Thursday, 29 September 2016

842 Miles and 648 Locks!

Well that's the total for this year.  Not our highest total but by no means our lowest either.  We got back to our winter moorings near Skipton on Tuesday and I am typing this from our 'bricks and mortar' home.  The wind is howling outside and the pictures below help to confirm that now is the time to give up boating for this year.

After a mainly cloudy day on Monday we were greeted by this unusual sunset in the evening.  It looks as if there is a shadow of something large in the middle of the red bit.  It only lasted for about 5 minutes.

Tuesday was a grim looking day as this picture looking over Skipton shows.  Surprisingly it didn't rain much.  Last year we finished boating in torrential rain and we feared something similar but fortunately it didn't happen.

Only 5 swing bridges on Tuesday and this was one of the last of them.  A lady from a hire boat seen beyond the bridge held it open for us which was very nice of her.

And here we are coming past Snaygill Boats on the edge of Skipton.  Not far now.

So we are home but thoughts do turn to next year.  We had a vague idea this year of cruising the Basingstoke Canal but it was too far.  We know the Basingstoke well from cycling and walking when we lived down south, but we've never taken Leo up there.  I think that will be on the list for next year and we might try Kyme Eau off the River Witham on the way.  The heavy weed growth stopped us in 2015 (see when last we tried this but if we go there early in the year perhaps it will be OK.  And we've yet to do the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union so that will be on the list too.  So it looks like we are going south next year.  When the licence needs renewing at the end of this year we will have to decide whether to go for a Gold licence and venture out on the Nene and Great Ouse again too.

Lots to think about and plenty of time to do so.  Thanks for following the blog if you have been and we look forward to telling you of our travels next year.  Until then, and when the time comes, have a good Christmas and a Happy New Year.  This seems more appropriate having seen Christmas cards for sale in our local Post Office this morning.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Almost home again!

It is a bit of a miserable afternoon so I am updating the blog now instead of waiting until tomorrow when we should actually get back to Skipton and head home for the winter.  Last Wednesday morning we were moored just above Woodnook Lock on the River Calder.  We were preparing for the off when our friends Geoff and Sue on 'Rubbin Along' appeared.  We have been travelling with them since Marple so we thought it churlish not to join them in a last lock.

This view looking back shows Rubbin Along coming out of Woodnook lock after us.  Below this lock we joined the Calder once more for a last couple of miles down to Castleford where it meets the River Aire.

Here is Rubbin Along following us through the railway bridges on the way down to Castleford.

And here is the sad goodbye to Rubbin Along which lives near Goole.  Geoff and Sue are heading into the lock cut through Castleford whereas we turned left here up the River Aire towards Leeds.

The first lock about three miles up the Aire is at Lemonroyd.  This is a massive lock suitable for the large oil tankers that came up here until recently.  Here you can see a decapitated Helen watching the turmoil below the lock as it empties.  Leo was well back out of the waves!

This gives some idea of the huge size of Lemonroyd Lock.  Hundred of thousands of gallons of water just to lift little Leo up from the river.
 Above Lemonroyd Lock 'Sheaf' was moored and opted to join us in the locks towards Leeds.  She is an old 1930s cargo vessel 61 feet long and 15 feet 6 inches wide.  She seems much bigger than that.

Here we are in Fishponds Lock with Sheaf.  There is not space to get alongside her but we do fit one behind the other.

Knostrop Lock on the edge of Leeds was very badly damaged by the floods last Christmas and these diggers are dredging the weir stream.  There used to be a longish separate lock cut parallel with the weir stream but the wall between them has been swept away and boats now cross over into the old weir stream above the lock.

Following the floods they are also working on the weir in the centre of Leeds.

Leo in this picture is just coming into Leeds Lock which is alongside the weir shown just above.  This is the last lock before reaching the centre of Leeds.

Just above Leeds Lock we turned left into what used to be called Clarence Dock and is now called Leeds Dock.  There are visitor moorings here right by the Armouries.

And here is Sheaf coming in backwards.  There is apparently a lot of  flood debris near the entrance and Sheaf draws a lot more water than we do, so she was keeping the back end away from the debris by coming in backwards.

And here we are moored on the pontoon in Leeds Dock.

And here is Sheaf moored behind us and seen through our back doors.  This does give a good idea just how big she is compared with Leo.

We've never seen a boat called Helen before and this one was moored opposite us in Leeds Dock.

On Thursday we were up early and off our moorings by 8 am.  It is a long day up through the locks from the city on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the advice is not to moor until you get to at least Newlay and preferably Rodley, some 7 miles and 13 broad locks away.  Mooring before this leaves the boat open to vandalism.

From Leeds Dock it is about half a mile up the River Aire to River Lock where the Canal begins.  This is close to Leeds Station and above the lock is Granary Wharf where you can also moor if there is space (there was this time but we've found space very tight there before).  Below River Lock is a tiny landing to drop a crew member to work the lock.

We have heard of 'yarn bombing' before where knitted items are used to decorate street furniture.  But we've never seen this done to a narrowboat.  Some of the knitting was very colourful with fishes and other aquatic themes.

These towers above Granary Wharf are based on similar ones in Venice.

Here is a view looking back above Office Lock.  The tall building on the right is the notorious Bridgewater Place where autumnal winds blow pedestrians off their feet.

There are quite a few locks coming out of Leeds that are grouped together as staircases where the top gate of one lock is also the bottom gate of the next lock.  This is the first staircase called 'Oddy Two Locks'.

And here is a later one called, wait for it, 'Forge Three Locks'.

Another hallmark  of this part of the Leeds and Liverpool is an endless succession of swing bridges.  This one is called Moss Swing Bridge.  Some of them are hand operated and some are electrically powered.

Coming through Rodley this bunch of gnomes was waving to us.

It was nice to escape the city and moor with fields (and moors) around us again.  From Rodley we have really been taking our time doing just a few miles and a few locks each day.

Early on Friday morning this Leeds and Liverpool short boat passed us.  She is called Ribble and is taking a 32 ton load of sand from Leeds to Liverpool.  This is part of the celebration of 200 years since the canal was opened.

Through Apperley Bridge we came to Dobson Two locks, another staircase of very deep locks.  Just walking up the towpath beside the locks is tiring enough.

We moored on Friday above Field Three Locks with some horses in a field opposite.  Here is a spot of mutual grooming going on.

Saltaire is an impressive place with restored mills either side of the canal.  This time we walked through Roberts Park and found the Shipley Glen Tramway in the woods beyond.

The Tramway was built in 1895 and was part of a large tourist attraction in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century with two fairgrounds, an aerial ropeway, a toboggan ride and tea rooms up the top.  Time was when 100,000 visitors in a day was not unusual.  Only the Tramway remains, though there is still a tea shop and pub at the top.

Because it wasn't open when we arrived, we walked up beside the tramway and caught a lift down later after an early lunch at the tea rooms.  In the picture you can see Helen in the tramcar waiting to go down.

And here we are half way down passing the tramcar coming up.  The Tramway is cable driven and about a quarter of a mile long.  The maximum gradient is 1 in 7.

Back on the boat we carried on out of Saltaire and this shows Leo waiting below Dowley Gap - another staircase pair of locks.

Some of the locks around here have the new fad of CRT in the name of safety.  The pawl on the lock paddles cannot be swung out of the way, so it is difficult to drop the paddles quickly in an emergency.  Here you can see Helen using her chin to hold the pawl to turn the paddle down by hand.

On Saturday we moored above Dowley Gap and visited the Fisherman's Inn for a good evening meal.  On Sunday we tackled the Bingley Three Rise followed by the Five Rise, the most stupendous staircase on the canal system.

The Three Rise shown here lifts the boat about 30 feet in 3 locks.  Both the Three and the Five have lock keepers to help and manage the boats coming up and down.

And this is the Five Rise which lifts the boat 60 feet in five locks, that is 12 feet each!  The lock keeper was very careful with opening the paddles so that Leo was not thrown around too much, but it was still out with the paintbrush at the top to redo the gunwhales.

Here is a flavour of what it is like being on the boat down the cold dark hole that is a Bingley Lock.  This first of the Five Rise also had some fierce water spouts from the gates above leaking water.  Our front deck and front windows were pretty soaked when we got up the locks.

Today we cruised on from Bingley through many many swing bridges.  We came through 11 today on our way to Kildwick though to be fair we met other boats so did not have to work them all ourselves.  We are only about 3 miles (and 5 swing bridges) from our journey's end and we could have got there today.  However we know the White Lion at Kildwick does fine beer and lunches so we succumbed.

Here is the view from our mooring looking down to the River Aire below us.

To celebrate its 200 year anniversary some of the missing milestones on this canal have been replaced and this is one of the new ones right by where we are moored.

It is dull and rainy this afternoon and perhaps that is a sign that we should be bringing our boating season to an end.  If, as planned, we finish tomorrow this will be the latest we have cruised in our five summers on the waterways.  We will do a last posting soon with a summary of the year and with some thoughts about where we might go next year.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Through the Pennines and down the other side

It has been too long since we updated this blog and we have come so far in the last week.  From the wild hills of the Pennines we have come down to flatter and lower lands.  We are now cruising down the River Calder aiming for Castleford and then up the River Aire to Leeds.

Last Tuesday it was extremely hot and humid.  We walked up in the hills above Diggle and even on the tops there wasn't a breath of wind.  In the evening we walked to the Diggle Hotel for a meal and we fortunately stayed there during a torrential thunder storm.  Walking back to the boat we had to ford a new stream by the Hotel that hadn't been there when we arrived!

On Wednesday we cruised through the Standedge Tunnel.  This is the longest (three and a quarter miles), the highest (the canal is 650 feet above sea level) and the deepest (around 650 feet below the surface at its greatest).  There are four separate tunnels through this hill.  The first built was the canal and then two single track railway tunnels and finally the modern double track rail tunnel.  The two single track tunnels are now disused and as you cruise through on your boat a CRT chap drives through one of these to check on your progress at a few of the adits that connect with the canal tunnel.  There are 47 of these sideways adits in the tunnel but only three of them are used to check on progress.

Here is Leo waiting to go into the tunnel.  Boats cannot pass in the tunnel, so boats East to West go through in the morning and West to East in the afternoon.

You have to book passage through the tunnel and high and square boats cannot fit through.  You are required to have a CRT 'chaperone' with you as you go through.  Here John and Trevor from CRT are either side of Ian at the tiller.  The CRT chaps came with some powerful LED lights which certainly helped avoid the sticky out bits!

Helen took some pictures from the front of the boat.  Here we are passing though a brick lined section of tunnel.

And here we are in a rocky section.  Our passage was made more tricky by a thick mist that we didn't have last time we came through here.  You can see the beam of our headlight in the mist.

Here is one of the side adits with the  CRT chap who was driving through the parallel railway tunnel.

One significant difference of the Standedge is that the tunnel is far from straight.  The builders sought to avoid the shale rocks that were unstable and so deviated to one side through the millstone grit.  Also the two tunnels dug from each side did not meet so that there is a prominent zig zag in the middle.  All of this makes it difficult to steer through.

And here is the other side of the tunnel at Marsden.  The unusual looking boat is an electric trip boat that runs trips for tourists into the tunnel.  We got through this time in an hour and a half and, we're pleased to say, we had no damage to paintwork above the gunwhales.

After a lovely meal and fine beers in the Riverhead Brewery Tap in the village we retired to bed and on Thursday set off down the first of the 42 locks down to Huddersfield.

On Thursday morning there was a thick mist.  We have been travelling with a boat called 'Rubbin Along' with a lovely couple called Geoff and Sue and their German Shepherd called Harriet.  Here you can see Rubbin Along in the first lock, 42E.  The 'E' means east and all the locks on this side have that suffix.

One of the locks was restored by Blue Peter, hence the shield shown on the lock beam.

Some of the bridges through here are very low.  This one was as you come out of a lock.

We went for a walk from a lovely mooring above lock 31E.  You can see the beams of sunshine coming through the trees by the side of the River Colne.  The canal follows the River Colne down the east side all the way into Huddersfield.

Here is Leo moored above 31E.  This was a wide section of canal like being in a lake with a couple of attractive reservoirs just above us.

On Friday we carried on down.  In this lock you can see what I think are mason's marks in the stones.  Each stonemason had his own signature mark and you see similar marks on cathedrals and other historic buildings.

 At Slaithwaite (pronounced 'Slowit') is the only functioning guillotine lock gate on a narrow canal.  Sadly there have been endless problems with it and at the moment it has to be worked for you by CRT, so again you have to book in advance.  The older CRT chap had brought a young assistant with him to turn the handle to lift the gate!

Through Slaithwaite the canal had been  built over and had to be dug out through the middle of the village during the restoration.  It is a very narrow channel, so it is just as well that there are not many boats through here!

Some of the locks had excellent water spouts to wash the boat.

Now you may well ask what is going on here.  In mooring by the Titanic Mill (see below), Ian was holding a rope round a bollard which unfortunately slipped off and he fell backwards into the canal!  This is the first time in 5 years that one of us has fallen in.  Just as well that the water up here is very clean.  There are no pictures of Ian in the water and mercifully none of Ian stripping naked before going below to change. Here he is wringing out his clothes and hanging them on the fence to dry.

Here is Titanic Mill.  It was so named because it is huge but also because it was completed in 1912 when the ship went down.  It has now been converted to flats.

From here on Saturday we went down the last 16 locks into Huddersfield.

Lock 5E is a strange one being positioned almost on top of an aqueduct over the River Colne.  Here is Leo sitting on the aqueduct waiting for the lock to fill.

Lock 3E is entirely new having been built in a different place during the restoration (the canal was reopened in 2001).  It is beside a university building.  The lock built of concrete is about 9 feet wide, but we have no idea why since the others are all 7 feet wide.

Below 3E is a long tunnel, the first of several on the last mile into the city.

And below lock 2E (which you can't even walk to) is a narrow channel below street level which was only opened out to the sky a few years ago.  As you can see the channel is also heavily overgrown.

And so into Huddersfield where we went for a wander round on Saturday afternoon.  Can you see the lion up on the facade of this building which is called the Lion Arcade?

Amazingly this is the railway station which has been described as a stately home with trains inside.  There are fountains outside and a statue of Harold Wilson who was born here.

At first we moored by the University but we feared the steps opposite would be a good place for drunks to gather and so it proved later.  So we moved opposite Sainsbury's and here is the view from our second mooring.

If your boat is 70 feet long and 7 feet wide you can come over the Huddersfield Narrow but no further.  The gauge of the Huddersfield Broad Canal which carries on to the east is 14 feet wide but only 57 feet long.  Fortunately Leo does fit and so we carried on seeking to share locks with Rubbin Along on Sunday morning.

This strange Meccano like contraption is the Locomotive Lift Bridge in Huddersfield.  The whole of the bridge deck lifts into the air to allow boats to pass underneath.  It used to be wound by hand but is now electrically powered.
 Although the stated gauge of the Huddersfield Broad is 57 feet long that doesn't mean you can get two 57 foot boats in a lock together.  We did so for the first lock but had to lift the front fender on Leo to get the gates open. The later locks were shorter so we had to go singly, with the boat diagonal in the lock to clear the cill at the back.  And there are walkways attached to the bottom gates which can scrape the paintwork on the bow.  So not easy.

At the bottom of the last lock you come out on the River Calder.  You need to turn left upstream to avoid the weir and soon turn sharp right back on yourself to enter the cut at Coopers Bridge.  Here you can see Rubbin Along coming up the river and needing to turn to the left of the sign on the left of the picture.

We moored on Sunday evening near Shepley Bridge Marina and carried on down river on Monday.  The Calder navigation has sections of river with some lock cuts to bypass the weirs.  Here we are going to turn right through Battyeford Flood Gates off the river.  The orange buoys mark the weir.

And here similarly a river section ends with Ledgard Bridge Flood Gates to the left of the orange buoys.  On the river with wide and deep water Leo charges along so our miles have clocked up effortlessly in the last couple of days.

I stared at this for some time until I realised what it was.  It is a giant bicycle pedal marking a Sustrans cycle route alongside the river.

Last night (Monday) we moored at Calder Grove almost beside the Navigation Inn.  Our good friend Ralph cycled out from Wakefield and met us for a pleasant meal at the pub.  It was good to catch up with him.  We hope you got back safely, Ralph.

Today (Tuesday) we have come down river through Wakefield and are moored tonight above Woodnook Lock near Castleford.

On one river section we passed under the M1.  Now we know we're on the east side of the country.
 Fall Ing lock coming out of Wakefield is the first of the really big locks (about 140 feet long) and is also the point where the Calder and Hebble Navigation becomes the Aire and Calder Navigation.

The River Calder here is even bigger than further upstream.  This picture is looking downstream to Broadreach Flood Lock where a long section of canal leaves the river itself.

At Stanley Ferry (where lots of lock gates are made) we saw quite a few really big boats befitting this large commercial waterway (though there are no commercial craft at present).  This is Morgenster which sounds Dutch.

At Stanley Ferry the Canal crosses the River Calder on two aqueducts.  This is the older one which is of the same design as the Sydney Harbour Bridge but is 100 years older.  The newer, larger aqueduct is alongside. 

This is the view looking down from the Aqueduct to the River Calder below.

Woodnook Lock where we are moored has some problems at the moment and CRT are helping boats through in two time slots, morning and afternoon.  We are hoping to go through tomorrow morning and by evening we will probably be in the centre of Leeds going up the River Aire which joins the Calder at Castleford.  Which  brings me to the poem about the ladies of Castleford:

Castleford lassies are bonnie and fair,
They wash in the Calder and rinse in the Aire.

So we are nearly home and we will probably do a final posting on this blog once we get back to Skipton where Leo will spend another winter.  But we will not rush the last few days up the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, the scenery is too good to miss.