Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Rivers and Big Big Locks

One of the fun things about the waterways is their variety.  In the last few days we have come down from the hills of the Huddersfield Narrow to navigating the wide waters of the River Calder.  We've moved from narrow locks to wide but short locks to huge locks into which several Leos would fit.

Let's start with the Huddersfield Narrow.  From the summit you have to drop down 42 locks and 440 feet to reach the city of Huddersfield.

In Slaithwaite (pronounced 'Slawit') is this guillotine gate to lock 24E.  It is manually operated by windlass and takes a lot of energy (mostly Helen and a little at the end by Ian) to operate.

Before restoration the canal in Slaithwaite had been completely filled in and obliterated.  An entirely new channel has been dug but it is very narrow as shown here.  Thank goodness there are so few boats navigating this canal.

This mill, now converted to flats, at Linthwaite is called the Titanic Mill, chiefly because, like the ship, it is huge and was built in 1912.

Here we are coming down the last few locks into Huddersfield.

In the city a couple of industrial premises had been built over the old course of the canal.  This is a new lock, being the third lock 3 since the canal was opened.

This is the channel below the lock shown above.  It is a combination of old bridges and new tunnels, again only wide enough for one boat at a time.

Lock 2E is curious in that only boaters can access it. The boat we had been travelling with, Ryedale, was stopped just below this lock as we arrived because there was insufficient water below to get them to the final lock of the canal.  We had to let a lot of water down through Lock 2E to boost the levels below.  This picture shows the result with a sea of traffic cones exposed in the pound above.  Normally we would have gone back to let more through from above, but you simply can't here because there is no access.  We did of course tell CRT what we had done.

Below 2E there is another new channel which narrows here to go through the walls of an old lock, no longer used.  You may detect from the picture that it was simply pelting down with rain at this point.

Finally down to Huddersfield we reached the Huddersfield Broad Canal and went through this first bridge, called the Locomotive Bridge.  The bridge deck lifts vertically to let the boats through.

Once down to the city the Broad Canal takes you on through another 9 wide locks and 4 miles of canal to join the River Calder.
 Yes these are wide locks but they are not very long.  Though they are 57 feet long and so is Leo, the problem is getting the bottom gates open once the water has gone down.  You will see here that Leo is diagonal in the lock.  This is so that you can open the right gate.  Then Helen has to pull the bow of the boat over to the right so that Ian can drive the boat out through the open gate.

Once down on the Calder the navigation consists of river sections and artificial cuts with locks.  When you turn off the river onto a cut there are flood gates like these at Cooper Bridge.  Normally the gates are open, but in flood times they can be closed to keep the cut at a normal level.

Yesterday we went through Horbury Bridge.  Not a lot to look at in this village but its claim to fame is that the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers" was written and first performed here.

The navigation here is called the Calder and Hebble.  Some of the paddle gear requires a length of wood called a spike.  We had made one of these from a branch of Sycamore two years ago when we came this way.  Here you can see Ian using our spike as a lever to turn a metal wheel that winds up the paddle.

And so yesterday we came to Wakefield.  We had a good evening meal at a local pub with our friend Ralph who then took us on to the 'Red Shed' which is literally what it says but is the home of the Wakefield Labour Club.  The Club has also won CAMRA awards for the quality of its beers, hence our visit.

We visited the Hepworth Gallery this morning.  This is a fine new building by the river which showcases displays of modern art, chiefly sculpture and other 'installations'.  We both find it hard to get our heads round appreciating modern art like this and Ian preferred this fine jolly sculpture in the local boatyard!

Wakefield is one of only four places in the UK with a chapel or church on a bridge.  This is on the old bridge over the Calder.  We have been to two of the other three places on Leo - Bradford on Avon and St Ives.  The missing one is in Rotherham, so we'll have to navigate there sometime to complete the quartet.

This afternoon we've moved just a few miles downstream through Stanley Ferry which is one of the three places where lock gates are made.  There was a fine collection of new gates outside waiting to be installed during the winter season.

After weeks of narrow canals it was quite a shock to cruise on the wide river.  In the distance in this picture you can see the entrance through one of the flood gates onto an artificial cut.

At Stanley Ferry the canal crosses an aqueduct over the River Calder.  This aqueduct is built in exactly the same way as the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  You can certainly see the resemblance.

One pleasure of spending the summer on the boat is to watch the passing of the seasons.  Clearly it is time to consider going back to dry land with this signal that autumn is on its way.

We've had quite a bit of rain lately and indeed the River Calder has risen by 6 inches or so since we first joined it.  Never mind; Leo (the soft toy, not the boat) is prepared!!!

In a few days time we have to go out on the tidal River Ouse on our way to York.  This will be a new venture for us and so today Ian rang the lock keeper at Selby to discuss the times of the tides.  Before we go towards our winter mooring on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal we aim to go up the Ouse and the Ure to Ripon and possibly to cruise the River Derwent.  Should be fun and radically different to cruising the narrow canals.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Standedge Tunnel - a fascinating experience

After all the anticipation and concern about the Tunnel we finally came through yesterday afternoon.  It was brilliant!  And we suffered no damage to Leo either.

Monday we climbed more locks and moored at Uppermill.

Here is Leo in lock 18W.  Notice the transmission mast on the hill high above.  Ian climbed the hill in the evening, a very steep but short climb.

Most of the paddle and gate gear on the Huddersfield is fairly conventional, but this gate is so close to the road that the balance beam would block the road.  So there is a geared rod in the curved channel which is turned by windlass at the top of the column and this opens the gate.

Here is Leo moored at Uppermill.  The visitor moorings are the other side of the bridge but they are very dark and gloomy under tall trees, so we moored here in the sunshine.  It was a bit tight for the trip boat to get past us, but no-one seemed to mind and there are very few boats moving on this canal.

These stepping stones near our mooring lead across the River Tame to a park and into the High Street.  Uppermill is a pretty place with an interesting museum and seems very popular with tourists.

And here is one view from the transmission mast mentioned above.  The place you can see in the middle of the picture is Diggle where the Standedge Tunnels start and go under the hills in the distance.

Tuesday took us up the final 11 locks to Diggle where we moored overnight waiting for our passage through the tunnel on Wednesday.

This railway viaduct right next to a lock carries the trains towards the Tunnel at Diggle.

The scenery at the top of the Huddersfield Narrow is fantastic.  You really feel you are up in the hills and that seems incompatible with travelling on a boat.

Here is the entrance at Diggle to the Standedge Canal Tunnel.  The iron doors represent a narrowboat with two 'leggers' propelling the boat through the tunnel which was the way they used to do it.  Thank goodness we have an engine rather than a horse.
There are four tunnels through the hills at Standedge.  The first was the canal tunnel built in 1811, then a single line railway tunnel followed by a second single line rail tunnel.  Finally this double line tunnel was built and is still used by trains travelling from Manchester to Huddersfield and on to Leeds.

And so yesterday we went through the canal tunnel.  The statistics are impressive for this canal tunnel.  It is the longest (three and a half miles), the highest (645 feet above sea level), and the deepest (650 feet below the surface) in the country and some say in the world.  Not all narrowboats can fit through the tunnel which is only wide enough for one boat and its shape and low roof mean some boats simply won't fit.  Before you go through, the Canals and Rivers Trust people measure the boat.  Hard hats are supplied and lifejackets if you don't have your own.  Also a CRT person comes on the boat with you to guide you through.  There are a number of adits or side passages which link to one of the old railway tunnels and another CRT person drives through that tunnel to monitor the boat's progress.  At one point you can see up and through to the modern railway tunnel.  If you are lucky (we weren't) you can see a train whizz past at 60 mph.  Passage through the tunnel took us an hour and three quarters.

Boats come through 3 days a week from East to West in the morning.  Here you can see the second boat that day coming out of the tunnel.  We were going West to East and these go through in the afternoon of the same 3 days.

Some sections of the tunnel are rough hewn through rock and sometimes the colours of the rock are quite bright.  You can see rusty reds and yellows in this picture.

Some sections are ghostly white like this one.  This is because the rock has been sprayed with concrete to consolidate it.  This picture shows how bent and twisted the channel is.  In the centre, the tunnel diggers from East and West were 25 feet out, so that there is a prominent zig zag in the middle.  This is quite tricky to steer round without hitting the sides.  The worst projections have been painted in yellow which is helpful.

And here is Leo having come all the way through to Marsden.  You can see the tunnel mouth behind us.  We were expecting that Leo would have a few scratches and minor damage, but we were pleased to find that there was no damage at all.  The only projections we touched were at or below the waterline.

Having come through we went for a meal at the Riverhead Brewery Tap in Marsden.  The food was excellent and the beer, brewed on site, was tasty and well kept.  We celebrated with Richard and Anne on Ryeland who we have been travelling with for a few days and who came through the tunnel just before us.  A very pleasant evening to finish off an unusual day.

Having come through to Yorkshire, we now have 42 locks to descend to reach Huddersfield.  We came down the first 11 today and we are still higher than any other canal in the UK.

The scenery is just as good on the East side.  We walked up after mooring below lock 32E to the heather clad hills shown here.

And here is the view from higher up.  In the distance is Huddersfield and you can just see one of the reservoirs for the canal in the valley.

We came across this splendid ram on our walk this afternoon.  Fancy carrying those horns around all the time!

This is the view looking back up the valley of the River Colne towards Marsden and the hills behind are those we passed underneath in the tunnel yesterday.

Here is Leo with Ryeland behind moored in this lovely spot with views both sides of the canal.

Over the next few days we'll be working our way down the many locks to Huddersfield.  Once there, we say goodbye to narrow locks for the rest of this season.  First steps from Huddersfield are on the Huddersfield Broad Canal which has nine locks down to join the River Calder.  Our plans for the rest of this summer are probably to go up the River Ouse to York and beyond though we will be guided by the longer range weather forecast as that river has a reputation for flooding.  And as I type this the rain is drumming down on Leo!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Climbing over the Pennines

We are now on new waters for Leo, having started in the last couple of days to climb up the many locks of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to reach the highest point on the canal system in England or Wales.  Our last posting was from Bugsworth Basin which we left on Wednesday.  We worked our way back along the Upper Peak Forest Canal and moored just short of Marple in a place we had spotted with great views North East over the Peak District.

Here is the view from our mooring at Strines.  All the way along this stretch of the Peak Forest Canal you travel along the side of the Goyt Valley with great views looking across towards Kinder.

We did a short walk from our mooring down into the Goyt Valley.  This is called 'Roman Bridge' but in fact has nothing to do with the Romans.  Rather it was a more romantic name introduced by the Victorians.

On Thursday we went down the 16 locks of the Marple flight, mostly in pouring rain.  The flight takes you down 214 feet so the average lock depth is over 13 feet.  The paddles are also under geared so are very hard to operate.  And the slope of the flight is such that you often have to move lock gate arms which are above your head.  All in all quite hard work.  We were pursued down by another boat with a crew of 5, so eventually we let them go ahead.  At the bottom you go over a lovely stone aqueduct over the River Goyt.  We moored soon after this in a lovely spot with views of sheep across the canal.

Part way down the Marple flight is this lovely old warehouse called Samuel Oldknow's Warehouse.  At one time boats could go inside for loading and unloading.

This is lock 3 near the bottom of the flight.  You can see how the gate arms project over the bridge parapet and make it a high push to close them.  You can see Helen pushing the left one.

Here is Leo coming out of the bottom lock.  Though it was a hard flight, everything worked (except one paddle on the top lock) and we had no shortage of water.  The fact that it was pouring with rain may have influenced that.

Here you can see Leo on the Aqueduct below the locks.  A railway also crosses the river on a slightly higher viaduct.  The canal is over 100 feet above the river and looking down is a bit unnerving, though there is a wide stone parapet.

Once we had moored we did a short walk which included passing under the aqueduct.  Though it is difficult to take a picture because of the trees, you can just see the circular hole in the aqueduct designed to lighten its weight.

And here's one from the top with a train crossing.

On Friday we carried on the few miles to the end of the Peak Forest Canal at Dukinfield Junction where it meets both the Ashton Canal which leads left into Manchester and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal which climbs over the Pennines.

As you approach the junction you see this huge mill chimney and below it is the River Tame.

 At first we moored opposite the museum in Portland Basin.  This proved to be a mistake as this is not a safe place for boats and, while we were in the museum we had our back rope stolen.  Not just cast off, but totally missing.  Later we saw three lads who pinched the rope off another boat.  We talked to the chaps running the Community Boat and they kindly allowed us to moor next to them on the offside for the night.
This photo is looking down the Ashton Canal towards the chimney and the Peak Forest Canal goes under the bridge to the left.  You can see Leo moored on the side away from the towpath breasted up with the Community Boat.  Lilith in the foreground is one of a number of old wooden narrowboats moored at the museum.  Some work, some don't and one was sunk!

So, having booked our passage through the Standedge Tunnel for Wednesday we set off on Saturday up the Huddersfield Narrow.

There are 32 locks up the Western side of the canal to the summit and all have a 'W' suffix.  This was lock 3W.  The canal climbs 334 feet to the summit at 645 feet above sea level.  There are 42 locks down the other side, but more of that later.  The surroundings are a bit industrial as you come out of Ashton.

Canals tend to have different paddle gear.  We had seen hydraulic paddles like this before but look at the pepperpot below.  These act as vents for the paddles and we'd not seen anything quite like them before.

An narrow iron aqueduct carries the canal over the River Tame whose valley it follows up to the summit.  Interestingly the towpath is a separate stone arch bridge.

Here is the view of the River Tame from the aqueduct.

An odd feature just before we moored was the canal passing underneath an electricity pylon which had its feet on both sides of the canal!

And here is Helen's atmospheric picture of the view looking up as we went underneath.

We moored outside the service block in a not very nice place just outside Stalybridge.  Though a great deal of money and effort has been spent in restoring the canal through that town, the area now looks rather run down and is not as attractive as we were expecting.  None of the area round Stalybridge struck us as very safe for boats so we carried on.  Possibly opposite Tesco with its CCTV cameras might be OK, but it was very noisy.  The service block where we stopped and its yard had oodles of razor wire around it - enough said!  In the event another boat drew up behind us and we had no trouble.  Much of the Huddersfield Narrow has shallow sides so it is difficult to moor other than at designated places.

Today we've come up another few locks and are moored just below Roaches Lock on the far side of Mossley.  This feels much safer and we are replete after a good lunch at the pub called the Roaches Lock which has good food and superb beer.

We've been used to signs like this on rivers which have a level indicator to show when the river is flooded and unsafe.  But look at this one.  The green (safe) marking is at the top and the red (unsafe) marking is at the bottom.  It seems this is to indicate when the pound above the lock is too empty to safely cross.  At the moment with the rain we've had absolutely no problem with pounds being low!
 Here we are at lock 12W and you can just see behind us to the portal of Scout Tunnel which we went through this morning.  The tunnel is roughly cut through rock for the most part.

We can't recall a canal before where the hills are so close.  Perhaps the top section of the Rochdale Canal comes close, but here the hills will be with us for days.  They seem to close in as you get further up. Walking a short way up the valley sides gives superb views.

The Huddersfield Narrow, on our present experience, is not one for novices.  The canal is often shallow, the locks are deep and there are some strong bywashes as you drive into the locks.  Sometimes it is difficult to land crew to operate the locks because the sides are so shallow.  Where we are moored tonight we are two or three feet out from the edge of the canal and sitting at a slight angle on the rocks, not mud, that is below us.  Fortunately other boats are rare so we are not being bumped by passing boats.

Probably our next posting will include the story of the passage of Leo through the infamous Standedge Tunnel, so keep watching.