Category Archives: Lancaster Canal

MY ANNUAL SERVICE AND MOT.

“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.

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 phsio 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.

END OF THE NAVIGATION.

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 tow path 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 mill pond 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,,

https://www.waterways.org.uk/news_campaigns/bulletins/images/carnforthcokeovens

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. http://soulfulhorwich.org.uk/abofa/index.shtml

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…