This is where we begin today’s walk – at Spike Island, Widnes, Merseyside. Ted has to be on a lead today because of the ducks, geese, swans and other bird wildlife such as coots. The building opposite in the photograph is the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, Widnes on the other bank of the Sankey Canal from the island. The Centre is an interactive science and technology museum open to the public. We are parked on the Centre’s car park.
Before you even leave the car park, you can see and hear the birds at this stop-end part of the canal. Every morning, in winter before sunrise, lovers of the birds bring sacks of food for them – some of this food can be seen in the photograph above. As we walked past the birds to the lock and the narrow bridge across the canal, where it can be seen to continue to the right of the photo, one of the swans – it looked like a Whooper Swan, waddled over to investigate Ted. Needless to say, I led him swiftly away.
From the footbridge over the canal, you can see into the lock that separates the canal (just about) from the River Mersey. The river stretches from Liverpool, to the West (right hand side of the photo) to Manchester in the East. At this point, however, ships can no longer navigate the river, and, instead, they travel using the Manchester Ship Canal that still runs beside the river until the two part company near Warrington. Before the Ship Canal was built, Mersey Flat boats brought goods as far as Widnes Dock, built in 1833 on the Island. At that time, the first chemical plant in the country was created on the island. The company, and the dock, were served by a network of rail lines.
The picture above shows the basin that was used as Widnes Dock and where goods brought from Liverpool were loaded and unloaded for transport elsewhere. The inlet between the dock and the River Mersey is now silted up and is shown in the following photo.
The Island was created in 1833 to extend the Sankey Canal between Fidlers Ferry and the River Mersey, where it widens here at Widnes. The island contains parkland, woodland, wetlands and footpaths and achieved considerable fame in 1990 when the Stone Roses mounted an open-air concert here.
From the Eastern side of that inlet, looking back Westwards, you see St Mary’s church, Widnes and the Silver Jubilee bridge, which carries traffic between Widnes and Runcorn over the river. From there, onwards, traffic can pass to Runcorn railway station, to Northwich and Cheshire, or to North Wales
Looking Eastwards, you see the Mersey Gateway, opened in 2017 to offer a fast six-lane alternative crossing to North Wales and the M56 motorway between the Wirral Peninsula and (close to) the border between England and Wales. Crossing either bridge requires payment of a toll. Passage is recorded by cameras and payment has to be made online.
As we follow the riverbank path towards the Mersey Gateway, we meet the canal again. To the right of the photo, you see the Gateway rising to cross the river. At this point, until construction of the Gateway was completed, there used to be a wooden footbridge across the canal that allowed walkers to cross and to do a circular walk, going from the Catalyst Centre around the Island and then returning on the side of the canal from which they had started.
Continuing along the canal path, we see it pass beneath the Gateway and then continue all the way via Warrington to St Helens Blackbrook branch where we did yesterday’s walk. I did the full-length of the walk a couple of years ago. It was a really pleasant day out. You can also see a stretch of fencing beneath the Gateway and this is my true destination today.
Not for the first time, I have brought Ted, on the pretence of a walk for him, while my real intent has been to photograph this view. I never seem to get the light I want and today is no exception. Shortly after sunrise there is simply too much glare. I really want to get a decently sharp view across to the Runcorn side of the river with all three sails of the bridge also in focus. I hope that you will agree that the curvature of the bridge and its ribbed underside would make a great shot. Ah, well! Another time perhaps!
As I turned around, I saw this view of the bridge’s underside as it returns to Widnes – and I noticed its reflection in the canal.
A few steps further helped me to take more notice of those reflections.
And here we are were we started our walk, looking at the birds but also at the moored boats which are able to navigate only a short stretch of the canal.
I too the featured photo today from a few paces further on than where I’d taken my target shot. I wanted to see how a photo of the curve on the far side of the bridge would turn out.
EXIF data were: I used my Fujifilm X-T4 26 MP cropped sensor mirrorless camera with a Fujinon 16-55 mm f/3.5 -5.6 lens. The shutter speed was 1/35 seconds @ f/7.1 and 16 mm. The ISO was 160.