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Friday, 18 May 2018

Bags of bridges.

After our stop over at Hest Bank we moved on the next day in beautiful sunshine once again.

The first thing of note we came to was Milestone Bridge that was built in 2014 to carry the M6 Link road called the Bay Gateway! In the photo above you can see how the pairs of precast concrete beams make the span. Two 200t cranes lifted them into position at theirabutments and lowered them to meet in the middle.

It is thought to be the longest spanning twin precast arch beam bridge in the UK at 28.7m!!

As we crossed the Ribble Estuary there are good views of the Castle and Priory Church.

It is not quite the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct but it is very impressive in its own way. It is in fact the largest all masonry aqueduct in Britain and was designed by John Rennie and opened in 1797.

The Aqueduct was started in 1794 and the actually person in charge of its construction was a Scotsman Alexander Stevens who actually died before it was completed, as you can see. This plaque is on the exterior wall of the Priory Church.

The distant view of the Ashton Memorial in the Williamson Park makes you realise why the views from the top are so good.

We moored up to have a walk down to see the Aqueduct from another channel. It is a handsome structure that had £2.8 million spent on refurbishing it in 2011/12.

It is enhanced with an inscription on both sides. On the north side it simply says 'To Public Prosperity' in English. On the south side in Latin it translates as; Things that are wanting are brought together. Things remote are connected. Rivers themselves meet by the assistance of art, to afford new objects of commerce. Engineer J. Rennie. Built A. Stevens. Father and Son.

Once through the City of Lancaster the countryside is very pretty with little cuttings that house clouds of flowering wild garlic. The smell was lovely and the shade was actually welcome!

The cuttings meant that there was the odd high bridge that stood out.

We stopped before Forton on a nice peaceful country mooring with the field of alpacas opposite that meant that we had something to watch. I never heard them make a sound the whole time we were there. The sun and early stop meant that there was time to catch up on a few of the little jobs that needed doing that get put off. This one looked like a stuffed soft toy to me!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

We do like to be beside the seaside.

We hadn't realised that the museum at the station closed at 1600 so we had rushed our visit but decided to go back and have another look the next day after it opened at 1000. The whole place is run by volunteers so you can not expect them to be open 8 'til 8. We finally left our mooring about 1130 in nice sunshine.

I think the book says that there are three swing bridges on the navigable section of the Lancaster Canal and this is the only one that seems to be actually closed. It seems to go to a private house, but as so many people seem to be crossing it seems that there is a public footpath over it. It is easily swung and not really locked.

The canal passes through the houses of Hest Bank and it really seems to be a holiday place with homes that remind me of near St. Ives. Mind you, you can understand why they are built up the hill side as there are fantastic views across Morecambe Bay. Having a bit of water in the bay also helps it give that seaside feeling too.

On our way north the weather wasn't quite so lovely, plus there was only sand to be seen. The views aren't quite so brilliant, but still, there is a view!

Our destination was bridge 117 just south of Hest Bank as Helen wanted to walk on the beach. After a spot of lunch we set off on a walk down to the seaside, or at the state of tide we were there it was sandside.

First we had to negotiate the West Coast Mainline. Even today with just normal traffic hurrying up and down there were a couple of people taking photos from the high footbridge on the long straight. I expect that it will be heaving when there is a steam engine pulled train passing.

Once we got to the shoreline it was a little disappointingly scruffy, but there were plenty of dog walkers about. There is no beach or sand or even pebbles. The 'structure' that can be seen in the sand had been lost for nearly 2000 years and was/is the Hest Bank Wharf. As the Lancaster Canal comes to its closest point to the shore here at Hest Bank. You can also see the graded track that led to the shore line.

http://www.slyne-with-hest.org.uk/local%20history/wharf.htm
It had been built to give access to the small schooners from all over to have a safe place to load and discharge to the canal. As can be seen from the above picture it was a substantial jetty, about 4m above the sand. You can also see the remains of a wooden post at the top that may the remains of a crane or maybe a beacon to guide ships to it. There was also a transhipment warehouse on the shoreline, just below where the Hest Bank Hotel is today. The jetty fell out of use when the railway came to the area in 1850 and slowly was swallowed up. The River Keer's channel meanders between the shorelines and it seems that it is roughly an 150 year cycle of movement from bank to bank.

Another view and you can just about see the stump of the crane or mast but in the distance are the Lakeland Fells. The highest in sight, just in from the left hand edge is the Old Man of Coniston.

It must have been a terrible place to sail into really as you have to have the right wind and the right tide, so timing would be everything. It would be a really easy place to be put on a lee shore and not be able to get off again. I suppose the fact that it is mainly sand is a redeeming factor, but it would be a scary place to be on a stormy day.

On one of the headlands is this sculpture called the 'Praying Shell', by Anthony Padgett. It was unveiled in 2013. It is supposed to represent humanities openness to a larger dimension, and also the way that cockle shells open when the tide comes in. In the sunshine it is a stunning 1m high piece that can be seen all along the coast.

The salt flats are extensive but we turned off at the garden centre and headed back up to the canal and then back to the boat. It was still a lovely day when we got back.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The way things were.

We arrived at Carnforth about three in the afternoon and decided to head down to the Station.

 The station has three sets of buildings due to it's history. The original station, that is to the left in the photo above was built in 1846. This became what we now know as the West Coast Main line. The platforms were closed in 1968 as stopping trains here were stopped. In 1857 a railway was built that headed to Ulverston and Barrow in Furnace and these were linked to the main line via the platforms to the right. In 1880 a link was made to the east and Carnforth became a majot junction with train sheds, engineering shops and a sign on place for drivers etc.
The clock above also became iconic in the David Lean film that was partly made at the station. It has a history all of its own. It was made in 1880 by Joyce of Whitchurch. It was mecanical and needed winding. For the film it was covered in canvas on which the numbers and hands were painted on to the time required in the film. In 1978 the mecanics were sold and it became electric. It further lost its allure by having a vandal proof cover being added. These were returned in 2002 and it was fully restored in 2005.

The film 'Brief Encounter' has been voted the 2nd or 12th best British film ever in various polls. It is one of those romantic films that seems to touch everybody. It was made in 1945 by David Lean and was adapted from a one act play called 'Still Life' by Noel Coward. The plot, briefly is Trevor Howard and Celian Johnson meet on a station. Both are married but they bump into each other again and they have an affair (in the old fashioned sense), until Celia Johnson just decides that she can't let her husband down and they part. The end scene is in the refreshment room of the station but just as the denouement arrives a friend of Celia Johnson arrives and prattles right through the parting without realising  what is going on. There is a couple of rooms devoted to the film and David Lean, and the film runs on a loop too. Only 10 minutes of the film were actually filmed here, however the film company were on location for five weeks and the film stars for two weeks.

The scenes of the film that were filmed in the refreshment room were actual filmed at Denham studios where scenery had been made up. Actually the scenery closely followed the details of the actual refreshment rooms, and these have been recreated now.
Carnforth Station was chosen as it had all the requirements as it had to have a place to store the engines, a turning area, not too busy over night and other like things. There were perhaps stations that fitted the bill closer to London but as the war was still going on there was a blackout in and near major cities, but not in the country north west.

As we were on the platform a train special stopped briefly. It was being powered by a Deltic Diesel engine. They were introduced in 1961/62 to power the trains on the east Coast Main Line. They were called Deltics after the Napier Deltic power plants that drove them along at 100mph.

I love this art deco type platform that serves the Furness Vale/Ulverston line. As the line is on a bend there is plenty of squealing as the trains comes to a stop. 

To get between platforms there is an atmospheric subway

As you come up to the platform level it feels even more like an Art Deco building. I think it was constructed in the 1930's.

The sidings and depot sheds etc also had the coal hoist for bunkering the tenders and a water tank for filling them. There was also an ash tower. When the depot was closed in 1967 a group of local enthusiasts took it on and this resulted in many steam locos finding their way there along with other rolling stock. It was opened to the public until the insurance etc became too much and is now just for the volunteers. West Coast Railways, the leading special trains operator is based there too.

Currently around twelve steam trains are based here and that makes Carnforth a train spotters hot spot as they are regularly going out on specials in the season.

The Furness Railway Company built this stone signal box in 1882 but it was only used until 1903 but it is now a listed building. I'm not sure how many others like this are left in the country.

The Central Island station buildings is run by a trust that has the museum about Brief Encounter, David Lean, the history of the local railway lines and of Carnforth it's self, as well as the Refreshment Room. There is so much to see that we went back the next morning. On the old mainline platform is The Snug, a micropub that lives up to its name.



Monday, 14 May 2018

Rock, reeds railways and roads.

Our watch was a bit less than 5 miles so after a bite to eat we let go and headed south. The sun was still shining but the wind still had a right chill to it.

There is very little traffic up at the north end at the moment and it allows the heron to be uninterrupted for much of the time. The gently rolling hills leading up to the fells add interest to the scenery as do the stone farmhouses.

This is a short arm that was built to load limestone direct from Wegber Quarry. It was an important cargo as it was used to make lime for mortar and fertiliser. In 1884 when blasting a small cave was revealed and within it were a number of finds from the Early to Late Bronze age.

 There was a narrow gauge railway that ran round the quarry and to another loading wharf further south. Above are the remains of a crane that lifted the stone into the canal craft.

In this picture you can see that the crane is on a tower, and it seems as if the narrow gauge track ran between two towers so maybe there was another crane that loaded wheeled transport too.

There is a nice viaduct close to the canal round here and this is the Settle to Carlisle rail route that is famed for it's beautiful scenery of the Yorkshire Dales etc. When it arrives at Carnforth it is then able to travel onwards on the West Coast mainline.

Much of the upper reaches have puddle clay at the edges, as well as plenty of reeds and vegetation and this reduces the places to moor up. We are just about 2' draft and struggled in many spots.

The lambs are getting a bit bigger, and not quite so cute now, but like to see what is going on when we pass.

 Warton Crag is another limestone outcrop that has been quarried for many years, as can be seen. There is a big face to the left that will be the most modern workings but you can also see various levels running down the crag following the strata which will be older. The Crag is now a nature reserve with peregrine falcons nesting on the quarry faces. An Iron Age fort was found on the top as was another cave with Bronze age artifacts in it. The stone from the quarry was used in the first UK motorway, the Preston by pass.

The canal passes under the M6 and then the A601(M) that has the roundabout to join the motorway just next to the canal so there has to be two bridges, one for each direction.

We stopped for water just behind the camera and then passed through the 'wide' at Carnforth. There used to be a boat yard and pontoon moorings to the left that would have taken up much of the bay. I assume that it was a working dock at the beginning, I think the sale of the Nu-Way Acron yard and moorings is very recent. The signs say that the land has been 'bought' by Home England that is a Government thing that assist locla developers to purchase, design and build new homes. We moored up a little way past the garage in the sun and headed into Carnforth.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Circular walk at the head of navigation.

After lunch in Lancaster we got underway and decided to head to the head of navigation in one go. As we have to come back, and the weather will be better, I will write about that later. As it was we went to the top of the cut and winded. We didn't stop in that area as the motorway was close and the noise was quite loud. Mind you I doubt very much that it would have kept us up much. We had spotted a likely spot on the way up and headed for there. Luckily we did get along side and had a nice quiet night.

We had decided to stop and walk up the locks to have a look, and to have a walk in the countryside. We were off before 1000 and the sun was out, and no wind so the reflection of Bridge 136 with 137 through the arch looked pretty.

Somewhere along the length of the canal the style of the mile posts seems to have altered from the flat stone with oval metal mileage, to these these square stone posts with carved mileage.

There is a small marina just before the end of the canal and it is surrounded by holiday flats that seem to be well thought of. I suppose that just off the M6 and close to the Lakelands etc. means that it is handy! The insulation must be good as it is very close to the M6.

In fact the winding hole at the end of the canal is almost in the emergency lane of the motorway as you can see above!

The head of navigation is here, and was actually the site of a short tunnel.

The othere side of the short tunnel the canal is till in water and as you can see the locks are actually in pretty good condition. It was lucky that the water way was needed as a route to move water along. Just new gates and paddle gear needed here.

You get an idea of the volume of water running down the old route from these cascades over the old lock sills in the middle of the flight of 8 locks that lift the canal up the 75' to the summit pound that took the route all the way to Kendal.

At the top of the flight these gates are used to provide information. The canal was opened to here at Tewitfield in 1799. The locks were not completed to take it further to the gateway of the Lakes and complete the 57' until 1819.

Much of the canal in the disused part is still in  water and the only really difficult bits to restore are caused by the M6, which also caused it's final abandonment, despite it being moribund since WWII. Above is where the M6 cuts across the canal, and as can be seen the embankment of the motorway is not high enough to simply burro under. This is the same in a couple of places so diversions, dropping locks etc will have to be carried, all adding to the costs.

As we left the line of the canal there was an extremely strong aroma of wild garlic from the field by the road. Funnily enoughg though within about two minutes we couldn't smell it as we had just got used to it.

The little lane we were walking on was actually the boundary between Lancashire and Cumbria so we can say we actually got into Cumbria on a 'canal journey'. Is that stretching it a bit much?

We then followed field paths and along green lanes. This fledgling thrush was just about able to fly but didn't really want to move. It's mother was making a right row above our heads. I couldn't believe how loud they are!

In Priest Hutton it made a good picture to see a leaning telephone box (with no phone) and the sign post with Cul de Sac on it. The village used to be called Nether Hutton but in 1529 Matthew Hutton was born here and became Archbishop of York in 1596. I wonder if that is why it became Priest Hutton?

The walk then took us to Borwick and the Grade I listed Borwick Hall. There is mention of the place in the Domesday Book, but the oldest parts of the building existing is from the 14th Century. It was passed down various family lines until 1854. In 1910 it was leased to a music critic John Alexander Maitland so long as he restored the building. In WWII it was used as a military base and afterwards it was given to the Lancashire Youth Hostel Association, and then passed to the Lancashire Council that run it today as an outdoor adventure centre.

We got back to the boat which was close by and after lunch headed south. It was a lovely walk in nice weather, and it was nice to see the country side around the head of navigation.