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The Rufford Branch, Leeds and Liverpool Canal
We cruised the picturesque Rufford Branch in the wet summer of 2007, starting close to a huge warehouse, at Burscough, Lancashire. At around 7 miles in length links the Leeds and Liverpool Canal into the River Douglas at Tarleton and, then via the Ribble Link and the River Ribble to the previously isolated Lancaster Canal. The Rufford Branch was completed in 1781 and work stopped on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal from Wigan to the River Douglas. The Rufford Branch is named after the small town of Rufford, Lancashire, about half way along its length. The branch was also known as the Lower Douglas Navigation in the past.
The towpath on the Rufford Branch is not maintained at all, as it would be on the main line. Walkers can find their way but is certainly not cyclist friendly. The canal is a picturesque and relaxing navigation not far removed from its origins as the River Douglas, meandering across the largely flat Lancashire countryside. In many sections the canal has high reeds and rushes on both sides.
The locks and swing bridges equipment on the Rufford Branch has no consistency of security and water conservancy equipment. Virtually all require the use of a 'water conservancy key' some need the 'BW Yale' key or your standard windlass. One has a wooden lever lift paddle that we haven't seen before in 5 years of boating (but we're sure we'll see again.)
There is St Mary's Marina in Rufford. They have moorings for 100 craft up to 60 feet in length, and can accommodate both narrow and wide beam boats and canal cruisers. They have a boat sales and maintenance services.
At Tarleton the marked BW Winding Hole is no more than a wide section of canal, we're a 60 footer and only just made it round with a foot or so to spare (Lord help a 72 footer!) and if you do wind here there is no towpath to explore the last 400 yards or so of canal down to the tidal lock, we cruised down and reversed back, which is OK if your not on a mission. There appeared to be a drastic shortage of 'Visitor Moorings' at the terminus with Ribble Link traffic double breasted.
The modern Spark's Bridge BW Services were excellent, marred only by the shortage of loo roll and hand drying equipment.
Shower, toilets, pump-out, rubbish disposal and water.
Local BW telephone number: 01925 847700.
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