Saturday, 26 July 2014

Skipton

It must be obvious to you by now that it is taking us a long, long time to cross the north of England on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. We left Liverpool in early May and we are somewhere just over half way across now; high up in the Pennines with no real urge to move on at all.

 

From Herons….

 

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…. and Rabbits….

 

….to Cows coolly refreshing themselves.

 

The Sun shines marvellously for us day after day encouraging us to remain and explore some more the hills and beautiful countryside surrounding numerous enchanting little towns that we are meeting on our journey. Barrowford, Colne, and Gargrave have all captivated us with their own special charm and history. From each it has been difficult to wrench ourselves away from the picturesque little cottages, built solidly with local granite and bathed bounteously with summer fragranced flowers and from our walks in the hills the views are rewarding enough on their own. The local people are charming too though it may have taken some time for a ‘sissy southerner’ like me to grasp a full understanding of their broad dialect.

 

With Rosebay Willowherb….

 

Here in Skipton it is no different. We have been here for a week and are still not ready to move on.

On arrival it is just yet another small North Yorkshire town quietly and charmingly snuggled amongst the surrounding hills and yet on closer inspection it appears to have here everything that mankind could possibly desire. As well as the natural rural charm that the town possesses such as beautiful country walks, a medieval castle, market place, churches and numerous quaint local shops, caf├ęs and pubs, not to mention the historic canal basin itself, it seems to be well represented with all modern amenities too.

 

….and cottages in the Sunshine….

 

All the national shops are here; Morrison’s and a large twenty four hour Tesco are within minutes of our mooring while a branch of Aldi is a little further away. In the town are M & S, W.H.Smith’s, Costa, Poundland and all the others, as well as all the  national banks and even the House of Fraser is represented as Rackham’s departmental store. Of course Wetherspoon’s is here too at which I write this now after devouring a very nourishing tuna mayonnaise filled baked jacket potato.

 

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….We lay here contentedly at Skipton

 

There is a girl’s high school as well as a grammar school that was founded in 1492, a well looked after large recreational park with a wild life meadow, a pitch and putt golf course and a sports leisure centre including a busy indoor swimming pool, of which any large town or city in the country would be proud.

We are discovering new amenities every day.

This weekend in the park a large marquee has been erected for a ‘fake’ music festival to which hundreds of people are now arriving. Okay the music is to be provided by tribute bands only (though these are often as good as, or sometimes even better than the original). But it is Skipton they are performing at and not one of the major cities.

I find the activity quite amazing and the whole area quite exhilarating.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

A Walk in Airedale and ‘Le Tour’

We are at Gargrave, a pretty village nestling across a young River Aire, consisting of small stone built cottages, which date across time; the earliest of these that I have seen must be from the Fifteenth Century, though like all places in the United Kingdom, this parish does have its fair share of Twentieth Century council built ones as well.

 

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Meadow Crane’s-bill in Gargrave Woodland Walk

 

…and Red Dead Nettle

 

Victorian Post Box in Gargrave

We are moored just below the bottom lock of four, at the most northern point on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, at the same latitude approximately as Lancaster and York on our eastern and western sides respectively. The Sun is shining as it seems to mostly these days, there are few clouds in the pale blue sky and today’s early morning light breeze has since died away to nothing.

All is quiet on this superb section of UK’s waterways.

We're here for a few days as Janis has gone away to sea on a steel built brig called ‘Stavros Niarchos’. She’s a member of the Sail Training Association and goes away at least once a year, during the Summertime while I remain here happily and contentedly on my ‘boat sitting’ duties.

There’s plenty for me to do that ensures I never become bored. There’s ship cleaning duties that never seem to be complete and a list of non-stop outside maintenance and painting jobs that never gets any smaller. Of course too there is always endless reading to be done and nonstop walks in this beautiful countryside. Unfortunately when the weather is so fine there is always a clash of loyalties towards the latter or the painting and usually the walking wins.

Last Saturday the weather was wonderful, just like now, so I set off in the morning down the towpath towards Skipton, four miles away. Never having been there before I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore the town and the visitor moorings before we took the ships down there. However everybody else seemed to have the same idea for the towpath at that time of the morning was so busy with pedestrians all going the same way; I had never seen such a busy walkway.

It transpired that all these people of all ages were off to see the ‘Tour de France’ which was passing through the town at around midday.

It turned out to be a great festive occasion and reports would have us believe that around two million spectators altogether arrived at the little town to watch the event, even if it did only last all of twenty seconds as the speed cyclists whizzed through. However the television crews with cameras and helicopters were on the scene and one therefore had a much better view of the proceedings anyway and with professional commentary too, on the big screen set up in the square adjacent to the canal basin. Everybody was sporting yellow jumpers, including the church tower while flags and bunting fluttered cheerfully everywhere amongst the happy din and the continuous clink of charity buckets.

 

The Yellow Jumper of ‘Le Tour de France’

 

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Many spectators

 

All was well in this little town of Skipton; a quite delightful place.

Soon the people began to go home and it was time for me to retrieve Janis’s bike, which she had left earlier locked up at Skipton Railway Station, when she had caught the train to Leeds on her way to Newcastle. It was there waiting for me and in the warm afternoon sunshine I rode it back along the towpath, gingerly but carefully dodging the pedestrians and arrived home well contented with my day.

 

Tranquil evening peace

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Up into the Country of Dales and Witches

We enjoyed a few days in our ‘shed’ at Blackburn and I remained aboard while Janis spent a weekend in North Yorkshire with her good friend Tina. But when she arrived back we felt it was time to go; the conveniences and pleasures of the city become tedious after a while and we both yearned once more for the open country.

It was time to be on the move.

Here we were not yet at the top of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Even so we meandered happily through a pound of twenty three miles, through urban areas large and small with many sad looking derelict cotton mills in evidence, interspersed with beautiful rural parts of green hay pastures and lush rolling meadows filled with wild flowers and heady aromas while contented sheep and cattle grazed unperturbed by our passing.

In parts the canal was quite shallow and ‘Futurest’ progressed with some difficulty with her two feet nine draught aft and in the areas near the towns a great deal of rubbish had accumulated; on two occasions so far, I’ve had to stop to clear debris around the propeller and twice also at other times the vessel has pitched and rolled somewhat violently as she’s pushed her way alarmingly over large submerged items. So finding idealistic rural moorings that both Janis and I love, which allow me to get alongside satisfactorily, are difficult to come by.

However on the first night we were fortunate and found a suitable spot to tie up, close to, but not in Accrington. The following day we moved on and moored in the afternoon at the water point at Rose Grove, near Burnley. There were a couple of moorings available here too, so as the National Trust property of Gawthorpe Hall was close, we decided to stay for two nights altogether so we could visit. The house is of late Tudor origin and was full of ancient oak panelling inlaid with designs made from a lighter coloured timber and intricate moulded plaster ceilings. It was quite outstanding.

 

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Gawthorpe Hall, near Burnley

 

Common Spotted Orchid

 

There was one more night spent adjacent to Morrison’s Superstore when we were able to replenish our supplies before we passed through Gannow Tunnel and on Sunday climbed up the seven Barrowford Locks. In beautiful sunshine once more after a few dull days we tied up at the moorings just to the north of the top lock after filling up our fresh water tanks at the nearby tap.

 

IMG_1140  Garden growing on Borrowford Bottom Lock gate

One of The Hanging Gardens of Barrowford Locks

 

IMG_1147  Astrantia

Astrantia of the carrot family from ‘The Gardens’

 

We seem to have shaken off all the big towns now and instead are treated to lonely stone built farmsteads and the occasional small village. The views are magnificent across the rolling countryside. To the west just abaft our port beam we can see Pendle Hill at 557 metres, the highest around among the others. Yesterday the Sun graced us again and Janis and I made the most of it by walking into the nearby Village of Barrowford to visit the Pendle Heritage Centre and Museum. It is housed in a house that dates back to Tudor times and much is mentioned here of the notorious witch trials that were held in Lancaster in 1612. Two local families were involved mainly and these were the Demdykes and the Mattoxes. Twelve of them altogether were found guilty and hanged accordingly.

 

DSCN1018  On a walk into Borrowford

Janis’s new friend, the Mare

 

DSCN1020  .... and Foal

and mine, the young Foal

 

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A Medieval cruck roofed Barn at the Heritage Centre