Sankey Canal

When you leave Spike Island
you leave behind life.
You sense they are clawing you back…
The yachts, the families, the couples with dogs.
They’re all locals, and they all know.
And you? So innocent. Well, it’s just a canal.
And at first, it does seem safe.
Welcoming hoardings – a nature reserve.
A boardwalk to walk on.
But such things soon go.

You see a guy cycling, toward you,
who passes fast, head down.
Then you’re all alone.
And you notice where he came from.
And the gritty towpath is straight.
For miles. For three and half miles.
To what, suddenly, inexplicably,
seems like salvation.
And you walk. Fast.

You seek clues.
Indications of how far you must go.
There are overhead pylons
crossing the canal.
You look at your map.
And they’re only half way.

There’s a swan on the water.
Behind it, on the empty railway,
There’s a signal.
And behind the signal, rising high
and spouting smoke,
the cooling towers
of Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station.
And you think these things
all in a line
look odd.
So, you take a picture.
And then you walk again, faster.

You pass grassy bridges
over the canal.
But they’re not bridges.
They block it, cut it in half.
And only then, do you realize
that the canal is disused.
But the stagnant duckweed
should have told you that
way, way back.

The canal disappears.
It becomes a bed of reeds.
And they’re taller than you.
And there are tunnels into them
with clear water
like some crocodile’s lair.
What else could they be?

Now you’re in a tunnel.
A strange, weird trackway.
Enclosed by the reeds on one side
and a big industrial pipe on the other…
A fat, straight, pulpy worm
behind a high, barbed wire fence.
You can’t escape.

There’s only one way to go. Ahead.
A flock of geese pass over you.
They can escape. They’re lucky.
And you feel like you want to run.
But you can’t. You’ve boots on.
And you’re tired. This is mile thirteen.
Unlucky for some.

It’s been an hour.
And it’s got into your head.
But you know it’s now over.
An hour means three miles done.
So, you must see it…
And you do…
Fiddler’s Ferry Marina.

A lone guy fishing.
Great reflections.
You take a picture.
And you suddenly feel
you’ve emerged from a place of ghosts.
And you know that you have.

You didn’t need the internet
to tell of hauntings
when you got home.
Because, when you slept,
this place prised its way into your dreams.
And it made your write all this…


I seek out the Plough.
I need a bit of Dutch courage.
Before entering, I study a plaque on the wall.
It describes the object that’s to be my quest.
It seems devised to put even the bravest of seekers off.

I take a corner table.
I sip my pint of Theakston’s
and I analyse my feelings…
I am, at the very least, apprehensive.
I feel a heightened awareness of my immediate surroundings.
I also have a sense of lightheadedness.
I am strongly mindful that I am about to do something new,
something I have never attempted before.
As I rise to leave, I have a feeling of ‘not being in control’.
I am about to embark on a passage of events
and I am to be a mere passenger.

It is late summer
and the heavy evening sky is a steely grey.
The air is thick and humid.
I set off down the entry lane of a disused psychiatric hospital.
I struggle to locate the point where my path veers off.

A man with a dog approaches…
‘Are you going to…’
His speech has an air of foreboding.
He points me in the right direction.

The path weaves around some derelict farm buildings
and the way opens up into a vast field.
I enter another field,
even larger and sloping away.
I feel small in this amphitheatre that is wide open,
yet is rimmed by trees a deep shade of green.
The smell of damp vegetation is stifling me.
Suddenly, I feel exposed and vulnerable
as I hear a distant rumble of thunder.
I zip my jacket up,
not so much for protection against the light rain,
but for somewhere to hide…
Like pulling up the bedclothes.

I realize that something isn’t right…
The trees to my left are far too near.
According to my map
I shouldn’t be so close to them.
I am in the wrong field.
I turn around and retrace my steps.
I listen as I walk,
hearing my feet swish through calf high damp grass.
I also hear the rustle of my jacket
and the hum of a distant plane.

I find the correct field,
but the approach is through a dark threatening hollow of uneven ground.
I tread warily
and the waist high nettles sting me through my thin trousers.
I take special care at a stile slippery with green slime.
I cannot afford an accident…
No-one knows I am here.

A few yards into the field
I notice a herd of bullocks are approaching me.
I turn tail – their harmless threat seems very real in this place.
I feel as if I’m being followed and look around.
There is nothing there.

I study my map
and find an alternative way to reach my quest.
The route follows a thorny hedge
and I climb a series of electric fences.
The light is beginning to fade.
It will, I realize,
be too dark to safely return this way.

There is no only on way to safety…
Right past my quest.
I pass through a thick double hedge
and find myself on the edge of a small country estate.
I am soon on a green horse ride
and my eyes are drawn to a strange stone obelisk
standing alone like a sentinel.
I don’t linger,
the place is infested with midges.
I follow the ride as it winds to my right.
I now sense the nearness of my quest
and my map confirms it.

I pull up sharp…
I am just not prepared for what I see…
It looms over me
standing stark and isolated.
It takes the form of a white cross.
This vision is far, far, removed
from anything I could have expected…

A well-manicured lawn.
A wheelbarrow.
A garden umbrella.
A car on a drive.
a satellite dish.
A security light.
And, would you believe, a burglar alarm.
At this place.
Chingle Hall.
The legendary, terrifying, most haunted house in England.