Blackburn seems to turn its back on one of its most important assets. I love walking along the Leeds – Liverpool canal. I’ve walked its length many times from where it enters Blackburn, at Whitebirk, to where it leaves the town, at Feniscowles. It’s a town of two halves when it comes to following the towpath. Heading eastwards, we pass mainly through an industrial landscape. Whereas travelling west, the canal meanders through mainly residential areas of the town.
Blackburn is actually the largest intermediate town on the Leeds – Liverpool Canal and the only one with a population of over 100,000. Yet it seems to be hardly noticed by its townsfolk. An occasional walker, cyclists and anglers are often the only people you come across when taking a walk down the cut. Perhaps what is most conspicuous by its absence is the number of boats to be seen along the canal. That lovely put, put, put…. sound of the chugging narrowboat is hardly ever heard on this part of the canal network.
Try travelling ten miles down the canal, in either direction, it’s a different story. Burnley has plenty of boats moored at Reedley Marina and more seem to appear as you head towards Yorkshire. Chorley seems awash with canal boats. There are boat yards both sides of the town, two as you approach from the Blackburn direction, at either end of their locks. The reason for our lack of boats in Blackburn is probably due to no established mooring facility. Only Eanam and Nova Scotia Wharves have any space for a large number of boats to moor. The nearest collection of boats moored together is at Finnington Lane, on the town’s outskirts.
What Blackburn needs is a marina. This would not only provide safe refuge for boats, but could also help create its own unique community, such as is the case in Hebden Bridge. Building a marina would create several short-term jobs and possibly lead to further permanent positions. An ideal site would be the land along Gorse Street, incorporating the former Kenyon St and Esther St. Sadly this parcel of land looks to be spoken for, possibly by the council or nearby Tesco. Not content with taking away our greyhound stadium, it also wants to enlarge itself even more. Unfortunately their boundless pursuit of building even more unnecessary identikit superstores will probably keep them turning their back on the canal, as they are doing already in Blackburn. I don’t expect them to build a marina, but perhaps they could make amends for taking away part of our sporting heritage by clearing up their border with the canal and making it look presentable. They could even build a landing stage and make money from passing boats. It won’t transform Blackburn’s waterscape, ‘But Every Little Helps.’