And did those feet?


There are many roads to Wigan Pier. As you approach from any direction there are brown signposts to guide you. It is only when you arrive and try to park the car that you realise the Pier is on an island surrounded by one-way streets with no places to stop.

We hadn’t planned to visit Wigan Pier, because I had read that it doesn’t really exist these days. The name was given to the gantry of a coal chute for loading barges 120 or more years ago and it only became famous through the gritty, disillusioned writing of George Orwell. The coal chute was probably demolished at the beginning of the 20th Century. Today the Orwell pub stands nearby. I would be very pleased if George had taken his nom de plume from the pub… but I suspect not.

We were in Wigan because I did not read the small print before I erected the tent.

The campsite was on a green and pleasant hill in the Lancashire countryside. We had booked a pitch with hard standing for the VW camper and had assumed that the lush (but squelchy) grass alongside would be suitable for the teenager tent.

The small print, which we read over a cup of tea as we sat congratulating ourselves on how well pitched the tent was, said that tents on the camper van pitches must be erected on the gravel not the decorative lawn.

Grumpily I discovered that it is possible to move a large-ish tent simply by unpegging and lifting and I discovered that you need particularly strong pegs to hammer viciously into compacted gravel on top of industrial-strength aggregate.

Which is why we found ourselves in Wigan buying new tent pegs on a Saturday morning. And also how we discovered the pleasant walk along the post-industrial canal-side past the locks above the Pier without a dark, satanic mill in sight.

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