THE Canal & River Trust charity has been awarded the coveted Transport Trust ‘Red Wheel’ plaque to go on permanent display at Hincaster Tunnel, on the northern reaches of the Lancaster Canal.

The Red Wheel scheme aims to shine a spotlight on Britain’s rich and globally-important legacy in the development of transport and engineering. There are more than 100 Red Wheels around the country and the plaque at Hincaster Tunnel is the first in South Lakeland.

The Grade II-listed Hincaster Tunnel, along with the northern section of the Lancaster Canal, celebrates its 200th birthday (1819-2019) this year. Unusually for a canal structure of this age and in this area, the tunnel is built of both stone and brick. Constructed without a towpath, boats were hauled along the side of the tunnel, whilst horses took a purpose-built path over the hill.

Commercial traffic on the Lancaster Canal ceased north of the city in 1944 and the canal was officially closed following the Transport Act 1955.

The Canal & River Trust, which cares for 2,000 miles of the nation’s waterways, has been working in partnership with the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership to create a Towpath Trail along the canal to develop a multi-user leisure route connecting a number of rural towns and villages.

As part of the Towpath Trail project and on behalf of the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership, the Canal & River Trust is delivering enhancements and repairs to some of the major historic structures along the canal with valuable support from National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Rural Payments Agency and Cumbria County Council.

In particular the trust has recently made repairs to both portals of Hincaster Tunnel, whilst repairs to Stainton Aqueduct, damaged by storms Desmond and Eva in December 2015, are ongoing.

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, said: “Hincaster Tunnel is the jewel in the crown of the Northern Reaches of the Lancaster Canal. To celebrate the canal’s 200th birthday we’re delighted the Transport Trust has highlighted the significance of Hincaster Tunnel and its historical value to the Lancaster Canal.

“As we encourage more people to experience the wellbeing benefits of visiting their local canal and being beside water, the Red Wheel will be a great reminder of the area’s entrepreneurial past.”

Stuart Wilkinson, chairman of the Transport Trust, said: "The 54-year old national charity is dedicated to the conservation, preservation and restoration of Britain's unique transport heritage and is exceptional in covering the whole of the UK and all modes of transport - on land, in the air and on water. The richness of this heritage is shown, in the north-west, by the Red Wheel sites including the Midland Hotel, Morecambe, Claughton Aerial Ropeway, Lune Aqueduct, Ravenglass & Eskdale railway and the North Euston Hotel, Fleetwood. Hincaster Tunnel & Horse Path fully deserves to join this list and we are grateful to Canal & River Trust for their co-operation."

For more information about visiting your local canal, go to the Canal & River Trust website: