When is a new Towpath Trail really an old one?

March 2017 - The newly appointed spin doctor to the Lancaster Canal Partnership has been earning her £250 per day fees with newspaper and TV stories about what is claimed to be a new 'Towpath Trail' but all is not as it seems, as the Floater has discovered.

The press release boasts:


“Cumbria’s forgotten canal is to be rediscovered with the construction of a new £184,000 towpath trail from Kendal to Natland, thanks to members of the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership.

“The Lancaster Canal, which is due to celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2019, is currently un-navigable past Tewitfield, just north of Carnforth, due to the M6 and other road crossings constructed across its route.

“Much of the canal north of Stainton is not in water and some of the canal bed has since been in-filled but most of the route is still clearly identifiable. The plan is to create a new all-weather, disabled access-friendly towpath trail for walkers and cyclists.”

However, that is far from the full story, as a Lancaster Canal Trust member recalls: “The Footpath Trail was started in 2008 with an official opening on the September 24, 2008 by Ian Stephens. CEO of Cumbria Tourism.

“It was successful and well run up to about two years ago when lack of incentive, took over.”

“To pretend that this is a new venture is misrepresentation, a fabrication, and standing on the shoulders of early volunteers whilst stealing their good works.”

In fact the Lancaster Canal Trust's 50th anniversary book recalls the events around establishing the Towpath Trail.

To be fair the Lancaster Canal Partnership also claims it has acquired a grant of £140,000 from South Lakeland District Council which it says “has unlocked a funding package which includes donations from Cumbria County Council, Kendal Town Council, Lancaster Canal Trust and the Inland Waterways Association.”

And it has ambitions to eventually extend the towpath trail to Lancaster and then a second phase down to Preston, the start of the Lancaster Canal.

What a pity the hard work put in by volunteers to establish the Towpath Trail along the abandoned Northern Reaches just eight years ago were not acknowledged, even by those who should know such recent history.

The media reports also failed to acknowledge the work currently being done on the Northern Reaches by Colin Ogden and his Owd Lanky Boaters group – something that led to several complaints by members of the public to the BBC.

The public will be able to see both organisations at Country Fest at Crooklands, near Kendal, in early June where the Owd Lanky Boaters Group is running a raffle with the top prize of a flight for three along the canal, courtesy of Air Navigation and Training Blackpool.

Colin, a retired Plumber from Burnley, said “We are pleased we are receiving such support, and delighted our stand is next to Lancaster Canal Trust at the Canal Entrance, keeping all the canal related stands together.

“Our Owd Lanky Boaters group will soon top 1000 members and Captain Jack Sparrow will be on hand to give a hearty welcome”

Photo: Lancashire Canal Partnership claiming credit for the Towpath Trail.

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