The Old ports of West Lancashire.

Em had a plan. She wanted to go and see Lancaster Castle and go on one of the witch tours. So, off we trolled to Lancaster on an overcrowded Northern train. Isn't privatisation wonderful? We stayed at the Sun Inn in Lancaster. Nice room, ridiculously expensive drinks. In the evening as Em rested I went for a walk. I was looking for the old railway track to Glasson Dock, but it seems to have disappeared under Barratt homes. Nice walk down the river though.

The square concrete things are Heysham Nuclear Power Station I think.

There was some sort of rescue going on from the other side of the river.

Another walk in the early morning took me to the Millenium Bridge.

The buildings in the distance are old warehouses from when ships from Ireland used to dock here.

Lancaster has some picturesque bits.

I'd like to show you a lovely picture of Em having a cup of coffee in a cafe but she won't let me.

Next day another crowded Northern train took us to Preston. Em went shopping while I went in search of the Ribble Steam railway, which runs trains at weekends on the former dock railway. The docks are now a pleasure boat marina, but I was surprised to learn how important they once were, handling ro ro ferries to Ireland as well as coal exports and imports of fruit, timber grain etc. Surprisingly large ships used to navigate the narrow Ribble. It all finished in 1981. The cost of constantly dredging the river had got too much for the dwindling traffic.

In steam for my visit was a lovely Hawthorn Leslie saddletank of 1930s vintage.

There's an excellent collection of mostly industrial locos on display. Many of them have come from the former Steamport museum that used to be housed in the old Southport loco shed. One engine I'd hoped to see was "Cecil Raikes", an 0-6-4 tank of the subterranean (and sub aqua) Mersey Railway. This used to be at Steamport but since its closure has been in store with its owners, Liverpool Museums.

I was just about to leave when I noticed a sign inviting me to look at inside the workshops, a rare treat in this age of elfin safety overkill. This was the best bit. There was no-one else about but in the gloomy interior I was surrounded by frames, boilers, cabs etc and locomotives part dismantled and part re-assembled.

There was the old Furness Railway 0-4-0 tender engine

And an old friend that used to be on the Keighley & Worth Valley, USA tank No 72.

As I trudged back towards the main line station and another Northern sardine tin I took some photos of the Hawthorn Leslie hauling its train up the line, then setting off for the return trip from the exchange loops.

Despite the docks having closed over 30 years ago the railway is still busy with freight traffic on weekdays. Trains of bitumen tankers arrive down the wobbly track from the main line and are handed over to a pair of Rolls Royce Sentinel diesels to be shunted into the discharge siding for the black stuff to be pumped out and refined.

The track on the Nework Rail operated part of the line looks a bit unloved.

The Last Day 25th Feb 2011

The Last Day

Consciousness came to me slowly in the morning. I lay watching the daylight slowly gain mastery over the darkness with a feeling of being strapped down to my knobbly earth bed. I was aware that my legs were aching after days of constantly pushing pedals, and parts of my body were sore from lying on lumps in the ground. My mind was quite keen on the idea of moving, but my body kept giving it erroneous information about the difficulty of breaking free from the invisible bonds that held it down.

Eventually, with the sun now high in the sky and dogwalkers once more uncomfortably active, I persuaded my upper limbs and torso into enough movement to supply my mouth with the usual first cup of coffee and bowl of muesli. The combined effect of caffeinne and nutrition was enough to persuade the rest of my physical being of the possibility of movement. Unusually, I raided my flask for a second cup of coffee and, taking great care because my body was still groggy, climbed down to sit directly above the tunnel mouth.

After the first train had passed, glinting in the morning sun, the black & white cat trotted confidently across the tracks and disapeared into the woodland on the far side. It occurred to me that the cat was probably feral. Another train, bound for distant Norwich, burst out of the tunnel

Revived by the coffee, I climbed back up and went to unlock my bike and wheel it over to the stile ready for loading. As I did so I noticed a man walking towards me down the slope of the field. A short but solidly built man in his late sixties, he was wearing a cloth cap and light brown smock. He reminded me of Mr Seden, a farmer from the village where I grew up

Ladbroke could refer to:

,_Warwickshire who had an uncanny ability for knowing when me and my friends had entered the bounds of his land.

"I was just coming to move that bike" said the farmer "one of my cows could have broken its leg on it and that would have cost me a lot of money". It occurred to me that this fantasy was slightly more unlikely than one of the said beasts being struck by lightning. In any cow/bike interaction I suspect that the bike would come off worst. He didn't seem angry but appeared to be one of those people who enjoys lengthy but resigned grumbling. I did my best to re-assure him that I meant his cattle no harm, was about to depart and would leave no litter. He continued in an unstoppable monotone, complaining about the trouble that was caused by people who didn't understand the countryside, then wished me a good day and departed back up the grassy slope.

Soon I was following him, wheeling my laden bike past the herd of precious cattle up to the stile and on to the road. I pedalled slowly uphill to the roundabout, then turned left to continue my Southbound route.

The next village was Astley, where, behind the church, I spotted the ruins of a castle. I decided to investigate, and found the fascinating remains of Astley Castle. This moated sandstone fortress used to belong to the father of Lady Jane Grey. Her brief tenure on the English throne led inexorably to her own and her father's demise. In more recent times the place was an hotel, but it burned down in 1978. The way in was now barred as it was being restored by the Landmark trust.

Astley Castle is a ruinous moated fortified 16th century manor house in North Warwickshire. It has been listed as a Grade II* listed building since 1952[1] and as a Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1994. It was derelict and neglected since it was severely damaged by fire in 1978 whilst in use as a hotel and was officially a Building at Risk. The building reopened as a holiday let in 2012 after extensive and novel renovations that combine modern elements with the medieval remains.

I dislike being excluded from anywhere so I stalked around the dry moat, seeking a weak point in the defences. I found a place where the wall had crumbled to a climbable slope, which I breached, without damage to myself or the venerable structure. I then spent a good 15 minutes exploring the fascinating ruin and taking pictures. I discovered an easier route out which brought me into the churchyard. Remounting my bike, I pedalled onwards.

I was now cycling through the lands of my ancestors. A while ago I went to a gathering of descendants of the Griffiths boating family at the nearby village of Keresley.

My parents grew up in Coventry, just a few miles away, and went walking in the countryside round here in the 1930s. For a while, as I rode along narrow lanes, it seemed like nothing much had changed since my parents walked this way 80 years ago, then a neatly radiused curve brought me to a concrete bridge over the roaring traffic of the M6. To my left lay the sprawl of Corley services.

Soon the madness was behind me and I was back on to country lanes again. I came upon a road junction great trees towering over it. Behind the first row of trees was a great sandstone outcrop. My map showed an ancient hill fort at the top of it, and what an excellent place for a fort, looking out over the valley with a precipitous slope for any invaders to have to fight their way up. The hill is called Burrow Hill. At Daventry, where I went to secondary school, there is a hill fort at the top of Borough Hill.

climbed some of the lower rocks and sat down for a munch of food and a drink of apple juice. With my nutritional needs satisfied I climbed to the top to see what was there. The hill top was a flat ploughed field, nothing remarkable, though I imagine Time Team would enjoy digging trenches through it. I descended again to my bike and started slowly pedalling up the hill through a rocky defile towards the village of Corley

Over the top of the hill I reached Corley village, where I joined a bigger road. It was now downhill, so I didn't mind so much. I left the main route to go down the delightful Hollyfast Lane. This tiny road was at first a winding tunnel of holly trees, then opening out a little with frequent oaks still travelling steadily downhill. A sharp left turn at the end brought me into the beginnings of posh suburbia, with big houses in their own grounds set back from the road, leading me into the junction with another main road at Brownshill Green.

I became a little confused along the main road. What was shown on my ancient map did not accord with what I found on the ground. There should have been a winding lane going off to the right, instead there was a roundabout and a new straight road. I followed this as it was going in the right direction, then noticed that the original lane still existed, but was chopped into truncated sections. I diverged on to the old lane where I met frisky horses carrying their teenage owners.

The hill against me steepened and I dragged my way slowly into the suburban fringes of Allesley. I made my way through the old village and then found a concrete footbridge over a dual carriageway into proper suburbia of semi detatched houses. At the other side of this estate was the main A45 dual carriageway. I followed this roaring road through grim grey urban dreariness for about a mile. Anticipating a substantial train fare I was pleased to see a bank. I stopped to extract folding money from its hole in the wall facility, then carried on to turn away from my Southbound trajectory to head for Tile Hill station.

I had always imagined that Tile Hill was rather upmarket. The reason for this stemmed from my childhood. My big sister, 11 years my senior, had an Adam Faith lookalike boyfriend who came from Tile Hill. The romance came to an abrupt end when his parents intervened to prevent him from getting too involved with a mere typist. The upshot of this was days of big sister lying in her boudoir crying her eyes out. Every now and then I would burst in singing "Big girls Don't cry" in a high voice and she would shout "Mum, get him out of here".

As a result of this outbreak of mid 20th century snobbery I had imagined that Tile Hill would be a sort of minor Hollywood, with the mansions of the wealthy set in rolling acres behind high walls with electric gates. Instead I pedalled along a mile or so of dreary industrial units. I was glad to reach the station, but surprised that the booking clerk, though clearly in his office, had a closed sign up. I went on to the platform and enjoyed watching trains rush by

The ticket office reopened before my train arrived so, with my wallet lightened, I climbed aboard a crowded local train to Birmingham. With a change at New St station I was able to complete the return journey in just a couple of hours. My holiday was at an end. Another time I will continue my southward trek.