Wednesday 28 August 2019


Today's Canal - Leeds and Liverpool

The forecast for today was a complete change from the extreme heat of the past few days - very much cooler and with showery rain for most of the day. We began dry but by late morning the rain could resist no longer and for the rest of the day rainwear came and went as needed.

Today we had almost as many swing bridges to negotiate as locks, but a bonus at the first when we found it 'normally left open' although not marked as such on our guide maps. It is only a farm accommodation bridge between two fields and, although we have had to operate it in the past, it has now deteriorated to the state in which it would need a repair before it could be moved again.

This 'tiny but perfectly well formed' narrowboat was moored just at the entrance to Apperley Bridge Marina. Inevitably, given its given name, the quote is "There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half as much worth doing as simply as messing about in boats , said Ratty to Mole".

We spotted this interesting row of cottages just below the Dobson Staircase Locks several years ago when we chatted to a person renovating some of them. Looks like a good job! We used the disposal facilities above the locks. But left the water until later.

Perhaps we should explain: ahead of us are the Bingley Locks, a three rise and then the famous Five Rise. These are manned and, originally for water saving reasons last year, they also operate on restricted access times. In  each direction there are just two shortish slots to enter the flights. To go up today meant that we needed to be ready at the bottom by four o'clock. To be reasonably sure of meeting this we set off at 8 am with a predicted arrival between 3 and 4.

So, this picture is heavily zoomed in and not as clear as we would have liked but it does give us a chance to mention a ;pint of interest. We have been following the electrified railway line in to Leeds for most of the time since we left the city. Apperley Bridge station is in the middle of nowhere but has this huge illuminated car park - this morning looking pretty full. We guess that it is a popular commuter service for people who want to live a more rural life style. It also accounts for the surprising amount of traffic at the previous swing bridge which is the main access road to the station.

Field Locks, another two rise staircase.

There have been plenty of reeds so far but this was the first time this journey on the Leeds and Liverpool we had spotted some larger water lilies.

The famous architecture at Saltaire - imitated by numerous other modern buildings in this area but not quite as impressive.

At Hirst Mill Lock we were assisted by a Walking Club group who were interested in what was happening - alas this was when the first heavy rain arrived and so they l;eft us to follow Plan B (lunch in the woodlands) or Plan C (lunch in the pub!)

At Dowley Gap locks, a team of three from CaRT were happy to take shelter from the rain whilst we came up - they were here to take the top gate paddles out of action, pending a replacement at the end of the season.

And so, at around a quarter to one we arrived to moor at the bottom of the Bingley Three Rise. It does not look as if there is a water shortage today. We had plenty of time for lunch and then for Christine  to walk to the shops in Bingley town centre - she was given directions by a Community Warden who even insisted on showing her the way.

By the time she returned to the boat we were almost ready to set off - Andrew had chatted to the lock keeper who was happy for us to proceed even though half an hour ahead of schedule as there was a gap before the last boat would be ready to come down.

After reaching the top it is a short distance to the five rise - where we had to wait a little while for the lock keeper to reset the flight.

The first couple of locks had significant leaks from the gates above, in the second one there was enough to wash off the spare hand spike - Mike spotted this piece of wood floating behind him at the stern and, thinking this a bot strange for an otherwise so well cared for lock, he looked again. He thought, "I recognise that piece of timber" and so rescued it!

At the top we were rewarded by a view of the valley below, including the 'world class'  Damart factory.

Then followed several swing bridges, all mechanised as the roads that they carry have quite significant traffic, busy at this time of day. At this one, Mike forgot to remove his key after closing the bridges and barriers, only realising when arriving shortly afterwards at the next bridge. Andrew kindly offered to go back for it, arriving just as another boat which we passed in between was about to make off with its unexpected present!

At another bridge, with automated barriers, a car jumped the red lights and narrowly escaped under with inches to spare before a barrier scraped its roof.

The final bridge is called Branby Bridge - the Marquis's pub, alas closed, alongside offers a "fantastic business opportunity"  or so the agent claims! It is now 'under offer' so perhaps will re-open ere long.

12.0 Miles  - 16 Locks (and lots of swing bridges)

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