Wakefield to Huddersfield
7th August 2011
16 miles - 18 locks - 7 hours
A slow start to the day with a mid season engine service, Jeff developing his mechanics skills and squeezing into the spaces I find hard to contort my 6ft 3in frame into. We were off at 11.30am following the Calder Valley which is pretty in spite of its old mine workings and sunken ground. All this subsidence is clearly evident along the canal edges with the original copings dipping below the water line like rock strata in the cliffs. This subsidence has been going on for a long time, evidenced by the multiple layers of build up, three feet thick in places.
This first reach end with the Dewsbury Arm, an opportunity we couldn't overlook. At it turned out the arm was not representative of the Calder and Hebble. It was weedy, shallow and rubbish strewn for its half mile length, with shallow margins making landing difficult.
Mural on the Dewsbury Arm
There terminus didn't offer much reward either, just some moorings well away from the town centre. All in all it reminded me of the northern BCN but without the character!
Dewsbury Arm Basin
The junction lies at the foot of the Thornhill Double locks, a combination separated by a pretty circular pound which echoes a similar configuration at Salterhebble to the north.
Thornhill Double Locks
Do you want a canal or a river? Well, the Calder and Hebble offers a bit of both , switching to and fro, one minute on a canal section and then back onto the broad and winding river. All in all its a schizophrenic mix.
... to river
Most of these canal sections end with a big pair of flood gates standing open in these times of low water, all except Greenwood which were firmly shut. With no obvious way onto the bank we prized the gates open with our bows - slipping through and seeing them slam shut behind us.
Mills on the Huddersfield Broad Canal
With the valley steepening the locks came thick and fast till finally we emerged through Cooper Bridge and out onto known water which we travelled at Easter two years ago. Strangely, the depth gauge going onto the Huddersfield showed the river way into the amber but the sluggish water was clearly as low as it gets. I suspect that the new Cooper Bridge Weir is a bit higher then the old one.
Huddersfield incinerator - echoes of the Wolverhampton 21
Our switch from river to canal was marked by a change of pace. The deep water was replaced with a shallow and weed filled channel and our speed dropped dramatically. The water level was low and we soon started to pick up a selection of poly bags. All the weed wasn't just a problem for the prop. The gate paddles have louvre slats which pick up all the weed to the point that the water flow is reduced to a trickle.
Our approach to Huddersfield was accompanied to the strains of Bob Marley, the soundtrack to a party in the park to the north whilst a number of cricket matched were underway to the south. All this recreational activity didn't make navigation any better, the margins are shallow and the lock landings almost non existent. One really good thing about the Broad Canal is is silky smooth paddle gear - easy to operate with auto release ratchets which are triggered with a slight reverse twist of the lock key. Why cant they all be like this instead of the hydraulic monstrosities to be found further on.
Locomotive Bridge, Huddersfield
Its a sharp step up into Aspley Basin through 9 locks. Those poly bags were a pain but as long as we were progressing we were not minded to dive into the weed hatch. This slow progress took us past the huge incinerator and under the curious Locomotive Bridge with electrically lifts the road deck vertically.
We were into Aspley Basin at 7.30, time for a pump out (it works!) and some more water before we ate.
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