Sunday, 8 July 2012

Leo in the Yorkshire Dales

We’ve left the city of Leeds behind now and we are moving gradually towards the hills and beautiful scenery of the Yorkshire Dales.  I say gradually because David and Victoria had to be in or around Leeds by 1 July and we are now free to take our time as the retired folk we are.

We were fortunate to leave Leeds on Thursday as the first part of the journey is along the River Aire.  With the heavy rain on Friday all the flood gates on the Aire are now closed again and we would have been stuck in Leeds if we had stayed another day.  As it was, the current on the river was pretty strong and it was difficult to come in to the bank to work the River Lock that gives access to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
Cruising through Leeds on the River Aire
From Leeds the Canal climbs quite significantly following the valley of the River Aire, but often high up on the side of the valley.  We came upon our first staircase of this canal at Oddy Locks within the city:
Waterfalls over Oddy Lock Gates
A staircase lock is where there is no intervening pound between locks so that the top gate of one lock is also the bottom gate of the next.  This means that the canal can climb much more steeply up the hill.  There seem to be quite a few staircase locks on this canal but we have seen few elsewhere.  Another impediment to travel on this canal are frequent swing bridges.  In each case you have to stop the boat, get off and swing the bridge to let the boat through, then swing the bridge back again and finally get back on the boat.  That sounds fine but each bridge is different.  Some need your waterways key, some need the anti-vandal key, some need a windlass to operate the bridge.  Some are so stiff that you need to beg passers by for assistance, some move easily but then bounce back when they meet the end stop.  But there is quite a sense of power in stopping the traffic to let your boat through.

The first night above Leeds we moored with a fine view over the River Aire:
River Aire from L&L Canal near Newlay
By Friday evening with the pouring rain the River had risen considerably.  During the day we visited Kirkstall Abbey, the ruins of an extensive 12th century Cistercian abbey.  Like so many others It was sacked by Henry VIII.
Nave of Kirkstall Abbey
The nave of the ruins pictured here astonishingly was once the course of the main road from Leeds to Skipton (now the A65), but the road was diverted in Victorian times.  Walking back to the boat from Kirkstall we added to our tally of new wildlife with this fine chap:
Leech crossing the towpath
It is a leech and around 4 inches long.  I’d no idea they could get so large.  The water in the canal here is so clean that we have also seen freshwater mussels and freshwater sponges in the locks.

On Saturday we visited Saltaire.  This mill town was built by Titus Salt, a Victorian philanthropist who decided to improve the appalling living conditions of mill workers by building a mill and a town with shops, houses, hospital and church, but no pub because he had seen the effect of alcohol on the populace.  The village now has a pub called ‘Don’t tell Titus’.
Salt's Mill at Saltaire

Houses built for workers at Saltaire

Italianate Church at Saltaire

Today we have climbed the Bingley Three Rise and the Bingley Five Rise staircases.  The latter is the steepest climb on the canal system with 5 locks each climbing 12 feet in a staircase. 
Bingley Five Rise Locks

Looking down to Leo coming into lock

Tiny Leo in huge lock

The café at the top was fine for lunch and we had David, Victoria and Lucy with us, so much of the afternoon was spent in chatting and catching up with each other’s activities lately.  The view from the top of the locks is so good and conditions here are so peaceful that we have not moved on but are spending the night here.

In the next few days we are moving gradually on towards Skipton, Gargrave and the Dales.


  1. Ian and Helen - a very nice couple who I meet on the Wey in the srping(?) are making their way from the opposite side of the L&L - hopefully you may meet and be able to share experiences; their blog is


  2. Kathryn
    We'll certainly keep an eye open for Tacet. As you will read in our latest post we are popping home for this weekend, but will be back hopefully before Tacet passes us. They seem like us to proceed at a fairly leisurely pace.


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