Shore Leave …

There’s something quite wonderful about floating about on a boat – few folk would disagree with that.  Not that there can be too much of a good thing, but sometimes a little variety is welcome. From the first ever narrowboat trip decades ago (The Avon Ring: Stratford – Birmingham – Worcester – Tewkesbury – Stratford) the strongest memories remain of the shore leave at the end. Romeo and Juliet in the Swan at Stratford, a first ever Shakespeare for the then twelve year old ‘Cheshire Mum’ plus a tour of Warwick Castle). These were treats made possible by the boating trip.

There was some Shore Leave granted last weekend at Carnforth. With the famous Carnforth Junction railway station just a short walk away why not use the trains? The Captain and the Tentatrice First Mate pored over train timetables and ticket booking sites: a preliminary recce was made to the station to establish where the ticket collection machine was located and which platform to use. The object was a day out in Cumbria, via two trains, to take a ride on another train, followed by a return to Carnforth via two more trains. Very straightforward…!

(Route from Carnforth in bottom right corner to Ravenglass, midway up left  hand side).

There was a long wait at Carnforth station, time to look at that clock again     (see previous post here) and time to admire some local college artwork displayed on the platform. It was a long wait indeed for the boatdog / traindog.

The train, a ”stopping train”, finally came, setting down and picking up passengers at places like Silverdale, Arnside, Grange-over-Sands, Kents Bank, Cark, Ulverston…

With a connection to make and the train very late in arriving would the travel plan actually work…? (See nb Tentatrice blog here for an account of the outbound leg Carnforth – Barrow-in-Furness, then Barrow-in-Furness to Ravenglass).

It’s a coastal line and what a treat, northbound initially, clinging to the edge of Morecambe Bay and then turning westwards along the Cumbrian coast. Expanses of sands,   watery channels, salt marshes, distant fells, a buttercup meadow, a tiny church at the base of a serious hill…

Two hours or so after the Carnforth departure there was Ravenglass – and the little trains.

Seats – where to sit – in a closed carriage? in the open? or open but under cover? (The latter outbound, in a closed carriage on return, in rain).

It’s a 7 mile trip between Ravenglass and Dalegarth for Boot. Originally the railway hauled iron ore from the Nab Gil Mine and over the course of its existence it has carried minerals and passengers on three different gauges of track. (See the railway’s history here and here for details). In the railway’s museum at Ravenglass much is made of The Ratty People, those folk associated with  La’al (Little) Ratty, the 15 inch miniature railway, and Owd (Old) Ratty, the original 3 foot line.

The trains keep to a strict timetable, punctuality essential to coordinate the passing of a train approaching in the opposite direction.

This is South Lakeland, where the hillsides are craggy, where purple rhododendron clambers wildly, where ferns fight for light in shady spots,

where moss clings to old stone walls.

Seven request stops after leaving Ravenglass the train pulled in at Dalegarth. At each end of the line the engines need to be turned on a turntable, refuelled with coal and the tank re-watered to create the steam. The engine had surely worked hard, hauling dozens of passengers for seven miles and at times up a 1:40 gradient.

Back downhill – in rain, the choice of a closed carriage being a wise decision…

Back to Carnforth (Ravenglass to Barrow-in-Furness, Barrow to Carnforth). Ridge lines, sweeping estuaries, a lighthouse at Ulverston (but no, it’s a monument to commemorate Sir John Barrow ), sun-splashed shallows…

A grand day out was had – and though not managed by boat, the Cleddau crew’s feet walked on Cumbrian soil!

During another bout of shore leave several days later, back in Lancaster, there was a range of emotional reaction: Delight. Disappointment.  Alarm. Awe – all in the course of a day and a bit.

There was delight at an unexpected reunion. “First time there’s been a Vulcan reunion in Lancaster,” said B, a resident of these parts. Talk was of aeroplanes and pre-retirement careers and grandchildren and boating… How jolly was that – and all thanks to a remark from Jane M.

Then there was a slight sense of disappointment.  When down at Glasson Dock Boatwif had spied a leaflet promoting the Storey Gardens. The leaflet went uncollected and unread. Though the structure of the garden was very apparent   it had an untended look. A fresh leaflet picked up in the Lancaster Information Centre afterwards says this: “First opened in 1998, the sculptures were stolen and the artwork fell into disrepair in the mid-2000s.” Shame. Now, according to the leaflet, Friends of the Storey Gardens are trying to raise funds to restore the gardens.

Alarm. Fancy meeting a Tyrannosaurus Rex while looking for a Post Office! On Friday , still half-term, the Lancaster BID (Business Improvement District and partners) were running a Dino Day in the city. The shopping centre was awash with small children wearing dinosaur themed clothing and all eager to get a sighting!

Awe. The spire of St Peter’s Cathedral is very noticeable from the canal. A side door was open giving access to the nave. Since 1994 the cathedral has been designated as a Grade II* listed building. It had been a Roman Catholic parish church but was elevated to cathedral status in 1924 when the diocese of Lancaster was created.  The interior is decorative, in Gothic revival style. The Baptistry (an addition) contains a large font beneath a vaulted ceiling.   With its intricate detailing the altar really does inspire awe.

What next? Cleddau and Tentatrice are slowly moving southward, to be in position on Thursday for the return Ribble Crossing. After that some home leave is planned…


2019 Monkton Moments*- 4

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

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