Monday, October 30, 2006

Bridge 98

click photo to enlarge
With the opening of the Lune Aqueduct in Lancaster in 1797 the 42.5 mile Lancaster Canal was completed. Barges could now make the journey from the industrial town of Preston to Tewtitfield near Kendal. Unusually among English canals, the Lancaster Canal needs no locks to negotiate changes of level: the only locks a user needs to encounter are on leaving the main stretch for either the Glasson branch, that allows access to the River Lune and the sea, or the new River Ribble connection to the Leeds-Liverpool Canal south of Preston.

The canal provides a beautiful path, mainly through open countryside, for walkers as well as those afloat. Only one city - Lancaster - and only two towns - Garstang and Carnforth - are met with on its route through North Lancashire, though villages, hamlets and farms abound. The canal is a living repository of structures from the Industrial Revolution, many of them listed as being of historical interest and importance. These include the aqueducts over the River Wyre and River Lune, mileposts, and about 120 bridges (mainly stone-built). Interestingly, the first barges to use the canal were horse-drawn and a number of bridges have purpose-made cross-over steps to allow the horse to cross the canal when the tow-path changed sides, without stopping pulling! One such barge of 1833, the iron-hulled "Water Witch" with a length of 76 feet and a beam of 6 feet, was pulled by two horses that were changed every four or five miles. It took 10 hours to go from near Kendal to Preston. Later barges were steam powered, and today diesel-powered pleasure craft are the almost exclusive users of the route.

My photograph shows bridge number 98 (all the bridges are numbered), in Lancaster. Here the canal has become a desirable location for water-side housing, including recently-built flats for university students. The afternoon sun was giving a perfect reflection of the bridge, broken only by the ducks eager to see if the passers-by had any bread for them! I waited until the walker's reflection was in the water and framed by the oval of the bridge and its image, then pressed the shutter. A long focal length zoom lens allowed me to concentrate on this fairly symmetrical composition, and I converted the resulting image to black and white to emphasise the reflection.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen