We moved back up to Gargrave towards the end of last week, for the first of what turned out to be thee visits to the doctor’s. Mags' BP was a bit high, but that wasn’t too much of a concern since she tends to suffer from “white coat syndrome”. But the issue was a low potassium count in her blood, which could leave her vulnerable to heart problems.
An intensive diet of bananas and green leafy veggies soon got it back up, but it took another two trips to the surgery to convince her doctor that we could manage it. She (the doctor) is very cautious, bearing in mind the fact that we can’t get back so easily once we up anchor. But we got the all clear yesterday, so slipped the ropes and dropped down two locks out of Gargrave, mooring up next to Eshton Beck Aqueduct.
Being stuck in Gargrave for several days isn’t a chore, although the butcher is now gone the Co-op is tolerably well stocked and there’s a chippy on the High Street.
The earliest record of a settlement here is Iron Age, The Brigante tribe making use of the fertile Aire Valley. They were also a thorn in the side of the Roman invaders when they first arrived, but soon came to an harmonious agreement, supplying produce to the troops. There’s the foundations of a sizeable villa behind the church, and a paved ford, still intact, crosses the river just below the road bridge.
Roman Ford, Gargrave
The existence of this crossing was unknown until the river bed was cleared of accumulated muck and debris in 1967, although it’s position could have been assumed by the siting of the villa on the south side and the Roman Military Road running between Verbeia (Ilkley) and Ribchester (Bremetenacum Veteranorum). A fort at Elslack, 3 miles south of Gargrave, protected the route.
Apart from the bridge and the ford there are two more crossings, stepping stones only passable if the river level is normal.
Sunny but the river was up a bit a week last Thursday
Meg didn’t mind, but I was wearing trainers, so we didn’t cross that day.
Drier but dull yesterday.
Gargrave used to have two or three woolen mills, now either converted or demolished. Although I can find no reference to confirm, I wonder if the short water-filled ditch above the river on High Green is the remains of a mill leet?
As I said, we dropped down from the main village moorings yesterday morning, through Higherland and Eshton Road Locks, stopping at Fred Green’s coal yard for some solid fuel.
Bags of fuel arriving below Eshton Road Lock.
Where we loaded was alongside the canal warehouse, the old coal wharf is actually just a few yards further on but is now part of the caravan site. Here coal was unloaded to be carried by cart up to the lead mines on Grassington Moor. Production from the mines was reloaded for shipping east and west.
Coming in to moor near Eshton Beck Aqueduct on a gloomy, damp afternoon.
This morning we waited till 10 o’clock, hoping to be able to share Holme Bridge Lock and the work of the swing bridges to Skipton. A Silsden hire-boat went past at half-nine, then a fat boat from the same base at a quarter-to. But our wait paid off in the form of another hirer just after the hour.
Leaving the lock we had a chat about leap-frogging the bridges, they would do the first after I closed up the lock, then we would do the second and so on. It all went pear-shaped when we caught up with the fat boat.
They kept the first bridge open for us, so there were now three of us in convoy. And fatty was very slow…
The second bridge was opened by our lock companions and then we were on our way to Niffany Bridge, now in the lead. A boat leaving the offside moorings here took us through the bridge, but we pulled in to operate it for our fellow travellers. With the bridge closed again (it accesses a farm so there is the odd vehicle wanting to cross) I waited for them to come around the corner so I could open it again. And waited. And waited...
Finally, after about 15 minutes, they appeared. The chap steering the narrowboat, now tail-end-charlie, was pulling his hair out!
It wasn’t far to the next and last bridge, alongside the park on the edge of Skipton. They had this open for both the “narrers”, but then closed up and waited on the bridge moorings for the chap from Silsden Boats to have a look at the malfunctioning central heating.
We were moored and enjoying a brew by the time they came past, heading off through the town.
We’ll be here for the weekend, visitors tomorrow and then a trip to the bank and shopping on Monday before we carry on.
Instead of going over the top and back down to Wigan, we’re heading back to Leeds and going south from there. Unless the river floods again like last year…
We’d have had to get a shift on to beat winter maintenance stoppages at Wigan, going this way, so long as we’re in Leeds by the end of the month, we’ve got a pretty clear run back to the Midlands.
It’s good to be on the move again.
Since the last post – Locks 6, miles 10