CELEBRATIONS are taking place this week to mark the 200th anniversary of the Lancaster Canal's official opening.

A recreation of the inaugural ceremony of June 18, 1819 was held at Tewitfield Marina, near Carnforth, on Tuesday, when symbolic pieces of coal and limestone were exchanged.

The gifts evoked the waterway's nickname, the Black and White Canal, from its heyday of transporting coal-laden barges north from Lancashire's coalfields, and limestone south from Kendal.

Exactly 200 years to the day since the waterway officially opened, a flotilla arrived at Tewitfield carrying the mayors of Preston and Lancaster, Cllrs David Borrow and David Whitaker, with a lump of coal.

They were greeted by Kendal's deputy mayor Cllr Doug Rathbone, who gave them a chunk of limestone in return.

In a speech, Canal and River Trust heritage adviser Bill Froggatt who described it as a day of “celebrating history” and also “celebrating what the canal contributed to communities today”.

To mark the bicentenary, 24 missing milestones between Kendal and Preston are being replaced. Lancaster sculptor Alan Ward and his students are carving the mile markers for the project between the Lancaster Canal Trust and the Canal and River Trust.

The original mile markers showed the distance travelled and were designed to ensure canal proprietors received the full toll they were owed from carriers. Mr Froggatt said the new milestones would leave "a lasting legacy" about the canal's history.

Meanwhile, children from Holme Community School celebrated this week's bicentenary by making hand-crafted boats from wood, leaves and twigs salvaged from their school grounds. They floated them on the canal near their school and sang "Happy Birthday" to the waterway.

Head teacher Craig Dewar-Wilcox said pupils had enjoyed learning about the Lancaster Canal from Holme's local historian Geoff Pegg. An exhibition of their watercolour and pastel pictures of the canal will be open to the public on Friday, June 28 from 2pm to 4pm at the school.

Villagers of Holme also will be toasting the canal's heritage this weekend with events such as a display of pictures at Holme Village Hall and a Sunday afternoon towpath walk, with people invited to dress in black and white.