Tuesday 8 August 2017


Today's Navigation - Calder and Hebble

It was already lightly raining as we made ready to leave and it gradually increased in intensity. However, although it was enough to soak our outer clothing, it never became an complete downpour. We wanted to make a good start as we have the target of getting through Salterhebble today. The top lock could well be our nemesis as, along with Shepley Bridge lock which we came through several days ago, it is the shortest on the navigation. If we cannot fit into the lock then there will be no alternative but to turn around and go back the way we came, all the way to Castleford for the Leeds and Liverpool or where we started yesterday for the Huddersfield Narrow, Since the latter would involve the Standedge Tunnel we are not keen on doing too much damage to our beautiful paintwork so soon after it was new! (The black paint is another matter . . . )

Four boats arrived coming the opposite direction just before we set off - they had been held up in Brighouse because of the river level - and also a CaRT work boat came up. At least this meant that they left the Anchor Pit gates open - when we checked yesterday evening they were still shut although at a level.

The river seemed quite calm today. This bridge seemed rather substantial for just carrying a footpath across.

Brighouse Bottom Lock marked the end of the various river sections that form a large part of the Calder and Hebble.

The water level marker was well into the green.

A former flood in 1866 is remembered in a carved note in the wall of the former lock cottage.

The work boat was heading for the basin between the two Brighouse locks as both top paddles needed attention.

Above the next lock we made full use of the services and Christine made two trips to the shops for food items.

The centre of Brighouse has been well re-developed from when it was very much an industrial area built up around the canal.

However this small factory sign amused us - even if there was not a bit of green to be seen anywhere.

The Sugden Flour Mill stood on this site for a long time and the building still standing replaced much older works. However it closed twenty years ago and has been looking for  new use since then planning wrangles frustrated various attempts. A few years ago it gained its current new lease of life as a climbing centre. There are indoor facilities but the outside wall is one huge climbing challenge! All those dots are individual hand holds.

A number of the locks along this stretch have these marker stones inscribed 100 yds. Not sure about their purpose - they are too close to be of any use to warn about the upcoming lock but perhaps they are like the DIS markers on the Oxford which indicate which boat has the right of way when one arrives at the top and one at the bottom almost at the same time.

Avocet Hardware have taken over an old mill building and extended it in both directions with modern buildings. They are important manufacturers of door locks, knockers, letterboxes, and other door furniture. New owners three years ago seem to have given it a brighter future.

Brookfoot Lock had a couple of specific interests. Originally, the artificial 'cut' returned here to the river through a lock but later improvements made the rest of the navigation into a canal, right through to Sowerby Bridge. The remains of the lock can still be seen and the former chamber is available as a permanent mooring (currently 'available').

The second item of interest is the former toll house, once known as a lobby - there is a similar one at Elland Lock a little further along. It is now in some disrepair but there are moves to restore it an volunteers recently did work on the roof so that at least the rain is kept out. Both its location, the lack of basic services and its size (too small) make it difficult to convert into a dwelling but it may become a visitor centre.

Above Cromwell Lock we stopped for a while to have lunch (another Jess salad) and to warm up a little. Dry outer clothes were needed once we set off once more!

As we approached the bridge at Cromwell Bottom we cold see from some distance that there was an obstruction under the bridge. as we came nearer we could see that it was a work platform which was swiftly moved out of the way to let us through.

It seems that this bridge has had to be substantially renovated with a new reinforced concrete lining. It was not listed on the works needed after the January 2015 floods but perhaps it was due for repair.

We next reached Elland, scene of the worst devastation of the 2015 flood which seriously damaged the old Elland Bridge and which closed the canal to navigation for over a year. It has now been re-built using, as far as possible to original stonework which had to be carefully removed and later reconstructed around a modern concrete structure.

Many of the old buildings have been converted to new purposes - we were not sure whether this was a piece of public art - or just a tree in the wrong place!

We eventually arrived at Salterhebble - the first of the three locks has a guillotine lower gate, installed when the road was widened for modern traffic. We had problems getting it to operate but, just as Mike was ringing the emergency line, it suddenly started to raise!

The middle lock proved quite a challenge to operate as the paddles both top and bottom were very stiff (it is also deep) but Christine successfully recruited a hunky passer-by to lend assistance!

And so to our much-awaited target: Salterhebble Top Lock, also very deep. The top gates were extremely leaky - this photo does not do justice to the amount of water pouring over Alchemy's bow deck.

However, we were very grateful that the specific Tyler-Wilson design with the large bar across, worked very well indeed and only small amounts of water came into the foredeck. (The beady eyed will notice that this photo was taken later after the bow fender had been restored to its proper place - we had to lift both fenders to make our length as short as possible for these locks)

Initially, Mike found that the boat was just 50 mm or so too far back to pass around the bottom gates but he knew that he could gain this if only he could get the bow of the boat into the middle. (The cill of these locks is a circular arc rather than just straight across) The flow of water from the top gate did its best to prevent this, so a rope had to be taken ashore to pull the bow over. We squeaked into the lock with the slimmest of margins!

You can imagine, I am sure dear reader, that this view of the lock behind us was taken with some relief!

We had planned on using a marked mooring just around the corner but its proximity to a large sewage works offended our senses of smell so we went on a just a little further before gratefully tying up. As already indicated, before finally retiring into the warmth of the cabin, Mike replaced the fenders into the proper positions.

6.8 Miles - 12 Locks

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