Day 29 – Stainforth to Sprotbrough (via Mexborough)

Wednesday 22 July, 2009 by

If yesterday can be described as wet, today could be described at windy. Ferociously so. In fact it was so choppy in places the bow wave was catching the wind and blowing spray at the steerer.

After another leisurely start, we headed off towards Bramwith Junction following Cornucopia which we had passed in Thorne yesterday. We stopped at Bramwith Swing Bridge for services and then proceeded through the lock and beyond with Christal Haze.

We fought the wind all the way into Doncaster where we tied up for shopping and a lunch. Surprisingly, the rather large Tesco was completely out of carrier bags. Thankfully, Tardebigge has a good supply as anyone who has been on board can testify!

We spotted a good mooring spot at Sprotborough so the decision was made to turn at a suitable point and return for an overnight stay. Moorings are very limited on the South Yorkshire Navigations because much of it is on the River Don. We passed under numerous railway bridges including the fine Conisbrough Viaduct (disused) and even caught the occasional glimpse of Conisbrough Castle between the trees which we’d seen from the train back to Oxford last Friday.

On returning to Sprotbrough we moored in front of Cornucopia and continued with alcohol consumption. We seem to be drinking even more since Alex joined us. Apparently there is dessert wine tonight…

Menu: cooked breakfast or cereal and toast; cold gammon salad; Dinner: liver and bacon casserole, poached pear in a caramel and perry sauce, cheese and biscuits; all with suitable alcoholic accompaniments.

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Day 28 – Stainforth to Stainforth (via Keadby)

Tuesday 21 July, 2009 by

Today can generally be summed up as wet. It rained at various degrees, on and off, throughout most of the day.

After a late start with cooked breakfast for all whilst still moored up, we decided obtaining diesel was a necessity today. Michael rang the three boatyards in Thorne and Stanilands Marina offered diesel at a 60/40% mix for 88p a litre. We arrived, took on 100 litres and changed the gas bottle. The tank is still only two thirds full! Remarkably the marina had received a delivery of diesel since the earlier phone call and the price had been reduced to 85p per litre!

The Stainforth and Keadby Canal is generally very straight and has deep water so Tardebigge moves at a good speed. The area is very flat so the only excitement is the occasional swing or lift bridge.

Michael has memories of waving at trains to get a hoot from the driver on his four previous visits along this canal (it runs parallel to the Doncaster to Scunthorpe line) but due to engineering works there were no trains to be seen. In fact a large chunk of the rail bed had been lifted and the canal was being used to support crane gear.

The highlight of the day has to be passing through the Vazon Sliding Rail Bridge. One of only three of its kind in Europe, the railway crosses the canal at an angle and a section slides out of the way when a boat approaches. Due to the engineering works a number of Network Rail contractors were on the site taking various measurements.

We arrived at Keadby in the gloom, took some photos of the River Trent and Keadby Lock before leaving the desolate inland port. The Humber sloop Spider T is moored there. We retreated to Stainforth and are moored only yards away from yesterday’s mooring.

Tomorrow we’re heading to Doncaster and beyond and thence Goole with a view to reaching Selby in a couple of days.

Menu: cooked breakfast; homemade rustic leek and potato soup; chicken rogan josh with poppadums and naans, preceeded by numerous apertifs.

Day 27 – Woodlesford to Stainforth

Monday 20 July, 2009 by

First thing this morning Michael rang the lock keeper at Selby to see if the tidal passage to York would be possible. With the recent rain there was still a lot of “fresh” coming downstream and although he thought passage may be possible within the next couple of days, we decided to adjust our schedule and do the exploration of the South Yorkshire Navigations first, before heading to Ripon later.

The day dawned with beautiful sunshine and after breakfasting we headed off downstream through Woodlesford Lock towards the cavernous Lemonroyd Lock. Michael has memories of going upstream in this lock a few years ago, in a hire boat, in the dark! It’s still very intimidating with its over 13 foot drop.

At Castleford Junction the flood lock was in use. This was a lock grab for Michael since his previous trips through here had the lock fully open at both ends. The lock is a peculiar shape, and enormous. This proved to be the first of many assisted passages through locks today since various commercial craft were on the move.

We stopped for a shopping trip at Knottingley for various supplies including gluten-free items for Alex who is still waiting to hear from his doctor. Whilst moored we were passed by a huge barge, pushed by “Little Shuva”. The photo will best describe its vastness!

At Whitley Lock control was commandeered by the BW lock keeper before draining. A commercial craft was on its way downstream behind us. Thankfully we managed to clear Southfield Junction, onto the New Junction Canal, a few moments before it caught us up. We passed through several swing or lift bridges before traversing the Don Aqueduct and turning left onto the Stainforth and Keadby Canal.

Pubside moorings were found in Stainforth so we felt the need to oblige…

Menu: usual breakfasts; ham salad; steak with peppercorn and onion sauce, followed by cheese.

Day 26 – Oxford to Woodlesford (via Leeds)

Sunday 19 July, 2009 by

Alex left Michael’s bright and early this morning for his drive back to Durham. Michael and Bernard took the 10.00am train from Oxford and arrived safely back in Leeds at 2.00pm with another remarkably uneventful journey. Alex took the train from Durham and arrived less than an hour later.

We filled with water and then set off out of Clarence Dock and straight into Leeds lock. After a brief stop for the Elsan we carried on downstream to Woodlesford passing through a couple more locks. Below Leeds lock the locks are huge and the navigation wide. We moored up at 6.15pm with dinner preparations already underway and G ‘n’ Ts poured.

Menu: roast gammon with a white wine and parsley sauce, followed by cheese or fresh fruit.

Day 25 – Wootton and Garsington

Sunday 19 July, 2009 by

Mr and Mrs Austin

Mr and Mrs Austin

Alex Pym arrived at Michael’s late on Friday evening. We headed off to the wedding ceremony at Wootton church in time for 2pm. The bride was only a few minutes late and looked resplendent in her mother’s (adapted) wedding dress. Remarkably, despite the forecast, the sun shone brightly.

The reception was at Clive and Charlotte’s in Garsington. The larger part of the garden was filled with gazebos and eleven tables were laid out, each named after a property on Lundy where Rob and Kate met at Michael’s 30th birthday bash two years ago. The wine, beer and food was marvellous and some guests even used the swimming pool! We (Bernard, Alex and Michael) had a wonderful time.

Day 24 – Leeds to Oxford (via York)

Sunday 19 July, 2009 by

No, not by narrowboat but by train. Simon, Bernard and I headed back to Oxford. Simon was heading to Lundy the following day and the other two were attending Rob Austin and Kate Everett’s wedding at Wootton by Woodstock.

Michael paid the extra £6 mooring fee to stay an extra night in Clarence Dock and the three of us traipsed off to the station shortly after 9.00am. The journey home was uneventful, arriving back in Oxford around 1.40pm.

Day 23 – Bingley to Leeds

Thursday 16 July, 2009 by

Despite a desperately early rise at 6.30am in order to make good progress today, we didn’t start down the Bingley Three Rise until 8.30 this morning. Michael was determined to make it to Newlay Locks before 3.00pm to enable us to reach Leeds. This meant he walked miles between locks and swing bridges in an attempt to ensure they were ready on Tardebigge’s approach.

If yesterday was the day of swing bridges then today has definitely been staircase day (not to say that there weren’t a lot of swing bridges too). After the trio at Bingley we proceeded through a pair, a one, a three, a pair, a three, a three, a one, a one, a two, and a trio of ones. I haven’t steered all day so have of course had quite a strenuous day. Michael is suffering too – ground paddles were getting neglected while he recovered.

This morning we weren’t sure whether we would make it as far as Leeds or have to stop in Rodley. With the assistance of numerous BW staff we fortunately we got to Newlay locks well ahead of closing time and so are now moored in Clarence Dock in the heart of Leeds. It’s raining. Having squeezed, to the approval of the local boaters, into a pontoon mooring beside a (friendly but rather wide) plastic boat we wandered up to the Palace (next to Leeds Parish Church) for a pint or three. Bernard is currently finishing off dinner while swearing profusely at pretty much anything. The Leeds Armouries Museum presents an excellent view from the back cabin although the cannon pointing in our direction is causing some concern [Robert Childs is nowhere to be seen].

According to an on-line canal journey spreadsheet we should have taken 12 hours and 53 minutes for our journey today – the reality was that the engine ran for exactly 9 hrs including the delays at the top of the Bingley Three Rise.

Today’s menus: bacon sandwiches or toast for breakfast, ham and cucumber sandwiches for lunch, lamb, potato and carrot hot pot with sugar snap peas and green beans followed by cheese and port for dinner.

Day 22 – Skipton to Bingley

Thursday 16 July, 2009 by

This morning we allowed ourselves a lie-in to help recover from the trauma of yesterday. It was raining as we prepared breakfast before Bernard went in search of some chain to securely moor the boat if we should have to leave it for any length of time in a less salubrious place.

We eventually set off as the rain eased somewhat at about 11.00 and encountered the first of the many swing bridges that were to punctuate our journey today. No sooner had we negotiated the bridge than we immediately stopped for the dumping of rubbish etc….

Sunshine and showers were the order of the day as we progressed down the Aire valley towards Kildwick, Silsden and Keighley. The canal follows a contour along the side of the valley and offers magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. We were also able to follow the progress of the rain showers and promptly disappear inside leaving the unfortunate steerer to cope on his own.

We eventually arrived at the top of the famous Bingley 5-rise staircase locks which, depending on the direction of travel, raise or lower the canal, at an average gradient of about 1:5, 60 feet with a forward travel of just over 320 feet. We were met by the lock-keeper to be told that we could descend the 5-rise but not the following 3-rise as the time was after 4pm. As from Friday this week the time changes to 5pm because of the end of school term and more people would then wish to use the canal.

During our conversation with him it also became clear that he had heard about yesterday’s problem through the BW grapevine. We also learned that he had been lock-keeper here for thirty-one years. With his assistance we descended the 5-rise and moored to the sound of rushing water from the by-weir. All those rain showers must go somewhere!

Menu: usual breakfasts; cold meats and cheese; sea bass pie followed by cheese.

Yesterday’s menu: bacon, egg and mushrooms or cereal; cold meat salad; meals in the Narrowboat (roast belly of pork or lambs’ liver and bacon with poached pear to follow).

[Apologies for the late posting – the Internet wouldn’t work last night. Photos to follow later.]

[Here they are…]

Day 21 – East Marton to Skipton

Tuesday 14 July, 2009 by

Today started at 7.15 when we awoke and readied ourselves to say goodbye to Robert who was leaving us to prepare for a job interview. We set off from the moorings at 8.30 to travel the 1½ miles to the six Bank Newton Locks which were due to open at 10am. To our surprise there was no queue of boats waiting to descend the locks and the lock-keeper was busy running water down the flight to top up the pounds between locks before the first boats were allowed to descend. He invited us to enter the lock and said that if another boat joined us we could start before the 10 o’clock start-time. With 10 minutes to go a boat rounded the corner and came through the bridge. It was the boat that we had shared locks with at the end of the yesterday!

Bernard walked on down the flight to check or set locks as required leaving Michael to do the steering. With two locks left to negotiate Bernard heard a sudden shouting for paddles to be dropped. A sprint back up the towpath revealed Tardebigge floating safely in the lock with the bows of the other boat seemingly stuck on the gate and taking in water over the stern which was by now 4 to 5 feet lower in the lock and sinking fast. Eventually some order was restored but by then it was too late and the other boat was firmly on the bottom of the lock.

The two BW lock-keepers immediately called for assistance from their call-out crews and those gathered at the lock-side set about trying to extract Tardebigge from the lock. Unfortunately the other boat had slipped sideways whilst sinking and Tardebigge was firmly stuck on their gunwales and too far forward to allow a gate to be opened. Pulling on the bow-rope skewed Tardebigge in the lock but not by enough to allow the gate to be opened.

The senior lock-keeper decided to close the bottom gates and part fill the lock to allow Tardebigge to refloat and be pulled clear of the gate. This done we were even higher out of the water and more firmly on the side of the other boat. With one gate fully open, all four paddles fully raised to create a water surge and about ten people pulling on three ropes, Tardebigge, to a huge cheer, eventually floated free and shot out of the lock like a Champagne cork out of a bottle!

We were then sent off to negotiate the last lock of the flight whilst preparations were made to drain the lock chamber and 100 yards of canal to allow the sunken boat to be pumped out and re-floated. We tied up below the bottom lock and a cup of tea was brewed whilst we awaited our turn for interrogation as to what had had happened.

In the meantime Simon had journeyed from Preston to hopefully rejoin us in Gargrave. A quick phone call alerted him as to the situation and he walked instead to meet us at a nearby bridge soon after we had been given permission to leave.

The sinking was undoubtedly a lack of attention by the steerer of the other boat but the actual cause was a ½ inch ledge in the masonry about 15″ below the water level. Once the boat was stuck on the ledge and water had fallen enough to skew the boat and jam the bows even tighter against the gate the outcome was almost inevitable. As we left there also concerns that the boat might actually be too long for this section of canal.

Fortunately, nobody was injured although the steerer of the other boat was rather wet. The only visible damage to Tardebigge was slight scraping along the side of the boat where it wedged between the boat and the lock wall.

The BW network worked extremely fast and boats were stopped, both from entering the flight above the scene and also at various points below us to keep the area clear for what might have been the scene of an even more major incident.

Having picked up Simon we made our way down another five locks to where we hoped to adjourn to a pub for lunch. We could not moor close enough to the bank, so we journeyed on and had lunch onboard. we eventually moored close to the town centre in Skipton and called it a day.

Shortly we’re off to the pub for beer and food in an attempt to calm Michael’s nerves.

Day 20 – Hapton to East Marton

Monday 13 July, 2009 by

This morning started around 7.30 in order to reach the Barrowford Flight, which, due to water restrictions, does not open until 10am. En route we traversed the Burnley Embankment which is 60ft above the surrounding area and gives good views of the town. We stopped at Nelson for shopping and reached the locks at 11.30. We ascended the flight and finished around 1pm.

Lunch was prepared during the transit of the summit level Foulridge Tunnel which has traffic light controlled entry. The tunnel is a bit wet in places and Michael had to use his umbrella. The change of scenery was quite dramatic, changing from industrial surroundings to rolling rural scenes, stereotypical of the Pennines.

Due to the water restrictions we had expected the summit pound to be rather low. In fact the locks were running weir at both ends.

As we prepared to descend Greenberfield Locks we paused to take on water and empty the loo (again). To save water we joined another boat that was descending the locks. Their boat handling left rather more than a lot to be desired and we were rather pleased when they sped away into the distance!

Having tied up just short of the interesting double-arched Bridge at East Marton the skies opened and we hurriedly closed up the boat against the hail and heavy rain. Robert then had a brief foray to find his bus stop for the morning and checked out the local pub in preparation to pre-dinner drinking.

The pleasant Copper Dragon Brewery beers (Skipton) were then duly sampled at the Cross Keys and we returned to the boat for dinner. Bernard and Robert drafted the blog post while Michael cooked and Michael is now finalising the blog while the other two wash up.

Menu: Weetabix and toast, or Full English; cold gammon and beef salad; sausage and various vegetable casserole with green beans, carrots and garlic & rosemary sweet potato.