Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The end of our cruise for 2015

I'm doing this at home as we are land based once more.  But back to the story.

We have been doing very short cruising days as we were in no hurry to get back.  Last Tuesday we came only a couple of miles through East Marton because we particularly wanted to stay on the Bends - the very curvy section of canal above Bank Newton Locks.  Here the canal zig-zags around several upper valleys in the hills and you can see boats coming on another zig or zag long before they reach you.  It is a wild and lonely place and quite delightful.

This is the well known and often photographed double bridge at East Marton.  The road level was changed so they built another bridge at a higher level.  We walked back from the Bends to have lunch at the Cross Keys next to the canal here.  Going back along a track we saw more pheasants and partridges than we have ever seen at one time.

On Wednesday we came down the Bank Newton locks, all six of them, with another boat, Wych Way, and then joined them down three of the Gargrave locks to moor in the centre of Gargrave.

Lock gates often have a plaque saying when they were last replaced.  This one is seen through the water cascading over the bottom lock gate.

Here is Mike on Wych Way following Leo into one of the locks (not sure which one).

A lot of the hills round here are neatly rounded and green.  They reminded us of the Tellytubby Hill when the kids were small.  No sign though of Tinky Winky, La La, Dipsy or Po.

Here we are moored at Gargrave.  Ian is busy giving Leo a coat of polish before the winter.  She looks very well cared for at the moment.

We stayed two nights at Gargrave and went for a walk the following day up three of the hills between Gargrave and Skipton.  Two are called Rough Haw and Sharp Haw and the other one doesn't have a name.  There should have been good views, but in fact the atmosphere was very murky and we couldn't see very far at all.

This fine house is Eshton Hall just to the North of Gargrave.

And, as I haven't any photos of the views from the top, here is a picture of thistledown as a marker that Autumn is around the corner.

Now it is quite an easy day from Gargrave to our mooring near Skipton but we decided to stop short of Skipton at Roy's Seat where there is a well made bank and a winding hole next to it.  This was so that we could paint the gunwales where they had been scraped by numerous lock walls.  So it was paint one side, then turn the boat and paint the other.  So it was not until Saturday that we got back to our mooring.

This is Niffany Farm Swing Bridge on the way into Skipton.  As you can see it had been raining but, at this point, the rain had stopped though the hills on the other side of the Aire valley were in the mist.

Here is a view looking down the Springs Branch at Skipton.  This short branch creeps round the back of the Castle, but has nowhere to turn and lots of moored boats, so is best explored on foot, as we have done before.

And then the heavens really opened just as we got back to our mooring.  Not a nice welcome back!

Despite the weather, Ian still managed a smile when Helen brandished the camera.

This year we have only managed 412 locks and 765 miles, rather less than previous years.  I guess we are getting more relaxed in our old age.  We've probably spent more of our time on walking or short cycling trips and mostly been boating in the mornings and doing something else in the afternoons.  At least that is our excuse. 

Getting home was not straightforward.  Ian took the train back to Knaresborough and found a flat battery in the car and a plumbing leak in the house.  Oh dear, back to life on land.  Let's go back to the boat.  We hope you've enjoyed the blog this year.  There may be an update or two during the winter and we may well go out for some short trips.  There will be more, much more, in 2016.  Part of our cruise next year will have to include the Lancaster Canal and the Ribble Link.  It's about time we actually managed that.  Other than this, which has to be booked in advance, Helen has the novel idea that we won't plan where we go, just travel on impulse.  We'll see.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Through Red Rose to White Rose Country

We're now back in Yorkshire, so nearly home after this year's cruising.  We've come up the locks through Lancashire, through the Foulridge Tunnel and we have started today going down into Yorkshire.

Last Tuesday we rose early to tackle the Blackburn Locks before the dissolute youths were up and about.

Some of the trees on the offside of this canal are in need of trimming.  This photo looks like some we took last year on the River Derwent.  Not what we expected on the Leeds and Liverpool.  Actually the angle of the photo exaggerates the extent of the growth.  It wasn't really very difficult to avoid the trees.

This is near the top of the six Blackburn Locks.  The scenery becomes more attractive as you climb up.

This is Eanam Wharf where there is secure mooring behind a locked gate under the wharf roof overhang.  A new Caribbean restaurant has opened behind the red and blue boat and we were told it is quite good.

This is one of the several remaining mills around Blackburn.  Those Victorians knew how to build fine industrial buildings.

A wallpaper factory on the outskirts of Blackburn has done some innovative things, such as covering this phone box with butterflies.

And wallpapering under the adjoining bridge.  I just hope it is waterproof!

On Tuesday evening we moored near Rishton and walked up a hill near the canal for the view.  We were surprised that we could see Blackpool Tower, Ingleborough and the Bowland Forest hills.

Here is the view of Ingleborough, one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, from the hill above our mooring at Rishton.

The winds seem to have disappeared in the last few days and there have been some lovely reflections, like this one of a typical stone canal bridge.

At Church, not the most delightful of places, this ironwork marks the half way point between Leeds and Liverpool at 63 5/8 miles to each.
 On Thursday we cruised on through Burnley which seems much improved since we last came through here three years ago.  New developments and a general clean up has definitely made the town much less intimidating.  Coming into town we came through the 500 yard Gannow Tunnel shown here.

We have been following the M65 for a few days and there are a couple of aqueducts over the motorway.

The Burnley embankment stretches for three quarters of a mile across the valley.  The embankment is about 60 feet above the bus station and houses below.

Here you can see the view looking down on the houses of Burnley.  We stopped for lunch here, but I'm not sure I'd trust the town enough to spend the night here.  Perhaps next time?

On Friday we carried on through Nelson and up the 7 Barrowford Locks to the summit of the canal at 487 feet above sea level.

Here is Leo in the top lock at Barrowford, looking back down the hill.

There is a fine Lock Cottage at the top of the locks.  We moored just beyond in a lovely spot with fine views.  We stayed for a couple of nights while we climbed Pendle Hill.

On Friday evening we walked three or four miles over the top of the Foulridge Tunnel to the village of Foulridge.  On the way we passed a couple of reservoirs which supply water to the summit level of the canal.  This one is called Summer Hill Reservoir.  What a view for this ivy clad house.

And this is Foulridge Lower Reservoir, close to the village.  We  had a good meal at Cafe Cargo by the old canal wharf and then walked back in the last of the evening light.

This is the East portal of Foulridge Tunnel.  The traffic lights make sure that boats only go through in one direction at a time.

On Saturday we had a day off boating and climbed Pendle Hill (1,830 feet above sea level) which we have been seeing for several days.  It is about five miles from Barrowford Locks to the base of the Hill and then the climb proper begins. 

On the way through Barrowford village we walked over this fine packhorse bridge.

You can see our destination - Pendle Hill - in the distance.  We walked through a couple of pretty valleys on the way.

I was surprised that there was no footbridge marked on the map for crossing one of the streams.  Here's why - a set of circular stepping stones was the alternative crossing.

We didn't go up the direct way from the village of Barley below.  Instead we walked round past a couple of reservoirs and then up the hill more gently from the South.  Here is the Lower Ogden reservoir on our route.

Here is the view looking down the steep side of Pendle Hill to the village of Barley where the trees converge.

The views from Pendle Hill are amazing.  We could see the Lake District mountains to the North - seen here in the distance.  We could also see the Yorkshire Three Peaks, the tower on Holme Moss, the Welsh mountains and even Blackpool Tower.

And here is Helen standing on top.  The Bowland Hills are behind her.

We came back from Barley to Barrowford by bus to save repeating the outward journey and were treated to a tour of the intervening villages and hamlets.

In the last couple of days we've come through the Foulridge Tunnel and started our way down into Yorkshire.

Here is Leo earlier today waiting to go down the 3 Greenberfield Locks.

The countryside here is delightful as you can see in this view looking down beyond the middle lock.  We came down with a hire boat, King Louis, with a friendly and active crew to assist.

We moored at lunchtime close to a bridge where we had discovered that the Tour of Britain cycle race was due to cross over in a couple of hours.  Here is the peloton following Pete Williams who was about 2 minutes ahead at this point.  We watched the highlights on TV this evening, but we did not appear!

We could easily be back to Skipton in a couple of days but we are not looking to conclude our cruising just yet, particularly as the summer seems to have finally arrived.  So we'll take our time and enjoy our last days cruising this year.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Locks and Old Friends

Having left Liverpool behind us we have cruised back to Wigan and come up the 23 locks of the Wigan flight as a 'leg up' in climbing over the Pennines back home.

The Leeds and Liverpool is well known for swing bridges and here you can see one of the electrically powered bridges swinging back after Leo has gone through, controlled by Helen's finger on the button.  This is Glovers Swing bridge just East of the Rufford Junction.

The fun with these swing bridges is that they are all different.  This one, near the first one, has manually operated barriers but the bridge swings electrically.  Some are wholly manual requiring plenty of pushing.

This ship's cat appeared on the boat moored in front of us at Parbold.  From there we came up the five locks into Wigan where we looked around to find a partner to climb the Wigan Locks with us.

This is the approach to Wigan passing the Orwell pub on the left and Trencherfield Mill which you can see on the right of this photo.  Arguably this is the site of Wigan Pier, though we met a chap who reckoned it was further west.

While in Wigan Ian visited the local museum and archives to do some family history research.  He succeeded in finding local newspaper reports from 1937 covering the death of a great uncle who died when a wall fell on him while he was demolishing a cottage on his farm.  It seems that common sense runs in the family!  On the way back to the boat Ian succeeded in rescuing a lad's bike from the canal and found a partner to share the locks with us the following day.

Here you can  see Keith on 'Twin Sister' going into one of the lower locks hotly pursued by Leo.  Even better than finding someone to share with was the fact that Keith and Brenda's grandson and girlfriend were visiting so we had plenty of lock crew.

This odd looking tower is not the remains of some industrial architecture but is in fact a modern phone mast.  Even the bricks are false but it does look better than most masts.

The top gates of some of the locks leak rather badly, like this fountain.  In one lock a spurt from the side wall of the lock filled our well deck to the extent that a toilet cassette left there floated across the deck!

Near the top you get some fine views back over Wigan.  The locks climb 214 feet in just a couple of miles.  With all the help, we managed the climb in only three and a half hours, discounting the half hour we waited for CRT chaps to fill one pound emptied by a leaky lock gate.

From the top we cruised on a couple of miles to a fine mooring near Haigh Hall which had a lovely view to the West.  The sunset here was pretty good  too.  Having come up the Wigan flight on Friday we've moved on slowly over the last few days, enjoying some walks near the canal as well.

Above the Wigan locks is a 9 mile pound and then you come to the foot of the seven locks of the Johnson's Hillock locks just after Chorley.  The bottom lock is to the right and the Walton Summit Branch is to the left.  More about that Branch in a minute.

Here we are part way up the flight with four more locks to go.  The small building to the left of the lock above is a toll house.

The paddle gear on different canals is often distinctive and these locks have an unusual worm gearing for the ground paddles.

We stopped at the top of the locks yesterday and treated ourselves to Sunday lunch at the Top Lock pub - pretty good.  We then went for a short walk around the area, down to the bottom lock and up the Walton Summit Branch.  This is now disused but was built to link the Lancaster Canal to the rest of the system.  It was intended to go to Preston and cross the River Ribble on a substantial aqueduct.  That aqueduct never got built because the money ran out, though a tramway took its place for a while.  The Lancaster canal remained isolated until 2002 when the Ribble Link was built.

The first couple of hundred yards of the Walton Branch is probably navigable though overgrown with trees and there is nowhere to turn round.  After that the motorway (M61) gets in the way.

A footpath through a culvert under the motorway allows access to the old aqueduct where the Walton Branch went over the River Lostock.  Quite a surprising find.

We think this grassy strip is the old course of the Walton Branch canal running South from the aqueduct.

Today we were very pleased to meet up with Chris and Helen on Coventina.  Three years ago we shared the Wigan locks with them and it really felt like a meeting of old friends.  They have also met our son David and Victoria so it was also nice to meet their daughter, Lauren, who is staying with them for a few days.  One way and another coffee developed into lunch and so we've only come on a few miles today.

Here is Leo moored alongside Coventina at Withnell Fold.  Our repainting of the red panels on our bow shows rather well in this photo.

As another coincidence, soon after leaving Coventina we passed Indigo Dream, a boat that had been stranded with us by floods on the Thames at Wallingford in 2012.  It really is a small world.

Because we were unable to explore the Lancaster Canal we have plenty of time left to reach our home mooring near Skipton, so we will be taking our time now for the last part of our travels this year.  Tomorrow we have the six Blackburn locks to look forward to and we aim to get out of the town to moor in open country tomorrow evening.  There are some areas in Blackburn and the other towns we will soon pass through that are less than desirable but hopefully we shan't have any problems.  We aim to have a few days walking from the boat as we get higher in the Pennines, particularly as we return to God's own country - Yorkshire.