WHEN I first came to live in Wigan more than a quarter century ago, the canals were not, by and large, places you would want to visit unless you had to.
The Pier was in its tourist attraction pomp, but most of the waterways and towpaths leading to it were polluted and overgrown.
Then came the revolution and, little by little, these historic highways were reclaimed, not as commercial arteries as of old but as attractive leisure routes for foot, bike and boat.
The realisation that our canal network had great cultural and natural potential - far outlasting the Pier museums, as it turned out - was an inspired one by our authorities and I am glad to see it is continuing, even through these cash-strapped times.
The latest piece of the jigsaw are the waterways around Leigh, plans for whose makeover have just been revealed by the Canal and River Trust (the charitable successor to British Waterways).
And I wholeheartedly agree with project supporters that this restoration and enhancement can act as a catalyst for other improvements in the town.
Plans have also been tabled to renovate the Grade II listed canalside Mather Lane Mill into 120 apartments and create new homes along the canal at Plank Lane, which is already home to a 30-berth marina which is due to open in a few months’ time.
All very pleasing, although our pride must extend to our all doing our bit to look after them too.
I despair sometimes when I walk along the towpath at Beech Hill to see empty drinks bottles and other detritus bobbing around in the water, clogging up the lock.
Sadly it’s a whole lot harder to clear up than litter dumped in the road.
So for that reason it is even more incumbent on the public not to make a mess in the first place.
Our canals are a prized asset of which the borough should be proud and we all should cherish and nurture.
IT was desperately sad to learn of Charles Kennedy’s untimely passing.
The latest in a growing list of Scots-born politicians to die in his 50s, he was one of Parliament’s far more colourful characters.
And while his battles with the bottle are well documented and ultimately cost him his party leadership, he was one of those fine elected members whose decency, commitment and consistency in principled opinions were never in question.
Little wonder it was easy for representatives of all the major parties to pay heartfelt and positive tribute to the former Liberal Democrats chief.
A tragic loss indeed.