Friday, June 08, 2018

A splendid couple of days to the end of navigation.

We left Galgate on Thursday morning, yet another bright, sunny day. DSCF3878

We pulled over to drop the rubbish off at the marina, then set off, heading steadily north. The canal crosses open pasture for a start, but then enters a cool, leafy cutting which lasts most of the way to Lancaster.DSCF3883

Coming into Lancaster the canal passes the East Lodge of the former Aldcliffe Estate.DSCF3884
Confiscated by the Crown (Henry VIII), from a Sion Priory, the estate was bought by the Dalton family during the reign of Queen Mary, the Catholic daughter of Henry. The staunchly Catholic Daltons held the land for three generations, the grandaughters of Thomas mostly living together there, causing the house to be known as “The Hall of the Catholic Virgins”
When the last two daughters died the hall was used by a teaching mission and was again confiscated for “Popish activities” in 1716. The Dawson family acquired it and Edward Dawson demolished the old house and built a new one in 1819, as well as extending the estate by draining 160 acres of marshland. His son, another Edward,  became Constable of Lancaster in 1904.
The land and hall were split up soon after, and on the death of the second Edward’s daughter, was taken on by a nephew. In 1953 the remaining estate, including the hall and gardens, a cottage and West Lodge were sold again, and in 1960, the disused and dilapidated hall was demolished. The land has since been developed for housing.

There are good moorings in Lancaster opposite the redeveloped Chancellors Wharf, with the Water Witch handily alongside.DSCF3890

You don’t get to see much of the city, the canal worms it’s way past the backs of converted factories and overlooking the roofs of houses.
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Clayton Bridge…
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…and Lancaster Castle, with the tower of Lancaster Priory Church to the right.DSCF3894
Founded in the late 11th century, the castle is sited on a hill overlooking the Lune estuary, a commanding position previously occupied by a Roman fort. It’s been a prison, police training centre, prison again, and still houses the Crown Court. The prison was closed in 2011, and the castle is now a tourist attraction.

Leaving the built up area behind the canal makes a sharp left turn to line up with the aqueduct across the Lune.

Mags on the tiller as we head towards the aqueduct.DSCF3899

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The aqueduct channel is 664 feet long and is supported on 5 stone arches. It was designed by John Rennie, chief engineer for the canal and designer of most, if not all, of the structures it passes or crosses.


Cost over-runs meant that the final bill was nearly £50,000 when it opened in 1797, over 2½ times the original budget.

Looking downstream, showing the decorative stone balustrade.DSCF3902

From the aqueduct it’s about three miles to Hest Bank, passing through open countryside and under the new Bay Expressway bridge.
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Moored up at Hest Bank, on the third attempt we actually got close to the bank!DSCF3912

You can see the sea from up here, right across Morecambe Bay to Walney Island.DSCF3935
The white structure is Walney Island Lighthouse, first lit in 1804 and still in use today. It stands on the southernmost end of the spit of land. From here it’s 15 miles away as the seagull flies…

After tea, with the tide starting to go out, I had a toddle down to the sea. When we were here last Meg and I made regular excursions for a paddle and a ball play, but she’d be struggling now to make it there and back. So I went alone…

Looking out across the bay from the pedestrian footbridge over the railway.
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That’s Morecambe to the south
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And Grange Over Sands somewhere over there to the northDSCF3930

I’d paddled out about 100 yards and the water was still only calf deep, such is the shallow slope of the beach. That’s why I wanted to go down to the water at soon after high tide. It’s a long walk otherwise!

There were a couple of moorhens lurking in the reeds opposite the moorings, I suspect they might have had a nest with chicks hidden there.DSCF3914

So I threw a bit of bread (multiseed of course) out for them. Unfortunately the ever-alert black-headed gulls were there just too quickly…DSCF3915

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Too fast for the camera shutter, too!

This morning, under cloudier skies, we set off from Hest Bank, up through Carnforth to the head of the currently navigable canal at Tewitfield.

The canal wiggles it’s way along passing above Bolton-le-Sands, with fine views out over the bay.

There are a couple of mooring pontoons, installed for the Carnforth to Lancaster Water Bus Service.
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I’m not sure it’s still operating, though.

The canal opens up considerably as it comes into Carnforth. There used to be private mooring pontoons on the offside but they’ve all been removed.DSCF3947
Lots of visitor moorings available today, let’s hope it’s the same tomorrow. We’ll be back…

Out of Carnforth and the canal narrows again, getting quite overgrown in fact. The course of the waterway was changed during construction of the M6, straightening the channel then making a dogleg to pass under the carriageway. It would have been cheaper to do this than constructing a longer span as the motorway crossed the canal line at a very shallow angle.

Link roads to Junction 35
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The canal used to carry on straight ahead, but now bends to the left along the new channel, below an embankment carrying the motorway.

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Leaving the noise of the motorway behind the canal carries on through fine countryside, good fertile ground for grazing and crop production.DSCF3962

Jacobs ewe and lambs
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We had to make an emergency stop under Borwick Hall Bridge to allow Meg to hop off for an urgent call of nature. There’s absolutely nowhere to pull in to the bank along here. Then we were almost at the end, passing the marina and apartment complex of Tewitfield Marina.DSCF3965

We turned around and reversed into the stub where the canal now ends, backing up to where the culvert from further upstream flows in.
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The embankment behind us carries A6070 over the canal and the motorway. That’s the first obstruction to deal with, then.

The plan to reopen the Northern Reaches.
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After lunch I set off up the currently inaccessible Tewitfield Locks, to where the canal is truncated by the M6. There are eight locks here, the only ones on the original 57 mile long canal, raising the canal 75 feet. 

Looking back from Lock 8, Bottom Lock. We’re moored the other side of the embankment in the distance.DSCF3971 

The chambers, although gateless and dammed at the top end, are in remarkably good condition. There’s even a still-operational top ground paddle at each lock to control water levels.
Some of the stonework is suffering from vegetation growth, though.DSCF3973 

The water level is deliberately kept 18” below normal…DSCF3975

…but this does allow for a variety of water plants.DSCF3976

Above the locks and Bridge 141 the canal emerges from a culvert passing under the motorway.
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The path up the locks goes over the traffic on a footbridge, which takes you back round to join the towpath on the other side.
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Hopefully, in the not too distant future, there’ll be boats heading up there again. I’ll not hold my breath, though…

Sorry it’s been such a long post. There’ll be shorter as we head back, promise.

Locks 0, miles 17





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