Sunday, 17 June 2018

Bingley Five Rise

Crossflatts to Saltaire
June 2018

There is always an edge of anticipation about visiting one of the wonders of the waterways world for the first time.

Today it was the famous Bingley Five Rise Locks, a stack of five lock chambers which butt onto each other end to end, facilitating a dramatic change in elevation. The slope is one in five and drops the canal 59ft only to repeat the trick a bit nearer Bingley with a  further three lock staircase. All in all the two flights drop you nearly 100ft.

Enter the top lock

Whilst there is nothing particularly complex about these locks, it is important that boats ascending and decending are properly controlled or boats could meet in the middle and be unable to pass each other. Even worse, boaters could inadvertently flood a boat lower down, so both flights are tightly controlled by CRT lock keepers.

Look down

We rocked up at the top lock at about 9.00am and were immediately ushered into the chamber as two boats were approaching from below and would be waiting by the time we exited the bottom lock. With all the lock keeper support there wasn't a huge amount for us to do so Helen worked one side half way down and I did the rest. 

Open the paddles

We often find the the enforced stops at locks results in the sale of preserves and our trip down the Bingley locks saw £30 go into the coffers. Such was the popularity of our offering I did ask if we could simply ride up and down the locks all day long!

Look back

We arrived at the second flight just as two boats started up, so we moored and waited. Unfortunately Helen kind of fell off the back rail, catching the rim of her boots on the cockpit edging and landed very heavily on her knees on the engine cover. That pretty much wiped her out for the day with her knees swelling up like balloons in spite of the application of frozen peas. Lets hope she makes a swift recovery.

The plan was to stop at the bottom of the second staircase but one look at the mooring put me right off the idea. It is on the offside (useless for trading) and right beside a very busy dual carriageway. Instead we decided to go to Saltaire and moor on the towpath to the north of the mill. I had spotted  this location yesterday and figured there would be reasonable footfall.

With locks cropping up every mile or so we decided to leave the boats breasted up, a format which will probably remain in place all the way to Leeds or beyond.

With lots of people on the towpath I enlisted help wherever we could and steadily worked ourselves to within sight of the Saltaire mill. After a few attempts we found some deep water just to the north of the trip boat landing and immediately set up our sale boards together with the "ring for attention" bell. The bell boinged regularly through the afternoon and a good amount of sales were achieved. For the first time we but out a box of duck food and without trying sold a couple of pounds worth.

We are making good progress towards our passage through Stannage on Wednesday 27th, but are starting to keep a close eye on the ever changing situation on the Marple flight. The latest is that passage is limited to boats up to 45ft in length and with a one week closure the week after next to try and effect a temporary fix. All being well it will reopen just as we need to turn south after completing the Lancashire side of the Huddersfield Narrow. However, the pessimist in me says that the temp fix wont work and the flight will close for months. This would mean we have to descend the Ashton Canal and the Rochdale 9, returning via the Trent and Mersey. Not an ideal scenario but its probably do-able in time for Cosgrove Festival on the Grand Union on 21 / 22 July.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Jumping ahead of ourselves

June 2018

Most of this trip has been spent trying to keep the blog reasonably up to date, so today I am excelling myself by jumping ahead.

Victoria Hall, Saltaire

Yesterday we made an uneventful trip along 13 miles of flat canal, due south from Skipton. Whilst there are no locks to slow progress, there are about 25 swing bridges which crop up about every half a mile. Some are easy but one or two we absolute swines, and one even defied all my attempts to get it fully open and so instead Helen wiggled the boats through the small gap I created.

Inside Victoria Hall 

Our jump ahead isn't so much in time but rather in places visited by boat. We are currently moored at Crossflatts, just above the Bingley Five Rise and the plan was to drop down the five and three rise locks and moor for the afternoon at the bottom. However, the weather came into play again and with rain forecast for much of the day we decided to take the train two stops down the line and visit Saltaire and save the Five Rise for Sunday.

 Titus Salt - in the park and in the church entrance

I wont bore you with a detailed history of Saltaire but to put it in context when Titus Salt, a Bradford textile industrialist, was about 50 in the mid 1800's he decided to build a model factory and village on a greenfield site, somewhere where workers could have a good life away from the slums of industrial Bradford and at the same time the mill and its 4,000 employees would produce large quantities of quality cloth. In theory a win win scenario. This philanthropic approach wasn't exactly unique as the same this was happening in Birmingham with the Cadburys and other Quaker dynasties elsewhere.

 Alms for the poor and a place to worship

Titus Salt wasn't a Quaker but he clearly was a God faring man of great principle. In addition to his massive mill he also built what is still one of the most ornate non conformist church buildings in the country. He also built good quality housing for his workers, with improved housing available as they climbed the pecking order. Then there was the Institute, now known as Victoria Hall, which on the day of our visit was hosting a Peace Craft sale. Yes, I know - that sounds a bit odd, but there you go - lets just say that there was a lot of very niche merchandise on sale.... He also built schools, alms houses and a hospital - the list goes on and on.

Attention to detail in the bandstand

Beyond Roberts Park, donated by a later owner, lies the Shipley Glen Cable Tramway which, for £1.50, will pull you up the side of the Aire valley and you than walk back down through woodland and seas of wild garlic. Well worth the effort.

Shipley Green tramway

Salt's successors continued in his path and added a technical college and the lovely park, generally enhancing Saltaire as a place to work and live. Of course, the business had its ups and downs and came close to insolvency a few times, but for 150 years it managed to keep going till foreign competition and changes in taste for fabrics saw it close in the 1970's.

David Hockney's Saltaire Mill and more recent works created on his i-pad.

Don't forget the Leeds Liverpool Canal which runs through the site.

Saltaire, for all its Italianate grandeur would have become just another casualty of the changing times, another ruin on the banks of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal but for the vision of a young Jonathan Silver. He bought the massive building when no one else was interested and developed it as a centre for the arts, as well as letting elements to small businesses. It now hosts the largest collection of David Hockney works in the world, as well as a great bookshop, furniture design store and restaurant . The site is mostly free so a day here wont break the bank.

I can relate to this!

What did break the bank was the Tilley hat I bought in the outdoor shop. I have long envied my friend Dave's Tilley hat and today I finally succumbed to temptation. So, in two days I have paid a ridiculous sum to cover my head and feet - now there is the small matter of all the bits in between. Don't hold your breath - I hate new clothes. 

Taking Skipton by storm

Taking Skipton by storm
June 2018

Whilst we like to be fairly flexible on our trips inevitably some hard deadlines creep in. One of these deadlines was to reach Skipton by Friday morning so Dan can catch the 10.15 train back to Birmingham.

Castle Arm Junction at Skipton

Our plan was therefore to move down to Gargrave on Wednesday leaving a short hop to Skipton on Thursday and have time to look around this historic town.

New bungs for the Butty - as modeled by The Captain!

All started well enough as we dropped through the Greenberfield locks and out into the insanely hilly area beyond. Surveying the line of the canal in this area must have been a nightmare, as the route swings round and round loads of small hillocks, possibly periglacial drumlins if my geography serves me right. This switchback reached extreme proportions around Langber TV antenna where a mile and a half of track bed is used to progress half a mile - all very reminiscent of Wormleighton Hill on the South Oxford. The difference here is the ever present possibility of a wide beam coming fast round a blind bend.

Springs Broach 23ft winding point!

Then as your head stops spinning you get a bit of exercise dropping through the six locks at Bank Newton. A couple of lock keepers were on hand so the descent was fast and painless.
With the Gargrave locks a mere half mile ahead we stayed breasted up and the few boats we met all took our extra width in their stride. It was at Gargrave we started to ponder our options. The weather forecast for Thursday was wet in the morning and windy in the afternoon so we decided to get through all the locks while the weather held, moor up and then tackle the last four miles on the flat in tomorrow morning's rain.

Skipton Castle

What we didn't factor in was the rocky shelf at the edge of the canal which prevented us getting within three feet of the edge. We went on and on, eventually deliberately putting the boats on the mud to let us eat our evening meal. Then we moved again, finally finding a mooring at Thorlby Swing Bridge, little more than two miles short of Skipton.
Just before dark the crew of a hire boat moored behind us came over for advice as they had heard that storm Hector would hit at 7.00am in the morning - and 1. would their mooring pins hold? and 2. could the wind blow them over.?

 Exploring Springs Branch

We suggested that they move onto the bridge landing posts for a secure mooring but this acceleration of the wind was news to us. The gusts were already up to 30mph when I woke at 5.00am and I wasn't happy. Given my disquiet I wasn't about to go to sleep again so I went to the butty and found that the flogging of the sheeting had already woken Dan. WE had a 2 hour window or opportunity so we decided to move into town and seek a more sheltered spot to moor. 

The swing bridges were a bit hairy, but we reached town and latched onto the first good mooring we could find, which left half the butty over a water point. Not ideal, but in the circumstances it would have to do - after all, no one will be moving till the wind dies down. We tied up at 6.15am and by 6.45am the wind was howling round the Herriot Hotel, whose bulk offered some great shelter. Waves washed along the canal and branches were wrenched from the trees. As predicted, no boats moved till the worst was passed at 4.00pm.

A classic gem of a cinema.

So, instead of a very uncomfortable day out in the wilds we had a lovely day in Skipton, visiting the Water Mill, the adjacent Springs Branch canal arm, the Castle and finding a new pair of sandals to replace my old ones which have been held together with gaffer tape for the last week. The day was rounded off with a trip to Skipton's classic cinema to watch the latest Jurassic Park offering.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Fooling around in Foulridge

Burnley to Barnoldswick
June 2018

After a few twisting miles through Nelson we approached the seven locks of the Barrowford flight which would lift us to the summit pound of the Leeds Liverpool canal. 

A very empty Barrowford Reservoir

As usual, we hauled the butty alongside to allow us to breast the boats up, a process we have got down to a fine art and one which can be achieved in the time it takes to empty a lock. On this occasion the towpath was on the right, the same side that the butty needs to go so I tied the bows of the motor to the bollard and did the whole procedure while dangling on a bit of rope - messy to look at but effective.

Barrowford top lock

We had help up the locks which slowly lifted us up to the level of the Barrowford Reservoir and revealed its depleted state following a couple of rainless months. If we don't see some rain in the north I can see boating restrictions ahead.

From the top lock it is a short hop to the end of the 1640 Foulridge Tunnel. In the midlands this would be a "Two way working" tunnel but given the volume of wider boats it is controlled by traffic lights which allow entry for 10 minutes each hour. We arrived a bit late to had to tie up and wait for 40 mins.

All stop at Foulridge

Whilst waiting we decided to experiment with towing in tunnels. We usually pull the butty through on short cross straps but having experienced the uneven nature of the Huddersfield Narrow tunnel at Standedge, we think that it may be better to steer it through. But the thing is that we don't want to try this for the first time at Standedge.

Good to go

The times entry at Foulridge meant that we had the tunnel completely to ourselves so we dropped the butty onto a 40ft stubber and when the lights turned green, Helen jumped aboard and a pulled her through on a rope. As a navigational experiment it was a great success. We moved through nice and quickly, I could steer easily (although the boats pivot point came y back) and Helen found the butty easy to control and hold in a centre line. The only issue was lighting for the butty - the LED's we used tended to blind her so we will have to have devise a mark 2 illumination system.

Helen on a string

Foulridge really did mark the watershed of the canal and soon after exiting we passed the county border, moving from Lancashire to Yorkshire. We also found we had moved from an area of handcuffs (keys) to hire boats with loads darting about, including some terrifyingly large wide beams. The canal can cope with them but there bulk can be a bit intimidating.

A couple of shots from the butty

We had no wish to start on any downhill locks so moored at an old wharf in Barnoldswick, a classic mill town and went in search of fish and chips. Sadly all three closed by 6.30 so we switched to an Indian take out  which was great, but we were a bit startled that they don't accept any plastic - just cash. 

This appears a peaceful little town and the mooring will benefit from an Aldi which is being built next to the Rolls Royce works. 

Thursday, 14 June 2018

To Burnley and beyond

Burnley and beyond
June 2018

Travelling the Leeds Liverpool includes a series of landmark locations, places which seem to crop up on an almost daily basis.

 Part of a mural in Church

Monday was a day for making progress on the long lockless pound, slowly eating up the miles and watching the distance from Liverpool increase and the distance to Leeds go down. During the morning the numbers equalised and we saw the half way point, not very dramatic but at least it was graced with a somewhat faded sign.

Signs of progress - half way

One of the abandoned swing bridges

Whilst we clung to the winding contour, the canal dips back and forth under the M65 which infuriatingly cuts off all the corners of the landscape through Church and Clayton Le Moors, old mill towns whose main industry long since closed and now struggle to establish a new identity.

Mill scenes in Burnley

This changing fortunes is particularly evident in Burnley, the last town of the day. In some ways the town brims with history and many mills near the Weavers Triangle have found new uses as offices or apartments but overall it has the feel of a place down on its luck.  We paused at the moorings in the Weavers Triangle to swap a gas cylinder but the interaction with the locals was not encouraging. We had already spotted motorcyclists without helmets tearing up and down the towpath and my attempts to engage with other towpath users resulted in shifty responses and a distinct reluctance to establish eye contact. Not encouraging and not somewhere I would relish spending a night.

As well as the classic mills, Burnley also has a rather amazing embankment which runs straight and true as it crosses the Calder valley. And this brings me to another watershed point on the canal. Instead of draining west to the Mersey the water here drains east via the Calder which runs through a narrow slot in the horizon and a tantalising that changes are afoot.

 Burnley embankment

Start of the Calder Valley

Whilst we had no hassles in Burnley we continued on to a couple of miles short of Nelson, a spot away from the noise of the motorway and in a belt of country park. The locals later advised us that we had chosen wisely.

The crew with a new style mustache