About Me

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After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Stronghold on Tour 33.

Saturday 20th August.

Setting off before 09.00, I was hoping to catch another boat before he went through Foulridge Tunnel. Sure enough, he had to wait for the green light before he could continue. We had a chat and it appeared that he was another first time hirer, who was hooked. I followed him through and his crew of wife and two children worked the seven Barrowford Locks along with a volunteer, who mostly just stood by and watched.

It was probably the worst day of this cruise so far by way of weather. Not only was it raining on and off, but the wind was gale force, making manoeuvring difficult on and off moorings or staying mid-stream. There were very few people to be seen on the towpath, nor did we pass any other boats, the weather was so bad.

They advised me to moor for the night in Reedley Marina, rather than risk the towpath in this area and after making enquiries, I paid £15 for a secure mooring on a pontoon, not really needing to tie up, as the wind was pushing Stronghold so hard.

There was a bar and cafe on site, so after a shower and change of clothes, I took a walk over there, only to find that it was closed, despite the notice on the door telling me that they were open on Saturday until 10pm.

Sunday 21st August.

I made a fairly early start hoping to see the hire boat again, but no sign of them either in or out of the marina, so it was a day travelling solo. No locks on this trip, but four swing bridges to cope with. Now they had moorings on the off side, i.e. not on the towpath, so could be operated by a single hander. Once again, the method of unlocking the bridge was totally different than previously. A windlass and handcuff key both being required to unlock the mechanism, but with that done the bridges swung effortless.

Four of these to cope with.

Windlass spigot on the RH side, 
which raises the vertical locking bar on the left.

During the whole day, I only passed five boats and it was raining on and off all day.

Burnley Embankment was interesting, being 60ft above the town and straight for half a mile. At one point I got too close to the edge and ran over a fridge, which tilted the boat considerably¸ but not enough to upset my brewing coffee on the hob.

View over Burnley from the embankment.

Looking back at the Burnley Embankment.

This strange egg appeared on a disused wharf.

Being too far away to read this, I photographed it 
and it explains a little about the Exbury Egg.

More here:- https://www.google.co.uk/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=exbury%20egg%20burnley

Once again, the canal winds around the contours of the hill, avoiding the need to build expensive locks during construction – Joseph Brindley at work again?

After ten miles, I came to Rishton where a supermarket was marked on the map. There were two other boats moored there and the guy from one of them took my centre line to hold Stronghold in while I hammered in the mooring pins. He was doing some work on his boat, so I had to have a look. He was replacing the engine stop cable on a BMC 1800, so we already had something in common. He was waiting to have his boat examined for the safety certificate and would not be leaving until Tuesday, which suited me as Monday was forecast to have rain all day and one day cruising in the wet was enough for me for a while.

The supermarket was very basic and had limited choice, but I got enough to be going on with for a few more days.

Monday 22nd August.

Not much to report today. As forecast, it rained nearly all day, so after a lie in, I had a late cooked brunch and lazed around on board for most of the day, only going out for a cheap pint at 6pm, before a meal on board later.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Stronghold on Tour 32.

Tuesday 16th August.

I blew up my inverter yesterday, so more expense, but no chance of getting one around here. I usually fill the small electric travel kettle ready to make coffee on the move and when I switched on the inverter, the 5 amp fuse in the plug blew. Not having another fuse on board, I took a 10amp one from another plug, but when I switched on the inverter, the instrument panel voltmeters went wild and a nasty smell of hot plastic wafted up from the switch locker. The strange thing is that the automatic circuit breaker failed to trip off. In the future, I will get a 2,000 kva sine wave inverter, rather than the 3,000 kva quasi sine wave one, which fails to power several items on board, which require a sine wave.

Stronghold moored up opposite the bus station.

Plentiful moorings in Skipton.

After another visit to Morrison’s, it was time to do the tourist thing around the town with camera in hand. The weather was hot and sunny for a change and there were loads of people about. I had a walk up the Springs Branch that was opened for boats by the Earl of Thanet to get his limestone away from the quarries via 120ft chutes. I bet that rattled the boats when they were loading.

Entrance to the Springs Branch.

Further up the Springs Branch.

 A walk up the very wide High Street followed, where I visited every charity shop looking for DVD’s, because the TV is so dire here with so little choice of programmes.

I stopped for a pint in The Cock and Bottle and then fell into the gents over an unseen step. Fortunately my bag broke my fall somewhat and I had only drunk one pint!

I have just realised that I should have vacated the mooring today, as the three days allowed here was up about midday, so I will have to leave tomorrow before the boat checker gets here.
 Wednesday 17th August.

I let go at 09.00 and reversed slowly and carefully into Pennine Cruisers to fuel up, as there were several people watching. I then moored up by the next swing bridge to await another boat, when three came along at once. Further on, one dropped back and another winded shortly after, which left me with a Noddy boat from Bear Boating. They only have two boats at present, I found out later. That this guy had done it before became obvious as soon as we got to the first lock. He was boating with his son, who was also fairly experienced. It was a beautiful day for boating and we continued past Gargrave to just below Bank Newton Locks for a one hour lunch break. Climbing Bank Newton flight brought us to a very winding pound and I met three boats in succession approaching under a bridge on a blind bend, which is where boats always seem to meet strangely enough. I reversed and remained under control to let them all pass by.

Yorkshire style ground paddles and 
very difficult to lift with water pressure on them.

The scenery get better as we go even higher.

Further on we reached East Marton where we aimed to moor up as close as possible to The Cross Keys pub, a very well kept large free house, where we all had a meal and local beers. The man’s name was Roger and his son, Ollie. We talked about Loughborough University, where I had been on Design and Technology courses in past years and where Roger taught Ergonomics, so I looked him up the following day and he is on the left of this photograph:-

An interesting family home.

The boat with the girl in is a bath tub!

It had been an excellent days boating with fine weather and a knowledgeable crew on the accompanying boat.

Thursday 18th August.

I was ready with engine running as nb “molly MOO” came past. We did the three locks of Greenberfield where they stopped to fill with water and possibly stay the night, whilst I continued to Salterforth close to the Anchor pub. Although there were two moorings on a jetty close to the pub, they were full and I continued another quarter mile to a stepped concrete bank where there were rings. It was the next best thing to the jetty, but despite having yachting fenders out, the wind still bumped the boat against the slightly sloping bank in the night. Molly MOO came past me later to go through Foulridge Tunnel and stay beyond that night, ready for the return journey to Barnoldswick (pronounced Barlick) the following day.

Friday 19th August.

Rain was forecast for the day and it started with drizzle, gradually building up to heavy showers throughout the day, so it was a day for staying put. The forecast for the next day was similar, but I couldn’t stay two days out in the sticks. Not that I had any trouble passing the time, what with the internet, fairly good TV reception, plenty to read and a blog to catch up on.

Molly MOO passed by later in the afternoon and that was the final farewell to them. I have to say that the boats appear impressive from the outside and looking at their website, so do the interiors.


Monday, 15 August 2016

Stronghold on Tour 31.

Thursday 11th August.

On leaving Apperley Bridge mooring, I pulled in to the local marina wharf for diesel, but the office was closed on Tuesdays and Thurdays. Fortunately, I will have enough fuel to get to Skipton, but only by topping up my tank from the cans that I carry. I find it amazing that there are so few fuelling points along this popular stretch.

Getting to Dobson Locks, another double staircase, I moored below and walked up to have a word with the boater in front who was by now in the top lock. He was on a hire boat and quite willing to wait for me to get to the top; in fact he helped me through, which was much appreciated. We continued together with his wife opening the endless number of swing bridges on route, all with no boat moorings on the offside for a solo boater, although most seem to have chains on the canal bed to pull the opened bridge closed from the towpath side.

We met a couple of women at the next staircase of three and one of them was setting the locks ready to come down, as well as complaining how much they leaked through the bottom gates. As a boat had recently gone down, they should have been ready for her. We assisted her down and then she moored up and helped us go up – again appreciated. The other woman on that boat made no attempt to help at all – strange?

The wind was against us again and I had two layers on plus a heavy leather coat – in the middle of August?

Shipley did not seem a very attractive place to stop and there were vacant visitor moorings on the offside too. I was particularly drawn to Saltaire, having seen all the pics and read about it as the first model village built for the mill workers. Again there were visitor moorings with bollards, where I tied up for a while, as there is no overnight mooring allowed.

Plentiful visitor moorings.

I had a walk around part of the heritage trail and picked up a very good leaflet in the Tourist office. Despite Titus Salt’s rule of no strong drink allowed in the area, there are several places for a pint and I paid a visit to the one alongside the River Aire, which was well endowed with six hand pumps.
A most unusual church.

I sure is a big place, with mill and housing.

Mill workers' housing from the front........

...........and from the back.

Victoria Hall - a workers meeting place.

The original mill.

Sir Titus Salt turns his back on me.

I moved the boat back to moorings where I could stay for the night, as I wanted to see the David Hockney gallery next day.

Friday 12th August.

I walked around the old mill where the Hockney exhibition was on show and I can’t say that I was very impressed with his paintings and prints. The gallery was enormous and there were tables in the centre with more art books and materials than I have ever seen before. I was trying to imagine that space filled with noisy weaving looms in years past, all run from line shafts at ceiling level and powered by a huge steam engine. Sad that no reminder remains, except for photographs here and there. I was reminded that my mother worked in a linen mill in Ireland during her teenage years.

On the other floors of the mill there were retail outlets and Salts Diner, which appeared to be open lunch times only. “The Home” was a high class kitchen and furniture store with expensive Alessi designed kitchen appliances and retro furniture dating back to the sixties and seventies, again very pricy.

I went for a pint at The Waterside Inn and received an unexpected phone call from James Bell on nb Gabriel, who had just moored right behind Stronghold after a bad day and night, when the level dropped in the pound and nearly tipped them out of bed. The next day there was trouble with the engine, because of water in the fuel, so they had to call out River and Canal Rescue, which is akin to the AA or RAC.
We had a very sociable hour or so drinking each other’s health on board Gabriel.

At the same time Kathryn Dodington phoned me to relay the news that David Blagrove had died that morning, which was not unexpected, as he had been ill for a few years previously. David had been a boater most of his working life, as well as a history teacher, author, musician and raconteur, so the combination of the first two gave him an intimate knowledge of the waterways of the past and was often seen on TV as the historical guru in several different series about the canals. Not only that, but he was the author of nine books, seven of which are about the waterways and the other two about Northamptonshire railways, as well as countless articles for magazines, so a very prolific man in several aspects. I only came to know him in the last year or so, because I was looking for interesting material for the Narrow Boat Trust magazine, The Steerer, of which I am one of two editors. He was always forthcoming with interesting stuff that had me hooked as soon as it appeared in my inbox. I boated with him on Nuneaton a few years back from Stoke Bruerne, his home village, to Braunston and his repertoire of never ending tales was a joy to listen to. He was a frequent evening visitor to The Boat Inn for his regular scotch and tonic and if we were lucky to be there, he kept us all amused until closing time. His standing in the village was very well respected and he played an important role in the village community. I will miss him and so will many others in the boating world.

Saturday 13th August.

I was hopeful of buddying up with a smart tug moored close by, but they disappeared either very early or last night. I let go about 09.15 and tackled Hirst Lock on my own, with an eye out for anyone following. As always, another boat came around the corner when Stronghold was at the top of the lock. I moored up and helped them through and asked if I could accompany them through all the swing bridges that were to come. All went well and then we arrived at the bottom of Bingley Three Rise Locks. After a short wait, we were into the thick of it, followed by the Five Rise Locks, which were done in 35 mins with the lockies operating the paddles. A few gongoozlers around, but not as many as expected on a Saturday. 

A formidable sight.

It's a long way up........

...........and even a longer way down.

After mooring to fill the water tank, I aimed for a spot on the towpath side and waited while the guys on the hire boat went swimming in the local pool. I have no intention of doing all those damned swing bridges on my own if I can help it.

We let go again at 4pm and most of the time I went through the swing bridge first and then hovered close to the next one, so the hire boat could get on the mooring. On two occasions I pulled over towards the hedge to let him by, but he was going like and express train with a bow wave and trough behind that must have been 18ins different in height. I had difficulty controlling Stronghold the first time, but the second time my boat was pulled into the vacuum left by the noddy boat and hit his stern hard, which knocked him off course into the hedge and had the same effect on me. It didn’t happen again, because I did what I had done previously and continued right to the swing bridge well before he did. Although the Noddy boat steerer slowed down before reaching moored craft, his following wash caused the long mooring pins of a widebeam to be pulled out, much to the annoyance of the crew on board and a few choice words were exchanged. The final two bridges were opened by other boat crews and I continued into Skipton, where there was an abundance of available moorings in the middle of the town and close to a supermarket.

Sunday 14th August.

A very chilled out day, just walking around and getting my bearings. I had a chat with a boater that I travelled with previously and she recommended where to shop and where the best and worst pubs were to be found. In the middle of the afternoon a reggae band started up somewhere close, but by the time I had found it, the band had changed to a sixties style of music. They were playing in a pub car park close by and I stayed for a while to listen, but not really my cup of tea by then. I found the Yorkshire Rose, which was very popular and enjoyed a couple of pints there.

Strange that I feel very much at home here in Skipton. The town is very boat friendly, as are the people, if I talk to them. There seem to be bridges and waterways all over the place, with nooks and crannies tucked away all over the place. There are a lot of tourists and gongoozlers; it is almost like a seaside town.

Monday 15th August.

Another lazy day, but I awoke to sunshine at last and took a walk into the town, buying a new pair of Merrell walking boots on spec, as the last pair fitted like a pair of gloves, but were now virtually worn out and no longer waterproof. After a well needed haircut, it was off to Morrison’s to fill the fridge once again, before a visit to the first micro-pub that I have seen. Although I had been made aware of them, I had never found one to date and what a joy it turned out to be. Not only was the owner really friendly, but the clientele also; anyone wanting to chat assembled around the small bar. I had one of my local beers brewed by Dark Star Brewery, namely Hylders Blonde. Unfortunately, The Beer Engine is closed tomorrow, but definitely worth a visit if in Skipton.

Not an impressive exterior.

The owner has a sense of humour.

Small, but perfectly up to scratch.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Stronghold on Tour 30.

Friday 5th August.

We both moved on towards Castleford this morning, through Knottingley, where I last visited when I was fourteen on a school trip, and then through Ferrybridge with its enormous power stations, with Paul’s daughter operating the locks all the way. There was a problem with Bulholme Lock, where the lock emptied, but the bottom gates only opened a few inches. CRT were called, but could not arrive for an hour. However, the lock was refilled for several boats coming down and the gates worked fine after that. A mooring was found at Castleford, as I had some shopping to do.

Just a small part of Ferrybridge Power Stations.

My friend Joyce was on her way from Hull to Worcester and asked to drop by, so we arranged to meet at The Boat Inn, Allerton Bywater, just a mile from Castleford on the River Aire. I set off through the stop lock and turned in the direction of Leeds at the junction. After half an hour on the move, there had been no sign of the pub and I passed beneath a bridge that was not shown on the map. A little further on, I asked some people on a barge if they had come from Wakefield, thinking that I may be on the wrong canal, but they confirmed that I was on the River Aire and not the Calder, so I must have passed the pub and not seen it. Sure enough, on backtracking I asked a fisherman, who pointed out where the pub was, almost totally hidden behind the trees. There was a commercial mooring there, so I tied up there and met Joyce in the pub garden at last.

After a drink and perusal of the menu, I decided that there would be more choice back in Caslteford; how wrong that turned out to be! There was only one Indian restaurant open, though several take-aways, so it was Hobson’s choice, which turned out to be quite good after all, despite the lack of customers on a Friday night.

Saturday 6th August.

We cruised up to Lemonroyd Lock, where Joyce had left her car and she departed for Worcester. I thought I saw a diesel pump in the nearby marina, so moved the boat towards it, only to find that it was a pump out machine and they did not sell diesel. Fortunately I had 50 litres in cans, so could refill later to get me to the next yard at Apperley Bridge, some distance away. Even in Leeds there were no bunkering facilities, which I find quite incredible.

I caught up with another couple later and we made tracks together towards Leeds, where I intended having a day off. On route there was Thwaite Mills Watermill and there were moorings outside, where we tied up and had a very interesting couple of hours at this water mill, used for grinding chalk to make putty and whiting.

Thwaites watermill on the River Aire.

A working steam crane on the wharf.

With twin cylinders exposed with Stephenson valve gear.

Just one of the waterwheels and chalk settling tanks in foreground.

Blacksmith's shop.

Many years have passed since I used any of these.

Most of these are familiar to me too.

My lathe is a bit more modern that this one.

Waiting for Leeds Lock to empty.

In the meantime, Colin had briefed me on all the safe moorings in the city, so decided to head for the first dock on route, which was Clarence Dock and sure enough there were several mooring spaces available, but getting on to them was another matter, because the strong wind was extremely turbulent around the tall buildings. With some help from the local boat taxi man on the bow line, I finally got the boat onto the pontoon.

Moored up in Clarence Dock.

Clarence Dock.

Outside the Royal Armories.

Another view of Leeds Lock.

Colin generously invited me to his house for a meal and picked me up in his car for a couple of pints in his local first. After a lovely roast chicken meal, I was very kindly driven back to the dock by Rob, his daughter’s boyfriend. A great way to finish the day.

Sunday 7th August.

After a rather lazy morning, I tried the plug on the pontoon pedestal, to see if there was any electricity available and to my surprise, there was. Normally, a card has to be purchased and plugged in, but any units that remain have to be left on the meter. Now I had a chance to get out the vacuum cleaner and blitz the interior, which took two hours and there was still electricity available, so I heated up the hot water as well – bonus.

I had intending paying the Royal Armouries a visit, but by four o’clock it was too late and Colin was arriving about five for a few beers and a meal out. One pub that I really wanted to see was Whitelocks, an Edwardian heritage pub built in 1715.  Colin enquired of the water taxi if he went anywhere near there, which he did, so we both had a free ride up the river to River Lock and walked from there. I was not disappointed – what an absolute gem of a pub. Colin compared me to an American tourist, taking these photos, but it was too good to miss.
More info here.

Entrance in Turks Yard.

Bar area.

Dining area.

The menu was not very inviting, so we made tracks for Mumtaz Indian restaurant at Clarence Dock, via The Lamb and Flag, where we had two pints of Leeds Pale from the Leeds Brewery Company. The Mumtaz Restaurant has a long history of Kashmiri cooking, when a lady opened a small shop in Bradford in 1979, specialising in that type of cooking, which has since expanded incredibly to what it is now, with two restaurants and a range of ready meals.

Monday 8th August.

I expected the other boat that I travelled with into Leeds to be moving on today, but at 8 am, there was no sign of life and it turned out that they were only moving up to Granary Wharf later today, so I set off on my own to River Lock. Fortunately, another boat followed me and I had company yet again as far as Rodley, where they stopped off. We both got caught by an unexpected cloudburst and scrambled for waterproofs, but not before we were all pretty wet. I had one more swing bridge to cope with before Apperley Bridge and made it to there after seven hours cruising. There were several staircase locks on route, but mostly manned by CRT volunteers, which made for a lot less work on my part. I am now well up into Airedale after all those uphill locks.

Wednesday 10th August.

Readers may well have noticed that I have lost a day somewhere along the way, which has happened before when I do not write up each day and rely on my memory. Please don’t ask what happened to it, coz I have no idea even which one it was!

Another day of rest at Apperley Bridge, but with a bit of shopping thrown in, as there is a small Asda and a large Sainsbury’s within half a mile. The only problem is that they are both uphill, but I am going with an empty bag and returning with a full one, so better that way. I also took the opportunity to defrost the fridge, which is not getting down to the recommended 4degrees at the moment. The remainder of the time has been spent writing this blog and coping with emails and the odd bill. Weather is warm and overcast, with light rain towards evening.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Stronghold on Tour 29.

Wednesday 3rd August.

Back On The Cut.

I knocked up the guy moored in front once again and he answered this time. It appeared that he too was keen for some company to do all eleven movable bridges. The first two where done for us, but the remainder had to be done by the boater. They were all waterway key operated, but some had to be manually opened. We did then alternately, so in all I only opened about five in the fifteen mile length to the junction. Trevor was a continuous cruiser on nb Wyrd, although his wife lived in Crawley, Sussex. Before we let go at Keadby, he insisted on telling me his life story and it was only by interrupting at an opportune moment that we got away at all.

The first bridge was a busy railway crossing on a sliding bridge that appears to be unique and details of it’s operation can be found here:-

This view is looking along the track. The bridge has been moved 
to one side and has been slid alongside the track on the left.

The duckweed piles up against the mooring.

It was an extremely windy day, which made the trip unpleasant, because it was either in my face or from the side, which made getting the boat off the bridge landings difficult. After struggling at one bridge, I discovered after half a mile that I had left my keys in the operating pedestal, so had to wind the boat and return for them.

Eventually, Trevor and I parted at Stainforth, where there were moorings outside The New Inn, a very well kept free house. Whilst there, a lady approached me from the bar and asked if I was the person from the Wey Navigation and we got into conversation about my home mooring, as she knew the navigation very well from several years ago. She introduced her husband and invited me to moor outside her house at Barnby Dun if I wished and even invited me for a meal, to which I declined as I was turning north at the next junction. How’s that for Yorkshire hospitality?

Thursday 4th August.

Another couple were going the same way today, so agreed to travel together, because there were several locks and even more swing and lift bridges. Their daughter was with them and enjoyed operating the bridges and locks, the latter all being electric as well.

The New Junction Canal ran dead straight for five miles, so there was little of interest to see until we arrived at Southfield Junction and turned onto the Aire and Calder Canal, which was also pretty monotonous.

Straight as a die for miles.

Guillotine stop gates at River Don Aqueduct.

Once again the wind was persistently in my face or from one side, making for a rather unpleasant journey under overcast skies. It appeared that the only decent pub on route was closed when we passed by, so we finally moored up just before Whitely Lock, where there was grass for Paul’s dogs to enjoy and that is when the sun finally made an appearance.

Along this route, I noticed several boxes mounted on poles at the waterside and was very curious to know what they were for. Having taken a long lens photo of one of them, I later looked them up and found this:-

Just what are these?

The label is the clue.