In the lock and dropped by 8.30, the gates swung open revealing the muddy flow of the 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 Ouse marked the way. The boat in front 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 River Trust widebeam couldn’t resist burning past us all, shame he didn’t think to check on his VHF to see if the Nayburn 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 houses 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.
The 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’t 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 the 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.
We’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 at 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.
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 was 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 the 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 Blackburn. 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!
The 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. Each 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.
The 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 pool, 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 minutes – 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 the 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.
The sun always shines in Skipton. Day four and all the different bits are linking up in the way places do 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 route everywhere and heading to water whenever he possibly can.
The town stays alive for Sunday. We found Derdlab Press, a treasure trove of printing blocks, 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.
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…
Hikers trudged past early this morning, shortly followed by the jingle jangle of morris dancers. By the time we 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.
According to Happy Hiker the route, complete with trig. point is a great hiking introduction for children who get to conquer a mountain which in reality is a mere pimple at only 1171ft. 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 Craven had gathered in the canal basin for the grand finale, an explosion of sinister rhythmic beats, dark costumes and a flurry of boats drifting past the peculiar merriment. All pretty odd and a perfect way to remember the longest day.