Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Black and White Canal

There is something satisfying for me about what might be termed a 'complete' trip. That is one where an island is circumnavigated or a waterway navigated from one extremity to the other. The Lancaster Canal, or the 'Black and White' as it was known in its commercial heyday originally connected Preston and Kendal. Its name derives from the commodities traded along the route, largely coal moving from Preston northwards and limestone on the return journey. The last commercial use of the canal was for the transport of coal to the Kendal gasworks in 1947. Since then the northernmost section of canal between Kendal and Stainton has been drained and filled in and the building of the M6 resulted in the canal being reduced to a culvert in a number of places. The canal remains navigable between Preston and Tewitfield in a stretch of 67km with no locks. This makes it the longest lock-free canal section in the country.
The challenge seemed obvious, just paddle the whole lot in one go. South to north seemed preferable as with forecast winds of force 4-5 south westerly I thought I'd get more help than hindrance.

Here's David taking that all important setting off photo.

Houses in Preston backing onto the canal.

Just about to leave Preston, conditions nice and calm.

Now out in the countryside and unfortunately water drops on the camera.

More water on the camera and a lovely avenue of trees.

The weather was kind to me, virtually no rain and I was often paddling on mirror smooth water.

Just occasionally I was exposed to the wind, more often than not in my favour.

In Garstang, Galgate, Lancaster and Carnforth there were marinas full of pleasure boats. I didn't encounter many moving boats en-route but those I did come across were a little surprised to be overtaken by a kayak.

 Here's the route in full. On a road atlas it looks a long way. Surprisingly it didn't seem that far. I broke the journey down into 10 km sections as measured by my GPS as I went along. Every 10km I allowed myself a short stop for food and drink and at the halfway point I got out of my boat for a leg stretch. Oddly, the first 10km was the hardest, after that the distances flew past. The whole journey took me a little over 9 hours with an average speed of 7.3km/h.

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