Friday 27 July 2018

Thorlby (will the storm arrive on Friday?)

Six of the eight guard geese opposite our new mooring

After a leisurely morning we were ready to move out of Gargrave but as we had three locks to descend we waited until another boat arrived, so we could help save water.  A hire boat turned up and agreed to go down with us. 

We both took on water first
On board were a lovely couple with two young children.  The 12-year-old son had really enjoyed their holiday and was now driving the boat.  He was able to recount the locks they had been through and was so excited even though the three locks we did together were marking the end of their holiday.  He did say that his younger brother probably hadn’t enjoyed it as much 😉

Going down Holme lock – next to where Buddy and I watched the sheepdog trials last Sunday
We carried on cruising with the hire boat, so we could share the lift bridges.  We moored up after Thorlby swing bridge at the spot we left eight days ago and Dave was still there on his boat.

Moored back at Thorlby swing bridge with Sharp Haw in the background
We wandered down to the farm by the bridge and stocked up on eggs and noticed a strange noise.  It turned out to be a tanker that was taking on water at a standpipe on the A65.  The lady we bought the eggs from told us that the tanker had been taking water from there for the last few days, but she didn’t know why.  We went down to talk to the tanker driver and it transpired that he was shipping drinking water to the Food Festival – a week long outdoor event being held just outside Skipton.

I used the word ‘lady’ in the previous paragraph and that is because I couldn’t really use 'farmer' as that is still a word that has no feminine equivalent such as shepherdess.  Even in today’s PC world I expect most people still think of farmers and farmers’ wives.  Mentioning shepherdess reminds me that I know two female shepherds and they both refer to themselves as shepherds rather than sheherdesses. 

Thunderstorms were forecast for Thursday afternoon, but none arrived although we heard thunder and had a few drops of rain during the evening.

Our evening view: what's on the way - rain or sun?
So, on Thursday we travelled two miles, down three locks and through two swing bridges.

Thursday 26 July 2018

Gargrave (what to do with steam engine ash)

During our stay up here, one of the things we wanted to do was the three Yorkshire peaks.  We went up Ingleborough a couple of weeks ago and on Wednesday we set off for Whernside.  Steve and I went up Pen y Ghent last week too, but Karen and I will go up next week to complete the three together.

Even though the weather was set fair we still packed extra fleeces and wet weather gear etc. just in case.  Fortunately, unlike the south, we have lost some of the heat up here, so carrying rucksacks wasn’t that much of a burden.

As we left the boat we noticed a sign saying that mooring along the Gargrave section is restricted to 72 hours – oh dear, we have been here a week now so probably just as well that we’re planning on moving on Thursday.

On the way to Whernside we went through a hamlet called Selside and found a sweet Victorian wall box.  It was sweet because it had gold lettering and also that it was in a picture postcard location 😊

Note the corner of the house has been damaged, probably by tractor forks

At 2,415 feet, Whernside is the highest peak in Yorkshire and gave us stunning views across the Dales, over to the sea at Morecambe Bay, the Lake District mountains and also the next two highest Yorkshire peaks.

We had chosen a 9 ½ mile circular walk and the first part runs alongside the wonderfully scenic Settle-Carlisle railway.

Approaching Ribblehead viaduct
I have talked about the building of the viaduct in a previous entry (when we saw it looking down from Ingleborough).  Suffice to say it felt sort of eerie walking through the fields around it where there were once shanty towns built to house the hundreds of workers employed in the construction.

Underneath the viaduct is a memorial to the men who worked and died here and also a plaque commemorating the names of the shanty towns (named after the Crimea war) built alongside the railway.  There was a TV series called Jericho that was based around the shanty town called Batty Green, but it was a failure – we remember just managing to watch one episode and we had persevered that long because of the historical interest

Shanty town plaque

Crossing the railway line after the first mile with Ingleborough in the background

A beck ran across the path of the railway line and a bridge was constructed for it.  This is the first aqueduct we have ever seen for running water; all the previous ones have been for carrying canals.

Force Gill aqueduct carrying the practically dry Force Gill beck across the railway
The bed isn’t original and has recently been rebuilt but the structure itself is Grade II listed.  When the bed was relined the original plan was to cast a concrete channel.  I think the (apparent) uproar that created is quite understandable; the final bed of natural rock is far more sympathetic.

A bit farther on was Force Gill waterfall, which, when full of water is quite spectacular from a distance.  As we passed it there was just a trickle of water.

You can imagine what the waterfall would look like in flood
As we climbed we passed old lead mine workings.  These three stood out in particular, and the entrances could still be seen as black holes above the spoil heaps.  The line of the tramway that was built to take the ore can still be seen too.

Old lead mine workings

The halfway point – looking across to Pen y Ghent
Nearing the summit, we had a good view of Greensett tarn.  Fascinating as it didn’t appear to have lost any water even in the current drought.

Looking down on Greensett tarn
On our recent walks we have noticed an increasing amount of rubbish discarded, much of which appears to be wet wipes and tissues.  We would like to think that people who love the outdoors and walking wouldn’t be the type to drop litter, but we are clearly wrong.  We attached bags to our rucksacks, so it was easy to pick up litter and stuff it into the other’s bag.

Our summit picture
We had our lunch at the top and spent most of the time watching two hang-gliding guys waiting for the right thermals to arrive.

Getting ready with Ingleborough in the background

The gear is quite different to the old days of rigid frame hang-gliders
We chatted to them for a while before we set off and later saw them circling ever higher as the right thermals had obviously arrived.

Happy to be setting off down the other side after lunch

When we got home we stayed on the boat for the rest of the afternoon catching up with admin etc. 

Once the locks are closed up this weekend for the next month or so they will be ashed up to help prevent further water loss.  The ash is dropped into the water above the gates and is drawn into the gaps around the gates. Talking with Nigel, one of the lockies here, we found out that the ash they will be using on the Bank Newton and Gargrave flights will come from the steam railway at Embsay.

As it was our last night in Gargrave we had a takeaway from Bollywood Cottage which is one of the best Indian restaurants we have used around the country.

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Gargrave (a spot of lock keeping)

Nice fresh red admiral on a rock outside the boat on Monday
Regular readers will know that Karen was still away in Edinburgh on Monday and, as our weekend visitors had gone, I had the day to myself.  Other than the daily trip to see my parents I spent the day taking short walks with Buddy and generally pottering around the boat.

We have been moored on one side of a winding hole in the middle of Gargrave for the last five days.  In front of us, on the other side of the winding hole, is room for a couple of boats to moor before a water point and a lock landing.  A pair of boats were moored in the mooring space when we arrived and I had got to know both couples over the last few days.  They both have permanent moorings up at Barnoldswick (pronounced Barlick by the locals) and moved off on Monday afternoon so they could be sure of getting back before the canal between Wigan and Gargrave closed at the end of the week.

The spot they were in lost the evening sunshine later than where we were moored so I moved the boat down once they had gone.  I have to admit that I just hauled the boat down and didn’t even bother putting the tiller arm on – rather lazy and a bit silly.  It’s not good practice to move a boat without having the means to start the engine and steer it if an emergency occurred.  I took the risk as there was no wind and there were no boats coming up the lock in front of us. All was OK (this time 😉).

Our new mooring in Gargrave
During the day I received emails about further impending canal closures in the area following the extended dry period.  Not only is this 59-mile section of the Leeds & Liverpool being closed for at least the whole of August, the Rochdale, Huddersfield Narrow, Macclesfield, and Peak Forest canals are also closing.  It’s just as well we are going away for a couple of months or so towards the end of August otherwise we would be getting short of options.

Talking about closures, the 12 mile section at the Liverpool end of this canal is still closed because of the breach at Melling six weeks ago.  Eight of the boats who ended up being stranded in the docks are still there; the rest have escaped in convoys (or flotillas?) by heading out on the Mersey and onto the Manchester Ship canal down to rejoin the main canal system at Ellesmere Port near Chester.  I say the rest but Chris & Aileen had their boat craned out early on as they only had a few months cruising time left and wanted to make the most of it before going back to NZ for our winter.

The eight boats have actually been joined by three more.  One has recently been built and dropped into the docks and the other two were the two boats trapped in the Liverpool side of the breach at Litherland.  That section has now been refilled with water enabling these two boats to get into the docks.

Before leaving to pick Karen up from Lancaster station in the evening there was a knock on the boat.  It was Richard, one of the lock keepers on the Gargrave and Bank Newton flights.  He asked if I would make sure the lock we were moored near (Higherland lock) was left about ¾ full overnight.  The last boat would be up by 5.00pm as the bottom lock would be closed by 4.00pm.  The theory was that leaving the lock nearly full was better than completely full as there would be added pressure on the top gates thus reducing leakage.

The theory seemed to hold as Tuesday morning was the first since we have been here that the pound hasn’t dropped by 9-18 inches overnight and most of the overnight moorers have woken up listing at quite an angle.  It hasn’t affected us as we have left long lines so the boat drifts out into the cut and doesn’t get caught on the underwater ledge/shelf that juts out from the bank in this area.

We were just shutting up the boat to go off and see my parents when I heard Karen exclaim, ‘Oh hello it’s you!’.  Peering through the hatch was Nancy Campbell, the canal poet laureate we met last week.  She is kayaking the 127-mile length of the Leeds & Liverpool canal over seven days as part of the 160-mile Desmond Family Canoe Trail, travelling coast to coast from Liverpool to Goole. Click here for more information.

Nancy saying hello
She was being accompanied, on this part of her trip, by Jasper Winn, the CRT’s Writer in Residence, and Greg Brookes the Desmond Family Canoe Trail’s programme manager.

Jasper on the left and Greg on the right
Boaters may have heard of Jasper Winn through his book - Water Ways: A Thousand Miles Along Britain’s Canals.

This next picture shows how the rain we had the other morning has brought some life back to the grass but, sadly, it hasn’t made any impact on the becks and rivers around here.

Off they go!
 Note we are now moored alongside a mile post 😊

We are planning on walking up Whernside, Yorkshire’s highest peak on Wednesday meaning we will have walked the three Yorkshire peaks in a couple of weeks rather than the 24 hours by three-peak challengers.  At least we have time to take in the sights, sounds and scenery 😊

Monday 23 July 2018

Gargrave (and the fluctuating pound)

Our new mooring for five or six days in the middle of Gargrave

Our first task for Thursday was to move Mum from hospital into her new care home.  Apart from a delay in getting her drugs from the pharmacy, all went without a hitch and we’re pleased to say she seems very happy in her new home.

We got home in time for a late lunch and then set out to move the boat to Gargrave.  We had visitors over the next few days so needed to make sure we had a full water tank.

It was a short cruise of two miles and up the bottom three Gargrave locks.  We found them very slow and the cruise seemed to take forever so we felt disproportionately tired by the time we filled up with water and moored up.  We had also turned around as we needed to be out of Gargrave and heading for Skipton before the locks close for at least four weeks in just over a week’s time.  As we were mooring up we agreed that we have found these three particular locks more difficult than any other canal locks in the country, including some of those on the Huddersfield Narrow, the K&A and the Rochdale.

Steve arrived just as we moored up and we had a pleasant evening on board, eating, drinking (it was a Thursday after all) and generally catching up.

Well, I say pleasant, and it was apart from having to counteract the action of some thoughtless boater who left a paddle open after they came up the lock near where we were moored.  I had walked down to meet Steve, who parked in the middle of Gargrave, and received a frantic phone call from Karen checking we could come straight back (not via the pub 😉) as the boat was listing and she couldn’t shift it on her own.

Steve and I soon got back and could see all the moored boats were listing badly.  We had grounded on a ledge and, with Karen leaning out into the cut on the far side and Steve and me pushing the top of the boat from the towpath we managed to get it off the ledge and out into the deeper water.  Since then we have set extra-long lines just to be on the safe side.

We could only assume it was the people who moored behind us who had left a ground paddle open as they were the last up the locks after they were padlocked at 4.00pm.  Such a waste of water especially as there is very little around anyway.


After breakfast Steve drove me to Horton in Ribblesdale as he and I were climbing Pen-y-Ghent during the morning.  It is my favourite looking of the three Yorkshire peaks and I have been up it a few times now. 

Pen-y-Ghent from the start of our climb from Horton in Ribblesdale
Half way up we went up a small limestone scar and could see, at intervals along it, the remains of limekilns.

One of the limekilns on the scar called Gavel Rigg
We didn’t take Buddy as the ascent path we were following was very steep in places and I didn’t want to risk being pulled over if he caught sight of a sheep nearby.

The ascent looks even more dramatic from the half way point with two very steep scars to climb.


We made it to the trig point at the summit in just under an hour

Our traditional summit selfie
As we started the descent the other side the rain came so we had to don our wet weather gear.  We took a short detour about a third of the way down to see Hull Pot; one of the largest open pots in the UK.  The rain had stopped by this point so we had some of our lunch overlooking the pot.

  Steve looking rather pleased with himself at Hull Pot
Water normally forms a waterfall where a beck enters the pot from half way along the right hand side where there is a dip in the rock.  With the dry weather lately, the beck had dried up, but the odd trickle could be seen coming out of the walls in places.

Hull Pot photo taken from the Yorkshire Dales site (and from nearly the same spot as ours above)
At times there is so much water coming into the pot that it fills up and carries on running down the hill the other side – that must be an awe-inspiring sight.


In the morning I drove Karen to Lancaster to catch a train to Edinburgh as she was staying with Jo for a couple of nights.  I know it seems daft me driving her, but the plan had been for her to drive and leave the car in Lancaster.  That plan fell by the wayside when Mum moved into her home as I now needed transport over the weekend to ferry belongings etc. to her.

Karen, Steve and I now all have the VR post box collecting bug but none of us have seen a Victorian lamp style box.  All the boxes we have seen have either been wall or pillar boxes.  We have only ever seen modern (Elizabethan) lamp style boxes. 

On my way home, after dropping Karen off, I passed an old lamp box that wasn’t obviously Elizabethan, so I stopped to have a look.  It turned out to an Edward VII box so at least it gives us hope that there may still be some Victorian ones hanging around (so to speak) 😊

You can see why this style is called a lamp box and also the inscription showing VII at the bottom of the ER

When I got back to the boat an ice cream bar had set up shop by the lock, but I resisted the urge 😉 
My baby brother, Richard, stopped over on Saturday night on his way back from a family holiday in South Wales to spend some time with Mum and Dad.  I’m not sure how popular he was with Liz as she had to get the children home and contend with all the aftermath that follows a family holiday


Whilst Richard was having some time with Mum on Sunday morning I went for a walk around the village where her care home is.  There were no Victorian post boxes, but I did come across an old well in the churchyard.

St Mary’s well
The well house was built in 1764 but records show that christenings have taken place in the waters since Anglo-Saxon times (1-1,500 years ago).  They have a lot to answer for these Anglo-Saxons including frightening the poor countryfolk into believing in Christianity

I have to admit that Buddy enjoyed the taste of the water 

Further descriptive text

Interesting notice in the church porch (church was locked so no chance for me and Buddy to look around)
We also found a pleasant set of alms-houses – the inscriptions about the benefactors always fascinate me.

The five alms-houses in Thornton in Craven
The inscription above the centre house
It was also interesting to see how the use of capital letters has changed over two hundred years.  Mind you, many modern signs have ‘incorrect’ use of capitals these days, so it can sometimes be difficult to make comparisons 

Richard left for Scotland at lunchtime and Buddy and I spent the afternoon at the sheepdog trials in Gargrave.

All the trials we saw were with one dog and three sheep.  The sheep were meant to be guided through three pairs of coloured posts around the field and then herded into a gated enclosure to finish.  We saw all sorts of standards and Buddy just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t join in – he whimpered the whole time unless I was stroking him.

One of the better performing dogs

Getting ready to finish…

…and in they go, to a great round of applause from the spectators
Having had visitors for the last few nights it was eerily quiet on the boat on Sunday evening and it was just as well we had set loose lines on Thursday as the pound has dropped on each of the last four evenings.

We have to move out of the village by Friday because of the upcoming closure.  We will probably move out on Tuesday, stay in Skipton for a few days and then go back to the spot we liked at Thorlby.

Thursday 19 July 2018

Thorlby (meeting the poet laureate)

The Alarum Theatre company and guest in the Rodley Barge on Tuesday night

We finally got some heavy rain on Monday night; it lasted about two hours so will have no impact on the water shortage but at least we didn’t have to water the plants.  Don’t worry, we use water straight from the cut; we only use tap water for vegetables and herbs.

Quickly closing the hatches on Monday evening
Other than spending time with my parents on Tuesday we spent the rest of the day pottering around the boat or walking.  There is plenty of boat traffic at the moment and most of it consists of hire boats, so it seems the summer season really has started.  As we’ve said before, nearly everyone is friendly and waves are exchanged as boats pass but sometimes there’s the odd boat where the steerer deliberately avoids eye contact as they know they are speeding and creating an eroding wake on the bank. 

We don’t tend to say anything in these situations any longer as it seems to do no good and ends up with us getting stressed about it.  I made an exception on Tuesday; a boat came past us that was moving so fast that he had a massive bow wave.  I called out, ‘Are you in a race?’ and the steerer’s response was, ‘I’m not in control of the throttle’! I was flabbergasted and all I could retort was that he should be

On Wednesday morning we went for a walk up Sharp Haw, a hill that overlooks Gargrave and the Leeds & Liverpool canal in the Aire valley.  They say this is a good hill to introduce hill walking to children and I must admit it has a lot going for it.  The six- or seven-mile circular walk takes in old tracks, grassland, moorland, woodland as well as a couple of steep rocky bits.  At the top is a trig point giving the ‘mountain’ feel and, as the hill stands alone, it offers 360-degree views around this part of the Yorkshire Dales even though it is only a little over 1,100 feet high.

Sharp Haw seen from the boat at the start of our walk (the different terrains are all clearly visible)

Our target as we passed Flasby Hall
Walking through a particularly sheltered spot we found quite a few freshly emerged whites flying around and some rather tatty ringlets.  The whites were a mixture of small whites and green veined whites.  Three guys were watching the butterflies and, once they realised we were fairly knowledgeable, started asking for identification tips.  Karen forgot to get a picture of me taking the masterclass until it was finished

Satisfied students continuing their walk

Underside of one of the small whites with its proboscis nectaring in the thistle flower
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a picture of the underside of a green veined which is a shame as it would clearly show the difference between the two species.  I have to admit I have cheated and here is a picture I took of a green veined white a couple of years ago:

Underside of a green veined white showing the dark scales along the veins

Nearing the top and looking down on the canal with Highgate swing bridge by the barn in the middle distance
It didn’t take too long to get to the top and we had our picnic leaning against the trig point.

Our summit selfie 😊
We could see Ingleborough in the distance; this was the hill that we walked up last week but was over twice as high.

Ingleborough in the distance on the left with Gargrave in the middle foreground
In the evening we went to a pub called the Rodley Barge on the outskirts of Leeds, so called because it was in a place called Rodley and next to the Leeds & Liverpool canal.  We went to see a production called Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways that is touring the canals of the north at present.  It was well worth going to see and we learnt a few things too.  Unfortunately, it was getting too cold to sit outside by the interval at 9pm so we all decamped into a room in the pub.  I think most of us hadn’t appreciated it was an outside production and were still in shorts and tee shirts even though it was the coolest night for what seems like months but is only weeks.

The production took the audience through the history of the Idle Women explaining about their training and subsequent lives.  For those who don’t know, Idle Women were the girls that were recruited to run working boats during WWII when the men were sent to fight.  Heather and Kate, the two performers had been joined, for our showing, by poet laureate Nancy Campbell.  When I say poet laureate I suppose I should add that she is the canal poet laureate, an annual appointment made by the Poetry Society and the Canal & River Trust. 

Kate, Nancy and Heather

Now, I had always thought that the Idle Women were so called because the MP, who started the initiative was a Mr Idle.  I have now learnt that is incorrect and that they were named after the IW initials on the National Service badges they were awarded.  The IW standing for Inland Waterways.

Having seen the Mikron Theatre company (who move around on a boat) perform last year we were pleased to see Kate and Heather who make up the Alarum Theatre company and also move around on a boat.

The Alarum Theatre company boat
On Wednesday morning I received yet another email from CRT about restrictions.  This one was personalised as our boat has been recorded in the area.  It explained about further tightening of the opening times of the locks leading up to the full closure in August and also restrictions that are being put in place on the Rochdale and Huddersfield canals.  Both these canals are on the shortlist of options for us to travel when we come back from holiday at the end of October.

Wednesday’s weather was back to recent normality; hardly any wind and only a few clouds in the sky:

Looking northwards…

...and looking southwards
We had planned to move Mum out of hospital and into her care home on Wednesday and packed her essential belongings into the car during the morning and at lunchtime went into hospital to pick her up.  After waiting several hours for her medications to arrive (she couldn’t leave without them) we gave up and have been promised they will be ready for her on Thursday morning.  In retrospect it’s probably best to move her in during a morning rather than afternoon as we will have more time to fetch things that she needs and therefore help her settle into her new home.  So that’s Thursday sorted 😊