Being ‘Anoraks’

Hest Bank to Tewitfield: 8 miles, 1 swing bridge

The last 8 miles to the Lancaster Canal’s terminus was done in two stages. First from Hest Bank to Carnforth (3¾ miles, I swing bridge) and then, three days later,  the final 4¼ miles from Carnforth to Tewitfield.

There have been times in the past when a moorings strategy has been devised. Would it be difficult, Impossible even, to find places to moor when there was a bank holiday weekend ahead leading into half-term week…? To secure weekend moorings in Carnforth became the plan (it’s a busy place by all accounts) with an aim to complete the Tewitfield stretch after the weekend…

What a glorious stretch of canal it is after Hest Bank. To the west are tantalising glimpses of sea and sands as Morecambe Bay stretches on and on…    On the eastern bank individually designed houses, well-tended gardens, fashionable mannequins

and a posing seal    look out across the Bay. Perhaps it’s no surprise that balconies, terraces and upstairs living spaces abound! 

Hatlex Swing Bridge (Hest Bank Swing Bridge in the Nicholson’s Guide) was reached.   It seemed an age since a swing bridge was tackled… Cleddau was in the lead: would the bridge fastenings defeat Boatwif’s strength and wit? There was an enormous chain, a heavy padlock (for which a C&RT key was necessary) and a hefty hook arrangement.   By now the two boats, Cleddau and Tentatrice, had become a three-ship convoy, with Juno in the rear. Locals and dog walkers watched almost in wonder as the three boats crawled past the open Hatlex Swing Bridge.

Tentatrice in the lead, Juno second, Cleddau third.

Shortly Juno pulled in to pick up boat dog and its walker, waving Cleddau past.

Bolton le Sands now.

Oh, a dog training course, though no dogs were being put through their paces.

A couple of pontoons were passed, each promoting the Lancaster – Carnforth Water Bus. There’s been no sighting of it – is it running this year?

Tentatrice beckoned Cleddau past, and the convoy now resumed its original running order.

Carnforth was reached. Where to moor? The first stretch of space seemed full of boats. The canal broadens (photo four days later) with a disused marina on one side, a garage and a pub on the other, space reserved for the waterbus, enough width to turn a boat and then moorings further on.  To moor in front of The Canal Turn pub on a bank holiday weekend seemed not a good idea…(Additional note: there was very live and very loud music over the weekend.)

Boatwif leapt off the boat, checking out spaces and C&RT notices around the curve.  There was one seven day mooring, already taken. The chances of an easy mooring seemed increasingly remote.   What followed involved physical effort, much engine revving, patience, rope work:  the bank was low, the water shallow and the edging fragile. Within easy walking distance of a town centre, a Tesco supermarket and a Post Office this was more a ‘wild mooring’…  Access to Cleddau was via the bow only – and that via a wide leg stretch towards the boat, a heave up onto the narrow gunwale, a shuffle sideways along towards the bow and then a step down… Fret not, this was to be the mooring for the next few days.

Carnforth: it’s another town with the busy A6 running through it. Down at the railway station is a very famous clock. Railway infrastructure fans may recognise the name as the station that has the longest platform curve and the world’s longest curved cantilevered roof. But for those who might have been silver screen fans this is the setting for the 1946 film Brief Encounter. Go to the station today and a very pleasant afternoon can be whiled away sitting in plush red seats re-watching the film,      gazing at career details of its stars Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, examining an exhibition on 1940s social history  , studying a huge tribute to the work of the film’s director David Lean and taking tea in the Refreshment Rooms. In a different exhibition room non-film fans can wallow in the history of Carnforth Junction and the three different railway companies that had operated from it.

In the middle of the small town there was a visual treat – a square of closely cut grass and several trees which were homes for fairies. Astonishing. A passer-by sidled up, pointed to a house over the road and explained: “The council cut the grass and the lady over there looks after it.”

A small boy walking by with an adult was heard to ask: “Why are those people looking in OUR garden…?” He was voicing a sense of pride and ownership in this public space.

Passing by again later that afternoon there was time for a photo session of all the delights.   Then from across the street came a shout: “So do you like my garden then?” This was the lady whose hard work and efforts gave such pleasure to little children – and to passing visitors. There was much to see and wonder over. Here’s hoping she gets full community appreciation too.

A large property emblazoned Carnforth Book Shop couldn’t be ignored either. In the book department there was talk of the weather… The chatty bookseller gestured towards a particular book: Sandman, The Autobiography of Cedric Robinson (Queen’s Guide to the Sands).

  Cedric had done a book signing within the shop and she regaled a recent tale of her family (and dog) joining an official walk to cross the Morecambe Bay sands. Eight miles it was, over sand and waist deep through river channels. May these guided walks continue safely for many more generations.

‘Anorak Day’ dawned, dry and calm. First the canal threads out through the town. Someone had been “fishing” here it seems. Items like these can be real journey stoppers if they engage with the prop… After a Scout Group site the canal swiftly becomes rural as it twists its way northward. There are bridges to pass under but the serious ones take the canal beneath the A601M and the M6 at Junction 35. There are rolling hills and distant fells.  There are crops growing in the fields. Local stone is evident in walls, in farmhouses, in barn conversions, in gardens. There’s another John Rennie aqueduct above the River Keer. These final miles provide excellent towpath walking    and a delightful area for kayaks and rafts.

A widebeam hire boat met at a bridge hole was a sudden surprise; it had come from the marina right at the end of the canal.

Past the modern marina is the Tewitfield Sanitary Station. This really is the navigable end of the canal. Here the boats had to be turned round.

Traffic noise from the very close M6 is constant. It was this bridge here in the 1960s that sliced into the canal’s line…

There had to be a camera expedition further on from the end. Walk under the motorway bridge and jink right. Here the canal is still in water, though not navigable. . The route went 14 miles further on to Kendal,  although some of it is built on now. There were eight locks stretched out over ¾ mile. Though lacking gates the lock chambers still exist in good shape.   A dam wall at the upper end of each lock provides a weir and the water surging down makes intriguing fluid shapes.  A volunteer restoration group works to protect the remaining route and the canal structures.  Ignore the M6 and it makes for a lovely walk!

Done it then – reached Tewitfield. Another end of navigation reached. Tick

As the boats proceeded the four or so twisty miles back to Carnforth clouds gathered, rain gushing down. On the stern the Captain grabbed the large umbrella before finally asking for an anorak!


2019 Monkton Moments*- 4

(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)

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