The Dog and I were getting fed up pounding the same tarmac (if you did any cross country walks around here, you’ll be up to your knees in mud, it’s rained so much lately – one of the downsides of living in the North West) and decided to set off to the towpath of the Lancaster Canal at Hest Bank.
We parked in our usual spot, in a road of large prosperous detached houses with huge gardens and dropped down onto the path from a narrow horsepack bridge. It was an overcast day with a stiff wind and we sauntered mindlessly along this familiar route, my neck bent at right angles as I studied people’s gardens and houses who backed onto the canal.
I stopped at one particular spot, as many people had done before, considering the bare muddy patch in the verge, to peer over the hedge to a magnificent building gradually coming to fruition. I call it the “Grand Designs” house after the TV programme and half expected Kevin McCloud to come stomping over in his wellies and hard hat. It’s typical of its design – zinc roof, larch panelling and huge floor to ceiling windows and bi-folding doors. I stood admiring it and the separate indoor swimming pool for many minutes, wondering the size of it and how much it cost. Then it struck me – in my world, I would of built this beautiful house on top of a hill with far reaching views or on the coast itself (which was minutes away). Instead it was nestling in a dip in the field, surrounded by housing, some up on a nearby hill who would just stare down on it. But hey ho, at least here, I could stand and admire it every time I came for a walk.
The Dog charged off in delight after my musings and we carried on towards Carnforth. While The Dog was having a monster sniff by the water, my gaze caught sight of a wooden noticeboard on the other side and on impulse, we trotted over the bridge to check it out. It was a wooden board and a simple map of the woods carved into it, so not much to go on, but an interesting diversion to the walk. So we started to investigate. We set off to walk one way, but soon realised the woodland was petering out into a sliver of trees, so we turned around and took the opposite path that climbed up and turned left. Once up there, peering down towards the canal, I realised that wooden fencing has been put up, keeping visitors firmly on the path. So much for a woodland walk. Out of interest I carried on as the path took yet another left. I consulted my OS Map app on my phone and discovered that we got spat out onto a back road which took us to Bolton le Sands – it was taking us back to the car. Perfect.
We followed the back lane, sprinkled with little private stables and horses. It was a lovely lane with little fields and woodland on either side. We came to a T junction, went right and walked in the original hamlet of Bolton le Sands, with traditional terrace cottages, fine houses and a rather impressive church tower. I could imagine this being an isolated, self sufficient little village many years ago, before being overtaken by a mass post war building programme that surrounded this little place. From Hest Bank to Carnforth, there are many large estates of identical housing dating from the 1930’s onwards, in fact you could take a stroll through time here and chart the recent history of the buildings. We moan today of modern estates popping up, but this seemed to be on an epic scale – imagine being a local then, seeing your countryside being concreted over en masse. It’s not out of place now, but when you really look, you realise how recent this has happened.
But here was Bolton le Sands to remind us how it looked centuries ago and I was pleased to see it. There wasn’t much here, but I paused to admire the street and a splendid door lintel before plunging down a side street to rejoin the canal path again, much to The Dog’s pleasure as she was off lead and could ignore me again. We trotted back to our bridge, but decided to carry on towards Lancaster. There was housing on either side, some with gardens that ended at the water’s edge and had built little jetties. How lovely to sit there in the evening sun with a glass of wine, watching the sun set. Canal boats were moored up along this section, smoke pouring out of chimneys and wind turbines whizzing in the wind. It looked all very snug.
The Dog looked like she could walk the 4 miles to Lancaster town centre, but I had no inclination as it was coming up to lunchtime. We clambered up to another bridge and followed a muddy, puddle filled track back into the houses. This was Hest Bank/Slyne and the roads were lined with big imposing houses as well as handsome 1930’s semis set in big gardens. It just had an air of prosperity and orderliness – I liked it very much. Again, my head swivelled from side to side – about three 1970’s houses were being modernised, their brickwork covered in cream render and black framed windows added, which was a vast improvement and made them very smart indeed.
We finally reached the car and a quick check of the phone’s pedometer showed us that we had walked 5.8 miles – not bad for a 12 year old dog who looked like she could walk further. However, she leapt into the boot and I hadn’t even started the engine before she crashed onto her mat. I drove slowly home, going a completely different way home and was happy with the different route we had found. Like days like those!