Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A nip in the air….

I guess autumn is close on the horizon now. They’ve been drifts of leaves on the surface of the canal as we travelled today, and the trees are starting to turn red and gold.

Mags' cold is much better now, so we decided to move out of Gargrave, into the country for a few days.

We intended to move on Monday, and reversed to the service block above Higherland Lock to fill and empty before we left, but the rain came on and I didn’t want Mags out in the weather going up the locks out of the village. So we postponed the trip. Yesterday was quite breezy, so we held off till today.

We got away around 10:00 and met a boat coming down Anchor Lock so that was a good start to the day. The remaining 2 locks of the Gargrave flight were against us, but we were at the bottom of the Bank Newton 6 around 11:00.

In Scarland Lock

Above Stegneck Lock the River Aire is crossed on a stone aqueduct.

Over the River Aire
It’s hard to credit that not too far south the same river carries the 450 ton tankers that we encountered earlier in the month.

Filling with water before going up the 6 locks at Bank Newton.
This is a very pretty flight of locks, lifting the canal 58 feet to the long pound between here and Greenberfield.

In Bank Newton Locks
There was no-one else in the flight, so we had the exclusive help of Edward, the lock-keeper looking after the flight today. He’s having a boat built at Castleford, and we spent the time while waiting for the locks to fill chatting about things nautical.

Bank Newton Top Lock, Edward on the left.
Above Bank Newton is a 4½ mile level pound which I reckon is the best on the canal. The channel twists and turns, following the 450 foot contour around the dips and ridges in the terrain. It must have been a nightmare to survey the route!
The 2¼ miles by water to East Marton is actually only 1¼ as the crow flies.

We pulled over on a spot we’ve used before, with open views through the windows and a good, wide grassy towpath. We’ll stay here till the weekend now, before heading back to Gargrave.

Open country

It’s still been breezy today, and we’ve had the odd drizzly shower, but it’s not been too bad. The forecast tells us it’s going to get a bit cooler over the next couple of days.

Locks 9, miles 2½

Friday, September 25, 2009

Still at Gargrave

Well, we’ve been really idle these last few days. I finished my preparation for the Great North Run and collected the hire car from Enterprise over at Keighley, then relaxed.

Mags went down with a really bad cold towards the weekend, so I had a solo trip up to South Shields and Newcastle on Sunday. She wasn’t fit to be standing around all day watching a bunch of loonies running 13.1 miles.

And I’m beginning to think I must be one of the loonies, to continue doing these daft things. Apart from my first race of the year at Liverpool in March, I’ve performed considerably below par this season. The GNR was no exception; starting well but I ran out of steam around 10 miles and finally staggered across the line in a time of just under 01:52. That’s nearly 12 minutes longer than my PB for the distance!

Needless to say I was disappointed and frustrated on the way home. As some of my end of term reports used to say – “Must try harder!”

We’d kept the car for another couple of days, to take Mags across to Bentham for an appointment at the surgery. Every year we come back up for her annual check-up, which takes 2 visits. The first is with the Practice Nurse, to take blood etc, then she has a review with the Doc to discuss the results. This year there was some confusion about dates which we’d resolved early in month, or so we’d thought!

On arrival at the surgery she found that both appointments had been cancelled, without notifying us. Then new appointments had to be scheduled, and slots weren’t available till November!

This is the 3rd time they’ve managed to make a cock-up with Mags’ check-ups, we arrived up here 2 years ago to find that they’d put back the appointments by 2 weeks, then earlier this year they failed to set a date for a visit to the Doc.
I was pretty tee’d off, we could have saved a couple of days car rental if they’d let us know.

But instead of losing my temper, I took Meg for a good walk up to Malham Cove.

Approaching Malham Cove along the Tarn.
The vertical limestone face at the back of the Cove

It's a long way up, Dad!

And a long way down...
View from the top.

I felt much better after blowing off steam up the steps to the top.

Malham Village.
This was only my 3rd visit, would you believe. The first was way back when I was around 11, on a field trip from school. We stayed at the Field Centre at Malham Tarn House in bunkrooms, and it was my first sight of what the Dales has to offer.
The second visit was 32 years ago, when a friend and I walked the Pennine Way. The path goes up the side of the cove, and I remember it was hard work with 45lb rucksacks! I spent my 21st birthday a couple of days later at Middleton in Teesdale.

I don’t think it’ll be so long, next time.

Mag’s cold has steadily got better, though she’s still coughing and spluttering occasionally. We going to hang on here in Gargrave till it’s clear. I don’t want to risk a relapse by having her on the tiller as we head up through the locks out of the village.
She’s been on the phone and managed to get the November appointments moved forward to October, so we’re going to stay on the L&L now for the next month. All being well we’ll head off into the country early next week for a few days. There’re some lovely moorings out in the wilds we’ve used before above Greenberfield Locks.

So, like us, the blog won’t be very active for a while. I’ll post if I’ve something to say.

Oh, and a final reminder. The sponsorship webpage I’ve open to raise money for Cancer Research will remain active till December…..

Locks 0, miles 0.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On our own again at Gargrave

Sunday and Monday we completed our trip to Gargrave. The weather has turned a lot cooler, I arranged a delivery of fuel from Fred Green, the local coal merchant, today, and some of it is burning merrily on the stove now. Mags didn’t ask me to light it, but wearing a woolly hat, socks and gloves was a broad hint….

We arrived at Skipton on Sunday afternoon after a short cruise up from Kildwick. A few more boats about than we’ve seen recently.

Kildwick is a pleasant spot, clinging to the hillside above the Aire valley.

The canal through Kildwick

View of the Aire valley.
The locals made Neil and Val welcome at The White Lion where they went to watch a football match.

No locks up to Skipton, but half a dozen swing bridges kept Meg and I on the towpath for a while.

Milking Hill Swing Bridge, day boat from Skipton approaching.
At Hambleton Swing Bridge there’s a memorial to 7 Polish airmen who died in an air crash near here almost 65 years ago.

The aircraft was a Wellington bomber, returning to Silloth in Cumbria after a training flight. Witnesses at the time told of a catastrophic failure, the left wing and engine coming away from the fuselage.

The memorial was unveiled in 2007 by the widow of one of the young men who died. At the time of the tragedy they’d been married just 3 weeks.

One more swing bridge at Snaygill is the last before Skipton is entered. As usual the town moorings were busy. This is a very popular spot, Skipton has just about everything going for it. Good shopping, an excellent market, historic castle and extensive moorings for boaters.

We secured a spot around the corner, alongside Victoria Mill (now flats) above the Ellerbeck Aqueduct.

Moored in Skipton
Our friends Val and Johnny from Ingleton came over to say hi, bringing with them the latest addition to the family.

Harry is a 7 month old wire haired dachsund. A bit timid at first, he soon enjoyed himself playing with Meg. He’s a little darling, very much a people dog.

We shared a heap of fish and chips from Bizzie Lizzie’s, the very good chippie in the town.

After a quiet night we were off on the last leg of our trip from Sheffield. It was a lot busier on the water, with quite a few hire boats out of Silsden knocking about.

We were straight into a group of 3 swing bridges, and leapfrogged with a hire boat at each one. Other boats coming the other way complicated the procedure, though.

Busy at Niffany Swing Bridge.Which reminds me... I can put the anchor away again, now.

Once again I took advantage of Neil’s attachment to the tiller and walked most of the way with Meg, preparing the bridges for what was now turning into a convoy!

Several boats at once through Highgate Swing Bridge.
Open country at Thorlby Swing Bridge.
With this many boats about we had an inevitable wait at the 3 locks heading up to the Gargrave moorings, but still arrived at around 14:30, and were lucky enough to get on the end of the 3 day moorings.

We’ll be staying in the area for the next couple of weeks; Mags has her annual “MOT” at the Doc’s in Bentham, and I’ve arranged for a hire car to get to South Shields on Sunday for the Great North Run. Talking of which…. All those of you out there who thought about sponsoring me for this race in aid of Cancer Research UK, now’s the time to put intention in action, OK? Just click on the link on the right….
All donations gratefully received.

Mags’ son George and his wife Christine who is also our Postmistress General came over to see us in the afternoon. They’re a daft pair.

Titanic impressions on Seyella’s bow.

Chris doesn’t look too happy….
Then yesterday Mags’ grandaughter, Nicki and husband Arthur came over to collect our crew and travelling companions of the last 8 days. They’ve really enjoyed the trip, and it’s been great having them. They’ll be flying back home to Canada at the weekend.

Val, Neil, Mags, Nicki and Arthur.
It’s been a bit quiet today, getting back into the routine again. I’ve even had to steer the boat myself 50 yards back to the lock to pick up the coal delivery and use the “facilities”! We’ve moved a bit further along now, away from the lock.

Locks 3, miles 9½

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On the edge of the Dales.

A bit of a catch up post, this. We’ve had a couple of long days, and I lost the urge to spend a couple of hours in front of my laptop in such fine weather.

Since Wednesday, we’ve been making good progress, heading up to Gargrave.

On Thursday we swapped the wide open spaces of the River Aire for the more restricted waters of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

The river at Knostrop Falls

Into Leeds

Contrast of architectural styles and sizes.
Onto the L&L and the windlass comes into use again.

Unusual gear, a capstan for the ground paddles, and a rack and pinion for swinging gate paddles.

River Lock top gates.
The built up section of Leeds City Centre is soon left behind as the canal climbs up a series of locks, singles, and double and triple staircases.

Double staircase at Oddys.

Looking back at the city from Spring Gardens.
Forge 3 Locks – Meg sitting on the path waiting.
Finally Newlay 3 Locks lifts the canal the final 27’ of the 87’ climb up from the river.

Cooling the feet on another hot day.
We pulled over at Apperley Bridge for the night, after filling the diesel tank and getting a few bits and pieces at the marina.

Neil and Val at Apperley Bridge.
We had a later start than usual on Friday; before we left I had to replace the bilge pump. The bilge is always dry, any odd drips that come through the stern tube seal (where the propshaft goes through the hull) are caught in a plastic tupperware dish and tipped over the side as needed. So when the manual overide switch was accidently flicked on, the pump went into meltdown. A bilge pump is not something you want to do without on a boat.

That done we were off, joined by NB Kestrel who had moored behind us for the night.
The first locks of the day were Dobsons, a 2 rise staircase. As we arrived there was a boat waiting to come down, and we were able to practice the “Bunbury Shuffle”, crossing over the 3 boats in the middle of the locks.

Bunbury Dobsons Shuffle
We filled with water at the top of the locks, but with an extremely low pressure it took over an hour, and our locking companions had long gone.
So we were solo through the next triple staircase, at Field 3 Locks.
The gates here are very leaky!

Boat wash at Field Locks.
The swing bridges that the L&L is notorious for now come thick and fast. Some connect industrial units to main roads on opposite side of the canal, while others are out in the country and carry farm tracks or footpaths.

Rural setting at Buck Hill Swing Bridge.
Saltaire, with it’s mills overlooking the canal is a useful stop off for supplies. There are handy offside moorings near Bridge 207b, and the market square and a handy Asda are just 5 minutes up the hill.

Through Saltaire
We stopped just after ascending the 2 rise at Dowly Gap. It seemed to have been a long day, but we were now just 20 minutes from Bingley, and the 2 staircase locks that complete the climb out of Leeds.

Dowley Gap 2 Locks
We got a better start this morning, and were at the bottom of the 3 rise at 09:40.

Bingley 3 rise, in the shadow of the Damart Mill.

In the locks.

The first 3 lift the canal 30’, then there’s a short gap before hitting the 5 rise, to go up another 60’.
Every canal has it’s signature landmark. On the Llangollen it’s the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, on the Leeds and Liverpool it’s the Bingley 5 Rise.

Bingley 5 Rise

Especially at the weekend it’s a gongoozlers paradise. The lock keepers who control boat movements up and down both sets of locks must have the patience of Job and nerves of steel. Not only do they have to chaperone crews, many of whom have never seen a lock before, up and down, but they also have to keep an eye out for pedestrians straying too near the deep locks chambers, answering questions from curious tourists, and calming irritated boaters after telling them it’ll be a while because there’s a queue.
Still, on a day like today, I suppose there’s worse jobs….

Out at the top after just an hour and 40 minutes, and we’re on the long 17 mile pound to Gargrave. No more locks for a bit, but plenty of swing bridges still to come.

Black swan above the locks.
And a heron, stalking.

Leaving Bingley the canal hangs on the hillside an the NW flank of the Aire valley.

Looking over the Aire
Although Keighley and it’s suburb is not far away, most of the canal runs through open country. And splendid country it is too.

Cruising near Silsden.
On holiday or what?

Those swing bridges still punctuate the trip….

Cowling Swing Bridge

But not all have to be opened, or in fact close any more!

Woodside Swing Bridge
We pulled in just before Kildwick, after a very enjoyable day. I’m glad we got through Bingley early though. The queues would have been pretty long by lunchtime, the number of boats we’ve seen today.

Locks 32, miles 28. (In 3 days)