Canal Boat - - This Month -

A mar­riage of mod­ern and old as an 18th Cen­tury trade route joins a leisure boaters’ link

This month’s walk fol­lows a cir­cuit which takes in parts of two wa­ter­ways. One was built in the late 18th cen­tury and de­signed for car­ry­ing freight; the other is one of the new­est in the coun­try, opened as re­cently as 2002 as a ‘miss­ing link’ for leisure boaters.

Our route be­gins – as does the Lan­caster Canal – on the edge of Pre­ston. But the canal didn’t al­ways start there, and in­deed, our walk needn’t, es­pe­cially for those who are up for a bit of canal ar­chae­ol­ogy.

In fact, for those ar­riv­ing by pub­lic trans­port, it makes sense to start at Pre­ston Sta­tion, not far from where the canal orig­i­nally be­gan (As it hap­pens, it was sup­posed to have be­gun a lot fur­ther south, near Wi­gan, but that’s an­other story). From the sta­tion, fol­low Cor­po­ra­tion Street as it heads north east and then north, chang­ing its name to Fylde Road and pass­ing the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Lan­cashire on the left.

Look out for canal-re­lated names among the depart­ment names on the Univer­sity signs (the cam­pus was built on the site of the old basins), see if you can spot a sur­viv­ing bridge which car­ried Maud­land Road (off to your left) over the canal, and look out for a long thin strip of grass on your left where the canal crossed un­der Fylde Road.

Fylde Road passes un­der a railway bridge, fol­low­ing which the sec­ond right turn leads into the sus­pi­ciously named Aqueduct Street. The miss­ing aqueduct is where the canal now be­gins. And it’s where the walk be­gins for whose in­ter­est into canals doesn’t ex­tend to snoop­ing around col­leges in the hope of find­ing a Wharf Build­ing or some such name. So find some­where to park, and head up the foot­path on the north side of the road which leads to the towpath.

The canal fol­lows a cut­ting with back gardens lead­ing down to the wa­ter as it heads north­wards out of town. A park on the left helps to give the impression that the town is be­ing left be­hind and an aqueduct crosses a small stream.

It’s only a small struc­ture, but it’s a hint of things to come on a canal that’s noted for its aque­ducts (although sadly we don’t cross any ma­jor ones on this walk), and it crosses the Sav­ick Brook – note the name for later.

A junc­tion with a towpath bridge in­di­cates where the Ribble Link branches off (again, more of this later), be­fore the canal re­ally does leave Pre­ston be­hind and heads off into the Fylde, the coastal plain of west Lan­cashire. The railway line to Black­pool keeps us com­pany a few

hun­dred yards away to the south, but apart from that it’s quiet coun­try­side, punc­tu­ated by some fine stone-built orig­i­nal canal bridges.

Bridge 22 is where we leave the towpath: turn off left, head­ing south along Lea Lane. Af­ter quar­ter of a mile, turn left by the Smiths Arms (paus­ing for re­fresh­ment if you wish) into Darkin­son Lane. Con­tinue for just over half a mile, and on your left (op­po­site Wards Farm) you will see a gate with a stile along­side it.

Take this, fol­low the (not very clear) foot­path along the edge of the field, bear right by the elec­tric­ity py­lon, and in about half a mile you will reach a foot­bridge over Bri­tain’s first new wa­ter­way of the 21st Cen­tury – the Ribble Link.

If you fancy a short de­tour, turn right and walk down to Lock 8, where the Link be­comes semi-tidal and boats may some­times be seen wait­ing for the right wa­ter level for the tidal pas­sage to the Ribble, the Dou­glas, and the Leeds & Liver­pool Canal. To con­tinue the walk, turn left and fol­low the Link as it re­turns to­wards Pre­ston.

Although it’s a new nav­i­ga­tion built less than two decades ago, the wa­ter­way was based on an en­large­ment of the Sav­ick Brook (which we crossed back in Pre­ston), and this is shown in the way that it me­an­ders as it heads to­wards the town. Locks 7, 6, 5 and 4 are mod­ern steel and con­crete struc­tures spread out along the route as it climbs to­wards the Lan­caster Canal, the bridges are equally mod­ern, and a hard-sur­faced path ac­com­pa­nies the wa­ter­way as it pre­serves a strip of park­land though the ap­proach­ing hous­ing es­tates of the edge of Pre­ston.

The path is squeezed un­der a railway bridge on brack­ets from the wall, then briefly leaves the wa­ter­way briefly to cross the B6241 Tom Ben­son Way (there’s a pedes­trian cross­ing). It con­tin­ues al­most op­po­site: where it splits, take the left turn, and you’ll find your­self cross­ing the nav­i­ga­tion.

This too takes a very sharp left, and climbs via a set of three stair­case locks: the top lock used to fea­ture a mod­ern sculp­ture of a gi­ant fig­ure (one of the less po­lite nick­names for him was the ‘Ribble Pid­dler’), but it has been re­placed by an­other mod­ern art­work de­pict­ing a boat and the canal builders’ tools.

A sharp right turn at the top leads past a basin to the junc­tion with the Lan­caster Canal, for the walk back into Pre­ston.

Head­ing out of Pre­ston on the Lan­caster Canal towpath Our walk joins the Ribble Link via this bridge

We rec­om­mend the Ord­nance Sur­vey’s Lan­dranger map 102 Pre­ston & Black­pool to ac­com­pany this walk. ©Crown copy­right 2017 Ord­nance Sur­vey. Me­dia 014/17

The Ribble Link climbs via a se­ries of mod­ern steel and con­crete locks

The path is squeezed un­der a rail bridge

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