IN 2000 Ted Unwin’s fulfilling but stressful design career in aircraft manufacture came to a dramatic halt.
Specialists were quick to confirm his worst fears.
The President of Shevington Gardening Club and tireless chairman of Shevington Fete Committee had suffered a stroke.
His days at British Aerospace in Salmesbury, working on components for the RAF’s most advanced and technically mind-boggling fighter aircraft had come to a premature end.
Although aware and sympathetic to his owner’s changed condition, Ted’s beloved alsation-cross mongrel Sam still needed walking.
And that daily discipline proved a key part in his master’s recuperation,
Ted would leave his Shevington home of 33 years and join the canal towpath at Gathurst for a walk up to Dean Locks, a fascinating confluence of Leeds and Liverpool cut, the Wigan to Southport railway line, the River Douglas and, high over head on that surprisingly majestic fly over cross the valley, the roaring traffic of the M6.
For a train and barge fan like Ted, the breath of industrial history blowing across the point of the valley was always going to make the focus for an interesting walk.
Eighteenth (canal), 19th (railways) and 20th century transport systems converge there.
But look west along the River Douglas and you are back to charming Lancashire countryside, kingfishers, herons and all, again. A view little changes over the centuries.
As as he successfully regained his full mobility over the past decade, the location and the walk along the towpath with wife Norma, became a symbol of his determination to make the fullest recovery possible.
The onset of autumn bathes this part of the Douglas Valley in reds and golds and provides a whole new reason for dog walking.
Ted said: “I have always been interested in railways and then canals.
“We have always had a dog and we do a lot of walking along tow paths and the route is the old railways of Wigan so it wasn’t long before I discovered Dean Locks, where the railway, the river, the canal and even the motorway cross.
“Another favourite walk is down Leyland Mill Mill Lane where you come out by the old railway arches which is fantastic sight.
“We had a grand old collier called Sheppie when we first came here, then we Lakeland Terrier and now we have this black and tan terror, Sam, who we got from the Manchester dogs home as a puppy eleven years ago.
“He isn’t always good with people until he gets to know you but we wouldn’t be without him.
“I have always been a walker.
“So I was determined that when I was recovering from the stroke I would try and get out and about with the dog as soon as possible and that had certainly helped get my mobility back.
“I have all the symptoms, I couldn’t use my hand, my leg had gone and my face had fallen.
“But I am well recovered now and it doesnt show anymore.”