Sunday, 14 June 2015

Messing about on the rivers.

The weather was warming up as we left Granary Wharf and began the descent of the last lock on the Leeds/Liverpool and onto the river. We shared the lock with a fellow moorer and then both stopped at the service pontoon just past the entry to the Royal Armouries, this after tackling Leeds lock.

The river is wide here, the locks similar in size and operation to those on the Thames. The difference is these are self operated and the custom of roping up and engines off is somewhat absent. As we are descending, the operation is very gentle and with such low traffic volumes, all very stress free. These locks are big.

River cruising whilst pleasant, can be a tad boring! You can see too many trees. As we had arranged to meet up with neighbours from home at Woodlesford, we were moored up by lunch time and after a bit of jiggling to avoid the grass cutters and strimmer's, welcomed Simon, Michelle and daughter Lily for a look around the boat. It was a truly lovely afternoon in the sunshine.

Thursday saw us away down river at a brisk pace. The sun shine and it was hot! It did not seem long before we reached Castleford, and we made the sharp right and headed for the Calder and Hebble.

Early morning fisherman

We shared the first couple of locks with a couple of other boats

Castleford Junction

We made a stop at Stanley Ferry and whilst I dealt with the services, Ali wandered to the yard and purchased a Handspike, for use in operating the locks ahead of us.

New lock gates being made

Stanley Ferry Aqueduct

Last of the big locks

Big paddle gear

and so ..hard to operate

I was not without a little trepidation at the thought of tackling the locks on the Calder and Hebble. We are 58'6" and although the locks are broad, they were built for broad boats up to 57'6". With care and by going corner to corner, we fitted with a little room to spare. This was somewhat aided by the fact that the walkways suspended off the bottom gates, have been somewhat shortened, thus preventing the tiller becoming jammed if not enough care is taken. So not as bad as first thought, although the rate of flow when using the handspike is a little unpredictable.

Amazing bridges

We passed through Wakefield's pleasant suburbs and after a long, hot day found a pleasant mooring below the pub at Horbury Bridge.

The weather forecast for Saturday was dire and as we were using river sections, we thought on Friday we would crack on and get beyond any areas likely to be affected by prolonged rain. Friday was a beautiful day, once again hot. We were soon into Dewsbury. The locks seem to be getting shorter!  Rising up Thornhill double locks we had a slight problem with water levels. Ali found the locks with paddles up, so the pound was very low between the two locks. When we ascended, the levels remained low, which surprised us as the next section leads once again onto the river.

We soon found the reason. Someone had closed the flood gates. This resulted in the pound of nearly a mile in length, loosing water down the locks. The flood gates were therefore holding back the river water and with only one operable paddle, it looked like a call to CRT and a long wait was on the cards.

Then a boat approached down river. We warned them that the gates were closed and held shut by the pressure and they managed to tie up below the gates and climb up.

Four of us on one gate finally got it to shift and once open a deluge roared into the depleted cut, almost washing our boat back down with it! But we safely negotiated this and were once more on our way.

A stop at Mirfield allowed us a quick shop at the handy canal side Lidl and at Coopers bridge we passed the entry for the Huddersfield broad/narrow. Onwards up for us and once through Brighouse, we called it a day mooring up above the river Calder at Cromwell bottom, where there are good moorings, with rings no less.

Peddle Power

Locks getting shorter

Hand spike in action

The plan for Saturday was to sit tight. But the forecast changed and by late morning it had stopped raining and brightened up. Only seven locks to Sowerby Bridge, so we decided to go for it. By this time we had the hang of these locks and seemed to ascend effortlessly. Even the guillotine lock at Salterhebble did not faze us, or the two shortest locks on this section. Or rather Ali.

Entering the guillotine lock (our first)

 looking back down the locks

the last short lock

At the top lock a fellow boater recommended the Navigation at Sowerby for food, so after mooring up just short of the basin and having a walk, that is were we went. Well recommended, good grub at reasonable prices. So good, we have booked in for Sunday lunch today. Well it is a day of rest, so that is what we are doing!

Thus far, the trip over the Pennines has been well worth the effort. Great scenery, very quiet boat wise and from Leeds, new waters for us.

Tomorrow we begin the Rochdale canal...

34 miles.
33 broad locks.


  1. We have just completed the South Pennine Ring (clockwise), and helped a couple of 57-footers down Kirklees Low lock - they used a pole to get the bow out from behind the bottom gate. Would you have had more trouble going down do you think?
    Best wishes for the rest of your trip - we particularly liked Hebden Bridge.

  2. Hi, we knew you were about from your blog, but must have missed you passing us. We do think it would have been harder going down, which is why we have done it this way around, some of the locks were definitely shorter than others, we were told that the top two Salterhebble were the shortest, but we think two previously were, it wasn't as bad as we expected to be honest. Just caught up with your blog, John is looking forward to his fish and chips at Grandma Pollards, we don't have them very often but like them to be good when we do.


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