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.