Friday 18 August

Raindrops drumming on the roof disturbed our sleep last night and we were drinking tea in bed at 4 o’clock before nodding off again once the rain stopped.

Max was restless and keen for his walk this morning as he wasn’t feeling too well.  After an hour he was fully recovered and we were able to leave him while we went off to explore.

Storm and I headed to the castle first.  As we climbed the steps up from the canal, the castle on the hill in the distance looked very imposing.

We paid to join one of its half-hourly tours as this was the only way we could gain entry inside.

 

We learnt that the castle is owned by The Queen, the current Duke of Lancaster.   Previous Dukes since the 13th Century have influenced the development of the castle over the years.  The medieval fortress, is still a working castle.  It has been used for Court Hearings for many years and until March 2011 it was also a Category C Prison.   Crown court hearings are still heard in the castle and we visited two of the court rooms.  The Pendle Witch Trial of 1612 was held here, as was the trial of the Birmingham 6 in 1975.  At one time children as young as nine could be tried and hung for steeling a handkerchief and prisoners found guilty of a crime would have the palm of their left handed branded with an ‘M’ so that if they re-offended the judge would know instantly that they’d been in trouble before.

We visited the preserved prison cells in A wing and learnt about the different punishments for prisoners over the years and how conditions have improved considerably in recent times.

Seeking some fresh air we headed down the hill towards the River Lune.  The Millennium cable stay bridge was an impressive sight.

We turned left along the river walkway, shortly arriving at St George’s Quay.  At one time Lancaster was one of the country’s busiest ports, busier than Liverpool.

The Customs House and adjacent warehouse have been converted into the Maritime Museum, the remaining warehouses along the quay have have now been converted into flats.  Here were learnt about the role Lancaster played in the slavery trade and how Lancaster achieved much of its wealth through trade with the rest of the world.  We learnt about the building of the Lancaster Canal and the success of the canal until the railways took over.  The packet boat that ran from Lancaster to Preston along the canal was an impressive service; two horses at a gallop, would pull the boat at a speed of 9 miles/hr, with the horses being swapped every four miles.   The maximum speed limit on the canal now is only 4 miles/hour.   Other boats on the canal had to give way to the packet boats.  Meeting it head on, at that pace, must have been quite scary.

Thursday 17 August

It was as well we didn’t have an early appointment this morning as it was later than usual when we woke. We had a relaxing morning catching up with family news.

NB Oleanna caught up with us just after lunch, looking very smart in her new covers.  

 

We moved off in sunshine behind them passing through countryside and an usually long cutting which ended in the outskirts of Lancaster.  

 

It was late afternoon and there were few suitable moorings but we managed to find a quiet space for both of us just after Penny Street Bridge.  

Once moored securely on spikes we agreed to start our explore of Lancaster after we’d eaten.    A few beers this evening I think.

 

Wednesday 16 August

Sunshine to start the day.  A meeting of minds on the towpath decided that today we’d head for Galgate and save a journey down the Glasson Branch for our return journey south.  We left first for the sanitary station to fill with water and empty our waste.  We had a slight wait for water as there was another boat there before us but after five minutes they moved off.

We left Garstang, passing a new marina full of plastic cruisers where the floating pontoons were no longer than 20ft, and then wound our way through beautiful countryside overlooked by the Pennine hills.

We set the washing machine going as we left as the 7.5 miles was far enough for us to be able to recharge the batteries after the wash had finished.  Our journey took us past farms and occasional houses, and past a mobile village of caravans between bridges 70 and 71 where the vans were set amongst well tended plots with fantastic floral displays and they backed right up to the canal, but otherwise few signs of civilisation.

We shared the canal with many ducks, the occasional cow standing at the water’s edge, a family of swans, a cormorant and encountered few boats.

As we approached one bridge Max threw himself off the front of the boat, relieved himself and he managed to jump back onto the stern all without us slowing down.   He’s really got the hang of this boating lark.

We arrived at our destination in time for lunch.  We hung the washing out and then I did some baking.  Passing boats alerted me to the fact it was starting to spit mid afternoon and by then the increasing breeze had worked its wonders.

My phone pinged just after lunch and it was Mick saying that they’d stopped back at Bridge 75 as they have an appointment in the morning with the guys making their boat canopy.  I forgot to tell Max and he sat on the back watching out for them.

After I’d prepared our evening meal, we left it cooking on a low light and took Max for an explore round Galgate.  The now redundant silk mill must have provided employment for most of the residents living in the many cottages nearby.  This was quite an impressive building.

The A6 passes through the village, as does the main London to Glasgow railway line and the M6 lies just to the East and the constant rush of traffic can always be heard .

Tuesday 15 August

We started the day with a cooked breakfast because, until Pip and Mick return, we’re not going anywhere.  They’d left Tilly, their cat, on board with bowls full of food and although we had keys to the boat, we were only going to open the door if she appeared to be in distress.   Each time we went to check, all was quiet.

As the sunshine appeared, we headed out to the shops.  We needed to do an Aldi booze run and then on to Sainsburys for everything else.  We loaded the bike up with our bags and pushed it back to the boat.  Our cupboards are  replenished ready for our departure into the wilds of Lancashire.

This afternoon I carried out some running repairs to our canopy.  It is seven years old and the stitching is starting to fail after the ravages of weathering.  To help me grip the needle I taped my thumb and index figure with fabric elastoplast as pushing the needle through the layers of fabric is difficult.  I stitched the zip back in on the door flap which had worked its way loose.

Pip and Mick returned mid afternoon and then promptly disappeared again to return their hire car and to catch the shops before they closed.   Storm and I went to check out the beer garden of Th’Owd Tithe barn pub.  It is a barn and it is old.  Sadly they’d resorted to using ‘Knights & Damsels’ as the signs for the toilets.  We had to agree with our Nicholsons canal guide who, we think tongue in cheek, wrote “it is hard to discern where the bar ends and the museum begins”!

We’re still looking for a pub that we’ll want to revisit on our way back south.

Monday 14 August

Yesterday morning Storm carried out the annual maintenance of my bike and after I’d tided the boat and washed the floor I got on it and pedalled off to the supermarket.   Aldi was busy with long queues at the till.  Next door to it was Booths supermarket (a chain that I’ve only ever seen in Lancashire/Cumbria) and compared to Aldi, the store was quiet.  I don’t normally enjoy food shopping, but I quite enjoyed my leisurely stroll round the isles to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  I didn’t need a lot which was just as well as their prices were a little higher than I’m used to.

That was the extent of my “work” yesterday.  Pip put us to shame though as she’d donned her overalls early in the morning and was busy sanding, washing, rinsing, masking and eventually painting both gunnels.   By tea-time Oleanna was looking as good as new again.

Today though we had a plan.  While Pip and Mick popped home to see the North Sea, we headed west to see the Irish Sea.  We caught the 42 Bus to Blackpool.  A Lancashire Day Rover ticket cost me £7.80 and for this I could travel anywhere in Lancashire provided I travelled with Stagecoach.  Storm used his pass.  We sat upstairs so we could get a good view.  Forty five minutes later we arrived into Blackpool, and were dropped off close to the Tower and the North Pier.

We strolled down the pier to the strains of “If You Were the Only Girl in the World” and other songs of that era from speakers positioned at intervals along the length of it.

The sun came out just as we arrived into Blackpool and the showers that had been forecast didn’t materialise.

I’d last visited Blackpool as a small child when my grandparents brought me to stay in Blackpool and Lytham St Annes and my memories from that time are vague.     I recall visiting Blackpool Tower Circus and seeing my usually very straight-laced grandfather crying with laughter at the antics of the clown.  The circus is still here.

Leaving the pier behind us we strolled along the prom, making sure we stayed clear of the tramway.   Today the golden sand looked inviting but 50 years ago the beach was blackened as oil from the Torrey Canyon disaster off the coast of Cornwall had affected beaches this far north.

After a while we caught another Stagecoach bus to St Annes, just south of Blackpool.  This wasn’t the St Annes I remembered although I think this was where I learnt to swim in an open air swimming pool.   We found the site of the pool but learnt that it had been demolished a few years ago after years of neglect.

Today I discovered that Lytham is one place and St Annes another. I can recall a windmill which I’ve learnt stands in Lytham and we didn’t quite get there today.

Returning to Blackpool, which in places appears to be a shadow of its former glory, it can still surprise and we were drawn to the grandeur of the Winter Gardens where so many well known names have performed over the years.   There are signs that Blackpool is trying to return to that glamour era as some of its modern developments are quite exciting.

After a fun day out we returned to Garstang somewhat foot weary and now that we’re back it’s pouring down.

Saturday 12 August

 

After sampling our home-made bread for breakfast, the first priority was to walk Max to the village Mace shop to buy the Saturday papers for both boats.  After that a visit to the sanitary station was needed but as we only had household rubbish for the dustbin, Mick offered to take this for us and instead we set off for the market town of Garstang, about 4.5 miles north west from Bilsborrow

Light showers came and went and the distant hills were shrouded in mist.   We’ve passed a few small marinas full of just plastic cruisers; no narrowboats, but today we passed a proper marina – Barton Grange Marina.

The M6 and the west coast main line railway ran alongside the canal for a while but both were unobtrusive and barely noticeable.

The highlight of the journey was spotting two deer who stayed still even though they’d seen us before we saw them.

We needn’t have worried about whether there would be room for both of us in Garstang as there are extensive visitor moorings here, and with rings too.

After a bite of lunch we went to explore the town, taking the path down beside the magnificent John Rennie aqueduct and walking beside the very peaty river Wyre.

We were pleasantly surprised at just how attractive the town is.  There were plenty of blooms here too but not all of them were fresh!

After dinner we went out to sample some of the local pubs.

First we went to the Wheatsheaf where the beer was good but eventually the live music and the over-excitable youngsters on the next table led us to seek somewhere a little quieter.  Next we tried the Eagle & Child but the smell of disinfectant and the lack of beer sent us straight back out again.  The Royal Oak was our favourite.  Here we could enjoy a beer and chat without straining our vocal chords.

Friday 11 August

Before leaving Swillbrook both boats filled with water and Storm set off ahead of us on foot.

Our destination today was the village of Bilsborrow.  A chap on the towpath had sung its praises when he told me about a ‘thatched village’ up ahead with a lovely pub  called ‘Owd Nell’s’.  It sounded idyllic.

As we approached the village Storm rang me as he’d reached there before us.  He suggested we try to moor before Bridge 44 where it was quieter.  I tried to warn Pip and Mick but their phones both went to answerphone so they witnessed ‘the surprise’ before me.

I moored before the bridge and I could tell from Storm’s face that something was amiss.

It soon became apparent that the ‘thatched village’ was ‘faux’, with walls that had been stressed to look old and the olde worlde shops were nothing more than the back door to the pub’s kitchen.  The whole place was a mini theme park with loud music, an inflatable park beyond for the kids; and not for us.

We set off on foot to look at the other side of the canal.  We walked up the hill to the Church of St Hilda, which had been built in 1926/7 following the tragic death of a wealthy spinster who had left instructions that the monies arising from the residue of her estate should be spent on providing a church for the local residents.

The one thing the villagers obviously cared about was flowers – they were everywhere and were all very well tended, particularly at the church.

The village has three pubs and even though one was closed for refurbishment, the other two didn’t beckon us on.   However, we spotted some chilled medication and this did tempt us.