Thursday, 30 May 2019

Lancaster Canal part 5 - To the end and a challenge completed..... 28th May 2019

Tuesday 28th May 2019
Carnforth to Carnforth via Tewitfield
8.5 miles

After what had been a rather bad night for me (too many visits to the smallest room!) I was given the option of calling a halt to proceedings and staying put as we still have a day in hand, but with no locks I said I was happy to go along for the ride as planned.

As we left we were on a two day mooring and Cleddau on a seven day one - they were both good and the ideal would be to swap when we got back to keep within the rules, but was there any chance they would both be free when we returned?  We would have to wait and see.

There is one thing this canal is not short of and that is views.

The blight of this northern stretch is the M6 - our first sight today was this enormous bridge, but it is at least higher than the M5 tunnel in Droitwich

Bridges abound

and more views

The canal itself is serene, peaceful and pretty.

There is always something that will keep the helmsman alert (as well as the shallowness all the way along) - you just never know what is coming round the corner! In this case a broadbeam hire boat with a helmsman whose whites of his eyes could be seen when he realised that there were two, not just one narrow boat to negotiate.  It was all done very satisfactorily with just a couple of small touches as he edged his way past us.  It is impossible to move right over or you end up aground.  I guess it all adds to the fun!

The next obstacle was canoes moored four abreast!  No harm was done.

The views kept coming

as did the bridges - thick and fast towards the end

I took this picture as from a distance I thought it was a Hardwick and we have a friend who (I think) has a soft spot for this breed of sheep - am I right Jane?  However, on closer inspection I find it is a
Zwartbles sheep which is completely new to me.  They started to import them from Holland in the 1990's.  They are very maternal, prolific with their milk and have an amenable nature.  That is my new learning for today.  There were plenty of Hardwick around, but I failed to take a photo!

We had been advised that the quietest moorings at Tewitfield are on the left as you go under the last bridge, however orange netting and C&RT signs did not bode well.  The sign was so small it was impossible to read without taking a zoomed photo or using binoculars - not a great deal of help.

We were not intending to stay, so where we moored was immaterial.

The first thing you become aware of is these holiday homes - they would need to be triple glazed and ear plugs provided as standard if you wanted to sit in the garden.

I spied one of the hire broadbeams we have seen quite a bit of and assume this is the marina they are based in

This is the winding hole at the end of the Lancaster Canal with a lorry thundering past on the M6

The first job was to wind

Ken reversed in to the moorings and we breasted up alongside.

Chris had a job to do - any seasoned boater will know at once where he was heading - yes down the weed hatch.  What 'treasure' did he find?

A very thick climbing rope!

The canal ends here as when the M6 was built this canal was derelict, so the M6 split it in three separate places.  Work is being undertaken to open the canal from Tewitfield to Kendal, but inevitably it is slow progress.

A little exploration was required, so Sue, Monty and I set forth.  Turn left and go along this path - even with light traffic the noise is so horrendous you cannot hear your self talk.

Confirmation that it is 14 miles to Kendal

and you are welcomed to the northern reaches

and there before you is the first lock - definitely still in water, but a lot of tlc required

The remains of old paddle gear at lock two

and lock three away in the distance

The scenery is stunning

the locals charming

and the patterns made by the falling water are beguiling

I hope they do succeed to link the canal to Kendal again, but however charming this canal is it is always going to be blighted by the motorway noise.

It will never be a peaceful rural idyll.

Once back at the boats it was time to be off back to Carnforth, but first we had to position the boats in such a way that we had a photo with them with the Tewitfield sign.  Why you may wonder?  Well if you send the Lancaster Trust a photo of your boat at Tewitfield with £8.50 they will send you a plaque.

Job done, it was time to be off away from the relentless sound of the traffic.  Soon after we left the brolly came out!

Over the Keer Aqueduct that I missed on the way to Tewitfield - it was first used in 1797 and it is another John Rennie construction.

We made our way slowly back to Carnforth, but would those moorings still be there?  Amazingly they were.

So what about that challenge I mentioned in the title?  Well we call it 'The Droitwich Challenge'.  In Vines Park, Droitwich, is a finger post marking the N, S, W and E extremities of the UK canal system.  I know I have a photo somewhere, but it is eluding me.  A job to do when we get home I feel.  Anyway we have now completed that 'challenge':

South - Godalming, Surrey - 5-7 Aug 2015 & 5-7 Sep 2017
West - Llangollen - 12-14 Aug 2016
East - Brandon, Suffolk - 12-14 Aug 2018
North - Tewitfield, Lancashire - 28 May 2019.

Interesting to see we spent two days in all but Tewitfield where we spent less than 2 hours!

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Trains, trains and yet more trains - Monday 27th May 2018

Carnforth to Ravenglass for the Eskdale Steam Railway

We woke to yet more rain, but were booted and spurred ready to leave at 08:30 for the walk up to the station.  By the time we got there the rain had gone and the sky was showing signs of blue.  The train was not due until 09:10, but we had allowed plenty time to get there and, most importantly, to do battle with the machine that would give us our tickets (we hoped) that had been purchased on line.  Thankfully it all worked to plan and once in receipt of many bits of card we headed for our platform to discover that the train would be late. 

The reason - 'the crew were delayed by service delays due to Bank Holiday rail works'.  The big question was 'how delayed would we be and would we make our connection to Ravenglass at Barrow in Furness'?  By the time it did arrive we were certain we would not which would mean a total delay of over an hour.  At least there was plenty of space and we were able to spread ourselves out and get window seats for the view. 

The guard arrived to check our tickets and said he would call ahead and see if he could delay our connecting train at Barrow.  Much to our amazement and delight he succeeded.  The instructions were 'when we left Roose (the penultimate station) we were to make our way to the front of the train which would stop by the overpass and we could alight go as quickly as possible to the train that would be waiting for us the other side'.  To be fair, it was not just us - I reckon there were a dozen or so people in the same plight, but still pretty impressive service, so hats off to Northern Rail.  Mind you I am not sure whether they redeemed themselves in Ken's eyes after the fiasco of  trying to buy our tickets from their website.  We had to specify which station we wanted to pick them up from and Carnforth was not an option!  The order had to be done all over again via Trainline, which did at least work, but cost us £1.50 more.  You can see we are not seasoned travellers.

The journey was to take the best part of two hours including the wait for the connection (or not in our case) in Barrow.  8 stops on the first leg and 7 on the second calling at all stations - quite a few of which I had never heard of - Silverdale, Arnside (we were now in Cumbria), Grange-over-Sands, Kents Bank, Cark & Cartmel, Ulverson, Dalton and Roose, then Askam, Kirkby-in-Furness, Foxfield, Green Road, Millom, Silecroft and finally Bootle.

Once we were comfortably seated we settled back to enjoy the views and they were many and delightful only to be marred photographically by wet and none to clean windows!  No blotches on my camera this time!


The tops of some of the hills were covered in ominous grey cloud - just how wet would we get?

A links golf course shared with sheep and cattle

Green and red are the preferred colours for the stations - this is Grange-over-Sands

Interesting artwork at Kents Bank

and more at Ulverston (why or why to some folks feel the need to spoil others work?)

A discarded hitch hiker's sign maybe?  Did they give up and get a train?

The one thing you could say was that without a doubt the tide was out

Once at Ravenglass it is a very short walk over a bridge to Eskdale Steam Railway.  Tickets had been purchased on line (at a savings of £2 a head), except they weren't actually tickets!  Ken dashed off to the ticket office to get the 5 bits of paper swapped for tickets.  Even Monty had to have his own and he got a goody bag - 4 small biscuits and a black poo bag!  The train was in the station ready to go. 

Would Ken get back in time and if so, would we get a seat?

He did and we did!  It was an open carriage, but did at least have a roof to keep the worst of any rain off

What surprised us in this day and age of H & S was that there was no door or even a chain across the open side that allowed entry and exit.  Monty was quite happy and adopted his boating pose of peering out to see what was going on.  I hasten to add that Chris was at the other end of his lead holding tight!

We were off and over (by way of a change) a viaduct rather than an aqueduct.

It is a very picturesque 40 minute journey to the end of the line at Dalegarth for Boot, made all the more atmospheric by the wafts of steam floating past.

I know rhododendron is invasive, but at this time of year it does look stunning.

There are seven request stops - tell the driver before you board and he will stop to let you off.

We wound our way some 200 foot up

past attractive houses and many sheep

At Irton Road we stopped - it is one of the three passing places en route

Here comes the train with

 people taking pictures of us taking pictures of them!

Some looking decidedly cold and we knew the feeling!  It was, however, NOT raining.

Large lines of dry stone walls

a campsite - I am sure tents are a lot bigger than they used to be

Trains or boats - it is obligatory to wave

Near the top we passed this magnificent house - it is Stanley Ghyll House, which Trip Advisor call 'an upscale B & B'! What jumped off their page was the first review and oh dear, predictive text has a lot to answer for.  The person concerned hired all the rooms for friends and family for their 'vowel' renewal!  Sorry I could not resist that.  It is certainly in a fantastic setting.

The views are breathtaking.

Once we had arrived the engine is uncoupled and turned round on a manual turntable

before having its water supply topped up - much like a boat, only we need a much longer hose!  According to the plaque on the side it was built at Ravenglass in 1976 - a good year as it marked the birth of the Cleddau crews' daughter and our son.  An extremely hot one as I remember.

Since leaving the towpath at around 08:40 we had either been waiting on a platform, sitting on a train or rushing to get the next one, so Monty was mightily relieved to find a good patch of grass some four hours later!

The cafe at Dalegarth allows dogs downstairs, so a light meal was enjoyed by us all before we caught our next train to take us back to Ravenglass. As we were waiting the rain started - we had been very lucky that it held off that long.  We managed to get a closed carriage right behind the engine, so it was a warmer journey back down and the big bonus - it was dry. 

Those outside were very wet as you can see from this photo. The one thing I missed both ways was the Water Mill.

Once back at Ravenglass the rain had stopped and we made our way to the Museum - Chris and I had to take it in turns as dogs were not allowed, so it was a bit of a whistle stop tour, but long enough to get the feel of the place.

We had been on an 15" gauge track.

The railway was opened commercially in 1875.  It's main purpose was to transport iron ore that was mined in the hills above Dalegarth down to Ravenglass where it was transferred to the mainline.  It was open to passengers in 1876 and was the first public narrow gauge (3 foot) railway in England.

It was forced to close in 1913 due to diminishing amounts of ore as well as passengers. In 1915 two passionate miniature railway engineers (WJ Basset-Lowke and R Proctor-Mitchell) acquired the railway as a base for testing their little locomotives under difficult conditions. It was these two who laid the 15" gauge track and their first train ran to Muncaster Mill on 28th August 1915.

Quarrying recommenced in the 1920's - this time for granite.  Quarrying stopped in 1953 - see below for the final outcome for this rather wonderful railway.

Apparently 13 year old Sandy Hamilton sent 2s 6d with a letter that said "This isn't much compared with the £20,000 you want, but if everyone did something the railway would escape the breaker's hammer."

It is certainly worthy of a Red Transport Trust Plaque

The line is known locally as La'al Ratty and its 3ft gauge predecessor as Owd Ratty.  It was a great day out and well worth a visit if you are in the area whether by car, boat or train.

Once we were back on the mainline station we discovered the train was going to be a few minutes late.  The conundrum was would there be time to go and get take away hot drinks from the cafe and make it back in time?  Sue and I were dispatched and stood somewhat anxiously in the queue watching the minute hand move round the clock face.  As we edged nearer and nearer the front of the queue we were willing people to be quick and not buy too much.  We made it, placed the order, paid, picked up the cups and moved as swiftly as possible across the car park back to the main line platform just in time

The journey back was just as pleasant, but with more water to be seen this time

and I managed to get a photo of this pier head at Arndale where Chris had stood, as advised by a local, one evening around 10pm in the 1980's.  Why you might wonder - that was the time for high tide.  At first there was nothing, then what sounded like a train thundering towards him and then the tide became visible as it flew across the sand in a matter of minutes.  A sight one is unlikely to ever forget.

Once back in Carnforth we all retreated for a quiet evening and an early night after such a long, but really great day.