CRT's volunteer moorings monitors work throughout the year, but we obviously scale down our activities during the winter. On the Lancaster Canal all our 2-day and 7-day moorings become 14-day sites between November and March so there's obviously no need to check them any more frequently than that. I also took the unilateral decision not to bother with the sites outside Lancaster itself after a couple of off-season trips showed very few boats tied up.
But from April the sites that I cover revert to a mixture of 2 and 7 day moorings and the better weather is a great incentive to get out and about on the cut again. My patch covers sites at Lancaster, Hest Bank, Carnforth and Tewitfield - a distance of about 10 miles by road, but somewhat further via the towpath. I can cover it on my bike, by bus or, in extremis, in the car.
Today was a lovely Spring morning in the north-west, so definitely a bike day. I cycled out to Tewitfield by a road route that avoids the busy A6 but does involve going "over the Kellets" - a hilly route via the villages of Nether and Over Kellet but which allows great views from the top over Morecambe Bay and towards the Yorkshire Dales. It took me about an hour to get to Tewitfield, where I recorded the two moored boats and then treated myself to a coffee and cake in the Garden Centre Cafe.
The towpath route back to Carnforth is extremely circuitous - the Lancaster Canal pays for its lock-free status in this way - so it was back by road - along the Old North Road that pre-dates the modern A6 and is, allegedly, the road taken by Bonnie Prince Charlie on his abortive march on London. After checking at Carnforth I called in for lunch at a catering van that parks in a layby on the A6 that is overlooked by the canal and enjoyed a cup of tea and a sandwich sitting on the embankment with a view of the buses on the A6, the trains on the West Coast Main Line and if that palled, Morecambe Bay and the Lake District fells in the distance.
But a sadder sight awaited at Hest Bank
This boat remained on the 2-day moorings throughout last summer and had collected a patrol notice (issued by the professionals) before I even began to volunteer. It was never in particularly good condition but it did stay intact - and afloat - throughout the year. It has, however, failed to survive the winter and has been gutted inside and is sitting on the bottom (which gives an indication of the lack of water on parts of the Lancaster!)
From Hest Bank I cycled back to Lancaster along the towpath where, after completing my monitoring, I couldn't resist a pint in the Water Witch, one of two good canalside pubs in the city.
I don't cycle particularly quickly these days and with the various refuelling stops, what could have been a two-hour trip had turned into half-a-day (and cost a small fortune in food and drink).
But I enjoyed it and I'll be back for more.