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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England

Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (as defined in the Preamble). Here is a list of all Saunterings so far.
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130.  By the Lancaster Canal and the River Lune

lancaster canal

Lancaster Canal

To my surprise, the easing of lockdown restrictions has not enthused me to go gallivanting on the hills again. It seems unnecessary, unethical and frivolous to do so, after the experiences of the last fourteen months. How can I justify driving for an hour or so just to go for a walk?

Of the 77 Saunterings before the pandemic, 56 involved a drive (41 of them alone and 15 with Ruth), 18 made use of public transport, and 3 times I walked locally. During the pandemic, my outings have, of course, been very different. Of the 51 Saunterings since March 2020 only 18 have involved a drive, when it was allowed (3 alone (the last time being over seven months ago) and 15 with Ruth). I have not used public transport at all. All the other walks have been local, mostly with Ruth.

attenborough I used to soothe my guilt over driving to walk by reflecting that my carbon emissions must be lower than average, since I never fly anywhere. But every little helps, we are told. However, my stopping driving to go for a walk would be like removing a snowflake from a snowy mountain in the hope of avoiding an avalanche. Our ex-prime minister, David Cameron, one-time flaunter of his green credentials (remember ‘hug a husky’, ‘vote blue, go green’ and the green tree logo?), said during his recent grilling about lobbying that he flew in a Greensill private jet (he declined to say how often) to his Cornwall holiday home – and nobody seems to think that untoward. I doubt that any of our ‘leaders’ has any personal commitment to reducing carbon emissions, despite what they may tell us. With their example, why shouldn’t anybody fly to Portugal or Greece as soon as they can?

I don’t share David Attenborough’s confidence that there is the time and the will to avoid calamitous climate change (Attenborough, 2020). It is a pity that he didn’t warn us all decades ago while he was travelling the world enthralling us with what in Life on Earth he called the ‘infinite variety’ of nature when he must have known that nature was shrinking and must have wondered why. He now thinks that “ecotourism, which enables all of us to experience the wonders that are being protected, can bring a great deal of income to wild places without significant impact” (Attenborough, 2020, p179). All of us?  The majority of the world’s population cannot afford to be ecotourists. Prefixing an ‘eco’ does not alter the fact that tourism involves people touring. He's just giving rich people an excuse to pollute even more.

Perhaps my pessimism derives from the simple fact that I have seen few swallows this year and no swifts at all – and I have seen no comments on their absence. Are people so relieved to be vaccinated that they haven't noticed that the world isn't working as it should?  Anyway, I doubt that I will resume the more-or-less random visits to points of North-West England envisaged in the Preamble. I will endeavour to use public transport more, which will limit my scope. Visits to distant regions of the north-west will be merged into two-or-more-day stays. I will try to integrate the walks better with other activities, so that fewer outings are ‘just for a walk’. In this spirit, since we had a couple of things to do around Lancaster, I took the opportunity to walk along the Lancaster Canal and by the Lune estuary.

I walked south from Haverbreaks along the Lancaster Canal. It was quiet and relaxing – apart from the ever-present threat of being elbowed into the canal by one of the many joggers. No, really it was good to see people about. The Lancaster Canal follows the contour for most of its length between Preston and Kendal. It provides open views across the adjacent fields, except in two places – one at Hincaster Tunnel, on a now-disused part of the canal north of Tewitfield, and the other here at Deep Cutting, where, as the name suggests, the canal passes through a cutting (not so deep, in fact) through dark woodland.
lancaster canal2

Lancaster Canal, approaching Broken Back Bridge

Further on, near Whinney Carr, I left the canal at Broken Back Bridge, so-called, presumably, because from the side it looks as if the lane above has collapsed a little into the bridge. I then walked west through the hamlet of Stodday, along Snuff Mill Lane (which always used to be flooded but has recently had its drainage repaired), past the extensive Sewage Works (which calls itself a Wastewater Treatment Works), to reach the old railway line, now a path for walkers and cyclists. The Lancaster-Glasson line was short-lived. It opened in 1883 and closed for passengers in 1930 and for goods in 1964. Now it provides an excellent footpath, with views across the River Lune (at a very low tide on this occasion) to the distant Lake District hills and to the nearby power station, pylons and wind turbines.

Where the lane from Aldcliffe meets the footpath I left the old railway line to walk along the embankment that proceeds closer to the Lune marshes. This embankment was built in the early 19th century but whether to protect properties from flooding or to claim farming land from the marshes, I don’t know. If the latter, it doesn’t seem to have been successful as many of the inland fields are always under water. As the embankment curved towards Lancaster, Snatchems (mentioned in Sauntering 123) was prominent on the opposite bank but I couldn’t tell if it was any more alive.

The River Lune, near Lancaster

As I neared the end of the coastal path and approached the outskirts of Lancaster I had to step aside from the path while a party of about forty walkers, chatting excitedly, passed by. The man tasked with bringing up the rear apologised, explaining that it was their first group outing for over a year. They were from Blackpool. Well, I thought, if all these Blackpudlians think it OK to travel this far to walk in this relatively unexciting terrain, then surely I may be allowed to travel to walk up a mountain. When I asked the man where they were walking to he replied that he had no idea and that he was just following all the others. Whatever walking I do, it won’t be that kind of walking!


    Date: May 18th 2021
    Start: SD470605, by canal at Haverbreaks  (Map: 296)
    Route: (linear) S by canal – Whinney Carr – W – Stodday, old railway line – N – lane to Aldcliffe – NW on embankment, NE – Lancaster
    Distance: 6 miles;   Ascent: 30 metres

The two following items:
     132.   Three Viaducts and a Tunnel of the Settle-Carlisle Railway
     131.   A Taste of the Kendal Mint
The two preceding items:
     129.   From the Delights of Downham to the Heights of Pendle
     128.   Spring around Scout Scar
Two nearby items:
       83.   Gray's Seat and the View from the Crook o'Lune
     174.   Morecambe Away and Home
A list of all items so far:

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018-


Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar; Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell