Saturday, October 22, 2016

Happy Birthday…

…to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal!
It was a long and sometimes painful gestation period of 50 years, but finally, on the 22th of October 1816, the 127¼-mile navigation opened from Leeds to Liverpool. The first boats to make the crossing left Leeds on this date, arriving in Liverpool just five days later. Now that’s some trip!

Our trip back to Leeds is taking somewhat longer. In the last five days we’ve come from above Dobsons Locks, the other side of Apperley Bridge. A total of 2¾ miles and two locks!

Last Wednesday we dropped down Dobsons after filling with water at the very slow water tap at the top. We timed it well; Andy from Bear Boating was bringing a crew up under training so we were able to swap between the two chambers and the trainees did most of the work for us.

Leaky gates…

Swapping chambers in the two-rise locks.
The lass training on the tiller looked terrified! 

Another stroke of good luck met us when we’d dropped down the locks and headed towards Millman Swing Bridge. A boat was just coming through so they held the bridge open for us.
We pulled in at Apperley Bridge Marina for a tank full of diesel and a chat with Rob, the manager. He looks after the marina while his wife looks after the café. They look to be making a go of it.

Apperley Bridge Marina.

After leaving the marina we set off towards Rodley but didn’t go all the way, stopping short just past Calverley Lodge Swing Bridge for the night. On Thursday we moved the short distance to the moorings near the main road bridge, in time to meet our Tesco grocery delivery. It’s handy here, with easy access from the main road and parking right alongside the boat.

Yesterday we took advantage of our situation again, Arthur and Wendy coming across from York to see us for the afternoon. They’ve been intending to come over for a few days but one of their dogs, Scamp, has been suffering from sickness and diarrhoea and wasn’t fit to travel. He’s improving now since they found out he’d been grazing on a house plant on the windowsill! Scamp by name, scamp by nature.

Do you think he and mate Cassie are just a bit spoiled…?

A good afternoon. All being well we’ll see them again as we head south out of Leeds next week.

We’ll stay here tomorrow, then make the long run down into the city on Monday.

Locks 2, miles 2¾

Monday, October 17, 2016

Changeable weather.

The last couple of days have followed pretty much the same pattern – showers in the late morning, then bright sunshine through the afternoon. Unfortunately the showery periods coincided with cruising, both the bicentenary celebration flotilla’s yesterday, and ours today.

We were keeping a lookout yesterday for Kennet’s passing on the way to Saltaire, running a little late due to the weather she went past at around 10 past eleven.

Over the next hour or so several other decorated boats cruised by, another L&L Short Boat, this one converted for living aboard (and very smoky!)…IMG_2039

…and an historic tug, Anna

A handful of narrowboats made up the rest of the complement, Copperkins II had a lady braving the drizzle in a traditional boatwomen’s bonnet.IMG_2040 
A lot of the photographs you see of working boat families show the older women in these, but there’re more often than not black. Apparently the sombre colour was adopted after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, and of course most of the surviving photographs date from the turn of the 20th century.

After a pretty miserable morning the sun came out and it was quite a pleasant afternoon.

We got off this morning at about 10:45, overcast and grey but at least dry. Dock Lane Swing Bridge was our first, now fully mechanised as of last winter and a lot easier to open than the previous hand-wound mechanism.

Leaving Dock Lane Swing Bridge – without back and shoulder ache!IMG_2049 

From here we’re moving out into the country again, the canal following the Aire river valley as it sweeps in a long curve around the northern flank of Eccleshill. Two more manual swing bridges have to be dealt with before the top of the triple staircase of Field Locks is reached.

Field Locks, with the disused railway bridge crossing just above.IMG_2053

The rain started just as I was setting the flight up to go down.

Mags in the bottom chamber of the three.

Another couple of manual swing bridges over the next mile or so saw us arrive near the top of Dobson’s Locks. It looked a bit busy but the spot we like was free.

We had lunch and the sun came out, bright and warm, topping off the batteries through the solar panels. We’ll stay here tomorrow; I want to fill with diesel at Apperley Bridge Marina below the locks and they’re not open on Tuesdays.

Locks 3, miles 4

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Down to Shipley to watch the boats go by

We made Kildwick to Riddlesden on Wednesday, just about avoiding the showers but it was often bright and sunny too.

Some people moor in the oddest places…
There’s plenty of width either side of this spot. A wide-beam would have to be in the offside bushes to pass.

Just a handful of swing bridges to deal with today, one less with Laneside permanently chained in the open position. IMG_2005

Good views across the Aire valley on the way to SilsdenIMG_2009

We pulled up in Riddlesden about lunchtime, as the fine morning started to give way to showers.

These kept on all night, into the following morning and most of Thursday. Needless to say, we stayed put!

We were just getting ready to move out yesterday morning when another boat arrived, Sophie. We took turns opening the bridges to Bingley, they did the first, here at Riddlesden, we did the last, the footbridge across the canal to the Airedale Boat Club moorings above Bingley Locks.

A fine row of canalside cottages next to Swine Lane Bridge, number 198.IMG_2014

Both boats needed water, so we pulled in just past the ABC footbridge, and Sophie carried on to the main service wharf above the locks.

Arriving at the top of the Five-Rise I had a walk down to find the lockie, John, just bringing up a hire boat. So we had a 45 minute wait while I helped with the gates and the paddles. Then we were on our way down, in company with Sophie.IMG_2020  

The sun even came out!

All was going swimmingly till the fourth chamber. It was emptying nicely when John suddenly noticed Seyella leaning towards Sophie. We quickly closed down the paddles, then slowly refilled the chamber, just a foot or so, and she righted. Looking down I could see that a fender had become hooked up in the recess for the ground paddle rod.
A bit unclear and unfocussed, but the shot was taken looking down between the boat and the lock wall. The ground paddle rod runs from the middle foreground to the right, the boat’s gunnel is the black grainy-looking bit across the top right-hand corner, and the offending fender is the shiny black thing in the middle. If you look closely you can see that it’s still lodged in the recess, even though the boat is now on an even keel. Mags had to move back a bit to get the pesky thing released. I don’t think it would have ended in disaster, either the fender or the rope attaching it would have failed before it got much worse. Still, a bit of an object lesson. Keep aware!

Mags had been on the tiller coming down the Five, I took over while we did the Three so she could have a sit down.

Between the Five and the Three

Steerer’s view coming down the triple staircase.


Below the locks we moored in a regular spot, above Dowley Gap Locks.

Overnight showers cleared by this morning, leaving a fairly bright start. Our sometime traveling companions must have had enough of us yesterday; although we didn’t see them we heard their engine, gently chugging past at daybreak.
The staircase pair at Dowley Gap was only just around the corner, and needed a bit of setting up before we could drop down. The bottom chamber has to be empty and the top full when locking in either direction, but with leaky gates both chambers were neither one nor the other.

Coming down Dowley Gap Staircase Locks

The Aire is crossed on a wide aqueduct not far below the lock.
From here on the river will be on our left hand until we join it below Leeds.

One more lock, at Hirst Mill, with it’s attendant swing bridge, and then we were heading into Saltaire.
 It’s good to see that Titus Salt’s heritage is still being put to good use.
He had the area above the river cleared and levelled for the recreation of his workforce.

A campanile tower rises above New Mill, Saltaire.

We pulled in not much further on, at the offside moorings next to the business units at Salt’s Wharf in Shipley.

As part of the canal’s bicentenary celebrations the heritage Leeds and Liverpool Short Boat Kennet is recreating the inauguration trip made nearly 200 years ago when the canal was officially opened. Information here.
Kennet and the flotilla should come past us here at around mid-morning tomorrow.

The canal was opened end-to-end on the 22nd October 1816, to much celebration. It had taken 50 years to complete, though…
Changes in the route at the Lancashire end, and the small matter of the Napoleonic Wars caused delays, but they got there in the end.

It’s sometimes interesting to put the canals in their historical context. The Battle of Waterloo was fought just over a year before this one was opened…
(William Holmes Sutherland, 1836 - 1908)

…and Admiral Lord Nelson died at Trafalgar just 10 years before that.
(Auguste Mayer, 1805 – 1890)

Hi Pip. Sorry, we must have missed you somewhere on route. Have a good trip.

Since last post – Locks 11, miles 12¼

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Feeling Autumnal

The year is definitely on the downward slide now, the nights are drawing in and are cooler, the days are often dull and sometimes damp. For the first time I’ve swapped my shorts for long pants today, it’s been breezy and drizzly, and yesterday it felt a tad chilly. I’ve not put them away yet though, I’m still hoping they’ll be of use again before the cold weather really sets in.

We had a lovely afternoon on Sunday, with Mags’ grandson and family coming to see us. A not-quite traditional but still enjoyable Sunday lunch was provided by Bizzie Lizzies!

We’re taking our time back to Leeds, no point in dashing as we’ve got till the end of the month. So we left Skipton around noon yesterday, and just headed the short distance to Bradley. A few hire boats are still about, but it’s certainly getting quieter.

Pennine Cruisers’ base at the end of the Spring’s Branch in SkiptonIMG_1987

Remember the floating shed we passed a few weeks ago? Well, he was tied up in the town for a bit, but now he’s down at Snaygill, moored outside the Rendezvous Hotel.
Yes, that is a bath! At least he’s got his sanitary arrangements sorted… To the left is the conservatory attached to the hotel that is used as the breakfast room. Good views from there over the canal – usually.

It was quite a sunny afternoon, but still cool.

Moored at Bradley

Today we were off a little earlier. The day started gloomy and damp but brightened just a little by mid-morning. Around the corner is Bradley Swing Bridge, this one mechanised and one of those that were modified last winter, the control box being moved to the towpath side to make it easier for single-handers.IMG_1992

A bit of autumn colour starting to appear.

There aren’t many permanent bridges along here, but those there are are built from local stone.IMG_1998

Small canal-side quarries produced the building material.IMG_1999

The cloud is down over the Aire Valley

We pulled in at around noon near Kildwick, just past Warehouse Swing Bridge. Another gentle day tomorrow will see us at Riddlesden, I reckon.

original_url: 8EDD965E-B4CF-414F-A061-7F7BE4EF286FMags says thanks for the kind comments and birthday wishes. Tom, the cake maker used photos off the blog to produce the masterpiece, but I doubt she’s seen a narrowboat in the flesh… Nor me, in fact. Meg and Mags were fair representations, but I don’t know who the bloke was! 

Hi Carol. I don’t think we’ll be near Braunston, not until the Spring anyway. Heading for the Llangollen now, the long way round via the Trent, Nottingham and the T&M. If all goes well I’m looking at doing a half-marathon in Rugby in March, then we’ll see from there.

Sue, fat boats are fine so long as they can encourage them to go in straight lines! Most up here seem to have minds of their own, but it might just be the hirers!

Hey Kevin! Those cakes look scrummy, I’m going to give them a go as soon as I get some ripe bananas. I let you know how they turn out. 

Locks 0, miles 5

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Mags gets the all clear, and we’re off!

We moved back up to Gargrave towards the end of last week, for the first of what turned out to be thee visits to the doctor’s. Mags' BP was a bit high, but that wasn’t too much of a concern since she tends to suffer from “white coat syndrome”. But the issue was a low potassium count in her blood, which could leave her vulnerable to heart problems.
An intensive diet of bananas and green leafy veggies soon got it back up, but it took another two trips to the surgery to convince her doctor that we could manage it. She (the doctor) is very cautious, bearing in mind the fact that we can’t get back so easily once we up anchor. But we got the all clear yesterday, so slipped the ropes and dropped down two locks out of Gargrave, mooring up next to Eshton Beck Aqueduct.

Being stuck in Gargrave for several days isn’t a chore, although the butcher is now gone the Co-op is tolerably well stocked and there’s a chippy on the High Street.
The earliest record of a settlement here is Iron Age, The Brigante tribe making use of the fertile Aire Valley. They were also a thorn in the side of the Roman invaders when they first arrived, but soon came to an harmonious agreement, supplying produce to the troops. There’s the foundations of a sizeable villa behind the church, and a paved ford, still intact, crosses the river just below the road bridge.

Roman Ford, Gargrave

The existence of this crossing was unknown until the river bed was cleared of accumulated muck and debris in 1967, although it’s position could have been assumed by the siting of the villa on the south side and the Roman Military Road running between Verbeia (Ilkley) and Ribchester (Bremetenacum Veteranorum). A fort at Elslack, 3 miles south of Gargrave, protected the route.

Apart from the bridge and the ford there are two more crossings, stepping stones only passable if the river level is normal.

Sunny but the river was up a bit a week last Thursday20161001_094718
Meg didn’t mind, but I was wearing trainers, so we didn’t cross that day.

Drier but dull yesterday.
Gargrave used to have two or three woolen mills, now either converted or demolished. Although I can find no reference to confirm, I wonder if the short water-filled ditch above the river on High Green is the remains of a mill leet?20161007_083932

As I said, we dropped down from the main village moorings yesterday morning, through Higherland and Eshton Road Locks, stopping at Fred Green’s coal yard for some solid fuel.

Bags of fuel arriving below Eshton Road Lock.

Where we loaded was alongside the canal warehouse, the old coal wharf is actually just a few yards further on but is now part of the caravan site. Here coal was unloaded to be carried by cart up to the lead mines on Grassington Moor. Production from the mines was reloaded for shipping east and west.

Coming in to moor near Eshton Beck Aqueduct on a gloomy, damp afternoon.IMG_1978

This morning we waited till 10 o’clock, hoping to be able to share Holme Bridge Lock and the work of the swing bridges to Skipton. A Silsden hire-boat went past at half-nine, then a fat boat from the same base at a quarter-to. But our wait paid off in the form of another hirer just after the hour.

Leaving the lock we had a chat about leap-frogging the bridges, they would do the first after I closed up the lock, then we would do the second and so on. It all went pear-shaped when we caught up with the fat boat. IMG_1980
They kept the first bridge open for us, so there were now three of us in convoy. And fatty was very slow…

The second bridge was opened by our lock companions and then we were on our way to Niffany Bridge, now in the lead. A boat leaving the offside moorings here took us through the bridge, but we pulled in to operate it for our fellow travellers. With the bridge closed again (it accesses a farm so there is the odd vehicle wanting to cross) I waited for them to come around the corner so I could open it again. And waited. And waited...
Finally, after about 15 minutes, they appeared. The chap steering the narrowboat, now tail-end-charlie, was pulling his hair out!

It wasn’t far to the next and last bridge, alongside the park on the edge of Skipton. They had this open for both the “narrers”, but then closed up and waited on the bridge moorings for the chap from Silsden Boats to have a look at the malfunctioning central heating.

We were moored and enjoying a brew by the time they came past, heading off through the town.

We’ll be here for the weekend, visitors tomorrow and then a trip to the bank and shopping on Monday before we carry on.

Instead of going over the top and back down to Wigan, we’re heading back to Leeds and going south from there. Unless the river floods again like last year…
We’d have had to get a shift on to beat winter maintenance stoppages at Wigan, going this way, so long as we’re in Leeds by the end of the month, we’ve got a pretty clear run back to the Midlands.

It’s good to be on the move again.

Since the last post – Locks 6, miles 10

Monday, September 26, 2016

A great weekend, then back to Skipton

We moved up to the main moorings in Gargrave on Friday, in time to meet Arthur and Wendy who were staying with us for a couple of nights.IMG_1967
Then on Saturday we all went across to Ingleton for a bit of a do, organised by Mags’ family to celebrate her birthday. And a good do it was too, most of the family made it, good food and drink, and lots of friends dropping in too, some of whom Mags hadn’t seen for years! She really enjoyed herself.

Just a few piccies, courtesy of Arthur and Wendy.

A fantastic cake…
original_url: 8EDD965E-B4CF-414F-A061-7F7BE4EF286F
…but I’m not sure who the guy on the back is!

Friends and family…
File 26-09-2016, 17 52 02

File 26-09-2016, 17 51 18

original_url: DAAA48B4-10FB-4AB1-8225-CBE4DE184A10

Meg enjoyed herself too, playing with the youngsters.
original_url: A7A62177-D6CD-4FC2-BEEA-1649FCA3E47D

Arthur and Wendy left yesterday morning, to head back to York, then shortly afterwards Mags’ grand-daughter Zoe and her family turned up, stopping off on their way home to Middlesborough. So it’s been quite a hectic weekend. Great fun, though.

Today it was back to normality, or at least what passes for it in our world. We had to get back to Skipton for Meg’s mid-afternoon appointment at the vet, so pulled forward towards the lock to take on water first. That done we were joined in Higherland Lock by a group on one of the Bear Boating hire boats out of Apperley Bridge, doing a one-way trip from Barnoldswick back to the marina.IMG_1969

We carried on down the remaining two Gargrave Locks and out through the rolling pasture towards Skipton. The crew on Jessica Boo were already familiar with the locks, having negotiated those at Greenberfield and Bank Newton, but the swing bridges were a new experience. But they managed well, the boats leap-frogging each other, taking it in turns to open up the four bridges in the way today. That’ll set them up for the several more they’ve to do between here and Apperley Bridge!

We both pulled in before 1 o’clock on the moorings near Aireville Park, before the light rain that had started around noon turned heavy. We’ll be stopping here tomorrow while our erstwhile companions continue on. Apart from the bridges they’ve got Bingley to look forward too as well!

Meg was a bit subdued this afternoon, we thought she may have realised that a vet visit was imminent, until I found a chewed wasp on the carpet. Not a good idea, Meg! Still, she was over it by the time we set off to the doggy doctor, where the vet was very pleased with the healing process in her mouth and her nether regions. We have to go back again tomorrow, though, to get her annual boosters. 

Then Wednesday we’ll head back to Gargrave. Mags has got a doctors appointment for her MOT on Thursday, so she’ll be collected and returned by son Howard. I hope we’re able to share the trip back up with a crew as enthusiastic as today’s!

Locks 5, miles 5½ since the last post.