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Haigh Viaduct Trail

Haigh Viaduct Trail

A well hidden industrial giant, not many people can tell you the exact location of these thirteen aches and six iron spans, travelling over the beautiful Douglas Valley.
 
I was informed some years ago by local railway enthusiast Cliff Reeves, creator of local history DVD’s and the like since the early 1990’s. I got myself the Ordnance Survey Map of the area and decided to follow the former Lancashire Union Railway Line from Haigh Lower Plantations, starting at Whelley.
 
I took a colleague with me and we headed off on a beautiful summers day, shorts and the like all ready for a good hike. Having negotiated the consistently boggy trackbed, some with rather deep puddles all year round, we started to notice remnants of the former line starting at the iron bridge. Looking at the roof of the arch, soot is visible after the bridge having been blasted with smoke once the steam engine passed under it. A nice little reminder of another world.
 
We continued on and began to notice the countless amount of inspection/drainage chambers along the sidings and even spotted many a telegraph post, one still in situ but with a lean. This can be found at the bridge on Hall Lane. Continuing on the trackbed becomes rather narrow and overgrown, quite difficult to navigate and at one point we ended in a deep setting believing it the way forward only to find we had to get ourselves back up. If I had a video camera that day, it would have been a fine comedy moment watching us continuously slide back down the steep siding.
 
One we found our bearings again, we approached Sennicar Lane where the buttresses are still in situ, just no bridge. We made our way over to the other side and the viaduct then became apparent, spike fenced from our end. We decided to get ourselves on a lower level and look for a crossing over the River Douglas so we could at least get under the arches.
 
Roll back in to your childhood adventures and crossing rivers via overhanging branches, it was such fun! We made it to the other side although it was apparent we could have simply paddled through the river, although it would become tricky getting yourself up the embankment.
 
Once we had made it, a step back in time in to England’s green & pleasant land was experienced. Rabbits bouncing about everywhere, birds tweeting and calmness to the beautiful Douglas Valley really made the journey worthit, and of course we set our sites on a view from the top of the viaduct. It is worth noting the amount of water damage to the existing brickwork and no guttering.
 
Once again we found ourselves climbing, this time an incredibly steep embankment with silver birch present. We used the trees to grapple ourselves up and managed to get on. At this point the camera was brought in to action, enjoying incredible views and trying to imagine the many steam engines passing over the valley in what must have been a wonderful site. We were lucky to have this moment, as not long after a fence had been erected to stop people using the viaduct, presumably for health & safety, which is sensible. We also noticed how housing developments were creeping down the valley from Wigan Lane end.
 
We made our way home up Chorley Road in a frustrated mood questioning why the viaduct cannot be used for a greater purpose, rather than left to rot.
 
On the 14th May 2010, the Wigan Evening Post produced an article about the viaduct in the hope of bringing to the attention of the Wigan public exactly what gems we have, as is our intention at Save Wigan. After extensive conversation with the Bridges Team at Wigan Council, it really isn’t open to any funding, nor has it been since the Council took ownership nor will any funding likely appear in the near future. The only stipulation is for the authority to maintain the arch passing over Pendlebury Lane for reasons of public safety.
 
I would recommend to anybody on a summers day to repeat our walk and see what interesting finds in industrial archaeology you may find.  
 
Andrew Lomax

 


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