Saturday 31 August 2019

Blackburn (just)

Today's Canal - Leeds and Liverpool

The day was dry, if generally grey, when we set off but some heavy spells of rain arrived and dogged us for the rest of the day until just before we moored when some bright sunshine lifted our horizons.

At the bridge close to our overnight mooring there was an information board which said, "Each section was built under a separate contract and was called a 'cut' - look out for the boundary markets between sections" We wondered whether this stone near to,our mooring was one such marker -if not perhaps it was an early milestone.

For much of the day we continued to have splendid views of the hills in the distance.

Old Hall Mill was one of the many mills in Burnley and this one has had a great makeover, now being used as offices for the adjoining factory. Before this the building looked rather run down. However, we have been so far unable to find out much about the mill or the present users.

As we passed over Sandholme Aqueduct we started to encounter edge-to-edge surface duckweed. We had heard about this and that it had made problems for others but we managed to make progress, sometimes slower than usual, but did not ave to make a visit to the weed hatch.

We stopped on the Burnley Embankment in order for Christine and Andrew to walk down the steep steps to the Tesco supermarket below.

The Weaver's Triangle is a named invented in the 1970's to refer to one area that was dense with weaving activity in the past and to help promote preservation of some of the heritage. The former Toll Office (now a visitor centre) and a former loading wharf are just two of the buildings.

The project has at times been difficult and controversial but the area is now substantially redeveloped, in part by re-purposing old mills and in part by demolishing the less usable or interesting ones and replacing them with new.

There are still some sites in need of a new future, but they are now very much in a minority.

This new Sandygate Canal Footbridge was opened in 2014 and links old and new parts pf the redevelopment.

Just before Gannow Tunnel we crossed over the M65 - we would have many more encounters with it between here and Blackburn.

Spa Mill, listed in Graces as having 634 looms, could do with a makeover!

We called at RoseGrove services and then a little later took a pause from the rain to have lunch.

The afternoon was also wet but we did not have any lengthy showers. However, some of the higher hills had their heads in the clouds.

This former lifeboat will no doubt one day join our Unusual Boats Gallery but for the moment looks more like Noah' Ark on Mount Ararat!

Back out into open countryside, the swing bridge serving a remote farmhouse have both fallen into disrepair - will either be still here when we come by again?

There were three swing bridges today, all close to Clayton-le-Moor and Church. They were easy to operate but all had an unusual locking mechanism that required both a key and a windlass to open a locking leg.

We did have some welcome sunny spells.

Another weather forecast - we are 100% certain of rain and intend to shelter under the trees.

This towpath bridge spanned a former arm that went a short distance to serve a colliery, long since disappeared.

This is the mid point of the entire length of the canal - 63 miles from both Leeds and Liverpool.

Still more views of the hills - at this stage  we were envious of their sunshine!

Eventually, the day came good and the last hour was very pleasant. We moored just on the edge of Blackburn, a little earlier than usual as we we unsure of where we might find a sensible mooring any further on. Back in 2007, on hire boat Poppy we moored reluctantly in Blackburn but awoke in the night to find that some 'lively' passersby had pulled our mooring pins out and tossed the lines into the water!

17.0 Miles - 0 Locks

Friday 30 August 2019


Today's Canal - Leeds and Liverpool

Although today was still mainly grey and overcast, some sunshine occasionally broke through and it was much milder than yesterday.

We immediately ascended the last of the Gargrave flight after which we passed over Priest Hole Aqueduct - our last view of the River Aire which has been our companion for a few days.

It was then a short distance to the six locks at Bank Newton. Here we had the assistance of the full time lock keeper. We only saw him to speak to when we reached the top lock as he went ahead to et each lock for us.

One of the locks was renamed (see) in 2016 as the Mike Clarke Lock. He help to found the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society and has written extensively about the canal's history.

We arrived at the top, chatted to the keeper about how he looks after the water supply and the particular issues arising from the short trip pattern of hire and day boats from Skipton, a usage that is very different from that which the original canal builders envisaged.

The next section is level but very meandering. The hedge line in the distance i where the canal runs after we have been some distance to the right and then back again. We kept seeing the transmitter mast, sometimes to one side and then the other.

One of the first bridges after this section is Double Arched Bridge - no prizes for guessing why it is called that.

The final set of locks to the summit is the flight of three at Greenberfield. This must be the wildest and most remote feeling of all the canal system.

Part way up the flight and a weather forecast : 20% chance of rain! Some spoil sport then found on the internet that the standing or sitting of cows is all a myth. (But it did not rain!)

We had help at the top lock from a volunteer.

There is a service block above the flight - now on the summit level. Also moored here is Kennet,  a Leeds and Liverpool short boat built in 1947, the last of this type of boat to be built. It ran until 1960 and in 2011 was converted for use at exhibitions and other events and is operated by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society.

We now came down through Barnoldswick, initially passing the Rolls Royce factory where the RB211 engine was developed. There was no indication save for this tiny warning notice.

Several manufacturing activities still remain alongside the canal. Esse proudly claim that they are a Master Stove Maker since 1854 and still produce an upmarket series of cooking and heating ranges.

We then passed back out into another rural stretch with some fine views of the distant hills.

Bridge 149 has a sign (if you can see it behinds the vegetation) that says Welcome to Lancashire.

We delayed out lunch until we arrived at Foulridge Tunnel as we knew that timed entry is only permitted on the hour for ten minutes. As we arrived the person on the one boat already waiting came to ask about when they would be allowed through. They did not know about the times and were a but miffed that the details were  not on the tunnel signs! Even the latest addition of his canal guide did not say - however ours does!

The tunnel is about a mile and a short distance afterwards we began the long descent from the summit pound with the seven locks in the  Barrowford flight. By now a strong breeze had picked up and the first few locks are quite exposed making waiting between them a bit tricky.

Close to Function 13 on the nearby motorway we knew that there was a Morrisons store as well as a branch of Screwfix. We moored and whilst Mike started to prepare the evening meal, Christine went for milk and a;paper and Andrew bought a new lump hammer to replace the one that went AWOL a few days ago (we do have a second one but it is a bit of a wimp when kit comes to banging in mooring ins in reluctant ground)

We continued to the point where we had identified a probable mooring spot. There are many former mill buildings being renovated for new purposes but the two either side of the bridge just before we stopped caught our attention and we looked up their former purpose. They are all part of the Brierfield Conservation Area. The first was built as Brierfield Mill and in 1838 was the first to bring steam powered cotton milling to the town. Work has started on re-purposing the far end (and splendid it looks) but this end is reminder how the more work still to be done. It was designed to give the impression of wealth.

On the other side of the road, Lob Lane Shed weaving factory built in 1859.The conversion of the main building fronting onto the canal is complete - it is said to be one of the finest examples of the saw tooth design of the roof line.

15.9 Miles - 16 Locks

Thursday 29 August 2019


Today's Canal - Leeds and Liverpool

Today was still cooler but we escaped any rain. Our aim for today only included one lock, right at the end.

However, there would be plenty of swing bridges of varying conditions and types. The first, just after we set off, was mechanised.

Thereafter, almost all of them were manual, such as this one. After work in recent years, all those that carry significant traffic have been mechanised,  but there are variations.

We were gradually working our way up Airedale, mainly following the contour well above the river level.

Sometimes we were shaded by by trees but at other time we had glimpses of  higher ground in the distance.

The lawn in this garden was well trimmed - perhaps that is why they keep two sheep!

In a couple of places we spotted du k ramps that have their own special Armco protection.

There is a substantial hire boat operation is at Silsden. There seemed to be quite a few boats at the base with a couple of them being prepared for their next hirers. However, we did encounter many more during the day, most seem to be taken on short hires.

Although the clouds occasionally darkened and we feared getting wet, in the event no rain actually materialised.

We gradually could see more of the distant hills.

At Bridge 183 there is a memorial to a Polish aircrew that died during the war when their plane crashed into a nearby hill. It seems that the plane suffered a structural failure and one wing fell off.

We stopped at Snaygill Boats to refill our diesel tank. As a result of the short length of their main wharf space we had to turn the boat around so that the diesel filler was close to their pump. Afterwards we had to turn yet again to face the way were originally going.

This former mill at Low Bradley is typical of many villages we could see along Airedale. A single major employer dominated the development of that village. This building was converted in the early 2000s to residential accommodation.

We stopped in Skipton to have lunch and then to use the service block. Whilst Mike and Andrew did the filling and emptying,. Christine popped to the shops for a few items

This modern bridge has an elegant shape to it.

A long length of the towpath is being upgraded. We followed a small tug with a team of five (seemed  impossible for them all to hang on!) from where they had been working back to the main base and road access where the pans are loaded with materials.

A nearly derelict barn alongside swing bridge 173 is being marketed with planning permission to convert into a splendid 4 bed house. The agent';s web site gives an asking price of £350,000. Although water, electricity and phone line have all been installed, there is a lot of work to be done before anyone can move in.

We arrived at our first lock for the day, with two hire boats ready to come down. The first was on its way in. They had enjoyed their sort break,even if some of it was a steep learning curve. They were not afraid to ask for advice when they needed it. We then came into the lock at crew from the second oat came to help but kept trying to open paddles when asked not to. It became  little fraught as at one point they were opening a gate paddle in to an empty lock with a full length boat below. It took some sharp words to get them to stop. They claimed to be expert and knew far more than we did. alas they did not seem to have done the training section about how it is the boat in the lock that is in charge!

Above the third lock, Christine saw that the door to the Canteen was ajar and she had a lengthy chat to the chap inside. The site, it seems, needs the presence of a night security guard.

The adjacent three day mooring was, alas, full with quite a number of local hire boats using this as the place to turn around (there is also a winding hole). We did try to come alongside just after the mooring but found it very shallow and we ended up stuck for rather a long time until we could work ourselves free. This meant continuing up the locks. Eventually we found a mooring, although it did need us to deploy our ladder plank for access between boat and shore.

16.2 Miles - 5 Locks