Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Through the Gap…

North of Bradford and west of Leeds the River Aire valley passes through a dip between high moorland to the north and south. Still clinging to the valley side the canal shares this pass, as do roads and railway. Tonight we’re moored in the gut of the pass, squeezed between Bingley and Cottingley.

Today has been a marked contrast to yesterday. After a very mild night with a few showers it’s been fine and dry, at least up until I took Meg for a walk later this afternoon.

Our mooring last night, looking back at Field 3 Locks.IMG_7609

A splash of autumn colour…

We had four swing bridges to do today, the first 15 minutes up the canal and carrying a track.

Cobbles rise up the hill…

…And Mags passes through the bridge.IMG_7612 

Oddies Swing Bridge was passed without incident, then we arrived at Dock Swing Bridge.
This one is a break from the norm, it’s on an access road so there are barriers to lower. These are released by the old BW Watermate key. Then the windlass comes into play, first to withdraw the wedges that support the closed span, then to open the bridge deck.IMG_7615

Just after Dock Bridge the junction with the long-defunct Bradford Canal is passed on the left.IMG_7617

The Bradford Canal opened in 1774, built at the same time as the Leeds and Liverpool. Initially successful, it suffered from the development of the city, new housing dumping sewage and waste water into the canal. Water was also an issue, with upstream mills diverting some of the supply. The condition of the canal became so bad that it was declared a public health hazard and closed in 1866. Under new management it re-opened in 1872. But a lot of trade had been lost to the railways in the intervening period, and the route was barely profitable. A major problem was the high cost of running the canal. With a barely adequate (but cleaner) water supply, the company had to build steam pumping stations at each lock to return water to the higher level. Ultimately the canal started to lose money and an Act of Abandonment was passed in June 1922. Much of the line has now been filled in and built upon. 

The canal passes through Shipley and Saltaire, the transition unnoticable.

A fine restored mill in Shipley (I think) 

Ah, firmer ground now. Definitely Saltaire, that’s Titus Salt’s New Mill on the right.IMG_7627


Just out of Saltaire we came to the first lock of the day, Hirst Lock. And also the first queue for several weeks!

Two Shires, one of the JAMES Project community boats, had arrived just ahead of us. A modified Leeds and Liverpool Short Boat, it took up the lock chamber so we couldn’t share.

Behind Two Shires at Hirst LockIMG_7631

They had a small party of youths on board, and just went up the lock, turned around and came back down. So we had a brew while we waited for them to leave the lock in our favour.

Another boat wash in Hirst Lock
I don’t think the fore-end has ever been so clean!

We’re into Dowley Gap now, crossing the River Aire on a seven-arch stone aqueduct just below Dowley Gap Locks.

Seven-Arch Aqueduct

The canal towpath swaps sides at the other end of the aqueduct, crossing over Dowley Gap Changeline Bridge.IMG_7638 Up here these bridges are called “changeline”, elsewhere they’ll be known as snake or roving bridges. Whatever the name, they’re designed such that the boat horse can swap sides without having to unhitch the tow.

Dowley Gap 2 LocksIMG_7641

That unusual gate paddle gear again. Out of action, unfortunately.IMG_7642

A beautiful afternoon…IMG_7643

We moored up just through the next bridge. There are bollards outside the Fisherman’s Rest, but we tied to the piling a little way further on.
The fluffy stuff is Meg having her “I’ve arrived” roll. It’s her version of The Pope kissing the ground when he steps off an aircraft…

We went for a walk down along the river later in the afternoon…

The aqueduct from the riversideIMG_7647


This boat had turned up during the afternoon.IMG_7646
It started life as one of those fully enclosed life-boats. But a lot of work has gone into making it pretty unique…

Bingley 3-rise and 5-rise Locks tomorrow will take us up to the long Skipton pound. No more locks till Gargrave, but there’s plenty of swing bridges…

Locks 3, miles 4½

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