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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, July 23, 2004
    Wanderings beneath Junction 21

    "Hell is Chrome," sing Wilco on their new album A Ghost is Born. In the New Statesman Richard Reeves notes J.K. Galbraith's contrast between our private affluence and public squalor. Both texts played a part in my day - Wilco on the journey and the NS on my knee as I sat in sunshine at Tatton Park. And, confirming what they said, the day began in a familiar queue - on the slip road to the M6 approaching Thelwall Viaduct.

    That's familiar territory to those who've been reading this blog awhile. But today I went further than I've done before; abandoned the car on a dirtroad near Junction 21 and spent the rush hour exploring the point where the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal merge and wind together beneath the carbonic chaos of that great expansion.

    Lacking a map the afternoon's wanderings were disconnected, notes for future reference when a walk round Thelwall Eye looks likely:

    - at Latchford lock a spectacular series of bridges over the canal including the looming metallic carrier of a defunct mid-Cheshire railway out of Warrington Bank Quay, now part of the Trans Pennine Trail;

    - the Mersey Way footpath off the A57 overgrown and rich with wildflowers and butterflies;

    - the Mersey itself wide and gentle in the curve beneath the viaduct;

    - on the choking road above, signs to placate frustrated drivers: "Men working on bridge beneath"; underneath, the only evidence of humanity a portakabin with an open door marked CANTEEN;

    - and everywhere the sound of traffic. Unnoticeable beneath the viaduct because it so fully fills the air, it's when you're half a mile away that its presence attacks your eardrums. The swans seem used to it...