Sunday, September 09, 2012

In the wake of the Romans, Vikings and Normans

The Romans used the River Ouse as a transport link from the coast to York, the Vikings used it to capture York from the Saxons in 866, restored the original Viking name of Jorvick and held the city for 100 years. In the 11thC the Normans revitalised York as a major trade centre using the river once again as an easy access to the Humber and the sea.

In the 14thC York was England’s second richest city, a thriving inland port trading with the continent, but by the end of the 16thC silting of the channel and the use of larger ships made the river un-navigable for economic use, and the port declined in favour of Hull docks. Improvements in the navigation including the construction of Naburn Locks in  1757 did little to slow the slide, and the introduction of the railways dealt the final blow.

And following along behind all this history is us, on a narrowboat that is very little different in size to the early Norse longships that first sailed up from the Humber. The difference is they crossed the North Sea to get here!

The window for us to catch the flood tide to help us upstream was around 12:30, giving me time for another trip to the shops this morning.

Pierced steel sculpture near Selby BasinSAM_3001 Selby Basin  
That swing bridge that caused us problems yesterday. It’s behaved impeccably since.SAM_3003 Basin Swing Bridge

We shared the lock with Mike and Maggie on NB Rose of Arden dropping maybe 15 feet to the river.

Selby Lock with NB Rose of ArdenSAM_3005 Selby Lock

Narrowboats tend to time travel on tidal rivers to go with the flow, upstream with the flood, downstream with the ebb. But today it probably wouldn’t have made much difference. It was a neap tide, only a couple of feet rise so not so much water to push us up. A good job it’s been dry recently, as there wasn’t much “fresh” coming down.

Leaving Selby LockSAM_3006 Selby Lock

Out on to the Ouse, going under the railway swing bridgeSAM_3009 Railway Sw Br

Just around the corner the large Hovis (BOCM) mill looms on the right, attended by now-derelict wharves.

Ee bah gum, it's as good fer yer today as it's allus bin...SAM_3014 Hovis Mill
SAM_3015 Hovis Mill
I spent the next 10 minutes whistling Dvorak's New World Symphony.....

I expected to be able to see a little more than we actually could. The river is confined in high flood banks, with trees and bushes limiting the view. Unlike the Trent where a steady procession of power stations and riverside pubs give you a chance to see where you are, the Ouse keeps your location secret, just the odd house roof showing above the foliage.

Near horizonsSAM_3018 Ouse  
So that’s why they call it the Ouse…

Ooze!SAM_3012 Ooze

We did have a bit of excitement approaching the village of Cawood, a ski-boat towing a couple of guys on boards came racing round the corner

…slowed down when they saw us…SAM_3020 water Skiing
…then disappeared downstream at a rate of knots.SAM_3021 water Skiing

Then followed the village itself with a swing bridge over the river.

Cawood Swing BridgeSAM_3023 Cawood Swing Br
The bridge piers are protected from flood debris (and inattentive boat skippers) by huge timber guard rails. There’s a lay-by pontoon on the right, but it looks none to safe to me.

All the excitement comes in one go, another mile or so and the confluence of the River Wharfe is passed.

In comes the River WharfeSAM_3028 River Wharfe
That water has come 60 twisting miles from it’s source high in the Yorkshire Dales near Plover Hill. On it’s way it’s been joined by springs and becks filtered through subterranean limestone caverns, unseen by man. I sound like a bottled water ad…

We’d not seen a proper boat for two hours, then blow me down two come along at once!

Oh, hello!SAM_3031 Company

There’s only two settlements on the river up to Naburn, Cawood with it’s swing bridge and Acaster Selby. Neither show much of themselves to water-borne travellers.

A bit of Acaster SelbySAM_3035 Acaster Selby

And that was about it for sightseeing. Oh I forgot the glimpse of early 19thC Moreby Hall….

Just a glimpse – there, between the trees!SAM_3037  Moreby Hall

A few more bends and suddenly there was Naburn Locks ahead, with an impressive weir alongside.

NB Rose of Arden heads into the lock SAM_3041 Naburn Lock

And we join them a few minutes later.SAM_3044 Naburn Lock

Looks quite nice here…SAM_3045 Naburn Lock

Moored above the lockSAM_3047  Naburn Lock moorings

We got sorted out then Mike and Maggie joined us for a couple of beers. It’s been a good day, not particularly exciting but then we’ve seen the Ouse at it’s most docile. Looking at the height of some of the flood debris I guess it can get a little more fraught…

Locks 2, miles 15

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