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70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.

Saturday, 31 July 2010



Our companions this morning was The Falcon a narrow boat and a very wide beam boat. All of us were up and about at 5.30am on this still clear morning. Three dogs including Duggie would be doing the trip and as there would be no stopping until Naburn Lock, fourteen miles upstream it was important that we were all comfortable before we set off. At six am on the dot, Fred waved just the two narrow boats into the lock, the wide beam would have to follow through on her own. The river beyond the lock was flowing swiftly upstream, an improvement on the previous two days when regardless of the state of tide, the flow was always downstream, swollen with flood water.

Both boats were immediately swept left as we exited the lock, The Falcon lead the way as we lined up for the right hand arch of the two swing bridges. There would be another swing bridge eight miles up, but we needn’t worry about having them swung for us. There are some tight bends and it is important to keep to the out side of each bend and to stay in the strong flow, not let the bow drift into slack water, it has been known for boats to execute a 360 deg. turn if they do.

The weather conditions were perfect, almost the same as going down The Thames last year and the tidal effect gradually subsided and our surroundings were very pleasant. We were surprised to be waved at by the swing bridge-keeper at Cawood, why was he there? Our query was answered when around the corner came a mighty power boat with a high flying deck and a bow wave to match, obviously going considerable faster than the regulation ten knots, He did slow down when to his surprise he saw us, but his reducing bow wave did add a little excitement to the trip. He was followed by an assortment of smaller river boats all keen to blow the cobwebs out of their engines, but fortunately the river is wide enough to accommodate us all.

There was a slight delay as we waited for the next batch of boats to be let out of Naburn Lock and we gasped at the amount of brown water that was spewing over the nearby weir. SKYY and The Falcon were waved into the lock and shortly after at about nine thirty, moored in the safety of the lock cut we enjoyed a mega cooked breakfast.

The centre of York is about another five miles and on our way we past the Bishop of York Palace and then the Blue Bridge, marking the entrance to the River Foss, wharves followed and then sight of The Minster and other grand riverside buildings.

At half past twelve we arrived, unlike Thursday, the moorings were now above water but were all taken, we slid in beside an unmanned narrow boat and within minutes a river cruiser slipped her moorings and we dropped back into the vacated slot, lovely!! After lunch and in the warm sunshine we set of again to wander around this lovely and relatively compact City, finishing the day with a good meal in the Bay Horse pub, just up to the left of the Museum Gardens.



Again it rained overnight and our prize petunias started to look battered, but the rainbow set off the green colour of the water delightfully. We hung about patiently for our time to lock through, with a little excitement when a Fire Rescue RIB with three crew members needed to lock down to rescue some naughty boys, stuck in the mud down stream, “been on’t rob” was what we understood they had been up to, when in fact the RIB returned it had a rather muddy police woman on board, apparently the lads had disappeared leaving the damsel in distress.

This all happened about two hours before our departure time, when Fred the lock-keeper told us that following the two nights of rain the mooring at Naburn Lock and in York were four foot underwater. How could this be? Only a week ago we were held up be the driest summer since 1920. Well the ground is so dry the rain just ran straight of it and into the rivers. We would be going nowhere until Friday 6pm earliest.

The bus took as all, including Duggie, into York and although it was chilly, we had a good day sightseeing and enjoyed the street entertainers. The Fox Terrier Pub in the Shambles area, welcomed Duggie and the four meat pies we ordered were delicious.

Whilst the girls did the shops Brian and I checked out the mooring by the side of Museum Park, there was no sign of rings or bollards and although the water was receding it must have still have been six foot above its usual level. I nearly found out how deep it was when I slipped on the silt that had been left behind, serves me right for wearing Sunday best shoes and trying to look smart and until the silt dried and brushed off leaving not a mark, I walked around looking like a mud lark.

Friday was bright and beautiful and the Fred the lock-keepers advice was to catch the 6am tide on Saturday, so rather than stay put we turned SKYY around and gently cruised the five miles back to West Haddlesey lock were we enjoyed an al-fresco lunch before an equally gentle return, Brian once again holding up the traffic whilst ourselves followed by two other boats entered the basin. An early night after introducing ourselves to our two new neighbours who would also be going to York tomorrow.



It rained substantially over night, but by the time we were ready to go the sun was up again, but I was surprised to find that the flood lock at West Haddlesey was closed and the level indicator board was showing amber as we eventually entered the lock.

The other side of the lock and we were on the five mile long Selby Canal, it was a very pleasant rural run, if a little weedy, into the Abbey Town of Selby. Brian held up the traffic whilst opening the swing bridge and we entered Selby basin and settled down to explore the place. We had plenty of time as our booked passage for the tidal lock, was for four o’clock on tomorrow (Wednesday) when we would catch the incoming tide to run us up towards York.

The Abbey is indeed sparkling clean and the majority of the town is attractive, but with much of the industry gone there is room for improvement, although where an old paper mill has been demolished there are plans for a new marina.

We watched several boats come downstream from York going sideways as they crossed the river to come back upstream to enter the lock, reminisces of entering Limehouse on the Thames last year, only the entrance to this lock was a fraction of the size, our return will be interesting!



As we moved from our overnight mooring we passed a BW yard where new lock gates are made, I think this is now the only yard that makes the gates for the whole of the BW network, quite a few where stacked up on top of one another and water was being sprayed all over them, obviously to stop them drying out and shrinking in the warm weather.

All of the locks on the Aire and Calder are electrically operated and entrance is controlled by traffic lights, the lights were set at ‘amber’ which meant that the lock was unmanned and we would just have to turn the key and press the buttons ourselves, this was not what we had invited Ann and Brian on board for, lucky blighters!

The canal rejoined the river at Woodnock Lock and a gravel barge was being unloaded at Whitwood Wharf. We heard some radio chatter on the VHF regarding Castleford, this was a busy cross road, with the River Aire from Leeds joining us from the left, to our right the combined Aire and Calder rivers departed on their way to the weir and we would continue trough Castleford and back onto the canal. Our radio call to Castleford Lock was responded from Bulholme Lock with the advise that the gates were open both ends and to proceed through with caution. Apparently a small train of Tom Puddings had been pulled through a little earlier and this had been the reason for the radio chatter. This procession was a historic reminder of the hundreds of small floating coal tubs that were upended and emptied when they reached the coal fired power stations and a couple restored loading chutes were visible at what remained of old loading staithes.

As the lock-keeper at Bulholme waved us on our way we were again back on the river and as we passed the cooling towers of the Ferrybridge Power Stations we could clearly see the route that the Tom Puddings would have taken and the apparatus for tipping them up and returning them empty. Back on a canal section and past the King Mill flour mill.

The River Aire swung left away from the Aire and Calder Navigation which would eventually lead to Goole. Our route was a couple of miles up the river to a scheduled mooring in the Beal Lock cut and a wander around the farming village culminating with a drink in the very friendly Jenny Wren pub.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010



Whilst taking Duggie for his morning walk I crossed the old town road bridge across the River Calder and discovered that it had been built in 1342 and the little chapel at one end was built between 1342 and 1356, thankfully, but only in recent years has this bridge been by-passed. A little further on and I came to The Fall Ings Lock, where the Calder and Hebble navigation came to an end and the Aire and Calder Navigation took over. By the lock an information board said that only in 2005 had all the of the coal loading chutes been removed from this area, a few permanently moored boats in bays indicated where the boats would have come to have been loaded. A pity that they hadn’t left some indication of what it would have looked liked.

We didn’t tarry in Wakefield but moved on through the Fall Ings Lock and for a mile we were back on to the mighty Calder, before once again entering a long canal section. We stopped at midday in bright sunshine at Stanley Ferry, which doesn’t seem to have a ferry but does have two aqueducts crossing the River Calder. The earlier one, a splendid cast iron arch supporting the duct and looks like a mini version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was superseded by a boring concrete one in 1981. All boats now use the new duct as the old one was thought to be in danger of damage from the large vessels that were using the canal at that time.

Ann and Brian, veterans on SKYY, joined us in the afternoon and as they intended to be with us for a week, a small BW car park at the end of the large Stanley Ferry pub car park and was considered to be a safe place to leave the car. We settled down for the evening with an early start planned for Monday.



A couple of locks and open flood locks and we bypassed the short arm to Dewsbury and continued down the straight section of canal, the river running alongside having returned from its wide excursion around Dewsbury. Not so many years ago this stretch would have been crowded with coal barges taking coal to the nearby Thornhill power station, now it was just us and the remains of loading staithes.

We rejoined the river at Broad Cut Low Lock and but for short section were on the river all the way to Wakefield. Almost in the centre of the town we took a sharp right hand turn through the flood lock and moored between two bridges, new houses were being built close to the towpath side and opposite was derelict ground awaiting development. Not the most attractive setting but quiet enough for the night. Regretfully the camera battery ran out this morning so I was unable to take any pictures, but not really missing much on this stretch.



It was a funny start to the day, one moment rain and the next sunshine resulting in a lovely rainbow, but the town was quite attractive. The morning was taken up with Sainsbury and then Sagar Marine, based in an old warehouse alongside the basin. Andrew Sagar was happy to show us around one of their beautiful, replica Dutch barges, all that space and so much more than just a wheelhouse, dining for six in comfort, maybe that could be the answer when we have had enough travelling about on the canals.

The moment we exited Brighouse Basin we were on the big River Calder, wow how it had grown from the little stream that had trickled alongside us on The Pennines. The various flood locks were open both ends as we entered narrow canal sections, but had it not been for the signs indicating which way to go, it would have been easy to have missed the entrance to some of these locks and carried on and over weirs.

We quickly passed the junction with the Huddersfield Broad Canal at Cooper Bridge and a couple of miles later after a wide section of the River Calder we moored up just after bridge 20 near Shepley Bridge Lock, there is a small marina here and a Sanitary Station and water point, which would be useful in the morning. Of the coal mining and associated industry that surrounded the river canal, there is now no sign, except for some excellent information boards.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010



Sowerby Bridge didn’t detain us; maybe it was wet was the reason that it lacked appeal compared to Hebdon Bridge, but we said bye bye to the Rochdale Canal, as we started onto the Calder and Hebble Canal. What an experience the Rochdale had been, stunning countryside, no hire boats, good company and great fish and chips. Do not be put off by the negative comments that can be heard. There are some water shortages and plenty of locks but after the nineteen or so coming out of Manchester and providing you are not in a hurry, it breaks down to about ten a day, that’s not a hardship, the wonderful scenery more than compensates and the BW guys were all extremely helpful.

Within two miles of leaving Sowerby the Salterhebble arm was straight ahead under a bridge and we had to execute a 90deg. turn to the right to enter the first of three locks. The wind took control and I ended up facing the way I had come, Jacquie pushed the bow into the entrance to the lock and applying full rudder and plenty of power I pivoted SKYY into the lock.

The surrounding area was now very attractive and the last of the three locks was exited via a guillotine gate. The top gate paddles of many of the locks from now on can only be operated with the special wooden handspike, although some of these old mechanisms are being replaced with a hydraulic arrangement. We bought our handspike for £12 in the small chandlery at Sowerby, but it could be made easily from a 3ft. length of hardwood 3in x 2in with the edges rounded off and one end shaped to make it comfortable to hold. It must be a substantial piece of wood as you will have to put all of your weight and strength onto it to get some of the paddles to lift. There doesn’t appear any way of letting the paddles down gently, you just pull the spike out and the paddle drops with a thud.

These locks only just accepted our 57ft length. The sill is V shaped and after we lifted the front button fender and took the bike off the back of the boat and reversed SKYY right into the V with the rudder at 90 degs., could we get the bow passed the opening bottom gates. You certainly couldn’t do this with two same size boats in the lock, it might be possible with a 60ft foot boat, but you would definitely need somebody in the bow with a pole to keep it centred whilst the gates are being opened.

Another six locks through rural countryside and we arrived at Brighouse, a large warehouse converted to apartments on our right and an extremely convenient Sainsbury store on our left funnelled the wind down this stretch, but otherwise it felt safe and secure. And we decided to leave exploring the town until tomorrow.

Thursday, 15 July 2010



Rob, the lock keeper at Tuel Lock called on the mobile, at 11 o’clock to confirm that lock 7 would be unlocked within the next few minutes and we could proceed slowly down the four locks to Sowerby Bridge where he would be awaiting to escort us through Tuel Lock. We had been confidently expecting this news and in preparation had made arrangements with Bronte Boats to supply 100 lt’s of diesel and a bottle of gas.

Freshly pumped out and watered we got under way at 11.30 am., along with Tony on N.B. Y-Not and arrived at the deepest lock in the country, at 3.30pm. Tuel Lock knocked Bath Deep Lock into 2nd place when locks three and four where combined during the restoration of the Rochdale Canal, creating one lock of nearly 20ft in depth. On the way we passed a mill chimney surrounded in scaffolding, apparently being restored as it is a listed building. ‘Health and Safety’ again, Fred Dibner would have just lashed a few ladders together and shinned up.

We could clearly see the pumps that had been brought in to back fill the upper pounds, ironic as we were about to experience a proper soaking, by the time we exited the lock and tunnel it was raining hard, bless em, Rob and his colleague Duncan went ahead and worked us through the remaining two locks, they were soaked by the time we were through.

We moored just around from the basin which was full of boats including an old ships life boat. When the rain eased we found the local Tesco and did a bit of stocking up and found the great bronze of 'Boatman and Boy' at the entrance to the basin. We just managed to get back onto SKYY before thunder and lightening and more rain set in for the night.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010



We said a sad goodbye to Kim & John, as they abandoned us high and dry in Hebdon,
but as they are such good company we forgave them.

Jacquie was also going to abandon me, to attend a wedding in Bedford and then travel onwards to visit her son and his girlfriend for a day or so. With the closing of the locks our original plan to leave the boat in a marina at Dewsbury and hire a car to attend the wedding had to be cancelled and as we are not happy about leaving the boat unattended whilst moored on line. I and Duggie were to be left behind to guard SKYY
I waved Jacquie off at the railway station on Friday afternoon and settled down to catch up with blog and discover all the paths and tracks that Hedben has to offer.

I also took the opportunity to remove the loo and separate it from the Vetus macerator, my intention was to run a cable and switch from the inlet control solenoid so that I can control the amount of water that is flushed each time the flush button is pushed. Success, it works perfectly, instead of the litre and a quarter of fresh water that is automatically used, I can determine when in the flushing cycle, water is added and how much.

As is so often our good fortune, if we had to be delayed in our travels, this was the perfect place for it to happen. A large park right beside SKYY and lots of visiting dogs to keep Duggie amused and plenty of passers by to keep me chatting.

That’s it the blog is right up to date!!! and the good news is, that we should be able to move on tomorrow and get down to Sowerby Bridge and Jacquie is on the train on her way back hooray.



The train line follows the canal and road through the same gap in the Pennines and the train station was only a few minutes walk away from SKYY so John and I caught the train back to Littleborough to collect their car. It had been safely left in the compound of the Visitors Café, which was along side the canal and the purchase of a couple of cups of tea and donuts was all the payment that was required.

On our return we again backed up for another fill of water, the pump was running all the time indicating that the tank was empty, where does it all go?

In the evening, Geoff and Annie arrived, this time with daughter Emily, who had cut short their last visit last. The weather was a bit chilly so after a drink to celebrate Geoff’s birthday of the previous day we descended into the salon for warming bowls of chilli and rice. Full tummies again!!