Thursday, 8 February 2018
The path less travelled
From Saltaire, I can walk east or west along the canal towpath. More often than not, I choose west, which quickly takes me into fields, woods and wild places. Just occasionally, when I fancy a change, I'll turn east towards Shipley. The walk is much less pretty, cutting through downtown Shipley and skirting some old mills and industrial units. It does eventually reach wilder and more attractive parts, but only after a fair old trek.
Nevertheless, the option is not without interest, especially when I haven't been that way for a while. Beyond Saltaire and Salts Wharf, one of the first points of intrigue is this little old cottage: Gallows Bridge Cottage. It dates back to 1834, though it has been extensively renovated. I read that it may once have been the home of a 'lengthsman', someone who patrolled and cared for a designated length of the canal. The footbridge beyond is Gallows Bridge, which was built around the same time as the cottage. There has always been a bridge here, protecting an ancient right of way, since this part of the canal was completed in 1774. I'm not sure what the 'gallows' in the name refers to... something even more ancient - and deadly, perhaps? You might think the cottage an idyllic place to live, but it is a bit isolated as indicated by the several CCTV cameras and alarm.
A few hundred yards further on, you pass Junction Bridge, a typical single-arched canal bridge dated 1774. It's held together in parts by concrete but you can still see the old, worn, stone setts across the middle. The building beyond is Junction House, sadly now very derelict. It was once a warehouse, boatmen's lodgings and had a canal toll-house attached. There's some interesting information about this whole area HERE, which is an extensive assessment of the area for conservation purposes. The 'junction' referred to is that between the now defunct Bradford canal, which branched off here, and the main Leeds-Liverpool Canal.
The conservation document is not complimentary about the newish flats and town houses in the development alongside the canal (on the left below), which it calls an 'unsympathetic inward-facing modern development'. The buildings on the right of Junction Bridge are Junction Mills and Dockfield Mills, once worsted mills, still used as commercial premises.