Category Archives: Lancaster Canal

ON THE CUSP OF AUTUMN, MORECAMBE BAY AGAIN.

P1090432

We are on the cusp, one day distinctly chilly the next balmy sunshine. I’m confused,  already having titled posts the ‘End of Summer’ and ‘Autumn Calling’. But Summer is putting up a good fight with Autumn this year. Today was certainly on the side of Summer.

The bike is in the back of the car so why not go up to the Lune Valley, yet again you may say, but I do discover a few more gems.

Halton old station. Alas, the tea van is no longer here, probably finished for the season, hopefully she will return next year with that life giving coffee. The slipway is busy with university oarsmen and women out on the river for morning training. The old Station is now the center for the boat crews from the University. P1090410

I pedal a short distance to the magnificent Lune Aqueduct carrying the Lancaster Canal over the river. A steep ramp takes me up to it, and immediately I’m in a different environment. Interpretation boards detail the history of the aqueduct. Find it on Google. There is a metal plaque commemorating the building of the aqueduct, designed in collaboration between Central Lancaster High School and the artist, Rachel Midgley which I hadn’t spotted before.  All the hustle and bustle below has disappeared, and I’m off along the towpath into quiet Lancashire countryside.   A few miles of riding to where I know there is a link to the Coastal Bay Way.P1090442

P1090411P1090412

P1090419P1090418

I’ve not done this ride in this direction before despite scores in the opposite way. It all looks different, and it gives me different perspectives of the canal and then of the Bay. I should have looked behind me on previous trips. The views across the bay to the Midland Hotel and pier and the distant Lakeland Hills are always quality.P1090422

Bracing is the term for Morecambe promenade today. There are white horses in the bay. But the sun is shining and the wind, though fresh, not a great hindrance to cycling. Hardy souls, mostly elderly and well wrapped, are out with their dogs.

I take a trip down the old stone jetty with its Cormorant motifs, but decide against a coffee there as the café is in the shade. Fortuitously I have come at the right tide as the Tidal Bell is tolling its mournful note. I have not heard this before. See here for more information. P1090438P1090435

Past the Midland yet again without visiting! Heading inland I venture into the wonders of the covered Festival Market and amidst the varied stalls, full of cost of living bargains, I find a bakery – time for my favourite – a cheese and onion slice. This one was top class, hence I will give them a plug.P1090439

I pedalled back to Lancaster, not in the panic mode of last time when I feared I had lost my phone and money. Over the Millennium Bridge and back to Halton. A lone canoeist is braving his way through the centre of town.

P1090440To lengthen the ride and enjoy the weather I continued to the Crook of Lune where the river does a U turn spanned by the two bridges of the old railway. Here is the lovely view up the Lune towards Hornby Castle and Ingleborough, immortalised by Turner who painted the scene from higher up. 

P1090451

I’m home early in time for a bit of bouldering up at Craig Y Longridge whilst the sun was keeping the rock warm. An invigorating day amongst those of lassitude and hospital appointments.

Lastly here is one more statue installation on the Bay that took my eye, I’ve not noticed before, and I can’t find anything about it.P1090429

PEACEFUL EASY LANCASHIRE.

I’ve got this peaceful easy feeling.

It is that sort of day; no wind, sun shining, rural Lancashire, the bike cruising effortlessly, no traffic, virtually no sounds. What more could you want. I’m on a linear canal ride where time has stood still, almost a parallel universe. The canal takes you along without you realising where you are in relation to familiar roads and settlements. I could be in Rotterdam or anywhere  – sorry that is a link to a recent post. But I meet people, interesting people in this parallel universe.

At the start I chat to an elderly cyclist who is setting off on his electric bike admitting it is heavy, and you can’t pedal it if the battery dies on you. He suggests that if you are over eighty then this is for you – well I have a few years of proper pedalling ahead of me. He speeds off and I never catch up.

There was the lady by the swans, they are here every year she says, using the canal towpath as a route to and from her shops. How lucky she is and I think she knew. There were seven cygnets, all strengthening their wings ready for a first flight, enchanting.

I pass, incognito, through Lancaster City at times elevated above the streets and housing. I have a picture in my mind of what would happen if the banks broke. That must be linked to my childhood stories of the little Dutch guy with his thumb in the leaking dam. Lots of the converted canal warehouses are now student accommodations, how lucky are they. There are some iconic canal features along here where the horses could cross from one side of the towpath to the other side without unhitching. I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Now in the countryside I chat to a houseboat owner, probably a former dropout but now elevated in my esteem to an interesting canal dweller. He may have the advantage over the rest of us in our current cost of living crisis. How the worm turns. Drifter.

A dog walker talks of his previous life as a travelling rep. No more motorway hold-ups for him.

The towpath takes me through shady cuttings and open fields. I don’t look at my phone to see where I am, preferring to let things happen. I can’t get lost. A southerner recently moved to these parts is interested in my route, but I have the feeling he won’t be tackling anything more than a gentle walk to the pub. How judgemental is that?

It seems to take an age on rather overgrown and awkward paths, I’m not as agile on the bike as before, talking decades here, and I’m very wary of skidding off the path head first into the canal. I walk some of the way. Picking ripe sweet blackberries was a joy. I was in no rush.

Eventually I reach the junction with the Glasson canal built to link the port of Glasson with Lancaster. And then the railway came. More of that later.

I’m still in that peaceful easy feeling as I continue without meeting a soul through fields towards the coast. It was along here that I witnessed a heron trying to swallow a wriggly eel earlier this year.

Glasson is as busy as ever with motorcyclists and tourists of a certain age, so I head across the bridge to the little shop where I’m in time for one of their freshly baked cheese and onion slices. Sat in the sunshine with a coffee – perfect. It must be high tide as the lock gates to the ocean are open.

I’ve taken a long time to cycle 12 miles to Glasson, what with all the stops and awkward sections, but now it is head down on the old railway, which superceded the canal I’ve just been following. Back into Lancaster and on to Halton Station. That has set me up for autumn and thoughts of trans Pennine trails.

I switch the radio on when I’m in my car, but this time there is no déjà vu link to the Eagles from way back then. Here it is nonetheless.  I may have played this before in other contexts, but it is a favourite of mine and perfectly reflected this sunny day’s ride. California dreaming.

I highly recommend this 20 mile off-road circuit, after a short ascent to reach the Lancaster Canal on the period Aqueduct it is flat all the way even if a little rough towards Galgate. The section to Glasson is totally rural and as peaceful as you could wish.

CaptureGlasson.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

20220908_121708

                                                                          A misty Morecambe Bay.

I know this man walking along the prom, even from the back, it is Peter out with his Thursday walkers. The bad weather has driven them out of the Lakes for a more gentle low level coastal walk from Morecambe to Hest Bank. He is as surprised to see me as I of him. I cycle alongside chatting until we catch up with his mates. He suggests I call and see his wife and him before they go off to Rotterdam next week. The song Rotterdam immediately comes into my head, it is still there. My attempt to sing it is derided, but one of his friends remembers it – The Beautiful South from the 90’s. I ride on to ‘Rotterdam or anywhere’  leaving them to their casual strolling. 

I’m on a mission. You may remember my last cycle outing was aborted and ended up with a rapid return to find my phone with credit card lying on the roof of my car, absent-mindedly left there earlier in the day. Today I’m hoping to reach Over Kellet and visit friends. 

The girl in the tea van wishes me well and gently reminds me to look after my possessions. It is raining and at the back of my mind is the thought of thunderstorms later in the day which wouldn’t be fun on a bike – I can always abort once more. The thin cycling waterproof (more of a windproof) won’t keep the rain out for long, and I’m already damp as I arrive onto the prom at Morecambe. Where is that famous view across the bay?  Hidden in the mist. So head down I cycle on, pausing for the brief encounter mentioned above, and onto the Lancaster Canal at Hest Bank. This was the point of decision, cycle back to Lancaster if the weather was still dubious or head north to Carnforth and the Kellets. I thought I detected some brightness so north it was. This is a grand stretch of canal high above the coastal strip. It was farther to Carnforth than I remembered. The last time I waked along here incidentally was with aforementioned Peter and JD, 2018.

Eventually I leave the canal onto roads and cycle steadily uphill into Over Kellet. I reach my friends’ house just as the next downpour starts – of course they are not in, so I take shelter under their garden umbrella. That is where they find me when they return from the shops and take pity on me with cups of tea and cake, and a good drying round their Aga. I’ve shared many exciting climbing escapades with John in the past until injuries prevented him climbing – but not before he had led the difficult Kipling Groove on Gimmer on his 65th birthday, he only seconded it on his 70th. Two hours later I set forth on delightful undulating lanes in the Limestone country surrounding the Kellets. At one point the road is blocked to cars by a large hedge cutting tractor. I can get by but then spend an anxious time hoping I don’t puncture on all the hawthorn cuttings. Fortunately I escape that fate and drop into Halton to cross the narrow recycled Greyhound Bridge, Penny Bridge to the south bank of the Lune. As is becoming usual mine is the last car in the car park at Halton station. 

The day is not over. When I start the engine and switch on the radio the song that is playing is unbelievably Rotterdam. Yes the one I’d tried to sing to Peter earlier in the day. What is the chance of that one song coming up as soon as I listen in? I sit there transfixed with the tune, the lyrics are more pithy than I remember.

The Beautiful South – Rotterdam (Or Anywhere) (LYRICS) – YouTube  Skip the dreaded adverts.

Still astonished by the coincidence I take to the motorway but feel I have to divert to visit Peter and his wife to tell them of the spooky Rotterdam connection and wish them a good holiday there. More cups of tea and cake follow. They are very generous with their abundant garden vegetables and I come away with a bunch of fresh produce and more importantly home laid Quail eggs for my breakfast the next day. A ratio of four quails (all yoke) to one hen gives a good scrambled mixture.20220909_111152

Not bad for a day of only 20 miles cycled. I enclose a map to show the delightful lanes around the Kellets. The elevation profile is interesting, a day of two halves.

Capture Moreambe

CaptureKellletts.

PROMENADING.

20220821_123316I’ve cycled this route several times in the last few years but there seemed to be a lot more happening today.

After all the talk of electric bikes on my last post the first person I met today was trying out an electric folding Brompton Bike, one of those iconic designs with small wheels.£3000+ worth. I don’t think small wheels would cope with some of the terrain I cover, more of an urban machine, but I complimented him on his purchase. I’m still undecided.

Capture

This was all whilst enjoying a good coffee from the friendly mobile kiosk at Halton Station on the old Morecambe to Wennington line. I’ve just come across this bit of history – The original timber station was destroyed by fire on 3 April 1907. A spark from the engine of a passing Heysham–St Pancras boat train set fire to a wagon of oil drums by the goods shed. The fire brigade were unable to cross the narrow bridge, and it was left to a special trainload of railway workers from Lancaster to pass buckets of water from the river. The station was rebuilt in brick and timber and the building survives to this day, used as storage by Lancaster University Rowing Club, with a public car park occupying the former track bed.

There was a running event on and hundreds of runners kept appearing from the Caton end and disappearing towards Lancaster. I recognised many of the local athletic club vests as I watched them go by. I unloaded my bike, gave the tyres a quick pump, and set off in pursuit. Turned out there was both a 10-mile and a 20-mile event on. The track became a little congested with runners, cyclists, dog walkers and pram pushers but everyone was in good humour. The 20mile run crossed the Millennium Bridge towards Morecambe, which was my chosen route for today having gone to Glasson Dock last week. At some stage things became more congested as the quicker runners after a turn around were now heading towards me for the finish at a quick pace.

20220821_114449

Passing Halton Station and tea van.

20220821_120931

The Millennium Bridge over the Lune.

20220821_122331

Heading back towards the 20mile finish.

When I arrived at Morecambe sea front the tide was the furthest out I’d seen it, acres of clean sand. The Midland Hotel looked busy with diners, I promised myself a visit to this iconic Art Deco building when I’m passing midweek later in the year. Would it be a full lunch or just the equally full afternoon tea?

Interestingly I mentioned on my recent visit to the Maritime Museum the in-depth history of the area including Morecambe’s ups and downs. The 1920/30’s super lido, which brought in the tourists, closed in 1975 and then demolished, was adjacent to the Midland Hotel roughly on the site of the proposed Eden Project – “what goes around comes around”. My heading photo shows the spot.

I’d never been to the far end of the  ‘stone pier’  so off I pedalled, past the old station and lighthouse, now a cafe, to the very end which as the tide was at its lowest stuck out into the sands. A few fishermen had set up their positions waiting for the tide to return. They, a friendly trio from Middlesborough, hoped to catch ‘gummy sharks’ so named , thank God for those paddling in the bay, because they have no teeth. They showed me photos of previously landed 20lb specimens. I forgot to ask them what they did with any fish they caught, throw back or take home for supper?

20220821_12340320220821_12360620220821_12375620220821_12392320220821_123959

For a sunny holiday Sunday I expected the promenade to be far busier than it was. To be fair there were long queues at the fish and chip cafes, and it was busy as ever around Eric’s statue. Otherwise, my cycle up the prom to Happy Mount Park and beyond was a delight with those far-reaching views across the bay to the Lakeland hills. I stopped briefly on the canal for a snack and soon found myself crossing the atmospheric aqueduct high above the River Lune, and then back to my car.

20220821_125405

Promenading.

20220821_133752

The Lune Aqueduct.

The day was not yet over. A quick phone call confirmed Sir Hugh was at home and willing to receive visitors. Back onto the motorway via that tricky junction 34 up to Milnthorpe and Arnside. On my arrival my friend was up a non too secure ladder trimming his high hedge, he didn’t need a lot of persuading to come down and serve a grand cup of tea. We caught up on our recent none adventures, we have both simultaneously come to a virtual halt.

20220821_142908

The reluctant gardener.

But the highlight of the day was to come. Over the last few years he has taken to plastic modelling; planes, boats and cars but as yet no trains. I have gently cast sarcastic doubts over this clandestine activity. But on a recent comment to his blog I mentioned my almost ‘classic’ car and true to form he presented me with a scale model of my Mazda MX5, spayed in the identical blue. That’s what friends are for. Thanks very much.20220821_143635

LANCASTER MARITIME MUSEUM BY DEFAULT.

20220817_160012

My bike has lain in the back of my estate car since early June when the day after a ride in Morecambe Covid eventually caught up with me, but that’s another story. Today was my first ride since then. I was pleased with my progress to Glasson Dock along the Lancaster Cycleway on the old railway track. A cheese and onion slice at the wonderful village shop went down a treat. Forget the touristy snack bar on the marina. I watched the children ( and their Dads) catching crabs from the dockside. All I had to do was cycle back the 10 miles to Halton.

20220817_134925

Lunch at the village shop.

20220817_140230

Quayside fishing,

 

20220817_140415

Crabs galore.

 

20220817_140840

The motor cyclists hang out.

20220817_141123

Down a side street – do you remember these?

The only excitement along the way was a lady cyclist who came past me remarkably quickly. Of course, she was on an electric bike and disappeared into the distance. That set me thinking. 

  1. Would it be worth buying one, how long does the battery last, how heavy are they? For me, one would only be useful for that extra push up the hills that I find increasingly difficult.
  2. How legal are they on cycleways shared by pedestrians? One would not be allowed a motorcycle on a cycle/pedestrian route. Apparently in cities they are becoming the transport of choice for muggers snatching valuables – silent assassins.

I pedalled sedately along into Lancaster. How many times have I been past the Maritime Museum and never visited it? I was in no rush so decided there and then to rectify that omission. They kindly allowed me to take my bike inside as I didn’t have a lock. £2 admission fee seemed very reasonable, if I had carried my Art Fund Card with me, it would have been cheaper.

One and a half hours later I emerged from the museum well satisfied. It is based in the original Lancaster Docks C18th Custom House and an enjoining warehouse overlooking the Lune on St. George’s Quay. (header photo)

Before Lancaster Port and Glasson Dock were established Sunderland Point was the main port on the Lune.

20220817_152134

The harbour front Sunderland Point.

 

20220817_152459

Unloading cargo at Sunderland Point, c1890

There were extensive and informative displays on the history of the port of Lancaster, focused on the transatlantic trade which made the city prosperous. This obviously involved the slave trade picking up Africans cheaply and transporting them inhumanly to the West Indies for profit and then the goods that then came back to Britain – sugar, rum, cotton, timber, tobacco. Ship building became a significant industry in the area and a furniture making firm Gillow’s established itself in the C18th. Felt hats were manufactured in Lancaster which I didn’t know. All these facets of life in Lancaster were thoroughly explained with a great selection of artefacts and photographs.

20220817_151222

The price of a slave.

 

20220817_154509

Cotton and rum in the warehouse.

There was detailed information on the history of the local fishing industries. Salmon from the Lune, Shrimps, cockles and mussels from Morecambe Bay.

20220817_150859

Cockling, Morecambe Bay.

 

20220817_150235

Salmon fishing in the Lune with haaf nets.

20220817_152224

20220817_150354

A fisherman’s cottage.

 

The perilous sands of Morecambe Bay were explored with mentions of the ancient crossing routes, still possible today with a local guide. The many deaths though were highlighted.

20220817_154309

From a gravestone in Ulverston.

Morecambe had its own history from a minor fishing port, to a passenger port for the Isle of Man and Ireland, a bustling early and mid C20th holiday resort (Bradford by the Sea) and the development of the port of Heysham not forgetting its nuclear power stations. All presented with excellent interpretation and original artefacts.20220817_151740

20220817_151851

The ‘super’ lido.

Aqua-Loonies

20220817_154927

Painting by Norman Wilkinson.

The coming of the canals and the railways was well documented. Included were the original plans for an Aqueduct over the Ribble at Preston to connect to the Leeds Liverpool Canal, this never was materialised, and instead the tram bridge was constructed. The latter is currently closed due to safety issues and one wonders whether there is the will or the finance to repair this historic structure. I was impressed with the ‘express’ passenger canal barge preserved in an upper room, these, with regularly changed horses, reduced the time of travel on the Lancaster Canal when coach travel on rutted roads was slow and uncomfortable.

20220817_154405

Inside an express canal barge.

A lot of the exhibits were to attract children with interactive features, but this didn’t distract from the amount of serious, learned and well presented history throughout.

In a room in the warehouse section I watched a video detailing the history of Lancaster since Roman times. Well worth the time. By then the café had closed, and they were ready to throw me out at 4pm closing time. Highly recommended, and you need a couple of hours in there to appreciate all the exhibits.20220817_153242

I was the last car at the Halton Station.

BACK IN THE SADDLE – Morecambe bay and beyond, continued.

Crawling out from under my rock I wonder where a week has gone. It went in a haze of Covid fever, headache, cough and abdominal pains which laid me lower than expected. I could hardly read others posts never mind complete my own. I’m not at my best.

***

June 14th. 2022.

Where was I?

Ah, yes. Parking up at Halton Station in preparation for a cycle ride around Morecambe Bay. Post coffee I’m off, so good to be out again feeling free as a bird. Into Lancaster, over the Millennium Bridge and out to Morecambe. I take a bit of detour past the football ground to arrive at the coast in the West End near the site of a former pier. The view out over the bay is clear, but everything seems at a great distance. I soon pass the Midland Hotel, one day I will call in for tea, and continue up the promenade without stopping at the various attractions.

West End Sculpture.

I’ve been this way so many times before, I even know the way from the end of the prom to reach the Lancaster Canal. Normally I turn south here but today to vary my route I head north alongside the canal. This is a delightful stretch with the canal elevated above the surrounding countryside. Below are Hest Bank and Bolton-le-Sands, and father out are the treacherous sands of the 2004 cockling disaster when 21 illegal Chinese immigrants lost their lives. We still don’t know how to manage the flow of immigrants into our country.

I have to be careful to leave the towpath at the correct spot, not signed, to pick up the 700 cycle route which could eventually take me, if I wished, all the way around Morecambe Bay to Ulverston and Walney Island, Barrow. Today I only went as far as the River Keer and its eponymous bridge. Whenever I’m here I can’t help thinking of The Bridge on the River Kwai and start whistling Colonel Bogey. Obviously the name of the bridge and its wooden structure set my mind into action. So much so that I paused my writing here a couple of hours ago to watch the 1957 film starring William Holden, Alec Guinness and Jack Hawkins on Vimeo. I had forgotten how good it was, building up the tension and reflecting on the British character and psychology in times of war. Directed by David Lean, arguably his best film was a few years later – Lawrence of Arabia. We will shortly come across his name once more. It is worth your time to watch again and revaluate    https://ok.ru/video/2090020047523

The Bridge on the River Keer.

***

Where was I?

Ah, yes. Coming alongside the diminutive River Keer into the railway town of Carnforth. The railway station is on the main west coast line with branches to the Cumbrian Coast and inland to Skipton, a busy junction. Most of the main line expresses cruise through at speeds unimaginable at the time of the fictional ‘Milford Junction’ just pre-WWII. It was here that David Lean directed much of the romance of Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter. Carnforth has capitalised on the ongoing success of the film and a Heritage Centre has been created on the platform – all things railway and cinema. Here I go again – diverted to watching a tormented Celia Johnson and a rather wooden Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter on the computer. I’m now an emotional mess, must have been  the Rachmaninoff. I’ll never finish this post.

***

Where was I?

Ah, yes. Enjoying a cup of tea at the famous waiting room. I had time to drift back in time as the pot of tea took an age to arrive. On my way again I now followed the 90 (Lancashire Cycleway) up to sleepy Nether Kellet now high in this range of unnamed low hills.  Views back to the Bay with the Lakeland Hills behind and ahead over Lancaster and the Bowland Hills. Whizzing down I missed my turn and ended up alongside a military training centre above the Lune. All barbed wire, locked gates and grey paint. Halton village had some old properties previously related to a now demolished Halton Hall, worth a more detailed visit. Back over the Lune I was the last car in the car park and drove home tired but contented not knowing what was ahead.

More variations and suggestions on cycling Morecambe Bay, very satisfying.

***

***

Further to some comments below on this post, here are a couple of phone photos taken by my son on the canal in Stretford. Bee Orchids.

***

BACK IN THE SADDLE – Morecambe Bay and beyond?

June 14th. 2022.

A couple of weeks go by with more minor injuries preventing walking far – so time to get back on the bike. The problem was where should I go – my easy routes are becoming repetitive. After a few days bouldering up at Craig Y Longridge I feel rather stiff and lethargic this morning. Before you ask, although walking is painful I am able to do low level bouldering as long as I don’t jump off or more likely fall off. Anyhow, I have survived and need a longer day’s exercise, the wind has dropped so out comes the cycle, or rather in goes the cycle, into the cavernous boot of my estate car. No need to dismantle anything which could later cause me problems of a mechanical nature. Every cycle ride I do my heart is in my mouth expecting some failure which my limited mechanical abilities could not solve, leading to a long walk. I’m surprised there isn’t a breakdown service available to cyclists.

I’ve spotted, on the cycling map, a Route 90 that will give me a circular ride after I’ve progressed up Morecambe Bay to Carnforth. As I said, feeling lethargic I didn’t get going until lunchtime but once more I’m in the parking at old Halton station. I grab a coffee from the convenient snack van ready for the off along the familiar lines through Lancaster to Morecambe…

***

I’ve not felt well for a couple of days, head cold, sore throat, chesty cough, dizziness,bowel and bladder irritation and as I commence to write up yesterday’s completed excursion here this morning I feel distinctly worse. Time for a Covid test.

I’m going to bed so will catch up with you later.

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Cockerham Coast and Canal.

The day was gloomy and so was I – perhaps I overdid the whisky last night. I was still mooching around the house late morning. But I keep trying to push my walking that bit farther. As you know I’m slowly working my way through Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone guide to Walking in Lancashire. In this I’m mirrored by Phreerunning Martin who always gets an interestingly different take from me, the pleasures of blogging. I needed something not too long and preferably as flat as possible. Walk 15 seemed perfect. I know the Glasson Dock area well and have done several variations of this walk before, probably most recently on my Lancashire Monastic Way. But looking at Mark’s  route I spotted some paths I had never walked. I might struggle to say something original about this walk.

I was a little embarrassed to leave my car in The Stork’s private car park, but the other space was taken by Travellers and their caravans. The channels of the Condor don’t look at their best during low tide. Following the old railway I came into Glasson, busy with people visiting an outdoor market. I couldn’t go past the little shop without buying a coffee, this time to drink as I climbed the minor hill to the viewpoint. The views were disappointing but the coffee good, sorry about the environment polluting cup.

I worked my way around the coast. The tide was out, so Plover lighthouse was accessible, it was previously maintained from the shore before becoming automatic. The incumbent keeper was based at Lighthouse Cottage where there was another light atop a wooden scaffold to line up ships coming into the tricky Lune channel. Across the channel I could see Sunderland Point at one time the major port on the Lune.

A sign talks of plovers nesting on the shoreline, but I wonder about this as the tide comes in fully most days.

Lots of walkers were converging on Cockersand Abbey, of which the only remaining building is the octagonal Chapter House. This has survived because it was used as a mausoleum by the Daltons of Thurnham Hall (see later) during the 18th and 19th centuries. The red sandstone rocks on the shore  line  show where the building blocks of the Abbey originated.

Continuing around the coast on the sea embankment passing several caravan parks which looked very vulnerable to high tides. It will be interesting to view this area in the coming decades as sea levels rise.  Those are the Bowland Hills behind.

Tree of the day.

Small planes kept taking off from somewhere on Cockerham sands, disappearing into the dark clouds only for tiny parachutes to fall from the skies. They were from the Black Knights centre. Was the sign for parachutists that had gone astray on their descent?

I left the coast and followed bridleways through drained lands up to Thursland Hall where one is corralled into narrow ways to bypass their fishery. Change of scenery.

A kilometre of tedious walking brought me to Thurnham Hall, a C17th country house converted into a spa hotel. It looked very smart and there were plenty of people staying in the attached residential block. Walking through I reflected that my life seems very simple compared to others. Escaping by a gate into a field I was wary of proceeding through the large herd of frisky bullocks, so I resorted to an outflanking manoeuvre bringing me back to an ancient green lane. A bridge gave access to the Glasson branch canal.

Herons are a common sight on waterways, staring motionless into the water. I have never seen one catch a fish, but today I was lucky this heron had just caught an eel and was having difficulty trying to swallow it whole. The highlight of the day.

*****

LANCASTER, CANALS AND COAST.

I used the abandoned railways of Lancaster for several cycle rides last year, and today I wanted to include the Lancaster Canal in a more varied circuit. Down the Lancaster Canal towpath, along the Glasson Link, take the old railway along the Lune Estuary, old railway to Morecambe, sea front to Hest Bank and complete back on the Lancaster Canal to the aqueduct over the Lune. Almost a figure of eight. Perhaps the map will explain what I intended.

I park up, as usual, at old Halton station. The area is busy with university oarpersons. I have to ride a couple of miles to join the canal at the Lune Aqueduct. I notice for the first time some exclusive looking riverside houses on the far bank, foliage normally obstructs the view. The air is still, allowing various strong aromas to float across from the adjacent industrial units; a hoppy smell, acetone and rubber. These are the only clues as to what transpires behind closed doors. I wonder what finds its way into the river.

You may remember me writing last October about ‘a good Samaritan’ who came to my aid, or more correctly my bike’s. Well, there he is again, I don’t need assistance today but stop for a chat, like old friends, and a photo.

I don’t stop for many other photos after that, as I have documented the area well on other walks.1  2  3  4

There is a ramp leading up to the elevated canal right next to the Aqueduct. A well surfaced towpath leads me quickly through the centre of the city, passing the cathedral and warehouses on the way. I use a couple of crossover bridges which used to take the barge horses over without the need for uncoupling.

Soon I’m out into the countryside and the first people I meet are from my home village, walking the canal in stages, From here on I’m struggling. The towpath is very muddy and narrow. My tyres don’t grip and I slip and slide about, feeling in danger of a headlong dive into the canal. I walk the worst stretches.

Turning off onto the side canal to Glasson brings the same problems with the mud. There are six flights of locks on this stretch. I’m relieved and weary, arriving at Glasson Dock. I head straight over the bridge to my favourite café shop for a welcome rest, coffee and homemade pie, late breakfast/early lunch. I haven’t come far, but my average speed is well below 10mph.

Refreshed, I join the rail track alongside the estuary, the tide is out, for a much quicker ride back into the city. I pass right in front of the old warehouses, Harbour Master’s office and waterfront pubs of the renovated St. George’s Quay I need to explore this area of Lancaster more, the celebrated Maritime Museum is housed here. Ahead is the Millennium Bridge, which takes me across the Lune and onto the familiar rail track to Morecambe. St. George’s Quay is better viewed from this side.

Spot the shopping trolley.

The front at Morecambe is quiet, I have a quick ride down the stone pier before following the Bay around to Hest Bank. Side-streets take me back onto the Lancaster Canal and a much better towpath all the way to the balustraded Lune Aqueduct.

I’m pleased overall with this 28 mile circuit, level all the way with plenty of interest and of course those incomparable views across the bay. The second half of the ride has thankfully been far easier than those muddy canal paths to Glasson, for which I need to find an alternative before next time.

A RURAL RIDE TO FIND A WITCH.

It was cold on the hands today.

Somewhere I have a book detailing interesting graves in Lancashire, Who Lies Beneath?  I can’t find it at the moment. But I remember visiting Woodplumpton a couple of years ago when I was taking my late friend with advanced Alzheimer Disease for a ride out and a lunch in the splendid Wheatsheaf Inn. After lunch of fish and chips, her favourite, we crossed the road to have a look at St. Anne’s Church. I always wanted to return to search for a curiosity in the graveyard. On a ride some weeks ago, the road to Woodplumpton was closed due to the substantial work on Preston’s Western Relief road. I intended to make amends today and cycle in from a different direction.

I’d come through Inglewhite, Bilsborrow and Cuddy Hill.  After the motorway and A6 it is all fairly flat with a maze of lanes, many seemingly going nowhere. A sort of no man’s land between the motorway and the Fylde. I crossed the Lancaster Canal a couple of times and passed the Plough At Eaves, a pub we used to visit when working in Preston, but that was years ago. The pub is one of the oldest in Lancashire, dating back to 1625. In former times it was variously known as the Plough at Cuddy Hill, the Cuddy Pub and more unusually the Cheadle Plough Inn. It has recently been refurbished, so I wonder what they have done to the cosy inside.

Once in the straggling village of Woodplumpton, I ignored The Wheatsheaf and headed straight to the Medieval church on the other side of the road. Outside the church’s Lychgate were the ancient stocks and mounting block. I found the squat sandstone church open, it was a Sunday, and was impressed with the stained-glass. Those well known Lancaster architects Austin and Paley were responsible for renovations at the beginning of the C20th.

But my main search was outside in the churchyard for the burial place of an alleged witch, a local 17th-century woman named Meg Shelton, also known as the Singleton Witch or the Fylde Hag.

According to legend, she was feared by the local community and tales grew up of her changing shape and form to steal food and create mischief. She died in 1705, crushed between a barrel and a wall. Apparently it was thought that she miraculously escaped from two graves and was then buried head first in a narrow slot, a boulder placed on top of her to prevent further escape. The disturbance of the first two graves could have been caused by vandalism towards her.

I soon found the boulder in the rows of conventional headstones. It was about a metre across and looked a hefty barrier even for a witch. A little brass plaque identified it and there were remains of some flowers placed alongside. I found it strange that she had been buried in consecrated ground, though there was a rumour that she was a mistress to the local lord, who might have arranged her burial.

She died a century after the infamous Pendle Witches, but her kind were still feared by the community. Did she practice the dark arts, using herbal remedies and so-called spells?  Thus earning herself a reputation and being blamed for calamities in the general run of life by the more suspicious locals. Had she been mentally ill, frightening others and becoming marginalised? Or was she just the area’s criminal?  It would be hoped that people’s illnesses or differences would not be victimised in the same manner four centuries later. Perhaps that bunch of flowers shows some understanding.

Whatever the truth in Woodplumpton, there was certainly a bewitching sunset back in Longridge.

A QUICK TRIP AROUND THE GUILD WHEEL.

Storm Arwen had passed through, but there was frost on the ground as I set off for a ride around Preston’s Guild Wheel this sunny morning. I wasn’t expecting to stop very often, but I did capture a few pictures.

In Red Scar Woods above Brockholes Nature Reserve, there was still plenty of Autumn colour.

The River Ribble was lower than I had seen it recently, with plenty of muddy banks on show.

The bridge taking the new Western Distributor road over the Ribble Link Canal is progressing fast.

At last, the Whistlestop Café, next to the canal on the University’s sports grounds, was open again, the first time for months when I’ve been passing. So I had to give them some custom and enjoy a quick morning coffee. That was about it really, I was home for an early lunch just as it started snowing.

OUT WEST – QUIET LANES TO KIRKHAM

I had noticed a sign off the Guild Wheel pointing to Kirkham, so today I set off to investigate. Everything is new around here. Holly Close, Bartle Meadows, Deer View, Waterside. etc. etc. I’m always intrigued by the names the developers come up with to try and create a feel for rural living while at the same time destroying the countryside alluded to.

I decided to park in Broughton to create a circular route using parts of cycle ways 62 and 90 out to Kirkham and back. Setting off on the familiar Guild Wheel I was confident of not getting lost in the maze of Cottam. A fisherman was sitting by the little pool somewhere in the complex, he was chatty and content to be out in the lovely sunny Autumn weather. As I pedalled off I pondered on the thought of retiring from vigorous exercise and taking up the rod. I soon came to the sign pointing to Kirkham. It didn’t lead me down a leafy track but along a new avenue, Cottam Way.

Along the way were a series of ‘sculptures’ which didn’t have any obvious relevance to their surroundings and for which I can find no information. There were two stone cairns, some stone heads and brick arches either side of the road. Anyone any ideas? There was also a cross which was inscribed with the relevant information.

The parish council has this to say about it…

Thomas Harrison Myres (1842-1926) was an English railway architect who designed stations and ancillary buildings, he and his wife had various residences including one at Cottam. Thomas was greatly interested in the restoration of road side crosses and succeeded in restoring sixteen throughout Lancashire. After his death, a fitting monument was erected to him and his wife Catherine at nearby Lea bearing the inscription.

“To the glory of God and in the memory of the pioneer of the restoration of roadside crosses, Thomas Harrison Myres of Lea Lodge and Catherine Mary his wife. The base of this cross originally stood 20yds from this spot and was removed here and dedicated July 28th 1929”.

The parish council also notes…

“ a sad event of 25th March 1952 when a test flight of a Canberra Mark2 was being made between Salmesbury and Warton by 29 year old Thomas Evans a very experienced and highly rated pilot. The aircraft was observed flying fast and low over north Preston when it suddenly went into a steep dive and hit the ground in what was at that time open farmland. The pilot was tragically killed, but no other casualties resulted”.

At the end of Cottam Way I had my first brush with the developments for Preston’s Western Distributor road which is being built to provide a link from the M55 to all the new housing on this side of Preston.

Cycles were allowed down Sidgreaves Lane. The Quaker Bridge carries the lane over the Lancaster Canal, for which the engineer John Rennie was responsible for in the 1790s. As was so often the railway followed close to the canals and the next larger bridge took me over the rails to Blackpool. The new road crosses here, I took the underpass and escaped into Lea a rather nondescript place.

Under the new road.

I cycled alongside the Springfields site still producing nuclear fuels. On the corner was an C18th windmill {now a pub} — a different source of power.

Another windmill was passed on the way into Kirkham, this one converted to living accommodation. Windmills were very common at one time in the windy Fylde. Kirkham has a long history from Roman times and developed as a weaving town from the 1600s using flax and then cotton. Today it is a bustling shopping venue with lots of independent businesses. Lowry painted Church Street on more than one occasion. I found the Queen Victoria’s Jubilee lamp and the fish slabs in the cobbled marketplace.

I wasn’t convinced as to the authenticity of the police phone box. St Michael’s Church looked resplendent in the Autumn sunshine, There was a hidden cycleway out of town, passing a simple art installation reflecting the town’s market status and the flax weaving trade. Back onto the open roads, I made good time through Treales and onto Bartle Hall where my route to Woodplumpton was closed completely by the Western Distributor works. I ended up back in Cottam on the Guild Wheel to Broughton.

Is this the last green space in the area, I hope it has protected status?

*****

SOIXANTE NEUF.

    I thought I’d give this post a sexy title to boost readership. Not that I look at all sexy in my fading Lycra cycling shorts. There should be an age limit for appearing in public wearing Lycra, and whatever it is I am long past it.

  I’ve driven up the motorway, coming off at Junction 36 and found the narrow lane leading down to a car park at the redundant Halton station. This is on the old Morecambe to  Wennington line which closed under The Beeching Act in 1966.  Route 69 of the National Cycle Network connects Hest Bank on Morecambe Bay with Cleethorpes on the East coast and uses this section of line from Morecambe to Caton.  Off I pedal westwards on the 69 into Lancaster. The River Lune is mainly hidden and I don’t recognise much until the Millennium Bridge where the 69 crosses the river. I’m heading to Glasson Dock, so I stay on the south side of the water. There seem to be a multitude of cycle paths in Lancaster and just following my nose I end up under the castle with the priory church looking down on me. A few streets later and I find my way back to the river which is not looking its best, the tide is out exposing lots of mud. I’ll locate the correct way next time.

Halton station.


Soixante neuf.


Under the M6.

The canal aqueduct.


The new Greyhound and Millennium Bridges.


Priory church — getting lost.


Lost.

   Eventually I’m safely on the old railway track heading to Glasson. Lots of cyclists are using this route, I keep leapfrogging various parties as we go at different speeds, and I’m frequently stopping to take pictures of the Lune estuary. I have walked this stretch in the past when I was connecting a Lancaster Monastic Way. It is interesting to contrast walking a route and cycling it. One misses the little details as you ride by and although everyone says hello there is no chance to chat, that is until you reach a café and then can delve into gears and stems. As I don’t know one stem from another, I avoid the busy cyclists’ rendezvous at Glasson and cross over to the little shop which has freshly baked pies and good coffee. Here I can talk to the mature couples who have motored here for a good old-fashioned afternoon out. And of course there are the fishermen with their ready tales of yesterday’s catch.

Glasson across the marshes.

Up the creek?


Lost forever.


Smell that coffee.


Pike?

   A lot of the cyclists head back the way they came, but I’m in for exploring different options that I’ve spotted on the map. So off I go along the rough narrow track, you couldn’t call it a towpath, alongside the Glasson Branch Canal to meet up with the Lancaster Canal. Ahead are the Bowland Hills, looking splendid in today’s sunshine. An easy option would be to follow the canal back to Lancaster, but I’ve walked that stretch many times.

The Glasson Branch

Endless games of fetch the stick.


Junction with the Lancaster Canal.

  So again I go my own way again, threading through Galgate and onto lanes crossing the motorway and leading into the hills. There is only one bit I have to walk up, and then I’m onto the lovely high level road to the scattered houses of Quernmore. From up here are views across Morecambe Bay to the Lakeland Fells with the Bowland hills rubbing at my right shoulder. I sweep down past the isolated Quernmore  church and on to the entrance to Quernmore Estate at Postern Gate which I recognise from our  ‘trespass’ on the straight line from my house to Sir Hugh’s in Arnside.  I daren’t risk cycling through today so I take the busy road down to Caton and am soon back onto  that rail line  — Route 69.

Lancaster University, Morecambe Bay and Black Coombe.

Grit Fell.


Quernmore Church.

Postern Gate — tempted.


Down to Caton.

  This last section back to Halton is impressive by dint of passing over two viaducts above the Crook Of Lune built in 1849 to carry the railway. This is a popular spot today with tourists, walkers and cyclists. There are stunning views up the Lune towards Hornby Castle and Ingleborough. Turner’s painting of the scene, pre railways, shows  the original Penny Bridge carrying a road. This road bridge was rebuilt in 1889 and stands just below the East Viaduct. A long stretch in trees with little sight of the river has me back at Halton Station.

Eastern viaduct.

The Lune valley eastwards.

Crook of Lune road bridge.


Western viaduct.

Halton Bridge.

I go down to the river near the wrought iron lattice bridge built in 1911 from the remains of the Original Greyhound Bridge in Lancaster. Sitting quietly in the sunshine, contemplating the slow flow of water before hitting the motorway. I didn’t need that sexy title  — this landscape has no need of titillation.

*****

CONNECT FOUR ON THE CANAL.

 

Saturday,  April 24th.      7miles.      Ellel.

I am just beginning to connect up with friends I’ve not seen for months. D and P had arranged a walk with Mike, and they invited me along. I mentioned I’d not visited Ellel Grange estate, close to where I was walking with Sir Hugh last week. I drove round and round looking for our rendezvous spot at Thurnham Church, is it coincidence that Denise’s walks often start at an RC Church?

The church of St Thomas and Elizabeth was consecrated in 1848 and had links with the Dalton family in nearby Thurnham Hall. In the grounds is a mausoleum for the Gillow family, well known local furniture makers, it has elaborate Egyptian columns on one side only. In front of the church is an eroded C19 cross recovered from nearby Cockerham Abbey.

We moved on. The day promised more sunny and warm weather. Along a farm track D and P commented on a new house that wasn’t here a couple of years ago when they last passed.

Fields, thankfully now dry, were crossed towards the Ellel Estate. We detoured up a hill for a view of the Italianate hall with its towers and extensive gardens. It was built in the 1850s for an ex-mayor of Liverpool and has been recently used as a religious retreat, but see below.

Our next objective was a view of Kings Lee Chapel  a Victorian gothic church designed by Joseph Hansom who also designed the impressive St. Walburge in Preston and the Hansom Cab. The church is closed and has been subject to vandalism. If I had been alone I would have been tempted to approach closer up the drive.

Apparently the whole site is for sale with plans for yet another holiday complex. Some estate buildings are already used as holiday lets.    https://www.lancastervision.com/holiday-village-100-bed-hotel-and-vr-experience-plan-for-lancaster-revealed/

We left the estate over their balustraded canal bridge and had a pleasant stroll along the Lancaster Canal.

At the junction with the Glasson canal we took a break outside the lockkeeper’s cottage on a suitable bench. D unexpectedly produced four sandwich buns out of a hat for us.

Onwards though Galgate we eventually left the canal by a path across a field of probably 100 cows. A hill gave us views of the bay and distant Lakeland hills. We took to the road around Condor Green where the old Stork pub is needing renovation.

The little café on the old railway line was doing good business with cyclists and walkers using the route between Glasson and Lancaster. Using the railway track bridge we crossed the creeks looking forlorn at low tide.

From the number of people we had passed we expected Glasson to be very busy, so we cut through to the canal by  Christchurch. There was a little fête on, and I came away with some thick cut marmalade which has turned out to be delicious. We were now on the Glasson branch canal which links to the Lancaster canal by a series of locks. This section seemed to be popular with nesting swans.