Saturday, September 29, 2012

A bit of a knock back…

I’ve been monitoring the EA website twice daily, keeping an eye on the Rivers Aire, Calder and Hebble, which are on our route to the Huddersfield Canals, Did I mention that that is our route back to the Midlands? We’ve used the Rochdale, Leeds and Liverpool and the Trent, so why not do something different? And if that something includes the most densely concentrated series of locks on the network, 42 in 8 miles between Huddersfield and Marsden, and the longest canal tunnel currently navigable (Standedge is 5686 yards, a little over 3 miles), it’s got to be worth a bash.

Anyway, back to the rivers. Although the Ouse is showing little sign of behaving itself in the near future “our” rivers are falling steadily. All the monitoring stations on our route are  now reporting levels in the typical range. But it seems the water has to be near the bottom of the “typical range” for safe navigation and therefore flood gates along the Aire and Calder and Calder and Hebble Canals remain closed. Our hopes of getting going today are dashed.

Worse is the outcome of a chat I had yesterday with a C&RT chap here at Selby. The water is still high at West Haddlesey, but even when it drops to a reasonable level we still may not be able to get back to Knottingley along the River Aire. The last lock before the town, up from the river at Bank Dole, will need sorting out. When the river rises to flood levels the lower gates are pushed open and then silt is deposited on the cill from the eddies in the lock entrance. This will have to be cleared before the gates can be closed and the lock made operational. And of course, it can’t be cleared till the river goes down to a safe level.

So it seems we’re stuck here at Selby till the middle of next week. Ah well, it could be worse. Spare a thought for those boats stranded through lack of water on the northern section of the Trent and Mersey. Following the major breach earlier in the week, the canal was closed from Middlewich northwards, a 16 mile pound to Dutton Stop Lock.
Engineers have now been able to restrict the stoppage to a shorter section, allowing access to Anderton and as far as Bartington Wharf, but it’ll be several months before boats will be using this stretch again. The newly formed Canal and River Trust (C&RT) have launched an appeal for financial help to pay for the repairs.

Had a bit of a mooch around Selby yesterday. It’s a pleasant enough town, although struggling a bit through loss of it’s industrial base.
The town was originally a Viking settlement, mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle as a Saxon settlement in 779. It’s position, halfway up the Ouse between the Humber Estuary and York, made it a useful stop-over, and the town steadily grew in importance. A major boost to the town’s fortunes came in the form of a French monk, Benedict of Auxerre, who turned up in the wake of the Norman Conquest.

From the Selby Abbey website -
“Benedict, a monk from Auxerre in France, experienced a vision by God where he was called by St Germain to start a new monastery at “Selebiae”. In his vision he was told the site would be marked by the presence of three swans. Benedict undertook a great journey from France to England but first took a wrong turn, confusing Salisbury with Selebiae.[easily done] He then ventured through King’s Lynn until finally resting…”  at the bend of the river Ouse at Selby. Three swans alighted the river at this point and three swans have been the Abby Arms ever since.”

Selby Abbey Church, West FrontSAM_3508 Abbey Church, Selby

Shortly after the foundation of the monastery, William the Conqueror was around here, trying to quell the rebellious northerners of his nearly acquired kingdom. His wife, Matilda, gave birth to a son in the town, later to become Henry I. The birthplace is reckoned to be under the carpark behind the library.
A bit of irony here. Henry I was born in a carpark in Selby in 1068. Richard III, 11 generations and over four hundred years later, was killed in battle by another Henry, the seventh, and his remains have just been discovered under a carpark in Leicester.  (Instead of putting “11 generations” I was trying to sort out the relationship, but gave up!)

The monastery grew in influence, as did the town, the river trade being the main source of income. Extensive wharves (staithes) were built to accommodate the boats and a thriving shipbuilding business.

SAM_3008 Old Wharf
Henry VIII put an end to the monastery’s power. In 1539, during the Dissolution, most of the buildings were torn down, the only survivor being the nave of the Abbey Church. This formed the basis of the reconstructed church the town enjoys today.

Washington_coat_of_arms.jpgThere is a transatlantic connection also. John Wessington, a 15th C Prior of Durham, made a bequest to the abbey. This is celebrated in the form of a stained glass window of the family’s Coat of Arms. The wealthy prior was an ancestor of George Washington, elected first President of the infant United States of America in 1788.
The stained glass window is believed to be the inspiration behind the Stars and Stripes, the national flag of the USA.

Washington family Coat of Arms


The market cross dates from 1790, and stands in front of the imposing church. It’s looking a little care-worn, though.

Maket square, market cross and Selby Abbey ChurchSAM_3509 Market Cross 1790

The town's fortunes took a bit of a dive when the new docks at Goole were opened, but then revived again with the opening of the Selby Canal, giving access to the burgeoning industrial towns and cities of West Yorkshire.

A lot of the rows of properties along Gowthorpe are Regency in style, dating from this period.

GowthorpeSAM_3507 Gowthorpe, Selby
Shipbuilding was a major employer, Cochrane and Sons building coasters and trawlers in the area alongside the canal and river until 1992. The road alongside is still called Shipyard Road.
The last ship built was launched in 1992 was the 3380 ton Forth Bridge. A tanker, this 100 metre long vessel is still going strong, currently knocking around the West African coast and called M T MATRIX I.
Another ship, the trawler Grampian Fame, was launched in 1957. Refitted and renamed Rainbow Warrior in 1978, she achieved another sort of fame when she was sunk in 1985 by French foreign security forces in Aukland, NZ to prevent her interfering with nuclear testing.
There’s a large apartment block where the yard once worked.

A boost to the area’s fortunes came in the development of the Selby coalfield in the early 1980’s. The 110 square mile deep coal mine known as the Selby Superpit was serviced by six pit-heads and employed up to 5,000 people. The coal was destined for the Aire Valley’s power stations. Problems with subsidence and water seepage led to earlier closure than planned, and the last load reached the surface in October 2004. 121 million tons of coal were extracted during it’s 20 year life. It was supposed to be viable for twice as long, producing 400 million tons.

The major employers now seem to be the power stations at Drax and Eggthorpe.

Locks 0, miles 0

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Going Down…

The Ouse peaked earlier this morning, rising to 5.1 metres above normal. The Fire Service has been hard at work all night, pumps running flat out to keep the water level in the York down. They’ve also been occupied further upstream at Boroughbridge. They’ve done a fine job. Here at Selby there were some concerns that the river may breach the defences, but in the end they were unfounded. It’s still pretty high, though.
I shot a video this morning at about 09:30, the river had dropped about a foot from the high tide mark by then. It’s quite a big file, so if you can’t stream it then just look at the stills below.
Here’s the movie… It starts looking upstream towards the Railway Swing Bridge, then pans round to the south.

In comparison, this was taken from the same spot on 8th SeptemberSAM_2992 Onto the Ouse

And today…SAM_3498 Selby Lock
Nice day, though.

I thought it looked a bit dodgy when the flood barrier above the top gates of the lock was rolled out yesterday afternoon.

Flood GateSAM_3504 Flood Gate at Selby Lock

Looking downstreamSAM_3501 Selby Lock

We’ve got the local coalman coming this afternoon, so I’ve got to sort out the roof a bit.

Locks 0, miles 0

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stuck at Selby

Thanks to everyone who’s called or commented to make sure we’re OK. It was a timely move out of York though, wasn’t it! If you haven’t already, take a look at the picture and video linked from yesterday’s comments from Sue and Mike and Maggie.
We were moored just 50 yards (and about 10 feet lower) from there!

It’s been raining here all day, but the forecast looks better for the rest of the week. Even so I reckon it’ll be a while before we can get onto the Aire at West Haddlesey. It’s overtopped the flood banks onto the fields down there. At Castleford it’s over a metre higher than normal and still rising.

Below the lock at Selby the Ouse is rattling alongSAM_3487 Ouse at Selby

I feel sorry for folk who haven’t the opportunity to move their homes, and can only sandbag their defences and hope for the best.

I wonder how much one of these is?SAM_3408
Dutton Commander 4x4

Around £30,000, I think.

Locks 0, miles 0.

Sooooo glad we moved!

Yesterday morning we were in two minds whether to head down to Selby on the afternoon ebb tide. The weather was appalling, windy with driving rain.
The forecast predicted the wind dropping in the afternoon and the rain easing, though. Instead of heading downstream we thought about spending another day at Naburn then heading back to York for a couple of days, before tackling the tideway on Thursday or Friday, when we would be able to go down first thing in the morning.

Around Naburn Locks yesterday morningSAM_3473 Naburn Locks

At this time the river level was where you’d expect, although the indicator board showing previous flood levels was unsettling!

The board is central in the picture above, just to the right of the window.SAM_3474 Naburn Locks
You can click to enlarge to read the dates. The highest was November 2000, about 5 feet above my feet when I took this picture.

Looking back across the locks, the camera level is the November 2000 flood level!
SAM_3476 Naburn Locks
That’s a lot of water!

The lock island used to be occupied by a water mill, long demolished, but the navigation workshops are still here. The machine shop on the end must have been powered from the outside either by water of steam.

Pulley and driven axle on the end of the machine shopSAM_3479 Naburn Locks
The axle runs through the building at high level, with pulleys along it’s length connected by flat belt to machinery on the shop floor. Engaging a clutch would have started the bit of kit when needed. The same principal was used to power the Lancashire cotton mills. Initially by water, then later by more reliable steam.

We had a discussion and decided to go, even though the weather was less than clement.

All on our own in Naburn LockSAM_3483 Naburn Locks
You can see the rain lashing down. The lock keeper is up on the right, next to the console. All tidal locks on the inland waterways are keeper operated.

Looking back at Naburn Locks and weirSAM_3484 Naburn Locks

From this point on the camera stayed under cover, my last two died on days similar to this… Maybe I should invest in an underwater one.

The rain eased a little as we passed the confluence with the River Wharf..SAM_3485 Wharf

For the first hour or so the water was fairly slack. The last bit of the flood tide was being balanced by the stream of the river.
Then the tide started to ebb and our speed started to increase. We had been told not to hang about.
We left the lock at 16:25, sunset was just before 7 o’clock and we had 15 miles to go.

It was a cold, wet, miserable trip down, the only highlights being the friendly and sympathetic wave from the bridge-keeper at Cawood Swing Bridge and a sighting of an otter crossing the river and climbing the bank. Sorry, no chance of a picture.

I‘d been warned about the speed of the flow under the two Selby bridges, but it was still a bit of a surprise as we shot through at maybe 10 mph. “Just line up in plenty of time and go for it” I’d been told. You don’t have any choice….
The lock-keeper was waiting for us waving from the entrance piling. I went past and turned back upstream creeping up along the bank, then turned in cleanly.  The lockie was pleased to see us; like me he was drip-wet through. He’d seen boats up and down regularly through the day, mostly between Selby and Goole. We’d only seen one other boat on our stretch of the river, heading up to Naburn.

We were just tying up in the basin when he went past in his car, heading for home and a bath and supper.

We’ve had a couple of phone calls this morning, Bob and Cath on NB Lyra wanted to make sure we were OK, they’re in Clarence Dock in Leeds, watching the River Aire steadily rising. And Arthur, who had visited us in York, rang for the same reason. He told me the river through the city is now above the flood bank where we were moored on Monday morning and a narrowboat just along the Museum Gardens has sunk when it’s mooring ropes pulled it over in the rising waters. The York Rowing Club had a webcam looking across the river, you can see how high the river is.

With the Aire at Castleford currently four feet above normal, I guess we’ll be on the Selby Canal for a while…

Locks 2, miles 15.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Short trip to Naburn

With only six miles or so to cover today we weren’t in any rush to get away. I took Meg for a walk then did a bit of grocery shopping, and it was gone ten by the time we were ready.
I was just stowing the TV aerial when Steve and his daughter Erin turned up. You remember they visited us yesterday afternoon? Erin had dragged Dad down to the river to see us off.

Bye Erin and Steve!SAM_3458 Steve and Erin

There were a few boats about from York City Rowing Club earlier, but they all seemed to have rowed off upstream by the time we cast off. We turned around to face downstream, under Lendal Bridge and past York’s waterfront.

Looking back at Lendal Bridge, Museum Gardens moorings through the archSAM_3460 Lendal Br

York WaterfrontSAM_3461 York Waterfront
SAM_3462 York Waterfront
SAM_3463 York Waterfront
We’ll definitely have to come back here; there’s so much more to see.

Near York Marine Services there’s an impressive houseboat built on a Humber Keel hull.

Plenty of room(s) in there!SAM_3466 Houseboat

Naburn Railway Bridge crosses the river between the village and the locks. It no longer carries a railway, the line between Selby and York having been closed in 1983.It now carries a cycle track.
SAM_3467 Naburn Rail Br
It was built in 1871 and was designed to swing to allow masted vessels passage, but hasn’t done so for many years. It’s an impressive example of the Victorian flare for combining functionality with style - in iron.
SAM_3468 Naburn Rail Br

Another ten minutes saw us pulling into Naburn Lock cut where we filled with water and emptied the loo tanks before reversing onto a mooring. I went in search of the lock-keeper and arranged penning-down onto the tidal Ouse for four o’clock tomorrow afternoon. The tide times aren’t very co-operative this week. We’ll still be at Selby by half six, though.
Hopefully we’ll be able to moor overnight in the basin.

Locks 0, miles 5¾

Saturday, September 22, 2012

York. Visitors, crowds and dragons!

We’ve been a little naughty. Strictly speaking we should have left York yesterday. But with so much going on we decided to stay put. The moorings here aren’t desperately busy, any boat that has turned up has got tied up, so I don’t feel too guilty.

Our first visitor was Mags’ son George, who came across from Ingleton and spent Thursday night with us. Also on Thursday we had Arthur and Wendy drop in, old friends from the Dales who now live near York and have a pub here. So on Thursday evening George and I went for a drink there. It’d have been rude not to…

Arthur and WendySAM_3372

Yesterday was Mags’ birthday, I’m not telling you how many she’s had now, but there was no way I could get that many candles on the cake… so I compromised!

Happy Birthday, my love.SAM_3373

With us yesterday was Mags’ sister Dot and nephew Paul, who’d driven across from near Manchester. They arrived after George had left, but in between we had another visit from Arthur and Wendy, bringing Mags flowers and a tub of plants.

With all this going on I hadn’t time to get up into the city to look around; the best I’ve managed is a walk around the Museum Gardens, alongside the moorings.

The Multi-angular Tower, part of the City walls.SAM_3376
And from the inside.SAM_3378
In the area around the Yorkshire Museum there are several buildings and bits of the old fortifications.
St. Mary’s AbbeySAM_3382

A lot of the carved stonework has finished up edging the gardens.SAM_3377

The remains of St Leonard’s HospitalSAM_3379

We’d planned to leave today, but the river came up nearly two feet yesterday afternoon and last night, as the rain that fell on Thursday filtered it’s way down from the moors into the tributaries of the Ure and Ouse. It was also running fairly fast, and this gave us an excuse to stay a bit longer.

York Rotary Club organises an annual Dragon Boat Race, usually in July. But this year the wet weather made the river unsafe for this kind of event so it postponed – till today.
After a cold night (almost a frost) the day has been beautiful, drawing the crowds to the riverside to watch the action. This is the first time we’ve seen this particular nautical activity, and it was certainly fun to watch.
The boats, equipment and steerers are hired in, and crews pay to enter, raising money for charity. Each boat will carry 16 paddlers and a beater to keep time.

The heats were three boats at a time, culminating in two finals for the fastest twelve crews.
Some of the more experienced crews could get a fair move on, but the first timers tended to do a lot of splashing about.SAM_3398

The river was quite busy during the 2 finals.SAM_3454
The six fastest crews all abreast as they head for the finish. It was a close run thing.

The boats weren’t the only attraction; all along the river banks were stalls selling all sorts for charity.
Above us the RAFA were setting up, and a gentleman wished me a good morning. Then we looked again and realised that we knew each other. We’d both worked for the same company, Alan at Leeds and me at Settle, but our paths had crossed on several occasions while working on projects. We had a good chat, and met his wife (another Margaret), when they joined us for a brew.

Arthur and Wendy popped in again on the way to do some shopping, then this evening his daughter, Anita, and family also dropped by to say hello.

Whew, what a couple of days. It’s a lot easier cruising! But it’s been great seeing everyone.

Off tomorrow, short hop downstream to Naburn, hopefully moored in time to watch the Singapore GP. Then down the tideway to Selby on Monday, if the tide times are reasonable.

Locks 0, miles 0

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Downhill all the way to York.

We cruised a fair distance easily today. With the wind and the current behind us we made excellent progress downriver. The two locks were in our favour too, and neither gave us any difficulty.

Leaving Boroughbridge mooringsSAM_3308 Boroughbridge
The moorings are on the left, opposite is the sanitary station, where the wide-beam and the cruiser are moored. Neither are using the facilities, in fact the wide-beam was there when we arrived yesterday and the cruiser turned up late afternoon. If another boat wanted to fill with water or empty a loo tank they’d be stuffed.
The visitor moorings are on a narrow track, a bit muddy and frequented by dog walkers.  On the other side there’s a bit of tidy grass, flagged paths and a car park. I guess that’s why they choose to be inconsiderate and selfish. They’re not alone; the same thing happened when we were on the way upstream.

Milby Lock gave us some problems on the way up, today it was a doddle. Full when we arrived, and it emptied completely so I could open the lower gates.

Milby LockSAM_3311 Milby Lock
There’s still an awful lot of water coming over the cill, though.

Last night stayed dry, and it was bright and sunny this morning, although that wind has steadily increased as the day wore on. I checked the river level last night and again this morning; it had dropped several inches overnight.

We decided to push on all the way to York. Linton Lock is about half-way, but it was such a fine day and we were making good time. Anyway, there may be showers around tomorrow…

Looking back at Swale Nab, where the River Swale joins from the rightSAM_3313 Swale Nab

That capsized narrowboat is still lying against the bank near Lower Dunsforth.

Flood casualtySAM_3321

The IBCs which will hopefully float it off during the next bout of high water can clearly be seen..
I just hope it’s well secured. If it does lift clear of the bottom the next stop will be Linton weir!

We weren’t buzzed by trainee pilots from RAF Linton today, only two prop aircraft in formation in the distance. The water was equally quiet; one cruiser and one canoe till we reached York.

Man and DogSAM_3345 man and Dog

The skies weren’t deserted though, I tried in vain to catch a picture of one of several cormorants that took off ahead of us, and in several places swifts were diving on the water, stocking up on insects before their 5000 mile flight to winter in Africa.
Then there were groups of mallards, taking fright and flight as we approached. Not like the ones you’ll find at popular canal moorings…

Aldwark has two bridges, a footbridge and the clattery Toll Bridge.

Aldwark Toll BridgeSAM_3338 Aldwark Toll Bridge
The noise when a vehicle goes over is due to the construction of the road bed. Hardwood timbers are laid loose in a steel frame.SAM_3337 Aldwark Toll Bridge

I didn’t spot this sign on the way up… no guesswork this time, we’ve just moved back onto the Ouse!SAM_3342

I nearly went wrong at Linton, misreading the sign at the entrance to the lock cut.
SAM_3348 Linton
Now to my mind, that tells me I need to go a little further, around a left bend keeping left. Wrong. In fact the sign is positioned on the end of the lock island, just where you need to turn left. They’d have been better off using some of those black and white chevron signs you see on road traffic islands.

Zooming out, the cut goes left just before the wide-beam with the sign on the front deckSAM_3348 Linton
The home-made sign that says ”<-LOCK” I guess we’re not the first to almost make that mistake.

Linton Lock has unusual wind-up paddle gear on the lower gates….SAM_3349 Linton Lock  
… only the paddles are called clouts around here!SAM_3350 Linton Lock

Mags waiting for me to close up and join her after leaving the lock.SAM_3354 Linton Lock
Note the landing under water. The river is higher here than upstream, due to the tributaries feeding in.

Clouds started to roll in from the west after lunch, and the day got noticeably cooler as the wind picked up.

Left turn at Nun Monkton Pool where the River Nidd comes inSAM_3357 Nun Monkton Pool

The Sand Martins have already left for warmer climes….SAM_3362 Sand Martin Holes

… you can’t blame them with this rolling in.SAM_3363 Grey Clouds

The river got a little busier nearer the city, the rowing school was out and about, and trip boats were tripping.

A few more boats of varying sizesSAM_3367 Rowers, Trip boat and wheel

We moored between Scarborough Bridge and Lendal Bridge, alongside Museum Gardens.

Moored in YorkSAM_3371 Moored in York

The threatening clouds didn’t amount to anything, just a few spots as we tied up. We’ll have a couple of days here before moving down to Naburn Locks and the tidal Ouse.

Locks 2, miles 19