The walk along the Ulverston canal is a lovely flat walk of 4.2km, suitable for prams and wheelchairs. Starting from Canal Foot, parking is available at the Bay Horse Pub. As you step out of the car, you are instantly hit with diverse views across Morecambe bay, over to the Lake District fells, not forgetting the Hoad Monument standing tall above Ulverston. If you are lucky, you will spot trains going over the river Leven Viaduct. Next to the car park is a green with picnic tables ideal for enjoying the views and watching the birdlife.
This Canal is a crucial part of Ulverston’s industrial past and part of the fabric of the town it has become. Ulverston was declared a port in 1774 even though it is 2 miles from the shore of Morecambe Bay. The Canal was built in 1796 by the engineer John Rennie (designer of London’s Waterloo Bridge) to facilitate the trade of linen, slate and copper. The industrial revolution influenced Ulverston’s finest hour; the introduction of the trade and wealth brought in by the Canal meant the population in Ulverston doubled between 1801 and 1841. Shortly after the Railway introduced more advanced modern ships brought around the decline of canal use, Ulverston’s Canal was officially abandoned in the 1940s. In its short working life, the Canal gained a reputation for being the straightest, broadest and deepest Canal in the UK.
The walkway starts right next to the canal green and is signposted well. Once parked, cross over a footbridge and walk passed the old Canal Gates with the Canal on your left. A popular spot for fishing and cormorants alike, both after the same thing. It’s hard to imagine such a serene place accommodating thousands of trading vessels as it would have in the past.
On the other side of the Canal is the GlaxoSmithKline factory, which contrasts the abundance of wildlife you will see on the walk. The chimneys at varying heights add to the character and variety of things on display. Several benches are scattered along the route; these seats are cast iron, featuring red squirrels and vines. GlaxoSmithKline donated these benches to the town to give back to the area.
You certainly won’t get lost on this walk; keep following the path straight to town. Midway you will come to the only surviving rolling bridge in Europe. This hydraulically powered bridge was built in 1880 by Furness Railway Bardsea Branch and rolled back into a recess in the Canal, creating an opening for ships to continue on their journey whilst also giving trains the ability to cross the Canal. The bridge is no longer in use; instead, it is an art installation that will capture the imagination of any inquisitive child and show them how the bridge would have worked.
Soon you will reach Canal Head through the Six Arches Bridge at Middle basin. Still a hive of activity to this day but not entirely like it was, once being the home of shipyards, foundry and iron works. From here, you can carry on into the town if you are feeling more energetic, or you can turn and retrace your step. Take the option to stop at the Bay horse for refreshments or lunch served from noon.