Sunday, 31 May 2015

Firstly, a big thank you

To George and Kath of N.B Syrus. They arranged a mooring for us at their boat club and we had power and water for the duration of our stay!  Then we went out twice, in a car!  Sheer luxury.

It was so very nice to meet with them again. It has been three years, but seemed like yesterday.

Having arrived at their mooring just south of Barnoldswick on Thursday afternoon and knowing the forecast for the following day was dire, we decided to sit tight.  This allowed us to catch up, washing, drying and sorting out the boat. Even had the vacuum out! Ali decided that the shower needed re sealing. Why you ask is this her job? Coz she does not trust me with a sealant gun, paint brush, or any other item that requires care.

So between going out for the evenings, we caught up.

Their mooring is truly stunning. Looking out over rolling hills, with the sun all day. Beautiful.

On Saturday, a weather window told us that it was time to move on. Saying our farewells we made our way into Barnoldswick and who should be pulling off their mooring as we rounded a bend but N.B. Twizzle. So the day was set with the old crew working in harmony once again. The scenery towards Gargrave is truly stunning, with the canal following the contours. For once, the weather smiled upon us. Not hot, but pleasant and we were able to soak in this fantastic scenery.

We have now entered territory were boats actually move and this adds to the experience.  We are now on the descent and the locks are a breeze with two experienced lock handlers in Ali & Sue, as well as Quentin and myself of course!

By mid afternoon we had reached Gargrave visitor moorings. Tied up and we all went for a walk. It was perhaps unfortunate that we were all thirsty and hungry, as somehow we gravitated to a hostelry. I think it would be fair to say that Quentin and I did perhaps over imbibe, just a little bit... Ali and Sue perhaps have a different perspective on this. Safe to say, I slept really well!!!

Sunday morning was foul. Raining and windy. We sat tight until early afternoon, then decided to go for it. The forecast for Monday and Tuesday is horrendous, with high winds and rain. Thinking we could sit this out in Skipton was our rationale, so off we set.

The initial locks were no problem, but as we left the shelter of the hills, the wind struck. We negotiated the first swing bridge with only minor problems, but approaching the second we were stymied. It was broke, a van sitting atop whilst some welding was taking place. The wind was now truly horrendous and I was blown onto the offside bank. There was already a boat waiting, who thought we were mad.  When the repair was completed, Ali and Quentin heaved our bow off the bank and I went for it under full power. And made it easily, but could not stop! Had I done so, I would have once again been pinned. So I carried on alone until I found a sheltered spot.

Ali assisted Quentin getting through, as well as the other chap who insisted upon being bow hauled through the bridge hole and then moored up!

So the merry crews carried on, with Ali aboard N.B. Twizzle until we reached Skipton. Extreme boating or what! We had waves!!!

So now moored up for the duration. We actually have a water point in hose length and have a much more sheltered mooring. As a reward for the endeavours of the day, we went out for a meal, again!!!

A beautiful few days cruising, now hunkered down. I can think of far worse places than Skipton to be marooned in a storm.

12.5 miles
15 broad locks
5 swing bridges

Respite near Barnoldswick.

Since last posting, we have continued to ascend. Our one abiding memory is just how cold it has been. It is nearly June, but feels more like March. The strong winds have not helped. It has not rained too much during the day, but never warmed up enough to drive the chill from our bones.

Our last visit up here was in 2012, an awful summer. We had hoped that this time it would have been kinder, but thus far... And the forecast well into next week is not looking good, so we may be doing some short hops and hunkering down to sit out the worst!

Half way between Liverpool and Leeds

We have now left the old industrial towns of Lancashire behind us. You could count on one hand the number of boats actually moving, we saw in any day and there are very few with moorings. This must tell one that it is either unsafe or somewhat unpleasant to moor in these areas. The towpaths have been very quiet, so no youths have we seen, too bloody cold for them! The locks we have encountered thus far have all been in good order and because we have remained in company with Sue and Quentin, w e have tackled them with consummate ease.

Since leaving Riley Green, we made the long plod into, through and out of Blackburn. The six locks here were again in good order and we even managed to fill with water and empty the loo at the services amidst them without to much difficulty, despite the design of the landing hindering ease. Top of the locks and lunch followed by an Asda shop saw us away. I must admit, the canal environs of Blackburn were much improved from our last visit. The banksides were litter free and tidy, although the water held many a plastic bag. But at Rishton!!! The residents use the canal as a dump, evident from litter tumbling down the banks on the offside, obviously thrown over garden fences. It was awful, and we were glad to get out and moor up in the relative peace , well ok, some motorway and rail noise, just before Church.

Rishton rubbish

Evidence of just how bad the canal is came the next morning, when after a few hundred yards I had to stop and clear the prop of plastic rubbish.

So onward to Burnley.  Another post industrial town that has somewhat turned its back on the canal. Again, it was the rubbish in the canal that struck us the most, even though for a large part it is suspended above the town on an embankment.  The cold continued, but we ploughed on, eventually mooring just past Reedley Marina.

Yesterday, we were making our final ascent up the seven Barrowford locks. Again these were in good order and the area tidy and almost rural, overlooking the feeder reservoir. Then it was into Foulridge tunnel, which operates a traffic light system for passage. This is a broad tunnel, but we are truly in Wide beam territory now. Exiting the portal, we entered sunlight and a different world. Now rural, with fantastic views of the edge of the Dales.

It was time to bid farewell to N.B.Twizzle. They were continuing on, whilst we had arranged to stop shortly before Barnoldswick, to meet up with George and Kath of N.B. Syrus, who have a beautiful mooring here. Kindly, we have been allowed to moor on a pontoon, with water and power on tap! Luxury.  We are sitting tight Friday and hoping for a weather window on Saturday in order to move on. But looking at the forecast, we will not be going far!

32.5 miles
15 broad locks
2199 yds of tunnel
3 swing bridges.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Dunham Massey to Riley Green.

Onto the Leeds/Liverpool

We had a long day ahead of us, traversing Manchester. We awoke to a dull sky, but this soon cleared to a glorious day. The outskirts of Manchester were soon reached and the layers were stripped off as the heat of the sun increased.

Peel holdings and the council have certainly made an effort with the towpath, which is now looking really good and this has made the environment much more pleasant for all users.

Manchester was somewhat deserted. The meet at Lymm had removed many of the resident boaters from their home moorings, so pram hoods erect, they paraded west, leaving us enjoying the tranquility of the city to enjoy.

Walkers, cyclists and rowers made the trip a pleasure, but so did the sunshine. We topped up with fuel just prior to Waters meet, then headed towards the crossing of the ship canal at Barton aqueduct. But before this, Ali had a period of retail therapy at the Trafford centre! Why shopping is so adictive is beyond me!!!

Upon her return, we crossed the ship canal and wended our way out of the metropolis, through the orange waters around Worseley and through the reclaimed post industrial landscape to Leigh. Passing the junction between the Bridgewater and the Leeds/Liverpool, a very quick food stop and then onwards.

By late afternoon we moored above Pennington flash and enjoyed both the sunshine and the wildlife. That this landscape is a result of past industry, is a testament to natures powers of recovery, aided by the will to allow this to happen. What was truly a wasteland, is now a fantastic nature reserve.

Sunday dawned dull and wet!  We had in prospect 23 broad locks, two prior to the flight, proper. As we made our way towards Wigan, the rain receded and whilst it never became warm, it did improve. After ascending to the junction, we turned right and thence towards Leeds. Not a boat in sight and so we were resigned to a long hard day. As we ascended the first lock and Ali made her way to prepare the second, a stroke of fortune! There was a boat ahead of us, alone!

Ali ran up, yes ran...and they agreed to wait for us.

Anyone else spotted this?  Our very knowledgeable volunteer told us to look for it

So by lock three of the flight, we joined N.B Twizzle with Sue and Quentin. Our joy was compounded when Peter, a CRT volunteer joined the merry crew. It was a pleasure to ascend. Hard work, but so enjoyable. Sue , Ali and Peter soon reached a smooth rhythm, as did Quentin and I. Lock after lock, up we went and by late afternoon , we were on the top. A short hop saw us both then moored opposite the golf course in rural tranquility, with splendid views.  We did then enjoy a glass of red or three thanks to Sue and Quentin. Not surprisingly, we slept rather well!!!

Bank holiday Monday dawned cloudy, and cold. We had a mid morning start and slowly wended our way along what is beautiful scenery.  But boy was it cold!

At Johnsons Hillock locks, again with N.B Twizzle, we seemed to fly up. Only seven this time and the gongoozlers only added to the pleasure. Yet again, we seemed to synchronise effortlessly. It made lock working a pleasure.

So by the time we moored at Riley Green, we thought a meal and a pint (or two, or a few!) well deserved. So to the pub we went!!
40.5 miles and 30 broad locks completed...