RIPON, YORK, SELBY, MEXBOROUGH, CASTLEFORD,
LEEDS, SKIPTON, CHORLEY
12TH - 29TH JULY 2009
15 Days, 218 Miles, 96 Locks
Mexborough Top Lock
Sprotbrough Bridge Moorings
Sprotbrough Bridge Moorings
Pollington Lock Moorings
Pollington Lock Moorings
Office Lock, Leeds
Office Lock, Leeds
Top of Bingley 5-Rise Locks
Top of Bingley 5-Rise Locks
Langber, East Marton
Langber, East Marton
Borrowford, Below Lock 51
Borrowford, Below Lock 51
White Bear Marina, Addlingtom
Sunday 12th July 2009
After completing the Coast-to-Coast (West) walk the
day before, I was still quite tired as we departed Ripon Marina
and we decided on a short and leisurely cruise down to Oxclose Lock.
Moored above Oxclose Lock
Monday 13th July 2009
Leaving Oxclose Lock at 8-30 a.m., we cruised past
Newby Hall, through Westwick Lock and were soon approaching Milby
Lock along a shady overgrown cut, and ideal place for kingfisher
Approaching Milby Lock along a shaded
We cruised on down the River Ure/Ouse to York, mooring
up in the centre between Scarborough Rail & Foot Bridge and
Lendel Bridge at 3-20 p.m.
Mick, sporting the Coast-to-Coast
beard, trying to look like Harrison Ford!
An enjoyable trip down the river in glorious weather,
the only hard part being the passage through Linton Lock. It doesn't
get any easier, but at least it was not in flood like last year!
Struggling with Linton Lock
Moored near Scarborough Bridge,
It was nice to be back in York again, and two Yorkshire
Fat Rascal scones from Betty's put a smile back on our faces! Never
mind the calories, they are delicious!
Tuesday 14th July 2009
We left York at 8-30 a.m. and an hour later we were moored up
at Naburn Locks waiting for the ebb tide. We enquired with the lock
keeper about the health of "Sid the seal", who we had
seen swimming above the lock last year, to be advised that he was
in good health and had been enjoying the salmon in the river. There
is a salmon leap next to the weir at Naburn to allow the salmon
to go up river.
Moored at Naburn Locks
The lock keeper allowed us in to the lock just before 1 p.m. The
locks are huge, with capacity for 6 sixty-foot narrowboats at a
time. Three other boats went in with us, and we were soon in a procession
heading down the river towards Selby.
Boat leaving Naburn Locks
Care had to be taken on this section as there were many "foreign
objects" floating in the river, including many tree trunks
and even a dead calf.
Approaching Cawood Swing Bridge
The scenery on this stretch is monotonous, and the highlight
was navigating the strong current for a 360 degree turn so as to
be heading back up river for the entry in to Selby Lock. We were
soon through the lock and moored up for the evening in Selby Basin.
Entrance to Selby Locks
Moored in Selby Basin
Wednesday 14th July 2009
Departing Selby Basin at 8-45 a.m. we passed through
Selby Swing Bridge and headed down the Selby Canal to West Haddlesey.
Down the Selby Canal
The Selby Canal has little going for it; the scenery
is mediocre and the amount of weed in the canal is not good. At
West Haddlesey Flood Lock we joined the River Aire and continued
on our way towards Bank Dole. Passing through Bank Dole Lock we
turned to the left down the Aire & Calder Navigation. We had
not gone a few hundred yards when we became aware of a huge boat
approaching behind us. No way we could compete with this so we pulled
over to the side to let it go through.This boat was amazing, and
the captain's bridge was supported on hydraulic supports so that
it could be lowered to enable it to go under the low bridges.
Captain's bridge lowered to navigate the low bridge
The Aire & Calder is a very wide, long, straight
canal with few locks...... the locks are huge but fortunately are
hydraulically operated using a BW key. Whitley Lock comes first,
followed by Pollington Lock. Shortly after this the South Yorkshire
Navigation goes off to the right, over the Went Aqueduct.
This section of the canal is straight.... dead straight....
and there are many lift bridges and swing bridges.
Sykehouse Lift Bridge
Wide beam boat "LUKAS"
Soon we approached the "Sykehouse Lock &
Sykhouse Lock & Swing Bridge
This place is unique and should be used as an entrance
test for those wishing to join MENSA! It is a long hydraulically
operated lock with a swing road bridge in the middle! Understanding
how it works is a bit of a challenge, but in essence
The first control pedestal
operates the sluices and the gates, but does not have a place
for your BW key.
You have to put you BW key
in a pedestal in the middle of the lock, next to the Swing Bridge.
You have to leave your key in this pedestal until you have gone
through the lock.There is a sign telling you to "Proceed
to bridge pedestal"
Don't forget the barrier on the far side otherwise it won't work!
Then you have to pull up a
large black handle with a loop on the top to release the swing
bridge. This allows you to swing the bridge out of the way.
A second large black handle with a loop on top locks it into
position in the open position. You can easily get a hernia lifting
Now you can go back to the
entrance to the lock where there is another control panel to
let the water out of the lock.
- Next you can open the lock gates and enter the
- Next you close the lock gates
- Next you can go to the far end of the lock and
raise the paddles to let in the water.
- Now you can open the upper gates and drive out.
- Next you close the lock gates.
- Next you go back to the swing bridge, pull up
the black locking handle and swing it back into position, engaging
the second black handle when it is in the closed position.
- Now you can open the two traffic barriers.
- Now you can retrieve your BW key.
- And to top it all there is a sign telling you
not to inconvenience the traffic on the road! If there is ever
a lock that should be manned by BW staff...... this is it!
We pressed on through Kirkhouse Green Lift Bridge,
Top Lane Lift Bridge, Low Lane Lift Bridge and over the Kirk Bramwith
aqueduct before mooring up at Bramwith Junction.
Sue operating the lift bridge
Thursday 15th July 2009
View from our mooring at Bramwith
We left our moorings at Bramwith Junction at 8-40
am and headed for Mexborough, not sure what to expect. But actually
it was very pleasant cruising with the mighty River Don coursing
beneath high wooded banks.
Barnby Dun Lift Bridge
Strawberry Fields Marina, Doncaster
Old Canal Depot
Doncaster Town Lock
The 4 locks we did up to Mexborough Top Lock were
all huge, automated and well kept. We cruised under Conisborough
Aqueduct, a mighty construction in blue brick worthy of "Heritage
Site" status, and on past Consiborough Castle.
The tree lined River Don
Conisborough Castle, peeping above
nb "YESDEAR" steaming
up the River Don
Mexborough Top Lock
After a walk around the town and some shopping, we
headed back towards Doncaster and moored for the night at 4 pm at
Sprotbrough Bridge moorings. These were quite nice visitor moorings,
with the pleasure boat Wyre Lady operating from the opposite side
of the river.
That's what you call a "Boat"!
Glad we did not meet it on a bend! The "Humber Princess"
Friday 16th July 2009
Wyre Lady Pleasure boat moored neared
We woke up to heavy rain and wind and decided to stay moored up
until it had blown over. By 11 0'clock the rain had subsided and
we were on our way, retracing our steps to Bramwith Junction.
Lots of large vessels on this stretch
At least one lock and a swing bridge were manned by BW staff today,
which helped our passage no end. We continued along the New Junction
Canal, battling again with the Sykehouse Lock/Swing Bridge. By now
it had started to rain and as we turned out of New Junction Canal
on to the Aire & Calder Navigation a real hooley blew up! We
reached the visitor moorings at Pollington Lock at 4 p.m. with heavy
rain and strong winds, and decided to moor up for the day.
Saturday 17th July 2009
The weather was better but still overcast as we made our way from
Pollington Lock to Ferrybridge. The river was quite high with water
coming off the Pennines after the previous days rain, so the lock
was closed. We arrived at 12-15 p.m. and moored up for the day.
Approaching Ferrybridge Lock
High water level at Ferrybridge
Sunday 18th July 2009
We woke early and headed to the top end of Ferrybridge
Lock to check the level of the river. It had gone down a lot overnight,
and was well on to the "orange" strip.... proceed with
caution. One boat headed out through the lock and it was obvious
that the current had reduced a great deal compared to the evening
before. After some discussion with another boat, "nb Whileaway"
we decided that it was safe to proceed, and agreed to go in convoy.
Out on the river
Once out of the lock and on to the river proper we
were surprised how benign it was. Another boat was waiting to go
through the lock at Castleford, so we passed through together. The
two other boats carried on straight towards Huddersfield as they
had a booking through the Standedge Tunnel the following Wednesday.
Apparently BW no longer use the electric tugs to pull you through
the Standedge Tunnel any more; a BW man actually comes on your boat
and takes it through for you using the boat's engine power. We turned
right for Leeds. The weather was bizarre. One minute it was warm
and sunny and you had to peel off layers of clothes, next there
was a hooley blowing with heavy rain! We moored up at the Armouries
pontoon at Leeds to take on water, and as it was quite early we
decided to press on through Leeds. The centre of Leeds has changed
quite a bit since we last came through, and at River Lock we were
met by a British Waterways man who operated the lock, but said that
we could not go much further that day. We moored up just after Office
Lock, behind a boat that was heading out at 7-30 a.m. the next day.
BW open the locks at 8 a.m., so we agreed to pair up with the other
boat as far as Rodley. The BW man advised us not to stop before
Rodley; he recalled an incident where a boat had moored up and had
been attacked by 15 youths with hammers who stole everything on
the boat! We did not need telling twice. Whilst it was nice to be
back on the canals again, it made us realize how free and easy navigating
the rivers had been! Hello Sykehouse Lock..... all is forgiven!!
Monday 20th July 2009
We set the alarm for 7 a.m. so as to be ready to
leave at 7-30 a.m. with the other boat, but it had already left
at 7 a.m. We never saw it again, so we did the 11 locks to Apperley
Bridge by ourselves.
We passed through St Ann's Ing Lock and arrived at
Oddy 2 Locks at 8-10 a.m., just after it had opened.
Quite a rough area as you leave
Leeds, with graffiti everywhere
Two BW men helped us through this lock, and then
we carried on to Kirkstall Lock. We received help from BW men again
at Forge 3 Lock and Newlay 3 Lock.
Forge 3-rise Locks
nb "Traveller's Joy" leaving
The middle gates are quite impressive
in Forge Locks
In Newlay Lock, we were forced to
moor on the left hand side, due to a cascade of
water surging through the poorly maintained lock. This could easily
flood the front
of the boat if you were on the right.
The first of many swing bridges
comes after Newlay Locks.
We had been looking for somewhere to buy diesel for
some time, and decided to press on to Rodley Boat Center, which,
according to Nicholson's guide book, sold diesel. The Boat Center
was pretty run down and despite walking around the yard there was
no one to be found. We pressed on to Apperley Bridge and filled
up with diesel near the marina, just before Dobson 2 Locks. Calder
Valley Marine, Apperley Bridge insist on selling diesel at a 60:40
propulsion:heating ratio, giving the purchaser no choice. Their
diesel pump is really antiquated, and they only sell in units of
10 litres. Still it was reassuring to fill up, as there do not seem
to be many places offering diesel these days! We moored up at 1-30
p.m. alongside houses just past the marina, and walked to the nearby
Sainsbury's for supplies.
Tuesday 21st July 2009
Moorings at Apperley Bridge
We left our moorings at Apperley Bridge at 8-30 a.m,
passed through the swing bridge and headed for the Dobson 2-rise
Dobson 2-rise Locks
Waiting for lunch
Although there was a BW office and maintenance yard
next to the locks and plenty of blue-shirted people wandering around,
we had to do the 2-rise on our own. The lock is poorly maintained
and Sue could not turn the lever to operate the bottom paddle, so
I tied the boat up and went to help. Even for a man it was hard
and only one of the two bottom paddle winders were working. There
is no indication on the bottom lock arms which way to turn to open
and which way to close. It is not intuitive, and with the arms being
so stiff you wonder if you are turning them the right way! It was
9-30 a.m before we were clear of the Dobson Locks, and we then made
our way to the Field 3-rise Locks.
Field 3-rise Locks
Fortunately there was a BW man on the locks which
made passage easier. After leaving the Field Locks we cruised along
a high embankment towards Saltaire. The bank was eroding away in
places restricting the width of the towpath, another example of
lack of maintenance on this stretch. One imagines there could easily
be a breach if it gets worse.
One of many swing bridges
We arrived in Saltaire as the heavens opened up;
there are visitor moorings there but they are only long enough for
a couple of boats. One boat had buttied up already. The frustrating
thing is that there is ample mooring space beyond the "official"
moorings..... going well under the road bridge... but there are
no mooring rings or rails to tie to. Not to be defeated and because
of the heavy rain I managed to use one mooring ring and then put
a couple of pins in for the front of the boat. It was 12 noon by
the time we were moored up and we were ready for lunch! We got talking
to an American couple on the boat buttied up, and they advised that
the lack of maintenance and the rubbish in the canal was noticably
worse as they progressed from Liverpool eastwards. We felt that
there had been a significant deterioration in the canal since we
did it in 2004.
The place to go in Saltaire, especially when it is
raining, is to "The Salts", Sir Titus Salt's mill built
in 1853 which hosts a permanent exhibition of works by David Hockney.
Bust of Sir Titus Salt in marble
Wednesday 22nd July 2009
Moorings at Saltaire, but no mooring
rings ahead of the boat moored!
Leaving Saltaire, with more visitor
moorings on the righ hand side
We left the moorings at Saltaire at 9 a.m. and headed
for Hirst Lock and swing bridge. We had just gone through the swing
bridge when we became aware that nb "Dire Straits" was
approaching the lock, so we moored up to wait for them. Thereafter
it was much easier to be going up the multi-rise locks as a pair.
The Hirst Lock was not in goor repair; one bottom paddle was broken
and the other dropped to the shut position if you removed your windlass
from the winder.
Faulty bottom paddle mechanism at
The reason it wasn't working was
plain to see.
Moored with nb "Dire Straights"
at Hirst Swing Bridge
Next came the Dowley Gap 2-rise locks. Again they
were not well maintained and one bottom paddle was out of action.
On top of that there was a cascade of water coming through the top
Moored by Dowley Gap Locks
Water coming through the top gates
at Dowley Gap Locks
Leaving the lock gates covered in
weeds must surely make them rot quicker and shorten their life.
Judging from the discolouration
of the tape, this lock paddle mechanism has been
out of commission for some time!
Nice paint work on boat waiting
to pass through Dowley Gap Locks
Next came to Bingley 3-rise locks. We thought that
we were going to have to wait 20 minutes as there was another boat
waiting to come down. However it turned out to be a hire boat; they
were trying to turn a 57 foot boat in a 58 foot wide canal and had
got stuck! They were going nowhere, but with help with their front
rope we managed to pull them round.
Unusual paddle mechanism on Bingley
Boat in second chamber of Bingley
The Bingley 5-rise tooks 50 minutes to complete,
and then we moored up for the day at the top. We moored just in
time as there was a sudden downpour shortly afterwards.
Bingley 5-rise Locks
235 year old locks
Barry Whitelock, the Bingley 5-rise
Nice cafe at the top of the 5-rise
View over Bingley
Thursday 23rd July 2009
We set off at 8-30 a.m. for the 13 mile run to Skipton.
Although the canal follows the contours and there are no locks,
there are 19 swing bridges which take a lot of time to pass through.
There were quite a few boats on the canal, mainly hire boats out
of Skipton, which worked to our advantage as many of the swing bridges
were open in our favour.
Scenery of the Aire Valley starts
to get spectacular
The valley is hemmed in by hills
on either side
It took 5 hours to reach Skipton, and we arrived
at 1-30 p.m. You are quite apprehensive as you come in to Skipton
as there are boats moored everywhere and at first sight there are
no moorings to be had. There are white tops on the right hand side,
but these are supposed to be for the watering point and mooring
is restricted....... although the signs have long since been scrubbed
out and I suspect that people just moor up anyway. We stopped there
temporarily whilst I went around the corner on foot; there was one
mooring space on rings just opposite the Springs Branch, so it was
a dash to get back to the boat and "bag" the spare mooring
before someone else got it! We had our first Fish 'n Chips of the
trip at Bizzie Lizzes.
Friday 24th July 2009
To comply with EU Directive 775191, "Fair Treatment
of Boat Crew (Wives) - Permissable Shopping Opportunities Directive"
the Captain (Temporarily-in-Charge) declared Friday as a day off!
We had intended to go for Italian food in the evening, but when
we got there we found that both were fully booked! We decided to
try the other chip shop, Bizzie's at the top end of the town near
the M&S Simply Food Store.
Saturday 25th July 2009
We set off at 8-30 a.m. and passed through the first
swing bridge at Skipton to the watering point. There are some quite
good moorings between the first and the second swing bridges if
all the moorings in central Skipton are taken.
Alternative moorings between the
swing bridges after Skipton center
After that we headed for Gargrave Locks at a leisurely
pace, as the sun was shining and it was a joy to be on the canal.
Canal starts to enter open hilly
At Gargrave we were surprised to see a queue of 4
boats with 2 in the locks. Apparently, due to the fact that thay
had drained the main reservoir near Foulridge to do maintenance
they had imposed a 10 a.m. to 6 p.m curfew on the Gargrave and Bank
Newton locks to preserve water. This had caught people out, and
some had been waiting for an hour and a half for the locks to open.
It did seem to take a long time at it was 12-30 p.m. by the time
we had gone through the Gargrave "6". At least it was
a nice day and we did have BW men helping us to do the locks.
nb "Suzie Two" at Gargrave
Bank Newton Locks
We passed through the Bank Newton locks much quicker
and it was 3-30 p.m. by the time we got to the bendy bits where
the canal snakes around following the contours. It is such wonderful
scenery at this point that we decided to moor up for the night.
This was an almost identical spot that we moored in 5 years ago.
Moored at Langber
John and Chris on nb Inertia stopped
by to say hello.
Evening at Langber
Sunday 27th July 2009
We left Langber at 9 a.m. and headed for the 3 locks
Moored ready to enter Greenberfield
Crew not impressed with the weather
We pulled in to Lower Park Marina and boatyard just
before bridge 152 and found John and Chris, nb Inertia, taking on
water there. We continued with them for the rest of the day. John
warned us of the very sharp turn at Salterforth, which we were grateful
for, as you would not want to do that bend at speed and find another
The double-arched bridge (#161)
at East Marton
We arrived at the Foulridge Tunnel and had a 10 minute
wait before we were on our way again. A boat that came out of the
tunnel just before we went in was steam driven, and there was a
noticeable smell of "steam traction" pervading the tunnel.
Steam driven narrowboat leaving
the Foulridge Tunnel
The weather had been pretty miserable ever since
we left Langber, but now it turned really horrible with driving
rain and wind. We reached the Barrowford Locks and went down as
a pair, which made it much easier. We had some problems at the bottom
two locks as someone had let all the water out of the pound. We
were on the mud for a short while until another boat came down behind
us and gave us the water we needed to enter the lock. By the time
we had finished this flight it was 3-45 p.m. and we were getting
tired so we moored up for the night. Just as well we did as the
rain got even heavier.
Monday 28th July 2008
Due to water rushing down the lock overflow during
the night we did not get a good night's sleep and I woke at 6 a.m.
We decided to make an early start and set off towards Burnley at
7 a.m. The weather was aweful. I asked a lady walking her dog along
the canal where the summer was....... " It will be the afternoon"
she replied. So that's official then. Summer in Lancashire was from
12 noon to 5 p.m. on Monday 28th July! Actually she was right, as
in the afternoon the clouds blew away and the weather was sunny
at last. It was sad going through Burnley. There were so many canalside
warehouses and mills etc which were totally derelict.... down in
the south of the country they would have been converted in to luxury
apartments long ago.
The Wharf, Burnley
There was a lot of rubbish in the canal... lots
of bottles that had obviously been in the canal for years from their
faded state....... it is a pity as you feel that once cleaned up
it would encourage people not to throw more bottles in, but in the
polluted state there is nothing to encourage people not to pollute
further. And then footballs! Why are there so many footballs in
the canal at Burnley?
After leaving Burnley we passed through the Gannow
Tunnel. This is supposed to be two-way, but as we entered we saw
two boats coming the other way and decided to wait for them to come
out first. The tunnel is straight and well built, the roof being
quite dry and drip free, which is unusual for canal tunnels.
We made a brief stop at Hapton to visit the chandlery
and to take on diesel.
After Burnely we passed through wide open countryside
until we eventually approached Blackburn and the six locks there.
Entering Blackburn. Another old
derelict industrial building
Daiseyfield Mill, Blackburn.
Unusual gate winding mechanism at
Again the canal was polluted with rubbish..... Blackburn
seems to be the place to dump car wheels and setees in the canal!
It was impossible to close the gate on the last of the Blackburn
locks as there was so much rubbish behind the gate itself.
You get a better class of sofa in
the canal at Blackburn.
We pressed on and eventally came to Riley Green,
where we moored up for the night alongside a very nice pub, the
Boat Yard. The food was really good and a pint of Thwaites "Wainwright"
beer went down very well after the 11-hour day.
Moorings at The Boat Yard Pub, Riley
Diesel available at the small marina
adjacent to The Boat Yard Pub
Tuesday 29th July 2009
We set of at 9 a.m. for a leisurely cruise to White
Bear marina, Addlington. We soon reached the Johnson's Hill flight
of locks, and moored up opposite the Top Lock pub to take on water.
The Top Lock pub, the Johnson's
At 10-15 a.m. we began our descernt of the 7 locks,
only to be met by torrential rain when we were half way down. We
had had a lot of heavy rain on the trip but this was TORRENTIAL!
We got soaked! As soon as we came out of the locks we started looking
for a mooring so that we could get out of our wet clothes, but there
were none with mooring rings or with a rail to tie to. We passed
the Botany Bay mill building, and moored up under the M61 bridge!
There was a convenient rail to tie up to; although it was a bit
dark and there was a lot of road noise, it was ideal in that we
were out of the rain and could re-organise. That old favourite,
the bacon butty, soon revived our spirits!
do narrowboats, but if they did this is what they would look like!
We arrived at White Bear Marina,
Addlington about 4 p.m. and moored up. We had had a great trip despite
the weather, but after nearly a month away from home on the Coast-to-Coast
walk and then narrowboating I was looking forward to getting back.