Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Good to be on the move again.

We finally moved out of Skipton today, although we have had two changes of view while we were there!
On Saturday, with Meg now fixed but with a review on Monday, we moved around the corner, away from the bus station and pulled in above Eller Beck next to Victoria Mill. But it was a bit manic, with boats maneouvering for the swing bridge nearby, and the trip boat Cobbydale zooming past at regular intervals, so on Sunday morning we shuffled on a bit further, now up to the 7 day moorings between Brewery Lane and Gawflat Swing Bridges. It’s actually one of the best bits for mooring in Skipton if you can get in just before the Herriot Hotel. A low wall alongside allows it to be sunny and also gives a clear shot at the spot in the sky for satellite tv. Terrestrial reception in the town in pretty poor, at least from the canal.
Meg’s follow-up appointment at the vets went well, it was the surgeon who operated on her that we saw, and he was very pleased with the healing progress. But we do have to go back again for a final sign-off next Monday. So I guess we’ll be toddling off back again on Sunday, unless the weather is particularly dire, in which case Meg and I will catch a bus.
We are very pleased with the attention Meg has received at the vet, Ashlands, near Tescos and only a short walk from the canal. They are efficient, thorough and caring, and very reasonably priced, too. Recommended.

Anyhow, today dawned bright and sunny but we weren’t off so soon. A visit to the shops for fresh stuff, then a shuffle up, just a boat’s length, to the water tap, took us until about half-ten. But then we were off, through Gawflat Swing Bridge and heading out of town. IMG_1942 

Reflections under the by-pass bridge
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A beautiful morning…
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We passed a DIY boat, made up of various bits of salvage and supported by a pair of pontoons.

Whatever floats your boat…
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Inscribed on one of the roof supports – “This is not a raft, nor is it a ship. It’s an instrument playing an unending melody” Hmm, OK. Looks like a shed to me...

We passed several more ordinary boats today, there does seem to be more about up here these last couple of weeks since the kids went back to school. A lot of hire boats, from Silsden, Skipton, and further afield.
I got chatting to a New Zealand lady (I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name) who had hired a boat from Mercia Marina near Derby. This is the third time they’ve done this, hiring for a seven week period, and they’ve covered quiet a few waterways on their extended trips. They read this blog, and Tom and Jan’s. But they won’t be able to catch up till they get home. So, good to meet you, and I hope you enjoyed your trip.

We had four swing bridges to deal with today, Niffany was extremely stiff as usual, but Thorlby and Highgate were fine.

Thorlby Swing Bridge, with the ridge of Sharp Haw rising behindIMG_1952

Mags is happy…
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Last winter contractors were doing quite a bit of bank repairing along here, installing fabric edging backfilled by dredged silt. Now the new edge has consolidated the local farmers are putting up fences to stop the sheep from floating away. If an animal with a full fleece falls in it’s pretty much curtains for it.

Easier than a big hammer…
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Sleepy sheepies dozing in the sun
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We had just one lock to do today, the first since Bingley. We caught up with a boat here, unfortunately a fat hire boat out of Silsden so there was no opportunity to share.

Silsden fat boat going into Holme Bridge Lock
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I pulled in, tied up and walked up to give them a hand, just in time to prevent the lady flooding the fore end of the boat as she wound up a gate paddle first. These are deep locks and the gate paddles are considerably higher than the boat deck! I explained the use of the ground paddles… This has box paddles, but they’ll encounter cloughs further up.

Holme Bridge Lock, bottom gates inscribed with poetry…IMG_1960 
“Super High Way, Super Wet Way. Super Slow Way, Super Low Way” Super.

We pulled in on a favourite spot above the lock, just past the aqueduct carrying the canal over Eshton Beck. We’ll stay here for a couple of days before moving up to the Gargrave visitor moorings later in the week.

Thanks for the thoughts about Meg. She's actually talking to me again now! While her gums are healing she's been having sausages for a treat instead of chew sticks. I think I may have made a rod for my own back... I may be looking to offload several bags of Dentastix, Rodeos and pig's ears!

Locks 1, miles 4

Friday, September 16, 2016

Two fine days to Skipton and another vet visit.

We had two steady days from Kildwick to Skipton, stopping overnight at at Bradley. The last two days of this unseasonably warm weather too.
But Tuesday night was wet, very wet. And noisy, too. A succession of thunderstorms marched across the valley towards us, bright sheet lightening lighting up the clouds. The thunder, when overhead, was powerful enough to make the boat vibrate! The rain came down in torrents, bouncing back up off the canal. Then it faded away to the north leaving us with a steamy, humid night.

Looking down the Aire valley on Wednesday morning, the river is up as it comes under Kildwick Bridge.IMG_1912
There was a wooden crossing here recorded in the Domesday Book, but it was replaced by the current stone construction in the early 14th century. It carried the main turnpike between Keighley and Skipton, and even as early as 1780 was found to be too narrow for the amount of traffic using it, so it was widened, by building another span alongside. The “new” section is the downstream crossing, seen above.
The bridge and village proved a bottleneck again in the 20th century, so the Aire Valley Road and a new bridge was constructed just upstream and opened in 1980.

The bridge over the canal here only carries a minor road, and is a bit of a hybrid.

Warehouse Swing Bridge
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Turn the key and press the button for the barriers to come down to close off the road, but then you have to get your back to the bridge to swing it open, and it’s bl***y heavy!

We had five of these to tackle, the first and last carrying traffic, the others being for footpaths and farm access.

Mags going through Milking Hill Swing Bridge
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Hambleton Swing Bridge has the memorial to the Polish aircrew who died when their Wellington bomber crashed into the hillside during a training flight in 1943. All seven members of the crew lost their lives.
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The bridge was swinging in the breeze when we arrived, the securing chain having lost a link, so I called it in to CRT. It only carries a footpath, but I was concerned that it might close on a passing boat.

The canal runs alongside the Keighley Road for quite a way, only looping away for a short while to skirt a valley formed by a beck running down from the moorland above Low Bradley. There’s another crossing here, fully automated this time, and we pulled in shortly after.

Moored at Low Bradley
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The chimney in the background belongs to Bradley Mill, a woolen mill built in the 1860s and now converted into apartments.

Thursday morning we set off to Skipton, after I’d had a gentle jog into the town to check on the mooring situation. The moorings were fairly empty, as were my legs when I got back after the five-mile there and back trip! I’ve got some work to do to get fit again! It’s been nearly a year since I’ve run seriously.

Anyone know what this chap is? Smaller than the average mallard, but able to hold it’s own in the battle for breadcrumbs!
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The day had started damp and misty, and the low cloud was still clinging to the slopes as we set offIMG_1927

There were several Canadian-style canoes heading our way, doing a challenging paddle from Bradford to Liverpool, 100 miles to raise money for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
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New construction at Snaygill Boats
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Nineteenth century terraced housing for the mill workers of SkiptonIMG_1932
Many mills were built in Skipton, mainly for spinning and weaving of wool. There’s always been sheep here, The name Skipton is derived from the Anglo Saxon Scaep (sheep), and tun (town). The canal only made access to the raw materials easier.

We moored opposite the bus station, not the prettiest spot, but handy for Tescos, and more importantly, the vet.IMG_1937 
The long-distance paddlers stopped for lunch from the chippy before carrying on westward.

Now then, Meg. Since the last visits to the doggy doctor down in Castleford she’s been on antibiotics to deal with the infection that caused the swelling in her nether regions. At first it responded well, shrinking and becoming far less irritating to her. But it had got to a point where it was a small, firm lump, not shrinking any further. Obviously the antibiotics had done as much as they could, but I thought something must still be in there.
So we went to visit the vet, just two minutes away, yesterday afternoon. She agreed, and we arranged a minor operation today to investigate more thoroughly under a general anesthetic. While she was under they also were to have a look at her teeth, as she had two rear molars which looked a bit dodgy.
I dropped her off this morning and picked her up this evening, still a little groggy but alert enough to have the hump with me! The investigative surgery was worthwhile; they found a grass-seed that had penetrated the skin and was causing the infection. She’s had the problem twice before, but on her fore-paws, not near her bum! And they also removed four of her back teeth that were poor or actually rotten, so that was good too.
Poor girl, no wonder she’s upset with me, she’s sore at both ends! A few days to heal and she’ll be right as a bobbin, I’m sure.

Locks 0, miles 5

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Swing bridges galore as we head towards Skipton

Swing bridges are a major feature of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, and the highest concentration of them can be found between Riddlesden and Skipton.
In just over five miles today we’ve had to deal with eight of the little blighters, with only two fixed bridges in the same distance. It’s considerably cheaper to install a swing-bridge than to build a brick or stone one, and cost was a major consideration when constructing this 127¼ mile long canal. It went considerably over the £260,000 estimate and took 50 years to complete in it’s entirety, although the main line from city to city was opened in 1816.

The renowned James Brindley surveyed the initial route and became chief engineer on the project. When he died in 1772  he was succeeded by John Longbotham who met his demise in 1801. Robert Whitworth then took up the reins until he was succeeded by Samuel Fletcher in 1799 when he popped his clogs. Fletcher lasted 5 years until the canal claimed another engineer, and his brother Joseph and nephew James were jointly appointed to the role. James Fletcher was the only one surviving to see the completion of the navigation, and remained the company engineer till his death in 1844.

Our first bridge today was just up from the moorings in Riddlesden, and was the only mechanised one. There’s recently been a programme of modifications to the control panels of these powered bridges, resiting them to the towpath side from the offside.IMG_1881
This makes it so much easier for single handing boaters, and a lot shorter time before the road is open to traffic again. They still have to struggle with the manual ones, though.

The canal runs along the north side of the Aire valley, giving long views to the south when the trees permit.IMG_1883 
Keighley, down there in the valley, lies where the River Worth comes in from the south. Fed from several small streams running from the moorland, it’s source is Watersheddles Reservoir, over 1000 feet up near Trawden. It joins the Aire just below Riddlesden.

Now I’ve never seen that before, a swimming heron!
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They normally just stand on the bank looking disdainful…IMG_1886

A beautiful day to enjoy
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I think we’ve seen more boats about today than any other recently. A lot were hire boats out of Silsden and Skipton
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We used to book our autumn cruises for the weeks immediately after the kids returned to school, too.

The ubiquitous sheep…
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The economy on this side of the Pennines was based on wool, on the Lancashire side it was, of course, cotton.

Brunthwaite Swing Bridge and Silsden
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Well kept canalside back gardens in Silsden
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Out of Silsden and the cattle are keeping cool in the canalIMG_1902

Three retired Leeds and Liverpool short boats make for residential accommodation near Grange Swing BridgeIMG_1903 
These boats, around 60 feet long and 14 feet wide, were the mainstay of the carrying fleet on the canal. Coal took up probably half of the cargos carried, followed by limestone.

We pulled in just before the village of Kildwick, a place we’ve stopped at before. The traffic noise from the busy A629 Aire Valley Road is just a background hum from up here.

Hi Sue. Yes  was a bit glum on Sunday. But I've been looking at Spring half marathons, and there's one in Warwick, only a stone's throw from the Saltisford Arm. Looks interesting...

Locks 0, miles 5¼  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A fine day for Bingley Locks.

After a cool night this morning dawned bright and sunny. We didn’t get any benefit from it though, we were in a heavily wooded stretch above Dowley Gap.IMG_1851

We only had twenty minutes or so to the bottom of the Bingley Locks, and three boats had already passed going in the same direction so we were in no rush.

Classic mill town, local stone buildings, tall chimneys and the moors rising beyond.IMG_1858

Bingley railway station has beautifully decorated gables
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The Damart factory
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We arrived at the bottom of the 3-rise to find no-one waiting and the lockie just coming down after sending a single boat up. Good timing for us, as soon as the bottom chamber was empty we were able to go straight up.

Mags coming into the bottom of the 3-rise.
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The 3-rise is equipped with those sliding gate paddles like at Dowley Gap, but these work!IMG_1865

I got off and helped the lockie on these three, they appreciate it as it saves a lot of walking around for them.

That’s the three done…
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…then there’s a short pound to the bottom of the five.

The third boat that had passed us was waiting at the bottom for us to join them. A hire boat out of Skipton, one of their crew was volunteered to help the lock-keeper this time, so Mags could have a sit down.

Barely time to tie up and we’re off again.
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The height of the gates as you go up looks daunting!
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Those of you who watch the Tim and Pru Show, aka Great Canal Journeys, may recognise this chap.IMG_1871

It’s Richard who featured in a short sequence chatting to Prunella Scales.Video Clip
Apparently he’s been ragged mercilessly by his colleagues since!

Getting towards the top now, and the gongoozlers are out on such a fine day.IMG_1873 

Looking back, sorry, the sun was in the wrong place!
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It was busy at the top…
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Apart from the onlookers there were half a dozen boats waiting to go down.

Our companion hire boaters were heading on towards Skipton, so we agreed to leap-frog the swing bridges, at least until Riddlesden where we intended to stop.

Swine Lane Bridge, one of 13 fixed bridges between Bingley Locks and Skipton. The other 21 have to be swung!IMG_1878

The canal hangs on the side of the Aire valley, giving good views to the west. That’s Keighley down there.
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It was our turn to open Granby Swing Bridge, but as I jumped off to get it open a lady off a motor boat beat me to it. She told me she’d deal with it, but I did tell her there were two boats to come through. “That’s fine” she said.
So I got back on and waited while two more narrowboats came through followed by her husband, before us and the hireboat went through in the opposite direction.IMG_1880
She certainly drew the short straw, although she would have known they were following. They’d probably been leapfrogging, the same as us.

We pulled up on the moorings at Riddlesden. I think we’ll take a day off tomorrow.

While we were coming up the locks I checked the time and realised that I would normally have just started the Great North Run. Plagued with one injury after another over the last 18 months, I’ve had to lose my entry this year. This would have been my 14th. Next year…

Locks 8, miles 4.