In February, newspapers reported that a meeting had taken place to raise money for a proposed canal which would
run from west of Westhoughton in the Wigan & Bolton coal fields to Kendal on the edge of the Lake District,
a distance of 75½ miles. There were still indecision's about where the route would meet the rest of the canal
network but £170,000 was raised in an instance at the meeting.
The Bill was put to Parliament and the Act was passed in June. John Rennie was appointed as
chief engineer with Archibald Millar as resident engineer. The planned route was to start to the west of
Westhoughton, which is about half way between Wigan and Bolton, and run north west to Clayton Green, south of
Preston. Past here it was to cross the River Ribble on an aqueduct near Preston with 32 locks taking it down to
the aqueduct and back up on the north side of the valley. The route was then to continue north, crossing the
River Wyre at Garstang on another aqueduct and then head further north into Lancaster where the River Lune
would also have to be crossed. North of Lancaster the route would travel to Carnforth and on to Kendal.
Work began before a southern link into the main canal network had been decided upon. At first it was agreed
with the Duke of Bridgewater to connect the line to his canal at Worsley which is about 7 (straight) miles from
Westhoughton, but this agreement fell through. The Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal was another possibility.
The building of that canal was also in its early stages and there had been plans to extend it past Bolton to
Wigan. When this idea was dropped, the Lancaster Canal thought about linking their line to Bolton which would
give direct access to the Centre of Manchester. In the end this idea was also dropped and the Lancaster Canal
was left with no connection into the main network. Thoughts turned to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal which was
slowly heading their way and had a number of promoters also connected with the Lancaster Canal. The original
plan was probably to beat the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Wigan but now co-operation seemed like a better
idea although nothing solid was agreed at this stage.
Work went on at a good rate but not everything was going well. Archibald Millar saw that the local contractors
were not doing what they had been asked to do and some of their work was very poor quality. The company sacked
the contractors and took over the supervision themselves with Millar keeping a close eye on the workmanship. At
the same time, Henry Eastburn was appointed as a second resident engineer and he looked after the route south
of the River Ribble at Preston.
The first section of the canal to be opened was a 4 mile stretch from Bark Hill (west of Westhoughton) to
Adlington (south of Chorley).
The long lock-free stretch from Preston to Tewitfield (near Carnforth) was opened with a celebration which
included the firing of guns in front of Lancaster town hall. At last the men of Lancaster had their waterway,
but it was still to be connected to the rest of the canal network.
The line from Bark Hill to Adlington was continued north and reached Johnson's Hillock. The company now faced a
big problem -they simply could not afford to connect the northern section of their canal at Preston to the
southern section at Johnson's Hillock. The resident engineer for this section was now William Cartwright and he
estimated the cost of 32 locks and an aqueduct to be £180,945. The company had to have its canal connected to
the main network but finishing the route in the near future was out of the question. A compromise was made
until further funds could be raised, they decided to build a tramway to connect the two ends, estimated at
£60,000. Both John Rennie and William Jessop agreed that a tramway would be a good idea.
The company successfully gained an Act allowing them to raise £200,000 which was used to build the tramway and
pay off all outstanding debts. The tramway needed two interchange stations, one at each end, and a tunnel would
have to be cut through Whittle Hill. Stationary steam engines would be used to pull the wagons along the
A passenger service opened on the canal for the first time. In the beginning this was a very small part of the
canal's total business but within 20 years passengers were to become one of the canal's biggest "cargoes" and
certainly one of the main sources of income for the company.
The tramway opened from Preston to Whittle-Le-Woods and the company instantly began to see massive increases in
profit. Income was nearly double that of the previous year even though the whole canal was still not complete.
In the north work had stopped at Tewitfield and was still well short of Kendal, another tramway was suggested
but despite the success of the line across the River Ribble, not to mention the cheaper cost, the company
decided to build a canal as originally planned. Even more importantly the canal still had no link with the rest
of the British network, the nearest canal was the unfinished Leeds & Liverpool but it was in disarray with
disagreements over its route andhad problems finding cash to build whatever route was eventually agreed on.
An agreement was made between the Lancaster Canal and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal which would help both
parties considerably. It was agreed that if the Leeds & Liverpool company continued their existing line to
meet the Lancaster Canal at Johnson's Hillock, the Lancaster company would then allow the Leeds & Liverpool
company to use the Lancaster Canal from Johnson's Hillock to Bark Hill. From there the Leeds & Liverpool
company could make a short branch into Wigan - and eventually on to Liverpool. However, completion was delayed
once again - this time by events well out of control of the Lancaster company. Over the next few years the
Napoleonic Wars took their toll on Britain and the building of both the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and the
northern end of the Lancaster Canal progressed very slowly. The Lancaster Canal had to put all the money it had
into the purchase of land which was desperately needed for the construction of a reservoir.
Work began in earnest on the northern section of the canal with Thomas Fletcher succeeding John Rennie as chief
Engineer. William Crosley later took over from Fletcher to finish the line.
The major structure on the northern section was a ¼ mile long tunnel near Hincaster. It was decided to line the
inside of the tunnel with bricks but the company were very unsure about this as no tunnel had ever been built
with bricks on a northern canal. It is interesting to see that even in the early 1800's the north of England
was, in many ways, a million miles away from the south. Just because something had been achieved in the south,
it did not mean Northerners would follow suit without seeing it to believe it. A committee was sent to the
Midlands to investigate tunnels in that part of the country. After the investigation the company agreed to
build the tunnel with bricks though it would appear they were still a little twitchy about it. They needn't
have worried though as the tunnel still stands today.
The line to Kendal was opened and a massive celebration was had with many dignitaries and over 10,000 other
people gathering at Castle Hill in Kendal. With this, the Lancaster Canal was fully open after 27 years and at
a massive cost of £600,000. However, it soon became a roaring success, warehouses and wharves were built at the
northern terminus and the small town of Kendal went into a boom period.
Over the next few years income grew rapidly with money coming in equally from both ends of
the route. One very busy part of the canal was at Hest Bank where the route almost touched the west coast near
Morecambe Bay.It became a busy transhipment wharf and this prompted the company to look into ways of extending
the canal closer to the bay. In the end it was decided a better idea would be to connect a line to the coast
further south at the mouth of the River Lune.
Passenger travel had become very successful on the Lancaster Canal, daily routes now ran between Lancaster and
Preston taking 14 hours to cover 57 miles - much faster than a pleasure boat could do the same journey
The branch line to the coast opened from Galgate, south of Lancaster, to Glasson in the Lune estuary. It was 3
miles long with 6 locks and ended at a basin and dock in Glasson. The small settlement soon become a very busy
port and has remained in use with commercial traffic to the present day although cargoes are no longer
transferred onto the canal as they were originally. The new link with the coast increased the canal's already
big profits even more and the company was able to increase dividends to its shareholders for a few years.
There was a minor crisis for the company when the failure of its bankers caused lending rates on outstanding
debts to be increased. The company got through this but the fright caused them to lower their dividends and
keep them low from then on.
The success of the Lancaster Canal, like virtually all other canals, was fairly short lived. An Act of
Parliament was passed to allow the building of the Wigan & Preston Railway. The canal company knew it
couldn't compete with the railway with the canal as it was (especially when part of the canal was made up of an
old tramway) so they began to seek ways of making sure they did not lose out to the railway. A number of plans
were suggested, the most extreme being the idea to jump ship and sell out to the railway before the canal could
be forced out of business. When they pulled themselves together and began to think straight they asked George
Stephenson to survey a route for a railway line of their own, he returned with an estimate of just £11,000 but
the company weren't confident about the practicality of the scheme. Instead, it was decided that enhancements
and a better service was what was needed.
To combat the railway's proposed passenger trains the canal's already popular passenger service was upgraded
with the inclusion of express boats which used a system where the towing horses were regularly changed along
the route to make the journey very quick. The route could now be covered in 7¼ hours, half the time of an
ordinary passenger boat.The "fly boat" became so important to the canal that it was given unlimited right of
way and all other vessels had to get out of its path.If they failed, a specially fixed blade at the front of
the fly boat would cut through the tow ropes of any boat which was holding it up. The fly boat was not only
fast but also luxurious (for its time), drinks could be bought on board and heating was provided in winter.
The Preston to Wigan railway opened under the name of The North Union Railway.
Another railway company, the Bolton & Preston had also began to build a line into the canal's territory so
the canal company struck up a deal with them before they were left trying to make their tramway compete with
two new railways. The Bolton & Preston agreed to lease the tramway and to build a new canal/rail
interchange in Preston. Meanwhile, an Act was authorised for the Lancaster & Preston Junction Railway which
would also, once completed, provide stiff opposition for the canal.
Although the agreement with the Bolton & Preston railway satisfied the canal company, it turned out to be a
total waste of time and money for the Bolton & Preston Company. The North Union Railway didn't fancy the
competition of a rival railway so they struck up a deal with the Preston & Bolton company where both
companies would share the existing North Union track into Preston. This meant the Preston & Bolton company
no longer needed the tramway but the lease agreement still had to be honoured. In the end the canal company
were forced to agree lease terms at a much lower rate and the railway reluctantly took control of the
The Lancaster & Preston Junction Railway opened giving the canal three rivals for its once exclusive trade.
Despite this, the income and tonnage carried on the Lancaster Canal was still increasing each year.Most of this
was in the north however where coal was carried from Preston (mainly supplied by the railways) to the docks on
the coast at Glasson.
South of Preston the canal was losing out badly to the railways. The company decided to
close down part of its tramway and concentrate on business to the north. This meant that the canal main line no
longer had any link with the rest of the national waterways network. The most southerly part of the tramway was
kept open, as was its connecting canal branch between Johnson's Hillock and the tramway at Walton Summit. The
company also still owned the length of canal south from Johnson's Hillock to the top lock of the Wigan flight.
This stretch also formed part of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal's main line and was used almost exclusively by
that canal rather than by Lancaster Canal boats.
Passenger travel on the Lancaster Canal had probably been the best on any canal in the
country. With no competition and no locks to encounter, the fly boat from Preston to Lancaster was the fastest
on any inland waterway. All the same, the speed was now only a fraction of what the locomotives could achieve
on the railway so drastic measures were needed. The canal company slashed its passenger fares by half and by
doing so were able to maintain the same number of passengers, albeit at a much lower income.
The canal's trade continued to grow while the much younger railway companies were having severe teething
troubles. The North Union Railway had originally agreed to share Preston station with the Lancaster &
Preston Railway but the two companies fell out before the Lancaster line was complete. The Bolton & Preston
company were also having problems completing their route and all this helped to keep business on the canal.
The Lancaster & Preston Railway company landed themselves in big financial trouble, so much so that they
actually turned to the canal for help. The Lancaster company bailed them out by leasing the line for £13,300 a
year for 21 years. This was virtually a unique situation, throughout the history of British canals it was
almost always the railways who leased the canals, usually in order to close them down.This time however, it was
the canal company who were in complete control of a railway! The lease gave them a monopoly on all cargoes
carried between Lancaster and Preston, tolls were raised and train passenger fares were hugely increased. They
even took the seats out of some carriages to fit more passengers in and gain even more income!
There was no room for complacency however, an Act was passed for the building of the Lancaster & Carlisle
Railway which would take away the canal's monopoly between Lancaster and Kendal. The canal company felt smug
though, it had control of all rail and water transport south into Preston.
The Lancaster company attempted to sell their southern line from Johnson's Hillock to Wigan top lock to the
Leeds & Liverpool company. No deal was settled at this point however and the Wigan section remained under
the Lancaster Canal's ownership despite them not wanting it, not needing it and not using it. Meanwhile the
Leeds & Liverpool Canal continued to use it as part of their main line.
It must have been a gloomy day when the Lancaster Canal Company heard that the Lancaster & Preston Junction
Railway had cancelled its lease agreement with the canal so it could lease itself to the Lancaster &
Carlisle Railway instead. The canal company were not willing to give up the lease agreement and legal action
was begun. The Lancaster & Carlisle Railway ignored the protests of the canal company and began to run
trains from Carlisle to Preston along the tracks controlled by the canal!
One can easily imagine the chaos caused by two rival companies running trains along the same line. The problem
was close to being resolved at one point when the Lancaster Canal seriously thought about selling out to the
Lancaster & Carlisle company though in the end they decided not to sell.
The inevitable happened, on August 21st there was a fatal crash on the railway and the companies were ordered
by the Railway Commissioners to settle their dispute. In November the matter was resolved when the railway
company was ordered to pay the canal £55,000 in compensation to cover the loss of their lease. Although the
canal lost its control of the railway, its monopoly on transport and would probably now loose trade to the
railway, it made a hefty profit of £70,000 out of the lease saga and this allowed it to pay off all its debts,
pay out bonus dividends and still have plenty left over.
Following the lease saga the canal and railway were actually very friendly towards each other and even decided
to share business. The canal began to carry only heavy goods and coal while the railway carried light
merchandise and ran a passenger service. Also in this year a deal was finalised with the Leeds & Liverpool
Canal so that the cross-Pennine company could take control of the Wigan section of the Lancaster Canal on a
lease of £4,335 per year for 21 years. They also took on the Walton Summit canal line which connected Johnson's
Hillock to old tramway. By now the northern half of the tramway (from Walton Summit to Bamber Bridge), although
still in use, had fallen into decline and was in desperate need of maintenance.
During the next few years the Lancaster company began running its own coastal service. They
ran five steamers and also leased a quay in Belfast.
The fast growing London & North Western Railway Company swallowed up the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway
Company, taking control of the whole line from Carlisle to Preston. Immediately all the friendly agreements
which the canal and railway had came to an end. From the day the LNWR took over, the Lancaster Canal began to
The canal proprietors could clearly see there was no way to fight the huge railway so they attempted to lease
the whole company to LNWR. The two companies began negotiations which took 4 years to finalise.
The Leeds & Liverpool Canal company closed down the northern section of the old tramway, cutting off the
Lancaster Canal's only (albeit none-waterway) direct link into the main canal system.
In July the "Lancaster Canal Transfer Act" was passed in Parliament allowing the canal company to lease out the
whole of its route. The LNWR leased the section from Preston to Kendal (including the Glasson Branch) for
£12,600 a year in perpetuity. The southern section from Wigan to Johnson's Hillock, the Walton Summit Branch
and the remaining portion of the old tramway continued to be leased to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. (The
Leeds & Liverpool Canal kept the tramway running until 1879).
LNWR offered to buy the canal company outright. The shareholders agreed and the canal changed hands in July.
For the next decade and a half the canal continued to carry a respectable amount of cargo - mainly coal and
By the turn of the century - like most remaining canals - trade on the Lancaster Canal had
begun to decline. WW1 increased the slump and trade never recovered.
The London, Midland & Scottish Railway took over all of LNWR's business including the dwindling Lancaster
LMS put forward a proposal to close down the Lancaster Canal. A group of local businessmen fought the proposal
and won, forcing LMS to keep the route open. By this time though to north of Lancaster the only boats using the
waterway were those delivering coal to Kendal Gasworks.Even this came to an end in the autumn when the gasworks
moved over to road transport.
The canal saw its last commercial boat to travel from Preston to Lancaster, it delivered a cargo to Storey's
Mill at White Cross.
The Lancaster Canal, along with most of Britain's inland waterways, was nationalised. Also like most of
Britain's other waterways, the Lancaster Canal's prospects for survival appeared to be very low.
As expected the Lancaster Canal was categorised in group 3 of the government's waterways survey... "having
insufficient commercial prospects to justify its retention". Although this had no immediate effect on the whole
route, the northern most section from Stainton into Kendal was closed down and the top 2 miles were drained and
filled in.The rest of the line was left as it was for nearly a decade.
At a period when the canal's survival looked doomed, a group of enthusiasts got together and formed what became
the Lancaster Canal Trust. They fought hard to stop the canal's decay and to keep it open but sadly some of
their early efforts were in vain...
A section of the route at its southern end in the centre of Preston was closed and filled in. On other
stretches of the route the road bridges were flattened and lots of stretches were becoming derelict. Despite
this, an increasing number of pleasure boats were beginning to use the canal.
The M6 motorway, a great engineering feat in its own right, sealed the fate of the northern section of the
canal when it was built over the waterway in 3 different places, each time relegating the channel to no more
than a small culvert. A second new road, the A6070 also completely blocked the route at Tewitfield.
It must have been a mixture of delight, relief and a kick in the teeth when, at the same
time as the motorway was condemning the northern part of the route, a new Transport Act promoted the rest of
the route to a "cruising waterway", suitable for pleasure craft. Since then the navigable sections of the
canal, Tewitfield to Preston (including the Glasson Branch) have been a big success and are very popular with
holiday makers despite there being no link to the rest of the canal network.
A society was formed with a view to connecting the severed Lancaster main line to the rest of the inland
waterways network - via a navigable waterway - for the first time. The society later became the Ribble Link
Trust though the link was not begun for well over a decade. There is, of course,still one section of the
original Lancaster Canal connected to the main canal network, running from Johnson's Hillock to the north east
of Wigan. This line is now officially part of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal main line and has never had a
navigable connection to the Lancaster Canal's main line.
The "Northern Reaches Restoration Group" was formed with the aim of re-opening the whole route to Kendal. The
group was made up of numerous local authorities as well as the canal society who had fought for such a
coalition for many years. Although there are many of the usual problems that all restoration groups face, there
is no doubt that one problem will always dominate. There is no way the canal can be restored in full while the
M6 motorway sits on top of it! There are 2 alternative ways to remove this "obstacle", either lift the motorway
or (more likely I think) lower the canal. A feasibility study was carried out and the expected cost of full
restoration was put at £17.5 million. During the early 1990's the restoration group began running a trip boat
on stretches of the "unnavigable" canal. This was to raise support and awareness rather than money as the trips
were free. In the early 1990's the Ribble Link Trust stepped up their proposals to connect the Lancaster Canal
to the national network. They proposed a route which would connect Preston to the Rufford Branch of the Leeds
& Liverpool Canal via the rivers Ribble and Douglas. The new link would need to climb up from the Ribble to
the higher Lancaster Canal near Preston. It was expected to need 9 locks on a 4½ mile route which would make
use of 2 small brooks. The locks were planned to be built 75 feet long and 16 feet wide. The estimated cost of
the link was £6 million with most of the labour provided by volunteers.
It was hoped that work on the Ribble Link could begin in Spring but Preston Council delayed planning permission
while they "studied" the proposals a little longer.
Preston Council finally finished their studies and granted the Ribble Link it's planning permission. As well as
the council, the link was also supported by British Waterways and the National Rivers Authority. Work was due
to begin but English Nature stepped in and put the whole idea on hold. They wanted to do studies on
"invertebrate wildlife" along the riverbanks on the proposed route. Sadly(?), the National Rivers Authority
decided they should clean up the riverbanks ready for work on the link to begin. It is reported that English
Nature did not find any invertebrate wildlife! During the summer work began on altering minor bridges which
crossed the proposed route. Work was carried out by the Waterway Recovery Group with assistance from the local
Early in the year it was reported in the canal press that a £2.7 million bid for millennium funding for the
Ribble Link had been deferred by the Millennium Committee. While this kept the Ribble Link Trust on
tenterhooks, it did not stop them from continuing to raise support and money from elsewhere. They set up a
scheme which amounted to the sponsoring of the locks on the new link. Each sponsored lock would be "themed" to
reflect its sponsor. The mind boggled when the list of sponsors was reported to include Grampion
Pharmaceuticals, Halifax Building Society and Whitbread Brewery.
In Spring it was announced that the Millennium Fund had awarded £2.7 million to the Ribble
Link. It was hoped that work could begin in earnest, with the cutting of the channel and building of locks, by
the end of the year. The link is expected to open during 2000.
Please Note: Since this page was written the Ribble Link has now been
completed and is open to boats.
Back to top
The navigable parts of the Lancaster Canal from Preston to Tewitfield and including the
Glasson Branch are described in all up-to-date canal guides so I will not describe them here other than to say
that the A6 runs very close to the waterway for most of its route and most of the canal is rural and well worth
a visit by car and/or on foot. Among the best places are; Bilsborrow beside bridge 44 with its hotel village of
thatched roofs; the town of Garstang with its basin and the small River Wyre Aqueduct; Galgate junction where
the Glasson Branch heads west to the coast; Glasson itself with a huge basin, a lock and swing bridge in the
middle of the village green and a commercial dock; Lancaster city centre; the mighty 600 feet long Lune
Aqueduct built by John Rennie crossing the river 60 feet above the water, undoubtedly England's finest
aqueduct; Bolton-Le-Sands which is a very pretty village on the coast with views of Morecambe Bay from the
towpath; and Tewitfield with the roaring motorway alongside the sad dead-end of the line.
At Tewitfield the canal remains (1998) blocked by the old A76 which is now the A6070. The
road was built across the canal on an embankment to lift traffic high enough to cross over the motorway which
runs parallel to the canal on the waterway's west bank. My 1971 reference book reported that there were plans
to redevelop this area but questioned whether any right minded boat user would want to travel to a dead-end
with a motorway as the only scenery. Clearly there must be very few right minded boat users as the terminus is
now a popular spot! The end of the navigation has been redeveloped, boats can moor here and there is a pub near
by. There is no winding hole as such but a turning place has been provided for those who are able to
3-point-turn a narrow boat.
When I visited the terminus in 1996 I found it to be a pretty spot with a canal cottage and
numerous picnic tables. If only I'd remembered to take some cotton wool for my ears the scene would have been
perfect. Just inches to the north of the current terminus is the A6070 embankment. Walkers can turn left for a
few yards onto a pavement which goes along the side of the M6 hard-shoulder. The path is separated from the
motorway by a simple wire fence and gives those of us who have never broken down on a motorway the opportunity
to experience the incredible noise and speed of traffic passing by only 6 feet away! The pavement continues for
only about 10 yards as it and the M6 pass under the A6070 bridge. The embankment which blocks the canal has one
saving grace - it is high enough to allow a navigable culvert to be cut through it. On the far side the
unnavigable canal appears from under the embankment and stretches away to the north via the flight of broad
Tewitfield Locks which in 1971 were described as "rotting away" though they have been saved from total
destruction in the years since. The gates were removed in the late 60's and were lying around the bank decaying
for some years.
The stretch along past the locks is a popular walk and is picturesque despite the very close
proximity of the M6. The canal attempts to head north but the motorway stops any chance of progress, blocking
it 3 times within 5 miles. The canal is in water here and is now popular with anglers though until recent years
the water was dirty due to being used to supply a nearby chemical works. In fact, the whole scene around this
stretch was described as "melancholy" in "Lost Canals of England and Wales" though it seems somewhat better
than that to me today.
The M6 crosses the route for the first time about a mile north of Tewitfield at what is
known as Cinderbarrow Culvert. Walkers can cross the motorway via a bridge close by.
Near Holme, with the canal now to the west of the motorway, there are 8 typical Lancaster
Canal bridges. Most of these carry minor roads so accessing the canal is not difficult. The canal also crosses
two minor roads on aqueducts which, like the bridges, are made of local stone. In Holme, the B6384 crosses the
route, to the east of the village.
Just west of the tiny settlement of Farleton the M6 crosses (and blocks) the route again.
Just beyond the motorway the minor road which crosses the M6, running between the B6384 and Farleton, crosses
the canal on another pretty stone bridge. I visited this spot in 1996 and found it was tidy and apparently well
kept, the towpath was grassed over but looked well used. The scene was looked down on by the huge Farleton Fell
to the east - the unnavigable canal skirts the western edge of the Pennines at this point.
The A6070 is also here, clinging closely to the motorway's line yet the canal manages to run
between the two for half a mile or so. The canal turns sharp right at Farleton and then begins a long sweeping
loop which takes it from a north easterly heading to a north westerly one over a 2 mile stretch. As it begins
this curve it crosses a small river on another stone aqueduct. This can be viewed from the road bridge which
also crosses the canal just to the north. This is the minor road from Nook to the A6070. From Nook it is
possible to turn north off the A65 and drive right alongside the canal for a few yards.
On a map the canal appears to be curving around junction 36 of the motorway, almost as if it
had been built after the road and is trying to avoid it. The A65 crosses the waterway's path and then the M6
blocks it for the last time just north of junction 36. To reach the far side by car, turn left off the A65 onto
the minor road just after the M6 bridge. This minor road crosses the canal almost immediately. Just to the
south is the motorway blockage, this one is much higher than the others and building a navigable culvert (money
allowing) would not be too difficult.
Just before Crooklands the A65 runs parallel to the canal for while. Another minor road
crosses over the canal and then the B6385 does the same in the village. Crooklands wharf is still in use,
currently owned by a coal merchant. After a few small zig-zags the canal heads north, the A590 is in the near
distance over to the west though a much smaller road follows the line of the canal much closer to the west.
After about a mile the canal changes course to north west, and then west to the south of Stainton. The canal
crosses a small skew aqueduct over St. Sunday's Beck (also known as Stainton Beck) which later becomes the
River Bela. Under the aqueduct the beck has been concrete lined and there is a footpath along its bank.
To the south-west of Stainton the canal runs along a small embankment. Stop planks under a
minor road bridge now dam the water and leave the canal bed dry to the west. Past here the dry and weedy canal
line heads towards the eastern portal of Hincaster Tunnel, the only one on the Lancaster Canal. To reach the
tunnel by road you must take the road from Hincaster village which heads north towards Sedgwick on the east
side of a railway. Park close to the A590 which passes over head. There is a gate near here on the left which
leads to the tunnel.
Hincaster Tunnel is 378 yards long and is stone lined at each end. The water line inside the
tunnel also has a stone lining though the rest of the interior is lined with brick, a unique tunnel material in
the north at the time of building. The tunnel is in very good condition, it has no towpath but usually has
water inside it as well as in the approach cuttings at both ends. This eastern end has been landscaped with
money donated by Granada Television. Perhaps the easiest way to get to the far side is by walking over the hill
on the former horse path. The accommodation bridges on the path and the tunnel itself are all now designated
Ancient Monuments.There are information boards at the tunnel entrances and on the horse path.
Leaving Hincaster, the canal line turns sharply from west to north and runs close alongside
a minor road which is almost deserted but for a few isolated cottages. There is one "slight" intrusion. The
A590 dual-carriageway attempts to use the same line as the canal and the minor road for a while - sadly, it
succeeds. The canal skirts around the steepest part of the Hincaster Hill, there is a good accommodation bridge
and a milestone in this section though the canal is filled in.
The route continues north, running right through Sedgwick where the main street is crossed
by an impressive stone aqueduct. Steps lead up to the canal and although the cut is dry, it gives the
opportunity to inspect the aqueduct trough and stonework. The canal heads north with the minor road to Natland
close on the eastern side. A minor road heading west out of Natland crosses both the River Kent and the canal
as the two waterways run parallel towards Kendal. There are some more good examples of typical stone Lancaster
Canal bridges in this stretch even though they were built many years after the John Rennie bridges on the
navigable parts of the canal to the south.
The road from Natland has been realigned in recent years and now uses part of the canal bed
into Kendal. It is possible to park on a bridge just off the current road on what used to be the road before
the realignment. From here you can walk along the road, using lots of imagination and thinking of working
boats! Buttresses still have rope marks on them and near the end of the line a roving bridge still stands.The
end of the route was at Canal Head on the south side of Kendal town centre near the A65. The terminus was just
north of the last bridge which carried a small road heading east off the minor road from Natland.In 1971 there
were prefabs along the canal's route which (obviously) was dry though apparently well defined. More recently
the end of the line has been used to tip rubbish but in some ways this is a good thing, certainly better than
being built on, leaving plenty of scope for restoration.
When the Ribble Link is completed it will connect the Lancaster Canal to the main waterways
network for the first time. If the M6 blockages can be overcome the waterways system will then be able to reach
areas that no pleasure craft has yet visited. Restoration right into Kendal would be the icing (or maybe the
mint) on the cake.
Visit the Lancaster Canal Trust website http://www.lancastercanaltrust.org.uk/
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