures are being displayed in a car park close to the Wheel, which is in the background of this picture and to give you an idea of scale, there is a person bottom right standing looking upwards in awe at the size of the thing.
After walking up the path beside the Wheel, through the Roughcastle Tunnel, the towing path you are walking upon becomes tarred over its entire length, it is good for pushing prams and riding bicycles but after while, becomes painful for walking upon.
British Waterways, who operate the canal are in the process of continual maintenance and to control the weeds, which choke the canal, The task is made easier with this floating weed dredger, seen here moored up at the Roughcastle Basin.
The canal towpath is busy around the built up areas with walkers, dog-walkers, ramblers, runners and cyclists, although I think I only saw four boats under way on the canal all the time I was walking along it.
The Falkirk Tunnel is noteworthy, it is 590 yards, 600m in length and is mostly bare rock with a safety rail running alongside, being lit by fluorescent strip lights and a string of coloured lights. It is well worth seeing. I brought along a torch with me but it really wasn’t necessary. It’s a bit wet at the beginning and at the end but is more or less dry in the middle.
I kind of broke with tradition and made a colour photo, rather than my usual monochrome.
Along the way is this swing bridge, rusting in the weeds. It connected both sides of the Nobel Explosives factory, which made detonators and is now history, the factory being demolished and developed.
The canal can be summed up as mile after mile of walking, sometimes town, sometimes country. The monotony being broken up by distance markers every half mile from the start of the old canal towards Edinburgh, so the first one you’ll see is 1/2 and 31-1/2 miles. They do become depressing to read as you realise how slow your progress is.
The bridges too are marked with numbers, starting from 62 and provide entertainment in trying to remember the number of the next one… I’m easily amused.
Number 62, is also known as the Laughin’/Greetin’ Bridge as a laughing is carved on one keystone and on the opposite the face is crying.
Four hours later and after crossing over the impressive Avon Aqueduct, I arrived at Linlithgow very much foot sore.
Some children, one in particular were being taught an important lesson in boat stability, he paid the price and was being dragged out of the water into the boat when I passed.
It’s a short walk down from the Linlithgow canal basin to the train station, for the train back to Camelon “Kemlon” and a half mile walk after that, along the F&C back to the car park at The Wheel.
Logistically, the remaining 22 miles poses a problem, too far for a day’s walk and apart from the prospect of a convoluted bus trip and no train stations until Edinburgh means that I may do this it by bicycle, returning from Edinburgh by train.
Well that’s all from me. I’ll be back with the concluding part sometime soon but there’s one thing for sure….