24 September 2008

Down to the Waterside

Not a bad morning for a run, and I had a couple of routes that I had
found on the Web which seemed to start near my hotel in Leeds. One was
10K, and appeared to follow a major arterial road, and the other was
about 4 miles and took in a rather attractive park. In the event I took
neither, because I saw a sign for a towpath and immediately left behind
the rush-hour road traffic (other than a fair number of cyclists) in
favout of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

I learnt which body of water I was following after a mile or so, though
I could barely make out the words on the sign on a bridge because of all
the graffiti sprayed on it. I also came across a milepost - I never knew
canals had them - that told me it was 128 miles to Liverpool in the
direction I was heading (one and a quarter in the other to Leeds).

The canal provided a fascinating bit of industrial archaeology. It was
lined with wonderful Victorian buildings and crossed by elegant stone
bridges, at least one of which had been colonised by a few small trees
which no doubt will soon enough prise the stones apart. The towpath was
well-surfaced, mostly with a sprinkling of gravel (no running barefoot
today) but with a few stretches of cobbles and paving stones. I also
passed three sets of locks, great pieces of Victorian engineering, one
flight of which matched a considerable climb for me. I suddenly realised
where the expression "lockstep" came from: when a vessel enters at the
bottom of the flight, the gates are closed behind it and those in front
of it are opened when the water level has been adjusted. So it can go
forward (and upwards) but not back (and down). Except, of course, that
the opposite happens if it has come from Liverpool.

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