Bank Newton (boat rescuing)

The guys turned up for work on the leaking bank soon after eight as usual but were very quiet; no sound of a genny or the pump that injects the polyurethane into the bank.  When I looked outside I saw that they had removed all the safety barriers and tape and had packed everything away.  Strange, as they had said it would take them two weeks to drill 42 holes and inject the material; they had only been here four days.  Maybe they were more efficient than I gave them credit or maybe they have to return for another spell later.

The upshot of it is that peace has returned during the day and there is now very little reason to move on from our really rather pleasant haven.

We wanted to catch a train to Skipton as we had a few jobs to do but the trains are incredibly infrequent during the week, e.g. there is one at 8.00am and not another until 11.56am.  So, we ended up getting the car to drive into town which meant we could do a large food shop as well as get Buddy’s injections and visit the boatyard. With an hourly service, it’s a totally different story at the weekends and, as we want to return to Skipton on Sunday for the Skipton Sheep day, we will take the train then. 

First we walked down to Gargrave to see my parents and pick up the car and on the way back from Skipton stopped for lunch by the Roman ford across the River Aire in the village.  I have been coming to Gargrave since a small child and this is the first time I remember the water being low enough to see the remaining paving slabs of the ford.  I suspect I would have done in 1976 but I didn’t venture north that year as my eldest son, Christopher, was born in the middle of the heatwave.

The remains of the Roman ford across the Aire
Whilst in Skipton we popped into the boatyard to check they were still OK to do the works we needed for when the boat goes to France next year.  We also needed to confirm the dates we would leave the boat with them – we are on holiday from the end of August until late October so can’t leave the boat on the cut as it would break the two-week maximum stay rule 😉 Although we had chatted to them on the phone before, this was the first physical meeting and I must say we were happy to find they were as friendly and helpful as we had expected.

Buddy cooling off in the river whilst we had our picnic
Back at Mum’s, Karen washed the car whilst I did a few odd jobs.  We had been caught by the bridge-hoppers’ curse.  When continuous cruising with a car you have to avoid leaving the car under trees for long periods.  We had forgotten this, and the car was covered in tree sap and bird crap.

Sign outside our bank in Skipton
Seeing the sign above, reminded us, that although we know Skipton quite well, we don’t really know a lot about its history so resolved to have a more detailed visit in the coming weeks.  It wasn’t until reading the sign that I really clicked that there’s a difference between stocks and pillories.  Although they both served the same purpose of restraining miscreants whilst they were pelted with rotten fruit etc. as a punishment, the subject was restrained by the legs in stocks and by the head and wrists in a pillory.  We remembered seeing the pillory at Nantwich which still stands in the town.

It was a bit of a struggle getting all the shopping etc. back to the boat as the nearest parking spot is over ½ mile away, but we made it and had a pleasant evening outside admiring the view whilst watching and listening to the birds.
Karen was pleased to see more sunflowers are now in bloom
Each morning and evening one of the local lock keepers cycles past on his way to work from Barnoldswick.  He normally stops for a quick chat and this evening he told us about new restrictions in place on all the locks between Burnley and Gargrave because of a water shortage.  The locks are now padlocked shut between 6.00pm and 10.00am each day and lock keepers are assisting passage to ensure not too much water is wasted.  We never quite understand the hours the locks are padlocked during restrictions as they always seem to be in the hours when fewer boats travel but I’m sure it makes sense really. 

After dinner we heard a lot of noise coming from the corner just in front of us.  A boat had got stuck on the shallows and the crew couldn’t pole it off.  We had to chuckle as the lady was rather well built compared to the guy and I ended up going down to see if I could help.  They were both trying to pole it off from the front which meant their weight was making the situation worse.  I explained that they needed to move to the back to give the boat a chance to rise at the front and I would drag them back. I fetched our long boat hook to catch their bowline and successfully pulled them off the obstruction. 

The lady turned out to be American and was therefore incredibly over the top, gushing out her thanks at being rescued.

Me to the rescue
We heard from Clive and Jenny in the evening, they have now moved on to Keighley and will be in Leeds in a few days.  We had had some good times with them over the last couple of weeks and will miss them, but as they say, ‘You never know when we’ll meet again’. 

A picture Clive sent of them passing us in their boat recently

Bank Newton (ringlets are out)

Whilst having breakfast on Wednesday I had noticed that ringlets were emerging, yet another sign that summer is here.  They were all feeding on thistles low down in the long grass, so it was difficult to get a decent picture.

Our first ringlet of the year - na bit hidden but you can see the eyespots after which it is named
Wednesday morning was spent in an NHS meeting discussing Dad’s care needs which, in turn, dictates the level of funding he can receive.  The ridiculous thing about it was, that if they felt his funding should be reduced, then a further meeting would need to be held with a social worker present.  OK, so that’s maybe not too ridiculous, but the wait for a social worker is between six and 12 months!  The money that the NHS must be wasting on overfunding is what is really ridiculous

My brother Richard, who had come down for the meeting, had to get a train back to Scotland in the early afternoon, so we didn’t get to spend much time with him, but at least we had had a good alcoholic night on an alcohol-free day.

In the late afternoon we walked down to Gargrave to see Clive & Jenny who were moored a couple of locks out of the village.  John & Jayne joined us too; they are good friends of Clive & Jenny and we had met them at Foulridge a week or so ago.  Coincidentally it was an alcohol-free day for all three couples but, fortunately, all three couples relax that rule if socialising 😉  

Thursday promised to be even hotter, so we took it easy and just had a gentle six mile walk down to and around East Marton.  Just before we left I heard oystercatchers flying over for the first time since being here.  Strangely they now seem to be flying and calling around here constantly.  Another bird with a beautiful call.

I’ve mentioned before that Buddy finds it difficult getting water from this canal as the banks are generally very high but it doesn’t stop him trying:

We’re sure he’ll fall in one day

East Marton is a very small village and has a Norman church where we had our picnic lunch as the churchyard afforded plenty of shade.  Buddy was very excited to be going into the graveyard.


We couldn’t look around the church as, surprisingly, it was locked.

The windows in the bell tower seemed out of proportion to the bulky tower itself
The sundial was working well but it seems the brass numerals had been removed 😊  The date on the sundial is 1714 so is about 600 years younger that the church!

Whilst having lunch we chatted about the effect the building of canals must have had on villages that they passed through.  They would have been invaded by hundreds of navvies who, I believe, were often treated like some people treat travellers today.  By the same token, there would have been temporary work available to the locals too.

Looking back at the church as we walked back to the canal
We passed a delightful looking pub which was, oddly, closed on Thursdays and Fridays.  We wondered if it was to do with the hire boat trade and those are the least likely days they would be passing.

The Abott’s Harbour
On our walk back, we were accompanied by countless common blues, meadow browns and ringlets which was a delight.  The grass is now baked brown and we realised that we haven’t seem rain since the 3rd May when we were moored in Stoke on Trent.

Bank Newton (our first sunflower in bloom)

Sitting outside for breakfast on Tuesday morning we noticed one of our sunflowers had come out.  We had seen a boat last year with miniature sunflowers and thought we would try the same this year.  We planted the seeds earlier in the year and they haven’t grown too tall yet 😉

Our first miniature sunflower to bloom
We also noticed quite a bit of butterfly activity alongside the boat including the wall brown that we saw yesterday.  It was rather tatty so must have been around a few weeks now, but it was patrolling up and down the towpath the length of the boat.

Our tatty but homely wall brown
There were quite a number of meadow browns in the long grass and also a few common blues.  Common blue caterpillars feed on bird’s foot trefoil (bacon and egg as we called the yellow and orange plants as children).  And this seems to be growing profusely along the towpaths around here.

Female common blue nectaring on bird’s foot trefoil outside the hatch
At 9.30 we set off for the Lower Park boatyard at Barnoldswick as we needed water and a pump out.  We had to turn around first at the winding hole just ahead of our mooring and travel back 6 ½ miles and up the three Greenberfield locks to get there.

Soon after turning around we passed Clive and Jenny coming in the opposite direction and made arrangements to meet up for a drink in a couple of days’ time as, they too, were going to spend some time in Gargrave.

Passing Clive & Jenny
This section of the cut is very twisty as it is a contour canal on rolling hills and is called the Curly Wurly by the locals – the same nickname as given to the Wyrely & Essington canal down in Birmingham.  At the particularly tight bends upright rollers were installed to facilitate the towing by horses.

One of the corner rollers
Even though we had left relatively early, it was still a very hot morning and the tree-lined cutting at East Marton gave welcome respite from the sun.

Nice to have shade for a change
Just outside East Marton a boat called, I think. Coriolis came in the opposite direction.  I didn’t recognise them, but the driver called out, “I’ve been reading your bog”, so hello whoever you were and if you’re coming back down this way soon we may get the chance for a quick chat 😉

We were soon approaching Greenberfield locks and, even though we waited a while, we went up on our own.  The first time for a while since we’ve not shared locks.

Going up one of the Greenberfield locks on our own
After the locks it was another three miles or so to the turning point just south of the Anchor at Barnoldswick.  There is an interesting sign outside the pub where it mentions that as well as the usual stuff like good food and local beers it said it has cellars of historical interest.  Advertising good food etc. always seems a bit daft as who would advertise crap food? Saying that, there used to be a sign board on the A5 south of Milton Keynes with an arrow pointing to a pub and a slogan about warm beers and mediocre food. Not sure if it worked or not as we never tried it.

After turning we called in at Lower Park marina at Barnoldswick that had been recommended to us on the Continuous Cruisers Facebook group.  The two guys we saw were certainly very friendly and helpful and, when they found out we were liveaboard ccers, offered us 100% duty free fuel without even asking what split we would want.

As we left the services a CRT rescue tug approached us pushing a cruiser that was being removed from the water.  We recognised it as the one that has been semi-submerged down at Bank Newton.

Just before getting back to go down the locks we stopped at the service point for water and a late lunch.  It was one of the prettiest service points we have visited:

 There was an information board at the service point explaining that when the canal was opened in 1816 the flight consisted of two double staircase locks, but they were problematic to operate.  Within four years they were replaced by the three locks in the present flight.

The notice also explained that the water being pumped into the cut (which is at its summit here at 487’ above sea level) is piped all the way from Winterburn reservoir near Malham – quite a distance.

Information board at the service point
The locks had been OK on the way up but the going had been very slow because of several paddles not working.  Coming back was a different matter, there were six CRT guys up and down the flight trying to sort out drained pounds and broken paddles.  It took over two hours to get down a flight that should take much less than an hour. 

At the bottom we passed a boat, called North Star, coming up.  We had a quick chat in passing and it turned out that they were also blog readers and I promised to mention them to prove I don’t always forget names – good to meet you Simon & Pauline 😊

So, in the end we cruised in the searing heat for 13 miles through six locks just to end up back where we started.  It should only have taken about six hours but ended up taking nine because of the problems with the locks.  But at least we now have full tanks of water and diesel and an empty poo tank 😉

In the evening we met my youngest brother, Richard, at Settle station as he was staying the night.

Bank Newton (moored on top of a breach?)

When we got back from Buddy’s first walk we were confronted with a ‘Men at work’ sign alongside our boat and a couple of guys in high viz just beyond it.

Not what we were expecting to come home to
As I walked up to chat with them I passed a signboard that explained what they were doing but I still carried on for a chat anyway.

The signboard at the other end of the boat
Apparently, the farmer had been complaining for some time about water leaking from the canal across one of his fields.  The guys were here to drill 42 holes and inject them with polyurethane resin which works a bit like spray foam insulation only their resin reacts with water to make it expand. 

The leakage highlighted by the dark line of marsh grass running down to the bottom 
I know it’s probably not called marsh grass but it’s what I have always called it.  Anyway, it does show where the leak is and that it must have been going on a while.

I asked them if I could take a photograph of them working and they were more than happy as long as I waited until they put their life harnesses on 😊

Men at work
They told me it was going to take them two weeks to complete the job which seemed a long time to me.  We left at 10.30 to walk to my dad’s and they were setting off down the towpath at the same time.  They were walking back to their van for their tea break.  At over ½ mile each way that means 20 minutes on top of their break time, so I began to realise why it may take two weeks 😉

Before we left we moved the boat about 20 yards away from the works as they advised that the polyurethane may leak out and form a barrier against the boat. 

After seeing my dad, we had lunch with Mum then retrieved our car as we needed to get to Ilkley for our Monday afternoon visit to the bridge club.  It was Karen’s first duplicate bridge session, so understandably she was a bit nervous beforehand.  There were about 50 people playing and they made us most welcome and we soon relaxed – didn’t stop us coming last though, but as my dad pointed out later, we can’t get any worse.

On the way back to pick up Buddy, who we had left at Mum’s in Gargrave, Karen suggested going via the back roads to see if there were any VR post boxes.  We were approaching a country crossroads and I was explaining that this was the ideal location.  I couldn’t believe it when Karen shouted that we had just passed one – I couldn’t believe I had missed it .

Typical location of a country VR post box at Bog Lane crossroads in Thorlby…
…and a close up for the geeks showing the unusual mouth
Tuesday will see us turning around and heading back to Barnoldswick for water and a pump out.  My youngest brother, Richard, arrives from Scotland in the evening for a short stay so I suspect our non-drinking Tuesday won’t be!

We had hoped Chris and Sue would visit as well but circumstances changed for all of us; we gained a week by not getting to Liverpool and are therefore further north than planned.  We heard from them yesterday and they had completed on their house sale and have moved aboard their narrowboat joining the ever-growing band of happy and care-free water gypsies 😉

Before I finish, here are the people stuck in Liverpool docks – Chris and Aileen have paid to get craned out tomorrow and will be heading our way.  This is a parting party shot they took of everyone who’s stuck there wishing them bon voyage.

Sunset from the cratch - the lumps on the hill on the horizon are sheep

Bank Newton (there were no boats here when we arrived)


It's Grim Up North (see later)
Although the sun kept poking out during the day on Saturday, it remained on the cool side up here.  It was actually better that way as we were cycling and walking during the day.  

We cycled down to the visitor moorings at the bottom of the Bank Newton flight where we padlocked the bikes up for the day.  On the way we were looking out for good places to moor and also park a car.  As we are going to be around here for a couple of months we wanted to get an understanding of where the best spots are.  We will occasionally need the car whilst we are here as we have some family events and also need to stock up on large items like Buddy’s dog food.  As a general principle though, we will walk, cycle or use public transport rather than the car.

We spent most of the day with Mum and Dad and running errands around the village.

The river is very low in the village (we normally have all the FAM with us when we do stepping stones pictures)

Sheep were in the road when we were walking between Dad’s care home and Mum’s house which greatly excited Buddy – I was so relieved we keep him on a lead.  It seems there is a glut of curlews at present as it felt we could hear them all the time we were walking or cycling by fields.  The other common bird is the lapwing (properly known as the northern lapwing) which also has a lovely call.  The sound they make is like ‘pew-wit’ which is why they are also known as peewits.

Stephen, a keen ornithologist friend who runs nature tours and holidays from his farm in Andalucía, has been over in the UK for a week.  He posted some pictures of butterflies he saw in the south which made me quite jealous.  One of the things we must do whilst up here is get out to the places to see species that only appear up in the north, like the large heath.  When Stephen posted his butterfly pictures he remarked about the lack of swift sightings and, it hadn’t occurred to me, but he’s right.  We have only seen them since being in Yorkshire and then only two.  We will keep a sharp look out for him.

When we got home, three boats had moored near us and, selfishly I said it wasn’t fair spoiling our spot.  Karen pointed out it isn’t our stretch of the cut and I know she’s right.  Later in the evening a fifth boat arrived and when Karen reacted, it was my turn to tell her that it isn’t our cut 😊

We spent a while listing out the things we want to do whilst we are up here, and it was obvious we are in danger of running out of days Just a few of the important things (to us) are:

  • Attending a sheep dog trial (we have never been to one together)
  • Climbing the three Yorkshire Peaks (we have only been up Pen-y-ghent)
  • Camping with all the family (we always camp at Gordale Scar in the first week of August)
  • Camping on our own (we always camp with the children when in Yorkshire 😉) 
  • See the production of, ‘Idle women of the wartime waterways’ (currently touring the north)
  • Going to Gargrave show (we miss it every year as it is the week after our annual family camping trip)
  • Butterflying (as I said earlier, it would be good to see some of the northern species) 
  • Having children up to stay at different times


We had breakfast outside on Sunday, as I expect most of the country did, and we planned on staying there until mid-morning and then walking down to Gargrave to see my mum and dad.  Even though it was early in the day we were pleased to see the meadow browns were emerging – to us, that means summer is really here.  There were also quite a few common blues along the towpath where we were sitting.

After finishing breakfast, we soon changed our minds – we had forgotten that it was an ‘It’s Grim Up North’ run and that runners would be constantly up and down the towpath today between Skipton and a turning point about two miles beyond where we were moored.  There were several events from 5km and 10km up to marathon and ultra-marathon.  They must be mad, especially doing it in the sun.

There was no way we could sit out on the chairs and have Buddy laying across the towpath, so we set off for Gargrave a little earlier than planned.  We walked into the centre to check the situation with services (due to our out of date guide book).  I seemed to remember seeing a pump out station in the centre but when we got there it was just an Elsan disposal station (for portable cassette toilets).  We had hoped to use the services when we stayed in the village for a few days but would now have to change our plans.

We had lunch with my mum and then went to see Dad and watch the World Cup football with him.  Although we were brought up without a television (my parents got one as soon as they retired 😊) I doubt we very much would have been allowed to watch football if we had had one.  How times change.

On our walk back, we saw an old stone in a field on the other side of the cut.  It was directly opposite a cast iron milepost showing Leeds 35 ¼ miles and Liverpool 92 miles, so we wondered if it was an original milepost (the cast iron ones were installed in the 1890s).

When we rounded the last corner before getting back we found all our neighbours had gone so we were back on our own again 😊

There weren’t so many ‘It’s Grim Up North’ competitors on the towpath as earlier, so it was safe to sit outside for the rest of the day.

My dad had telephoned to talk about the cricket
Now we had found that there was no pump out station in Gargrave we either have to go to Skipton and back, which is a round trip of 15 miles and 24 locks, or turn around and go to Barnoldswick and back, which is a round trip of 13 miles and six locks.  We hadn’t planned on taking the boat to Skipton for another few weeks, so we will take the shorter option, probably on Tuesday.  At least we will be able to return to the same spot for a few more days 😊

Bank Newton (in famil[Y]iar territory)

Karen knitting a wedding shawl whilst we waited to go through Foulridge tunnel

After the wind of Thursday, that seemed to carry on all night, it was strangely calm when we got up in the morning.  We had a council of war and thought we would cruise for the day and get up to Bank Newton which is about two miles from my parents in Gargrave.

Sunny and still morning at our Thursday night mooring between Barrowford and Foulridge
We were setting off at 10.30 and a guy stopped for a chat and mentioned that the tunnel is only open in our direction for ten minutes every hour, at half past the hour.  We were ten minutes cruise away so by the time we got there the lights were on red   Ironically, if the chap hadn’t stopped for a chat we would have got there whilst the lights were green but, as Karen pointed out, time is our own so it didn’t matter.

Buddy seemed to be happy we had nearly an hour to wait (you can just make out the red light in the entrance)
You may wonder why we hadn’t planned things a bit better, which would be fair.  The trouble is, is that we have an old guide book to this canal and it says that you can only enter Foulridge tunnel if there are no boats coming – no mention of traffic lights or timings. We have laughed at several out of date things in the book recently, e.g. it often mentions things like, ‘On the left there are stunning views to the distant hills’, in reality there is nothing to see as trees have grown thus blocking the view.  

Lauren, my middle daughter, is getting married just before Christmas and Karen, Sophie and Jo are knitting shawls for her and her bridesmaids as it may be cold.  Karen took the opportunity of a 50-minute wait to get a bit more of her shawl knitted.

As we are staying around Gargrave for a while, Karen had rung around local bridge clubs on Thursday to find one that ran duplicate sessions during the day (we don’t really like traipsing out in the evenings).  It’s strange that clubs don’t have more daytime sessions as most of the members must be retired folk, anyway, I received a call back whilst we were waiting and we are now signed up to Ilkley bridge club and will be going on Monday afternoons.

At 11.30 the green lights came on and we were off again:

The couple on the parapet had waited 45 minutes to see us go!
The tunnel is about a mile long and stone lined like Gannow tunnel that we went through the previous day.  As expected we didn’t meet anyone and were through in about 15 minutes.  When we came out the other side we noticed that the wind had got up again and it stayed windy for the rest of the day.

We stopped for water at Foulridge services:

There was a milepost right by the water point with handwritten distances rather than the usual embossed ones.  Not only that, the distances added up to 127 ¾ miles between Leeds and Liverpool; all the other mileposts we have seen add up to 127 ¼

Buddy, as usual, was just laying across the towpath in order to aggravate speeding cyclists.  As there was a café/bistro at the services there were many people around and Buddy got a lot of fuss and attention because we obviously don’t give him any.  I said bistro as I noticed some people had bottles of lager with their sandwiches and that was before midday!

Buddy being a tart
Many canal bridges across the country have rope marks where years of tow rope pulling has worn away intricate patterns in the bridge supports, especially where softer stone has been used.  The abrasion is caused by build-up of grit and dirt in the towing ropes.  Sometimes, wooden rollers were installed to decrease the wear caused by the ropes.  This canal has had many of its rollers reinstated:

Around Barnoldswick we passed a sign indicating the Lancashire-Yorkshire county line. We don’t know how current the information is as Barnoldswick has been in Lancashire since 1974 but used to be in Yorkshire.  Many residents still won’t recognise they are in Lancashire and fly Yorkshire flags 😊

Talking about recency, Karen saw a sign warning people about the presence of blue green algae.  It must be at least six years old as it was issued by British Waterways which was replaced by the Canal & River Trust in 2012:

After lunch we left the summit and went down the three locks at Greenberfield; from now on the cut slowly descends to Leeds.  These locks are in one of the best locations we have seen which more than made up for the fact that it took both of us to open some of the gates.

The top lock had strange ground paddle gear that we hadn’t come across before – it has to be lifted by hand rather than with a windlass:

Wooden ground paddle gear
The other two locks also had a type of ground paddle gear that we hadn’t come across for a while:

Again, windlass not required
Half way down
Leaving the bottom lock
At East Marton we went under a two arched bridge, strangely called the Double Arched bridge 😉 The other double arched bridges we have seen on our travels are at Cowley on the Shropshire Union and at East Mills off the Peak Forest canal.  The second arch was added at East Marton when the road was converted to the A59 which runs between Liverpool and York.

After another few miles we reached Bank Newton and moored up for the night.  When I tell you that the nearest road is over a mile away and that it is the dead-end lane that leads into tiny Bank Newton then you can appreciate that the only sounds we could hear all evening were those of birds and sheep and the occasional tractor.

Although we haven’t got the heat of the south at present, it was still pleasant enough to sit outside for a couple of hours.  We were constantly serenaded by the beautiful sound of five curlews that kept flying past.  Their call gets shriller and quicker before reaching the end.  I think they are majestic looking when on the ground but look quite strange and unbirdlike when flying.

Our mooring for the next few days

One of our views – this one is looking east to Bank Newton
During the day we travelled nine miles down three locks.  We will get the bikes out on Saturday and cycle into Gargrave to spend time with my parents.