Lancaster and Back Again.

Congestion, both traffic and nasal, at Ratcliffe Wharf.

It was busy out there on the Lanky this weekend. The busiest I’ve ever seen it. Everything was full to bursting. The cut was full of boaters, the boat was full of spiders and my sinuses were full of snot.

Every marina along th’ Owd Lanky must have emptied on Friday at once, pouring their post-lockdown, hypnagogic, sun-worshipping congregations into the boiling ditch, leaving nowhere for us continuous cruisers to moor. Yoghurt pots and rusty bums alike were sausaged bow to stern along the pilings, from Garstang Aqueduct to Lancaster’s Penny Street, the towpaths punctuated every few feet with bulging stomachs, flip-flops and spirals of barbecue smoke twisting up into the summer’s blue haze like the joss sticks in Blackbeard’s dreadlocks.

Somebody grab a bucket, quick. This woman’s feet are on fire!

I’d planned to take Jeanie McIntosh (whose only experience of narrow boating so far had been the dark, frozen, gale-blown wastelands of the canal in mid-winter) to the Water Witch for Saturday teatime, where I was going to moor up and buy a KFC. I realised there might be problems when I reached the crowded outskirts of Galgate around dinner and it dawned on me that what I was witnessing was actually the queue from Lancaster.

The Thetford Station at Galgate; not somewhere to be experienced in tropical temperatures unless you have a very strong stomach.

With baking heat and boiling throngs (who’d apparently forgotten that Covid-19 was still running rampant) tempers naturally start to fray. A family of beetroot-faced narrowboaters emerged from the Glasson turnoff to a volley of shouts from the nearby clanking moorings of: “Slow down y’ fat bastards!” That’s what I love about the Lanky; the laid-back friendliness of the natives.

Lancaster Hospital. The KFC was at the end of the alley. The canal’s down there somewhere. I’m not sure why I took this photograph. It was extremely hot and part of my brain had melted.

We hit Lancaster that evening, but had to wind back at the student accommodations. The whole city-stretch of the cut was chocker with poached boaters, for about a mile and a half down Aldecliffe Road, through Lancaster’s seething rear end. Eventually we moored at Haverbreaks, a stretch of towpath that was burned indelibly into my cerebral cortex a couple of years ago when me and Carol experienced engine trouble in exactly the same spot and were stranded for two days. Watching the sheep. And the ponies. And the tree. This tree.

I never hoped that I would never see, this bloody, intransigent, blasted tree…again.


We’re back at Ratcliffe Wharf now, where a floating island of debris (God only knows where these things originate – somewhere part of the Lanky is losing its edges faster than the antarctic) drifted under the bridge, fooling several boaters into thinking the canal had been blocked off by the CaRT and forcing them to turn around and head home again, to whatever socially inept marina they’d emerged from.

I could hear buffalo grazing on there somewhere.


Jeanie and I spent the rest of the night reminiscing about the old times, when we didn’t resemble grotesque muppets or ache like all our bones were breaking every time we climbed the stairs, until a bloke from the CaRT turned up at dawn and told us to shut up.

6 thoughts on “Lancaster and Back Again.

  1. We’re one of the post-lockdown unwashed that poured out of our marina, but not for sun-worshipping and turning our faces to boiled beetroot, more because we’re trying to move house at the moment and we really needed a break from sorting and packing. Anyway, it wasn’t boaters that were our problem, the Glos-Sharpy is big enough to accommodate the extra Tin Tubs and Brummagem Navy Yoghurt Pots that turn out in the hot weather — it was the Towpath Armies. We pottered down to a nice quiet spot just past the Splatt Bridge Lily Pond, then for two days we had crowds of non-socially-distancing walkers five-abreast across the towpath, interspersed by one-second flashes of Olympic Speed (Wo)Men in Lycra. That will teach us to go out at a weekend. Next time we’ll choose a Wet Wednesday.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We’ve had the Lycra-clads out in force this weekend, as well. And the dog-draggers, the flip-floppers, the mouth-breathers, the charcoal-burners, the shorts-overhangers, the (Editor: In order to save valuable internet space, I’ve decided to curtail the list at this point)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Many go to Lancaster, few return.

    It is also insanely busy here on the Shropshire of the Union Canal. I took my usual morning pee off the stern today in the company of two uber-miserable anglers (all of the gear, but ne’ery a complete or whole personality between them), a boating neighbour tugging at the cord, not of his pyjamas, but of his petrol-powered generator on the towpath, and several passing boats full of a certain demograhic that would, in happier times, have been accompanied by a Social Worker and several concerned members of the St.John’s Volunteer army (in case of mis-hap with early-morning cheese-burger).

    In more civilised times these moorings would be home to myself and perhaps one or two shuffle-boats, sans owners.

    This is truly “The Wrong Apocalypse”, and I now require an immediate refund.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Throughout the long, cold winter, huddled around the wood stove with the mice, dreaming of the other side of the world, I longed for the balmy days of summer. Now I long for them to bugger off again and the arctic-wilderness to return.


    2. Our house moving involves moving from Gloucestershire to Staffordshire, to a house with mooring outside on the Shroppie. Without the planning involved of having to take provisions down to the marina, hopefully we’ll be able to choose when to go out. Or not…

      Liked by 1 person

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