Thursday, August 04, 2011

To the Lancaster Canal (Episode II – Up the Creek)

After the damp and “interesting” crossing of the Ribble estuary, waiting for the water to go down and make Savick Bridge passable gave us a chance to get our breath back, and for hot engines to cool.

A picture I’d mislaid yesterday – NB Liberty Bell arrives at the waiting pontoon, relieved smiles on Dave and Barbara’s faces.

But it wasn’t long before we got the all-clear, so set off with 10 minute gaps between the groupings.

Under Savick Bridge.

The high water line is clearly visible.

The Brook twists and turns through high banks of vegetation, at times I thought we’d taken a wrong turn!

A bit overgrown…

There are 5 broad locks lifting the channel up to the final staircase of three chambers, and they tend to appear unexpectedly around blind bends!

Lock 6

This lock, the second on the way up, was the first opportunity for Meg to get off and stretch her legs. She was relieved, in more ways than one!

Grass, grass!

I walked her up to Lock 5, and got a good shot of Mags steering Seyella between the banks of Himalayan Balsam.

Heading for Lock 5

At lock 5 Mags and Chris decided to be clever and came into the lock side by side – not tied together, I might add.

The narrowboats went in 2 by 2….

This works quite well if there’s no wind, the forward motion reduces the water pressure between the two hulls and tends to keep them together.

Another lock then we passed under the road and rail bridges to arrive at the foot of the 3-rise staircase.

Another complicated manoeuvre was required here; the basin below the locks is too small to turn anything bigger than a 50 foot boat to enter the lower chamber. The method is to reverse in and go up the locks backwards!

Reversing into the bottom lock.

The upper gates look imposing from the counter; I’m usually 60 feet further away than this!

Gates between lower and middle chambers.

Apart from a bit of pressure on the rudder blade as the water flooded in, the procedure was painless and in very little time we were in the top lock, at the same level as the Lancaster Canal.

NB Pendragon heads out of the top lock – still going backwards.

Chris and his crew enjoyed reversing up the staircase so much that they contemplated doing the entire 42 mile canal backwards. But then realised that they’d only got 6 weeks before they go back down.

Our BW “minders”.

Steve on the far side, the back of Andy’s head on this. They looked after us really well.

By this time it was 18:45, but as the pictures show it was a fine evening. Still, it had been a long day so a mooring spot was first on the agenda. The Lancaster showed it’s true colours pretty well straight away. I caught up with the 2 Daves moored near Bridge 21 – 2 feet out from the bank. They’d tried several spots but couldn’t get any closer.

We breasted up to NB Liberty Bell, and used their aft deck and gangplank to get ashore. A long day, we were all in bed soon after getting a bite to eat.

Yesterday we were away before 11:00, heading in a big loop westward, northward, eastward then north again around a low rise. The Lancaster is primarily a contour canal, following the 70 foot level all the way to Tewitfield, the present limit of navigation. From here 8 locks lifted the canal another 70 feet as it headed towards the terminus at Kendal. Plans are afoot to restore the lost section, isolated when the M6 was built.

NB Liberty Bell under Bridge 21.

The channel is often narrow, always shallow and also quite weedy in places. But the countryside is beautiful, and the wildlife abundant.

Typical Lancaster Canal cruising

Lots of chimneys on the roof of Salwick Hall

The Hand and Dagger sits in a useful spot next to Bridge 26.

Mummy moorhen feeds baby

There are some wonderfully evocative names around here. We crossed Woodplumpton Brook on Woodplumpton Aqueduct, with Whinnyfield Bridge just visible in the distance.

Woodplumpton Aqueduct

This soon after passing through the hamlet of Swillbrook.

It’s very noticeable that this is cruiser territory, there are more plastic boats here than on any canal we’ve visited so far.

Cruiser moorings.

We’d planned to stop at Billsborrow, promising ourselves fish and chips for tea but were nearly thwarted by full moorings and shallow edges where there was a gap. But there was just room for one boat on the 24 hour moorings on the offside, so we breasted both us and Liberty Bell up.

It was well worth it, the fish and chips were very good.

We ate them with Dave and Barbara over a couple of glasses of wine and had a really good evening. The event? It was my birthday!

A good night’s sleep was interrupted by heavy rain on the roof, at 06:30 I woke for my morning run, took one look out of the window and turned over and dozed off again. Same at 07:00, and at 07:30. Still heavy showers interspersed with drizzle. Lovely!

Got up before 8 finally and made a brew before taking Meg out for a short and damp walk.

Then pulled back onto the service wharf just behind us for the usual emptying and filling.

We’d arranged to meet two of Mags’ granddaughters at Garstang this afternoon, so, rain or no rain we had to get on the move.

But first we had the locals for breakfast.

Aren’t the little ones with the Mohicans cute!

Leaving a rainy Billsborrow

John Rennie was chief engineer during the construction of the canal, and his substantial stone-built aqueducts cross the streams running from the flanks of the Forest of Bowland.

Brock Aqueduct

I had to call Mags up onto the deck to witness this… the white blobs all over this field are mushrooms! Some must have been the size of footballs, scaling them against the sheep.

Not Mushroom here….

Another one of Rennies aqueducts, this one over the River Calder.

Peacock Hill is on the horizon.

The canal does a sharp turn left just south of the ruins of Greenhalgh Castle, sitting on it’s grassy knoll. There’s a link to the Ashby Canal here, this small castle was built by the Earl of Derby in 1490, following the victory of Henry Tudor over Richard III at Bosworth Field. The Earl, Thomas Stanley, was expected to fight on the side of the Yorkists, the King’s troops. But in the event he switched sides and fought for Henry instead, decisively affecting the outcome. The land was said to have been granted to him for his aid in the battle. It was dismantled in 1650 following a siege during the civil war.

Greenhalgh Castle.

We arrived in Garstang at around midday, and had a look around the town. It was market day today, so fairly busy despite the poor weather. It has a useful range of shops, three butchers still seem to be doing good business although there’s a newish Sainsbury’s on the edge of the town.

Garstang Basin

The girls arrived this afternoon, bringing the latest batch of mail (including our new BW licences), so we had a lively couple of hours.

The rain eased soon after lunch, and it’s now a fine evening. Better forecast for tomorrow but we’ll stay put. More friends coming in the afternoon.

Locks 9, miles 18


Carol said...

Wow what a journey! Many Happy Returns for yesterday Geoff!

mark said...

"Heading for Lock 5"...Beautiful picture.