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April 22nd 2012 - Foulridge Wharf near Barnoldswick

We left Cooper Bridge and cruised on down to Mirfield and then on to Shepley Bridge where fortunately we found a mooring.  We got settled in then walked up to Martyn and Cani's for 6.00pm.  We had a really wonderful evening, Cani is a wonderful cook (well she is a chef really and is used to cooking for huge numbers of people!).  We had tapas to start with followed by a magret du canard (duck breast to you!).  It was really great to spend the evening with them, there was lots of food, lots of chat (mainly in French!) and lots of booze!!  We finally wended our way homeward to the boat at some unearthly hour - well after midnight anyway! 

The following morning we left Shepley Bridge and meandered along the Calder & Hebble navigation.  This is a combination of river and canal and it has some very interesting lock paddles.  They are not operated with a normal windlass like other paddles but with a piece of wood, rather like a rectangular baseball bat and they are not easy to operate believe me, flipping hard work!

The bank paddle, its a bit like a capstan.

Using the hand spike to operate the paddle

You wind it over then take the spike out, put it in another slot and wind again.   

There were several locks along this waterway with these paddles and I have to say I was very glad when we got to the last of them!  We made very good time that day actually and finally arrived in Wakefield and a lock called Fall Ing Lock.  There was a boat in the lock already and two waiting to go in at our end and another one waiting to come in at the other end and several people standing around the lock - what was holding everything up we wondered.  So we moored up and went to find out.  It turned out that a boat had come into the lock and they had then started trying to fill the lock to raise the boat up but the lock just wouldn't fill, they realised in the end that the bottom gates weren't actually shut!  They emptied the lock again and tried to get the doors to shut all to no avail.  By the time we arrived they had been trying to sort it out for over an hour and in the end they had phoned British Waterways and were waiting for help to arrive.  Sure enough a couple of guys from BW finally turned up in a van.  They tried all sorts of things to get the gate to shut but nothing worked.  In the end one of them climbed down onto the boat in the lock and using a long rake started furtling around in the bottom of the lock by the gates to see if he could find what was causing the problem - eventually after quite a while he snagged something on his rake!

He's got something!

Up it comes!

The culprit - a child's buggy!  It is quite amazing what people throw into canals and rivers!

Anyway everybody cheered, we were all delighted that the obstacle had been removed and we could be on our way, however all that was a bit premature, the gate still wouldn't shut!  The BW man did a bit more firtling with his rake and found something else but it was large and extremely heavy and he couldn't pull it up out of the water.  In the end he managed to move whatever it was just enough so that the gate could actually shut - hooray!  He contacted his office and they agreed that they would send out a boat in the morning with a grab hook on in order to remove the offending article from the lock!  By the time all this was over it was too late to go anywhere so we remained at the top of the lock for the night.  It was actually very peaceful and quiet.

The following day we got through the lock and continued on our journey.  It was rather overcast and threatening rain but we kept going for a while then the rain started and we managed to pull into the side and moor up just to sit it out till the rain had passed.  It gave us chance to have a spot of lunch and a cuppa.   We carried on and as we got nearer to Castleford we started seeing some very large craft, fortunately they were all moored!

Very large barge - you can just see the bows of a narrowboat in front of it!

Obviously in order to accommodate these large boats the locks have to be bigger than normal.  Here we are just leaving a very big lock - well at least we thought it was big!

Leaving a large lock

However a little while later we arrived at Lemonroyd Lock.  I got off the boat and went up to operate the lock and when I saw it I was absolutely gobsmacked!  It was the biggest lock I have ever seen in my life!  Fortunately it was electrically operated and I promptly unlocked it and gave my thumb some exercise pressing the button.  Finally the gates opened and Clive brought Lady Arwen in through the gates - I think he nearly had a fit when he saw the lock.  It is soooooooooooooo huge it could easily accommodate a dozen boats the size of Lady Arwen!

Lemonroyd Lock - what a monster!  Can you see Lady Arwen tucked into the corner?

By the time we got through the lock the weather was starting to deteriorate again so we moored up on the visitor moorings at the top of the lock and settled in for the night.

The following morning we set off again and the next lock we came to was Woodlesford Lock, which was slightly more modest in size that Lemonroyd but not by much!  However this one was beautiful!  There were beautifully tended flower beds all ablaze with colour and members of the local community hard at work weeding and keeping the beds tidy.  It was really lovely.

Members of the community hard at work on the flower beds.

We cruised on and it wasn't long before we arrived at Castleford Junction where the canal divides heading towards Goole one way and Leeds the other, we turned right onto the Leeds Liverpool Canal heading for Leeds.  It was with some trepidation that we approached Leeds as we had heard horror stories yet again about boaters being attacked and boats vandalised etc so we had no intention whatsoever of mooring up in the city, we wanted to get right through as fast as possible!   We soon started to see evidence of the city, the first sight were two large, colourful apartment blocks - I'm not really sure whether I like them or not but they are certainly different!

Colourful dwellings!

We cruised past The Armouries and we could hear jousting going on behind a large fence and just make out horses with knights aboard in colourful armour, then we were into the locks and before we knew it we were right in the heart of the city.  Here we are approaching Granary Wharf.

In the heart of Leeds on the approach to Granary Wharf

We came up through another lock  and found ourselves right outside the Hilton Hotel!  There were a couple of other boats there two and another lock in front of us.  There was an ancient British Waterways guy helping out with the lock as there was too much water coming down, yes I said too much water!!  Everywhere else in the country there is a water shortage and hosepipe bans in force but there is certainly no shortage on the Leeds Liverpool Canal!  Clive had a chat with him and he informed us that we were too late to get up the rest of the lock flight before it was locked up for the night and he suggested we stay put here at the wharf until the morning.  We decided that it all looked pretty safe and as there were several other boats staying too we should be OK.  As a treat we went to one of the many restaurants around the wharf for a lovely meal that evening.  It was very enjoyable indeed and when we set off back to the boat after our meal the wharf looked absolutely beautiful with fairy lights in the trees and the buildings all lit up, gorgeous!

Granary Wharf by night

The following morning we continued up the flight of locks and were lucky enough to have another boat share the locks with us, which halves the work involved.  We were quite surprised really how quickly we left the city of Leeds behind us, we seemed to be out in the countryside in no time at all.  We passed Kirkstall Abbey on the way - a place close to my heart because when I was at secondary school my house was Kirkstall, the green house!  A short time after passing the abbey we hit the Forge 3 Rise.

Double locking

We finally arrived at a lovely village called Rodley but the weather had deteriorated and we decided to moor up and hunker down for the night.  It continued to rain the next day too and as we are in no hurry to be anywhere we decided to stay put.  No point getting wet and cold for no reason is there!  I will add that since leaving Huddersfield I had been suffering with a chest infection and just couldn't stop coughing!  I was slowly becoming a Covonia addict - it really yummy cough medicine!

Another problem also came to light once we had left the marina, our batteries didn't seem to be holding their charge very well at all.  Considering these were new batteries, which are not yet a year old, we were not happy at all!  Clive tried everything to sort them out but we were really struggling as the power was lasting only four hours maximum, which was no good to us at all!  My major concern was the freezer because it was full of food and the power was going off around midnight and I was really worried that it would all defrost, however I checked it daily and it seemed to be holding its own.  It was something we were going to have to get sorted though and soon!

Tuesday April 10th 2012 - the rain had finally stopped so we upped sticks, left Rodley and continued on our way.  The canal wended its way through lovely countryside, often wooded and very tranquil.  We even spotted a deer up in the woods at one point.  For the first part of the journey there were no locks, just lots of swing bridges, mainly manually operated but a couple were electric.  Eventually we came to a double lock rise and then a triple lock rise.  These are staircase locks where each lock is joined to the next, sharing gates. 

Looking back from the top lock


We continued on our way, through Shipley, where we tried to moor up but couldn't get into the side for love nor money!  We kept going and went up through another lock and a swing bridge just outside Saltaire then almost immediately we were in a lovely wooded cutting and we managed to moor up for the night.  It was really dark and peaceful and we slept like logs!

The next day was going to be a big one!  I knew I had my work cut out for me as first of all we had a double lock flight, then a triple followed by the dreaded Bingley Five Rise!   I could have done with three Shredded Wheat for breakfast but settled for two crumpets!  We were delighted however to meet up with another boat when we arrived at the Dowley Gap double.  The boat was called Sea Wolf and her crew were Tom and Jeannie, a lovely couple.  Jeannie is actually from Huddersfield originally but left many years ago, as did we.  Anyway, once again having another boat to lock with made life a lot easier.   We negotiated the double with no problems and a short time later arrived at the Bingley Three.  There was supposed to be a lock keeper on duty but there was no sign of him so we just made our way up the flight without him.

Lady Arwen & Sea Wolf at the top of the Bingley Three

However when we got to the top lock there was a swing bridge immediately after it and when I went to open it I discovered it was padlocked and we couldn't open it!  Jeannie said she would head up to the Bingley Five Rise, which wasn't very far along the towpath, to see if she could find a lock keeper.  In the meantime Clive phoned British Waterways to see what was going on.  A short time later the lock keeper turned up and unlocked the gate, apologising profusely for keeping us waiting, he'd been chinwagging with the other lock keepers at the top of the Five! 

We cruised around a large bend and there before us loomed the Bingley Five Rise.  Now we have done many lock flights with far more than five locks in them - one had 29 for example!  However, this flight of locks raised the canal by 60 feet in only 5 locks, but they are very deep!  We had to wait for a boat to come down before we could set off.  Needless to say it is a very popular spot for Gongoozlers (the boater's term for people who watch boats going up and down locks!)

The very popular Bingley Five Rise

Finally we were on our way up with the help of a lock keeper who bore a strong resemblance to Lee Evans, the comedian!  He started off by asking me what kind of music I liked and the conversation went from there, all the way up the flight!  He was a real character.  When we reached the top we parted company with Tom and Jeannie as they were continuing on and we were calling at a local boatyard to see if we could get our batteries sorted out.  We managed to pull in and tie up  alongside another narrowboat at the boatyard and Clive went off to have a chat with the engineer who came back to have a look down in the engine room and ponder over our batteries.  In the end he took one away and said he would test it overnight and report back in the morning.  However, he came back later that evening and told us that it was definitely not holding its charge and that they would all need replacing unfortunately!  Bummer!  He very kindly said we could stay the night where we were, which we were very glad about because it was tipping it down by this time!

Then next morning we headed straight to Puffer Parts, a chandlery in Riddlesden and it didn't take us long to get there.  It is run by a lovely Scottish gentleman and there was very little that he didn't stock in his shop.  After a lovely chat about Scotland, Tighnabruaich in particular (where we used to live) we got down to the business of sorting out our batteries and it wasn't long before we had everything we needed.  We also decided to swap all our lights over to LEDs in order to save power.  Then we headed back to the boat and Clive set to swapping the old batteries for the new ones and I went for a walk along the towpath to find a shop to stock up on provisions.  When I got back Clive was finished and after a spot of lunch we set off again and in no time at all the battery light was flashing to tell us that we had full batteries - what a relief. 

There were lots more swing bridges along this canal and we met up with two more boats so it was bridge hopping all the way.  One boat would pull in and they would open the gate then the other boats went through and so we took it in turns to operate the bridges along the way.  Eventually one boat pulled over and moored up so that left two of us.  Our fellow boaters were an older couple, very Yorkshire!  Their boat was named after a Star Wars character, Jar Jar Binks!

Jar Jar Binks!

We cruised along through really beautiful countryside, there were beautiful dry stone walles dividing all the fields and we also passed through quite a lot of woodland, some of them with a hazy blue carpet of bluebells just opening.  It was very tranquil and peaceful indeed.

Pretty wooded cutting

However all this peace and tranquility was about to change!  We were approaching the town of Silsden and we had both noticed very dark clouds over to the left and it was quite obvious that it was raining in the distance and it looked as if it was heading our way.  We decided it was time to find a mooring and the sooner the better. 

Storm approaching

We soon found a spot just before the town, pulled in and made short work of mooring up.  First thing to do was get the pram hood up quick sharp and we did it with not a moment to lose as the heavens opened and it poured with rain for quite a while.  Jar Jar Binks had pulled in in front of us too so we had neighbours for the night.  Once the rain had passed it was all peaceful and quiet again.   Whilst I was making the dinner Clive swapped all our halogen bulbs for the new LEDs, which all worked beautifully.  The best thing of all though was the fact that we had full power once more, no worries about the batteries running out any more, what a relief. 

Friday 13th April 2012 - unlucky for some maybe!  However we set off after breakfast, once again with Jar Jar Binks and headed towards Skipton.  There were a few more swing bridges but it didn't take us long to get there, we arrived just before lunch and moored up right in front of a large BW barge.  Jar Jar Binks was immediately in front of us.  Once we were moored up we went to find Tescos as we were running short of supplies.  Once back on board we hunkered down because it was raining again!   The next morning Clive noticed there was a police woman on guard just behind the BW barge and the towpath was cordened off with tape - wonder what's going on there he thought.  We heard later that it had been a suicide!  It was less than 100 yards behind the boat but we hadn't been aware of anything at all.  I do remember hearing voices late at night but assumed they were just people on their way home from the pub!  Very sad.  

We decided to try and find a better mooring a little further into Skipton and we also needed to fill up with water and have a pump-out.  We knew that there were facilities a short way along the canal in the basin so we set off after breakfast.  We filled up with water first then headed into the basin.  Clive decided it would be better to reverse in as the pump out needs to be on the port side (left!).  I had jumped off onto the bank with the centre rope and was just guiding him back when he realised that the throttle lever wasn't responding, it was extremely stiff and he was struggling to move it, then it jammed altogether in forward gear and he couldn't get it out so he turned the engine off!  Fortunately I had the rope and was starting to haul the boat into the side when a kind gentleman came to help me.  Eventually we got Lady Arwen safely into the bank and tied up.   Clive went down into the engine room to see if he could ascertain what had caused the problem but he was scratching his head, there was nothing obvious.  Fortunately there was an engineer on hand and he came to our assistance.  It turned out that it was the gear cable that had failed and between Clive and the engineer they managed to get it replaced.  Thank heavens it happened where it did, if it had occurred whilst we were out on the cut we would have been in serious trouble!  After all this excitement we decided to moor up in the basin itself as a space had become vacant.  So we just moved the boat across to the other side and moored up, right next to a statue of the famous Yorkshire cricketer, Sir Freddy Trueman!

Moored in Skipton Basin next to Sir Freddy Trueman

In actual fact we were only supposed to moor here for a maximum of 24 hours but we decided to ignore it for once unless somebody came to move us.  The reason being, we were expecting visitors!  Clive's mum and dad drove over from Huddersfield on the Sunday morning and arrived about 11.00am.  It was great to see them again.  We had a cuppa and a chat then we went to find a nice pub doing food and it didn't take long, there are quite a lot of pubs in Skipton!  After lunch we all returned to the boat for a while then Mum and Pop left us and headed back to Huddersfield.

I was still feeling pretty rough and coughing like mad so decided I really needed to seek medical advice.  Fortunately there was a health centre just at the other side of the car park from Sir Fred so I rang first thing in the morning and got an appointment for 10.15.  I saw a very nice doctor who confirmed I had a chest infection and gave me some antibiotics and a new inhaler - the one I had been using was several months out of date!  I had assumed all along that it was a virus, in which case antibiotics were a waste of time but the doc thought better.  So I started a course of Amoxicillin.  We decided to remain in Skipton for one more day but I was very conscious of the fact that we hadn't really been for a look around nor had we been to the castle!  So the next morning we set off up the tow path along a little leg of the canal and within ten minutes we were at the castle.  I was pretty sure I had been before, probably on a school trip but it was a very long time ago and I didn't really remember much about it except the gatehouse that led straight off the main street.

The Gatehouse

We bought our tickets and set off to explore the castle with a printed sheet telling us all about it.  Its an amazing place really, in the most fantastic condition considering its age.  It was originally built by the Normans back in 1090 but it has been added to and subtracted from over the years.  Edward II granted the castle to Robert Clifford in 1310 and it remained in the Clifford family for many generations.  A new wing was added at one point to accommodate Henry VIII's niece.

The original part on the left and the new wing on the right

The most famous part of Skipton Castle's history was the three year siege during the English Civil War after which a surrender was negotiated with Oliver Cromwell.  Lady Anne Clifford was the last of the family to own it until 1676 and it is reputed that she planted the ancient Yew tree in the inner courtyard in 1659 when it was a sapling.

Ancient Yew

The castle is now owned by  Sebastian Fattorini, an Italian jeweller.  The new wing I mentioned above is still occupied to this day by members of his family.  When he bought the castle at auction back in the 50s he pledged to renovate the castle and reopen it to the public so that it could be enjoyed by everyone and also earn its keep (pardon the pun!).  Evidently at the time it was in quite a state, all overgrown and going to wrack and ruin, not so today, it really is a credit to him and is a wonderful place to visit.  We stopped off in the castle's cafe and had a bit of lunch then headed back to the boat.  It was only mid afternoon so we decided to take our leave of Skipton and cruise to pastures new.  There were three swing bridges to negotiate followed by three locks and by the time we came up through the last lock it was 6.00pm and time to call it a day.  We were just on the outskirts of Gargrave.  The following morning we set off once more and were straight into the locks.  We actually did nine locks altogether, in the pouring rain, before finally mooring up out in the countryside just before the village of East Marton.   Next morning we set off again, three more locks and we arrived at Foulridge Wharf on the outskirts of Barnoldswick where we moored up.

Boats have to have a safety certificate issued every four years, a bit like a car's MOT!  Lady Arwen is almost four years old now and her Boat Safety Certificate is due at the end of April.  So we had arranged for an engineer to come and do the test here at Foulridge Wharf on Saturday morning.  Mark duly arrived as arranged and after two cups of tea and a lot of chat he went through the boat with a fine toothed comb.  He checked absolutely everything and at the end of it all she passed with flying colours - phew!  Thats it now for another four years thankfully.

To celebrate we went out for a lovely meal at the Cargo Cafe about 100 yards from the boat. 

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