Hebden Bridge

May 31, 2011

Our passage through the very deep Tuel Lane lock 3 was booked for 10.00 this morning. The lock has to be operated by a lock keeper. Yesterday we were told by the normal lock keeper that we should travel through the first two locks and wait before the tunnel leading into the deep lock. We were ready to set off at 9.30 but found that the bottom gates of lock 1 were fastened with a chain and padlock that we couldn’t open. After waiting for some time I walked up to lock 3 and found the replacement lock keeper cleaning out the lock with a net. It seemed not to have occurred to him that we couldn’t get through the first lock and he said that he would come and unlock it when he had finished what he was doing. It was 10.15 by the time we finally got underway through the bottom lock. We were all on the boats in the deep lock, with ropes held front and back. The paddles were open and water churned around the boat, so much so that it flooded through the cockpit to over an inch in depth and over the stern into the back bilge to several inches in depth. Alan was concerned that we might sink at the stern. If we had been the operating the lock ourselves we would never have released the water so quickly and he didn’t seem to be checking that we were ok.

On we went through a further four locks. There are 92 locks altogether on the Rochdale to Manchester Castlefield so we have 84 left to go in 29 miles, a daunting prospect as they aren’t the easiest of locks to manage. We found that the first two had been left with a bottom paddle open to let down water which meant that there were floods over the top gates followed by a very shallow pound where we kept running aground. Every lock has been handcuff locked and I slammed my hand in one lock mechanism as I closed it – it was warped and I was forcing it shut. I also managed to drop a handcuff key in the water though I found it with the sea magnet, and dropped a windlass on my foot. The scenery however is wonderful and that’s a great compensation for our travails. It’s great to be up in the hills again. The weather was much brighter today and people were out walking or cycling, and some helping us through the locks!

We had thought that we might moor in Mytholmroyd but couldn’t get near the bank on the moorings. After several further failed attempts we ended up in Hebden Bridge. The moorings aren’t brilliant here either but what a lovely place to be. It’s the most beautiful town with interesting shops and so many things happening. We had just missed a blues festival and there are shows on regularly at the Trades Hall, seemingly a couple each week. We have spotted something to go to tomorrow evening. There’s also a Little Theatre and a cinema. We think that we will enjoy our time here.

Coming through Sawerby Bridge

Travelling along the Rochdale

More Rochdale Canal

Converted Mill – Hebden Bridge

Mill on the Hill

Today we did 5.35 Miles, 7 Locks and 2 Tunnels

Statistics so far:-

2655.69 Miles, 1602 Locks, 175 Swing Bridges, 90 Lift Bridges, 47 Tunnels


Sowerby Bridge

May 29, 2011

Bye bye Calder and Hebble, hello Rochdale. We certainly won’t be sorry to see the end of the Calder and Hebble locks. We don’t mind using the spike, that’s quite fun, but it’s not fun fitting into the short locks, trying to get the bottom gates closed while holding up the fenders and keeping the bow up against the top gates simultaneously. And even less fun when one of the boats has to reverse out because the gates can’t be closed when they are both in together. And then there are the streams of water pouring out of the top locks in great arcs into your cockpit if you don’t keep the bow in the one foot or so that is free of water. And all this in a howling gale.

Otherwise the Calder and Hebble, while not one of the great canals, is attractive, it has some great river sections and the stretch today from Brighouse to Sowerby Bridge was green with great views over the Calder alongside and woodland on the other side.

We had spent last night moored in Brighouse Basin. We started our Saturday Night Out with a drink in the Ship Inn. Good beer, pleasant surroundings and friendly locals. Then we went on to an excellent meal at the Greek restaurant which was deservedly busy.

We made a later start today, going up the first lock at 10.00 to moor at the water point to both fill up. While we did that we took turns to shop at Sainsburys and then Catherine and James went off home and we set off towards Sowerby Bridge. There was a real gale blowing and it made manoeuvring very difficult, especially getting out of the basin into the first lock. There was also quite heavy rain at first.

According to Pearson it should have taken us three hours or so to get to Sowerby Bridge but it was actually nearly six hours, probably because of the difficulties with the short locks. At Longlees Lock we caught up with a Shire Cruisers hire boat and Lazy Days went through the lock with them as they were only about thirty feet in length and then we worked Blue Point through. We caught up with them again at the first of the triple Salterhebble Locks. The lowest is an intriguing lock because it is accessed under a substantial road bridge (the towpath goes through a small tunnel) and because of the bridge’s proximity there is an electronic guillotine bottom gate. We helped work the hirers through and then followed. Because there weren’t traditional gates there was easily room for the two boats but that wasn’t the case for the next two locks which were so short that we had to take them one boat at a time. The top paddles were mostly spike operated (our last use of the spike this trip) and there were torrents of water over the bows. The hire boat had moored up and the lovely couple came back and worked both our boats through the top lock. I think that chap was pleased to get off the boat and experience the lock operating. They thanked us for helping them: I assured them that they had done more to help us!

We are now moored at Sowerby Bridge in front of the first Rochdale Locks. There are high buildings to our right and the river to our left. Tomorrow we will explore: tonight we are exhausted!

Moorings at Brighouse

Manipulating a Spike

Spike poser

Imposing Mill

Lock

Guillotine Lock

One of Salterhebble Locks

Today we did 6.52 Miles and 11 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2650.34 Miles, 1595 Locks, 175 Swing Bridges, 90 Lift Bridges, 45 Tunnels


Brighouse

May 28, 2011

After an extremely long day we are moored in Brighouse Basin and very much looking forward to a drink and pub meal. It is beautifully sunny now but that wasn’t the case when we started off this morning at 9.00. Rain jackets and waterproof trousers were needed for most of the morning and there wasn’t much space between the showers.

We passed the submerged car, marked by an orange life buoy tied to the now broken back window with rope. There is obviously a shortage of warning floats hereabouts! Then it was on through a steady stream of locks and our Calder and Hebble spike was getting a lot of use. We crossed over with four boats at the Figure of Three locks but otherwise there wasn’t much traffic. We were constantly transferring from canal to river and back again. As we headed through Ravensthorpe Liz and I, who were walking, found ourselves on the wrong side of the river from the lock, and even if we had walked back to the only bridge we would have had to take a very long route round to the lock. Alan turned Lazy Days and headed back towards us indicating with a very remote form of semaphore that we should walk all the way back towards the Greenwood Flood Lock to be picked up. As we all went under the bridge, us on foot and Alan on the water he came under attack from stone throwing local kids and at least one stone hit the boat. He pulled out the camera and took photos of them which seemed to make them vamoose. We were all getting seriously fed up with this section of the navigation. Alan pulled into the riverside at a high concrete wall and Liz and I managed to climb onto the roof. This wasn’t an easy manoeuvre as there was a very strong wind. We managed it unscathed but at the expense of some bad scratching on the edge of the boat cabin.

As we came out of the Shepley Bridge Lock we were joined by Liz and Robert’s daughter Catherine with boyfriend James, so we had two very welcome additional helpers. This really was a great help because three of the locks we went through weren’t long enough for both boats so we had to go through one at a time (with the single boat at an angle while the gates were closed. We had thought that we might stop above Battyeford Lock but it wasn’t attractive so we decided to go on to Brighouse. When we reached the Basin we found that it was a very small mooring area and one of the three spaces was taken up by a boat that was up for sale and not even licensed. We were advised by other boaters, rightly or wrongly, that this was the only safe place to moor, so Blue Point (as they have a blind dog on board) went into the only space which took her cockpit right to the edge of the lock. It was indicated as visitor mooring so we thought it acceptable. Then Alan brought Lazy Days up to breast up but it seemed better that he turned so we went cockpit to stern to make it easier for us to get off the boat. The wind was really quite evil in intent so this took some time as he was blown across the basin, under the gaze of many onlookers. At the same time our speed control lever came off in his hand and he was trying repair it as he was blown around. By the time we were both securely moored we had been on the go for over seven hours non stop. I guess this is good training for the rigours of the Rochdale!

Today we did 11.59 Miles and 18 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2643.82 Miles, 1584 Locks, 175 Swing Bridges, 90 Lift Bridges, 45 Tunnels


Horbury Junction

May 27, 2011

We started off from Stanley Ferry about 9.30, intending to travel for at least four hours today. Initially there are some big river sections and this makes the journey much faster because of the depth of water under us. The flood locks were all open as well.

The first lock that we had to work was Fall Ing Lock leading up from the River Calder into Wakefield. I could remember from last year that this is a big and heavy lock and it took a lot of hard work to get through it today. We passed uneventfully through Wakefield and along to Thornes Lock. We couldn’t budge the only ground paddle that was working and the gate paddle required the “spike” so Alan dug ours out and passed it up to me. Liz was very taken with this new, to her, method of opening a paddle. When the lock was nearly full Alan jumped out and easily opened the ground paddle with the windlass. Strange, but the same thing happened at the next lock, when I couldn’t move it at all and then it opened easily with the lock nearly full.

As we went through Thornes Lock a bike rider stopped and said that we wouldn’t get very far as a car had gone into the canal just past the Navigation Pub, and that there were police, ambulances and an air ambulance at the scene, and a very wet looking young man on the side.

We went on through Broad Cut Low Lock (where the ground paddle misbehaved) and then passed two BW staff in the Navigation pub car park just before Broad Cut Top Lock. They knew no more about the car than we did and were on their way to the scene to find out what was happening. We thought we would go on but as the boats were entering the top lock a dog walker told us that we wouldn’t get through as the car was in the middle of the canal. We reversed the boats out and moored up before walking along the half mile or so to find out what was happening. By the time we reached the activity we found some police officers, the BW men and the car with just the top of its open bonnet sticking out above the water. We were nowhere near a road and it seems that a young man, who was alone in the car, had driven downhill across a field at speed, through the fence and into the canal. It was thought that he had been attempting to kill himself but had changed his mind as he went into the water, though we don’t know how he got out. It really doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened if a boat had got in his way as he crashed in.

The police divers arrived and we were told that we would be able to go though in about 30 minutes when they had finished. A diver went into the water to check the inside of the car, and then a hook was attached to the side and the police Land Rover pulled it to the edge of the canal. It may be some days before it can be removed but there is plenty of room and depth to go past.

By the time we had walked back to the boats and had lunch it was unanimously agreed that we would stay where we are for the night, and then do two long days to Sowerby Bridge, where we have a booking to go onto the Rochdale on Tuesday. Alan has been doing all sorts of things with wires stretched round the boat and his tallest aerial attached to the parasol base. I gather he has been having fun! Friday night is pub night (well Friday pub night as opposed to any other pub night) and the Navigation is recommended, so off we go.

Diver approaching car

Car being pulled to the side

operating a spike

Today we did 5.62 Miles and 6 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2632.23 Miles, 1566 Locks, 175 Swing Bridges, 90 Lift Bridges, 45 Tunnels


Hepworth Gallery Wakefield

May 26, 2011

There was a very quick mutual decision made this morning that none of us was feeling very enthusiastic about moving on. In any event we would only have gone into Wakefield to do shopping and then a little further to open countryside. Robert on Blue Point was happy to have a day pottering, Alan was busy with his radio and Liz and I fancied a visit to the new Hepworth Gallery followed by some grocery shopping. So we ordered a taxi for 10.00, Alan decided to come with us (though he was so engrossed on the air that he had to be chivvied into action at the last minute) and off we went.

It seemed sensible to start at the gallery and that proved to be a wise decision because it was becoming extremely busy by the time we left. It has only been open since the weekend and is obviously attracting a great deal of interest. I know that there has been much discussion about the rather boxy grey exterior but I liked it. The waters of the River Calder lap on one side and it overlooks boats and a large weir. From the outside the windows look large but it is only when you are inside that you appreciate what wonderful views they give, it almost felt as if I was floating as I looked out. The exhibition rooms are vast: extremely high in places which is necessary for a couple of the tallest sculptures, long and very white. It was interesting to see the Barbara Hepworths and I was particularly taken by the six metres high Winged Figure, though it is very frustrating (though understandable) not being able to touch some of the smooth and beautifully shaped works. I most enjoyed the Eva Rothschild Hot Touch exhibition and spent a great deal of time trying to work out how one fantastic circle was supported in the air. We ended our visit with an excellent English breakfast in the café.

There is a new footbridge across the river leading back to the city centre and we started back over there. It passes through boat moorings and we were entranced by the sight of a massive sunken BW barge that has been turned into a garden. The footbridge had led us away from the Chantry Chapel and it was starting to rain but it seemed a great shame not to visit it. We took our life in our hands and dived across the road towards the old bridge and the 700 year old chapel. It contained a little art gallery and we enjoyed a browse while we waited for the rain to finish.

Then it was down to the serious business of the day and on we went to the City Centre. We were rather surprised to find that Wakefield is actually a very substantial place with an extremely large shopping district, an ornate County Hall, Town Hall and County Court. We walked ourselves into the ground, did our shopping at Morrisons and took a taxi back to a welcome sit down. Alan went back to his radio and attracted a great deal of attention from passers by.

Good use of a sunken boat

Chantry Chapel

County Hall – Wakefield

Alan with his 10 metre high aerial – works on 4 bands at the moment

Statistics so far:-

2626.61 Miles, 1560 Locks, 175 Swing Bridges, 90 Lift Bridges, 45 Tunnels


Stanley Ferry

May 25, 2011

Today’s been quite uneventful, even dull, matching the sky and the temperature. The fact is that we are feeling pretty knackered and need some time off!

We started away from Woodlesford at 8.30, thinking that we might get as far as Wakefield where we would look at the new Hepworth Gallery. Actually, looking back, it was sunny as we headed into the first lock. I very much admired the beautiful cottage style flower borders alongside the lock, my idea of a perfect garden. The BW mechanical maintenance team seem to use the lock control tower at Woodlesford as a base and one of the team told me that the flower beds are maintained by volunteers including a lock keeper and that the lock had just won a prize for best maintained lock.

He also reassured me that all the mechanical locks ahead were in tip top order so I asked him about the swing bridge that had given us so many problems just before Rodley. Apparently these bridges are adjusted for winter or summer working because their contacts are very delicate and they are affected by the damp. Perhaps that bridge had not been changed over to summer working or maybe it had been and had decided, like us, that summer has been and gone!

The five mechanical locks that we went through today all performed impeccably. We had two descents, one through the deep Lemonroyd Lock where there was a lock keeper on duty. This took us onto the River Aire and it was a lovely cruise down to Castleford with river depth under us. Though, like most rivers, there is no view because the banks are too deep.

At Castlefood we turned towards Wakefield and onto the River Calder until the first of the three ascending locks, Woodnook, when we were back onto the navigation channel. The most excitement came from passing three boats full of school pupils who all waved with great enthusiasm.

By the time we reached Stanley Ferry we were hungry and ready for an afternoon indoors. The moorings here aren’t great because we can’t get into the bank and we will probably go on to Wakefield for to explore tomorrow.

When we turned the corner at Castlefield another circle in our journey was joined up and we are back on old ground until we head off towards the Rochdale at Cooper Bridge.

Woodlesford Lock Garden

Inside Woodlesford Lock

School trip (note Liz steering Blue point in the distance)

Today we did 10.33 Miles, 5 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2626.61 Miles, 1560 Locks, 175 Swing Bridges, 90 Lift Bridges, 45 Tunnels


Woodlesford

May 24, 2011

It was dreadfully windy through the night and it didn’t seem possible that we would be able to travel today, however it had calmed somewhat by 7.00 which was our agreed departure time. Everyone had told us that once we left Rodley we shouldn’t stop until we got to Leeds, and we were concerned that we might be forced to pull in if the wind was too severe. Our mooring position for the last two nights was exposed and we hoped that we would get more protection as we travelled so we decided to make a break for it. The sun was shining so that was a positive sign.

There were three swing bridges before the first of two 3 rise staircase locks, and they were straightforward to deal with, and not on roads thankfully. We arrived at the top of the locks just before they opened at 8.15, only to find another boat waiting, which surprised us. There were two BW lock keepers on the flight so when it was our turn they worked down with us and it all went quickly. Liz and I walked on to the second 3 rise staircase to find that there was a boat in the bottom lock, ready to ascend to the middle. It was agreed that our two boats would go into the top lock and that we would cross over. Robert and NB Blue Point arrived and he said that he didn’t know what had gone overboard but that he had looked back to see Alan fishing in the canal with the sea magnet. It turned out that as he went through a very narrow section an overhanging branch had knocked the backup computer aerial off the roof and into the canal. It was a small magnetic aerial. He thought that other people had lost items to the branch: he could see a bike in the water. But not the aerial!

With Lazy Days safely in the lock we descended. The bottom gates were opened and the dance began. First BP went forward into the middle lock, next to the hire boat. Then LD moved over to the side of the top lock vacated by BP. HB moved forward into the top lock to fill the gap. BP moved across the middle lock to the position vacated by HB. LD moved forward into the middle lock next to BP. The gates were shut and on we went.

Another funny side to the story was that the hire boat was the one that we had watched from the top of the Armouries Museum yesterday, when they were struggling to get off the side. We didn’t say much about it – there but for the grace of God etc. Who knows what daft capers we will get up to before this journey is over?

We went on through three single locks and a double staircase to our lunch time mooring in the centre of Leeds at Granary Wharf, where we both took on water. The wind made the journey difficult in the extreme but otherwise it was quite delightful. The canal was rubbish free, as was the towpath and the surroundings. The canal was attractive with greenery and birdsong on one side and old mills turned into apartments or the Armley Museum on the other side. We saw two pleasant mooring spots. As we got further into Leeds the high rises were in front of us and it was most cosmopolitan. There were no dodgy characters, drunks or belligerents. When we went on after lunch it was a wonderful experience travelling along the river between River Lock and Leeds Lock with the old mill buildings and new apartments on either side. I had hitched a ride on Blue Point and Liz was clicking the camera like a paparazzi. Is the bogey man storey about travelling into Leeds only an urban myth? We enjoyed it thoroughly.

After Leeds Lock we were on the Aire and Calder Navigation, wide, windswept with mechanised locks. By the time we got to Woodlesford Lock we had had enough: the wind was whipping the water into a frenzy and the sky was dark. This is a good mooring and it’s a pleasant village, what more do we want?

The Staircase Shuffle

Waiting at River Lock

Coming on to the river Aire

Victoria Bridge

Old buildings nestling in with the new

Thwaite Mills

Aire and Calder

Today we did 11.93 Miles, 17 Locks and 3 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:-

2616.28 Miles, 1555 Locks, 175 Swing Bridges, 90 Lift Bridges, 45 Tunnels