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.
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.
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!
They normally just stand on the bank looking disdainful…
A beautiful day to enjoy
I think we’ve seen more boats about today than any other recently. A lot were hire boats out of Silsden and Skipton
We used to book our autumn cruises for the weeks immediately after the kids returned to school, too.
The ubiquitous sheep…
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
Well kept canalside back gardens in Silsden
Out of Silsden and the cattle are keeping cool in the canal
Three retired Leeds and Liverpool short boats make for residential accommodation near Grange Swing Bridge
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