Lancashire Walk - Lancaster Canal and Barton
PUBLISHED: 00:23 08 May 2013 | UPDATED: 23:31 23 October 2015
Keith Carter leads a walk beside the Lancaster Canal and through the countryside around Barton
I have often wondered where the centre of Barton is, the village in North Lancs I mean, not one of the dozens of other Bartons around the country. The name seems to derive from Old English, ‘beretun’ meaning a place where grain is stored, of which there must have been many in the days when farmers had to pay a tithe to their lord who would have had a collection point to which you brought what you owed after the harvest.
The prettier villages cluster round the church and green with a pub and shop or post office close at hand but Barton is linear, the houses lining the A6, the road, railway line, canal and motorway running together hereabouts. Not so much a village, more a ribbon development.
It was at one time known for the Copper Kettle café, a favourite stop for lorry drivers on their way north, next stop Shap, but this has long gone, the name now annexed by an antiques business. There is no need to go hungry here, what with a Chinese takeaway, the Boars Head Pub, Barton Grange Hotel, Sparlings Restaurant and the Barton Bangla all within a few hundred yards.
Having no centre, the village community is rather scattered and this may be why I say it lacks a heart. It is still a pleasant place to live, is close to open countryside and the Bleasdale Fells seem near enough to touch. It remains orderly and law abiding, although this did not stop thieves taking my chain saw from an outbuilding recently.
Our walk starts from the car park of the Village Hall by the railway bridge turning south, or left, along the A6 until a turning to the right, St Helier’s Place, a cul-de-sac appears. Walk to the end and a footpath leads down to the railway to the left of the end bungalow, number nine. Cross by a substantial footbridge and exit to a field by a gate. Head through a gap onto a rutted track which leads towards a barn and farmhouse. Keep right on reaching the barn and the track brings us to the end of a lane beside Higher Park head Farm.
Cross the lane and follow a more prominent track to Lower Park Head Farm, passing through the cobbled yard. Beyond we reach a bridge over the Lancaster Canal and we cross over, turn down left onto the towpath and continue with the water on our left.
Lancaster Canal was constructed under the supervision of John Rennie and opened officially in 1819, four years after the Battle of Waterloo. It took 33 years to build and by the time it opened some of the benefits its sponsors had hoped for had been superseded, not least by the development of the Port of Liverpool with a far greater capacity than Lancaster. The railways were coming too, sounding the death knell of the canals which never fully realised their potential.
Remain on the towpath until you approach Moons Marina then leave it by a gate on the right leading between the self catering cottages of Moons Farm dating from 1698 and recently renovated. While researching this month’s walk I watched as a fisherman landed a pike which he kindly allowed me to photograph. Asking if he would like a copy emailed to him, he dismissed the idea, the fish at about 3lbs was too insignificant for his friends to be impressed by it.
At the lane, turn right and walk to the bridge over the brook with white railings. Take the stile on the left into a field then follow a line of mature oak trees which must have been planted a hundred years or so ago possibly to enhance the view from the large house on the right,
Hollowforth where they used to keep peacocks. The oaks end in a grove and we meet the stream again flowing between sandy banks.
Cross a stile into a field then keep forward along a hedge line bordering the same stream through two fields then cross the stream and continue on the same line now with the stream on the left. At a stile, leave the stream and strike across a field at two o’clock to reach a footbridge. Cross it and stay with the right hand hedge until you reach a lane at a bend. Turn right and a short distance along it you come to the Plough at Eaves, the pub sign depicting a man ploughing under the Plough constellation, a nice touch.
Turn left at the pub, walk through to the end of the car park and take a fenced path beside a paddock. Cross through the hedge and continue in the same direction through a private garden neatly landscaped. It is a right of way but must be irritating for the homeowner. Coming to a lane, cross it to a footpath opposite and follow the field margin to where a footbridge crosses a ditch. From here continue along the edge of two fields as far as a lone red brick house and go past their back door to arrive at a single track lane.
Turn left and at the next junction right onto White Horse Lane, go over the canal bridge and walk on the dead straight road to come out on the A6 opposite the Jaguar Garage. White Horse Lane is named after the pub that has now been turned into the Barton Bangla restaurant. Turn right, cross the railway bridge and the Village Hall is on the other side of the bridge on the left.
Area of walk: Barton near Garstang
Distance: Five miles
Time: Allow 2½-3 hours
Map: OS Explorer 286 Blackpool and Preston
Refreshments: Plough at Eaves
Further reading: Building the Lancaster Canal by Richard Philpotts
Not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs