Tag Archives: Canals

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Gentle Pendleside.

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It’s been a while since I walked alongside Mark Sutcliffe, he of Cicerone’s Walking in Lancashire guide. Apart from a short road walk around Longridge Fell with JD the other day I’ve languished in the house. Time to get going again and test my knee out. I scan the chapters looking for something undemanding. I toss up between Blacko hills, (Chapter 27) and the Clarion House walk on Pendle. The former looks the easiest, even if the latter looks the more interesting. The fact that it was Halloween Eve never crossed my mind as I delved into Pendleside. On reflection the immediate Pendle area would have been chock-a-block. (I like that word)  Lucky choice.

My mood in the morning was as gloomy as the weather, but I had enjoyed that extra hour in bed. The weather improved alongside my mood, I was just glad I was in the car post walk when the afternoon deluge hit the area. The M65 virtually came to a halt as the skies blackened and gallons of water came down from somewhere. I’m now safely home.

Let’s park up at Higherford, there is a bridge here now over Pendle Water. I struggle with the car park machine, ‘it’ knows I’m here and will charge me later on my return – that preys on my mind for much of the walk.

Across the way is Pendle Heritage Centre. I think I was too early for its attractions – tearoom. gardens and museum. Maybe later but then it is too late. Park Hill House below has associations with the Bannister family later to run the sub 4 minute mile. I do spot the first Tercet on The Lancashire Witches Walk .DSC02105DSC02104

Alongside the water I get into my stride. Autumn is everywhere. There are reminders of previous mill operations, but I am soon out into the countryside.DSC02114DSC02119DSC02120

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I’m heading towards Blacko Tower.

 A plaque reads Built by J Stansfield1890 Restored 1950. Approximately 30ft high. Built as a folly. Circular. Coursed rubble. Widely spaced battlements. Two steps up to a plain doorway. Spiral stone staircase inside leading to observation platform. Prominent hilltop landmark. 

Such a shame there is no public access, it must be a fine viewpoint. Time for the citizens of Blacko to stage a protest march. I make a mental note to return mid-week and make a clandestine ascent.DSC02127

Today I’m content to follow vague contouring paths on the rough hillside past farms to Malkin Tower Farm. Maybe the site of a ‘witches coven’ in 1612 from where the women were marched off to Lancaster to be tried and executed. There is lots of speculation as to the true version of events. All is quiet today with the farmer’s wife subtly showing me the diverted way. A few arrows would have helped, but all is mysterious around here. DSC02129 At the next farm I weave through a complicated series of gates in their garden. Enquiring of a lady, to confirm my way, that few people walk through here – she says “most get lost”. I doubt the irony strikes her. Again a few yellow arrows wouldn’t go amiss. At last, I’m free and walk down a lane to another farm, Whitemoor Bottom. The guide says take the footpath on the right, but there is no obvious way –  I strike boldly through the farmyard and onwards down the fields. This is horsey country and barriers keep appearing, is it this side of the wires or the other? Determination sees me through, and I drop into a wooded gully with little sign of others coming this way. But I’m on course and eventually come out onto a lane at Holly Bush Farm. Sand Hall, which looks as though it should be listed, is passed, and the lane takes me to Foulridge Reservoir.DSC02132DSC02135

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Time for lunch, so I climb up to the dam for a bird’s eye view of the reservoir. It’s depleted of water and the only action from the sailing club is a model yacht race.DSC02137DSC02144

A bridle way takes me to join the canal as it emerges from the mile long Foulridge Tunnel, completed in 1796! A way mark confirms it is the Leeds – Liverpool Canal. Maybe I should walk its historic length one day.DSC02146DSC02149DSC02150

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Halfway down the locks a path takes me through a pasture and into an upmarket estate. As I progress down the main road the older stone houses typical of these mill villages appear, Weavers cottages now desirable properties. On the corner by the packhorse bridge is the old toll-house (early C19th) with a board listing prices – almost as complicated as the pay machine in the car park.DSC02115DSC02106 (2)DSC02107

A good start to my winter walking, shorter than the guide book suggests, and not a ghost or witch in sight.

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*****

Foulridge

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.

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                                                                          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.

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Passing Halton Station and tea van.

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The Millennium Bridge over the Lune.

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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?

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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.

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Promenading.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Lunch at the village shop.

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Quayside fishing,

 

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Crabs galore.

 

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The motor cyclists hang out.

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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.

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The harbour front Sunderland Point.

 

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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.

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The price of a slave.

 

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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.

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Cockling, Morecambe Bay.

 

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Salmon fishing in the Lune with haaf nets.

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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.

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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

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The ‘super’ lido.

Aqua-Loonies

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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.

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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.

*****

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Rufford and Mere Sands.

Another day, another walk. I was liable to miss the best of this sunny day as I procrastinated in bed with coffee and news feeds on the Ukraine disaster. I feel ashamed to be British as we turn away refugees at our border, Priti Patel is not my favourite politician. I would be all too happy to offer up a couple of my rooms for the most needy, as have done hundreds of Germans. Bugger Brexit and Boris and Putin.

To salvage the day and my mental state, I pick up that volume of Lancashire Walks published by Cicerone. What about 6 miles from Rufford, visiting a nature reserve I had no knowledge of despite being a supporter of Lancs Wildlife Trust.

I park up next to Rufford St. Mary’s Church, which is open to the public today. When I was last here, I learnt of the choir in the past accompanied by musical instruments, including a bassoon played by a Richard Alty. Apparently, the said bassoon is preserved in a case in the church. I was disappointed that I could not find it.

My next disappointment is that I did not visit the NT Rufford Old Hall; instead, as the day was slipping by, I set off along the Leeds Liverpool Canal and looked across to the hall which had a fantastic display of purple blue crocuses in their grounds.

I stretched my legs along the busy towpath, with flat fields all around. To the east, Winter Hill and Great Hill were prominent, but Longridge Fell looked a long way off. Soon I was heading inland and along Sandy Lane. All straight lines and winter fields.

In a yard of lorries, the owner talks of high fuel prices and a lack of drivers. Boris, Brexit and Putin again. He has an awful lot of money tied up in those vehicles.

My entry into Mere Sands Reserve was by the back door over a little footbridge. I hung my binoculars around my neck to look professional. In Medieval times, the whole area was part of Martin Mere. Attempts to drain it commenced in the C17th, and it was planted up as woodland as part of the Rufford Hall Estate. In 1958, it was sold for sand extraction which created the lakes and in 1982 sold to Lancashire Wildlife Trust for a nominal fee, thus creating the reserve we see today. The path winds around the back of the mere, where a hide looks out onto the waters. There are ducks and geese in the distance. Farther on, I came across a couple hand feeding the robins. Coots are diving. All part of a busy little reserve. The café was too busy for my patience, so I carried on to the far end of the reserve. My only criticism is that there were not many places where you get near enough to the water. Oh, and the adjoining roads sound like Silverstone with all the Sunday racers, very distracting.

The abandoned observation post above is of unknown vintage. I found a path alongside a dyke which leads me through the fringes of Rufford, somehow Venice came to mind. And then I’m back on the canal, which has been drained for this stretch, along past the Marina, and I was back into the village. The Hall had already closed, some other time.

What a pleasant way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon. Another thumbs up to my new Cicerone guide.

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.

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.

*****

DAY SIX ON THE TWO SAINTS WAY.

Stone to Stafford.      11 miles.

*****

  I enjoy a leisurely breakfast, this should be a short day. Another gel pad is added to my right heel, I’m beginning to walk on high heels.

It didn’t take me long to get back onto the way at St. Saviour’s churchyard in Aston. In the porch of the church I noticed a cockerel mounted above the door. Its interesting history was noted..

Behind hedges and walls across the lane is Aston Hall, now a home for retired priests. It was here in 1839 that the bones of St. Chad were found, having been hidden at the time of  the Reformation. They are now strangely in Birmingham Cathedral rather than the more obvious Lichfield. A lady dog walking told me how she discovered many of the local paths around here during lockdown and had noticed the TSW markers. I enjoyed a long stretch through fields with open atmospheric skies, just what you need to put a spring in your step in the morning.

I  then entered a watery nature reserve. A man birdwatching was eager to tell me of a large bull blocking the path at the next stile. He had taken evasive action and clambered along the banks of the stream, he was in no hurry to return. Forewarned, I proceeded carefully and sure enough the bull was lying there with his herd of cows. I never know which breeds are allowed in fields with public footpaths, and I probably wouldst recognise them anyhow. A bull is a bull whichever breed and this was a large one. I couldn’t see any obvious escape route, so I stood and watched for a while before tiptoeing cautiously past against my better judgment. I’m alive to tell the tale.

Burston village was across the canal, a few cottages surrounding a millpond, delightful. Behind and strangely adjoined to the last cottage was a little chapel, St. Rufin’s. (he of the legend)  It is thought there has been a church in this vicinity visited by pilgrims since the Middle Ages.

A peaceful stretch of canal was now followed  with boat owners relaxing or busying themselves with jobs on board.  I watched as boats negotiated the locks, by now I think I would be able to navigate these canals.

The guide book said leave the canal at the ornate bridge…   This took me into the village of Salt, I had promised myself a pint and sandwich in The Hollybush Inn, one of the oldest pubs in the country. Alas, it was closed. An appointed caretaker has been here since last July 2020 keeping an eye on the place. He was sat outside and pleased to chat, but there was no offer of a brew, even when I expressed my disappointment.     There followed a bit of hilly walking and wandering through large fields to come out in a crop being harvested on the edge of an MOD property. The incongruous memorial behind bars told the story of the Battle of Hopton Heath, fought here in 1643 between Royalists and Parliamentarians.    The entry into Hopton  through sandstone cuttings was promising, but the village was mainly modern bungalows.

  My way onwards to Beacon Hill was obvious and the hill promised views to The Wrekin and Cannock Chase. All I got was the approaching dark rain clouds over Stafford..