News & Blog

Worlds First Canal Comic Book Created on Lancaster Canal

The Lancaster Canal is to be the focus for the world’s first canal comic book, capturing people and places along a 27 mile route from Kendal to Lancaster.

Pictures of the Lune Viaduct in Lancaster with comic artist Oliver East
Artist Oliver East, LCRP Chair Audrey Smith & Canal & River Trust Heritage Expert Bill Froggatt

Thanks to a £15,000 grant from Arts Council England National Lottery, the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership (LCRP) has been able to commission talented Manchester artist Oliver East to bring a fresh interpretation of the canal which will culminate in the publication of a new 50 page comic book, ‘The Lanky’.

Pictures of the Lune Viaduct in Lancaster with comic artist Oliver East
Oliver East with sketches of the Lune Aquaduct

The book will be launched at the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival in Kendal in October. And Oliver will also be hoping to inspire a new generation of young artists by working with three primary schools – Holme, Strammongate in Kendal and Christchurch in Lancaster – in a number of comic workshops scheduled for September. He will also be leading two guided walks as part of the festival.

Music lovers may already know his work from album covers created for Mancunian band ‘Elbow’ – The Seldom Seen Kid and Build A Rocket Boys albums. But Oliver has also carved out another distinctive artistic niche with his unique ‘walking comics’ – comic books based on long distance walks.

 Sketching on the move, Oliver will be walking the canal towpath between Kendal and Lancaster several times over the coming months, collecting stories about local people and places. Anecdotes and historical facts will be reinterpreted in his comic book style to bring to life two centuries of the ‘Black and White Canal’.

comic illustration 2 LR Canal Head
Sneak preview – Comic Book Drafts

Oliver explained: “I’ve been creating walking comics for ten years now, so producing one about the Lancaster Canal feels like a natural fit. It will be a fictional work inspired by facts and stories, not a history book or a guidebook, and with an element of poetry within each panel, echoing the movement of walking. I prefer to draw directly from real life unlike many other comic book artists – there’s more life in a line created in the field.

 “The comic’s narrative will interweave different periods of history, looking at life on the canal from the viewpoint of a variety of characters, starting at the grand opening of the canal 200 years ago to the present day. People visiting the Lancaster Canal will recognise scenes in the book from real life, including landmarks such as Hincaster Tunnel and Lune Aqueduct.”

Comic illustration 3 LR Hincaster Tunnel
Draft from Hincaster Tunnel Section

Charities and local authorities making up LCRP include the Canal & River Trust, Cumbria County Council, Inland Waterways Association, Kendal Town Council, Lancashire County Council, Lancaster Canal Trust, Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council.

The major driving force energising the partnership is the potential of the Lancaster Canal to create new opportunities for leisure, tourism and economic development in South Cumbria and Lancashire.

Partnership chair Audrey Smith said: “We are very grateful to Arts Council England for supporting this exciting project to create a fresh, innovative interpretation of the Lancaster Canal. Comic illustration felt like the perfect way to celebrate and share its vibrant history.

“We are hoping to secure extra funding to extend the comic book further and transpose the project from 2D into 3D. We may also want to reproduce some of the artwork on future canal towpath interpretation panels or perhaps display the comic art on bridges along the trail for an even wider audience to enjoy.”

Lancaster Canal is cared for by the Canal & River Trust charity, guardian of 2,000 miles of waterways across England and Wales. Chantelle Seaborn, the Trust’s North West waterway manager is part of the partnership.  She added: “This is a wonderful project that will help to put Lancaster on the map and encourage nearby communities and new audiences to discover this historic waterway and wonderful scenery for themselves.”


Cumbria’s Lost Canal ReDiscovered -New £184,000 Towpath Trail Announced

Cumbria’s forgotten canal is to be rediscovered with the construction of a new £184,000 towpath trail from Kendal to Natland, thanks to members of the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership.

Towpath launch group 2a

The Lancaster Canal, which is due to celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2019, is currently un-navigable past Tewitfield, just north of Carnforth, due to the M6 and other road crossings constructed across its route.

Much of the canal north of Stainton is not in water and some of the canal bed has since been in-filled but most of the route is still clearly identifiable. The plan is to create a new all-weather, disabled access-friendly towpath trail for walkers and cyclists.

A grant of £140,000 from South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) has unlocked a funding package which includes donations from Cumbria County Council, Kendal Town Council, Lancaster Canal Trust and the Inland Waterways Association (IWA).

Work could start on the project as early as autumn 2017. Once complete, the plan is then to extend the towpath trail to Lancaster and then a second phase down to Preston, the start of the Lancaster Canal.

The new trail will add further weight to a long term aspiration to restore the canal to navigation as far as Kendal by promoting the waterway route as a visitor destination.

The charities and local authorities making up the Lancaster Canal Partnership include the Canal & River Trust, Cumbria County Council, IWA, Kendal Town Council, Lancashire County Council, Lancaster Canal Trust, Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council.

The major driving force energising the partnership is the potential of the proposed canal towpath trail to create new opportunities for leisure, tourism and economic development in South Cumbria and Lancashire

Partnership chair Audrey Smith said: “We are very grateful to South Lakeland Council for their substantial donation which turns this project into a reality. We are delighted that visitors and local residents are going to be able to enjoy the wonderful countryside around the former canal route for walking and cycling.

“Although much of the canal through South Cumbria is no longer in water, the spirit of the waterway is still very much in evidence. It provides the perfect location for a long distance pathway connecting communities along its route from Kendal to Lancaster.

“This first phase of work is the start of a much bigger project which will really help to put the Lancaster Canal and this forgotten ‘northern reaches’ section on the map. We intend to link into other nearby tourist attractions like Levens Hall and Sizergh Castle, the Morecambe Bay trails and ultimately create a new visitor centre at the beautiful Lune Aqueduct in Lancaster.

“New interpretation boards will be installed and events, such as sports challenges and family activities, organised to attract the public to the trail.”

Councillor Sue Sanderson, SLDC’s portfolio holder for Council Organisation and People, added: “Opening up the canal towpath will create a new trail for walkers and cyclists and will be accessible for disabled users.

“It will add to the local area’s leisure map, encouraging more people to get on their bikes or go for a walk along this currently under-used asset in our district.

“It will create valuable opportunities for tourism and economic development, and the project aligns with key elements of our Council Plan priorities on health and wellbeing, on the economy and on our environmental agenda to promote active travel.

“We are delighted to have been able to support this project and our funding has enabled the appointment of a project officer to take the scheme forward. This has been several years in the making and is an excellent example of partnership working – it shows what can be achieved when the different tiers of local government come together and work with third sector organisations to achieve real results for our communities.’’

A recent survey seeking views about the proposed towpath trail gave overwhelming public support for the project. More than 83% said they ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the plan to improve the signage and visibility of the canal to make it easier to access and navigate. And over 80% supported the construction of a visitor centre and café at the Lune Aqueduct.

It was clear many people valued the rural surroundings but called strongly for the towpath surface to be improved. One respondent wrote: “The best thing about the Lancaster Canal is the ability to walk in peaceful surroundings without all the noise and chaos of modern day life.”

With the wider ability of the towpath trail to bring economic regeneration to the area, the canal partnership has commissioned an access strategy from Coles Baxter Associates who are specialists in heritage-led regeneration and cultural tourism. This will then guide the implementation and future promotion of the trail.

IWA Restoration Conference

After a lovely 1st class journey (via a bargain ticket from Kendal to Wolverhampton) I arrived at the impressive SWB Academy ready to learn more about the wonderful world of canals at the mecca of all who follow the hashtag #wedocanals to their core.


Whilst branded as ‘Restoration Conference’ the conference theme was strongly about the professionalism and organisational capacity of Canal Groups to achieve restoration, overwhelmingly focusing on the ‘how’ over the ‘what’. Another key ‘how’ aspect, promoted throughout the day, was the thoughtfully co-ordinated ‘Restoration Hub’ centralising restoration know how and making it easily accessible.

Jonathan Till spoke brilliantly about the need for Canal Societies to move from enthusiast organisations to credible delivery partners. Alicen Stenner mirrored his message by emphasising the marketing positioning of a restoration brand – moving away from the promotion of physical works (exciting to a limited engineering audience) towards the promotion of the bigger community values restoration can achieve.

I’ve always valued the idea of looking outwards for inspiration and was impressed with the inclusion of Nick Ralls (Chief Executive of Severn Railway) who shared his volunteer successes from an alternative heritage perspective. His predominant message was the pioneering spirit of volunteers and how to carefully harness, celebrate and manage enthusiasm to ensure continuous commitment and success. I really liked his ideas of creating defined reward events, building in opportunities to demonstrate volunteer pride and finding creative ways to make the ‘business as usual’ tasks inspirational. The importance and promotion of a volunteer core throughout the executive was also impressive and demonstrated a thorough understanding of actively valuing a volunteer culture within a successful business.

I also enjoyed Aimee Henderson’s heritage seminar, neatly summarising conservation as the ‘Controlled Management of Change’ again prompting parallels between the conservation of Canal Societies via organisational and marketing sea changes to achieve restoration.

With a head full of renewed inspiration I returned to Kendal (2nd class – the bargain deals are limited!) catching glimpses of the Northern Reaches idly displaying its restoration challenge. I sat happy in the knowledge that LCRP have chosen to prioritise the creation of a true community asset, the Towpath Trail, to kick start a community led push for full restoration and that we have the capacity and drive to take on board all that was promoted at the ‘restoration’ conference today.

South Lakes Cycle Forum Pledges Towpath Trail Support

Liz Ashburn, Chair of the South Lakes Cycle Forum, explains her support for the Towpath Trail following a presentation from LCRP.

‘The Lancaster Canal Towpath Trail would provide a fantastic traffic free, level cycle route for families, tourists and other recreational cyclists, winding through attractive and interesting countryside giving access to several tourist destinations on the way.  It has great potential to encourage cycle tourism, reduce the use of private car transport for family days out and not least will give a long and leisurely off road route for beginner cyclists, whether children or adults.  South Lakeland and north Lancashire present great cycling for proficient, fairly fit cyclists, but relatively few easy, safe routes for new and less confident cyclists and families, both locals and visitors to the area’.

We couldn’t agree more, thanks Liz!


Towpath Trail Survey

As part of LCRP’s approach to developing a Towpath Trail in partnership with local communities, charities and organisations we have created a survey to benefit from the input of others.

The survey outlines some of LCRP’s key regeneration ideas (read more here Access Strategy Summary) and leaves plenty of room for additional comments!

Complete the Towpath Trail Survey Here

If you have more to add, please contact us to ensure your views are considered.

The same questions are being asked at Towpath Trail Drop in Events outlined in the poster below, hope to see you there!