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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.

Friday, 29 April 2011



A taxi collected us all from the nearby carpark and dropped us off at the bus station in Nelson, we had big hugs before leaving Brian and Ann to catch a couple of busses back to their car at Rodley whilst we walked back along the canal to SKYY to start catching up on laundry and blog etc.

On Wednesday we walked back into Barrowsford in time to visit the Heritage Centre, This is based around the house and garden of Park Hill the ancestral home of the Bannister family, yep the family that Sir Roger Bannister, the first four minute miler hailed from. However the family had relinquished all claim to the estate over two hundred years before Sir Roger brought the family name back to prominence. Just outside the walled garden there is an ancient 'cruck' barn that had been re-erected at this site some years ago and when our eyes had got used to the gloom we discovered two very friendly goats. The museum also has a film and a display about the infamous Pendle Witches who were tried and hanged in Lancaster.



No more swing bridges now as we headed south. On the way to Foulridge Tunnel we passed from Yorkshire to Lancaster and now it’s Red Roses all the way. The entrance to the tunnel is controlled by traffic lights and as they were set to red we tied up to wait. Duggie jumped ashore, and almost immediately the lights changed to green and on checking my watch it was dead on eleven o’clock. We headed off, second in a queue of four boats and suddenly realised Duggie was still ashore, some rapid reversing and Brian jumped off, scooped up the pooch and jumped back on and we resumed our place in the line-up. The dry weather ensured that the tunnel only dripped on us and after twenty minutes or so we emerged back into the sunshine.

A mile later the first of the seven Barrowford Locks appeared. I had been looking forward to treating everyone to an ice cream at Top Lock Ice Creams, but sadly they have closed after three years trading, it appears that BW had wanted to increase the rent to twenty thousand pound a year, obviously not tenable.

Now we were descending and the views were splendid, but worryingly the level of the water in the reservoir alongside the locks seemed much lower than we would have expected at this time of year. We passed under the M65 and a local road and the last two locks where we decided that there was a good mooring spot on the right. After a very late lunch we walked into Barrowford, but had left it too late to visit The Heritage Centre, instead we had a drink at the very old White Bear Inn, before returning to SKYY for Brian and Anne to start packing as sadly they would be leaving us tomorrow



By the time we were up Jeff’s boat had a full head of steam, the boiler gauge showed 80psi and surprisingly when Jeff untied Whistle Down The Wind and set off the engine was absolutely silent, only the sound of his two whistles broke the silence of another beautiful morning. I expected at least some chuff chuffing, but the exhaust steam is fed into the condensers unlike on steam trains.

We headed off and after a couple of miles we climbed the last three locks at Greenberfield and were then on the summit of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Another couple of miles and we stopped at Salterforth right beside the Anchor Inn. On the way we passed Barnoldswick, which principle reason for being is Rolls Royce, I was hoping there would be a factory outlet unit for ‘slightly second’ Rollers, but it a centre for experimental work on aero engines.

We took a walk around the village during which Jacquie couldn’t resist having a swing on a tyre. A drink in the Anchor followed whilst a topside of beef cooked in the Cobb BBQ. Having previously roasted a whole chicken and a leg of lamb, confidence had grown and the beef with Yorkshire pudding was delicious.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011



Another perfect morning as we covered the last few miles in a northerly direction before encountering the first of the twelve locks that we would have to work through today. After this lock we would start to head south, but still climbing towards the summit. We bypassed Gargrave, only stopping for lunch when the work of the locks was completed.

Beyond Bank Newton the canal twists and turns back on itself over and over again as it hugs the contour of the deep folds in the land and the Langber TV mast keeps appearing unexpectedly. The canal straightens out as we approached the strange Double Arched Bridge, this was created when the alignment of the road was changed and rather than build a totally new bridge, the builders simple built the new one on top of the old, why not?

As we filled with water, just before the bridge a steam hooter was heard, no sign of a railway line for a steam train to be running on, so what could it be, mystery solved when we walked under the bridge and moored up was N.B. Whistle Down The Wind with its proud owner Jeff Laycock. Jeff had fitted the engine, boiler and all of the ancillary gear, condensers, generators etc. himself and incredibly he was able to run the boat single handed. The only other steam boat I know, President, seems to need a crew of half a dozen. There was only enough steam left for one final whistle, but he would be back in the morning for more ‘sea trials’. Jeff’s other claim to fame was that he was a child extra in the Hayley Mills film ‘Whistle Down The Wind’ Ten bob and a proper dinner every day during the filming at nearby Bacup left a strong enough memory to appropriately name his boat after the film.



As we left Kildwick we realised that it is an unusual village as the cemetery is on both sides of the canal, linked by a little bridge with a small stone lych gate to one side. Also one of the roads dived down at an angle to the canal only to emerge on the other side, interesting, very interesting.

We were beginning to see clutches of ducklings now, always a high spot at this time of year. There were also more hire boats around now, not such good news, but the positive side; means boatyards and the nice guys at Snaygill Boats, pumped us out and provided a full bottle of gas despite turning around their own hire fleet on this busy Easter weekend.

Not all Northern towns delight, but Skipton ticked all of the boxes. We moored opposite the bus station at Gallows Bridge, so called because the old wooden bridge resembled a gallows, not because it had been used as one. The buildings are in the main Georgian and a street market filled the wide high street. The short Spring Branch curves passed an old watermill before terminating in a deep ravine surmounted by Skipton Castle, the purpose of this arm was to bring out the limestone that was and still is being quarried there, but lorries now take the stone away.

Full trip boats chugged up and down all the time and the town was full to bursting with visitors appreciating the fine weather and the shops, many of which were specialist in outdoor and adventure clothing and equipment for those wishing to explore the adjacent moorland.

Despite all of Skipton’s charm we decided not to stay overnight, but moved on to a perfect mooring right on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, between bridges 173 and 174. We tried to take pictures of the sunset, but again the sky was too hazy, however the sound and sight of curlews delighted us.



The first couple of hours of this lovely day were spent trying to find why my new twin tooter wasn’t working. It worked fine when I wired it into the tunnel light circuit, so nothing wrong with the horn and maybe nothing wrong with the old one, but the day was too grand to waste fiddling about and I could still use my air horn until I puzzled out the problem. Whilst Brian and I fiddled the girls went off in search of a chemist as I was now coughing and sneezing, having caught Jacquie’s cold and they soon returned with cough mixture and Lemsip to sooth my fevered and frustrated brow.

The countryside was lovely, but the sky was a little hazy so our photos don’t do it justice. We only travelled five miles, but went through eight swing bridges before we came upon the village of Kildwick and The White Lion Hotel and its pies. We all had pie, chips and mushy peas with ham hock, that evening, Brian and Jacquie had game, Ann had steak and ale and I had beef and Blackstick cheese. They were all delicious, but left us with no room for desert, ho-hum.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011



Almost immediately on leaving our overnight mooring we encountered the Dowley Gap two lock staircase. Simple, ensure the top lock is full and the bottom one is empty and all is well. By the time we reached the Three Rise we had worked out exactly what we needed to do, but young John was on hand to ensure that all went well and we did as we were instructed and as we left he phoned ahead to advise the famous Barry Whitelock that we were on our way.

On our way, Duggie had a close encounter with a goose, not to be confused with a duck. Ducks quickly take to the water or air when Duggie charges then, but a goose stands its ground and this one made Duggie back off, I think he will be a tad more respectful in any future confrontation. Our other discovery was the Bingley was not only home to the Bradford and Bingley Building Society, but to Damart, the thermal clothing manufacturer, as the chimney proudly proclaimed.

Barry has been looking after the Bingley Five Rise locks for over thirty years, but it was Rick (only ten years service) who greeted us and controlled all of the opening and closing of paddles ensuring our smooth rise up the sixty foot climb. The only thing that got confused was our little weather forecaster, that translated the resulting drop in air pressure to a forecast of rain, despite the flawless weather that we were actually experiencing. Barry nodded a welcome to us at the top, obviously in recognition that we had done as told and sent us on our way with the knowledge that fifty yards further on was a water point that actually had water coming out it. Here we filled the water tank, looking forward to all of us having a shower that evening.

We moored for the evening at Riddlesden, just after bridge 197A and to my amazement, Puffer Parts is based here, everything I needed and all at very competitive prices complete with friendly and helpful service from the owner and colleague. A new clamp on cowl for the chimney, the old one blew off, new fenders, a replacement windlass; I left one behind on our second day out and a new twin horn to replace the one that has finally stopped working. The rest of the day was spent trying to get the new one to work, but with no success as there would appear to be a problem in the wiring.



Titus, was clearly a man of vision, who decided to take his mill and his workforce out of the squalor of Bradford to the clean open country beside the River Aire. Sensible he chose to build his mill between the canal and the railway ensuring the best possible transportation of this cloth to the buying public. When the New Mill was being planned, between the canal and the river, there were complaints that the chimney would be a blight on the landscape. Titus’s solution was too have it styled as an Italian campanile and that is what we see today.

He built a village to house his workforce, churches for them to worship in, Institutes to improve their knowledge, schools to educate the children, playing fields to keep them fit, a hospital to keep them healthy and baths to keep them clean, but it seems that the baths were unpopular and rarely used and were soon converted to more housing.

The village is still almost exactly as it was built, except for the cars parked outside. The Mechanics Institute is now the Victoria Hall, which houses amongst other things a Museum of organs and harmoniums, but was not open when we visited.

The mills have now been converted to apartments, offices, and a NHS centre. As far we were concerned the main interest, was the ground floor1853 gallery exhibiting works by David Hockney; from his earliest to his latest. It is a vast space filled with books, pottery and art material, all displayed on interesting furniture and perfumed by the numerous vases of fresh lilies. My particular favourites were his photo collages and his painting of the mill.

Jacquie thought she had died and gone to heaven when she climbed the stairs and found herself in the Cook and Home Shop, perhaps wishing that she had a proper kitchen and home to equip.

We moved on through Hirst Lock and Swing Bridge to a delightful mooring. The River Aire chuckled along below us and the sun lit up the surrounding trees, whilst Brian and I lit the BBQ and placed a whole chicken under the lid to roast. I must admit I was a bit sceptical, but The Cobb cook book says ‘that’s what you do’ and it really did cook it well, the bonus was that it left the oven free for all the trimmings, delicious.



As expected our start wasn’t as early as promised, but the morning was perfect and scenery wonderful as we traversed the Aire Valley. The only downside was that the waterpoint at the BW yard at the top of the Dodson Locks had virtually no pressure and after an hour and a half our tank was still not full, but the view back down the locks made up for the wait.

The swing bridges came fast and furious and we were very pleased to have our crew to do the hard work. We swung northwards, following the river, rising up the triple staircase of Field Locks before the canal headed back south again and industry and housing became evident, but fortunately it did not intrude onto the canal, until we were right into Shipley. We tied up by Gallows footbridge, we didn’t hang about though, but went straight to the nearby Aldi store.

The town of Shipley didn’t entice us, but Saltaire did. We tried to moor up the other side of the famous mills, but sadly we couldn’t get close enough to get ashore, so backed up and tied to two of the many bollards between the mills, these are supposedly only to be used for a maximum of six hours, between nine in the morning and six in the evening, but as we were the only boat there we thought, nah doesn’t apply to us. Seems to me that BW needs to dredge the bank and make alternative overnight moorings available if they are going to enforce that ruling.



Not only did I think that Rodley was a picturesque place, so did half of Leeds. Our quite mooring spot beside Canal Road was soon surrounded by cyclists, walkers with and without dogs of all shapes and sizes and of course, gongoozelers and a nearby ice cream van was doing a roaring trade.

At one point several Red Coat solders marched passed and stopped at the Rodley Barge for refreshment, they must have been warm under all that uniform. We found out from one of the camp followers that these Red Coats of His Majesties 33rd Regiment of Foot, a regiment that was recruited from the West Riding of Yorkshire and had fought at Waterloo, were getting marching fit before travelling to Belgium and retracing the actual positions of that battle. Apparently the metal heeled army shoes of that period had no left or right, making them cheaper to make and quicker to put on in an emergency.

Ann & Brian arrived late afternoon, but as the crowds drifted away we decided to stay where we were for another night and promised ourselves an early start.

Sunday, 17 April 2011



The Nicholson Guide suggest that three hours is what is required to clear Newley Locks and that stopping between there and the centre of Leeds is not recommended. It took us five hours to clear the thirteen locks. The last six locks are actually two flights of three staircase locks and BW staff were on hand to work them for us. It was just about three o’clock when we passed through and then the BW guys immediately locked them up. I’m not sure what the situation would have been if we had left Leeds centre at the latest time of three o’clock as recommended, but common sense prevailed and we had left in plenty of time.

After the first lock we said goodbye to the River Aire as we entered the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, the river would be one side of us or other for many miles, but now it was back to the cosiness of a canal. The journey was very pleasant and we were accompanied through the locks by N.B. Meadow Pippet, captained by Polly and crewed by a lovely bunch of lasses determined to enjoy this grand day. We continued a couple more miles to the picturesque village of Rodley and settled down to await the arrival on Sunday of Brian and Ann, who are regular boating chums.


A small patch of grass for Duggie to allow him to perform his duties and then we marched of to the shopping centre of Leeds. Five minutes, over the river and under the railway and up Briggate and we were in a pedestrian area with an abundance of designer stores and shops, many of them in beautiful Victorian arcades decorated with a wealth of intricately painted casting, Harvey Nic’s and Vivienne Westwood just to name two.
It was a delight to wander around window shopping safe in the knowledge that it was mostly beyond our pockets. Duggie was much admired, Jacquie having spent some time grooming him before we set off, however he didn’t impress a member of security who politely pointed out that dogs were not allowed in the arcades, I pointed out equally politely that they should make it clear on all of the many entrances and he didn’t push the issue.

In the afternoon we visited the Armoury. We enjoyed the amazing display of assorted weaponry, mounted on the walls of the tower, a pyramid mirror on the ground floor helps one fully appreciate the display without breaking the neck. The suits of armour are also incredible, the workman ship is superb, but how people moved around in these creations, never mind fighting is mind boggling. By floor four of the five we had had enough of the glorification of all the different ways to kill and maim as many people as possible, don’t get me wrong it is an excellent museum and kids obviously love it, but I could hardly think what it must have been like to be on the receiving end of this weaponry.

One mystery solved, on the base of the Armoury tower is a blue plaque celebrating the life and achievements of John Smeaton, a Leeds born man; amongst the many civil engineering projects he had been involved in, the most outstanding was the design of the third Eddystone Lighthouse, which remained standing for 118 years before it was dismantled and partially rebuilt on Plymouth Hoe. Not surprising that I at first sight thought this tower looked a bit like a lighthouse.

Friday, 15 April 2011



We were on our way by ten o’clock and the cooling towers of Ferrybridge power station loomed ahead as we passed through the flood lock. Just over an hour later Bullholme Lock appeared ahead. The light was on amber, but as no one was on duty we tied up and taking our BW key with us we inserted it into the control box, followed the instructions, pressed the buttons in the right order and the gates swung open and in we went and the good news was that all of the rest of the locks to Leeds would be just as easy, which was as well, as Jacquie, although over the worst of her cold was still feeling fragile.

A few minutes later we stopped at Castleford for coffee whilst the water tank was filling. Just after midday we turned sharp right after the flood lock at the junction of the Rivers Aire and Calder and headed towards Leeds on the Aire.

It was much less windy than yesterday, good cruising weather, we passed but didn’t stop at the Thwaite Mills Industrial Museum, marked by a restored steam crane and after five locks and ten miles and some impressively converted warehouses, we turned sharp left into Clarence Dock. What looked like a rather strange lighthouse was in fact the tower of The Armoury Museum which is right alongside the dock, brilliant.

We reversed onto one of the pontoons, the mooring is free for 48 hours complete with water and card operated electricity hook up. All the old wharfs and warehouses around the dock have gone and have been replaced by smart offices and apartments with restaurants and retail units at ground level and a Tesco Express just two minutes walk away. It is a safe and quite city centre mooring and the design is exciting, but it does look a bit grey and cold, but I guess a drop of sunshine and a few more people about and it would brighten up. There is a plaque on a wall with a plan showing all of the old warehouses and factories that used to surrounded the docks and a list of all the companies that were based here, that certainly helped to get a feel of what this area must have been like in its working heyday.