As you venture through Lock 1 on the Ribble Link from the Lancaster Canal, you can’t fail to notice a three metre-high wave towering over you; a shining stainless steel narrowboat riding the crescent.
This remarkable sculpture near Preston, Lancashire, was designed to represent the tidal waters of the Ribble Link. It was installed by artist Denis O’Connor, and its unveiling was marked by a celebratory flotilla of boats in 2014. Locals were keen to see the sculpture replace the controversial Gauging the Ripple statue (nicknamed the ‘Ribble Piddler’ – you’ll see why if you find a picture of it), a wooden statue that had to be removed because it had started to rot. It’s dedicated to the labourers, navvies and engineers who built the canals, represented by the tools and rusted figure on board the steel narrowboat.
The sculpture also marks the start of the Ribble Link, which opened in 2002 and was the first new navigation to be built in England since the Manchester Ship Canal in the 19th century. The idea for the canal dates back 200 years, and was finally put into action when construction began in 2000, connecting the once isolated Lancaster Canal to the rest of the network. Due to its tidal nature, it’s often seen as an exciting challenge for boaters to add to their bucket list.
As well as the wave sculpture on the waterside, you’ll also find a stunning waymarker cast in bronze and steel, created by Huddersfield artist Lynne Chambers. It depicts the course of the Ribble Link and is carved with depictions of fishing, birdwatching, boating, cycling and the wildlife-rich reed beds of the waterway.
Find out more about the Lancaster Canal and Ribble Link