Sunday, 26 June 2016

Canal and River “Medley” (oh, and those locks!)


Since leaving Manchester the locks, both single and double, have provided a series of novel or awkward problems. The “broad” locks, although they are wide, they are not long. That means just one boat at a time and positioned diagonally. One of the hazards is that the bow of the boat can get caught on the footplates of the bottom gates and that’s just what happened to “Waterlily”! Pauline and Doug had to quickly lower the paddles to stop any more water leaving the lock as it could have turned the boat over.


Eventually, when we got onto the Calder and Hebble, we left the “stumpy” locks behind and they became both wide and long enough for two boats. That meant that our two lock operators could stand around chatting, as the efficiency of the operation improved by having both boats in together. 


The Calder and Hebble is an alternating sequence of the Calder river and canal cuts (known by specific names like Kirklees, Battyford, Mirfield and Long). After the very descriptive Long Cut, and getting through the double locks at the end of it ( with it’s pretty little circular pound between them), we decided to moor up for the night. We were alone on the relatively generous visitor moorings – indicative of the how few boats were around.


Back to the idiosyncrasies of locks – this is Pauline, armed with her “spike”.


To fill some locks the “spike” is used to raise the paddles. It’s inserted into a slot in a wooden wheel which is attached to a rack which is attached to the paddle. Levering the “spike” round turns the wheel. Usually you need a second pair of hands to operate a lug which stops the paddle from crashing back down while the first operator takes the spike out of one slot in the wheel to put it into another slot in order the repeat the process until the paddle is in the fully raised position. If the two operators are left with all their digits still attached by the time they finished this malarkey it’s considered a success! 


After the exhausting process with her “spike” Pauline then has to negotiate the slippery ladder down the side of the lock then jump across the gap and onto the boat! She’s a fit lady is our Pauline!


It’s a “James thing” – getting excited about going under motorways! This is the M1 no less!


We arrive in Wakefield on Tuesday evening (22nd June) to some very nice, and again empty, visitor moorings. That evening we were visited by lovely blog readers, Mark and Andy, who are having a sail-away hull built at this time They are going to fit most of it out themselves and Mark busied himself by taking notice of some of the finer details of “Chance”. Of course, there was a lot of chatter, wine and nibbles as well, then we all went across to the local pub for a wonderful meal, It was great to see you two guys and we wish you well in your new venture. We must keep in touch!


Leaving “Chance” in Wakefield in the capable hands of Pauline and Neil for a night we made our way back home. The fleeting visit was to mow lawns, cut hedges, see doctors, vote in the EU referendum and to spend the evening with friends Alan and Kim over a nice Indian meal in the village.


On Referendum Day more gardening was done and we were treated to an aerial display by three Spitfires. They knew we would be at home that day!


We got back up to Wakefield for Thursday evening and a very welcome dinner on our arrival provided by Pauline and Neil on nb Waterlily.


On Friday we set sail again and one of the first interesting sights that morning was the CRT workshops at Stanley Ferry and brand new lock gates being kept wet by continuously pumping water over them. Obviously if they dry out the wood shrinks and distorts and they aren’t any good!


We were back to the alternating River Calder and canal cut again. Some of the cuts are incredibly long and straight …………


…….. and the locks! Well, they still present surprises. They were now so big ……..


…….. we could have four narrow boats in each one. And to add to the novelty they were electrically operated.


The river sections of the waterway were getting quite wide and, to add to the drama and atmosphere of a good river, the storm clouds began to form overhead.


We decided to call it a day at Ferrybridge. Again, the visitor moorings were very good and, this time, we had a few neighbours for the night.


Saturday saw the storm clouds reaching threatening proportions as we cruised down a new river this time - the River Aire. A much flatter landscape than that of the River Calder and so we could see above the river banks!


At Beal Lock (built to cope with the 18 inch high weir!) there was a strange cautionary sign for us to take note of. If we hadn’t got a bent propeller James was all for taking part!


Off the River Aire our last leg of the day was the delightfully beautiful and tranquil Selby Canal. Not very deep but quite wide it required a slow and relaxed pace to enjoy the beauty of the flora and fauna.


And, at 2:30pm, we arrived in Selby Basin to await the next day’s little adventure – to be let out onto the tidal River Ouse to make our way up to York. We are booked to go through the lock at 10:45 in the morning so we made some use of the afternoon and took advantage of the water and pump our facilities.

After a walk into town with Pauline and Neil for some shopping, and for James to visit the glorious and famous Abbey, we got back to the boat and, with great delight, we had a visit by friends Alison and Adam who we first met in Soho, London a couple of years ago and who live very close to Selby. (Unfortunately no photos as we forgot!). After a lovely catch-up chat Alison and Adam left and we had the wonderful thunder storm which had been threatening for the last couple of days.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Narrow to Broad and Memories of Nora Batty


This was our very peaceful moorings in Slaithwaite where we spent a couple of nights. We had some great local ‘chish and fips’ on the second evening with Pauline and Neil on board. James tried again to do a bit more straightening of the bent prop as an interim measure but we’ve ordered a new one and will be looking out for a suitable boatyard to effect the replacement.


Moving on from Slaithwaite the canal ambience, since the Standedge tunnel, has been a delight - even if most of the locks are not!  ………….

P1090468 P1090471



Gorgeous rhododendrons on one side of the canal ………


………. and vast expanses of countryside - hills, trees, fields and, in this case, the massive bulk of Titanic Mill on the other. It now houses flats rather than textile machinery.


On our approach to Huddersfield the architecture gets more dominant (and so does the graffiti!).


Closer still to the centre and the new buildings shout “university town”.


Sadly, there was not a lot of visitor mooring space. Huddersfield doesn’t seem to want to cater for visitors. Having said that, there are so few boats actually moving on this canal there’s probably no incentive to try. However, we had a nice neighbour with a very nice 17 year old macaw called “Ollie”. 


On Sunday, we caught a bus from Huddersfield to nearby Holmfirth - made famous by the popular TV series “Last of the Summer Wine”. Here’s Doug standing at Compo’s front door ………


…….. and James daring to stand on Nora Batty’s steps!


We walked up the hill to St John’s Church to find Bill Owen’s (Compo’s) resting place …………..


…….. where the views from his grave are simply stunning.


Back down into the town and we found Sid’s CafĂ© ………


……. and the inside hasn’t changed much either!


Back on the bus from Holmfirth and onto the boats, we set off from Huddersfield at 2 pm. Now cruising the Huddersfield (Broad) canal – the locks are wide enough for two narrow boats but not long enough for both to fit in and get the gates open and shut! So, we have to put one boat in at a time and go diagonally. The general “hassle factor” associated with the Huddersfield canal locks was still to dog us!


If we’d forgotten we were in Yorkshire here was something to remind us!


After nine locks on the Huddersfield Broad,which both “Waterlily” and “Chance” had to negotiate diagonally, we got to the end at lock No 1  ……


…… and then it was onto the River Calder for a 200 yard hop before getting onto the Calder and Hebble canal.


It was a ‘bloody sharp right!’ to get off the river and through the (open) flood lock onto the canal. Here’s Neil doing a terrific broadside!

The rain, which held off most of the day, was falling heavily by this point so it was a prudent decision to more up for the night on the very good visitor moorings just the other side of the flood lock.

We enjoyed a really nice meal on board “Waterlily” with Pauline and Neil. It was a triumph of ingenuity by Pauline as she doesn’t have a working oven at the moment! (and no, it wasn’t just cheese we had – that was for the 4th course!)

To have a lie in first thing that morning, then get the bus to Holmfirth and back and then do three hours cruising (which ended in the pouring rain). On top of that to have a lovely meal with friends was considered a good days ‘eventing’. It was time to call it a day.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

The Standedge Tunnel and Life After it!


At 12:30 Neil and Pauline on “Waterlily” started their transit of the Standedge tunnel. At 600 feet above sea level the Huddersfield Narrow canal is the highest canal in the country and the tunnel, at 3 1/4 miles, is the longest.


Next, at 13:15, it was our turn. Suitably trussed up in safety gear, up to speed on precautions necessary and given an indication as to what we should expect ………


……. with our pilot on board we gently eased “Chance” into the gloom of the longest, deepest and highest tunnel we’re ever likely to experience.


Getting through the first 200 yards of the fairly modern brick lined start we soon arrived at the really awesome bare rock of the tunnel.


The tunnel, which took 17 years to complete in 1811, was blasted and hacked by hand in candlelight. It lies below and between two railway tunnels which were built later – one of which now acts as a safety tunnel for the canal tunnel.


Being the deepest tunnel in the country it lies 638 feet below the highest point of the moor above. At some points the tunnel is so narrow there are just 3 or 4 inches each side of the boat. The awesome natural beauty of the bare rock was tremendous and once or twice it opened out into incredible limestone caverns.


Occasionally there was some relief from the narrowness when it briefly widened  and there were also sections which have needed to be sprayed with concrete to stop loose fragments from falling.


Some parts, even with “Chances” excellent LED headlights, are extremely dark and the pilot was certainly necessary to give us guidance as to where to steer.


Some stretches are almost cathedral-like in height and some have barely enough headroom for the boat never mind the steerer! (“Chance” was rigorously measured for maximum height, overall width, length, depth below waterline and width of the roofline or tumblehome before we were given permission to pass).


This is a lovely wide high section but it didn’t last for long!


At four points along the tunnel’s length there are connecting adits with the safety tunnel where we had to ‘call in’ to the man and his van who was checking on our progress.


This is a great shot of the last mile of the tunnel. Not quite dead straight but you can see light at the end! Until 1947 boats were still ‘legged’ through the tunnel – with a three and half hour journey time. The shear boldness and bravery of the builders and workers is just staggering when you consider the basic equipment and tools they had at their disposal.


Towards the east end the tunnel reverts back to brick lining. Brilliant craftsmanship when you you think they only had candlelight to work by.


After 1hour 50 minutes (we weren’t going for any records!) we emerged into the light once more. Thankfully we sustained NO DAMAGE at all, so James doesn’t need to get the paint pot out just yet!

The experience was incredible and photos and descriptions pay little homage to the beauty and the diversity of the tunnel. It was a strange and weird feeling for the entire transit and one we would really recommend. There are lots of terrifying tales of how much damage can be caused to your boat but if you listen to your pilot and take your time there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a thoroughly wonderful time. It was first class!


On Wednesday evening, with Pauline and Neil, we walked into the delightful little town of Marsden to the River Head Brewery Tap (on the right of the pic) ……


……. where we enjoyed an incredibly good meal in celebration of the days achievements (Pauline and Neil also transited unscathed in the very fast time of 1hour 20 minutes – but they’ve done it before!)


Thursday morning dawned damp and dismal (we need to regularly remind ourselves it’s June!)around the pretty little basin at the east portal of the tunnel.


Our journey for the day was to negotiate 21 locks down to Slaithwaite. The route took us through fabulous scenery.


The landscape can give strange views – there’s a man mending the chimney on the house. He must feel very odd looking at a boat passing level with him.


James did a lot of locks today!




Lovely scenery and lots to look at round every bend in the canal.


We arrived at lock 24E where we’d had to book a CRT person to help us through the guillotine bottom gate …….


…….. and, miracle of miracles, the top gate of the lock was perfect in it’s seals – no water leaking through at all! This just has to be recorded!


The steerer’s  eye view of the guillotine gate as it rises and, once safely through without being sliced in half, it was just two more locks before mooring up in Slaithwaite.