Thursday has become boat checking day. The day I get on my bike and cycle over the hill to Carnforth (and sometimes Tewitfield) then back along the towpath, recording the numbers of the boats at the mooring sites on the way back to Lancaster.
Today I thought I had it easy. Hilary was heading up to the Yorkshire Dales in the car and could give me - and the bike - a lift to Over Kellet, from where it's a gentle downhill potter to Tewitfield thus avoiding the hilly bit. I checked the moorings at Tewitfield - all in order - and then at Carnforth (just one overstayer) and set off down the towpath for the next site at Hest Bank.
This section of the towpath is a Sustrans long-distance route paralleling the A6 trunk road and so very useful for long-distance cyclists such as those doing the "end to end". But not if they have any sense. Photos on Nick Addy's Canal Planner from about ten years ago show a well maintained, wide tarmac path. Not any more. The path has not been maintained and has been deteriorating ever since it was created and is now heavily rutted.
Pottering along, between bridges 127 and 126 and just thinking how lucky I was to have avoided the hills and to have a flat route home, my rear wheel caught in one of the deeper ruts causing the bike to skid. The back wheel went one way and the front the other and I found myself heading straight for the cut! I pride myself that in 10 years of boat ownership and many years of occasional boating before that that I've never fallen in. But this was a near miss - at the last moment I managed to drop the bike to the floor and jump - or rather fall - off. I landed head first, fortunately on the grassy strip between the tarmac and the water, whilst the bike came to rest with the front wheel overhanging the cut!
There was no damage done to the bike and only a sprained finger for me, although I was glad I was wearing my helmet, which Hilary makes me do after a rarther more serious incident on the Isle of Mull a few years back.
Fortunately there was only one towpath walker to witness the incident and I was able to pick myself and the bike up and make a joke of things as he reached me. I remounted and made my way to the next bridge and down onto the layby on the A6 that I knew housed a tea bar to get myself a cuppa and a Bacon Buttie, after which I abandonned the towpath and cycled down the much safer A6 trunk road to Hest Bank.