Elswick boating enthusiast makes historic trip up Lancaster Canal locks - with a model 3ft narrowboat

A canal enthusiast has made history by being the first person to sail a boat up the Lancaster Canal's Tewtifield Locks in more than 50 years.

By Stef Hall
Wednesday, 10th June 2020, 7:00 am

Granted, it was a 3ft model narrowboat, that made the journey up the historic flight - but waterways lover Colin Ogden, from Elswick, near Preston, says he is the first boater to achieve the trip since 1968.

He sailed his battery powered boat - named Ada after an old working barge he saw many years ago - in every pound between the six locks, using a remote control.

It took about an hour to complete.

Colin Ogden sails a boat up Tewitfield Locks for the first time since 1968

The 65-year-old former plumbing engineer has been an avid campaigner for relinking the 42 miles of the southern canal - from Preston to Tewitfield - with the Northern reaches that go into Cumbria.

He is hoping the trip will refocus attention on the opportunities to restore the area.

The canal's principal purpose was to transport coal north from the Lancashire Coalfields, and limestone south from Cumbria, giving the waterway its local nickname - the Black and White Canal.

The canal was cut off at Tewitfield in 1969 for the M6 to be constructed, though critics say there appears to be no reason for this, and that the route could have been moved a few hundred yards.

Tewitfield Locks

The last working boat sailed to Crooklands Wharf in around 1965.

The northern reaches near Kendal were abandoned in the late 50s, and most of the canal was later filled in.

But it then became a leisure destination and is now home to more than 1,100 boats of all shapes and sizes.

Colin says: "I decided to do this for several reasons - mainly to see what the response would be as no one seems interested any more in the locks or the restoration of the Northern Reaches." I know it's only a model, but it is the first boat to do this since 1968.

Colin Ogden

"Our campaign to restore this section of the canal was stopped by the CRT and others. In my view we could have had a new tunnel and two of the locks working by now.

"But the bottom line seems to be there is no intention of restoring this section."

Colin started boating at the tender age of 14 when he got a dinghy on the Leeds Liverpool Canal at Burnley, where his dad worked at the old Booths Waterways depot.

At 17 he bought an old 22ft cruiser and in 1972 he built his own narrowboat. He currently sails a 15ft size 1965 launch called Whimbrel, a former water taxi wreck from Windermere that he lovingly restored.