I have an appointment today at Lancaster, 1 to 2pm to keep. As I only started just before 10am, it will be seen that I had none too much time to waste. The day was rainy and windy, but I got as far as Lostock without cape. When I put it on, the rain ceased, so at Horwich it came off again, and I saw no more rain after that. I soon put the setts behind me to Chorley, then a sharp run (I had the wind behind) took me to Preston for 11.30. I joined the North road, now, and took advantage of the good surface, running through Broughton to Brock, where I stopped for lunch – a sharp meal. In ten minutes I was off again, and after a rather pretty run, came into sight of Greenhaulgh Castle, a fragment of a square keep situate on a low mound overlooking the canal. A moment later I entered Garstang, and then – the quiet road again.
As yesterday, the rain clouds were dispersing, but the mist kept the fells out of sight. The wind pushed me along in fine style, so that soon I was nearing Galgate. Just short of the village, I met a Bolton CTC-ite, who had been to Lancaster, but as both of us were in a hurry, we only had a passing chat. Came the gradual climb to Scotforth, where my rear tyre expired. A piece of glass caused it, and as it was soon discovered, I was on the road again in less than ten minutes. Came a drop downhill, until, threading the narrow streets, I reached the Castle at 1.30pm. I discovered here that, owing to an alteration in working times, I had come just too late to see the person in question “Would I wait until 3.30?”. I decided to wait, so leaving my bike, I started on an exterior examination of the great edifice.
I stood on the cobbled roadway leading up to the huge entrance with its massive iron-studded door, and fine wooden portcullis intact and in use. Walking round by the walls, I reached the gallery which runs round, twenty feet above the ground. Not much remains of the old aspect of the castle from outside, except the gateway and a high castellated tower in the centre. Near where the steps run down to the green is a corner which is protected by iron railings, and a few feet higher up are two wooden doors. This is where the scaffold stood in the times of public executions, and the prisoners were brought out by the doors to be hanged. A shelf, just inside, held the coffin, and it was said that this was the last thing they ever saw.
On the green is a paved rectangle, on which stand some cannon taken at Sevastopol in 1756, and also three guns taken in the recent war, but these flags [paving stones]) serve a grimmer purpose, for they cover the remains of eight men who were strung up in a row for some petty crime over a century ago. I walked round the castle until I was dizzy, then haunted the churchyard, afterwards entering the church, which is an ancient building. It has a very beautiful interior, and one walks down the aisles instinctively quietly. The many wonderful painted glass windows reminded me of the words:
‘Storied windows, richly Light,
Casting a dim religious light’
Many fine brasses and beautiful tablets adorn the walls, and some of the carved oak shows very delicate tracery, but little of the old remains, for Lancaster Parish Church has undergone the same severe restoration that so singularised the last century. The pulpit is dated 1609, and at the west end in a recess is a very ancient weather-worn font of simple design. Like most old buildings, it looks best from without. It was very cold standing about, and so off I toddled to the library, where I made up the time until 3.15pm. Another walk round the castle, from where I got some good views of the Lune and a corner of Morecambe Bay on the seaward side, and Williamson Conservatory and the fells behind to landward, then I had a chat with the ‘bobby’ on duty, and at 3.30, went to keep my appointment. “Would I wait until 5.15pm”. “Certainly”, I said, and yanked out the bike for a run.
Crossing the Lune, I turned right, and proceeded along a glorious lane for two miles to Halton. Here I joined an unknown road which ended abruptly at a bleachworks by the river. There was a footpath however, which led me over many stiles and by the river bank to a pretty wood, bringing me out on the road above Caton. There was a comprehensive view from here looking up beautiful Lunesdale to the highlands beyond, dominated by the table mountain, Ingleborough. Recrossing the river, I returned on the other side, which is well wooded then watched the twilight creep over Lancaster from the Morecambe road. The deepening sky slowly enshrouded the hills, then the church and castle gradually faded from view – ‘John o’ Gaunt, time honour’d Lancaster’. Threading the narrow streets, I came to my friend’s house, where tea was awaiting, and at 6.15 I bade them goodbye, and with lamp lit, left the ghostly precincts of the castle, and joined the road south.
Climbing to Scotforth, I dropped gradually to Galgate, then with a side wind hampering me, made moderate progress to Garstang. The glaring lights on motors often troubled me, bringing me to a blinded, bewildered halt sometimes. Brock fell away into the darkness, and the lights of Preston came into being. At Walton le Dale I stopped for a snack, then faced a stiff headwind through Bamber Bridge and on to the Wigan road. At Euxton, I turned for Chorley, then caught the full force of both the wind and gradient and rough setts for five miles to Horwich, from where I soon concluded a fine run north. 102 miles