The tide is turning in Glasson Dock

PUBLISHED: 01:18 16 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:22 20 February 2013

The tide is turning in Glasson Dock

The tide is turning in Glasson Dock

The tiny coastal community of Glasson Dock is sailing ahead. Emma Mayoh reports<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Wendy Taylor is so keen to live in Glasson Dock that shes spent the past year living in a caravan. The 52-year-old moved into the makeshift home when she started working at the marina.

She and her husband, Rob, spend the weekends in their bricks and mortar home in Stalybridge, near Ashton under Lyne, and have yet to find the perfect home in the village. But they are determined to keep searching.

They are both sailing enthusiasts and their connection with the north Lancashire community goes well beyond the past 12 months. For many years, Glasson has been the home port for their boat and it is where they began a year-long sailing trip around Spain.

Glasson is a place we have always come to and always really liked. Wed kept our boat here and we wanted to be able to move to the area to enjoy it even more, said Wendy.

Its such a special, friendly place and its also in a beautiful location.
We love it.

There are many interesting vessels berthed here. For instance, theres a refurbished wooden lifeboat, Swyn y Mon, which dates back to the 1800s and has been involved in a worldwide voyage. Over the years multi-million pound ships have been moored at the marina, including one used in the Americas Cup. The Tenacity of Bolton, built by pupils at Bolton School, is also kept here.

The marina, now under the ownership of British Waterways, is the legacy of Peter and Barbara Latham, who begun developing it in the 60s. They established the current facility from scratch and now more than 300 boats can be accommodated.

Over the years several impressive vessels have taken on Glassons tricky waters - you can only get into the marina twice a day at high tide. Yard manager, Alistair Cunliffe, has worked there for more than 30 years. He said it is the quality of the yard and beauty of the area that keeps people coming back.

He said: Were a good working yard and the only one for miles. This time
of year is busy for us because everyone wants to get their boats back in the water. But we are busy all year round because people like bringing their boats here.

Its all down to the hard work of Peter and Barbara. They built it all up and it was a well known, family-run place. They made it into the marina it is today and worked hard to achieve what they did.

The local coastline plays an important part in the history of Glasson. There will have been settlements since the days early man found ways of eking a living from the coastline. In the 1780s the dock opened to accommodate large vessels no longer able to navigate the fast-silting River Lune. Much of the trade which made Lancaster a boom port, particularly from the West Indies, gradually transferred down river.

A major boost came in the 1820s when a branch of the Lancaster Canal arrived in Glasson, further enhanced a decade later when the Nicholson family started building ships there and the arrival of the railway in 1883 meant everything was going well for the village.

One of the most famous vessels built there was the schooner Ryelands, launched in 1887. It eventually became a film star, cast as The Hispaniola in the 1950s classic Treasure Island. It ended its days as a tourist attraction at Morecambe before fire destroyed it.

Like all small ports, Glasson went through a long, gradual period of decline. But there is still plenty of life at the docks and in this fascinating little community.

It is the dedication of the locals that keeps the village thriving. When the village lost its Post Office, Mark Holden and Julie Pickering sprung into action. The couple had been running the service alongside a small village shop in Tithebarn Hill. But without the Post Office, and the location off the main street, the shop was not holding its own.

Determined to maintain the important resource, they moved into new premises along the waters edge.

The local shop is something that a lot of people rely on and we didnt want to take that away, said Mark. It was enough that wed lost the Post Office, a decision that we campaigned hard to stop. We wanted to do our best to keep the shop.

When the new unit became available, we knew we were going to go for it. Weve not looked back.

Mark and Julies responsibilities, being in a small village, go beyond providing tea bags and milk. They still take in post and have helped locals with everything from delivering their provisions to knocking on doors, checking people are safe during bad weather or power cuts. And they love every minute of it.

Its a lot of fun and we get a lot of enjoyment out of running the shop, said Julie, who used to run pubs in Lancaster. We work six days a week and we are busy all the time but with a place like this you get to know everyone in the community.

While Julie decided to call time on her pub career, another Julie in the village is just starting off. Julie and Alistair Pickering, who have lived in Glasson for eight years, took over the Victoria Inn just over 12 months ago. Julie had been working for a top accountancy firm but one evening, after a few glasses of wine, the couple decided to make a change.

With help from the chefs Mick Keeler and Dave Lane, they are feeding the many tourists that come to Glasson Dock as well as the locals. They have plans to convert rooms into guest accommodation and want to establish their own microbrewery. Glasson is fortunate in that it has two good pubs - the Dalton Arms is on the other side of the water.

Julie said: I have so many happy memories of Glasson. I grew up in Lancaster and I used to come here when I was a little girl and have afternoon tea at the Baba Gee boat that used to be here. I loved it.

Were really enjoying running the pub, too. Its something thats been a complete change but the village has really supported us.

The community is also thriving at Christ Church, a tiny building consecrated in 1840 and a short walk along the canal tow path. The simplicity of the inside is contrasted by the wonderful east window, a modern vision of Christ with a lighthouse, oystercatchers, sheaves of corn, stork and fish.

Outside though, the canal-side graveyard is another reminder of the perils of living beside water. It is the grave of local heroine Bessie Marsh. She was just 18 when she drowned trying to save eight-year-old James Bownass, the son of a local shipbuilder. Bessie jumped into the icy water to try to save him but both died. From that day a hook, which could be used to help haul someone from the water, was put up in the nearby bridge that goes over the canal.

Margaret Stockdale, a member of the Parochial Church Council and Christ Churchs organist, said: There have been many tragic tales over the years. Bessie couldnt reach him from the side of the canal so she would have jumped in thinking she could save him but then they both lost their lives.

People can see by looking at the headstones how many people have
lost their lives to the waters around here. It is something you constantly have to be aware of. There have been several times when the waters have risen up and cut the main road to the village off. But it is part of being in a place like this and people all help each other and rally around.

There are much happier tales at Christ Church though with many events held throughout the year. These include a particularly popular service when a local scout group have a sleepover in the church before cooking breakfast for the parishioners.

The highlight of Christ Churchs social calendar is the annual flower festival which takes place through the August Bank Holiday weekend. Local residents give the church a colourful floral makeover on a specific theme. Its organised by Mary Benn, who moved to Glasson several decades years ago from Yorkshire.

She said: Everyone gets involved and the church always looks beautiful. Its something I absolutely love being involved with and am always proud of what everyone achieves. But thats how we are in Glasson. Everyone joins together to help everyone else out. It really is a fantastic place.

Where is it? Glasson Dock is located at the mouth of the River Lune, south of Lancaster and near to Thurnham and Conder Green. Type LA2 0DB in your sat nav to get you there.

Where can I park?
There is some on street parking around the village, as well as a handful of designated car parks including at the side of Glasson Basin.

What can I do? If you love the outdoors there are plenty of walks and cycle routes around this Lancashire beauty spot. Take time to spot some of the local wildlife too. Youll see everything from Cormorants to Great Crested Glebes.

Are there refreshments? Absolutely, there are a few places to eat out from cafes that overlook the dock to pubs offering a warm welcome and home cooked food. If you fancy taking something tasty back home, try the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse. If youre struggling to find it, follow the wonderful aroma of kippers being smoked in oak.

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