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.
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
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.