Friday, 29 August 2014

Up the Trent to Newark

Last Friday afternoon we arrived at Newark and tied up at the town moorings near the bridge and the floating ‘Barge’ pub. The high wall, alongside which we were moored, made getting off and on the boats rather difficult but the benefit here of having the Sun all day on our solar panels soon outweighed the disappointment of finding the floating pontoon opposite, where there was fresh water and electric points available, fully occupied.


A passenger on my after deck


In Stainforth I had been boat sitting for Janis while she needed to be away previously in Newark for a few days. But on her return we were swiftly away on Wednesday 20th. I for one was glad to move away from the unfortunate, barren little town even though the mooring itself had been very quiet and pleasant and it was somewhat ironic as well for my companion that she would be back in her home town in only three days time.

We covered the distance to Keadby, our exit onto the River Trent, in the one day and were very glad to have the passing of Thorne Lock and the re-filling of our diesel tanks at one of the nearby Marinas to alleviate our otherwise tedious arrow straight passage across a dull flat landscape, relieved only by the monotonous turning blades of an enormous wind farm.


The canal down to Keadby

In various canal literature I had read that Thorne possessed the shortest lock on the waterway system at 57’ 6” and consequently had been anxious as to whether two 57 footers would be able to pass through at the same time. It would have posed a problem had the cill appeared when the lock was empty. But this was not the case here and I was able to reverse the boats with ease over the cill so that they touched the gates astern to enable Janis to open the forward ones.


DSCN1213  The weed lawn at Keadby

‘The bowling green’ at Keadby



Close-up around the rudder


As we approached Keadby we were beset by a thick floating weed which made the going difficult. It wasn’t the trailing variety that entangles the propeller but consisted of small floating circular leaves of algae which built up to such a degree that it seemed as if we moved through field of green pack ice or thick pea soup. In Keadby itself at the moorings the surface area of the water was completely covered giving us the eerie feeling of being moored on a fine cut bowling green, enough even to convince a nearby boat owner’s dog that he could walk across it.

The following day the optimum time for locking down onto the river was late in the afternoon and there were so many of us wanting to do so that it was over an hour after that time before the two little ships were able to pass through. Consequently they didn’t have the full benefit of the flood tide and it was after dark when they arrived finally at the pontoon moorings outside Torksey Lock and these were overloaded two or three deep with the amount of traffic in transit. We managed to find a couple of safe spots nonetheless and were glad to turn in almost immediately ready for an early getaway at six in the morning.


Little Egret on the Trent



Sunset behind West Burton Power Station


But even then Janis and I missed a good chunk of the flood tide, since having arrived into the heavily accommodated Torksey Cut bow first the night before we had no room to turn round and on Friday morning, until some of the smaller cruisers had left, the situation did not improve. To compound the challenge the previous low water in the river had reduced the Cut to a trickling ditch at 6am with a bar across the entrance meaning that even the smallest of us had to delay our departure. Consequently by the time we reached Cromwell Lock, at the tidal head of the river the water was beginning to ebb again and we were well overdue.

But after this the remainder of the passage to Newark was most pleasant in the warm sunshine and even the anglers at the waters edge were smiling benevolently as we tied up in the early afternoon.



The moorings at Newark


Newark being Janis’s hometown has plenty to offer us in the way of her numerous friends offering their hospitality and we in turn inviting them aboard. Though we are fast approaching September and swiftly running out of Summer cruising time, I do anticipate a stay here longer than we originally intended.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

From Leeds down to Stainforth

After three days intensive travel from Leeds I find myself at a good, safe and plentiful mooring at the little town of Stainforth, a number 85 local bus journey north of Doncaster. I am boat-sitting again for a few days awaiting Janis, who is temporarily in Newark.

From Leeds having finally completed the one hundred and twenty seven miles of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, we descended quickly from the beautiful Pennine scenery that had captivated us for so long into the drab landscape of Eastern England where numerous rivers, from all points west on the compass, meander their way across a vast flat flood plain and empty themselves into the Humber Estuary.


DSCN1185Leaving the lock

Leaving Leeds Lock and entering the River Aire



An alert eye on the River Aire…..



…..and an alert dog at Woodlesford Lock too

From Leeds on Wednesday morning in a blustery strong  breeze and driving showers, a result apparently from the recent manifestation of Hurricane Bertha in America, we locked down into the River Aire and to travel its wide and deep expanses was such a pleasure after the close confines of the canal.

A vestige of the Pennines, one last shoulder, hung on to us while we travelled  down to Castleford but after this the countryside became flat and dull on the consciousness. We found that Nature was struggling to reassert itself in country scarred by extinct open cast coal mines and was not yet quite satisfied with the result. 

Past Ferrybridge we began sixteen miles of straight and level canal firstly on the Aire and Calder Navigation in an easterly direction then, straight as an arrow, seven miles south on the New Junction Canal to meet the River Don near Stainforth. The only relief from this monotony was the frequent appearance and interruption of huge lift and swing bridges that we needed to negotiate before carrying on.



Kirkhouse Lane Bridge on New Junction Canal


DSCN1204  Guillotine Stop Lock at Southern end of New Junction Canal

The guillotine stop lock and Aqueduct over the River Don


On Friday afternoon, at the southern end of the New Junction Canal we turned sharply to port and were soon passing beneath a fixed road bridge to tie up at very adequate moorings in Stainforth opposite the ‘New Inn’. Janis’s friend Ray was cruising with us at that time and as crew to ‘Roots and Wings’ he did sterling work for us through the day working all the lift bridge mechanisms.

When all was safely secured and stowed away in Stainforth we three crossed over the bridge and repaired to the New Inn for a couple of pints each to celebrate.

The next morning  Ray and Janis, he having kindly offered her a lift to Newark, set  off leaving me in charge of the two little ships. I have since been ashore and have to report that the moorings and the pub are easily the best part of the whole town.

The main street runs for about a mile at right-angles from the canal till it arrives at the railway station at the extreme southern end of town and in between everything is so run down. There is litter everywhere and uncollected dog pooh on the pavements for a start, left to fossilize or be flattened beneath some unsuspecting shoe. Of the few shops there are, three quarters of them are shuttered up. However there is still a bookies open, a greyhound stadium, albeit in serious need of care and attention, and three ladies hairdressers (there is never any shortage of those).

So having become thoroughly depressed walking up the street, managing to avoid the minefield of faeces, imagine my surprise and delight when ASDA Supermarket suddenly appeared towards the top. I was quite certain it must be some kind of mirage but was reassured that it was real enough and though only a small one to usual standards, it was filled with customers. I expect its arrival in the town is the real reason why so many of the little shops have been boarded up.



Secure moorings at Stainforth


After a cloudy few days the Sun has now returned though the breeze from the north is quite chilly. The solar panel is charging up ‘Futurest’s batteries beautifully and at the same time recharging mine.

Monday, 11 August 2014


We dragged ourselves away finally one beautiful morning on Sunday last, completing a most memorable stay at Skipton.

The Sun was shining, the air was calm and it was a pleasure to stand once more at the stern of ‘Futurest’, to feel the beat of the big engine beneath my feet and the pressure of the gently gurgling water on the rudder. Everything behaved wonderfully well, as if the ship herself was happy to be on the move again after such a lengthy stay, while not far astern ‘Roots and Wings’ showed plainly her approval by pushing contentedly a wide bow wave in front of her.

We were on our way towards Leeds.



‘….while not far astern ‘Roots and Wings’


Skipton Basin


However we tied up early in the afternoon that day, not because we were bored already and unused to our new cruising routine, but simply that we had seen a sign on the towpath advertising afternoon tea, scones and jam at a local parish church. Also over the nearby bridge was a beckoning country footpath that both Janis and I find hard to resist always.



The village of Kildwick below the canal embankment



Down the main Street at Kildwick


So we climbed the narrow walkway up a steep incline bordered by tall healthy looking Stinging Nettles and arched with unkempt Elder and having admired the outside of Kildwick Hall at the top, then followed a small road back into and through the picturesque village of Kildwick. A pot of tea at the parish hall was most welcome by the time we reached it and though the local ladies serving it asked for a modest fee in return, they kept our pot filled up most satisfactorily and the home made scones and jam were delicious.

On Monday we travelled six miles further south to Riddlesden, part of Keighley, where we remained for two very quiet nights securely at the local moorings and we planned this so we could spend the whole of the following day at the National Trust property, East Riddlesden Hall.



East Riddlesden Hall




A house was first built here in the twelve hundreds but the current building dates from the late Fifteenth Century with additions up to the Victorian era and very suitably the dark looking buildings were used in the filming of ‘Wuthering Heights’. Of course at this time of the year all gardens are at their best and this one was well up to the National Trust’s excellent standard. Having visited the house in the morning, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on a rustic seat in this abundant one, while listening to suitable medieval music provided by a trio of flute, clarinet and cello.

On the way from Kildwick to Riddlesden my stern gland bilge pump had decided not to work. However conveniently nearby was the well known and respected chandlery Puffer Parts who were able to sell me a suitable replacement.

We left Riddlesden with everything working well ready for the two staircase locks down to Shipley, the Bingley Five Rise and the Bingley Three Rise. These were cheerfully worked for us by a team of lock keepers, while I took the two ships down breasted up together with Janis helping at the paddles and heavy gates.


DSCN1175  At the bottom of the Bingley Five Rise

Looking back up the ‘Bingley Five Rise’


DSCN1146  The Bridge Swinger

The Bridge worker…..



…. and the lock worker


After spending Thursday night at Bingley, we passed through seemingly endless heavy swing bridges the next day, impossible for handling by single handed boaters alone since the operation had to be completed from the off side of the canal. There was a strong cross wind blowing so having moored up ‘Futurest’ at the bridge landing, I hopped on board and took over the controls of ‘Roots and Wings’ while Janis worked the bridge mechanism. Having steered the first boat through and secured her at the landing on the other side I returned to ‘Futurest’ to take her through. My companion could then close the bridge and return to her boat to continue. This process was repeated endlessly it seemed all day.

The other thing that is difficult to perform on this canal is to find a suitable mooring deep enough to allow even ‘Roots and Wings’ to get alongside with her eighteen inch draft, let alone ‘Futurest’ with her much deeper stern, anywhere but at regular visitor moorings. So after working a long Thursday passing through more staircase locks as well as all the bridges, it was getting late and desperation was beginning to set in for finding a suitable mooring, when we came upon Calverley Lodge Swing Bridge, which opportunely was fixed in the open position. Quickly we moored for the night at the two ideal bridge landings, which were complete with bollards.

On Friday after yet more locks and swing bridges we arrived at Leeds and tied up at a very secure mooring behind a locked gate (for which we were happy to supply the padlock) just above Office Lock and then the one that leads down onto the River Aire itself.

We were happy to be here.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Rather Like Giving up Chocolate

We are finding it very difficult to leave Skipton and keep finding excuses for staying … just one more day.

After having spent more than a week of sunshine here already, discovering exciting things to do, it could have been Tuesday afternoon or thereabouts and the conversation went something like as follows:

"We must have seen everything in Skipton now so how do you feel about moving on tomorrow?”

“Yes! Let's do that before we get asked to do so.  ……. No wait a minute! We haven’t visited the castle yet and we’ve been promising it ever since we arrived. It would be so silly to miss that opportunity.”



Skipton Castle reduced in height after the Civil War


DSCN1125  The Inner Courtyard

The Inner Courtyard


So on Wednesday we visit Skipton’s medieval castle and later, when we arrive back aboard:

“That was wonderful wasn’t it? My goodness …… All that history.  We’ll have so much to think about when we’re travelling quietly along tomorrow. What’s that you’re reading?”

“Oh it’s just a leaflet I picked up at the castle. It’s about the nearby Embsay to Bolton Abbey Steam Railway. I love old steam engines don’t you? Wouldn’t it be lovely to travel on it, especially in this beautiful weather.”

“Yes it would ……. But we did decide to move on tomorrow.”

“Yes I know we did, but d’you reckon we could stay just one more day? We won’t get a chance like this again you know.”



‘Beatrice’ our little 1945 tug



Embsay Station, just north east of Skipton



Bolton Abbey ruins


 DSCN1102  Bolton Abbey Priory Parish Church

The Nave of the old Priory Church, now the local parish church


The next day we spend a most memorable day at the ruins of Bolton Abbey Priory. In the warm sunshine nearby we eat our picnic lunch on the green sward kept short by the grazing of local sheep and within the curve of the meandering River Wharfe we idly watch young children feeding  hungry Mallards and assiduously skimming flat pebbles across the smooth surface of the water. It’s good to be there and marvellous to be alive as the gentle breeze coolly wafts and sighs over us through the Perpendicular windows now by dereliction like large open eye sockets, through which Jackdaws and House Martins fly unimpeded.

Later, on the walk back from Embsay Station we discover a kissing gate to Skipton Castle Woods, which we didn’t know existed till then. It would be so silly to miss a day of relaxation in there wouldn’t it?

So the following day, with the weather beautiful once more, we put off the dreaded decision once again and in stead amble along the local Spring Canal, with the castle’s north battlements looming impregnably high above us on the right and enter Skipton Woods beyond. We did have such a wonderful day.

But by the way. A long time ago when we first arrived in the little town I had promised myself that it would be a good opportunity while we were here to repaint the starboard side of ‘Futurest’ that had been so badly scuffed over the year. Also the rear end of the roof, over the Engine Room and the Boatman’s cabin needed re-raddling, so with any luck I could do that at the same time. But every day the Sun had beat relentlessly down making the roof far too hot to contemplate anything else after its initial preparation.

However yesterday the Sun was obscured behind cloud for most of the day making it ideal for painting so in spite of earlier plans to sail then, it was silly not to take advantage of the lull and I was able to complete it. We would definitely sail the next day though. But today and even as I write this now, the gardeners much needed rain comes down, which would make it so unpleasant to navigate and difficult of course to manage all the swing bridges on our proposed route.

So today rather guiltily we’ve decided definitely that ……

….. we’ll move on tomorrow.