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Everyone invited to celebrate the 200th anniversay of Britain's longest canal

October 2016

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Do you know the length of England’s longest canal? Or how many canals there are in the UK? These fabulous waterways that played such a large part of British life a century or so ago faded into obscurity during our childhood. But now they are enjoying a fabulous revival thanks to dedicated teams who have rescued and cleaned them, holiday makers who enjoy the peaceful pleasures of narrow boats, and for many of us who simply enjoy walking along the beautiful towpaths.

At 127 miles, the Leeds and Liverpool is Britain’s longest canal. The Grand Union Canal, at 137 miles, is longer but is made up of different sections. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is a single stretch of waterway. It took some time to build because after being started in 1770, money ran out and it wasn’t until 1816 that the final section between Wigan and Johnson’s Hillock, near Chorley, was finished.

It was opened to great acclaim, creating a much needed trans-Pennine link between the two major cities and it its heyday carried a great deal of cargo including cotton, coat and wool.

In just a few days time, during the week of Saturday October 15th to Sunday October 23rd , big celebrations are being planned for the 200 year anniversary of the opening of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

The actual celebrations are being focussed around a re-enactment of the very first boat that went along the canal. 200 years ago, the inaugural trip was accompanied by flotillas decorated with flags and streamers. This time, 200 years later, the boat Kennet will make the journey greeted along the way by brass bands, 12 mayors, flotillas of small boats, peels of church bells, and hundreds of school children and well-wishes.

Everyone is invited to visit a part of the canal to cheer the boat through Yorkshire, Lancashire and Merseyside on this very special journey. It will be passing mills and moorland, through Bingley, Skipton, Burnley, Blackburn, Chorley, Wigan and Burscough on its route.

The event is being organised by the Canal and River Trust. Chantelle Seaborn, local waterway manager with the Trust, said: “This epic boat journey is a wonderful way to mark the 200th anniversary of one of the most significant waterways in Britain. The opening of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal played a key role in Britain’s Industrial Revolution and encouraged the development of the textile industries in Lancashire and West Yorkshire.”

The trip of the boat Kennet is being finalised by Harold Bond who said: “Back in 1816, press reports state that the ceremonial first boat was greeted by peeling church bells, brass bands and cheering crowds, and canal barges were be-decked in flags and streamers.

“It would be fantastic if we could recreate that amazing atmosphere of celebration again. The response to our invitation to get involved has been brilliant so we have every chance of staging a celebration worthy of those entrepreneurial merchants and inventive engineers who were responsible for building this waterway two hundred years ago.

“Kennet will be decked out in bunting to symbolise the two great shire county roses. It would be wonderful to be greeted by a sea of red and white as our procession sails along.”

“Today there are fewer industries along its banks, but the canal still brings many benefits of leisure, tourism, nature and regeneration to the communities along its route. There is tremendous pride in our wonderful heritage and we are delighted so many towns, cities, schools and organisations have come forward to be part of this incredible long distance celebration.”

Find out more about the bicentenary celebrations at the Canal & River Trust website.


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