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.
Standard narrowboat hire is one thing but wide beams churned out after ten minutes training create heavy weight fear. The beastly mass of burgundy smacked us once, then again and again before careering off into every other moored boat, eventually disappearing out of sight. We have plan. Next one that crunches it’s way along us gets the knock out blow of a toilet flush…no inline carbon filters fitted here. This boat bites back.
Murk raced his way round Skipton Castle Woods, sending Chihuahuas flying, skittling oldies and crashing through buggies he was in his element. Skipton Castle – one of the finest examples of a Medieval castle (yaaaaaawn Sar), is partly surrounded by the Springs Branch of The Leeds and Liverpool canal. Built in 1797 for Lord Thanet who lived in Skipton Castle, owned potentially lucrative limestone quarries but who needed to create a link to the main network in order to transport stone to Leeds.The branch is open to boats up to 35ft.
Moorings are chock, Skiptonites are making the most of Friday night.
Only four swing bridges stood between us and Skipton but with the first hung beyond unbalanced and needing boat power to budge it, Skipton seemed to be getting further away. The next three were easier and we had the hose on the first of the waterpoints by midday.
Originating from the Anglo Saxon words ‘sceap’ (sheep) and ‘tun’ (town) there is an underlying touristy sheep theme going on in Skipton, but for now it’s been blown in oblivion by yellow. ‘Le Tour’ is coming and the town has gone all out to prepare: window boxes are all plants yellow; bakery windows crammed with lemon cupcakes; bikes are knitted, carved, sculpted, painted; charity shoppers face a wall of yellow; antique centres have dug out worn wheels – it’s never ending and if you somehow manage to miss the Tour de France angle, it would feel a curiously cultish yellow obsessed market town.
The town is a great combination of traditional and quirky with a reassuring dose of Poundland. Everything is done nicely – Bodycare is tucked inside a pretty arcade and other than the logo looked more like an olde worlde apothecary than a shampoo/wax strip bargain bucket.
Bridges slice the moorings into three sections, all with their own character and different appeal. This seems to be the jewel in the crown of The Leeds and Liverpool canal and having never been before, it’s hard to imagine Skipton without miles and miles of yellow bunting.
I looked down at my worn out Converse and then up at Nick: trainers, rucksack, litre of water, sandwiches, milk for Murk, iPad (maps saved to photos), iPhone and BULLET proof sun glasses… set for a serious ramble. To be fair we needed all that technology and could have done with a good old-fashioned Ordnance Survey too. Thinking we were headed up onto Flasby Fell we followed the route, around three miles in we agreed the walk was misleadingly named and a few miles after that, figured the route planner had lost the will to live midway through – throwing in vague instructions like zig zig, turn back on yourself, cross a ‘few’ fields….we were lost.
Four hours later, having enjoyed feeling quite lost we finished the walk with a homemade ending and were back at the boat. Far lusher than moorland, The Dales are precision farmed, every stone wall still does a job, the farms are immaculately kept and the hay meadows are beautiful.
We moved one lock on for a view upgrade, a less wonky boat and better barbecue position. The barbecue was a bit of a non starter, keeping the charcoal in the gas hatch isn’t such a good idea over the Leeds and Liverpool where water frequently cascades over the front of a 60ft boat.
Farmy smells hung heavy in the air, wafting under the mushrooms it was the first thing that registered this morning. The scenery was breath-taking at times today and would have been even more spectacular if the sun had put in an appearance a bit earlier. Stone walls and countless hairpin bends give the feeling of shuttling along a marble run.
Since everything prettied up, the hire boats have reappeared. It’s definitely beautiful but the locks are no walk in the park and we met a few holidayers just starting out who were in a state of shock, shaking their heads disbelieving how heavy the gates are – realising the Leeds and Liverpool narrowboat dream isn’t for feeble weebles.
Bank Newton locks lead down into Gargrave, we passed on by the visitor moorings as they were fairly packed out and shady which does the solar panel no favours. A couple of locks on, the trees have disappeared and Flasby Fell rises high above the water. Moored on the edge of The Yorkshire Dales National Park, Murk has some heavy weight walking heading his way.