Category Archives: Lancaster Canal

A LANCASHIRE MONASTIC WAY. 9. Cockerham to Lancaster.

                                                         Lancashire Coastal Way.

It is strange weather – one day of wind and rain, the next bright sunshine and then more rain. I take my chances on a sunny day. I’ve moved on to the northern part of Lancashire’s Monastic Way by John Convey, will think about a link-up from Sawley at a later date. It is a clear morning with a chilly wind coming off the sea as I walk down the lane to  St. Michaels Church, an Anglican Parish Church in Cockerham. Of course, it is closed when I arrive. The oldest part is the C16 tower. The body of the church was rebuilt by the Lancaster architects Austin and Paley.  who were responsible for much church architecture from the mid 19th century. Cockerham Priory from the C13 was situated hereabouts but there are no remains from when it was dissolved in 1477.

Soon I was on The Lancashire Coastal Way following flood defences surrounded by low tide marshes around the coast to visit Cockersand Abbey. The obvious remains are the C13 Octagonal Chapter House with a few other bits of walls from the Abbey Church. There had been a hospital on the site which was dissolved in 1539. The land was subsequently acquired by the Daltons from Thurnham Hall and the Chapter House used as a mausoleum hence its preservation today. It is a bleak spot for an Abbey.

Out in the Lune estuary is the Plover Scar Lighthouse, also known as the Abbey Lighthouse, an active 19th-century lighthouse now fully automated. The last time I was along here the lighthouse was being repaired following a collision with a commercial vessel. Nearby on the coast is the original lighthouse keepers cottage. The lighthouse can be reached at low tide and in the past, the keeper would have to attend to the paraffin lamps.

After Crook Farm, I followed what had been Marsh Lane which disappeared under flood water at one point. Wet socks resulted.

But soon I was seated outside the friendly Glasson Cafe enjoying a coffee and pasty.

The marina was quiet at this time of year, I joined the Glasson Branch canal, which when it was completed in 1825  joined the Lancaster Canal near Galgate. Then along in 1883 came the railway to link to Lancaster, it was on this disused line I would continue the walk. But first I had a look at Christ Church alongside the canal. This Anglican Parish Church was designed by Edmund Sharpe who became involved with the Lancaster firm of Austin and Paley mentioned above. Originally built in 1840 but added to in the C20. I walked in to find that the west gallery has been converted into an accessible coffee/reading room. The stained glass in the east window was impressive, designed by Joseph Fisher [1979] of the Lancaster firm  Shrigley and Hunt

Returning to the Railway track I crossed the River Condor and headed north, easy walking with views across the Lune estuary. To my right were the grounds of Ashton Hall now a golf course. I could not see the hall which was established in the C14, a tower apparently is from that date. The hall has had many owners but in 1884 was sold to the wealthy lino manufacturer, James Williamson whom when he was knighted took the title Lord Ashton. With reference to today, he arranged to have a halt built on the railway line I’m walking on. After his second wife’s death, he had the Ashton Memorial built in Williamson park, an elevated site seen from afar and later today.

River Condor.

Ashton Hall Golf Course.

Along the line, the hedges were loaded with red berries, no wonder lots of birds were about, Redwings and Fieldfares. A solar farm has been built near Stodday, they must have more sunshine here than the rest of Lancashire. The climb away from the line up to Aldcliffe was steeper than expected. I was now heading directly into Lancaster along the Lancaster Canal a route I’ve used before.

Today I had time to leave the canal to have a look at the nearby Lancaster Cathedral.  When in 1791, the Roman Catholic Relief Act was passed local Catholics built a mission in Dalton Square. When a larger church was needed local architect Paley designed this church for the present site, consecrated in 1859 it became a cathedral in 1924. The tower and spire are 240ft high making it visible throughout the city. The interior was impressive but with too many fussy side chapels. Some of the stained glass was by Shrigley and Hunt, mentioned at Glasson. Unfortunately, I found a lot of the information preachy, I can appreciate the stunning architecture without being religious.Time to catch my bus.

                    Lancaster with the Ashton Memorial, Cathedral and Town Hall.





A Kendal snapshot.

Nick Burton’s book Wainright’s Way is far more than a walking guide as he incorporates so much well researched biographical detail of AW. Already I’ve have covered his early life in Blackburn which included a look at the town where he lived from 1907 – 1941.

Now having reached Kendal, where AW lived from 1941 until his death in 1991, Nick takes a short tour of the town pointing out places AW was associated with and I found much of interest on my stroll around. Kendal Civic Society has placed green information plaques everywhere marking historic buildings, far too many for me to mention here, all I can say is that Kendal is worth a days visit.  It was not a town I was particularly well acquainted with, in the past queuing through the main street on the way to and from the Lakes, now it is thankfully by-passed.  Visits to the climbing wall in an old milk processing mill on the outskirts gave no time for exploring the town and anyhow the traffic is awful and parking difficult.

Today I start above Kendal Green, a lovely open space, at the end of a culdesac where AW had a house built in 1949. He lived here with his first wife, Ruth, and then with his second, Betty until his death. Being elevated he had good views to the Kentmere Fells. What a contrast to Audley Range in Blackburn.

AW would walk down past Kendal Green on his way to work, this is a large open space with mature trees. Halfway down is a plaque commemorating an oak planted in 1864 to celebrate Shakespeare’s 300th birthday. I wasn’t sure that oak was still standing but there is a further plaque for one planted in 1964, 400 years since his death. The link is explained in the first plaque.

At the lower end, you arrive at Windermere Road where AW caught buses to the Lakes on a Sunday. Here also is the corner shop where he stocked up on pipe tobacco.

The long straight road into the town is  Stricklandgate leading to the distinctive Town Hall where AW worked from 1941 to 1967, becoming Borough Treasurer in 1948.

To get here I passed the  Library, Stricklandgate House, and ‘Wainwright’s Yard’ The latter a newly developed shopping arcade made more memorable by the present-day premises of Westmorland Gazette who published most of AW’s books.

The ‘yard’ is one of the dozens off the main street that at one time hosted small industries and shops, most have been altered over the years but all are numbered and can be located with a leaflet from the tourist information. One nearby is named Webster Yard after the architect who designed much of 19th-century Kendals’ prominent housing. Another is C17th Sandes Hospital built with wool money, it now encloses rebuilt almshouses designed by Webster’s firm. Apparently many of the properties AW would have known were demolished in the 1970s.


Sandes Hospital

I wandered into the back yard/garden of The Brewery, formerly a Vaux brewery and now an arts centre and Yough Hostel, and was delighted to see the Leyland clock which I’ve discussed in a previous post about the A6 over Shap.










Further on are some ornate gates that lead to Holy Trinity Church. Built when Kendal was prosperous from the wool trade it is one of the widest churches in the country with five aisles. What an amazing church.

There is the Old Grammar School and Abbot Hall and I’m on the banks of the Kent for a riverside walk. A small park had a plaque referring to K Shoes, once one of Kendal’s largest industries. Howard Somervell of Everest fame, 1920, belonged to the family running K Shoes and naturally wore Kendal-made boots on the mountain. Nearby is a record of historic flood levels.

MIller Bridge, Webster designed, was built in 1818 as part of a complex of warehouses serving the terminal basin of the Lancaster Canal. Aynam Mills were originally for the wool trade but in AW’s time were the premises of a well-known tobacco and snuff manufacturer, Illingworth’s. I became a little lost in the maze of lanes amongst all these warehouses, many being put to good use.

My route took me along an elegant Georgian terrace the home of the all-encompassing Kendal architect George Webster. A little further was another terraced area with an open space where the residents dry their clothes to this day.

I passed another church and then Castle Dairy one of the oldest occupied houses in Kendal. Apparently, the Elizabethan interior is worth viewing as part of a meal in the restaurant now in the building.





Round the corner is the town’s Museum where AW was heavily involved for the time he was in Kendal. It was closed today so I was not able to view a collection of Wainwright memorabilia.

Over the busy Victoria Bridge with associated sympathetic warehouse accommodations alongside the Kent. Ahead back on Stricklandgate was the third of Kendal’s parish churches. On the next corner are the premises of Titus Wilson, printers since 1860, AW’s first publisher.

It was now a short walk back up the side of Kendal Green.

Kendal is certainly worthy of further exploration.  I can appreciate it would be a good place to live and did I mention Kendal Mintcake?



Westmorland Country.

Sir Hugh and I are progressing on our Wainwright Way journey, over halfway now. We’ve been able to do at least one trip a week between other commitments and weather windows. Today we pass through Kendal, AW’s hometown from 1941 to his death in 1991, featured prominently in his Westmorland Heritage book, 1974. Then we climb Scout Scar one of AW’s The Outlying Fells, 1974, “ a pictorial guide to lesser fells .. of Lakeland written primarily for old age pensioners…”  We were hoping for good views from this fell into Lakeland and in particular the Kentmere fells leading to High Street our objective in a couple of day’s time.

The day starts well with a gentle stroll along the River Kent into Kendal, we chose a riverside option over the suggested canal route which we have both very familiar with. Perfect, sunny and clear, boding well for the day ahead. The filled-in Lancaster Canal was joined on the edge of town as it headed for defunct wharves and warehouses at the heart of a previously industrial Kendal, the coming of the canal improved the supply of coal from Lancashire to those industries. However today we were diverted up past an enormous cemetery to visit what remains of Kendal Castle on its elevated hill. AW, when he first moved here lived in a council house just to the north-west of here.

Castle Grove AW’s first house in Kendal.

Many of Kendal’s dog walkers were up here this morning enjoying the weather and views, Scout Scar was prominent to the west whilst looking north to the Lakes there were some ominous clouds on the summits. The castle has guarded over Kendal since the C12th and has apparently strong links with Katherine Parr, the 6th wife of Henry VIII.

A Wainwright. 1975.

Heading down we walked through neat Victorian terraces, crossed the River Kent on a footbridge and joined the crowds on Kendals high street. The town hall where AW was Borough Treasurer stands proud at the top of the street.  When I explored Kendal recently I was unable to find Collin Croft one of the sites sketched by  AW in his Westmorland Heritage, I tried a little harder today and we found our way into a hidden maze of alleys typical of the town.

We then walked up leafy streets heading out of town. A sign above a gateway alluded to links with a previous Presbyterian Chapel. An obelisk appeared without any information. Over the Kendal bypass, interesting milepost,  we entered fields that are marked as an old racecourse and also the start of the Lake District National Park. The sky was clouding over despite the optimistic forecast. Scout Scar, or more correctly Underbarrow Scar, is a limestone escarpment popular with the people of Kendal and today walkers and joggers appeared from all directions.  We arrived onto the ridge near a large cairn with the trig point to the north. It was then that the heavy rain hit us, views disappeared and we walked on grimly towards the ‘mushroom’  shelter. Any semi-shelter was already taken and it was too cold to hang about so we just carried on to the end of the fell, a slight anticlimax to what should have been a memorable situation. The shelter was erected in 1912 in recognition of George V’s coronation. It has a 360-degree indicator which I had been interested in viewing but all that was lost in our haste to get off the fell.

A Wainwright. 1975.

Calmer sunnier conditions returned as we walked off nearby Cunswick Scar on Gamblesmire Lane, a bridleway we followed down into a different landscape. Undulating green fields, stone walls, sheep, whitewashed squat farms all make up the Cumbrian landscape, of course in AW’s time it was Westmorland. Gamblesmire Lane, almost Quagmire Lane in parts continued through this landscape. In sections it was a unique, hedge defined rollercoaster.

We eventually found somewhere to sit and eat and then it was field after field heading towards an isolated tower. A farmer was sorting out his sheep for market and seemed keen to chat, he must lead an isolated life up here. Eventually, we reached the restored bell tower of the C17th St. Catherine’s Church, the rest of the church was demolished and a new one built a short distance away, seen in the picture below.

A Wainwright. 1975.


More idyllic fields were traversed and we were soon back at the car and a drive home in lovely low sun.





A bit of limestone.

This walk gets better and better. We are lucky today with the weather, sun and heavy showers. We only had a few of the latter, whenever Sir Hugh put his waterproofs on the sun came out. The walk out of Holme was easy along a couple of quiet lanes which brought us to Holme Mills the linen mill I mentioned in my last post. A delightful spot with its mill pond but we had taken the wrong way and were well off course. Rewind back into Holme and we started again, this time picking up the path alongside Holme Beck with a series of squeeze stiles. These iconic stones become a feature of the day linking fields together.

We then had a few flooded fields to negotiate to reach the A6.

Safely across the floods with Farleton in the background.                                         

Now little lanes, between occasional characterful cottages, ran parallel to the A6 but in a different time zone. This is limestone country.


We passed the fortified farmstead of Beetham Hall, built to defend the locals from marauding Scots.

A Wainwright. 1975.

Next, we were in Beetham, a little hamlet with a long history from the Doomsday Book. I didn’t know about the village stocks until today but I’ve spent many hours in the village pub, the C17th Wheatsheaf Inn. What made Beetham prosperous was the corn mill dating from the C12th and we passed it on the River Bela.

What followed was a promenade through the parkland of Dallam Tower with its Fallow Deer wandering freely. We exited by a bridge over the River Bela before it slides into the Kent Estuary.

Milnthorpe was bypassed on an enclosed path climbing a little ridge with superb views of the Kent Estuary and the Lakeland fells ahead. Across the way was St. Anthony’s Tower a ‘folly’ erected in 1832 as a memorial to the passing of the Great Reform Act, they did things like that in those days. A folly to remember ‘Brexit’  would be very appropriate – but where would you erect it?

A Wainwright. 1975.

We popped out onto the A6 and walked down the pavement until a lane going right. Paths were followed into Heversham, crossing at one point the disused Furness rail line linking Arnside to the main west coast line at Hindcaster. We passed Dallam school, a well-respected establishment. Lunch was taken on a seat in the churchyard of St. Peter’s. There was an ancient cross [?C8th] in the porch but the inside of the church was uninspiring Victorian, having been ‘restored’ by the Lancaster firm of architects Sharpe, Paley and Austin. They were responsible for a large amount of work on churches and country houses in the north-west.

Avoiding the A6 surprisingly steep paths over little hills gave good views down the Kent Estuary, ahead to Scout Scar above Kendal and distant Kentmere with the HIgh Street range we have to tackle. Eventually, we dropped down to Levens Hall, its topiary hedges hidden behind high walls. I was looking forward to the walk alongside the River Kent in Levens Park as I have passed it so many times without venturing away from the car. It didn’t disappoint. It was a delight. Competing with Dallam Park the path climbed above the winding river through mature trees, Bagot Goats walked past us and Black Fallow Deer sprinted by.

Don’t get in my way.


Leaving the park we had a short stretch on the line of the Lancaster Canal with its incongruous field bridges. We left the canal at the aqueduct and skew bridge in Sedgwick visited on another occasion.

Today we walked down past Sedgwick Hall, the previous home of the Wakefield family, of gunpowder fame, to rejoin the River Kent.

A Wainwright. 1975.

A lane brought us onto its banks at a suspension bridge. The original bridge here was built in 1858 to take workers across the river to the gunpowder works on the west bank [now a caravan site] it was washed away and replaced by the current bridge,1875.

The river could be heard roaring ahead and soon we were above a gorge with great views down to the rushing waters.  The river then had a short peaceful passage before rushing once again under Hawes Bridge, all very exciting and a fitting end to today’s walk.




A Wainwright. 1975          

For videos of the river in spate have a look at Sir Hugh’s



Let it rain.

The good weather had to end – it had been raining all night and I was half expecting a ring from Sir Hugh to call off today’s walk. No, not really, he is far more resolute than that. And anyhow it would be drier by late morning, I do miss Dianne Oxberry giving us the NW forecast but there are some interesting successors.


The River Wenning in Hornby was probably running a good two feet higher than when I finished my last walk.

Hornby was short-lived and we were on a lane passing the motte and bailey of  Castle Stede, C10th, somewhat obscured by trees and rain. Down below was our first view of the River Lune which we crossed on the graceful Loyn Bridge. Wainwright sketched thsese in his Lune edition. It was here we left Bowland which has provided some excellent walking in a thankfully relatively unknown backwater.

A Wainwright. 1980.

We splashed our way through soggy fields, struggled over slippy awkward stiles, jumped or waded through little temporary rivers; all the time the rain came steadily down. Everywhere was drowning.  After the Gothic style Storrs Hall a tarmacked lane gave some respite although it was more like a river in parts [damp heading photo]. It climbed over pleasant hills but the views were minimal, vaguely ahead was Hutton Roof an area of limestone outcrops which we regularly climbed on. My camera was safely stashed most of the time.


Storrs Hall.

I’d never heard of the River Keer before although I must have crossed it many times by road, rail and canal as it winds its short way onwards through Carnforth to Morecambe Bay. Today it was a raging stream barring our progress but hidden in the trees was a small bridge. Unfortunately, a sign stated it was closed as it had been partially washed away in floods, we had no option but to trust it as we couldn’t have waded the fast-flowing water.  I sent Sir Hugh across first.

Pleased with ourselves for overcoming that problem we were nearly run down by a train whilst crossing the Morecambe to Leeds line.

Oh! and it was still raining into the early afternoon. More importantly, we had just left Lancashire and entered Cumbria, formerly Westmorland. Westmorland was a county of the Lake District until in 1974 it along with Cumberland and bits of Lancashire became Cumbria. Wainwright must have had a soft spot for Westmorland because he brought out an academic book on its history and villages – Westmorland Heritage, 1975, now out of print and expensive second hand.

More ups and downs followed on paths that receive very little usage. Eventually, there was a glimmer of blue sky as we reached a better path on a ridge, it was nearly two before we found somewhere dry to sit and eat a spot of lunch.  Here our topic of conversation turned from Brexit to Sir Hugh’s flask which he was convinced was not his, maybe the top was but certainly not the body. It seemed to pray on his mind as he was still debating it as we started on our way.

My camera had not been used much in the wet weather but now as things cleared we had views of Morecambe Bay, Arnside Knott and the southern Lakes. When I use the term ‘Lakes’ I am really referring to the Lake District and particularly its hills, odd that we use such a  contraction.

The distant ‘Lakes’.

Arriving at a familiar road leading out of Burton up to Hutton Roof, we are less than a mile from the former but WW climbed a wall and took us on a circular tour of the land around Dalton Hall [which we never glimpsed]. There didn’t seem to any logic for this but I suspect Nick Burton is taking us on a voyage of discovery based on AW’s Westmorland book. No complaints, except the extra mile, as the estate was quintessential English parkland of a certain era. A wonderful selection of trees planted way back when.

Dalton Old Hall Farm.

A pair of ‘kissing trees’.

We eventually arrived in Burton-in-Kendal, to give it its full name. People drive, too quickly, through its narrow main street, I’ve probably been guilty of that, but on foot you realise the wealth of architectural buildings in the village. At one time Burton was an important stopping off point on the Lancaster to Kendal carriageway. It became an important corn market in the C17-18 and its wealth is reflected in its houses. The canal and then the railway took all its trade to Kendal and it has not really improved since then. I was sorry to see the Royal Hotel, in the centre next to the market cross, looking closed and derelict, we used to drink a pint or two here after a climbing evening on Hutton Roof or Farlerton.

A Wainwright. 1975.

Our next objective was to join the Lancaster Canal for a mile or so into Holme. We followed a lane signed from when Burton had a station, the mainline trains just fly through now……as does the motorway with Farleton Crag above.

We took to the more sedate towpath of the Lancaster Canal for our final mile into Holme. I have walked this stretch before and the towpath was just as muddy. No boats use this northern section which has been cut off from the rest of the system by the motorway. Below us at one point is Holme Mill with its lake, at one time a flourishing C19 linen mill with flax grown locally. On the other side of the canal are some well-preserved coke ovens.

At bridge 149 we climbed out into Holme which we will have more time to explore on our next stage of WW. Apart from some dampness of my socks I had coped with the day’s rain and floods which had given us an extra perspective to a simple walk.



THE WAY OF THE CROW. Sixth day, The Lune to Carnforth.

                                                       We’ve had a lot of rain.

It was going to be difficult today to stay within the kilometre of our self-imposed straight line from my house in Longridge to Sir Hugh’s in Arnside. To get this far, as the crow flies, we had employed dubious means and been lucky with the positioning of important bridges. Another footpathless zone faced us this morning. Simple, said Sir Hugh just ask the farmer if we can tramp across his fields and walls, I wasn’t convinced.  In the mist we ghosted through the farmyard, not a dog barked or a cow stirred but there ahead was our adversary.  A burly farmer, I pushed Sir High forward with his simple proposition. Please sir… ” Yes just go down that field , through a gate and onwards.  But why didn’t you just follow the road?”  Our explanation seem to baffle him, as I thought it would. Rejoicing we ploughed on, the magic straight line was becoming our mantra.


The day had started back at Halton station, a few dog walkers were gathering. The bridge across the Lune was strange, it looked like a railway bridge but carried a single lane highway. The history here explains all…


Safely across we wandered through Halton, a mixture of old and new housing. As soon as we could field paths were followed on surprisingly undulating terrain, Both of us, recovering from chesty coughs, wheezed up hill. The forecast was wrong and we found ourselves in that miserable and annoyingly wetting mizzle. Before long the track to Stub Hall Farm was reached and our fate for the day in the farmer’s hands. A big thank you.

Once on the public footpath we relaxed into Nether Kellet and were soon going out on the wrong lane, a short cut was spotted across the recreational ground. Here was a war memorial to the Second World War from some distant benefactor.

Our next barrier, the M6, was easily crossed and some interesting paths taken through fields, woods and quarries.

Sacrilege to affix onto ancient stones.

We were intrigued by this standing water pipe curiosity.

The Lancaster Canal was reached and the adjacent A6 highway, a convenient seat for lunch next to a bus stop had locals peering at us through the condensed bus windows. I felt quite tramp like under their gaze. Although this was officially Carnforth we walked out through Crag Bank which seemed to have lots of old stone cottages, origins unknown. We were now in the drained marshlands of Morecambe Bay, today a little eerie with the mist.  Getting off the road proved difficult, a gate fell apart in my hands and we encountered impenetrable stiles in the march. Nobody uses the paths past Galley Hall. Another fortuitous bridge took us across the muddy River Keer and we were in the outskirts of Warton, the gloom preventing any views of the limestone crags above us. Hopefully the weather will be better for our last stretch into Arnside.




“Your car will be ready about 4pm, we’ll phone you”

I’m in one of the outlets on the vast ‘motor village’ out by the docks in Preston where one can buy just about any make of vehicle. It was just after 9am in the garage reception area, more like a lawyers office than a garage but the mechanics must be hiding somewhere. Last year I took the opportunity to cycle round the Preston Guild Wheel but I’m limited to easy walking at the moment. The day was perfect, blue skies and winter sun.  I had to make the most of it so I planned on walking a 7 mile stretch of the Guild Wheel, its NW segment. But first a free coffee and a read of the paper – I had a lot of time to fill.

I knew from past experience that I wouldn’t enjoy the first noisy mile alongside the main road but as soon as this was crossed and left behind peace and tranquility returned. One’s mind becomes clearer and the rural calm helps with those nagging problems. The sun always helps.

I found myself on the Ribble Link which gives access at long last from the Lancaster Canal to the rest of the network once across The River Ribble. On a whim I decided to follow it towards the river but after a short distance and a couple of locks the the ‘path’ was too boggy for my trainers. As it is a new structure, 2002, there was no need for a traditional towpath. This link is basically Savick Brook which has been widened and equipped with locks to make it navigable. At a nearby bridge I watched some regular dredging going on and was able to chat about the Link with the Canal Trust workers. I have never seen a boat on this length before and wondered about its usefulness but they assured me 300 boats passed through last year.

Through the UCLAN sports grounds and  alongside housing at Cottam on maturing paths, dog walkers, pram-pushers, runners and cyclists all sharing and happy in the sunshine.

Soon one wanders into new developments appearing everywhere in north Preston like the pox. Their names are fanciful. They never come up with Muddy Meadows, Crowded Copse, Restricted View, Non-environmental Nook, Flooding Fields, Ruined Manor…

Broughton village however has recovered its relative tranquility since the long awaited by-pass has opened. The road is barely recognisable. Where’s the traffic queue? Probably somewhere else but they deserve a bit of peace for awhile.In a slower mode I noticed for the first time a stone ‘pinfold’ [where stray animals were held until collected] by the path and also a war memorial.

I walked on crossing the new road, named in honour of a local man awarded the Victoria Cross in the WW1. I was eager to see what has become of the cycle route along Durton Lane since the road works, again it is a changed world. There is no longer any through traffic but engulfing housing will eventually destroy its character.

A couple of snippets from this area …

The sign says No fly tipping.

Wouldn’t like to learn to swim here,

I let my phone guide me through the residential streets near the hospital and then on familiar ground down Plungington Road to enjoy a late lunch in my favourite south Indian cafe, RK Sweets. Vegetable thali for £5.

Rather than catch a bus just yet I wanted to put more miles into the lovely day so on I walked through the University area and past the international cafes of Friargate. What an opportunity to look at the newly refurbished market hall which though not yet fully running could give some life back into Preston city centre. I don’t come into town very often and I ended up in Wilkinson’s Camera shop spending money on an impulsive purchase of a replacement compact. Nearby was the bus station which is also being refurbished as part of Preston’s improvements.  The crowded bus dropped me a mile short of the garage so in the end I’d walked about 13 miles by the allotted 4pm

“Everything is OK and you’ve passed the MOT”     So all’s well.


LANCASTER CANAL 8. Sedgwick to Kendal.

For our last day the sky was blue, the ground hard with frost and the surroundings covered in snow – magic. Of course this was all planned.

We were soon back up to the line of the canal and making good progress through the fields on the edge of Sedgwick which seemed to have some pleasant housing tucked away from modern hectic life. The village first enlarged due to the nearby gunpowder works on the River Kent, subsequently residential properties have been built in what was probably the estate of Sedgwick Hall mentioned in my last post. The canal crosses a road on a skewed aqueduct in the middle of the village, these were built for strength.

Lovely countryside was traversed with drumlins to our right, isolated bridges and then woodland giving variety.

Looking to the east above St. Marks Church in Natland was an attractive Fell I didn’t recognise, looking on the map it is named The Helm and has an Iron Age Fort [Castlesteads] at its southern end. Yet another place to explore on a return visit.

Onwards under more isolated bridges with the lower Kentmere fells  in the background. This area is well walked being just a stroll out of town.One can see why Kendal is a popular place to live – a lively historic town in beautiful surroundings.

And then we were into the streets and parks of Kendal, the line of the canal still walk-able with frequent signs. A walking cycling corridor out of town. Passing behind the leisure centre the site of old coal wharves has been utilised by local schools to provide environmental studies. 


One renovated bridge had iron work alluding to the history of rope-making  hereabouts.

A crossover bridge is encountered and duly crossed, there have only been three on the whole of the canal. Obvious old mills are passed, the castle is up to the right somewhere. More filled in wharves at Lound, with informative interpretation boards,  and then the main terminal basin is reached, now only identified by warehouses. These are now used for other purposes though some have links back to the past. A small building is signed as being the original ticket office for the packet passenger boats. In the last warehouse, now modernised, is the head quarters of Gilkes manufacturing turbines on this site since 1856. Apparently inside are some original features of the basin.One can only imagine the industry and flow of goods right in the centre of Kendal in the 19th century. A return visit is needed to explore this industrial heritage further.

Below is an old aerial shot of the terminal basin [Stricklandgate House Trust]


Our way across Gooseholme Bridge was closed due to flood damage, so we braved the traffic on a road bridge to reach Baba Ganoush for a welcome bowl of delicious soup. This was followed by the three of us ‘running’ to catch the 555 bus, thanks to the driver for waiting for us.

So my journey up the canal from Preston is completed. It has been a very pleasant stroll helping my hip ligament rehabilitation but more than that has been full of interest and kindled my desire to explore this area further.


LANCASTER CANAL 7. Holme to Sedgwick.

We were the only ones stood waiting for a bus on the deserted slip road off the busy A590 roundabout but sure enough the 555 appeared and took us back to Holme and bridge 149 on the canal. Driving up the motorway this morning the snow covered Lakeland mountains looked majestic, blue skies and bright sun promised a good day – on the Lancaster Canal not those mountains.  I have just realised we are now walking in Cumbria so ignore my tagging of Lancashire, somebody moved the boundaries.

Today’s stretch is along isolated truncated parts of the canal which in its demise suffered at the hands of the road builders, notably the M6. Despite this there were some beautiful stretches of countryside as well as awful noise from the motorway.

The start on the edge of Holme is dominated by Farleton Fell to the East. we could trace defunct tracks used to bring limestone down from quarries to the canalside basins. Over to the west the cliffs of Whitescar were prominent with the Coniston range behind. Soon the canal was blocked by the M6. A diversion through fields alongside the motorway to a crossing meant backtracking, for the sake of completeness, to the point where the canal emerges from a culvert under the road. Swans were starting to nest build on this watery cul-de-sac. I recall the kingfisher that flashed past somewhere back near Galgate, haven’t seen much else but ducks, oh and the odd Heron.

Through Farleton remains of one of the stables used for the ‘fast’ packet boats was passed, horses were changed every 5 to 7 miles to maintain momentum. Remember, as the cars speed by on the M6 and trains on the nearby main line, the 57miles from Preston to Kendal took passengers 8 hours. The industrial haulage was more like a week for the round trip.

A little further on and there was an aqueduct over Farleton Beck, I dropped down to view the structure and found what appeared to be a fish ladder next to the beck, but I think is just an overflow from the canal.  Notice the first use of beck, a Norse word for stream used mainly in the north of England.

Another stretch by navigable water ended at a culvert under the A65, we used the underpass and again a short while later at the M6 again. There is no way the Northern Reaches of this canal will be restored. History is littered with bad, short sighted planning decisions. We are still making plenty of them unfortunately. In between on the short section of canal swans glide regardless of the situation. 

From here on to Stainton the canal is navigable if you can get a boat into it. The only craft we saw was the Lancaster Canal Trust’s small boat moored at Crooklands. The main canal feeder from Killington Reservoir enters, disappointingly as a mere trickle through a fence bordering an industrial unit. Killington Lake is known to many for its M6 service station on the way south. Up to 17 million gallons of water a day enter the canal here!

There is an aqueduct over the Peasey Beck which supplied the gunpowder factory mentioned below and is interconnected to the Killington supply. In the vicinity we passed a canal side coal wharf and the larger Wakefield’s wharf which was connected by a tram-way to a nearby gunpowder factory at Gatebeck, yet another place to explore. Saltpeter and sulphur came from foreign lands but the charcoal and water power were local.

Wakefield’s Wharf.

Lunch was taken at the Canal Trust’s restored packet stables but was interrupted by a short hail storm  on an otherwise sunny cold and clear day. Looking back on our meandering route Farleton Fell looked surprisingly close.

The section northwards was through glorious English countryside and would be a joy to canoe.

Another small feeder comes in and then an aqueduct over Stainton Beck. Storm Desmond two years ago caused serious damage to the stonework and repairs will be costly.

The semi functioning canal finishes  finally at a damn where the water no longer exists. The next length of canal, optimistically named First Furlong, is being cleared and re-puddled with the hope of returning to water. But a few volunteers will be no match for the hundreds of navvies working two centuries ago.

A dry section can be followed to the entrance to Hincaster Tunnel, the only one on the canal, When built to go under the hill there was no towpath so horses had to be taken over on the path we now follow. There is much interesting stonework associated with the canal structures here and the modern railway goes overhead. How often do the railways parallel the canal? Down the otherside is another packet stable.

A short stretch by the dry overgrown canal course is made interesting by installations of models, figures and other artifacts introduced no doubt by some local children who may have been involved in the clearing of the ‘towpath’. A nice touch much appreciated.

The canal has been demolished by the A590 and a lane is taken. Below is the estate of Levens Hall which is well worth exploring. A short climb brings us up to the course of the canal, now infilled, and a field crossed to the obvious isolated canal  bridge,177. We are above the interesting Gothic like Sedgwick Hall which was previously a school and now converted to individual living accommodations.

Our car is not far away leaving us a short section of ‘canal’ to complete into Kendal.

Corniest boat name of the day category. We only saw one boat all today … Waterwitch, it will have to do.



LANCASTER CANAL 6. Carnforth to Holme.

A highlight of the day was a flash of turquoise – the first Kingfisher I’ve seen for a year.

Progress up the canal is being made slowly with my self imposed limit of 8miles flat walking, however there is no deterioration in the hip ligaments which are improving with my physio exercises. fingers crossed. I have just realised that in 60 years of walking and climbing this was the first time I’d sought the help of a physiotherapist.

Today’s companions were Peter and Denise again. My car was left at Holme and the bus taken back to Carnforth. I’m making good use of my bus pass on this walk, maybe this could be developed into a theme. There is one blogger I’ve come across who ticks off the Wainwrights using only public transport, well not the summits themselves but just getting to the areas.

We meander out of Carnforth with interesting road and railway bridges. The first bridge as we leave the town has been sympathetically widened at some time to accommodate more traffic. Bridges under the motorway are more brutal.

Rural calm returns as we reach the aqueduct over the River Keer, the converted mill below has a restored waterwheel and was coincidentally almost purchased by Peter and Denise when they moved to the area. Looked a bit dark and damp to me. Old milestones are visible along this stretch, 17miles to Kendal!

At nearby Capernwray we were entertained by a tractor trying to manoeuvrer a mammoth caravan down the lane under the railway bridge. The attached holiday site is in an old limestone quarry, Wegber, with cranes still visible and a little further a short canal branch into the quarry area for loading the limestone.

We passed by Borwick Hall, just visible through the trees on the other side, an Elizabethan manor house. And then we were at Tewitfield a significant location on the canal. So far I’ve walked 42 miles dead level on the 70ft contour but today things change and the canal, now defunct, rises 75ft in half a mile. This northern section to Kendal was opened in 1819 and was closed in 1968 with the building of the M6. 8 locks lifted the canal from the basin before level going to Kendal. The basin where the canal navigation now ends is a holiday complex with not particularly well-designed apartments.


Creeping alongside the motorway we reach the start of the ascending lock system. Plans have been muted for years to restore this northern section but they have come to very little.

At the top of the lock system the motorway delivers the final ‘coup de grâce’ …

We find a way across the M6 and resume our stroll along the towpath as if nothing had happened. Ahead was the distinctive outline of Farleton Fell, once one of our popular evening climbing venues on less than solid limestone.

Passing the settlement of Holme Mill we saw the millpond supplying a once industrious linen mill. Flax was grown in the area for the production of linen before King cotton took over.

We didn’t enjoy the boggy stretch of ‘towpath’ ahead…

However, there was a final triumphant flourish on arriving in Holme with the appearance of well-preserved coke ovens on the far bank. I mentioned these in my last post when we were unable to identify any. The ‘beehive’ ovens were used to produce better firing smokeless fuel from coal for the use of blacksmiths and bakers, and later for iron smelting.

Turned out to be an interesting day. Will be back to bridge 149 as soon as possible to complete the journey.

There were few boats on this section of the canal so my ‘Corniest boat name of the day’ has become ‘corniest boat of the day’

‘Sheds R Us’

LANCASTER CANAL 5. Lancaster to Carnforth.

Another change of personnel today,  JD joined Peter and I on a windy morning. The highlight of the day was crossing the Lune Aqueduct on the edge of Lancaster. The walk from the pedestrian bridge [103] in town was through the rather dull suburbs but by the time we reached the aqueduct open countryside was visible, or at least a golf course. Rennie’s aqueduct opened in 1797, after 5years construction, to much acclaim. There are five arches scanning 70ft 50ft above the Lune. Recently there has been a significant refurbishment with improvements to the lining and the stonework. We should have descended the steps to view the structure from the river bank. Instead  we strolled over the exposed towpath made safer by the ornate balustrade. Lancaster castle was glimpsed downstream. Lunesdale upstream.

The next landmark was the new ‘milestone’ bridge carrying the M6 relief road to Morecambe.  This was a massive structure compared to the usual arched stone bridges. One of the latter in the vicinity has been widened more sympathetically to accommodate the road, a date of 1921 is visible.

Along side the canal every 6-7 miles or so were stables for the fleet of horses enabling the ‘fast’ passenger boat from Preston to Kendal, done in 8 – 9 hours. The masonry remains of one is next the towpath, easily missed.

Through Hest Bank and Bolton-Le-sands we seemed to hover drone-like above the houses with views across Morecambe Bay. At one time ships would harbour on the Morecambe Bay coast here with goods to be transferred up to the canal, the opening of the Glasson Dock branch in 1826 superseded this. Somewhere between the two villages is a good example of a swing bridge, now leading to private houses. We contemplated on how it would be interesting to withdraw access to unwanted visitors by a swing of this bridge.

I was on the lookout for old coke ovens at two sites into Carnforth, bridges 125 and 127, but disappointed with the outcome. No real sign of the beehive structures across the other bank, the low sun making visibility difficult. The ovens were used to produce better firing smokeless fuel for blacksmiths and bakers and later for iron smelting. They are supposed to look like this,,

The basin to the south of Carnforth was busy with boats and dog walkers but before we knew it we were back in a rural setting before the children’s playground announced bridge 128 on the Kellet road. Time to find a bus back.


Corniest boat name of the day…


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 the 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 tramway 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.