Up On The Tide

tidal River OuseIn the lock and dropped by 8.30, the gates swung open revealing the muddy flow of the Ouse.River Ouse Second out, the nose was swept by the water and the end whipped round to follow.  We soon built up a fair pace and the miles ticked by. With the tide just turned the water was low – mudflats and all sort of items long lost to the near boat slam on tidal River OuseOuse marked the way. The boat in arriving at Naburn Lockfront seemed to be going almost impossibly slowly and as tempting as it was to rip past them we held our position. Around eight miles in another narrowboat caught the end of our line. The Canal and RiverRiver Ouse at York Trust widebeam couldn’t resist burning past us all, shame he didn’t think to check on his VHF to see if the NaRiver Ouseyburn boats had been fired downstream, a near boat slam that would have been like a rocket up the slow go infront. Conditions are everything but it’s almost spring tide and the tidal experience up to York was no big deal.

A great trip from Nayburn up to York. From ingeniously adapted boat hoRiver Ouse at Yorkuses to grand bridges spanning the Ouse there’s an overload of sights to take in. Having let Murk out for a run around at Nayburn we were the last of the boats to arrive in York, five minutes conversation with two guys on a boat in Nayburn Lock meant they’d kindly kept a look out for us and called for us to moor alongside until another space opened up.

As city centre moorings go it would be hard to top this one, bang in the middle of York with the Ouse flowing past the window.


Selby Lock

boat turned for Selby LockThe Selby Canal is weedy, a little while of whizzing round the prop leaves one variety almost felted. Five miles today took a while but in no real rush it didn’tSelby Canal matter. Through the swing bridge we arrived at Selby Lock just in time to see today’s boats make the tricky lock turn manoeuvre. No surprise to see the cruisers appear first, they wobbled about awkwardly but then they’re a whole different kind of boat. We looked up river waiting for the main event. Next up, the first two narrowboats, screaming down on theOuse Selby tide. Yikes they were moving fast, turning involved some loud engine revving and what seemed to be a painfully long time being swept sideways before straightening up into the flow. Not sure if I’m glad to have seen it or not.

moored at Selby LockWe’ll be shooting off on the tide at 8.30am. Heard a fair few warnings about York that we didn’t expect: ‘Have you got chains?’ ‘Stop River Ouse to Yorkat Naburn, catch the bus in.’ ‘We had kids on the roof before we called the police.’ even opening this month’s Towpath shouted more of the same with an article on a spate of boats graffitied on The Ouse at York. Suck it and see. We might end up Marpisser yet.

Thanks to the very friendly lock keeper who offered us an overnight, offside, floodlit Selby mooring we’re only a lock length from the river, so we’ve been on river watch…checking the tide is still working? And watching very big bits of wood drift on by.

Coal Gone Cold

Aire and CalderIt was bleak out there today with barely a boat about. The flow is almost non-exiAire and Calderstent, there wasn’t a breath of wind but with rain setting in all around and the water opening up, it was one of those occasions when the boat felt very small. Power stations injected unsettling interest along the way.

For the most part surrounding land is still owned by the Coal Authority – massive subsidence over the last 50 years has left the area waterlogged andAire and Calder - Ferrybridge Power Stations unsuitable for everything other thAire and Calder - Ferrybridge Power Stationsan birds, long runs are protected with giant metal piling in order to prevent the whole lot seeping into one boggy mess. Up until recently the navigation provided a watery conveyor belt to over 30 collieries throughout the North East. Oil and grit are now main cargos. Ferrybridge Flood Lock

The last leg was on the SelbWest Haddlesey moorings - Aire and Calder y Canal where a cow stood firmly stuck in the water, a fireman watched from afar waiting for the rescue operation to begin. It did, with a speeding boat on a blue light, carrying a vet with a tranquilizer gun.

A picturesque mooring this evening considering the trip here, mountains of Himalayan Balsam overhanging lilies poking up through thick green sheets of duck weed – a water enthusiast’s beautiful nightmare.

Lemonroyd Kaboom

Gone are the quaint canal side pubs, church steepleAire and Calder lock houses and rolling hills. Out on the Aire and Calder everything just got big, the miles sped past in comparison to the Leeds and Liverpool.

Oil terminals are positioned along the way, the banks are high and the water is wide. Locks are automatic so Nick gets a break – just a bw key, a few buttons and the lock is magically turned.

Entering Lemonroyd Lock the end was so far away it was hard to figure what Nick was on about but he seemeLemonroyd Lockd pretty animated. As the water began to drain away, the boat fell deeper and deeper, apparently the front of the lock gates create a geyser effect with the massive amounts of water sloshing about. Still can’t get anywhere near a straight answer about  Lemonroyd’s lock status…’It’s not that straightforward you see, coming in at the Castlefordseventh deepest in the country, being the widest and longest we’ve ever encountered, if we’re talking volume of water then, a+b+c = kaboom!’ It was a big one.

Through the flood gates at Castleford we pulled in for the night. Being a rivery/canal combo the Aire and Calder doesn’t deliver on tie up where you like but designated moorings have been plenty so far.


Birmingham Cheese

LeedsLast night was unbelievably quiet for a city mooring. On the last of the Birmingham market Leeds Marketcheese we set off for Leeds market. Ornate buildings packed with butcherLeedss, fishmongers and anything else you might expect to find in a market of epic proportions.

A quick loop round the very grand streets: Jo Malone, Liz Earle, Space NK – great for perfume samples but nothing in the tried and tested olive/almond oil price bracket.

Murk has found himself quite at home in the Leeds canLeeds marketine Leeds Royal Armouries - Hall Of Steelset. He knows exactly what his usual walk involves and at which points to longingly gaze down into the Aire for his lost tennis balls.

Along the journey here, plenty of people yelled from the towpath that we should visit the Royal Armouries. Moored right underneath, it was only a minute walk to see inside. Four floors of weaponry displayed with varClarence Dock from Royal Armouriesious themes: war, peace, tournament, oriental, self-defence, hunting and the magnificent hall of steel.Royal Armouries Leeds

Signs have appeared on the electric/water posts this evening, mainly scooping three of the visitor moorings for the trip boat but also reminding boaters of moor-alongside etiquette during the Leeds Waterfront Festival this weekend.



Leeds and Liverpool canal warehouse

end of the Leeds and Liverpool

A couple of hours in and there were still a few locks to tackle but Leeds was only a stonesAire and Calder Navigation throw away so it was surprising to find no rubbishy water, stinky bridges, hardly any razor wire or any of the other usual city treats.

High water levels meant one lock needed a bit of help from suits on lunch breaks, happy to muck in they carefully placed their brief cases to one side before 3591attacking the gates. After a bit of research we didn’t stop after Office Lock but continued past the Leeds and Liverpool CaSilver Ball - Clarence Dock, Leedsnal Warehouse and dropped down through River Lock, leaving the Leeds Clarence Dock - Leedsand Liverpool canal behind.

Started in 1770 and completed in 1816 at a cost of 1,200,000 – more than five times the original estimate, 127 miles long (excluding branches), it’s the longest single canal in Britain built by a single company. Not for the faint hearted but a fascinating waterway with a bit of just about everything along the way, it was the last biggy we had left to do…

Out onto the Aire and Calder NavigatClarence Dock - Leedsion we passed under Leeds Bridge, followed the river a little way before turning off into Clarence Dock. Visitor moorings are sparse –  a measly five and they were all taken when we arrived. The end wall didn’t look such a bad option so we set up camp there, complete with electric hook up we were happy enough. An unlikely early evening departure from one boat left an official free space so we moved to where we coulnd’t be slung out.

The mixture of leisure, business and residential making up Clarence Dock was openeClarence Dockd in 2007, apparently its had it’s fair share of problems and in 2012 Leeds City Council attempted to inject new life into what was considered a re-branding failure by renaming it New Dock, that’ll do it. We’re not complaining, floating pontoon, water and £5.60 on the electricity meter – what’s not like?


Model Village

Saltaire MillsA short staircase of locks kicked off the day, it wasn’t long before the swing bridges came thick and fast. No need to bang on more than in previous posts, but flips they are tough.

Appalled by the conditions of the slums in Bradford, Sir Titus Salt relocated his textile business to the banks of the river Aire and set about building better living conditions for his workers. Stone cottages, wash houses with tap water, a hospital, school, a reading room, billiard hall, allotments and even a boat house were among the features that made his vision a success. He wSaltaireas in the Cadbury camp so far as alcohol was concerned and there was no pub, things have improved on that front, there’s now an international award winning brewery. His legacy lives on, Saltaire is widely considered an important development in 19th century urban planning and Shipleythe village is a World Heritage Site. The mill closed in 1986, now art galleries, offices and housing – passing between the intimidating giants is a ghostly spine tingler.

On through Shipley, we finally said goodbye to a couple we first passed on the approach to Dobson LocksBlackburn. It’s funny how you flip-flop boats putting in a similar daily average (although theirs tended to happen much earlier in the morning than ours). We hadn’t exactly travelled together but saying goodbye was strangely sad. As usual the drifting boat forced conversation to an early end, calling back everyone agreed to enjoy the rest of summer which was as good as saying it was great to know you for a while, have a nice life.

Leeds is around five miles away but tonight is strictly rural and the barbecue got HOT!



Bingley Five Rise

SilsdenThe water points were busy so we pulled over and waited a while, the tank must have been on the last few dregs. Skipton soon disappeared, replaced with open countryside along with a trillion swing bridges. swing bridge Leeds and LiverpoolEach seems to bring it’s own challenge, from those that won’t budge an inch to the temperamental electric ones that eventually open, only to get stuck open whilst waiting traffic curls up over the Dales. There was one that Nick didn’t moan about too much though – and yep he did get them to push.

gate paddles on Bingley Five Rise

gate paddles on Bingley Five Rise

Bingley Five RiseThe plan was to be moored for Murray’s first match but shallow sides saw us continuing, shady wooded stretches moved us on a bit more and the outskirts of Bingley pushed us right on, into Bingley Five Rise.

It was ten past four by the time we arrived at the top lock and it seemed the lock keeper had mentally clocked off for the day. ‘They’re sharp 60ft locks, you’ll get wet and you’ll be needing that bow thruster.’ In we went.

Top of the flight is the lock equivalent to an infinity Bingley Five Risepool, views that look as though you could topple from the edge of the world. With Canal and River Trust working one side and Nick on the other we were down Five Rise, a drop of 59ft, in 35 Bingley Five Riseminutes – fifteen minutes slower than the first boat ever down in 1774 – perhaps the locks were all for them. Bingley Three Rise soon followed, The Damart Factory stands over bottom of Bingley Three Risethe bottom lock, apparently there’s a well stocked mill shop selling ‘good, sensible underwear’…

We didn’t stop for the factory shop but moved a mile or so before deciding no more locks today and reversing back from Dawley Gap. Judging by the squiggles in Nicholson tomorrow’s lock/bridge combinations are a Super Mario for narrowboats.




Skipton Pressed

Springs Branch Leeds and LiverpoolThe sun always shines in Skipton. Day four and all the different bits are linking up in the way places doDerdlab Press - Skipton after a while of being there. Castle Woods took another Murkster hit…he’s becoming a pain in the way he does after four days anywhere, thinking he knows the best routSkiptone everywhere and heading to water whenever he possibly can.

The town stays alive for Sunday. We found Derdlab Press, a treasure trove of printing blocksHigh Corn Mill - Skipton, letters and presses. It’s a pop up shop, not sure when it popped up or how long it will be there but the printing is beautiful, orders are taken for invitations/posters etc and for £30 you can even have a go yourself.Skipton

A bit of a reluctant trip to Morrisons as stocking up means we’re set to leave tomorrow. Skipton has been great but even narrowboaters have dates to keep…


Day Of Dance

Skipton cowHikers trudged past early this morning, shortly followed by the jingle jangle of morris dancers. By the time weSkipton sheep  set off in search of Sharp Haw, Skipton’s day of dance was in full swing: beating drums, whooping, accordions, the cracking of sticks. The sound of summer solstice celebrations followed as we climbed the hill to look back on Skipton far below.

Murk on stone wallAccording to Happy Hiker the route, complete with trig. point is a great hiking introduction for Sharp Haw - Skiptonchildren who get to conquer a mountain which in reality is a mere pimple at only morris dancers Skipton1171ft. Really?? It felt like quite a way. A great walk, the views over Gargrave and all around were spectacular.

Arriving back in the town centre, Flagcrackers of morris dancers SkiptonCraven had gathered in the canal basin for the grand finale, an explosion of sinister rhythmic beats, darkmoored in Skipton costumes and a flurry of boats drifting past the peculiar merriment. All pretty odd and a perfect way to remember the longest day.