Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hailstones and close encounters of the boating kind…

I think today we’ve seen most of the commercial carriers on the Aire and Calder. It started at 07:00 when we were passed by the tanker Humber Renown. This was followed by Humber Princess, and then the sand barge Easedale H. While I was off on my morning run another couple went past.

Today’s weather has followed the same pattern as the last two, a fine chilly start, clouding up by midday with showers in the afternoon, ending with a clear evening. The variation on the theme was one of the showers today was heavy hail and sleet, unfortunately catching us on an exposed section of the river.

We got away at 10:40, on the long pound to Ferrybridge flood lock.

Past Kellingley Colliery, opened for production in 1965 and still working, with reserves reckoned to be 3-5 million tonnes. Now all shipped by road and rail, the wharves on the canal stand idle.

Coming into Knottingley there’s a large chemical plant on the canal.
A bit worrying. What about us?

At the River Aire junction at Knottingley we met the first of the returning barges, Farndale H. Luckily there was plenty of room to keep out of the way as she rounded the bend. Carol was on the other side of the corner and waited for her to get clear before following.

Farndale H in Knottingley. Corbiere was behind us, and we were relieved to see her appear a few minutes later.
A little later, near Kings Flour Mill, Humber Princess (again!) came round the corner at a fair lick, and I hugged the bank to let her through. Not much space, though. Carol was convinced we’d collided.

Then Rix Phoenix near Ferrybridge flood lock.

Rix Phoenix with Ferrybridge Power Station in the background.
The lock was manned and we were waved straight in. It only took 2 minutes to come up the 12 inches or so to river level, then we were out on the River Aire, under Ferry Bridge.

Corbiere under Ferry Bridge
We came up past the power station coal staithe, in use till fairly recently. Here container boats (called Tom Puddings) were hoisted out of the water, tipped up to empty the coal and returned to the water. They were then reassembled into tug trains for the return trip to the colliery.

Coal Staithe

Of course, everything goes by road or rail, now.

A train of ash-filled rail cars is unloaded into trucks for disposal. Redundant Tom Puddings lie alongside in the foreground.

It’s a very pretty run along the river to Castleford, with a lot of well established trees on the banks. The spoil heaps from Old Fryston and Wheldale pits have been landscaped and are slowly being colonised by trees and scrub.

Humber Renown was passed on this stretch.
The natural stretch ends at Bulholme Lock which was also manned, so we were in and through in a few minutes. We didn’t even tie up, the lock keeper open the paddles so that we were kept tight against the wall.

Bulholme Lock
Down the straight into Castleford, where we stopped at the sanitary station just before the flood lock. The lights were against us anyway, as Easedale H was coming through.

Easedale H leaving Castleford Flood Lock
The rain came on in earnest as we filled with water and emptied rubbish, so we made the decision to stay here on the visitor moorings for the night.

Castleford Cut VM

We’re not likely to see many of the barges again, now. By the time they’ve reloaded and returned up river, we’ll be on the Calder and Hebble. It’s been an experience, though. We didn’t see any of this last year on the same stretch.

Locks 2, miles 10

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