The idea of walking the length of the 12 mile length of the Louth Canal from the Canal head in Louth to the sea at Tetney was inspiered by two things. Firstly it was a walk that I had planned to do for some while and secondly my interest was piqued when I visited the Neverends exhibition at The Fishing Heritage Centre in Grimsby. Part of this exhibition was a collaboration by poet Harriet Tarlo and artist Judith Tucker on the Louth Canal. With their poems and drawings they expressed their interest in the relationship between the original River Ludd and the canal itself as its industrial past becomes absorbed into semi-wilderness, creating niches for local flora and fauna in its culverts, bridges and locks. I felt that this work would combine my interests in wilderness and walking. With this in mind Heather and I set out at 10.30 last Monday from Louth's Canal Head to walk as far as Austen Fen where we had left a car.
The weather looked promising as we set off with a promise of dry conditions at least until we had finished. How wrong we were as the rain started a couple of miles into the walk. How silly of me to decide it was dry enough not to bother with boots; I finished up with sodden feet. The canal opened in 1770 and had 8 locks along its length of which 6 remain. Humber Keels would ply the navigation with regular sailings to London, Hull and many other coastal ports. The main exports were wool and corn, whilst timber and coal were imported. Most of the locks were rare barrel locks with sides consisting of four elliptical bays, a design only ever used on this canal in Britain. The last cargo was landed in Louth in 1924 and it rapidly fell into disuse, although the Louth Navigation Trust have plans for its restoration.
On this part of the walk the locks came thick and fast and their condition ranged from that at Alvingham which one could imagine being restored to Salter Fen Lock which is in a very poor state. I was fascinated by the second one that we came to: Ticklepenny Lock, named after a family of smallholders and lock keepers who lived nearby. Even those locks that are in a better state of repair are rapidly being colonised by plants and even trees and shrubs growing from the cracks in the masonry work. Lichens and liverwort growth is rich. Warehouses along the canal are attractive but in varying states of repair and one as the canal leaves Louth is well on the way to being rewilded.
I was interested to see grey wagtails along the canal with one superb male in the canal head itself and we had a quick flash of the iridescent blue of a kingfisher at Alvingham.
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