Yey the sun has arrived! Its the middle of August but I’m not complaining, I fancied a day out of town so go to dust my bike down and discover two broken brakes and a puncture in each tyre. Oh. Looks like I’m on foot again. Eager to hug a few trees I head down to Aqueduct Street, duck through some trees and onto the beginning of the Lancaster Canal.
The Lancaster Canal stretches nearly forty two miles from Preston to Tewitfield, taking in some of the most beautiful countryside Lancashire has to offer. I head down the canal, past local fishermen and onwards past the ornate back gardens of Shelley Road. Small children believe that pirates live in one house as a giant Jolly Roger pirate flag flaps in the breeze. Another garden is complete with a outdoor seating straight from the Med, would love cocktail at Lynn’s Bar! I head on, weaving in and out of the dog pooh – there is plenty on this stretch, past a family of swans and the bridge at Lane Ends.
The Lancaster Canal has a history dating back over two hundred years, construction began late in 1792. Due to the industrial demand for transport between Preston, Manchester, Lancaster and Kendal John Rennie put forward proposals and a survey for the canal. It was initially envisaged that the canal would run to West Houghton but due to financial constraints the Canal only went as far as Wigan. The southern end of the canal which began at Walton Summit was never linked by water to the northern end in Preston but linked by a tram road. Many of you who walk through Avenham Park will be familiar with the Tram Road Bridge running across the River Ribble. With the advent of rail travel the tram road was closed between Preston and Bamber Bridge in 1864 and within six years it was turned into the footpath we see today.
Back to the Lancaster Canal, with the sun blazing I head around Haslam Park and along, the smell of dog pooh subsides and I feel very relaxed ambling along, admiring the manicured back gardens of Bexhill Road. It must be wonderful to wake up to a garden along the canal with views to the park and Local Nature Reserve. I go under the bridge at Ingol and carry on past Cottam and towards UCLANs Preston Sports Arena. Families are all along the canal, taking in the sunshine, walking their dogs, taking the kids to the park. I see one family, two adults and two kids, taking in the canal by canoe! A dragonfly buzzes by and it feels lovely to be out of the city.
The Millenium Ribble Link is Britain’s newest inland waterway and begins here close to Ingol and Cottam. Running for four miles it connects the Lancaster Canal to the rest of the navigable system from Cottam via Savick Brook and into the River Ribble.
I walk on eager to be away from the sound of cars, beyond the Sports Arena, the cycle track continues until Cottam Hall Bridge. Its at this point the canal path becomes a lot quieter and more isolated. One or two fishermen are dotted along and that’s it. I push on, accompanied by the sound of pylons fizzing over head and sheep in the distance.
Some local people are keen to get the Lancaster Canal extended to a terminus at Maudland Bank, allowing pleasure craft to start from this point in the centre of the city of Preston. The Millenium Ribble Link Whether this happens or not it would be nice to hire a boat, with skipper, to journey along the canal for a sunny afternoon.
I head along the canal by the countryside, past fields of sheep, lambs and cows. I know I could keep walking onto Salwick, for a stop off at the Hand and Dagger but I decide to head back. Beyond Salwick the Canal heads onto Catforth, Bilsborrow, Catterall, Garstang and beyond to either Glasson Dock or up to Lancaster, through Bolton le Sands to Carnforth and onto the last stop Tewitfield. See the map online here.
I turn and head back, cutting through Haslam Park and down onto Fylde Road which seems choked with traffic. It was good to get away from the fumes for an afternoon.