Slowly into Selby and out again

It took a while to come back down to earth after the thrill of our gliding experience, so probably a good job we were so close to Selby. The canal was thick with duck weed, making cruising feel like a chore, but we were welcomed by a beautiful sculpture celebrating both old and new landmarks. Selby’s heritage is dominated by the River Ouse and the canal. The canal was completed in 1779 to the sounds of the Abbey bells and canons. The local landscape was not only rich in coal and the but also good for growing wheat, So Selby became a hub for milling and baking, using grain brought in by the barges from Hull and Goole. Hovis had a large imput to the towns economies.

The canal terminates in Selby as the waterway enters/exits the River Ouse via the lock. There is a large basin, which I presume was a wharf at some time, now its home to several residential moorers and 48 hour visitor moorings. The weed had thinned when we moored up, along side the trendy flats built for the canal side regeneration.

Selby basin in the clear

What took us by surprise, was that whilst we were talking to the lock keeper, and watching a couple of boats in off the river, the entire basin filled with weed.

Is this an alien invasion

Unfortunately the weather broke as we arrived in Selby so it rather curtailed my explorations. But I saw enough of a pretty town with an attractive centre and a small market on Mondays, to know it would be worth exploring on our return trip. The most striking feature has to be the Abbey.

Selby Abbey in the rain

I wasn’t able to go into the Abbey but I couldn’t resist looking at the doors.

Passage through the lock has to be booked 24 hours in advance. Our journey was timed so that the incoming tide would assist us travelling upstream to Naburn Lock a few miles south of York. Tidal rivers mean, VHF radio, life jackets, and anchor at the ready. We have to remove the table in our “conservstory” bow set out the anchor. The rope is looped onto T Bar and carefully coiled so that if we needed to deploy the anchor I wouldn’t get hooked up and be deployed to the depths with it. We are extremely envious of the Dutch barge style boats that have anchors with chain winches. We are resigned to having to abandon the anchor because it might be too difficult to get it back on board if it’s ever used. However if it does get used it would be a real emergency and an acceptable loss.

Fingers crossed the anchors’s not needed.

We were called into the lock first, along with 2 other narrowboats and a bucket load of pea soup

Not the most pleasant experience descending.

Glad I was safely inside

Always a pleasant surprise to be let out onto the river.

Here we go, turning right, heading north towards York.

Bye bye Selby we’ll see you again in a week or so.

Taking narrowboating to new heights

Having diverted to Goole, we realised we were in an ideal location to deviate from our plan to cross the Pennines and cruise up to York. So on Saturday afternoon we left the Aire and Calder canal and joined the Selby Canal. As luck would have it, there wasn’t space for us to moor at our prefered destination so we soldiered on through thick duck weed and hot sunshine, until we got to Burn Bridge less than an hour’s cruise from Selby.

Burn Bridge visitor mooring

Having checked my trusty map, we realised that we were within 10 minutes walk of the Burn Gliding club. We’d seen several gliders in the sky during our cruise and looked up in envy. We nudged each other childishly, daring each other to see if we were really prepared to tick off another goal on the bucket list. I phoned the number on the website and was greeted by a friendly “come along and we’ll see if we can fit you in”. Did I say 10 minute walk? I’m sure we were there in 5.

That doesn’t look very high tech

We were collected at the gate and taken across the field to the flight control, which looked more like an old caravan and social club. Several middle aged men and women milling around looking up to the clouds, discussing the lack of thermals. But they were keen to encourage us and we were soon offered a choice of winch launch or aerotow. I opted for the winch which is more or less a giant elastic band style catapult. As soon as the next available glider was free we were led over to meet Mike our pilot. And to be strapped into a parachute. “No one’s ever had to bail out from this airfield ” we were reassured.

Parachute on

Gliding is a comparatively low tech hobby. No fancy equipement to manouver onto the runway, whoever was hanging around, pushed us onto the narrow strip on repaired tarmac.

I was to fly first. Mike ran though a check list with me and explained where the pedals and steering were, but gliding wasn’t something on my list of things to learn, I was happy just to experience being up in the air.

Calm and relaxed

I sat and contemplated while they set up the winch and elastic band.

Attaching the giant elastic band

I was warned that the winch would catapult me into the air at 45 degrees travelling from 0 to 60 faster than a Ferrari, I was allowed to scream if I wanted…

Up up and away

Oh boy was that fun, I didn’t know which way to look, so I kept an unknowledgeable eye on the instruments

Wonder what the red lever is for

Unfortunately for me the heat of the day had vanished along with the thermals and I’m not sure we even managed to climb to 1000feet. Mike knew where the canal was, so circled over where we were moored.

Looking down on firecrest

Firecrest is moored just above the bridge, the canal is running west (top of photo) to east. Looking to the east I could see the Drax power station (in the header photo) and north east I could see Selby in the distance.

Looking towrards Selby

That roundabout and covered crop were useful landmarks for me to see Firecrest

We’re down there somewhere

The lack of thermals and consequently lack of height meant that I only got about 5 minutes in the air and all too soon I was heading for the runway.

Coming into land

However they only needed to take one look at my face to realise how much I’d enjoyed the experience. And much to my surprise they offered to take me up again with no extra cost.

Unfortunately the thermals were still avoiding us so it was a similar 5 minute low level flight. Then it was Eric’s turn. He was happily strapped in, I’m not sure what Mike the pilot was thinking

Should I be worried?

Eric opted for an Aerotow. His glider was attached to the clubs motorised glider and towed to approx 2000feet. when the cord was released Mike took over circling until he found a thermal .

I lost sight of them as they reached over 2500 feet and circled wider than I’d been able to do. He was in the air for over half an hour.

Yes, there’s a glider in that photo

Eric had a go at taking the controls but Mike brought him home safely

A smooth landing, despite the crumbling runway

What the instructors hadn’t warned us about, is the indignity of getting out of a glider- they dont build these things for comfort.

Where there’s a will there’s a way

And so that was another amazing day, one that we had no idea what we would end up doing, we will never take it for granted just how lucky we are to be living on a narrowboat. Good job tomorrow is just a short cruise into Selby.

Going to Goole

Much to the amusement of Amanda, who couldn’t think why we’d want to go to Goole, we decided to turn right where the New Junction canal meets the Aire and Calder canal. It marks the end of the South Yorkshire Navigation and becomes the North Yorkshire Navigation.

The New Junction Junction

But as we are true Coddiwomplers without a timescale, Goole is on the map and accessible so we shall go and explore. The landscape is very flat and at first we thought there had been a flood but no, it is the Southfield Resevoir that runs parallel with the canal.

Southfield Resevoir

It’s a waterfowl haven and home to sailors and fishermen alike.


It was a quick and easy 2 hour journey into Goole with hardly any other boaters on the water. Although once we passed under the bridge marking the start of the port, both sides were chocka block with old fishing boats and commercial barges now being used to live in. There wasn’t a huge amount of visitor mooring but we found a nice space outside the marina.

Visitor moorings outside the Goole boat house

Goole itself is a small town built upon the confluence of the River Don and the River Ouse. It is an inland shipping port and in 1820 the Aire and Calder canal was completed to carry coal from the mines at Knottingley by barge where it was transfered to larger vessels to be carried the 45 miles down the Humber Estuary to the North Sea. While we were moored, there were 3 big ships in port from Denmark, Amsterdam and The Philippines. I suspect as ports go it is very quiet and small but never the less we found it interesting peering through the chain link security fence, to see the waterways being used commercially. One of the ingenious devices we saw was the “Tom Pudding system”. Where specialised barges with container boats where used to move the coal in the 1850s, the barges were hoisted up out of the water and the coal was tipped straight into the awaiting ship. I suspect it was a bit like a freight train.

The Tom Pudding Hoist

We would have loved to have seen it in action. The green hoist remains but the large ship in the background was being loaded by modern crane and forklift truck.

After we had walked around the perimeter, we walked the mile into town. Admittedly the shopping area wasn’t somewhere you’d go for a pleasant afternoon out. There’s obviously a lot of deprivation in this area, but we saw some mighty fine buildings from the ports heyday

The Goods Office

And as Electric boaters we enjoyed seeing Yorkshire Electric Power company building

Goole has been home to some prestigious people, the local artist Reuben Chappell, was a pierhead painter and his work is celebrated with paintings displayed in a trail around the town and docks. I liked this one, of ths good ship the George Kilner, named after the George Kilner himself, a Rotherham who invented the Kilner jar.

The George Kilner

Unfortunately the Waterways Museum that is still advertised on most canal literature closed it’s doors permanently in early June, but we still walked down the lane overlooking the Dutch River. the Dutch man Cornelius Vermuyden who engineered the flood plain, drains and waterways around here in 1600s. Tidal rivers never look their prettiest at low tide,

The Dutch River at Goole

We only stayed one night in Goole and low and behold when we left, who should we meet under the bridge…. yes our leviathon the Exol Pride.

And to make us chuckle even more, when we had talked to one of the Dockers about the ships in port and said we’d seen the pride in Rotherham he said, with complete sincerity, “oh, the little one”…

So despite the amusement it caused, we did enjoy our little diversion into Goole. And despite my typing still being auto corrected to a certain search engine the name Goole comes from the middle English “goule” which means stream.

Safe Haven

Barnby Dun provided us with safe haven for a few days whilst we sat out the worst of the heavy rain. It’s a nice little place, big enough to have a co-op and a chippy, but sadly no pub. We weren’t very happy not being able to cruise, but were actually quite grateful for the amount of rain as it would help fill some of the reservoirs struggling to keep the northern canals running over the summer. I took great pleasure in our view, the cattle and their very young calves came calling every day on the opposite bank

The Barnby Dun herd

Not all our visitors were cows as friends from Suffolk had tracked us down in an effort to find a rainy day activity whikst they were on holiday.

And the sheep in the next field were most interested in me when I went walking.

The Barnby Dun flock

I wonder if they knew what I was thinking when I eyed them up. I was able to catch a train back into Sheffield to attend a huge fibre festival called the Wool Monty

Tempted though I was, I only bought a fraction of this treasure. Even so, Eric thought it wise that we should move on immediately in case I decided to go back for the second day of the fayre. About a mile north of Barnby Dun, the canal divides. Having travelled down the right hand side when we came south, this time we veered left

Think we’ll go left

And onto the New junction canal heading towards Leeds and Goole.


And over the Don Aquaduct with its impressive guillotine flood gates.

Looking back over the Don Aquaduct

It looks quite impressive from up here, but looking down onto the River itself showed a different side, as the gathering debris meets the pillars for the Aquaduct.

The New Junction Canal is a perfectly straight “modern” highway. It was built in 1905 to carry freight to and from North Yorkshire. We thought it would be a quick journey being only 5.5miles long and having only 1 lock but it actually has 5 swing/lift bridges and took us about 3 hours. I doubt it takes the Exol Pride oil tanker that long, but they have a team of lock keepers running ahead to operate the bridges. I had to leap out do the hard work myself.

Storehouse lift bridge

We moored at the end of the New Junction whilst we debated left or right, looking back for as far as the eye could see, marvelling at how different canals can be.

Looking back along the New Junction.

And I just had to share this little brood that came to see us.

Spot the ugly duckling

Sprinting through Sprotbrough

Well not exactly sprinting but we were playing the escape the rain game, aiming to moor up at Barnby Dun for a few days whilst the heavens relieved themselves. Sprotbrough itself was lovely as ever, beautiful crisp clear colours after a downpour. Those lovely fluffy sheep we saw on our way down had had their summer hair cuts

Chilly sheep

We nipped through Mexborough and it’s mighty fine warehouse


And through some more very big locks, thank goodness they are hydrolic

And under the lift bridge also automated with traffic lightx

To moor up in time for a glorious sunset

Sadly we woke to heavy rain

Saying Goodbye to Sheffield

Up early with Bacon butties on the go, we waved goodbye to Sheffield. Nice to be leaving a place knowing there’s lots still to see. We will definitely come back. We cruised out past Jonathon Wilson’s boat yard and, and Finesse, the Tyler Wilson fit out partnership. And while the boat yard from canal angle doesn’t look much, Eric was impressed with Richards attitude.

Jonathon Wilson’s and Finesse boatyard

Grateful as we we for blue skies and fluffy cloud, we weren’t so sure about the great white shark seeing us off.

Watch out fishermen theres a shark in the water

We cruised quickly past Meadowhall, catherdral of commercialism and the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey arena,- this one is for our family who love the game, and I suspect if I had lived close enough to get to a match I would also have caught the bug.

FlyDSA from the canal

Being surrounded by hills means lots of bridges and the journey to and from Sheffield is filled with things to look at

And slowly under the M1

Under the M1

We met David our lock keeper at Tinsley. We didn’t think he was supposed to be on duty but he’s a man who loves his job and loves to help. He gave us some very useful advice descending a short wide lock and taught us a new move “The Yorkshire Bow Thruster” -wonder if we’ll get see that one on stricktly. I got lots of practice, Eric put the boat along one edge. And I take the bow line up onto the bank. Drop the water level, walk the line across to the other side, open the gate then pull the boat over so we can exit lock on opposite side. Not sure if that explanation makes sense but it worked when we did it for real. Once we got to the last three locks the second lockie took over, I laid my rope out as instructed but he laughed at what we were doing and before we knew what was happening, Eric had such s deluge of water coming in the back of the boat, he had to mop the galley floor before we could move in. Needless to say he was livid. And I was helpless, do I obey the captain or the lockie? we did not get soaked doing the last two locks so guess who gets my vote. Holme lock was the last of our assisted locks so I had chance to look at the mural.

Holme lock

Our least favourite lockie said the Exol Pride was due in Rotherham after the weekend so it took us by surprise when we heard a horn coming from the blind bridge

Not what you want to meet under a bridge.

Luckily we were able to keep out of the way. we called it a day at Eastwood lock visitor mooring.

Victoria Quays

CRT has missed a trick by not creating more visitor mooring in Sheffield. There’s only room for 2 or 3 boats with a 48 hour restriction. Not much incentive when you have to book lock passage 24 hours in advance and then spend the best part of a day working through 15 heavy locks to find you might not be able to moor. But the fees in the basin are reasonable so we booked ourselves a berth to give us time to explore.

Visitor mooring next to Sheaf Quay

‘Back in the day’ circa 1819 the Sheffeild Canal Basin was completed at the end of the Sheffield Canal. It must have been an amazing sight as coal and grain were brought here. The buildings are impressive which implies a good profit was being made. It stopped being used commercially in the 1970s but was regenerated in the 1990s. We were given a spot right next to “The Straddle” which as the name implies, straddles the basin.

The Straddle

And although fishing inset allowed in the actual basin, it’s a favourite spot for the resident heron. Usually we see herons standing in the shallows and piercing the water with their long necks to catch fish. Not this one, it launched its self of the ledge in an undignified bellyflop and huge splash. I suspect it only caught anything cause the fish were immobilized with laughter rather than stealth and surprise. Never the less we did see it make several catches.

Hungry Heron

At night the Straddle is lit up in glorious Technicolor, each light rotating through a sequence. Quite impressive for the guests overlooking the basin from the neighbouring Hilton hotel.

The Straddle by night

In order to leave the basin we needed to use the winding space reached by cruising under the Straddle, to the Terminal Wharf, this end is where the grain was stored. It’s now known as the Ovo building.

The Terminal building

I wonder what the people in the offices now think when a boat cruises below them


Some of the arches have been turned into commercial units, the best two being the cafe whose cooked breakfast aroma stirred us from our slumber at 7 am and The Dorothy Pax, a bar/social venue that took over the late shift and kept our evenings entertaining. The whole area was vibrant and friendly although the other side of the arches was less salubrious

We were quite sad when it was time for us to move on through the swing bridge. Sheffield has been a great place to visit. Made even better being able to meet up with family, and there’s still loads that we havent seen I am sure we will be back to explore more in the future

A Tall Story

Sheffield is known for its creativity and in the 60s the University built the iconic Arts Tower, which is still the tallest academic building in the UK. I’d have loved to have gone to the top to look down but we joined the students in Weston gardens looking up.

It seems like Sheffield has a love of tall art, we came across this wall mural called “The Snog” by Pete McKee

The Snog

And even more impressive was the “Steelworker” by Paul Waplington. It uses 18 different types of brick 30000 in total and 5 different mortars.

The steelworker

Sheffield is rightly proud of its Steel industry although sadly it’s on its last legs now. Regardless of my political leanings I feel quite strongly about this, as I expect these sheffield women of steel would also.

The women of steel and friend.

But they do have some funny ideas of what we like to see in our public art. This is known as the spiders web bridge, crossing the River Don under one of the Wicker Arches

It’s actually a very clever suspension bridge that takes it’s inspiration from nature and the cables are attached to the sides of the old brick archway

Walk across if you dare

I made if safely across in both directions so I could go and explore some more.

Peeking into the Peaks

One of the things that Sheffield does incredibly well is public transport. There are buses and trams everywhere you look.

So we bought a weeks rover ticket for £17 and hopped on and off exploring north south east and west. We had to pay a little extra to get to Castleton, because that’s in Derbyshire. But it was worth it. We sat like excited children on the top deck in the scenic seats at the front. It would ha’ve been worth it just to do a round trip, the views were amazing, so much better than when we’ve done it by car, even whilst we were still in the city

Once we got to Castleton, walked up to past Windy Knoll to Mam Tor

Windy gap

We stopped at the Blue John Mine cafe for a piece of Blue John cake, they even let us eat our own sandwiches at their cafe

Blue John cake

And what a view, looking down the valley. If you watch channel 4, this is where they filmed one of their “indents” with the big steel walking man.

Looking back towards Castleton

Refreshed we continued our walk upwards but as it was very windy and we were reliant on the hourly bus we opted to follow the summit. Mam Tor is also known as the shivering mountain because of its frequent land slips. The road to Chapel en le Frith notoriously fell victim to this and in the mid 70s the powers that be realised their lack of power and gave up trying to save it.

The abandoned road

We scrambled across the tarmac islands and continues on our way. There’s so many opportunities to walk around here, we came out into the Peak District a couple of times. And I’m sure we’ll be back.

Spoilt for choice.

Exploring down memory lane

Eric and I both studied in Sheffield back in the 80s. But at opposite ends of the city, our memories are somewhat different. I remember landing in a multicultural sprawl at the height of the miners strike, and decline of the steel industry. Eric was cloistered in one of the countries finest red brick universities on the edge of the Peak District.

Sheffield University

We both have a lot of fond memories and we were keen to explore, although I couldn’t quite bring myself to get on the bus that used to cost me 6p a journey and venture back up Spittal Hill, under the Wicker Arches to Fir Vale because I knew that old Victorian workhouse cum hospital had grown even larger and and entered the 21 century. I loved nursing on a nightingale ward where the recuperating patients took the tea trolley around in the early morning whilst I as a second year nurse took responsibility for the whole ward overnight.

Wicker Arches

The Maplin building that nurtured Eric’s engineering skills was undergoing refurbishment and shrouded in scaffolding which was a disappointment. And the tower block accommodation had been demolished years ago to be replaced by more modern student digs. In fact Sheffield has become the place to be now for students. The old poly has become the Hallam university, and the whole city was awash with developement for the student population. Some buildings were striking in their contemporary design, but we did wonder how the mish mash of old and modern would weather the years and if all that glass and steel cladding would need replacing long before the red brick.

Sheffield centre has a vibrant open feel, There’s plenty of space to sit and people watch, the children are actively encouraged to play in the dancing fountain of the Peace Garden. There’s green planting all over the city and the Winter garden is a haven for those needing somewhere sheltered to eat their lunch.

Peace Gardena

Sadly we couldn’t avoid seeing the less fortunate than ourselves, the area around Victoria Quays is still being redeveloped and although the basin itself felt safe, we knew we weren’t far from the homeless, jobless and the addicts. And I wonder if the redevelopements do anything to help this segment of society, or does it just reduce the amount of dark corners that they can take some shelter in.

through the windows of dereliction