Thursday 24 August

Whether we were too hot or aware of the continuous drone of motorway traffic I’m not sure but we had another disturbed night’s sleep.

By 10 am though we were all ready to head to the winding hole – the most northerly place on the English canal system. The two boats, moored either side of the canal, posed for a photo opportunity. There was no waving of flags or cheering to mark this achievement. However I understand that the Lancaster Canal Society would be happy to receive our comments on our journey in the form of a questionnaire that we can download from their website and if we return it, together with a photo of our boat at the terminus and a cheque for £8.50 they will send us a commemorative plaque.

We headed back to the quiet of Carnforth and spent an afternoon doing very little. We may even have had a snooze.

 

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Wednesday 23 August

We went back to Carnforth station this morning, not to catch a train, but to visit the Heritage Centre.  Here there is information about the history of Carnforth village, its railways, its stations and   the David Lean film “Brief Encounter” that was partially filmed here in 1945.  There is also a David Lean biographical exhibition.

We spent a couple of hours here, finishing with a cup of tea in the infamous station buffet wondering whether we were sitting at the same table as Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard had sat.

After a bite of lunch back at the boat, we left our two day mooring and headed north again in brilliant sunshine towards Tewitfield and the terminus of the Lancaster canal.  We passed under the M6 and continued on trying to remain midstream where the water was deepest.  The canal has sloping sides and it is easy to run aground.  In places the water was even shallow mid-stream causing us to slow down to just above tick-over.

The M6 motorway was never far away and as we approached the terminus we began to look for somewhere to moor because the canal and the motorway run side by side at the end of the canal and we wanted to moor somewhere slightly quieter.

Our guidebook had led us to believe there was a basin with visitor moorings but the basin was a private marina and it didn’t appear to welcome overnight visitors – at least there was no board inviting us to stay.

We managed to moor about 50 yards short of the final winding hole and where there was land between us and the motorway but we needed our planks to bridge the gap between the boat and the towpath.

We were a little disappointed that our arrival at the end of the canal was a bit of anti-climax.  We’d been planning to stay here and go off tomorrow and explore the route that the canal took to Kendal.   Instead we have walked up the eight locks that are now derelict which begin only yards beyond the terminus this evening and tomorrow morning we will return to Carnforth.  We can catch a bus from there to explore Kendal.

Large sheep!

Trying to ignore the motorway that ran alongside the locks, our walk up past the locks was very pretty.  There is a farm opposite, well stocked with animals.  It was when Storm said ‘Look at that large sheep” that was in fact a llama, that we looked more closely.  With the help of a tele-photo camera lens we also spotted ostrich, deer, goats, donkeys, a cow, pigs and mini pigs (not guinea pigs as first thought).  It looks as though it is a children’s animal farm and open to the public.

A nice way to round the day off.

Tuesday 22 August

Eighteen months ago we climbed Hoad Hill to the Sir John Barrow monument in Ulverston and watched a train seemingly float across the water as it crossed the Leven viaduct.

Today the four of us, leaving the boats behind in the care of Max and Tilly, travelled on that train from Carnforth to Ulverston.  The scenery of sand, sea, marshland, and the hills of the Southern Lakes, that was with us for most of the journey, was breathtaking.

In Ulverston we visited the World’s only museum devoted to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Stan Laurel, or Arthur Stanley Jefferson as he was originally called, was born in Ulverston.

The museum is now housed in the Roxy Cinema which is an appropriate setting to sit and enjoy some of the black and white film footage shown, and the story of the lives of this comedy duo is told around you.

I suspect there may be a similar photo on NB Oleanna’s blog!

The collection is one man’s obsession; a hobby that got out of hand.  Bill Cubin, a former mayor of Ulverston, spent years gathering all the information together and his grandson now enthusiastically welcomes visitors to this space.

At one o’clock we’d arranged to meet Hilary, a long-time friend of ours, for a catch-up over lunch.  Hilary recommended that we meet at Gillams Tearooms. Their website boasts that they’ve ‘been providing fine food and excellent service since 1892’.  They do!

Our train journey back was even better as the sun was shining, but was over all too quickly.  A lovely day out.

Monday 21 August

Time to move on.  The plan was to head for Hest Bank, the point where the canal comes closest to the sands of Morecambe Bay.

We led the way and pootled slowly out past the Lune Industrial Estate before turning north west across the Lune Aqueduct.  This is another aqueduct designed by John Rennie and was built between 1794-7.

From the canal, this 600 foot long structure failed to really impress and we looked to see if we could moor anywhere to fully appreciate its splendour from below.  There was nowhere obvious and so we continued on.  We’ll try to stop somewhere on our way back from where we can walk down to the riverside, some 60 feet below and look up at the stonework.

At Hest Bank there were plenty of empty mooring spaces but the water point advertised in our guide was out of order and as both boats needed to fill up we decided to carry on to the next tap at Carnforth.

The views from the canal across Morecambe Bay were spectacular and we’ll make sure we’re full of water for our return pass through here so we can stop and explore.

We were so busy admiring the view we didn’t spot the swing bridge blocking our path until the last minute.   I hopped off and opened it letting both boats pass through before pushing it closed again.

Heavy rain was forecast for 4pm and we arrived into Carnforth well before and filled up with water.  Whilst there were many moorings rings there were few boats here and we discovered why when NB Oleanna tried to moor as they couldn’t get in to the side.    There was one length just big enough for both boats to moor without causing any obstruction.

With Tesco just across the road we decided to go and restock the fridge, the fruit bowl and the vegetable box.

Home-made pizza has been requested for tea and afterwards I think we’ll all head out to the Canal Turn for a drink.

Sunday 20 August

To compensate Max for yesterday’s shorter than usual walk  we headed out fairly early to climb up to Williamson Park and the Ashton memorial.  There was no sign of movement on NB Oleanna so we left them in peace and headed out alone.

The 54 acre park was created by the Williamson family from the profits of their linoleum and oil cloth business and the 150 ft tall memorial was commissioned by Lord Ashton as a tribute to his wife in 1909.  The memorial dominates the Lancaster skyline.

We took it in turns to step inside the memorial and to climb up to the first floor viewing gallery from where you could walk outside and appreciate the outstanding panoramic views.

After we’d both admired the magnificent building I then paid to look around the Edwardian Palm House that housed a rainforest environment for some of the World’s most beautiful butterflies.  I was surprised to find koi carp, tortoise, quails and chameleon inside too.

Clipper Butterfly

Blue Morpho Butterfly

Owl Butterfly

White Tree Nymph Butterfly

My ticket to the Palm House also entitled me to visit the Mini Beast Cave (which I didn’t visit) and the Animal Garden where I saw meerkats, rabbits and guinea pigs.

We strolled round the park before heading back down the hill and back to the boat  After a bite of lunch we headed out again and meandered around the shops for a spot of window shopping.

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Lancaster – its worth a look.   We’ll be moving off further north though tomorrow morning.

Saturday 19 August

Mick texted to say he was on his way to Sainsburys and would we like him to pick up a Daily Telegraph for us.  “Yes please”.

It was a grey windy morning.  Storm took Max for a walk and got caught in a heavy shower so while they dried out we read the papers.  When it brightened up Storm and I headed to the Lancaster City Museum at  the Old Town Hall.

We were directed to a ground floor exhibition about the White Lund National Filling Factory.  This was a local factory built during WW1 where shells were filled with TNT before being shipped out to the front line.  The shells were made at another factory nearby.

The factory was huge, occupying a site of 400 acres, and employing about 6000 people, 80% of them female.

When the Ministry of Munitions acquired the 400 acre site,  they were keen to maintain secrecy and their advertising for employees and suitable accommodation in which to house them was somewhat cryptic.  They wrote to local residents to see if they would like to earn extra money by taking in lodgers.

The fear of explosion at the factory meant that staff had to wear a provided uniform with fabric buttons and staff were searched for matches and anything that might create a spark was removed.  They used electric trains on the site to ferry the shells.

TNT poisoning was something that they tried to limit and staff were encouraged to drink plenty of milk and were given cocoa to drink before and after their shifts.  However, we read of one girl who’d died of TNT poisoning as she’d sneaked some sweets in and as she’d popped them into her mouth during her shift, she’d also ingested the poison from her hands.

Fruit and veg was grown on the site and workers helped in the gardens and this no doubt helped with the problem of catering for such numbers.

In the Spring of 1917 Edward VII and Queen Alexandra visited the site to see the work being undertaken there and as the site was so vast a plan of where they would drive and where they would walk was drawn up.

On the night of 1 October 1917 disaster struck as a fire started and as this spread many explosions followed.  The alarm was raised at 10.30pm and fortunately most of the staff were on their break which no doubt saved many lives.  Miraculously only ten men died that night, and most of them were firemen trying to fight the fire, but there were many seriously injured casualties.  The biggest explosion was at 3am and its force was felt as far away as Burnley.  Fire engines, ambulances etc had come from miles around as word spread.  There was a problem with the phone lines at the factory and so help didn’t arrive immediately.

The exhibition tells of the heroic efforts by people, both employees and others in the neighbourhood, trying to do all they could to save the factory.  However despite their valiant efforts the factory didn’t operate again.  Staff were paid off and were given two weeks wages when they were dismissed.   The cause of the fire was never found and it is not known whether it was an accident or sabotage.

It was a fascinating exhibition.  It is impossible to imagine the impact that a factory of this scale would have had on the economy, both when it was built, while it was running, and then after it ceased to exist.    The factory manufactured about 15000 shells each week and the logistics of delivering those safely to the front line was not discussed but this must have been complicated given the utmost secrecy of the operation.

As we’d spent a long time learning about the White Lund Factory we only gave a cursory glance to the rest of the museum’s exhibits which told of life in Lancaster from Roman Times to present day.   We’ll save the rest for another time perhaps.

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.