Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Back in Leeds

So after spending a couple of months on the Leeds Liverpool canal around Skipton and catching up with my recently single brother I'm on the move again.  Spent the last few days retracing my steps back down the L&L to Leeds where I arrived today. I'be already covered this route in my earlier entries so not a lot to add.  Skipton is still a lovely market town with a good range of shops and reasonable transport links, although sadly the bus service to Harrogate no longer runs as it was not cost effective.
Skipton Basin

Waiting to decent the famous Bingley 5 rise staircase lock

I was puzzled for a while by the offset white mark on the bridges along the L&L.  The penny finally dropped and I realised that, as the bridge includes the towpath, the centre of the arch is not actually the centre of the canal and it is this that the mark indicates. No doubt a useful navigation aid for the wider boats for which the L&L was designed. 

My cruising plan for the next month is to make my way back to the midlands via the river Trent.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Leeds to Skipton

After spending a week in Leeds it was time to move on and along the Leeds Liverpool canal to the countryside.  The first leg of the journey passes through 12 locks over 10 miles as the canal climbs out of Leeds through Armley and Kirkstall.  These are not the best areas and boaters are advised to reach Rodley before stopping overnight.   As it was a long leg I collared Dave on his day off to come and help.  We left his car at Apperley Bridge, a few miles beyond Rodley and caught the train back to Leeds to get the boat. Thankfully the weather was dry and even reasonably warm given the poor start to August and we spent a pleasant day cruising up to Apperley Bridge.

The first of many small staircases

Moored above Apperley Bridge locks 

After spending a couple of wet days at Apperley Bridge I moved on through Shipley to Saltaire - the town famously built by Titus Salt to house the workforce of his large mills.

Salt Mills - Saltaire
Just beyond the mills the canal returns to tree lined countryside and offers a quiet mooring spot.

Today I faced the famous Bingley 5 rise locks, and the less well known 3 rise which bring the canal up onto the valley side where it then meanders along the contour line for around 14 miles to Skipton. While the locks are manned and therefore easier, the stretch from Bingley to Skipton has 16 swing bridges each of which needs to be opened to let the boat through and then closed afterwards. Remembering this from my last trip over the L&L I decided to once again enlist Dave's help along with an old friend of ours Piet van Anraad.  Unfortunately Piet is disabled following a fall and it seemed only fair to let Dave steer so yours truly ended up operating the locks and swing bridges.  Still a very good trip which would have taken me two days on my own and involved a fair amount of acrobatics as most of the bridges operate from the non-towpath side which makes operating them single handed quite tricky.
Approaching Bingley 5 Rise

Almost there Lock 4 of 5  think

View from one of the many swing bridges

And finally moored up in Skipton where we retired to Bizzie Lizzie's for a well earned plate of fish and chips

Friday, 4 August 2017

South Yorkshire Navigations

Having made it up the Trent I was pleased to be back on flat water above Keadby lock at the start of the South Yorkshire Navigations. My route over the next few days took a gentle zig zag along the Keadby canal then up the New junction canal to join the Aire and Calder navigation.  From there it is a fairly straight run through Ferry Bridge to Castleford.  The waterways split at Castleford with the Aire and Calder continuing Northwest to Leeds where it joins the Leeds Liverpool canal which forms the most northerly cross pennine route.  The Calder and Hebble heads navigation Southwest past Wakefield to join the Rochdale and Huddersfield Canals which offer the two alternative cross pennine routes to Manchester.

It is immediately apparent  that these waterways are designed not for narrow boats but much larger, masted vessels carrying cargo from the busy docks at Hull to and from the industrial centres.  Gone are the tiny hump back bridges that I often have to duck under and instead are sing bridges or large lift bridges like the one below.

Hydraulic Lift Bridge

The navigations are generally wider than the canals and are largely navigable rivers which have been "canalised" by the addition of locks and weirs to control water levels.

Ferry Bridge

This a typical Barge from Aire and Calder.  Much wider and longer than my narrow boat and the large cream area ahead of the small cabin would originally have been an open hold designed to carry bulk loads such as coal, gravel or grain. Now converted to a substantial home.

After all that wide open countryside the canal side warehouses reappear as we approach Leeds.  I'm pleased to see that rather than being knocked down many of these have been given a new lease of life as flats or offices.

On reaching Leeds I went through the first lock of the Leeds Liverpool canal to moor up in the basin at Granary Wharf behind the railway station which has been my wet and windy home for the past week.  Tomorrow I plan to move up the L&L to Apperley bridge on my way to Skipton. 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

River Trent Day 2

What a difference a day makes.  After spending a pleasant few hours cruising down the tidal Trent to Torksey I stopped overnight before completing the longer leg to Keadby.  As I woke to grey skies, strong winds and drizzle I knew a cold damp day lay ahead.  Setting off at 9:00 the wind was in my face an the tide was still rising so progress was slow for the first hour.  After about an hour I noticed the tide had turned and was now slowly ebbing allowing me to reach a dizzy 6 mph over ground.

There is little to see on this stretch as it largely meanders through open country.  The only large town on route is Gainsborough which retains many of it's large quays designed for much larger vessels that use to carry cargo here from Hull. 

The strong wind was blowing agains the ebbing river causing a 2 ft swell with small breaking waves. Not conditions the boat is designed for but she pushed through them with ease.  After a further 3 hrs of cold dull grey drizzle the M180 bridge appeared which meant that Keadby was only 3 miles away.

I have only made the turn into Keadby once before and was very chuffed to have managed it with out any problems.  It is quite tricky as you are trying to turn into a narrow lock entrance while the river tide is ebbing at around 3 mph.  This means you need to approach from downstream and gently ease across the current which lessens as you approach the entrance.  There are also some strange eddies caused my shallow mudbanks which build up around the entrance.   This a video of me doing it properly last time.  It's quite tricky balancing power and rudder against the tide and wind.  This time I got it wrong and hit the wall beneath the lock sign head on at around the 15 sec point in this clip.  No damage to the boat but the sudden stop was enough to eject some crockery and glassware from their cupboard.  Nothing a dustpan and brush couldn't tidy. 


Having put the big river behind me I'm now safely on the South Yorkshire Navigations.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The River Trent

Having joined the river Trent at Trent lock the navigation quickly leaves the main river and makes it way through Nottingham via the Nottingham and Beeston canal.   Thankfully some of the original warehouses have been retained and offer a glimpse of what my working predecessors might have seen as they arrived to deliver and collect goods from the wharfs. 

After meandering through the city the canal rejoins the mighty Trent at opposite the famous Trent Bridge cricket ground. Within a square mile are also the two football clubs, Notts City and County.  Just upstream is the City Hall with a splendid view over the river.

On the main river the locks become much larger and are operated by full time lock keepers who are contactable via VHF radio which makes the passage so much easier.  Almost like having a butler as one simply calls up on the radio and they will have the lock ready for your arrival.

The trip from Nottingham to Newark can be done in day but  took a leisurely two days stopping overnight at Gunthorp lock where I was treated to a beautiful sunset.

The approach to Newark is dominated by the remains of the riverside castle.  On the right is a splendid river boat, Sonning, offering trips up the river.

Newark is a welcome stop as it has good shopping facilities yet retains much of it's old market town charm.  The market dates fro m12C and was granted a Royal charter by king Edward VI in 1549. 
Beyond Newark the river broadens and only 5 miles north of  Newark reaches Cromwell lock beyond which the river is tidal.  It's always a little unnerving to realise that  after passing through this lock you are directly connected to the North Sea via the Humber estuary.  Unless I miss a turning I shan't be travelling that far.

Only a few miles onto the tidal reach one is reminded that much larger vessels operate on the river at  Besthorpe wharf where 600 ton barges can be loaded with gravel.

Today I traversed the first 16 miles of the trip stopping at Torksey lock overnight to await the morning tide to carry me on to Keadby.  The river is similar to a motorway in that it allows you to travel quicker but does not offer a great deal of scenery along it's route.

Tomorrow morning I'll head up the last 26 miles to rejoin the canal network on the South Yorkshire navigations at Keadby.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Milton Keynes to Nottingham

My week stop over in Milton Keynes had a couple of highlights.  Firstly watching three young Kestrels fledge succesfully from their nest and make their way in the world less than a mile from the city centre. 

And secondly a flying visit from my brother who popped in last weekend.  Always good to catch up with family.  Enjoying an evening watching the kestrels.

After Dave left I continued my journey northward. The first days took me through familiar waters via Stoke Bruerne and Buckby then onto the Leicester arm of the GU.  Shortly after joining the Leicester arm the canal climbs the 7 lock Watford flight as it shares the famous Watford Gap with a Roman road (A5) the M1and the west coast mainline - all of which make use of the gap in the surrounding hills.

After a 17 mile meander along the summit pound the canal reaches the stunning Foxton flight of 10 locks made top of 2 staircases of 5.  Sitting in the top lock you do feel you are on top of the world.

Once down the flight, courtesy of a team of volunteer lock keepers, the canal heads toward Leicester through a series of 24 barley maintained locks.  This is not one of my favourite canals as the locks are hard work and reaching Leicester is not really a highlight as there are only a few safe mooring spots as the city sadly has a bad reputation of boats being broken into for petty theft.

After a night on the secure moorings I made an early start to get out and back into the countryside.  Once clear of the city the canal joins the river Soar as it meanders through open countryside to Loughborough and eventually joins the river Trent a few miles west of Nottingham.  Above Loughborough is evidence of the restoration following the post-war decline of the inland waterways as road and rail killed the canal haulage business.  Here a new lock was built to replace the old derelict one.

I'm now moored up in Nottingham once again where I'll replenish supplies before moving on again tomorrow.  Another couple of days should get me to Newark where I'll stop for a day or two before moving onto the tidal Trent for the long run up to Keadby and the South Yorkshire navigations. From there I will make my way, via the Aire and Calder Navigation, to join the Leeds Liverpool canal.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Thames Ring Completed

Since leaving Milton Keynes in mid May I'm now back having completed the 250 mile Thames ring. From MK the route heads north (in my case) up the Grand Union canal to Braunston where it joins the Oxford canal an turns south to Oxford.  At Oxford the route moves on the river Thames to London where it rejoin the Grand Union at Brentford to return north to MK.  While on route I met several groups of runners who were competing in a biennial 250 mile non stop race.  They have 4 days to complete the course.  I also met a group of canoeists who were practicing for a similar event later this month.

After leaving central London the canal heads west along the Paddington Arm to rejoin the main Grand Union at bulls bridge.  Crossing the infamous North Circular via a large aqueduct which provides a rare dual carriageway on the canal.  

 The lower section of the GU is quite urban as it winds through the outskirts of Greater London through Uxbridge. Beyond Watford the views open up as the canal passes through Cassiobury park and Grove Park where the Earl of Essex insisted on having this picturesque bridge installed before allowing the canal to cross his land.

The canal then begins climbing the Chilterns through around 40 locks to reach the summit at Tring. The summit is only a few miles long and soon begins its decent at Marsworth where it passes one of my favourite canal side cottages.

A long lock filled day was rewarded with an impressive sunset.  

So now back in MK for a week before continuing north again.