Hest Bank, Silverdale & Arnside – a walk in 4 parts

Back in January this year I watched the second series of a crime drama shot in and around Morecambe. Most of the locations I instantly recognised from previous visits but there was a house featured in a place which I felt I knew even though I also knew I’d never been there. Some logical thought and a study of Google maps and street view eventually showed me where it was so the Saturday morning of the August bank holiday found me driving along Morecambe promenade and the coast road to arrive in Hest Bank just a couple of miles northwards.
The road to the shore was crossed by the west coast main train line and the barriers were down when I arrived so I had to wait a few minutes for the trains to pass. Just beyond the level crossing was a parking area and a small cafe, with a long and pleasant green overlooking the bay and a few more small parking areas set at intervals just off the tarmac lane. With just a couple of large semis and a very small residential static caravan site there was nothing there but it was a nice enough little place which seemed to be popular with walkers with or without dogs, while the vast expanse of sands provided good cantering for a couple of horse riders.
Walking northwards I soon found the house I’d seen in the tv series; the lane turned into a gravel track there which ended in another small parking area and a grassy foreshore above the shingle beach. I would really have liked to walk on a bit further but I could see quite a few people in the distance with several off-lead dogs, something which Snowy doesn’t like, so I turned round there and headed back the other way. Back at the van I got chatting to a couple about to set off on a bike ride along the Lancaster Canal; it seemed it was only a short distance away so I decided to leave the van where it was and go check it out.
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I found the canal quite easily and my walk northwards started from Bridge 118, built in 1797, but if I’d been expecting to pass through some nice countryside I was destined to be disappointed as the canal was lined on both sides with houses and bungalows. Many of the properties on the far side had large attractive gardens reaching down to the canal side while those on the towpath side were set just below the canal bank. Long strips of well mown grass separated the boundary walls and hedges from the towpath and I got occasional views over the rooftops to the bay.
Not knowing how far I would have to go to find some countryside I gave up at Bridge 122 and set off back to where I started; I had other places to go to so I didn’t want to spend too long looking for something which could possibly still be miles away. Bridge 120 was a ground-level swing bridge which seemed to provide access to just one house set on its own and not far away was a quirky looking cottage with a not-very-straight roof and an overgrown garden. I couldn’t tell if it was lived in or empty but it intrigued me enough to take a quick photo.
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My next port of call was Silverdale but knowing how to get there and actually getting  there were two completely different things. What should have been a relatively easy drive from Carnforth turned into an epic all-round-the-houses, miles-out-of-my-way journey round unknown country lanes due to a closed road and diversion at a crucial point, but I got there in the end.
Now I remember going to Silverdale as part of a coach trip with my parents when I was about 9 or 10 years old and though I don’t recall going to the village itself I do remember being totally unimpressed with the coast part of it as there was absolutely nothing there, so I was hoping that after all these years it might have changed a little. It hadn’t – there was still the same rough parking area, the same row of cottages set back behind a high concrete sea wall, the same ankle-twisting rocky shoreline and vast expanse of sand. Yes, the view across the bay was good but other than that there was nothing – in less than ten minutes I had all the photos I wanted and I was back in the van.
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Next on the list were Jack Scout nature reserve and Jenny Brown’s Point, a relatively short drive from the village and neither of which I’d been to before. Unfortunately I couldn’t get remotely close to either of them in the van; about halfway there I was met by the second Road Closed sign of the day so I had to find a convenient place to park on a nearby lane and walk from there.
Jack Scout is an area of low limestone cliff owned by the National Trust, with its name thought to have come from old English or Norse meaning a high point where oak trees grow. Well known for its wildlife and extensive views over Morecambe Bay the area features a partially restored 18th century lime kiln and the Giant’s Seat, a huge limestone bench. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see either of these as a notice on the gate leading into the grassland warned of cows in the area and sure enough I could see several of them mooching about among the trees and shrubs. Not wanting to put myself and the dogs at risk I decided not to go there so another few minutes walking finally got me to Jenny Brown’s Point where a couple of benches set down off the lane gave great views over the channels flowing into the bay.
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No one really knows how Jenny Brown’s Point got its name. One story says she was a young maiden hopelessly scanning the distant horizon for the return of her lover, another that she was a nanny, cut off and drowned by the incoming tide while trying to rescue the two children in her care, though the more believable theory stems from the 1660s when a mother and daughter, both named Jennet Brown, lived at Dikehouse, the farm at the Point. The area has also been known as Brown’s Point (1812), Silverdale Point (1818) and Lindeth Point (1828) though Jenny Brown’s Point was in use on an 1829 estate plan and has been used by the Ordnance Survey from 1848.
One story which is certainly true is the tragic tale of the Matchless,  a converted fishing boat used for taking holidaymakers on trips across Morecambe Bay during the summer months. On September 3rd 1894, carrying 33 passengers and just one skipper/crewman, the boat left Morecambe to sail to Grange-over-Sands but just off Jenny Brown’s Point it was hit by an unexpectedly sudden strong gust of wind. Within seconds it capsized, throwing people into the water where many became fatally tangled and trapped in the sails and ropes. Although other nearby pleasure boats came to the rescue only eight passengers and the skipper were saved; 25 holidaymakers including five children, the youngest only 2 years old, all perished.
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A few hundred yards away from the benches the lane ended at the 18th century Brown’s Cottages where huge slabs of limestone looking almost like a slipway led down to the waterside. Nearby were the remains of what would once have been a small quay and part of a broken bridge which would have crossed the channel known as Quicksand Pool.
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Just beyond the cottages was an old chimney, now Grade ll listed and believed to be the remains of a short-lived copper mining and smelting project set up in the 1780s by Robert Gibson, Lord of the Manor of Yealand. He wrongly assumed that he had the right to mine for copper on nearby land owned by the Townleys of Leighton Hall and the copper was processed in a furnace at Jenny Brown’s Point, but after several lawsuits the whole operation was abandoned in 1788; Gibson died three years later in 1791.
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From Jenny Brown’s Point I walked back along the lane to the van then drove the four-and-a-bit miles round to Arnside. Normally I wouldn’t like to drive into to Arnside on a bank holiday as it would be extremely busy and parking wouldn’t be easy but it was gone 5pm by the time I got there and many day visitors had already left so I was able to find a parking space near the far end of the promenade.
Arnside village is situated on the West Coast main railway line in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. At one time it was actually a working port but building the viaduct across the Kent estuary in 1857 caused it to silt up, making the port no longer viable. The viaduct itself is 552 yards long with 50 piers; it was rebuilt in 1915 and is a very prominent feature of the village, being more or less the first thing to be seen when coming into Arnside past the railway station.
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The pier was constructed by the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway Company in 1860, replacing an earlier wooden structure and also providing a wharf for ships after the building of the viaduct prevented them from reaching the inland port of Milnthorpe. In 1934 a storm destroyed the end section of the pier which was subsequently rebuilt by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, then in 1964 Arnside Parish Council bought the pier for £100. Following a storm on the night of January 31st 1983 it was rebuilt by the Parish Council after the cost was raised by public subscription and grants, and it was officially re-opened on April 12th 1984.
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Walking along the promenade I heard the sound of singing coming from upstairs in the sailing club building which was once the Customs House. A board outside said the place was open so for curiosity I popped inside; a steep wooden staircase led up from the corner of a very simply furnished room and from up above came the sound of laughter and the chink of glasses. There was nothing to say if this was a public event or a private one but I don’t like sea shanties anyway so I didn’t bother finding out.
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My walk took me to the end of the pretty promenade gardens before I turned round and headed back to the van, with a quick detour up Pier Lane on the way. It was well after 6pm by then, the lane was in shade and the few small shops were closed but as I’d never been up there before it was worth a quick look.
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My route homeward took me down a part of the A6 which I’d never previously been along and as I headed south I caught the brief sight of an air balloon floating somewhere above the trees. Eventually I could see it properly and with not a lot of traffic on the road I was able to pull up in a couple of places and snap a handful of shots before it disappeared behind a ridge in the fields.
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It was almost 8pm when I finally arrived home, with the evening sun having stayed with me all the way back. Having set out reasonably early that morning it had been a long though very enjoyable day but now it was time to make a brew and relax for a while before the dogs needed their bedtime walk.

The Castlefield goslings

When I wrote in my third Manchester Flower Show post that I’d been very disappointed with the ‘towers of flowers’ installation on Deansgate Square I didn’t say that was the second time I’d been to look for it. The flower show website had given its location as Deansgate Square, Owen Street and a look on Google maps showed me where Owen Street was. With the photo I wanted to recreate firmly in my mind I went there on my first visit to the show but looking for the floral installation was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Finding Owen Street was no problem, what was  a problem was finding what I was actually looking for. The three high rise towers in the internet photo were over on the left but the whole street for quite a distance along was just one massive great sectioned off building site surrounded by huge hoardings advertising ‘Deansgate Square Phase 1’ or 2 or 3 etc. I even asked a couple of builders where this flower thing was but they hadn’t a clue so after wandering further along the street and still not finding it I gave up and headed back towards the city centre – and that’s when I had a lovely and very unexpected surprise.
The Castlefield goslings have been the subject of several Instagram posts and comments over the last few weeks. Along with a couple of adult geese they (presumably) live in and around the Castlefield Basin but for some unknown reason like to commute to the streets at the other side of Deansgate, taking their lives in their webbed feet by crossing the extremely busy main road. It beats me how they haven’t been squashed by now but traffic does seem to stop for them.
As I crossed the end of a side street behind Deansgate I looked to my right and walking down the middle of the street were several fluffy yellow goslings, two older ones and a couple of adult geese. The little ones ran onto a patch of spare land and spent a good five minutes pecking at the weeds growing round the edge, watched over by one of the adults before they all set off in a line down the street towards Deansgate.
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With hindsight I should really have gone to the main road to get a shot of them crossing it but some street art caught my attention and by the time I did get round to Deansgate they had disappeared. I finally found the flower installation a few days later after asking someone who posted a photo on Instagram – the flower show organisers really should have put proper details of its location on their website as it was in such an obscure place. It was while I was in that area for the second time that I went to explore the Castlefield Basin and saw the goose family in the Bridgewater Canal.
Mentally counting the goslings I found the same number as I’d seen a few days previously so at least none of them had become victims of the Deansgate traffic. No doubt by the time I make another visit to Castlefield the goslings will be all grown up so seeing them walking down the street a few days previously had been a lovely surprise which I’ll remember for quite some time.

A discovery walk round Castlefield Basin

My Monday walk this week was one of those impromptu ‘while I’m here I may as well look round over there’ walks. That being so, aside from seeing a couple of photos on Instagram I hadn’t previously researched the area I went to, nor did I photograph things which I now know could be of interest but I can, and probably will, go back there another time.
Castlefield is an inner city conservation area in Manchester and within its boundaries lies Castlefield Basin where the Rochdale Canal and Bridgewater Canal meet. Although many of the area’s old warehouses from long ago have disappeared over the years most of the remaining ones have been restored and renovated to be converted into modern apartments and offices alongside high quality new developments, an outdoor waterside arena for live music and several bars and eateries, making Castlefield Basin a very pleasant and popular place.
My walk started on Deansgate where the Rochdale Canal disappears under the road for a short distance and a railway line runs overhead. At the far side of the viaduct was a tall and very narrow building, empty and derelict for many years but once part of a sawmill possibly dating from the second half of the nineteenth century. A pleasant offshoot from the cobbled Castle Street ended in a large parking area at the side of the Bridgewater Canal then steps on the right took me back up to the road.
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Passing the large and now converted canalside Merchants’ Warehouse on my left and the beer garden of Dukes bar on the right the road took me to Lock 92 on the Rochdale Canal, where the canal itself joins the canal basin. At the far side was the attractive lock keeper’s cottage with its pretty garden though looking down the canal I couldn’t miss what must currently be Manchester’s ugliest building, the Beetham Tower, a 47-storey mixed-use skyscraper on Deansgate.
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Past the cottage the road took me under three viaducts to a dead-end offshoot of the Bridgewater Canal with its narrowboat moorings next to Castlefield Bowl, the outdoor music and events arena. Heading back to the canal basin along the towpath I took a couple of shots under the bridges before emerging at Catalan Square with its tapas bar and attractive outdoor dining area complete with floral planters.
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Narrowboat moorings at Castlefield Bowl
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Staying on the towpath would have taken me back past the lock keeper’s cottage so I went up the steps to Catalan Square and crossed the modern Merchant’s Bridge running above the junction of the two canals to the area of Slate Wharf. With a span of 40 metres the 3-metre wide deck is hung from the steel arches by 13 hangers, and with no underneath supports it has a bit of a bouncy feel to it when walking across. Taking photos from the middle of the bridge when other people were walking across it needed a steady hand and a lot of patience to avoid blurry shots.
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The Bridgewater Canal from Catalan Square
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Potato Wharf from Merchant’s Bridge, with a freight train passing overhead
At the far side of the bridge was the pleasant open area of Castlefield Green with several narrowboats moored alongside and The Wharf pub/restaurant with its outdoor seating area. At the head of a small former wharf by a bend in the canal was the restored Middle Warehouse, now converted into offices, apartments and a restaurant and also the home of Hits Radio, formerly Key 103 and previous to that Piccadilly Radio.
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Past the front of Middle Warehouse a small footbridge took me back onto the canal towpath and if I ignored the ongoing development of multi-storey apartments and 2-bedroom duplexes of Castle Wharf on my right it was a very pleasant walk until I eventually emerged onto the main road not far from where I started.
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Never having been to that area before I didn’t know what to expect but I was very pleasantly surprised by how nice it is. Having now found out a lot more about the place a return is definitely on my list and hopefully there’ll be a lot more photo opportunities waiting for me when I do go back.

Leeds/Liverpool Canal – Snowy’s first walk

My Monday walk this week was done just a week after Snowy’s arrival and was her first long walk with me and Poppie. A 20-minute drive from home took us to the Leeds/Liverpool canal at Adlington and our walk started from the White Bear Marina, with our goal being Frederick’s Ice Cream Parlour a couple of miles northwards on the outskirts of Chorley.
Parking at the marina itself seemed to be for boat owners only as there was a barrier across the lane leading down to it, however just across the road was a recreation ground with a small parking area so I was able to leave the van there. I shot my first photo from the bridge as I made my way down to the towpath then got another couple of shots as I walked past the quite extensive marina, the largest one on the whole of the canal.
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Although the main A6 wasn’t too far away, once I left the marina behind I was in open countryside. Narrowboats and canal cruisers were moored along the far bank for quite a long way, there was even a cute looking houseboat moored at the end of a landing stage and across the fields at one point I could see my old friend the Winter Hill tv mast in the distance.
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Leaving the boats behind, the open countryside gave way to trees lining each side of the canal and round a couple of bends I eventually came to bridge 71. Just beyond the bridge was Ellerbeck Narrowboats, a small boat hire business with half a dozen boats set back in a private mooring and within its grounds the Boatyard Bus Cafe, a quirky cafe set on board a 1990 Leyland Olympian double decker.
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Farther along the canal half a dozen boats with colourful designs and windows were moored on my side and round the next bend I came to bridge 72 with a ‘Welcome To Lancashire’ sign fastened to the stonework, which I thought was rather odd – if it had any connection to the county boundary then I’d been in Lancashire before I’d even got to the White Bear marina.
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The next bridge, 72a, carried the main A6 road over the canal and another ten minutes walk took me to bridge 73, my turn around point. Across the canal a few cattle grazed peacefully in the fields and at the side of the bridge steps and a path led up past a small area with picnic tables to Frederick’s Ice Cream Parlour on the main road.
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The Italian Federici family have been making luxury ice cream for over four generations and the main road ice cream parlour and cafe has been the home of the business since 1936. I’d previously been told by more than one person that the place was very popular and with a queue from the door, round the corner and quite a distance down the path it would certainly seem so. Crossing the road when there was a convenient gap in the traffic I snapped a quick photo then went back to the path and returned to the canal.
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Heading back to White Bear there was one boat across the far side of the canal which intrigued me. With a central wheelhouse it looked to be more canal cruiser than narrowboat and with peeling paintwork and boarded up windows it looked a bit of a mess compared to most of the other boats I’d passed. Less than ten minutes later I reached bridge 70 and before long I was back at White Bear marina and bridge 69 where my walk began.
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I hadn’t actually set out until mid afternoon and it was getting on for 6pm by the time I got back to the van but the warmth of the sun had stayed with me all the way so the walk had been very pleasant. I’d never been along that section of the canal before but as it’s only a short drive from home I may very well do that walk another time – and maybe next time I’ll go over the bridge and pop into the Boatyard Bus for coffee and cake.

Lancaster Canal – Moons Bridge to Guy’s Thatched Hamlet

My Monday walk this week was done in mid September and just four days after my canal walk from Garstang. My original plan was to walk from Moons Bridge Marina to Blackleach Marina just a couple of miles away in the Preston direction, however things didn’t quite work out like that. Moons Bridge Marina is situated off a narrow country lane with very few places to park safely and from where I left the van I had to walk up and over the bridge then down to the towpath on the far side – and that’s where, for once, my normally excellent sense of direction and the in-built satnav in my brain deserted me.
Moons Bridge Marina was developed from a canal-side farmer’s field over twenty years ago and has been owned and run by the same family ever since. After taking a few photos round the marina itself I headed along the lane and over the bridge to the canal towpath but that’s where I went wrong – instead of going ‘sort of’ southwest I went under the bridge and ‘sort of’ northeast and I only realised I’d gone wrong when I kept seeing the Bowland fells in the distance ahead of me. There was no point turning back and starting again though, and I knew where I would eventually get to anyway, so I decided to carry on.
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One thing which did surprise me as I walked along were the large stretches of surface weed on the water, something which I’ve only ever associated with ponds and other still waters; even when a boat travelled through it the weed would only momentarily disperse before covering the surface again. Another thing I noticed was the amount of pylons and power lines crossing the countryside; I know these things are essential in rural areas but I’ve never seen as many as that on any of my other walks.
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Although the sun kept disappearing behind a bank of white clouds it was still very warm and the light tracksuit top I was wearing was eventually taken off and tied round my waist. Being a weekday I had the canal to myself and I didn’t see anyone until I got to White Horse Bridge where I encountered a group of students and their teacher; they seemed to be doing some sort of field studies so I assumed they were probably from the agricultural college a couple of miles away. They were quite spread out across the narrow path so to give them chance to move on I went up onto the bridge to take a couple of shots looking over the canal and the surrounding countryside.
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From White Horse Bridge it was only just over a mile to Guy’s Thatched Hamlet; I was making that my turn around point and it wasn’t long before I started to see signs of civilisation and boats moored alongside the towpath. Going up onto the road passing Guy’s I took a couple of shots from the bridge before having a wander round the hamlet itself. When I was there in late May the whole placed had been closed and it had seemed strange with no-one around – now it was partially open and several people were enjoying drinks at outside tables but it still felt weird.
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While I’d been wandering round Guy’s the clouds had gradually been clearing away so the walk back to Moons Bridge was much sunnier and I was able to retake some of the shots I got earlier on. As I got near to the marina I realised something – throughout the whole of the walk I hadn’t heard any birdsong. Even though trees had lined the canal path in several places there hadn’t been a tweet or a chirp anywhere which I thought was very strange. Back at the marina I took my final two shots from the bridge and the lane then made my way back to the van to head for home.
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Although the walk had started out as a mistake and had covered more than twice the distance originally planned it had nevertheless been very enjoyable, and as I’d always planned to do that section of the canal at some point anyway, probably next year, it meant I could now tick it off my list a bit sooner than I intended.

Lancaster Canal – Garstang to Catterall

My Monday walk this week is the on-foot version of a cycle ride I did ten years ago. Back then I was camping at Bridge House Marina by the canal on the far side of Garstang so my cycle ride had started from there, however this time my walk was starting from Garstang itself, at Bridge No.62 near Th’Owd Tithe Barn pub/restaurant.
Set back off the canal and next to the restaurant was The Moorings Basin with several colourful narrowboats moored up, then a couple of hundred yards away was the Wyre Aqueduct designed by John Rennie and built in 1797; at 110ft long it carries the canal 34ft above the River Wyre. At the far side of the aqueduct a set of steep wooden steps led down to the riverside where I was able to photograph the structure from down below.
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Back up on the canal I passed a long stretch of modern houses and went under three bridges before I left civilisation behind, and apart from the sound of birds in the trees and an occasional passing boat it was very quiet and peaceful. Round a wide bend I could see the old Garstang castle, or what remains of it, standing on high ground in the distance at the far side of the canal; photographing it from nearby is something else on my ever-lengthening ‘to do’ list.
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Greenhalgh Castle was built in 1490 by Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, and the land on which it was built was said to be a gift to Stanley from his stepson Henry Tudor for his assistance in defeating Richard lll at the Battle of Bosworth. Constructed of rubble and sandstone it stood on a small area of raised ground and was rectangular with towers 24 yards square at each corner.
During the English Civil War the castle was garrisoned by James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, in support of Charles l and it was one of the last two Royalist strongholds in Lancashire to succumb following a siege by Cromwell’s forces in 1644/45. The garrison eventually surrendered in 1645 on provision that the men were allowed to return to their homes unharmed, then demolition teams partially destroyed the castle to make sure it couldn’t be used again for military purposes.
After the castle’s destruction many of the local farmhouses, including the nearby Castle Farm, incorporated some of the stones into their buildings; following its continued deterioration over the centuries the only remaining part is the lower section of one of the four original towers and as it stands on private land it’s inaccessible to the public although it can be seen fairly close up from a nearby lane.
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Approaching the next bridge I was quite surprised to see a couple of cows across the other side of the canal, standing well over knee deep in the water and slurping copious amounts from between the weeds and water lilies. Eventually I came to a marker post telling me it was 16 miles to Preston – I didn’t think it was as far as that but if it was then I was glad I wasn’t going there.
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My goal on this walk was the Calder Aqueduct, again designed by John Rennie and built in 1797 but shorter than the Wyre Aqueduct. Carrying the canal over the River Calder in the Catterall area the aqueduct has an adjoining weir on the upstream side, built to lower the bed of the river under the canal with the river itself being channelled beneath the canal through a single elliptical arch. The riverbank on the downstream side was wide and grassy with a steep path down from the canal and ten years ago I’d stopped there for a picnic before cycling back to the camp site.
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Heading back to Garstang I spotted something up ahead on the far side of the canal and getting closer I found it was a heron. It hadn’t been there earlier so I watched for several minutes, and unlike the statue-like one I’d seen on another stretch of the canal back in June this one did actually move. Eventually I came to the marker post which told me it was a mile back to Garstang although to get to there from the town earlier on had seemed to be more than a mile.
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Approaching civilisation there was a small inset on the far side of the canal with three colourful narrowboats moored up and it wasn’t long before I began to see boats moored on my side. I’ve often wondered where some canal boats get their quirky names from and I couldn’t resist snapping a couple of them. One of the last in the row had some small brightly decorated barrels fastened to its roof and they looked so pretty I thought they deserved to be photographed.
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Back across the Wyre Aqueduct, past the Moorings Basin and Th’Owd Tithe Barn and I was back at my starting point, Bridge No. 62 where my van was waiting for me just a few yards down the road. The walk was one I’d been wanting to do for a while, I’d really enjoyed revisiting a part of the canal I first went to ten years ago and it was another completed section to tick off my list.

Lancaster Canal – Glasson Branch

The Glasson branch of the Lancaster Canal was built to connect the main canal at Galgate to the River Lune estuary at Glasson Dock, with construction starting in 1820 and the branch opening in 1826. Over its two-and-a-half mile length the branch dropped through 52ft, and while the main canal is lock-free for the whole of its 42 miles the Glasson branch was constructed with six locks between Galgate and the Glasson Basin.
I’d walked along a short section of the canal one day last summer but this time I intended to explore the whole two-and-a-half mile length, which I did just eight days ago. Starting from Glasson Basin it was only a short distance to the first bridge, which was technically the last one as the locks and bridges are numbered from the junction with the main canal. The footpath was wide and grassy, bordered by hedges on the left, open fields across the canal and with the Bowland Fells in the distance. At the far side of the hedge near the second bridge was Glasson Marina Holiday Park, a medium-sized static caravan site, and once I was past there I was away from any form of civilisation until I got past the third bridge.
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View from the first bridge – Bridge 8
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View from Bridge 7
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View from Bridge 6
A short distance past Bridge 6 was Lock 6 and The Mill at Conder Green, a canalside hotel, bar and restaurant, currently closed but under normal circumstances probably a popular place to stop off for a drink on a warm sunny day. Bypassing the far side of the lock was a canal overflow channel and standing as still as a statue in the bottom end was a heron; I watched it for several minutes but it never moved an inch.
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Lock 6 and The Mill at Conder Green
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Just past Lock 6 was a short mooring platform then the canal curved round to the right and in less than ten minutes I was at Lock 5. Nearby a mother swan and her two young ones glided silently through the water and the bottom of the hedgerows were interspersed with large patches of oxeye daisies growing just a few feet from the path.

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Lock 5

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A hundred yards or so past the lock and its mooring platform, and close to Bridge 5, was a gap in the hedge and a gate where I could see over the fields beyond. A herd of cows mooched peacefully about in the nearest field and a bit farther along the path was a second gate with a notice warning off anyone who might think of going in there for whatever reason. I’ve often wondered if such notices are just the farmers’ way of discouraging people from trespassing on their land but this time it was true – there was a bull in the field, a very handsome red beast, but he disappeared down a dip in the land before I could get a photo of him.
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Another few minutes walking got me to Bridge 4 and Lock 4 and beyond the lock itself the land really opened out. The nearby hedges were low enough to see over and there were great views across the fields on both sides of the canal. Cows grazed peacefully by the waterside, some actually standing in the water itself; the field of cows changed to a field of sheep which then became a field of both cows and sheep, and there was no sound at all other than the various little birds as they flew about from one hedge to another.
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Bridge 4
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Lock 4

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Tortoiseshell butterfly
At Lock 3 the landscape changed again with the far side of the canal now being shaded by more trees. Farther on a solitary cow paddled and grazed at the water’s edge and in a field on my side of the canal an old Massey Ferguson tractor trundled along, turning the previously mown grass with its motorised hay rake. With the wrong wheels and half its bonnet missing it looked a bit of a mess but it was certainly doing its job.
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View from Lock 3

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At Lock 2 the canal widened out a bit near its mooring platform then narrowed again as it got closer to Lock 1. About halfway between the two locks were a pair of swans with the female busy rearranging the nest, and on a wooden post closer to Lock 1 I photographed my second butterfly of the afternoon.
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View from Lock 2

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Red Admiral butterfly
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Lock 1, Bridge 1
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Bridge 1

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At Bridge 1 I was at the junction with the main canal and my turn around point, Galgate Marina, was less than a quarter of a mile to the north. I hadn’t gone far when I started to see boats moored alongside the far bank and in the marina itself, in front of a narrowboat, was a swan with nine young ones. I’d just taken a photo of them when a lady in one of the boats shouted across that they all belonged to that one swan and her mate, which quite surprised me as I’ve never before seen one swan with so many young ones.
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Leaving the swans behind I set off back to Glasson Basin; I hadn’t started my walk until gone 3pm and time was now getting on so I walked back without stopping, though I did pause briefly by The Mill at Conder Green. The stork was still in the canal overflow channel, in exactly the same place as two hours previously – it hadn’t moved, and I was just beginning to think that it was a lifelike replica left there for some reason when it suddenly turned and looked like it was about to take off. I was glad it moved when it did or I would have wondered for a long while if it was real.
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Just before I reached Glasson Basin I passed a shrub with some pretty pink blooms and with one final shot I returned to the van. Although the walk had only been a total of five miles it had somehow seemed longer so it was now time to head for home and chill out for the rest of the evening.

 

Lancaster Canal & Guy’s Thatched Hamlet

This short-ish unplanned walk was done on the same day as my walk along Skippool Creek, featured in my previous post. Driving home from the creek I passed Guy’s Thatched Hamlet and as it was still only mid afternoon I decided on the spur of the moment to stop and have a short walk along the canal. The entrance to the hamlet had been closed off so I parked on the road and took the steps down to the canalside; the hamlet itself was in complete contrast to when I’d been there last summer – back then it had been very busy, now there was no-one around except someone in a moored up boat and a couple of guys fishing from the towpath.
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I decided to have a look round the hamlet first. With several overgrown flower beds, grass which needed mowing and no-one else around it felt very much like a ghost village but at least I was able to wander round and take a few photos without anyone getting in the way. On some of the whitewashed lodge walls I discovered various murals and on the outside walls of a couple of the shops were several old and quirky advertising signs.
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Walking northwards first I passed a line of boats moored at intervals along the opposite bank and the pleasant looking back gardens of the houses and small businesses situated along the nearby main road. On my left was a caravan park and after a distance I came to a narrow road bridge so I made that my turn round point. Steps led up to the road so I went up to take a quick look and get a couple of shots from each direction then headed back towards the hamlet.
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Back past Guy’s I walked under the road bridge and headed south for a while. Here there was nothing but open fields, sweet smelling hawthorn hedges and the pretty canal stretching in front of me, and away from any road noise the only sounds were birdsong and the occasional bleat of a sheep.
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On such a glorious afternoon and in such a lovely location I could have walked for miles but having already covered quite a distance at Skippool Creek I didn’t go too far before I turned round and headed back to the van. This part of the canal was really lovely, and now having checked it out on Google maps it’s a place where I intend to do a much longer walk in the not-too-distant future.

 

Glasson Dock and Lancaster Canal

As October seems to have been constantly wet and miserable, weather which now looks like it’s continuing into November, I thought I’d brighten things up a bit by posting a Monday walk which I did on a warm and sunny day in early August. Having been to Garstang only a couple of weeks previously I decided this time to go a bit further afield and have a wander round Glasson Dock, a little place on the River Lune estuary which I hadn’t been to for several years.
Back in the early years, before becoming a dock, Glasson was just a small farming and fishing community but because of the increasing difficulty of navigation up the Lune to Lancaster docks the Lancaster port authorities decided to build a dock there. Land at Glasson was purchased in 1780 and construction was started, with the dock finally being completed and opened in 1787 ; it was a well equipped place and could hold up to 25 merchant ships.
Construction of the Lancaster Canal was started in 1792 and finished in 1800 and during that time thought was given to making a connection between it and the sea, although the original plans weren’t actioned. Those plans were revived in 1819 and after additional finance was raised construction of a canal branch, later known as the Glasson Arm, was started in 1823 and opened in 1826. Over its two-and-a-half mile length from Galgate to Glasson the branch dropped through 52ft, and while the main canal is lock-free for the whole of its length the Glasson branch was constructed with six locks between Galgate and the Glasson Basin, with a seventh lock between the basin and the dock itself.
In 1834 a shipyard and Customs House were built at the dock, followed by a watch house in 1836 and a dry dock in 1841. The quay was connected by a branch line to the railway network in 1883, operating passenger services until 1930 then continuing with goods services until its final closure in 1964. The shipyards, which had been mainly concerned with ship repair rather than ship building, eventually closed in 1968 with the dry dock being filled in a year later. A limited amount of commercial shipping still uses the dock to this day, with outgoing shipments including coal for the Isle of Man and Scotland’s Western Isles and incoming cargoes of fertiliser and animal foodstuffs. Since the shipyards closed in the late 1960s the canal basin has developed over the years into a marina for pleasure craft, with mooring facilities for 220 boats and a wide range of boating services, and in more recent years the trackbed of the disused railway line has become a very pleasant linear park and cycleway.
The road into Glasson runs alongside the salt marshes of the estuary, with a large rough-surfaced car park overlooking the canal basin and marina. At the end of the car park and set back off the road was the Lock Keepers Rest, a permanently sited large caravan-type fast food place with tables outside, and across the corner was the white walled Victoria Inn. The last time I was at Glasson Dock the Victoria was open but due to lack of business it closed four years ago – a shame really as it looked like it would have been a nice place for a meal and a drink.
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View from the road into Glasson Dock
The road past the Victoria Inn led to a small car park at the beginning of the east side of the dock and across the far side a crane was unloading something from a cargo ship. Up ahead I could see a small white building with an odd-shaped tower at one end of its roof. Intrigued I went to take a look but was told by a guy in a nearby portacabin that members of the public weren’t allowed along the dock side – so I asked nicely and he said I could go and take a couple of photos if I was quick about it. The little building, apparently now used for storage, had originally been a lighthouse built round about the same time as the dock ; there seems to be very little information about it but it was classed as Grade ll listed in 1985.
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Back past the lock gates which separated the dock from the canal basin I decided to take a walk along the canal, something I’d never done on any previous visits to Glasson. Close to the car park was a permanently moored ‘live-aboard’ narrow boat looking quite attractive with its bright pots of flowers on its roof, then a bit further along and in complete contrast was a sunken wreck with just its cabin sticking up out of the water. I think I remember seeing that boat years ago when it was complete and being lived on ; information tells me that it was called Kikobo and was an ex-fishing boat. During high winds in December 2013 it was repeatedly struck against the dock side until a damaged plank sprung a leak and it went down, although not as far as it is now. Because of bad weather it couldn’t be salvaged at the time and for whatever reason it was just left to sink even lower – a shame really that it’s ended up like that.
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A hundred yards or so past the beginning of the canal was Christ Church, designed by Lancaster architect Edmund Sharpe and built in 1839-40. The east window has a modern design dating from 1979 while the other windows all date from the 19th century, and the churchyard contains the war graves of two soldiers from World War l and one soldier from World War ll.
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Christ Church, Glasson
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Unfortunately being hampered by the restraints of work later on I had to keep my canal walk reasonably short as I wanted to make time for coffee and a snack at the cafe near the dock, so I only walked as far as the third bridge before turning round and retracing my steps. It was a nice walk though, and once I’d got away from the canal basin and past the first bridge the scenery was lovely.
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The first bridge
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View looking towards the second bridge
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View towards the third bridge
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Looking back to the second bridge
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Heading back to the Glasson Basin
Back in the village I crossed the end of the canal by the swing bridge and went to the café on the far side of the dock, ordering a ham and cheese toastie and a can of Coke as it was really too warm for coffee. It was really pleasant sitting out in the sunshine but all too soon it was time to have another wander round before I made tracks for home.  Just along from the café was the Dalton Arms pub set back in a large car park on the west side of the dock, and just by the entrance was a long planter with a very pretty flower display which I thought was worth a photo.
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Tithebarn swing bridge
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View from outside the cafe
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Back across the car park and behind the Victoria Inn I got a photo of the view over the estuary looking towards Overton village, then with shots from the nearby bowling green and cycleway I headed back to the van.  As I drove away from the village I stopped at the side of the road for one final shot of the view over the inner estuary then I headed for home without stopping again.
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View across to Overton
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The bowling green and estuary
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View towards the Bowland fells
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View over the inner estuary
It had been nice to spend a couple of hours or so at Glasson Dock after not having been there for quite a while, and since then I’ve discovered details of a circular walk in the area which takes in a few points of interest so no doubt I’ll be making a return visit sometime next summer.

Guy’s Thatched Hamlet – history and development

My Monday walk this week is more of a wander than a walk and takes in the delights of Guy’s Thatched Hamlet, a complex of thatched roof buildings sitting alongside the Lancaster Canal and just off the A6 at Bilsborrow, five miles south of Garstang. I’ve passed this place many times over the last few years and often thought how attractive it looks but I’ve never made a point of stopping off there until one sunny day just a few weeks ago.
The history of the hamlet goes back to the 19th century and one Thomas Duell who was born into a working Yorkshire family in 1804. In 1832 he moved across the Pennines to the village of Barton, north of Preston, and later that year was ordained into the church, becoming vicar of St. Lawrence’s Church and living in a small humble vicarage. Unfortunately the vicarage suffered a devastating fire and was burnt down, so while it was being rebuilt Reverend Duell went to Bilsborrow to stay at School House Farm which had been built in 1798, two years before the completion of the Lancaster Canal.  While there he helped to tend the orchards and look after the pigs and during his spare time in 1834 he built a Dutch barn to store the crops and shelter the pigs over winter.
Among the items that had been salvaged from the vicarage fire were some sacks of barley ; the sacks had been scorched by the flames and the barley toasted to a dark chocolate colour. Not wanting to waste it Reverend Duell steeped it in water and boiled it up, then noting the colour and aroma of the brew he cooled it, added yeast and made a beer which, due to the scorched barley, was as dark as porter is today. Setting up a small brewery in a corner of the barn he began brewing beers for the farm labourers and his parishioners, with that very first brew at Bilsborrow considered to be a porter.
Fast forward to the present day and the seeds of Guy’s Thatched Hamlet were sown in 1980 when Roy and Irene Wilkinson opened Guy’s Eating Establishment, a restaurant and pizzeria serving authentic Italian food and sited where Reverend Duell had built the Dutch barn all those years previously. In 1986 School House Farm was purchased and extended to become Owd Nell’s Canalside Tavern, selling Tetley ales, Castlemaine and Moosehead lagers, with Boddington’s Bitter being added to the range in 1987. One of the farm’s two wells was situated in front of the farmhouse and in 1988 a local man, John Bamber, descended this well ; it was found to be brick lined to a depth of 30ft with a wider sand and gravel bottom 10ft deeper.
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Guy’s Eating Establishment and Lodge Reception
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Owd Nell’s Canalside Tavern
In 1990 more land was purchased and Guy’s Lodge was built, creating 26 en-suite lodge-style rooms (though interestingly there is no Room 13) and the name Guy’s Thatched Hamlet was created to encompass Guy’s Eating Establishment, Owd Nell’s Tavern and Guy’s Lodge. In 1991 another six bedrooms were added to the Lodge and three craft shops were completed, along with the cobbled Spout Lane which was built on part of the old original route from Clitheroe to Blackpool. Spout Lane is also the site of the second of the original farm’s two wells.
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Spout Lane and shops
In 1992 the first Guy’s Oyster Festival took place, run in conjunction with Murphy’s Irish Stout and opened by Bob Kennefick from Murphy’s brewery and boxer Barry McGuigan ; this became an annual charity event with proceeds being donated to Guy’s nominated charities each year. 1993 was the year the cricket ground and thatched cricket pavilion were built and a cricket match was played against a select Lancashire XI which included David Lloyd, while the Guy’s Select XI included Sir Denis Lillie. The following year saw the founding of the Boddington’s Village Cricket League and the addition of another 21 lodge-style rooms.
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Cricket ground and pavilion
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In 1996 the crown green bowling green was built then in 1997 came the thatched bowling pavilion, staff accommodation and an extension to Durty Nellie’s Snug. Finally in 2002 another twelve en-suite rooms with spa baths were built, bringing the total number of en-suite lodge rooms to sixty five. Today Guy’s Thatched Hamlet is still owned and run by the Wilkinson family and their own porter is brewed using Reverend Duell’s recipe.
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Keeping cool outside a lodge

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Guy’s Thatched Hamlet had proved to be quite an intriguing place with far more there than can be seen from the road or canal and I really enjoyed my wander round, but finding any information about the place since then has proved very difficult. However, my thanks must now go to Anne Musella from Guy’s who very kindly responded to my email enquiry and supplied me with details about the history and development of the Hamlet, enabling me to write this post. And if the weather is nice the next time I’m passing that way I may very well stop off for a coffee and something delightfully indulgent at Owd Nell’s Tavern.
**There’ll be no Monday walk next week as I’m off to Ireland on Wednesday for a week. Having some time off work but unable to go camping a short holiday on the Emerald Isle seems a reasonable alternative, so hopefully the weather will be good and I’ll be able to explore one or two new places – I’m looking forward to it.