Sunday, 26 May 2019

Lancaster Canal part 3 - To Lancaster and beyond 22 - 24 May 2019

Wednesday 22nd May 2019
Lodge Hill Junction to Lancaster
3 miles, 0 locks

We had carried on from Lodge Hill Junction on 22nd May and continued to Lancaster.  The junction was pretty full and was not really an ideal mooring - there is a large stretch of mooring for cruisers opposite.

This garden caught my eye as we went past - there must be a stream between the canal and the house as quite a few gardens had bridges, but this was by far the best

Yet again - a broad beam in a bridge hole!

There is just over a mile of a very deep cutting along this stretch.  It was carved out of glacial rock to avoid a long detour.  It is about 30 foot at its deepest and is a haven for wildlife - no kingfishers for us today though.

Just prior to arriving in Lancaster we were once again in open countryside

This was our first view of Lancaster Cathedral.

The problem with any popular mooring is whether there will be room.  Sue and Ken managed to find a spot and discovered a boat ahead of them would be moving in about half an hour, so we moored temporarily outside The Water Witch Pub

 before moving round the corner to a quieter spot.

Thursday 23rd May 2019

This was to be mostly a shopping day. 

I had two main requirements.  The first was to visit a camera shop to see if they had any suggestions about the shutter that would not close properly and the speck of dirt inside.  Wilkinsons was found on line and I headed there first  The shutter was fixed and advice was given  about the speck - it could be sent away and cleaned, but would not be back in time for our return next week.  I was also told it is possible with my camera to clean it ourselves as there is information to be found on You Tube. I left with a new camera to have as a spare before they become obsolete.   This is my fourth (one sadly did not last long as it ended up falling into Benson lock, never to see the light of day again!).  I understand this camera and now have a selection of batteries - I hope this one is the last for a while.

The second was a new "bum" bag - something I find essential when locking etc to hold: my camera, walkie-talkie, BWB & water conservation keys, dog stuff etc etc.  Mine had suffered a terminal decline about 10 days previously and I really missed it.  Gillisons is the place to head for - round behind the Musuem

The stock is enormous and the staff very helpful.  I heard one customer mention that if anyone ever wanted a particular bag and they could not find it in Gillisons, then that bag just does not exist!   I have to confess to spending quite a long time in there and I was glad I had gone ahead leaving Chris to walk Monty before he joined me!  When he did we went back to Gillisons and he managed to find a rucksack, so a very successful find.

A few other bits of shopping were done and the main impression we were left with of Lancaster was just how helpful, friendly and eager to please the residents of this city are.  The ladies in Gillisons recommended The Old Bell Cafe down

Bashful Alley for lunch.

The food was excellent and our sandwiches arrived in an amazingly fast time, despite being made to order.

Monty's afternoon walk took us along the tow path towards the Cathedral - somewhere we will visit on our return next week

Our walk took us (by accident) past the rather splendid Council Offices

With a large statue of Queen Victoria behind me as I took the above photo

Then it was back into town to find Blacks as we discovered before we set out on our walk that one of our walking poles was broken.   Hopefully the camera, "bum" bag and pole make our three breakages on this cruise!

We stopped on the way back at The Cross for a (we thought) well deserved drink

Friday 24th May 2019
Lancaster to Hest Bank
4.25 miles, 0 locks

It is surprisingly green and leafy as you leave the city

Then comes the first of two aqueducts - Bulk Road Aqueduct

and then the much more famous and impressive Lune Aqueduct.  It carries the canal some 600 feet across the River Lune which is 60 feet below.   A definite case of needing to jump ship and proceed on foot to take photographs. 

You are also awarded  a view of the castle and the reason why we did not join Sue and Ken to visit it yesterday - too much 'up' and 'down' for problematic knees.

Looking back across the aqueduct

 Bridge 111a opened in 2016 linking Heysham to the M6

Yet another rural stretch with wide open views and plenty of blue skies.

 This C&RT work boat looks more of an obstacle than it turned out to be, but care was still required

and tucked behind it were two men hard at work.

Suddenly there it was - something I was really looking forward to - our first view of the sea!  More beach than sea, but it was there in the distance.

We actually moored just past bridge 116 as we were told the views were better from here than from Hest Bank itself.

and the side hatch view was also pretty good.

High tide was due at 15:45, so both boat crews set off about half an hour before - even from the canal, the sea was definitely visible

Unfortunately we did not quite get the directions correct - when we left the towpath and walked through a housing estate we should have turned right at the end, but we went left. It meant a lot more walking along the A6 than we would have chosen and we also found we had forgotten a vital bit of kit - Monty's lead - thankfully I was wearing a belt which was pressed into action.

We did finally make it to the shore

Where there was a large group of oyster catchers

It was along here that we met up with the boater from the boat moored between Cleddau and Tentatrice and his little dog Patch.  The boat owner was a mine of useful information as he knows this canal very well.

We left Sue ,Ken, Patch and his owner to pick their way over the stones

whilst we went back across the railway

to emerge out onto the A6 at the bus stop and post box by the ginnel that we would  have found had we turned right instead of left when we first arrived at the A6.

Once back on the towpath we turned left to walk towards Hest Bank (and yes our mooring further back was far better)

before we met up with the other three and Patch and then made our way back to the boats for our first tow path Pimms of the cruise - a pleasant interlude even if we did need to wear coats!

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The Lancaster Canal part 2 - The Glasson Arm - 21st to 22nd May 2019

Tuesday 21st May 2019
Bridge 84 to Glasson Basin
3 miles, 6 locks

We had some side hatch visitors yesterday evening

with a good sized brood

Today turned out to be rather special, so be forewarned - there is a lot to read and look at!  There was a good stiff wind, but the sun was out and it was dry.  Sue, Monty and I were the advance guard on foot. By the time Chris got to Lodge Hill Junction (the first lock is just after the turn) Sue and I were just trying to work out what exactly we had to do!

To say these locks are different is a somewhat of an understatement.  All the locks were empty as a boat had been down before us, so the first job is to fill them to allow our boats access, so we can begin the journey downhill to Glasson Basin.  The paddles are unlike anything we have ever seen before.  The top ones are all kept locked

Once you have finished winding that big handle up and then down (despite its size it is quite easy to turn), the hasp has to be padlocked back on again - a BWB key is required.  There were times when I felt a third hand might have been useful!

Once the boats were in we went to the bottom gates to be met with this

What a monster it was to move!  Sue and Ken had to swap places as she and I just did not have the strength to move some of them at all.  At one I did manage to get the handle up, but as I pushed it over to go down instead of maintaining a steady pressure it suddenly gave way and I ended up on my knees, but thankfully I did not follow through and end up head first in the lock.  Beware - these are beasts - Lock No 3 was the worst and was the scene of my (literal) downfall.  In all honesty, Chris and I would never have made it down here without help.   It was from the position that Sue is in (see below) that I ended up on my knees.  I will leave it to your imagination to guess just how close to the edge I was!  There was a cry of alarm from our back deck when Chris saw me plunge.

Thankfully there are bridges at the bottom end of the locks, so there was no clambering over lock gates in high winds

A voluntary lock keeper (VLK) came along as we finished lock 3 - he had work to do at lock 6, so went on ahead, but kindly lifted a paddle at the top gates, so each lock was ready for us when we arrived.

Did we enjoy the journey or was it sheer hard slog?  Well despite the difficulties we all loved it and I hope the following photos will illustrate why that was.  The Glasson Branch is an absolute delight which sadly not many boats travel along.  The VLK was thrilled to find two boats in a lock - apparently it is a rare sight round here.

I must apologise for the occasional odd splodge at the top of some photos - the lens is clean, but I think the camera might be failing.  It is well used.

Between locks 3 and 4 and 4 and 5 there were warning signs

Thankfully they are the two longest pounds, so we were all on the boat - the cob was giving all walkers a really hard time and I would not have wanted to walk Monty past him.

The second lot have hatched, so were safely in the water

The Mill (Hotel, Bar and Restaurant) at Conder Green by Lock 6.  We had made it!

From there it was a pretty straight and very pretty run to the basin

I had no idea what to expect when we got there (I should have done some research), but we had been warned that there is not a lot of mooring and that we may have to go and moor on a wall - not ideal with Monty, but something we have done before (Newark and St Ives) and can manage if we have to.  With all that in mind I was expecting a small basin.  I was completely wrong - it is huge!
The approach

We are heading over to the moorings on the right - they used to be permanent moorings, but are now for visitors, so there is plenty of room.

This is a great mooring and with free electric hook up plus a tap between the two boats.  There are rubbish bins at the end and a small store nearby with an eclectic mix of supplies - what more could we need?

Now to our side hatch views

You can see from the water that there is a very stiff breeze blowing.

Once we were safely tied up we headed off to explore.  First stop was the sea lock that the sailing boat had just been through.

It was waiting for the sea gate to be


so they could proceed out to sea

Our target was The Dalton Arms where we had a perfectly good light lunch, oh and some beer to wash it down!

Sufficiently replete we continued our exploration - round the other side of the basin and we were rewarded with a fabulous view of the boats - one that I doubt will ever be repeated

the same view, but with no zoom.

The 'must see' in Glasson is the The Port of Lancaster Smokehouse.

A veritable feast for the eyes as well as for the tummy

and there was much, much more!  It is all available on line  - see here if you are interested

Did we come away empty handed?  No!  Our dinner tonight was a smoked fish platter and Morecambe Bay potted shrimps with salad and new potatoes and very good it was too.  Two kippers and two smoked mackerel portions are in the freezer.

Once our goodies had been stowed away back on the boats we crossed the road behind us for a view of the estuary of the River Lune

I cannot finish without saying a little about Glasson Dock - it was opened in 1787 for larger vessels that could not make the journey up the River Lune to quays of Lancaster.  In 1837 shipbuilding started in this dock.  The most famous ship built here was the schooner 'Ryelands' that was used as 'Hispaniola' in the 1950's film Treasure Island.  It ended its days as a tourist attraction in Morecambe, but it was destroyed by fire in 1970.  Glasson is still an active port today handling over 150,000 tonnes of cargo annually.  Going back to the photo of the yacht leaving the harbour, just look to the left and the grey 'block of flats' shows the size of some of the visiting ships.

Grain seems to be one of the main commodities passing through this port

But for me it is a little bit of 'seaside heaven' - wind rippling through the rigging, waves rippling, blue skies.  It definitely had the feel of my childhood annual trips to the seaside.

It had been a busy day for us all - this is a rare sight - Monty flat out!

A couple of shots as the sun went down with the promise (we hoped) for a nice day tomorrow.

Wednesday 22nd May 2019
Glasson Basin to Lodge Hill Junction
2.5 miles, 6 locks

The sky did not lie - today dawned bright, sunny and very calm
The first port of call today was to the marina on your right as you exit the basin - two boats in need of diesel.  Thankfully just a top up for both of us as they only do a 60/40 split.

When you repeat a journey I always think there will be little to say or photograph, but I am usually wrong!  I am sure you will be pleased to hear there is less, but there are a few tales to tell.

One and a half hours after the above photo was taken this is looking back at where we had moored - the wind is up a little, but nothing like as strong as yesterday

A boat had left before us, but the instructions in our (elderly) Nicholson's guide stated that you need to empty each lock after you leave, even when you are going up hill, so we had expected them all to be empty.  You can imagine the mutterings when we found the first one full!  We duly emptied it, entered, filled it, the boats emerged, shut the top gates and emptied the lock again and proceeded to the next lock only to find that full as well.  The air was getting a little bluer but we repeated the process, again with mutterings many mutterings.  At the next lock we came across this sign:

There is nothing to indicate that locks need to be emptied, so we came to the conclusion that Nicholson's was wrong or at least out of date! 

As you can imagine there was a lot of this going on

We did have one small drama - can you see anything wrong with this photo?

Yes, Chris is standing on the pontoon, Sue is on Cleddau and I am taking the photo from the lock and Ken is also at the lock!  Chris had arrived first, stepped off, tied the boat up (not quite as well as he had thought!) and he had gone to fill the lock.  Meanwhile Tentatrice had wandered off on her own!  Thankfully we were travelling with another boat.  Sue managed to pick Chris up from the pontoon and he clambered down the gunwhales
 to their stern and Sue reversed allowing Chris to step on our bow

and from there back to our stern.  It was all done very neatly, so what could have been quite a problem was easily solved.

These folks are braver than I am as I would not want to walk across a field with this lot behind me

Just another view I could not resist

and something we both missed on the way down - we presume this might have been a pillbox that has now be 'up-cycled' to an animal pen?

The towpath is well worn with a fairly constant stream of walkers, but no group as large as this one

At the penultimate lock we noticed a boat leaving the last lock, so we waited to let them through.  He was a local and advised us not to consider stopping in Preston and that even going straight in and out again might mean we need boards to cover our windows.  I gather there are a number of juveniles with a steady hand whose sport is chucking stones at boats.  Our plans may change!

We made it safely to the top and turned left at Lodge Hill Junction - Sue being collected after the final lock and the turn had been made.

Overall it was a wonderful couple of days and if anyone does come to the Lancaster don't be tempted to miss this arm.  My one word of warning is to try to do it with another boat or rope in some extra crew - you do need at least one fit and strong crew member to work the paddles on the bottom gates.