We spent a night in our van at a Brit stop by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at the Crooke Hall Inn.
The canal is 127 miles long and we were close to bridge 47 which had a notice saying it was 32 miles to Liverpool and just over 95 to Leeds. Crooke sits three miles to the west of Wigan, on the far side of an area known as Standish Lower Ground. It is within the parish boundary of Shevington and situated on the north side of the River Douglas and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The last time I was near this canal was in 2018 on my walk to Edinburgh when I diverted from the road into Wigan along the canal and through the flashes into the town centre.
The history of the village goes back to the 11th century when it was part of Shevington Manor. The Crooke estate was owned by the Catterall family from 1421-1713. Crooke Hall was built in 1608 but no longer exists because of subsidence. It was demolished before the Second World War. From the 1870’s until 1963 Crooke became a vital cog in the coal mining and distribution system along the river and the canal. There is an old tip tub sitting by the canal which was discovered after the mines had closed. It is thought to be 70-100 years old.
Around that time Crooke had more than 550 people living in the village; now the population is around 120. The school closed in 1985 due to falling numbers and the village shops have closed. It is now a quiet little village which has a one road access off the main road. There is a total of 65 dwellings, the pub, a Marina, a Chapel and a Nursery.
In 1975, the houses in Crooke were due to be demolished. This stirred the residents into action and the Crooke Village Co-operative was formed to protect 36 of the 67 properties from definite demolition. It ran from 1978 to 2008.
Thirty-five of the properties are now owned by Adactus, a housing authority and the rest are privately owned. Throughout the year, the chapel organises events for its members which are open to anyone who wish to attend and the pub too have regular events and are ably assisted by the Crooke Village Residents Association. Formed in 2008, it replaced the former Co-operative. This association deals only with the maintenance of pathways, some grass cutting, tree and shrub pruning, litter picking, some bulb planting with a view of keeping the village looking presentable. Thanks to this, Crooke has managed to win one of the top awards in the ‘North West in Bloom’ challenge.
We parked up and waited until the pub opened at 4pm. Thankfully the excessive heat of the previous two days had disappeared. Several barges came past us, some mooring for the night: others heading to the nearby marina which can hold 90 boats.
In the morning the towpath was in use by joggers, dog walkers and an e-scooter. Under the trees in the beer garden two magpies, a wood pigeon and a grey squirrel were hunting for food just like back home.