Category Archives: Lancaster Canal

LANCASTER CANAL 4. Galgate to Lancaster.


Today Peter’s wife, Denise, joined us for a shorter walk along the canal into Lancaster. It didn’t turn out as short as expected. Having completed our walk we caught an early bus back from Lancaster. As we were leaving the city several police cars, ambulances and a fire engine overtook us with lights flashing and sirens blaring. There was obviously trouble up ahead, possibly on the motorway but soon we were stopped and the A6 closed due to a serious accident. We were going nowhere. Students alighted from the bus and started walking up a side road and cycle path into the University. There was no choice but to follow and soon we were wandering through the extensive campus hoping to bypass the closure and walk into Galgate. This proved an interesting diversion, even getting a close up view of the silk mill there. The Air Ambulance helicopter was in action so I hope those involved in the accident are not seriously injured. Will donate to their charity on the next occasion.

Anyhow to get back to the start. Smoke was drifting up from several residential boats moored in the basin at Galgate. I noticed on a wall a bank of post boxes for the boaters, I suppose you need some sort of address for communication if you are permanently living on a barge. The usual gentle meandering walk took us into the countryside on what was a dull day so views to the hills were limited. Conditions under foot varied. Occasional roundels indicated we were sharing the route with a named walk, A Breath Of Fresh Air, which takes in interesting areas of the Lune, coast and canal around Lancaster.

After just over a mile we entered the wooded Deep Cutting which takes the canal through glacial deposits to avoid a long detour, quite a contrast to the open land. Apparently this is the place to see kingfishers but not today.

At its northern end the outskirts of Lancaster are reached. On the left at the entrance to a new development, Aldcliffe, the old gate house has been left to rot, shame. On the contrary there are some splendid houses on the other bank. Glimpses of the castle came into view. After passing under the main railway line city centre wharves were  reached. On the right was the converted boat house where packet boats were repaired after being lifted into the upper floor. On the adjoining ex British Waterways yard are new developments with the old crane preserved. The tall chimney is the hospital incinerator. At one point we have to cross over to the other bank for a short distance, the bridge is constructed to allow the horses over without unhitching. Student accommodation has been built alongside the canal and with a few pubs in old warehouses the area has a good ambience. A lot of money has been spent in Lancaster in the last few years and by look of things quite wisely. There is a fine bridge bearing the name of a local blacksmith at the time, 1876, when the bridge was widened.Leaving the canal at a pedestrian bridge, we wander through streets to board the ill fated bus.


The Silk Mill back at Galgate …



Corniest boat name of the day…

The forecast is not good for the next few days so I’m not sure when I’ll be out again for episode 5, anyhow I think my hip needs a rest. I’ll just stick to the exercises my physiotherapist has given me.


And for completeness our homeward detour…

LANCASTER CANAL 3. Garstang to Galgate.

My friend Peter from Forton got wind of my travels up the canal and volunteered to accompany me on the next stretches, he has a wealth of historical local knowledge so I readily agreed. I came away far better educated but with less photographic evidence due to all the chatting!

As I descended from the bus, there is an excellent service linking Preston with Lancaster on the A6, he was there and understood my need to retrace my steps along the Wyre to the aqueduct to regain the canal up the steps. Nearby they were dredging the canal, a continuous task I presume, some of the detritus was on display.

On the far side was Garstang Basin, now a marina. The Tithe Barn building, converted to a pub, predated the canal and was brick built.

A pipe bridge carries water from Barnacre reservoir to Blackpool.

The canal was busy with a few boats moving about between the smart marinas and moorings, the towpath also seemed popular with dog walkers. Not all boats are equal.

Peter was keen to find the site where the Garstang to Pilling railway line crossed the canal – I think we found it at bridge 65, now demolished. This line was known as the Pilling Pig from a locomotive whose whistle squealed like a pig. It connected the agricultural land of this part of the Fylde with the railway network until the 1960’s. The remains of the bridge…

We were soon into pleasant wooded countryside, lots of curves guided us through the nebulous area of Cabus. All very pleasant. Despite the temperature being just above zero we were soon taking off layers as there was no wind and hence no chill. We reached Ratcliffe Wharf another busy marina but at one time important for shipping of coal and lime. Just north are mounds, the ‘obvious’ remains of lime kilns responsible for this trade.

Forton lies a mile southeast of Bridge 79. Apparently it became the richest village in England due to the payments received when the M6 motorway was built. The small basin at Richmond Bridge was constructed for transporting stone from the nearby quarry, which is now disused.

The bridge leading to Ellel Grange is more ornate in keeping with its stately surroundings. There is a strand of lovely trees by the canal at this point – all very picturesque.

A little further, the miles go quickly on this flat terrain even with my poorly hip, is the junction with the Glasson Branch. This links via 6 locks to Glasson Basin and into the sea through Glasson Dock. This was a vital link into the canal when Glasson was an important port, superseded by Preston in due course. I should return sometime and walk this section. At the junction a graceful bridge carries our towpath over the branch. Close by is the lock keeper’s cottage and today his wife was tending the garden and gave us a potted history of the area in that lovely Lancashire drawl.

Soon we were in Galgate, another canal basin, and waiting for the bus home, the pub by the bus stop sadly closed as is the lot of many village inns these days. Galgate was the unfortunate scene of severe flooding of the river Condor just before Xmas and many of the cottages are drying out – a long process.


Corniest boat name of the day…




LANCASTER CANAL 2. Woodplumpton to Garstang.

Overnight frost has frozen the surface of the canal, ducks are flying in and giving impromptu off balance ballet displays. Sets me thinking about hard winters when thick ice would have closed down commercial travel on the canal. The sodden towpath is a little firmer though. From the start this is countryside walking with the canal weaving its way on its 70ft contour. There has been little need for cuttings or embankments. To the east are the rounded Bowland Hills, when will I be back up there looking down on this landscape?

The peace is broken now and then by cars using their horns on the approach to the humped  narrow canal bridges, I’ve never really understood this – why not just drive slowly in the first place. A few bridges show signs of damage where there has been a collision with speeding honking motorists.

There have been several designs of bridges with variation in the pitch of the arch. All are in local stone and some have railings on the parapets. Some have been built as a purely functional road bridge. There are a few wooden swing bridges serving farms and fields. As mentioned they are all numbered in sequence from the south.

An hour’s walking brings me to Guy’s ‘thatched hamlet’ with its eateries and leisure facilities, somewhere to be avoided in the warmer months when it is overrun with families. Today is all peace and quiet as I pass by on the now well surfaced and well used towpath through Bilsborrow  to arrive at the next tourist trap, Barton Grange garden centre, marina and the new ice rink in construction. The latter looks completely out of place and scale next to the canal, though the pink insulation will be covered in more sympathetic cladding.

From now on the canal runs in close proximity to the A6 road, the main railway line and the motorway so there is constant noise. Also in this communications corridor are many power lines, the anglers attention is drawn to them by signs on the bank. I am surprised at the number of lines encountered and presumably hardly noticed in daily life.

So far today the canal has used three aqueducts to cross over rivers coming down from those Bowland hills. Each has its own unique architecture and I marvel at the ingenuity of the early canal engineers. The three arched Hollowforth over Barton Brook…  the larger Brock…

and the plain Calder…

The canal has some gentle curves and passes attractive woodlands as it loops around to pass Greenhalgh Castle before entering the suburbia of new housing.I escape at a final aqueduct over the River Wyre, dropping down to pass under the canal arch to follow the river through converted mills to catch my bus in Garstang.



Corniest boat name of the day…


LANCASTER CANAL 1. Preston to Woodplumpton.

As the crow flies this section would only be about three and a half miles but the canal does a large loop towards the Fylde, an extension to Fleetwood was originally planned. My plan was for an easy level walk on the towpath and this worked well until out in the country where the boggy terrain was extremely troublesome, why didn’t I anticipate that. I was trod in lightweight trainers which quickly became sodden as I slithered around in the mud cursing my stupidity. But the sun shone and it was a glorious day to be out so the benefits outweighed the negatives.

Dismissing the Ribble Link and the Tramway across the Ribble the canal now starts in Aqueduct Street, that’s a clue to its former route through Preston Town centre. Some inauspicious steps lead to a grubby basin with no room to swing a cat never mind turn a boat. I guess no one comes this far on the water. A finger post gives distances, there is only one way.

The towpath is on the left bank and I think remains so for the length. On the far side are waterside houses. In the background is the iconic St. Walburge church spire, the third tallest in England. Housing lines the cutting and above is another iconic Preston site Tulketh Mill with its towering brick chimney – cotton was king.

The first bridge is numbered 11 so a lot have been lost. I creep under Blackpool Rd. reputedly a good place to see kingfishers and on to the edge of Haslam Park. Bridge 13 is the first aqueduct, here above a diminutive Savick Brook which remarkably hosts the Ribble Link further on whose basin and locks are soon encountered. I’ve been this way before.

More pleasant housing on the right bank is passed, I could well imagine canal side living with a canoe to take me shopping. Bridge 17 gives access to a lovely cafe and the busy UCLAN sports grounds. Massive housing developments are taking place on the far side, Cottam. At last open countryside is reached. a former farm swing bridge has been removed with little trace. Salwick Hall is seen across the fields to the right, what must they have thought of the construction of Springfields BNFL plant nearby. One of my climbing partners spent most of his working life there producing Nuclear Fuels. ‘Reassuringly’ signs by the canal tell you what to do when there is a nuclear catastrophe.

A cutting takes me safely past and at bridge 26 is The Hand and Dagger Inn, not yet open this morning and I suspect with a change of name no longer a canalside pub but an eating ‘place’. The mud kicked in by now as I ducked under the busy M55 with distant views of the Bowland Fells.

The milestones are not all intact but those that are prove useful.









Further on there is a marina hiring out and selling boats, a friendly worker is busy cleaning his stock. Further on a dog walker and I agree grumpily about the devastation all the excessive house building, often on flood plains, is having on the local area. I dare not mention fracking.  Crossing Woodplumton Aqueduct I drop down to examine Rennie’s design, apparently no two aqueducts on the canal are alike. At one point I’m listening to a tuneful bird call I don’t recognise, eventually I spot high in the branches a tree-creeper. I then struggle in the mud to complete the section to bridge 35 near Woodplumpton and a bus. Enough for today, if my hip is OK I’ll be back tomorrow.


Corniest boat name of the day…





THE LANCASTER CANAL. The Black and White.

As I said in my last post ‘I have a plan’.

I like a challenge and an objective. Since the beginning of November I’ve shelved trips abroad because of painful musculature around my left hip – brought on by excessive stress on the Cornish coastal path and in La Palma mountains last year.  My physio appointment today was positive and I’m armed with exercises to re-balance my muscles. So fingers crossed.

The Lancaster Canal is a good project in the circumstances. Flat walking and easily accessed from public transport. Walking on the flat seems to be no problem so over the next couple of weeks I hope to explore this canal system in easy sections..  I’ve never walked the full length so why not complete now.

The Lancaster Canal was a project from the 18th century to connect Kendal and Lancaster to Preston and ambitiously to the rest of England’s canal system. At the time Preston was a major port and the link north would provide coal and supplies to booming industries and limestone in the opposite direction, hence its nickname The Black and White. By 1797 a lock-less 42 mile section of canal was constructed from Preston to Tewitfield. John Rennie was the engineer.  The extension to Kendal was completed in 1810 and a spur to Glasson Dock added in 1826. Passenger traffic on this section was much quicker than stage coach.  The southern link was complicated by the River Ribble, a tram way was built across it to gain access to the  Leeds – Liverpool system and thus an aqueduct was never built. As trade declined the last cargo was transported in 1947. The canal at its southern end now terminates in Ashton basin with a section lost in Preston’s housing. At the northern end the canal terminates effectively at Tewitfield locks as the M6 has disrupted further progress, a short sighted but economical decision. The line of the canal can be followed northwards to Kendal.  This whole isolated canal was finally connected to the rest of the English canal network in 2002 by the opening of the Ribble Link.