Friday, 28 September 2012

Lancaster Canal. Bolton-le-Sands to Preston.

As if by magic we’re back in Preston. As planned on Friday evening, Steve & Lesley came along to Bolton-le-Sands, although we’d forgotten that at this time of year 8pm is way after sunset, so they made their way down the towpath by torchlight and didn’t see the outside of the boat till the following morning. We’d been so enamoured by Carnforth railway station we had another go at it with Steve & Lesley. That was followed by a very pleasant afternoon’s boating with them on board; first through Hest Bank with its views over Morecambe Bay,
then over the magnificent Lune Aqueduct and into Lancaster, mooring up just after the Water Witch pub. Despite Dave’s best attempts to sabotage dinner by launching the Moroccan Chicken off the edge of the wood burner, we had a very agreeable evening. On Sunday we returned to Kendal where Ann-Marie bit the bullet and chose a pair of Keen walking boots. So now we’ve got no excuse for not going for a walk. We picked up Steve & Lesley’s car on the way back; they headed for home later on, managing to remember everything apart from Lesley’s shoes. Not bad.

Then it rained. Relentlessly for 36 hours.
We re-appraised our schedule.

We needed to be in Preston on Friday, as that was the only time the boat yard was open and we wanted to fill up with diesel before we cross the Ribble. It didn’t stop raining till Wednesday morning and we were still in Lancaster 30 miles away. Drastic action was required, so while Dave had a really easy time standing on the back of the boat, Ann-Marie, in true hero style, drove and cycled up and down the A6. First to Bilsborrow and back up to Garstang, where we spent Wednesday night, then from Bilsborrow to Preston and back up to Catforth, where we spent Thursday night. As well as putting in all the hard work, she got stung on the neck by (we think) a wasp, which, as if all the cycling wasn’t enough, knocked her for six for a day and a half. Today – Friday - we got to Ashton Basin just after mid-day; Dave backed in and we put 105L in the tank. The last time we filled up was from Brian & Ann Marie’s boat in Middlewich, so we don’t think that’s too bad.

At the moment Legend is on the visitor moorings at Cadley in Preston. Well, almost on the visitor moorings. To our annoyance there is a boat on the only 14 day spot, that was there when we came here 2 months ago, was still there when we came to see Bosley off, and looks like it’s going to be there forever. We wouldn’t mind so much if there were other places to moor round here, but there aren’t. So we’d like to apologise to the world for mooring on the water point.

We’re off to Anne’s in Chesterfield tomorrow morning, and then on the way back on Sunday we’ll pop into Buxton to see Wiltz & Annie and pick up Dave’s camera. When we get back to the boat we’ll move round to the basin at the top of the Millennium Link ready to go down the staircase locks at 8am on Monday. It takes just over 2 hours to get down the link so we should be out on the Ribble around 10:30. High tide is at 12:30 and it’s 9.5m which is really high. We’re not sure whether that’s good, as we’ll have more time, or bad, as it’ll be going out faster when we get to Tarleton. Guess we’ll find out. We’ll just follow Harry-the-Lock-keeper’s advice again and go like the clappers. The weather forecast at the moment predicts a 14mph sou’westerly and no rain; that’s pretty good compared to what’s been going on recently.

We’ve had a wonderful time up on the “Lanky”. Here are some more photos.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Lancaster Canal. Bolton-le-Sands to Borwick via Tewitfield.

We must have impressed Sue & Steve with our tales of boat life because they dropped into Bolton-le-Sands to visit Legend on their way back from Preston. It was lovely to have them aboard for the afternoon, although at around 7’ Steve is far too tall to actually fit inside our little home.
On Thursday morning before breakfast we moved a couple of miles up the cut to Carnforth and stopped on the visitor moorings, right behind the BP garage and Spar shop. Not where we’d usually choose for a peaceful night’s sleep but very handy for shopping, parking and a service point. It’s also really easy to find, being right next to the Canal Turn pub, which was useful, as on Friday David & Kate, two of our dearest friends who we don’t see nearly enough of, came to stay for a couple of days. They arrived just before lunch and in the afternoon we all went into Carnforth to visit the railway station. That doesn’t sound very exciting until you realise that Carnforth Station was the location used for the filming of “Brief Encounter.” We had a lovely time saying “Darling?” “Yes Darling?” to each other and pretending to have a piece of grit in our eye till it stopped being funny. The station cafĂ© has been beautifully refurbished in the style of the film set complete with wood panelling, cash register and tea urn. No doubt the staff are sick and tired of comments about 1940s prices. Our two pots of tea came with tea strainers and jugs for topping up which impressed us enormously.

We had another night behind the Spar Shop which resulted in everyone being awake at 6:30am when the bread man turned up. Maybe we should have moved on a bit the night before. Oh well, at least we were all up and dressed for breakfast pancakes and a water fill up before setting forth for the northern-most point on the English canal network. The Lancaster Canal originally went all the way to Kendal but in the1960s the building of the M6 severed the top 15 miles from the rest at a hitherto unheard of place called Tewitfield. This is now hallowed ground for canal enthusiasts; if you send the Lancaster Canal Society a photo of your boat at the end, you will receive in return a plaque to commemorate your achievement. Here's our photo.
In the afternoon we had a walk up the 8 Tewitfield locks on the other side of the blockage. As you walk up the towpath you are very aware that the 25 yard strip of land that you are on represents 200 years of transport evolution.

These were the only locks on the Lancaster Canal between Preston and Kendal raising the canal by 75’. The lock gates have been replaced with weirs, but they are in surprisingly good condition; the stonework looks sound and it makes you believe that the society’s target of complete restoration of the upper reaches all the way to Kendal is not only achievable but imminent.
David & Kate left in the evening and we went to bed about 25 yards from the motorway wondering if we’d get any sleep at all. As it turned out a constant traffic drone was easier to sleep through than Mr Warburton banging his roll-cages around in the middle of the night.

With hindsight we should have made turning Legend round a bigger occasion than we did; we simply pulled it backwards, swung the front round and slid off our moorings, heading south for the first time since we went down the Stratford last year. We didn’t go far though, there were some very nice 14 day moorings at Borwick, about half a mile from the end and we had several nights there in the middle of nowhere - our more usual habitat.
The last 15 miles are still accessible by foot; so on Tuesday, armed with a sizable packed lunch and waterproofs we set off towards Kendal. The further you get the more you begin to appreciate the size and complexity of the job the society have ahead of them. The first part is still in water and “only” requires a couple of tunnels under the roads to bring it back into use,
but after that it is just a dry ditch,
and in some places not even that;
if it wasn’t for stranded bridges in the middle of fields it would be hard to believe there was ever a canal there at all. We have no doubt that it will eventually be restored back to full navigation all the way into a fabulous new waterfront development at Canal Head in Kendal. (Which is at the moment is a waste disposal facility)
We did the whole walk without major incident and caught the 555 back to the boat quite proud of ourselves. We managed to dodge the showers, but the wet grass and muddy footpaths proved to be too much for our woefully inadequate footwear. We spent the evening with our feet in hot water looking at walking boots on the net, then in the morning went back to Kendal in the car and toured round outdoor clothing shops. After a crash course in boot technology and design we resigned ourselves to the fact that you get what you pay for; walking is what we do most and we really can’t expect a pair of jumped up fashion trainers to take the everyday hammer that we put them through. After a whole day of deliberation and soul searching Dave came home with a lovely pair of leather Scarpa Rangers which he’s been fondling ever since, but we have yet to find something that Ann-Marie is happy with. She tried a pair of Keens on and found them very comfortable, maybe we’ll go back.

We go back across the Ribble a week on Monday, so we’re not hanging about going back down to Preston. This weekend Steve & Leslie are coming to stay, we’ll meet them at Bolton-le-Sands and take them through Hest Bank and across the Lune Aqueduct - very picturesque - and moor up for the night in Lancaster. Then, if the weather’s ok, go out the other side to Galgate or Garstang.

Having already been to the furthest westerly point at Llangollen, and now as far north as we can, our next navigational target is Brandon, near Thetford on the Little Ouse River which is the furthest east you can go, followed by the furthest south at Godalming on the Wey Navigation.

Of course there’s a whole country to go at before that.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Lancaster Canal. Galgate to Bolton Le Sands

Dave would like to apologise for there being about half the unusual amount of photos in this post. This is due to him being a complete twonk, and leaving his camera in Ian & Annie’s trailer tent at Silloth. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

It’s only been ten days and about six miles up the cut since our last published rambling but we’ve got quite a bit in. From Galgate we went to Lancaster where we got the car taxed. The lady in the Post Office looked at our home address and wished us a happy holiday. Cheered us up no end.

A couple of miles north of Lancaster we stopped at Hest Bank, overlooking Morecambe bay. It’s not often you get a sea view from a narrowboat window so we’re making the most of it. We’d left the car at Glasson Dock so when we cycled back to get it we used the Lancashire Coastal path, which takes in the River Lune aqueduct,
then follows the river bank on the dismantled railway line that was built in the early 1826 to link Lancaster to its new port at Glasson. The cycle ride must have brought on a fit of irresponsibility; before we knew what was happening we’d had an accidental cream tea in the cafe and a visit to the amazing Glasson Smokehouse that blew the budget right out of the water.

The Morecambe Seaside Festival was on while we were at Hest Bank, so on Saturday we went and had a look. Morecambe sea front is good place to be;
the festival added to the general happy atmosphere, and the fireworks in the evening were excellent, especially when viewed from a boat roof after a walk around a bit of Morecambe Bay and some delicious chips. On Sunday the Red Arrows turned up; they were also viewed from the boat roof and also excellent.

Legend’s next stop was Bolton Le Sands which is almost, but not quite as exotic as it sounds. Despite not having a sea view it has two pubs and a pie shop and, quite honestly, what more do you really need? There are fourteen day moorings here, a handy parking space and a wood on the off-side where Dave discovered a fallen oak tree. Water-pikey heaven. Most of the middle-sized oak is now on the roof in readiness for winter. Or, in our case, tomorrow morning.

For no apparent reason the wheels came off our Email for about five days. It’s disturbing to find out how dependant we’ve become on something that we managed perfectly well without ten years ago. We still had two mobiles and internet access but felt as if we’d been abandoned on the technological hard shoulder in the rain with no hope of rescue. For a week we had a glimpse of just how difficult off-grid life would be without the technology that we take for granted.

We got our boat pole finished. Ash boat poles go for upwards of £50 from chandlers, and even then you can’t be certain they’re actually ash. So we decided to make one. Somewhere on the Shroppie we found a nice straight bit of tree and coppiced it, then on the Bridgewater we stripped the bark off and lashed it to a hand-rail for a couple of months to keep it straight while it seasoned. Just before Garstang Dave planed it down to a taper measuring 2” diameter in the middle and about 13’ long and gave it a few good goes over with linseed oil. Now it’s painted, and so is the boat hook, and very nice they look. There is an argument that says that you shouldn’t paint poles and hooks because that way you can see if they’re going rotten. We reckon if you prime and paint them properly to begin with and then look after them, they won’t go rotten anyway.

There have been excursions both near and far from here. First we drove to Warton Crag; a big limestone lump looming over Morecambe Bay. We had a lovely day rambling about; the view from the top takes in the Pennines, the Lakes and the taller bits of Scotland. You find yourself looking for a much bigger setting on your camera; “Panorama” just won’t do it.
Inevitably it’s been quarried in the past and there is a very well preserved limekiln in the hillside at the base.
Apparently the crag is famous for its butterflies, although we saw more in the car-park when we got back than we had done all day.

At the weekend we filled our long suffering Punto with camping gear and hit the upper reaches of the M6. Dave spent a fair portion of his teenage years in the Lake District, but neither of us had ever been to the Cumbrian coast so a weekend in Silloth sounded like a good idea. The Lancaster Bombers Citroen 2CV club have held their annual camp there for ten years, coinciding with the Silloth Beer and Music Festival. So, let’s see- beer, music, a bonfire and a bunch of good mates that we haven’t seen for yonks – it would have been rude not to. We spent most of our time in Ian & Annie’s trailer tent being entertained by Toby, their whippet puppy; thank you for your hospitality guys, we hope we didn’t teach him too many bad habits.

While we were up there we went to Cockermouth, (stop sniggering at the back!) Wigton and on Sunday, had a walk round a car boot sale, which we haven’t done for ages. We found a smashing cafetiere to replace another broken one and a boat hook which we’ll put a short pole on and paint it to match, because we haven’t got quite enough stuff on the roof.

Ann-Marie’s cousin Sue and her husband Steve live at Millom, which is near Barrow-in-Furness at the bottom of the Lake District, so on the way back we took the coast road and went for a visit. Sue and Steve were the perfect hosts; we are constantly impressed by how welcome we’re made to feel by our relations. After a lovely evening and a good night’s sleep we went for a walk on the beach with Barney, their ever-so friendly Alsatian/Lab who likes carrying big rocks around. Sue is a fabulous cook and makes the most amazing puddings. It’s just as well we don’t live any closer; irresistible sticky toffee pudding really is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

We still brought a large portion of it home anyway.