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.

Saturday 27 August 2016

Stronghold on Tour 34.

Tuesday 23rd August.

I was up fairly early to wall to wall sunshine – oh joy!  Engine checks done and ready to move on with my neighbour, but he came along about 10.00 to tell me that he would not be travelling until the weekend now, so I set off straight away. Sure enough there were no other boats going in the same direction, so I had to tackle the seven Blackburn Locks alone and that was no fun, as the paddle gear was very low geared and all required a hand cuff anti-vandal key to unlock. Needless to say that progress was very slow and took me two and half hours to get through.

There were a few lads around at the locks and I was asked if a barge could get out to the sea from the canal system and questions about hiring boats and did you have to have a licence to be able do it.

After ten miles I reached Riley Green, where there were moorings and a few other boats moored up, some even pointing the same way as me, so I was hopeful for tomorrow.

Wednesday 24th August.

Sure enough, another boat had moored up behind me and was going down Johnson’s Hill Locks. It was the usual arrangement for operating, which I suggest;  they open one gate and exit through it. I then go through and stop to close the bottom gate, before catching them up at the next lock. The big problem here was that there were no bollards or rings to tie up to and on a couple of occasions I went into the next lock and walked back. There were also two locks that were so close to bridges that they had to be opened by a quadrant rack and pinion gearing, one of which would not open completely. Forgetting about the rack and pinion, I climbed down onto the boat and tried to squeeze through the partially opened gate, which would not open because of the R &P mechanism – DOH!

Wallpapered phonebox outside a wallpaper wharehouse.

A fine canopied wharf at Eanam. 

Coming up to an enormous warehouse later, I realised that it was probably Botany Bay retail outlet, which it was. There was also a boot fair taking place, so I decided to stop for a while and have a look around. The boot fair was all junk and the four floors of the warehouse were much the same, although there was a clothing dept. and a furniture dept. that I missed out. Most of it was the sort of tat that is sold in very large garden centres nowadays.

Botany Bay retail outlet.

Continuing on a very long pound, I eventually came to the top of Wigan Locks, a flight of twenty one to the junction with the Leigh Branch of the Bridgewater Canal. Hopefully, I will catch another boat to lock down with.

Thursday 25th August.

Waiting at Wigan Top Lock.

There were two boats waiting to go down Wigan Locks, but the wife on one boat had taken the dog out for a walk and so they had to wait for her to return. Luckily, another boat then appeared and my luck was in. The wife and husband both took turns at locking and steering and there was a volunteer, called Peter, as well to help out. He really was a mine of information about the history of the flight and followed us all the way down to the bottom lock, setting the locks in advance.

Peter the willing volunteer.

Amazingly, this brick building is a telephone mast.

Lettering on the bridge arch commerorates 
200 years of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

 Although rain was forecast and it was very overcast, it remained dry throughout the operation. We cleared the bottom lock after four and half hours, which illustrates that the trepidation in my mind was not the same as the practicality.

Turning onto the Leigh Branch at the junction, we did the final two locks of the day, before mooring up at the Dover Lock Inn at Dover Bridge, where Graham and I had enjoyable boating conversation over a couple of pints. Not my choice of pub, but beggars etc. and the beer was cheap once again.

Friday 26th August.

Not an early start, because we knew that there was a hold up at Plank Lane Swing Bridge until 2pm,  but an easy day to look forward to without any locks. I remember this stretch well from two years ago with water filled flashes caused by mining subsidence. The whole length of waterway had to be built up along the banks due to this subsidence and the two locks that were at Dover Bridge had been rebuilt  2 miles further towards Wigan.

Arriving at Plank Lane Lift Bridge, I moored up alongside New Aukland to await the 2pm opening of the faulty bridge. There was very limited room to moor, as there were a number of live-a-boards, who had probably been there for ages, but we coped. At 13.45 the CRT men told us to head towards the bridge, which opened on time and we all jostled to get through ASAP, after which the boats gradually separated out.

Plank Lane Bridge - jostling for space.

Graham sets off....

........and is two boats ahead.....

...........and through we go in line astern.

New houses with built in solar panels - new to me anyway.

A tight squeeze.

Large waterside pub in Leigh.

One man's project at Parrin Lane.

We stopped to shop at Leigh, where there was a convenient Aldi almost bankside, before moving on to Wordsley, where we moored within sight of The Packet House. I knew it well having moored here before and there was a water point for Graham and Chris to refill their tank. The services block had a locked barred gate before a solid wooden door, also locked, which implied that it was not a very safe area, but no problems overnight.

Saturday 27th August.

We let go about 10.30 for our last day together, because I was off towards Manchester and they were heading towards Northwich, where they live. We exchanged phone numbers and parted at Waters Meeting, so I was on my own again, but not for long it turned out.
Across Barton Swing Aqueduct again.

Looking back.

Couldn't miss out a shot like this for my footy friends.

I enjoy going into towns and cities where I have never been before and I found it quite exciting venturing into the unknown. Surprisingly, there were very few people about. I had to keep a close eye on the map, because of the number of bridges towards the centre. I was looking for Castlefields Basin that had been recommended to me as a safe mooring by Graham earlier, but when I got there it was totally chokka block, with no bankside space anywhere. The reason for this was Gay Pride weekend and as far as I knew there were no other safe moorings to be had in the city, so what to do? It was then that I realised that nb Chance would be here and I remember James and  Doug blogging about being moored up in the city in their favourite place and this was it! Sure enough I spotted Chance and gently went alongside, using just a centre line for the time being. Having sent them both a message on Facebook Messenger, I received a positive reply from Doug and tied up more securely. Another lucky day for me.

Moored next to Chance.

Chokka block moorings.......

......both ways.

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.