Friday, 21 April 2017

A New Canal - on the Aire and Calder

After a few days doing tourist things in Leeds, we are once more on the move, having moved down the River Aire to Woodlesford this morning.

Our journey down into Leeds was thankfully uneventful in terms of interference by delinquents.  We rose early and started cruising at about 7.45 a.m.  We had problems with the first swing bridge but the second at Rodley was opened for us by Dougie from Yorkshire Rose which accompanied us through the 13 locks to the centre of Leeds.

It was a bit chilly overnight on Monday as this photo shows.  This is not the first time we've had frost on the roof at Rodley.  There must be a microclimate around here.

Our mooring on Monday evening was delightful as this view looking back as we left shows.  Earlier, by the wood, we had seen a couple of Roe Deer.

After the swing bridges we came to the first of two triple lock staircases.  Both of these have lock keepers and here you can see Yorkshire Rose following us out of the bottom of Newlay Locks.

We had fine weather on Tuesday and here is the view as we came into the city.  The tall tower on the right is Bridgwater Place which has a reputation for concentrating any winds and blowing pedestrians off their feet.

 Leo in this picture is coming out of Office Lock and passing Granary Wharf.  You can moor here but we decided to go through the last lock on the Leeds and Liverpool called River Lock as below you join the River Aire through the city.

Here we are on the River Aire looking back to the Bridgwater Tower.  Yorkshire Rose is following us.

Just before Leeds Lock a right turn leads into what is now called Leeds Dock.  It used to be called Clarence Dock.  The visitor moorings are on the left but these were full of visiting cruisers.  We were lucky to be invited onto the residential moorings on the right by Haydon who was very welcoming.

Having reached Leeds on Tuesday afternoon we stayed until Friday morning.

In the new Trinity Shopping Centre is a metal sculpture of a horse made by  Andy Scott who also made the Kelpies near Falkirk in Scotland.  The  Trinity Horse stands on a very small plinth on top of a pole and dominates the new shopping centre.
On Wednesday we visited the Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley.  The best bit here was a guide who demonstrated the process of making woollen cloth from carding to finishing.  The photo shows the spinning machine which is one of 8 such machines in a single room.  It must have been deafening!  The museum is well worth a visit and if anything there is too much to see.

The owl is the symbol of Leeds and this splendid gilded owl is one of two on tall plnths outside the Civic Hall.

While in the big city we took in a show - Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Grand Theatre.  This was truly excellent - comedy, drama, music and slapstick.

On Thursday evening we went to the cinema to see 'A sense of an ending' which was also very good.  The Everyman Cinema Screen 5 is full of sofas, a new experience for us in visiting the cinema.

Today (Friday) we left Leeds and headed down the Aire to Woodlesford.  We had to stop here because the lock is presently out of action.  It looks as if it will be repaired tomorrow.

Here is Leo leaving Leeds Lock next to the Armouries.   This lock has a short lock of about 65 feet long but another set of gates downstream allows the lock to take much bigger craft.  The little lock was fine for Leo of course.

The next lock is Knostrop Flood Lock which was obliterated by the floods in 2015.  The navigation for boats now goes along the weir stream and then crosses into the lock cut going over what was a wall that separated the two channels until 2015.  The original navigation went where the orange buoys are in the picture.

Our plan for tomorrow is to visit Temple Newsam House which is just to the North of here before carrying on towards Castleford on Sunday provided the lock is then working.  Longer term we are trying to time our arrival at Keadby for the most suitable tides on the River Trent.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Nearly down to Leeds

We have been taking small steps towards Leeds each day.  The logic behind the slow progress is that we don't want to go through 'bandit country' around Kirkstall on a Bank Holiday when the delinquents are about.  So we have been spending the Easter Weekend on some really leisurely boating.

On Saturday morning we washed the winter grime off one side and the roof of the boat before setting off.  We reached the top of the Bingley Five Rise Locks for an early lunch while we waited to see if another boat would turn up to share with us.  None did, so we set off down on our own with the help of lock keepers Nick and Claire.

 The Five Rise is one of the wonders of the waterways with a staircase of 5 wide locks dropping a total of 60 feet down a steep hillside.  Left is the view looking down.  The tall black chimney is by the Three Rise which soon follows the Five.

And here is the view looking back from the bottom of the Five Rise.  A pretty impressive sight.  It took us just half an hour to get down.  Going up takes longer as the water flows can be intimidating.

Edward was the lock keeper at the Three Rise which again we went down on our own but there was a pair of boats waiting to come up when we got down.

The gates on these locks are enormous.  This is the view looking up from Leo's back deck as we went down in the Three Rise.  Just think what would happen if the gates failed!!  No, on second thoughts, don't think about it .

From the bottom of the Three Rise we went on just a short way and moored above Dowley Gap Locks right by the Fisherman's Inn.  Guess where we ate on Saturday evening.  The Fisherman's changed hands in 2016 and is much improved.  Excellent Saltaire Blonde to drink and the food was good too.

On Easter Sunday we set off down the Dowley Gap staircase of two locks.  These were the first locks we've done on our own this year as the Bingley Locks have lock keepers.

The gear for the ground paddles on these locks is unusual with a vertical screw pulling up a wooden paddle.  Here you can see Helen turning the handle to achieve this.

It is Easter and here is Helen about to unwrap an Easter Egg for the occasion.  Full of truffles and very nice.  Thanks to Aldi for this one.

After going down Dowley Gap we carried on to Saltaire and moored just below Hirst Lock.  We enjoyed a short walk through the village which is a World Heritage Site.  Titus Salt built houses for his workers and a huge mill for them to work in.  He was a great Victorian mill owner and philanthropist but he didn't approve of alcohol which was not allowed in the village.  It is now and one pub is called 'Don't tell Titus'.

We liked the stone lions outside the Victoria Hall.  The one above is licking his paw and this one looks very superior.  Living on a boat called Leo, we are always on the lookout for other lions.

This is Victoria Hall an example of the fine architecture in Saltaire.

Today we teamed up with Jane and Douggie on a boat called Yorkshire Rose and we have come down another 5 locks with them as well as sharing numerous swing bridges which are a feature of this canal.

Here is the view from Leo as we cruised through Saltaire passing Salt's Mill on the right and another mill on the left.

The climate in Saltaire must be getting more tropical with global warming.  This bed has palm trees above and tulips below.

As well as an endless collection of swing bridges, the run into Leeds is also notable for the number of staircase locks.  Here we are with Yorkshire Rose having just come down Field Locks which is a staircase of three locks.

And here you can see Yorkshire Rose following us out of the bottom of Dobson Locks which is a staircase of two deep locks.  We had plenty of spectators here as it is Bank Holiday Monday.

Tonight we are moored near Rodley well placed for an early start tomorrow morning to go down the rest of the locks into Leeds.  We have agreed to share with Yorkshire Rose again so this should be easier than it could have been on our own.

Friday, 14 April 2017

We're Off!

Well we've set off on our travels for the summer.

On Wednesday we took the food from home and then shopped at Aldi to finish stocking the boat.  We had lunch on board which made us feel we were home.
Here we having soup and Focacia bread that Ian baked on Monday.  We drove home and put the car away in the garage, taking the precaution of removing the battery and putting this in the house.  We've come back before and found the battery flat.

On Thursday we took the train via Leeds to Skipton and came back on board.  It took us quite a while to say our goodbyes to friends at Snaygill Boat Yard especially as we are not planning on mooring here next winter.  So we finally set off about 3 pm.

Here we are just before setting off.  Unfortunately the weather has turned a lot cloudier and colder than last weekend.

The first of oh so many swing bridges is at Bradley and here we are approaching this, passing a Snaygill hire boat.  The old mill at Bradley has been converted into flats.

By the next swing bridge is the Polish Air Memorial.  This commemorates 7 Polish airmen who lost their lives when a Wellington bomber crashed near here on 23 September 1943.

This is the delightfully named Milking Hill Swing Bridge and you can see Helen on the left pushing the bridge to open it.  So far, touch wood, we have only had a problem with one stiff swing bridge, but I am sure there will be more.

It is the season for young animals.  Here are some new lambs watching the boats go by and there were a lot of boats on Thursday.

Here is a family of Greylag geese.  There are five goslings on the slope down to the canal.  We think that Dad is the one further up the slope as he has brighter coloured legs and feet.

We moored last night by the church in Kildwick.  It was steak night at the White Lion and we could not resist.  At the next table were a couple on a hire boat but who were thinking seriously of buying a boat of their own.  So we showed them around Leo and they were suitably impressed.

Today we cruised on in drizzle and rain through Silsden and moored in Riddlesden.  It has not been a nice day.

The theme of young animals continues.  Here are some ducklings who were being harassed by the swan which exhibited its characteristic bad temper.

After lunch the sun came out for a while and we visited the National Trust property of East Riddlesden Hall.  The house was rebuilt in the 1640s on the site of a medieval hall.  It has some intriguing features including that the side that faces the road is the back of the house as originally visitors arrived by rowing boat up the River Aire.  This was in the days before the canal.

In the grounds is a tithe barn which is huge.  Supporting a stone roof across such a broad structure is an impressive achievement.

The gardens at the Hall are lovely,  and included these fritillaries.

Over the next few days we will be working our way down the locks to Leeds.  We are not going far each day as we want to make sure we do the long descent through Kirkstall after the Bank Holiday weekend.  This stretch has a reputation for drunkards and delinquents causing problems for boaters.  So our aim is to set off from Rodley (just before bandit country) early on Tuesday morning.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Cruising in 2017

It is the equinox today (though I thought that was the 21 March, tomorrow), so it is time to think about boating for 2017.  We have just a few jobs to finish off on Leo including a second coat of paint on the floor of the gas locker.  Last Tuesday I cleaned off the rust and painted a coat of Hammerite on the locker floor.  The hatch to the locker is only 12½ inches x 13½ inches.  My upper body now has some colourful bruises and I was unsure a couple of times whether I would ever get out again!

Here is Ian equipped with head torch to see what he is doing and a cunningly extended paintbrush to reach into distant dark corners of the gas locker.

 And here is a fairly undignified pose with Ian painting the second coat.  In fact preparing the surface was the worst part as he had to get right in the locker to scrape the rust off.  Still, a job worth doing.

So where are we going this year?  As part of our ambition to cruise all the connected waterways, we aim to cover three bits we've missed so far.  First is the Kyme Eau otherwise known as the Sleaford Navigation which leaves the River Witham between Lincoln and Boston.  We tried this in June 2015 but we were unable to get more than 200 yards due to the growth of weed.  Have a look at this post to see the problem:

We hope to visit this canal before the growth of weed gets too much.

The next target is the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union which was closed last time we passed its junction with the main line.

And finally, though we used to live nearby and have walked and cycled it many times, we've never taken Leo up the Basingstoke Canal.  So that is also on our list for this year.

And after that, who knows where we'll go, though our aim is to move our winter mooring from near Skipton to somewhere in the North Midlands.

We aim to leave on Leo around the middle of April and you will be able to monitor our progress as always on this blog.  We look forward to meeting some of our boating friends during the summer.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

842 Miles and 648 Locks!

Well that's the total for this year.  Not our highest total but by no means our lowest either.  We got back to our winter moorings near Skipton on Tuesday and I am typing this from our 'bricks and mortar' home.  The wind is howling outside and the pictures below help to confirm that now is the time to give up boating for this year.

After a mainly cloudy day on Monday we were greeted by this unusual sunset in the evening.  It looks as if there is a shadow of something large in the middle of the red bit.  It only lasted for about 5 minutes.

Tuesday was a grim looking day as this picture looking over Skipton shows.  Surprisingly it didn't rain much.  Last year we finished boating in torrential rain and we feared something similar but fortunately it didn't happen.

Only 5 swing bridges on Tuesday and this was one of the last of them.  A lady from a hire boat seen beyond the bridge held it open for us which was very nice of her.

And here we are coming past Snaygill Boats on the edge of Skipton.  Not far now.

So we are home but thoughts do turn to next year.  We had a vague idea this year of cruising the Basingstoke Canal but it was too far.  We know the Basingstoke well from cycling and walking when we lived down south, but we've never taken Leo up there.  I think that will be on the list for next year and we might try Kyme Eau off the River Witham on the way.  The heavy weed growth stopped us in 2015 (see when last we tried this but if we go there early in the year perhaps it will be OK.  And we've yet to do the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union so that will be on the list too.  So it looks like we are going south next year.  When the licence needs renewing at the end of this year we will have to decide whether to go for a Gold licence and venture out on the Nene and Great Ouse again too.

Lots to think about and plenty of time to do so.  Thanks for following the blog if you have been and we look forward to telling you of our travels next year.  Until then, and when the time comes, have a good Christmas and a Happy New Year.  This seems more appropriate having seen Christmas cards for sale in our local Post Office this morning.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Almost home again!

It is a bit of a miserable afternoon so I am updating the blog now instead of waiting until tomorrow when we should actually get back to Skipton and head home for the winter.  Last Wednesday morning we were moored just above Woodnook Lock on the River Calder.  We were preparing for the off when our friends Geoff and Sue on 'Rubbin Along' appeared.  We have been travelling with them since Marple so we thought it churlish not to join them in a last lock.

This view looking back shows Rubbin Along coming out of Woodnook lock after us.  Below this lock we joined the Calder once more for a last couple of miles down to Castleford where it meets the River Aire.

Here is Rubbin Along following us through the railway bridges on the way down to Castleford.

And here is the sad goodbye to Rubbin Along which lives near Goole.  Geoff and Sue are heading into the lock cut through Castleford whereas we turned left here up the River Aire towards Leeds.

The first lock about three miles up the Aire is at Lemonroyd.  This is a massive lock suitable for the large oil tankers that came up here until recently.  Here you can see a decapitated Helen watching the turmoil below the lock as it empties.  Leo was well back out of the waves!

This gives some idea of the huge size of Lemonroyd Lock.  Hundred of thousands of gallons of water just to lift little Leo up from the river.
 Above Lemonroyd Lock 'Sheaf' was moored and opted to join us in the locks towards Leeds.  She is an old 1930s cargo vessel 61 feet long and 15 feet 6 inches wide.  She seems much bigger than that.

Here we are in Fishponds Lock with Sheaf.  There is not space to get alongside her but we do fit one behind the other.

Knostrop Lock on the edge of Leeds was very badly damaged by the floods last Christmas and these diggers are dredging the weir stream.  There used to be a longish separate lock cut parallel with the weir stream but the wall between them has been swept away and boats now cross over into the old weir stream above the lock.

Following the floods they are also working on the weir in the centre of Leeds.

Leo in this picture is just coming into Leeds Lock which is alongside the weir shown just above.  This is the last lock before reaching the centre of Leeds.

Just above Leeds Lock we turned left into what used to be called Clarence Dock and is now called Leeds Dock.  There are visitor moorings here right by the Armouries.

And here is Sheaf coming in backwards.  There is apparently a lot of  flood debris near the entrance and Sheaf draws a lot more water than we do, so she was keeping the back end away from the debris by coming in backwards.

And here we are moored on the pontoon in Leeds Dock.

And here is Sheaf moored behind us and seen through our back doors.  This does give a good idea just how big she is compared with Leo.

We've never seen a boat called Helen before and this one was moored opposite us in Leeds Dock.

On Thursday we were up early and off our moorings by 8 am.  It is a long day up through the locks from the city on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the advice is not to moor until you get to at least Newlay and preferably Rodley, some 7 miles and 13 broad locks away.  Mooring before this leaves the boat open to vandalism.

From Leeds Dock it is about half a mile up the River Aire to River Lock where the Canal begins.  This is close to Leeds Station and above the lock is Granary Wharf where you can also moor if there is space (there was this time but we've found space very tight there before).  Below River Lock is a tiny landing to drop a crew member to work the lock.

We have heard of 'yarn bombing' before where knitted items are used to decorate street furniture.  But we've never seen this done to a narrowboat.  Some of the knitting was very colourful with fishes and other aquatic themes.

These towers above Granary Wharf are based on similar ones in Venice.

Here is a view looking back above Office Lock.  The tall building on the right is the notorious Bridgewater Place where autumnal winds blow pedestrians off their feet.

There are quite a few locks coming out of Leeds that are grouped together as staircases where the top gate of one lock is also the bottom gate of the next lock.  This is the first staircase called 'Oddy Two Locks'.

And here is a later one called, wait for it, 'Forge Three Locks'.

Another hallmark  of this part of the Leeds and Liverpool is an endless succession of swing bridges.  This one is called Moss Swing Bridge.  Some of them are hand operated and some are electrically powered.

Coming through Rodley this bunch of gnomes was waving to us.

It was nice to escape the city and moor with fields (and moors) around us again.  From Rodley we have really been taking our time doing just a few miles and a few locks each day.

Early on Friday morning this Leeds and Liverpool short boat passed us.  She is called Ribble and is taking a 32 ton load of sand from Leeds to Liverpool.  This is part of the celebration of 200 years since the canal was opened.

Through Apperley Bridge we came to Dobson Two locks, another staircase of very deep locks.  Just walking up the towpath beside the locks is tiring enough.

We moored on Friday above Field Three Locks with some horses in a field opposite.  Here is a spot of mutual grooming going on.

Saltaire is an impressive place with restored mills either side of the canal.  This time we walked through Roberts Park and found the Shipley Glen Tramway in the woods beyond.

The Tramway was built in 1895 and was part of a large tourist attraction in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century with two fairgrounds, an aerial ropeway, a toboggan ride and tea rooms up the top.  Time was when 100,000 visitors in a day was not unusual.  Only the Tramway remains, though there is still a tea shop and pub at the top.

Because it wasn't open when we arrived, we walked up beside the tramway and caught a lift down later after an early lunch at the tea rooms.  In the picture you can see Helen in the tramcar waiting to go down.

And here we are half way down passing the tramcar coming up.  The Tramway is cable driven and about a quarter of a mile long.  The maximum gradient is 1 in 7.

Back on the boat we carried on out of Saltaire and this shows Leo waiting below Dowley Gap - another staircase pair of locks.

Some of the locks around here have the new fad of CRT in the name of safety.  The pawl on the lock paddles cannot be swung out of the way, so it is difficult to drop the paddles quickly in an emergency.  Here you can see Helen using her chin to hold the pawl to turn the paddle down by hand.

On Saturday we moored above Dowley Gap and visited the Fisherman's Inn for a good evening meal.  On Sunday we tackled the Bingley Three Rise followed by the Five Rise, the most stupendous staircase on the canal system.

The Three Rise shown here lifts the boat about 30 feet in 3 locks.  Both the Three and the Five have lock keepers to help and manage the boats coming up and down.

And this is the Five Rise which lifts the boat 60 feet in five locks, that is 12 feet each!  The lock keeper was very careful with opening the paddles so that Leo was not thrown around too much, but it was still out with the paintbrush at the top to redo the gunwhales.

Here is a flavour of what it is like being on the boat down the cold dark hole that is a Bingley Lock.  This first of the Five Rise also had some fierce water spouts from the gates above leaking water.  Our front deck and front windows were pretty soaked when we got up the locks.

Today we cruised on from Bingley through many many swing bridges.  We came through 11 today on our way to Kildwick though to be fair we met other boats so did not have to work them all ourselves.  We are only about 3 miles (and 5 swing bridges) from our journey's end and we could have got there today.  However we know the White Lion at Kildwick does fine beer and lunches so we succumbed.

Here is the view from our mooring looking down to the River Aire below us.

To celebrate its 200 year anniversary some of the missing milestones on this canal have been replaced and this is one of the new ones right by where we are moored.

It is dull and rainy this afternoon and perhaps that is a sign that we should be bringing our boating season to an end.  If, as planned, we finish tomorrow this will be the latest we have cruised in our five summers on the waterways.  We will do a last posting soon with a summary of the year and with some thoughts about where we might go next year.