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The Lancaster Canal and Millenium Ribble Link
Cruising Log part 3

Lancaster canal I - Garstang, Glasson branch and Glasson Dock, Lancaster and Carnforth

Thursday 9 June
Bridge 26 at Salwick to Bridge 56 at Garstang

After the Ribble Link crossing and the late evening mooring we didn't depart until 10.30. We stopped for water at Swillbrook bridge, but that was a bad decision. It was very slow and we spent over an hour there. It did give us time to go and look at the boatyard where an old Shetland cruiser like ours was having new windows fitted. The next point of interest was passing through Bilsborrow. Although our guidebook said that there was a thatched pub on the canalside we were not prepared for all the new old-fashioned thatched buildings for pubs, craft shops and the hotel. And it was full of boats and people. We left rubbish at the RSW point and continued to the outskirts of Garstang.

We had planned to have a BBQ, but needed to be away from the railway line and the M6 motorway, and find steel piling of enough length for three boats. We found the perfect spot at 15.30 by Bridge 56. While Pete gave the engine its 100 hours service and changed a fan belt, the rest of us walked into Garstang and explored the shops. There is a useful large Somerfield supermarket which we accessed by walking to the Garstang aqueduct and then following the footpath beneath it towards town. Garstang town was a pleasant surprise with useful hardware and car shops (which was out of stock of required fanbelt) as well as butcher, fishmonger, an excellent shoe shop, and lots more.

Friday 10 June
Bridge 56 to Garstang Aqueduct and then to Glasson Junction and Glasson Basin.

After another short shopping trip we reluctantly left Garstang Aqueduct at 11.30. It was only 8 miles to Glasson Junction and then the lock work started. With just the three boats it meant we had two boats in one lock, then a single boat following. Malcolm joined with Corinna, and Dugald followed. The first three locks are just walking distance apart, and that was useful because it was hard work and we could all help each other. It was a ride to lock 4 where we found a BW boat and a very helpful BW man who wound the heavy bottom paddles. He was painting the locks but was happy to help us through. It was back on the boat for the ride to Lock 5, and then Lock 6 was within walking distance and is alongside Thurnham Mill Hotel and restaurant.

We reached Glasson Basin just before 17.00. Visitor moorings are marked at the far side but there were spaces by the Rubbish skip on the right and there was another narrowboat there, so that was where we went. Further down there was a group fishing, all set up for the weekend with tents and cooking stoves. So it made sense to give them space.

Saturday 11 June
Moored in Glasson Basin

Glasson Basin only has limited shops, and the Post Office cum General Store was useful for basic food. However the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse, at West Quay, is famous for its range of traditionally smoked and gourmet foods. We intended to purchase some smoked fish, but found there was also a large range of smoked cheeses as well as fresh local fish and smoked meats and bacon. We filled our baskets, including some smoked duck breast and smoked goose breast, a nice 1.7kg River Lune Trout and a selection of cheeses. There was going to be no need to find pub meals.

We had noticed the chandlery opposite our mooring at Glasson Basin Yacht Company and set out after lunch on foot to explore. We had been told that we could pay up to 48p per litre for diesel on the Lancaster canal, so when we found that they were charging 39p we took it in turns to go and fill up. We also bought a Whale Gusher manual pump for DIY pumpout, together with all the bits and pieces needed to make it work. In spite of the little problem at the beginning we liked the idea of self pumpout, especially on the River Thames when we get home.

The weather was delightful and we decided to get out our SeaHopper dingy from behind the settee and set off around the Basin with the electric thruster and oars. Everyone had great fun, taking turns and Beth, Malcolm's eight year old daughter had her first rowing lessons. The fishermen had a little dingy too but with just one oar.

Sunday 12 June
Glasson Basin to Glasson Junction

The Port of Lancaster Smokehouse is open 7 days, so there was time for last minute shopping, and the purchase of a newspaper, before setting off back to the main line.
We reached the junction in 2.5 hours then moored just after the water point on the Galgate Visitor Moorings. We had just settled down when it tipped with rain. This prevented our BBQ and we were trapped indoors for dinner.

Monday 13 June
Galgate to Lancaster then onwards to Hest Bank

After two hours in the cold and wind we were glad to arrive at the moorings outside The Waterwitch in Lancaster, a highly recommended canalside pub and restaurant which has started featuring in the weekend papers. Although it was close to the town it was a long walk to the River Lune for a Halfords where Pete finally got a replacement fan belt and Sainsbury's for essential shopping. Then we settled down inside The Waterwitch for an excellent light lunch and a trial of a couple of their large range of guest beers - they have a long row of handpumps terminating with the well named Lancaster Bomber. We recommend the black pudding and mash which is on the menu as a starter, but is large enough for a main course, Malcolm had kiddy size bangers and mash which would have fed a small pony.

We needed to be in Carnforth by Tuesday evening, so we decided to leave our exploration of Lancaster until the return journey, and continued to the visitor moorings at Hest Bank. Highlights of this part were crossing over the River Lune Aqueduct which is 600 feet long and carries the canal across the River Lune, 60 feet below. It is one of the engineering marvels of the canal system and like the rest of the canal designed by Rennie but it is difficult to get a good view of from the canal or from close below because of the scale. Our brass plaque of the Lancaster Canal has the motif of the aqueduct. Then as we approached Hest Bank there was an excellent view of the sea. The village of Hest Bank is separated from the coast by the railway line, and it is only a few minutes walk from the moorings.

Tuesday 14 June
Hest Bank to Carnforth .

It was another very wet start to the day. The first challenge was Hatlex Swing Bridge. It is the only bridge which has to be opened, and it was pleasingly light and easy. Then we passed good moorings with rings at Bolton-le-Sands, but there were no boats. Carnforth was full but we squeezed into a space by the pub, and then another helpful boater moved back 5 feet to enable us to get in by the petrol station, next to Dugald and Malcolm. We had already needed to moor them together; the canal was wide enough for two boats to breast up. As well as the canalside pub it is just a few steps to the new Tesco, formerly Morrisons and before that Safeways. The journey was just 1.5 hours. It was still raining.

Eventually we went out to look around the shops, and explore the railway station and museum. In the past there was a Steam Heritage Centre near to the station, but that is closed. However the railway station houses interesting specialist model railway shops, a sweet shop and an antiques shop, as well as the museum in the old Station Offices which includes the history and the video of excerpts from the 1945 film "Brief Encounter" directed by David Lean, a classic now available on DVD. We took a picture of the station clock where the 'Encounter' starts.

Wednesday 15 June
In Carnforth

Although the Millenium Ribble Link Skipper's Guide includes a map of the Lancaster Canal it only goes as far north as the terminus at Tewitfield. So we were pleased that we had purchased The Complete Guide to the Lancaster Canal, and could walk the Northern Reaches. Although it was raining today we decided to take the 10.40 bus to Holme and walk along part of the isolated canal which is still in water. Buses go from Carnforth every hour and we were dropped near Bridge 148, which enabled us to look at the site of the former Cinder Ovens. There are several culverts which restrict navigation. The first is at Bridge 153a where it was necessary to go up over the road and then back down to the canal. More significant are the M6 culverts. We had a detour across a field from Bridge 154a to Bridge 155. This brought us to the remains of a canalside Packet House at Farleton. And there was a second detour at Bridge 163a to the A65, under the M6, then back to the canal.

Our final destination was Crooklands, where there is a David Piper trip boat and the restored stables which are said to house an exhibition. In June neither were active. It was still raining so we took shelter in the Crooklands Hotel and had lunch, surrounded by groups of suits with laptops presenting to each other, while we tried inconspicuously to take off our wet shoes and dry out our even wetter socks under the table - flagstone floors are very cold!

We retraced our steps but arrived back in Holme with almost an hour to spare before the next bus so we continued along the canal to the Burton aqueduct, from where we walked into Burton and across to the bus stop. Refreshed by an ice cream at the Post Office our bus arrived just as it started to tip with rain again.

Thursday 16 June
In Carnforth (again)

We planned to catch the same bus today, but continue to Kendal and look at the original terminus of the canal. So we were just setting off at 10.20 when we saw a Steam Passenger Bus puff by. We rushed down to the pub car park to look at it, whilst a number of tourists descended to take a boat trip. In talking with the owners they said that the bus was shortly going back to Morecambe, and would we like a ride. They told us it would be free because the bus had not yet got its passenger carrying licence, but we were welcome to make a donation. This sounded more fun than shopping in Kendal, so we climbed on board. The bus had a new replica body on an original lorry 1932 chassis - many firms had a charabanc body which they put on for staff trips at the weekends and the new body can likewise be removed or changed in half an hour.

We first went to Carnforth Station, and then returned past the canal towards Morecambe. There was a short stop to collect water from a convenient stream, and stoke up the boiler with more coal, and we arrived in Morecambe at 11.00. In spite of the rain we spent an interesting 2 hours walking along the promenade, admiring the unique artwork of the Tern project which includes the Eric Morecambe statue, and stopping at the RNLI lifeboat station. We had planned to spend the day in Morecambe, returning on the steam bus at 15.00 or 16.30 but it continued to rain steadily and we caught a normal bus back at lunchtime instead. This had the advantage there was time for a short walk in the afternoon around the shops of Carnforth, including the excellent second-hand bookshop.

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