Thursday, August 27, 2015

Up the cut to Selby.

It’s been a good day. Warm and sunny for the most part, but we’ve still been plagued by that cool wind.

The Selby Canal is an enjoyable cruise, a bit overgrown and shallow at the sides, but it’s not that busy so it isn’t a problem.IMG_7115

There are a few peculiarities about it’s construction; these pairs of stone built chambers that squeeze the canal into a chicane at intervals…

…and the sloping banks that seem to imply that the canal should be deeper.IMG_7116
I puzzled over these unusual features last time we came this way, and some research revealed the reasons behind them. I’m not going to go into it again now, if you’re interested head this way…

We met a bit of traffic coming the other way, several cruisers and a couple of narrowboats. So we were expecting the moorings at the basin to be fairly empty.

Passing Selby Boat Centre on the edge of the town.IMG_7123

With the River Ouse being up earlier in the week and still being a little higher than normal, passages up river to Naburn and York have been postponed. Our expectation of finding a mooring in the basin were therefore dashed, several boats are there waiting for an opportunity to go. That should arise tomorrow, first thing at least 4 craft are scheduled to head off. Meanwhile we’re moored just before the swing bridge, on a grassy bank but on pins.IMG_7124

It’s actually OK here, a bit of traffic noise, but it’s more open and sunny than in the basin. We might well stay here till Saturday now we’re settled. Our booking for penning down is at 06:45 on Sunday morning. We should be in Naburn by half past nine.

We’ll be spending a couple of nights in York, then making our way further up the Ouse to Ripon. We’ve got a berth organised in Ripon Racecourse Marina for 10 days, giving us a base from which to attend  a friend’s wedding a week on Saturday, and then the Great North Run on the 13th.

We’ve been in this marina before, when we came here last time. It’s pleasant and handy for the town. Part of the British Waterways Marinas Ltd group, moorers here can use the facilities at other sites around the country. They’re even opening a new one over near Leigh on the Leeds and Liverpool later in the year. It’s about time someone made use of that water space alongside Plank Lane Bridge…
New BWML Marina
(Picture from July 2011.)
The Bickershaw Colliery occupied the site until closure in 1992. It had operated here for 160 years, taking advantage of the canal to move it’s product. It’s all cleared at this time (2011) ready for redevelopment.

After our stay in Ripon we’ll be heading back towards the Midlands. Having negotiated the Trent twice already this year it’s unlikely we’ll be going back that way. That leaves three alternatives. We need to cross the Pennines, so can use either the Leeds and Liverpool, Rochdale or Huddersfield Canals. There was a bit of a problem in Standedge yesterday affecting Halfie’s trip (thanks KevinToo for the tip-off) but that should be sorted by now. Then there’s the on-going issue in Manchester, with the Bridgewater closure between Water’s Meeting and Castlefield. Using either the Rochdale or Huddersfield would involve a diversion onto the Peak Forest and the Macclesfield rather than the more direct route using the Bridgewater and Trent and Mersey. But that’s not such a bad thing. On the other hand the L&L will bring us onto the Bridgewater clear of the stoppage, and we’ve not been up there for a while. Decisions, decisions.

Hi Tom, Jan. I got Mags to hang about in the lock entrance while I shut the gates, then she moved across to pick me up at the end of the pontoon. Still not easy, though.

Alf, You’re right, Kellingley is due to close in December. The other UK Coal-owned deep pit, Thoresby in Notts, closed in July. There’s now only one deep pit still operational in the country, Hatfield in South Yorkshire, run by a worker’s trust.
These collieries are not worked-out, they’re just uneconomic in the face of cheaper imports. Although around 28% of UK electricity production is coal-fired, only 4% of the fuel was supplied by UK Coal.

Locks 0, miles 5

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A little overnight excitement, and a short river cruise.

At 10:30 last night I took Meg out for a last pee, and spotted a fierce blaze through the trees at the end of the bridge just at the end of the moorings. Fearing that it may be a car on fire, I put Meg back aboard and went to investigate. It turned out to be a pile of rubbish and the flames were already dying down as the accelerant burned off. Then I saw another fire, on the far side of the bridge, bigger and higher than the first.
Back on board myself I rang the local police who took the details, then, 10 minutes later, a fire engine appeared and the crew doused the now-dwindling flames.
I had a look at the debris this morning; it looks like the normal detritus on the far side of the bridge, a wooden bed-frame, the remains of a chair and some unidentifiable timber. But oddly the smaller fire included bundles of papers and packets of frozen food! Very strange…
Anyway, the incident left us a little unsettled. I don’t think we’ll be mooring there again.

On that note, although the grassed area enclosed by the junction and Trundles Lane has been tidied up, there's a slope opposite Harkers Boatyard which suggests a side slipway.IMG_7088

Old maps show a building, Junction House, but I suspect this was a toll house.Knottingley Junction
A bit more research shows that in the mid-1940s, due to demand for more vessels to carry petro-chemicals, Harkers, whose yard was across the canal, did indeed build a side-slip here, the remains of which can still be seen.

It was a wet night that persisted into the morning, but it had dried up by the time we were ready to shove off. Around the corner is Bank Dole Lock, with the river level indicator below. I needn’t have worried…
The gates and wash-walls could do with a trim!

The lock landing pontoon is a little inconveniently placed on the river side of the lockIMG_7092
It must be tricky if there’s a bit of water about.

The River Aire is broad and deep, but twists and turns considerably on it’s way to West Haddesley and the junction with the Selby Canal.IMG_7101

It was pretty breezy too.

Beal Lock is about half-way, the very deep chamber indicating the height the river can rise to in flood conditions.IMG_7099

Eggborough Power Station appears ahead, to the right or left, or behind depending on the direction of the particular loop you’re on.
But it always gets a little nearer.

West Haddesley is actually a flood lock, and at summer levels it’s usually open. The problem is you can’t tell whether it’s open or closed till you're level with the entrance, and by then it’s too late!IMG_7107
So the safest solution is to pull onto the landing and go and have a look first. The lock was in use today, and two boats had just arrived at the canal end.
It was empty, so I brought the first one up and sent him on his way, we then used the lock to drop the foot down, and, after tying up below, I went back and closed up after the second boat to save him having to manoeuvre onto the pontoon.
That done I sorted out the mooring ropes properly, as we are staying here tonight.

Moored below West Haddesley LockIMG_7108

The afternoon turned out sunny, but that wind is still with us. I took Meg for a walk along the flood bank, and the significance of the area’s industry is demonstrated by it’s power production.
At one point three power stations can be seen -



and Drax just visible over the trees.IMG_7111

Between them they can generate 8379 MW of electricity, enough for 8 million homes. Being in the middle of the vast Selby coal-field they were built to run on the black stuff.
Since closure of the Selby Superpit in 2004, most of the fuel is sourced from abroad, although there is still some domestic supply.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading into Selby itself.

Locks 3, miles 6½  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Poised for another river.

We had two of the large Aire and Calder locks to do today. Both have been substantially extended of the years since the canal was built, as the commercial craft got bigger.

Pollington actually consists of three chambers divided by four pairs of gates.IMG_7057

So one third, two thirds or the whole 457 feet from top to bottom gates with the intermediate ones left open.
The 600 tonne Euro-barge standard boats use the lower two chambers, trains of compartment boats and associated tug use the whole length, and us insignificant leisure boats fit comfortably in just the lower one.IMG_7062

This chamber is also the only one that can be self operated.IMG_7059

Fantastic sunset last night.IMG_7054

By the time we filled with water this morning at the handy tap alongside the lower moorings it was 11:00. We were joined by another narrowboat, a single-hander, so he and Mags handled the boats while I pushed the buttons.

They’re quite quick to fill, so we were soon on our way.

The wide and deep Aire and CalderIMG_7064

It’s actually a bit boring, long straights with gentle curves, relieved by the occasional bridge.IMG_7065

A couple of kestrels hunting along the banks diverted my attention for a few minutes.IMG_7066

It’s about an hour from Pollington to Whitley Lock. There are pleasant moorings here below the lock, that is if you can put up with the constant drone of traffic on the M62 crossing just above.IMG_7073

Whitley Lock, the leisure craft bit is at the far end of the long main chamber.IMG_7074

We were on our own in this one, our single-handed companion had moored up below. With the lock full and no-one else waiting we drifted across the chamber and tied up, giving me easier access for rubbish and elsan disposal. Then we were out of the lock so I could close the gates and retrieve my key.

Another ¾ of an hour of wide cut took us to Knottingley.

On the right is Kellingley Colliery, once using the canal to ship coal to Ferry bridge Power Station just visible ahead.IMG_7078
The trains of compartment boats that used to do the 2¾ mile trip down onto the River Aire are now no more, coal is now moved by rail.

Derelict loading conveyors loom over the disused wharfIMG_7081

The channel narrows considerably under Skew Bridge on the approach to Knottingley Junction.

Harkers Boatyard has a variety of boats just on the left through the bridgeIMG_7083

The plan was to turn to the right and moor on the “island” formed in the angle of the junction. But it looked like we were going to be unlucky…IMG_7085
A rather large boat had beaten us to it!

But no, there was just room to squeeze in front.IMG_7086

It seems like our trip onto the Ouse may be delayed a little. The river is currently in flood, according to the lockie. I rang to book for Saturday, but he suggested an 06:00 penning down, so I put it back to Sunday when at least it’s 45 minutes later. The problem is that it’s an early tide at the moment, high water at Naburn is around mid-morning and we want to use that water to push us up against the fresh coming down.

In fact I’ll have to check the level board down on the Aire below Bank Dole Lock in the morning. We might not even get on the Selby Cut if that’s up too!

Locks 2, miles 8

Monday, August 24, 2015

Stainforth and Keadby, New Junction and Aire and Calder.

I didn’t get to post over the weekend; I was busy and the interweb was a bit dodgy. So here we have two days cruising and one day on the bank.

Right then, Friday. We filled and emptied at the Thorne services. It seemed daft not to, being as we were moored right outside! Then we reversed off the pontoon and around onto the Thorne Boat Services wharf to fill with diesel.

Topped up and emptied, we set off, around the corner to Thorne Lock. This was the one that was out of action for a couple of days earlier in the month, a problem with the swing bridge at the head of the lock.

Thorne Lock and swing bridgeIMG_7003
You have to open the bridge to get out of the lock.

Someone’s busy in Staniland Marina’s dry dockIMG_7005
There’s an awful lot of these Humber keels around, some converted for residential use, some just as they were when they were still in commercial use.

The S&K is wide and deep (most of the canals up here are…), so good progress can be made.

Under the M18.IMG_7006

Stainforth is the next village after Thorne, mainly just to the south of the waterway.IMG_7011
There’re good moorings either side of the pub here, on the left.

A few barges have scraped the sides of Stainforth Bridge!IMG_7013

One other swing bridge to do before getting to Branwith Lock and the welcome sight of a lock-keeper waving us in to the chamber.

Approaching Bramwith LockIMG_7016

Unlike Thorne Lock, this one is all manually operated. There are three pairs of gates, so that different sizes of craft can be accommodated with minimal water use. We fitted into the smallest chamber.

Off we go again, just a quarter mile to Bramwith Junction and our mooring spot for the rest of the weekend.IMG_7017

Wide open spaces at Bramwith Junction.IMG_7020
Directly beyond us is the Stainforth and Keadby, now part of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation. It continues on behind the camera, another 27 miles to Sheffield, passing Doncaster on route.
The white cruiser off to the left is emerging from the New Junction Canal, the dead straight 5½ mile link to the Aire and Calder Navigation. Our route today.

Having got tied up on a moderately low bank, I set to rubbing down the primer on the left side gunwale. It’s been on there a while… Rubbed down, cleaned up and degreased, I got a coat of black paint on too before the heavy rain appeared. Luckily it had tacked off before it got wet. And it certainly did put some water down, fairly short-lived but intense.IMG_7022

I got the second and final coat of matt black on yesterday morning, between my long run and the Belgian Grand Prix. So that’s a job out of the way. But I’ve got another now.
When we stopped on Saturday I noticed a smell of anti-freeze from below the engine boards. Yesterday afternoon I investigated, finding a couple of cupfulls of blue water in the sump below the engine. The temporary repair I‘d effected on the top hose connection to the header tank has started to dribble again. It’s been alright for a while, but I guess the extended higher speed running on the Trent has caused it to fail. It was never intended to be permanent, but I was hoping it’d last till we got to Ripon. So I’ve got replacement top and bottom hoses going to Selby, and I’ll get them fitted before we venture onto the Ouse.  More standing on the head, then… With the pressure cap loosened there’s very little loss, so I can manage till then.
It was a misty start to the day today, after a clear but nippy night.

Bramwith Lock, the lower chamber

The steamer Whistle Down the Wind headed off down the New Junction ahead of us.IMG_7026

We were away soon after 10 o’clock, onto the New Junction. The canal was built in 1905, making it the last commercial waterway to be constructed in the UK. It enabled trains of compartment boats, then in common use on the Aire and Calder, to head down onto the Don Navigation to Doncaster.

Crossing flat land, the bridges are all either swing or lift, six of them including the one crossing the main chamber of Sykehouse Lock.

But the first structure encountered is the Don Aqueduct, the canal passing over the river in a steel trough. At either end a guillotine gate can be lowered to close off the canal from the river in flood conditions to protect the surrounding farmland from inundation.

The Don Doors, a bit daunting at first sight…IMG_7030

Looking back, our wash slops over the edge of the aqueduct.IMG_7032

The lift or swing bridges come in a regular procession…

Low Lane…

…Top Lane.IMG_7035

Sykehouse Lock is the only one on the 5½ mile canal, and I was pleased to see the lights turn from amber to green as we approached, indicating a lock-keeper in attendance.

Sykehouse Lock, manned too!IMG_7038
It didn’t take long to drop down, I’d stayed on the lockside to hold the centre rope, then walked down to the next bridge at Kirk Lane. That negotiated I hopped back on board for the short trip to the last, carrying Sykehouse Road.
As we approached we saw the bridge deck rise, and then two narrowboats and a cruiser came under. IMG_7042
We were then waved through by the kind lady crew-member looking after the bridge. Result!

In the distance you can see the footbridge crossing the canal at the aqueduct at the far end of the canal. This aqueduct crosses the River Went, considerably smaller than the Don.IMG_7045

Sykehouse Junction, where the New Junction joins the Aire and Calder.IMG_7047
Opposite is Southfield Reservoir, on the same level as the A&C and much used for sailing.
There’s good mooring on the right bank here.

To the right is Goole Docks, about 6½ miles away…IMG_7048

…while to the left Knottingley and Castleford beckon.IMG_7049

There used to be a swing bridge here.

We pulled in below Pollington Lock, pleasant moorings we’ve used before. In fact Mags got a little inebriated on Pimms here once… It was during the same trip she fell in Cromwell Lock, an incident totally unrelated…

Tomorrow we’ll be at Knottingley, I reckon. We can’t do long days, I need to keep an eye on the coolant level in case the leak suddenly gets worse.

Locks 3, miles 12½ (two days)