There are motorways crossing th’ Owd Lanky between Carnforth and Capernwray; two of them, if anybody’s counting; brutalist concrete structures as incongruous to the rusticity of the canal as a Rolf Harris impersonator would be at a christening. They resemble a set from Dr. No. Fortunately they don’t last long.
“We’ll just slot this in here. Nobody’ll notice.”
Further along, near the Keer Aqueduct (although exactly how near I couldn’t honestly say, because I was falling asleep at the tiller by this point) the imposing geological feature shown in the photograph below rises from the New England Caravan Park.
Couldn’t you find a more subtle garden feature?
When viewed from an angle, it’s as slim as an upright coaster. It has a turquoise door in its base and is covered with an Ena Sharples style hairnet, presumably to either prevent it from falling onto the caravans huddled below it, or to train small monkeys to climb. Apparently the caravan park was built in a disused quarry, which goes some way towards explaining what it’s doing there.
Further north still lies the equally enigmatic Capernwray Arm, a randomly short branch from th’ Owd Lanky that appears to go nowhere and do nothing, although originally it served the aforementioned quarry. (I know this because I looked it up on Wikipedia.)
“It’s good down here. Let’s whack a couple of nowhere-near-long-enough-for-narrowboats moorings down it.”
Then there’s Borwick Hall, which you can’t really see from the canal, because it’s partially hidden behind some trees, so I got Carol to take a photograph of these youthful kayakers instead. One of the kids at the back started violently shouting, “There’s a boat! There’s a boat!” as we approached. I looked around but couldn’t see one, so I ploughed on through the middle of them all, scattering them everywhere, before disappearing under the bridge. Contrary to popular belief amongst school children, there are quite a few narrowboats on the cut.
More fun than ‘Double Geog’.
And so, late Thursday afternoon, thoroughly exhausted, knees aching terminally from wrestling with the tiller for several days, one ear frozen to the side of my head due to the Siberian wind biting through the sunshine, we finally reached Tewitfield; a Thetford station and marina that reminded me of a 1970’s hostess trolley.
Here the canal ends abruptly. Tim and Pru drove their narrowboat into the bank at full speed when they visited last. Presumably it was meant to be a joke. We didn’t copy them, because we own our narrowboat rather than just borrowing it from some unsuspecting hire company.
“Aim for the Thetford station, Tim!”
Tewitfield appears to be remote from everywhere, ensnared in its own 1970’s time bubble by a concrete knot of motorways, providing a protective wall of constant engine noise against the more subtle sounds of nature.
It’s going to be hard work getting up them.
Beyond the embankment of the flyover lie the remains of the cut, their gateway being a series of waterfalls that once were locks. There are lofty ambitions afoot to dig a tunnel through to those northern reaches, but like most good intentions they’re currently thwarted by petty politics and people with clipboards.
We moored up for the night, six feet from the bank, because the Lancaster Shelf really does extend all the way to the end of the line. On Friday morning we set off back for the more familiar, less exhaust-fugged surroundings of Galgate.
I could write about the return journey; having to jump start the battery at Lancaster, because we’d watched too much television; the greedy ducks boarding the boat and nicking our French toast; the hour long battle with the trees near Bolton-le-Sands; the double-moored boats at Deep Cuttings…but this is the fourth post in two days and even I’m bored of it now, so I hate to think how the reader feels.
The Edge of the Known World!