Reaching the summit and starting the descent

Resuming our journey
Apologies for quite a lengthy absence, we had a significant family health issue to deal with, which is now fully resolved and not expected to cause any further problem.
However the account of our journey to Liverpool is now very behind schedule as we actually reached the big city a month ago now. (You’ll have to wait for photos) When I last wrote, we were in East Marton with its double bridge,

double bridge at East Marton
East Marton, double bridge

and it had started to rain. To be honest, it’s felt like it’s rained most of the past six weeks and as we were leaving the intense beauty of the Dales a grey drabness enveloped us.

Rain. Rain. Rain.

Being true codiwomplers we do have the luxury of time and are able to stay put inside if it rains. But undeterred we dodged the showers and continued up the last few locks at Greenberfield.

Arriving at the summit of Leeds and Liverpool canal

And shortly after crossed the border from Yorkshire into Lancashire at bridge 149.

Passports please, crossing the border.

Then came the one way Fouldridge tunnel with its traffic lights. Because of number of widebeams using this canal it’s inappropriate for CRT to ask them to restrict passage to 8am as they do for other one way tunnels.  So each direction has an allocated 10 minute time slot per hour in which to enter the tunnel and make it’s minute journey into the darkness. Can you imagine car drivers waiting 50 minutes for the lights to change.

Waiting for the lights at Fouldridge tunnel

We were now descending the Pennines and our first series of locks at Barrowford didn’t disappoint.

Looking down over Barrowford locks at Barnoldswick

In one sense going down is easier because I can open the paddles fully to empty the lock but on the shorter locks it’s harder to open the gates without the helm getting soaked under the deluge from leaky gates.

Cold shower anyone?

Skipton to East Marton

This is true Yorkshire Dales country. We’re high up and it feels like the  canal is still climbing although this is an optical illusion as we haven’t seen a lock since Bingley. It’s because we’re reaching the top of the valleys.

Heading towards Gargrave

But we still had a few hundred feet to climb before we reached the summit of the canal and locking up began again at Gargrave.

Super highway super slow way

We were a bit disappointed that the footpath closures meant the mooring in Gargrave was restricted and limited, which is a pity because it’s a pretty village, one that we have driven through many times. But the generous side of my nature says it’ll be a fantastic asset to the walkers and cyclists once it’s finished.

Overnight mooring just before

We moored one night but then took advantage of a fellow traveller to share the locks

Proof that it’s not just the women who like to chat

People aren’t wrong when they say this is the prettiest section of the canal, and I think the Gargrave flight definatelty makes it into my top 10 for views. We were lucky that our dramatic cloudy backdrop held onto the rain until after we had cruised.

Just another beautiful bridge

We were able to stretch our legs with some bracing walks

Bridge over the river Aire

Thankful that we didn’t have too strenuous a climb to reach the top.

Around Bank Newton

Sadly the weather didn’t play fair and we had to dodge some heavy downpours before reaching East Marton, though without rain you dont get rainbows and I was able to take advantage of a sunny break to show off my Towpath spinning.

100g Jacob wool

It would have been easy to slip through the tiny village of East Marton if we hadn’t been on the lookout for the water point. And the lock keeper had told us that the Cross Keys pub did a good Sunday carvery.

Looking down from the Cross Keys,

We could just about see Firecrest nestled below us, in the far left, as we ate the best roast beef and Yorkshire pudding we’d had since I last cooked it in Boroughbridge.

There’s Roast Beef underneath that Yorkshire pudding

Bolton Abbey

Mum decided to take advantage of the scenic drive over from the Lakes to visit us in Skipton. So we decided to take advantage of their wheels and asked for a trip out to visit Bolton Abbey.
I’d not been before and thought it was just the ruins of an old monastery .

Bolton Abbey
Bolton Abbey

Well I guess to some extent it is, but there’s oh so much more. Bolton Abbey is really the whole estate village, owned, run, and cashed in on, by the Duke of Devonshire and his family.

Bolton Hall

There is an active church known as the priory still attached to the ruins which is a place of beauty in its own right, with stunning stained glass

Pugin’s Victorian stained glass

And the most unusual painted alter wall, depicting Madonna Lilies and other symbolic plants.

We could have sat and absorbed the peace that flowed through this building despite its turbulent past, being partially destroyed during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, but the outside was calling us

Bolton Abbey

And as we sat to enjoy the view

We had to have a family photo

Those grey clouds were getting ominously closer so we decided to take a drive through the estate where we were able to stand in the ancient oak woodland and look down onto the River Wharfe and over to the Priests house in the distance

The River Wharfe towards the Priests house

The whole area of Wharfdale is stunning, and I was so lucky to be taken for a drive through it. Even though its so close, its quite different from the views we get from the canal.

Swinging through to Skipton

Oh good, I thought as we left Bingley, “No more locks for a while.” What I hadn’t realised was that by following the contours through farm land, was just how many manual swing bridges I’d have to open and close. Some were pretty and pleasant but a lot were simply fiddly hard work, needing a CRT anti-vandal handcuff key and help from passers by to get the heavy compressed mechanisms shifting.

Milk Hall swing bridge
Milk Hall swing bridge

But leaving the awkwardness aside we were travelling through some of the prettiest countryside.

Another lovely place to live

And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of stone bridges


Or houses that come straight down onto the canal

Kildwick Main Street

Even the mills across the fields were lovely

Cross lane Mill, Bradley.

We had to chuckle to ourselves that we used to drive this way to and from the Lake District not knowing there was a canal on the other side. Although we could say the same about our cruise, who’d have thought there was a main road just over that wall.

The super highway A65

We were looking forward to coming into Silsden because it’s one of the places we visited, if only because it was on our Lakeland route, when we were designing Firecrest.

Looking East from Silsden Bridge

But we’d never explored beyond the canal. So it was  a pleasant afternoon walking around this lovely little town, watching the dogs watching the river ducks

And finding out about the nail trade that arrived in 1776 in Silsden from the Midlands.

We also found out that in the 1830s 3 Silsden men were some of the first to be transported  to Austrailia rather than being hung for burglary. So we thought it was time to move swiftly on.

After a few more nights in the countryside

We moored up underneath the Victoria mill chimney in Skipton

Skipton visitor moorings

We rushed off to have fish and chips from Bizzie Lizzies, another tradition from our 4 wheeled travels. Skipton is overflowing with fine foods, and is the home of several award winning pie shops.

Champion pork pies

We sampled as many as our bellies would allow. So we burnt off a few of the extra calories doing a bit of walking, and discovered the Skipton woods by the castle, guarded by the Huntress of Skipton.

The Skipton Huntress

Wonderful Woods and Wildlife

Our journey westwards continued through some of the loveliest countryside, with the canal following the contours of the land. Land which rolled into hills, farms and valleys with woodland and views in abundance.

Milking time on the farm

And on the whole, we were lucky enough to be traversing this section in good weather. We took advantage of some shady towpath mooring.

Low wood woods

We found ourselves next to Low Wood Nature Reserve, which although next to a beautifully manicured golf course to the south,

Keighley golf course

took us ruggedly upwards through scrambling rocks just begging to be climbed.

Exploring Low Wood Nature reserve

Forget the golf course, this was our sort of playground.

Who’s the king of the castle

And we found plenty of nature around the reserve.

The common shrew, parasol mushrooms
Pygmy goat, Speckled Wood Butterfly

Of course being surrounded by ancient oaks, is an ideal place to build a business if you love wood.  Eric was beyond excited when he realised one of the companies he buys furniture grade wood from was within walking distance of our mooring.

The British Hardwoods candy store

And while he oohed and arred throughout the vast selection, okay admittedly I was also very impressed, he was very restrained and only bought a small piece to do some tweaks to Firecrest.

One very happy customer

When we downsized to move onto Firecrest, it was Eric’s woodworkshop that was the hardest to leave behind. Fortunately for me, wool is much more squashable and I was able to sneak a lot more into the hidden corners of Firecrest. So when the weather is as good as it was this week I was able to indulge my hobby and sit on the bank spinning.

100g freshly spun Jacob wool

While we were relaxing and enjoying the world go by we realised every now and then a sweaty runner with a number shuffled past. I just had to ask about their race as they were so spaced out. It turns out they were competing a mega marathon, one of three CanalSlams, which entailed running from Liverpool along the towpath, all the way to Leeds. Oh my goodness  that’s 117 miles. Not only is the distance mega, they were doing it non stop. After I’d picked myself up off the floor, I had a look at the website.  59 runners started the race, 36 completed it. There were checkpoints every 10-15 miles and they were allowed buddy runners for encouragement, although the buddies were not permitted to run ahead In case that made them pacers. They were allowed to sit in a support vehicle for up to 40 minutes break provided it didn’t move. They left Liverpool at 6am and the winner arrived 22 hours later. The last – I  refuse to say looser- took 39 hours. According to AC canal planner it takes 66 hours for a narrowboat to do the same journey, I guess the runners didn’t have any locks or swing bridges to negotiate. I could have taken photos but I decided I would stand up and cheer as each one went past, I even topped up a couple of water bottles for them. I forgot to ask how they were getting back to the car park in Liverpool.

Nice place for a run

While we were in this area, we were lucky to meet fellow Braidbar Boaters on Mr Blue Sky. We took it as a great complement that they had designed their boat with a similar style bow as ours and had followed the continuing innovations in using an electric motor.

Moored by the Moor Baht’at

The mooring at the top of Bingley five rise is tricky.  It’s either too shallow or there is a concrete shelf running just under the waterline. It’s frustrating because you don’t know you can’t get in until you try and fail, but this time it worked in our favour because we were forced to cruise on another 10 minutes to Micklethwaite. Close enough to walk back into Bingley and with a number of good country walks.

Micklethwaite mooring

My trusty OS map showed me that we were right on the edge of Ilkey Moor, so off we went, humming that famous Yorkshire anthem to ourselves

Running up that hill

The heather was stunning, and we could see for miles. That’s Keighley (pronounced keithly) on the hill on the far right. The canal meanders along the valley contours below Keighley towards Skipton.

Looking towards Keighley

And when we got to the top we realised just how vast and bleak the moor was. Can you imagine what it would be like in winter. Or how easy it would be to get lost. It was less than 4 miles to Ilkey but we decided we weren’t dressed for a proper hike.

On Ilkla moor

It was blowing a gale up here, so yes even if we’d brought our hats we wouldn’t still be wearing them.


It was a bracing and invigorating walk. And as we descended back to the canal we found a nice pub for Sunday Lunch . And enjoyed looking back up the hill, which was a lot higher than the photo suggests.

Looking up towards Ilkey Moor

The next day Eric needed to catch up on a few things so I took myself off to visit Riddlesden Hall, a NT property on outskirts of Keighley

Riddlesden Hall

A small but interesting manorial farm house, one of its outstanding features is the 400 year old Great Barn.

The Great barn at Riddlesden
The Great Barn at Riddlesden hall

It’s collosal and virtually unchanged since it was built. It was used as a threshing barn and also house 42 animals in stalls around the edge.
Inside the house is a collection of ornate needlework and some spinning equipment.

Lots to interest me.

Micklethwaite was another lovely base to spend a few days exploring away from the canal. If we had moored at the top of the five rise, we would only have stayed one night and missed all of this.

And for those of you that don’t know the full Ballard of Ilkley moor here are the words and a translation

Locking up the Bingley 5 rise

And the climb continues. Leaving Saltaire we headed off westwards to the Bingley staircases. Eric does most of the helming when we cruise, but as we’d got at least 11 locks and several swing bridges to do in today’s journey, I took us through Hirst and Downy

Hirst lock

We’re really enjoying the scenery contrasts, one moment it’s rural bridges

The next it’s those industrial landscapes and mills as we passed through Bingley. Wonder what’s made in that factory.

Keeping Bingley warm

There are experienced lock keepers assisting passage up and down the Bingley boat wash, I mean the Bingley 5.

Bingley 5 rise leaky bottom lock
Bottom lock Bingley five rise

And plenty of gongoozelers to watch and help, so it’s quite good fun, and really lovely.

Quite an audience

Bingley 5 rise is considered one of the 7 wonders of the inland waterways. It’s a stunning feat of engineering, at 60 foot its the steepest and deepest of all the staircases. It was completed in 1774 and is now classed as a grade 1 listed monument.

 Lock keepers know how to draw the water down each lock so boaters don’t end up flooded or stranded. It’s easy to get muddled as each lock opens directly into the next. I’m not sure if that’s a look of satisfaction or relief as we reached the top.

I love a happy lockie

While I just stood and admired the view, before we  popped into the top lock cafe for bite to eat.

Can’t believe we’ve only done 16 miles from Leeds. We thing they should add the number of locks and swing bridges as well as miles.

Mile stone

And 111 miles and 68 locks to go

Sheep dog trials and family time

I’m taking time out from the Leeds and Liverpool, hopping on the train and  going “home,” back up to the Lake District for a bit of family time. But it’s also time for the sheep dog trials, and there are few places better than the Lakeland fells to see the shepherds and their dogs show off their skills.

Running down that hill

Mum lives just over that hill in the background. But the shepherds have travelled quite a bit further, it’s a tough competition and it’s designed to show off their skills as both handlers and professional dog trainers. Sadly no one told the sheep what the rules were. So its quite an amusing spectator sport.

take it from me, there’s a lot of editing goes on before one man and his dog hits the tv screen.

Come by

But they all made it  down the hill and through the final gate.

Is the grass any greener on the other side

Even though the naughty ones did look very sheepish.

Up against the wall

The dogs were amazing. They are all eager to please and I think if Eric and I were ever to own a dog it’s highly likely we’d choose a border collie.

Wonder where Shep is

Alongside the trials, there was a trail race for the hounds as well. A scented runner was sent out to lay a 10 mile trail, then the dogs were let loose. It took them about 30 minutes to complete the course.

Here come the hounds

It was as brilliant day out. And of course we had to finish the afternoon with an icecream

Local dairy maids icecream

The other reason I came home for these few days was to see my cousins. They were on holiday from overseas and we haven’t seen each other from several years.

Not quite all of us

But we laughed and joked and shared memories as if it had only been 5 minutes. I hope it’s not so long before we get together again. And hopefully I’ll see more family when we get Firecrest to Liverpool


Our next stop, shortly after Shipley, was Saltaire.   We’d heard about this “model village” that was now a world heritage site, but we weren’t prepared to be as awestruck as this. The canal cuts right through the middle of the site and were were graciously permitted the grand total of 6 hour mooring along side the famous mill.

Saltaire Mill
Saltaire canal passage

Frustratingly there’s loads of mooring with rings immediately before this little section but there’s a concrete shelf just below the water level which means you can’t get close enough to step off safely. But gripe over, we took our 6 hours then found an idyllic spot about 1/4 mile beyond which meant we could stay up to 14 days and really absorb the atmosphere of the place.

Mooring below Hirst lock

Saltaire grew out of the vision of Titus Salt, entrepreneur and philanthropist. A very sucessful local business man, manufacturing cloth in Bradford, he naturally wanted to expand his empire. Being an upright Christian man with a strong social conscience, he was concerned by the squalid living conditions of his workforce.  Seeing the ecconomic potential of both canal and railway, he set about building a new mill along the banks of the River Aire. And so in the 1850s “Saltaire” was born.

Looking over the allotments on Victoria street

A purpose built town,”model village” where the whole production of cloth, from fleece to fabric, was done under one, albeit very large one, roof.  And the 4000 employees rented well built houses with amenities for their health and wellbeing. I suspect it was still a very hard life. There were strict rules about moral conduct, but Sir Titus recognised the financial benefit of caring for his community, and it was undoubtedly a better life than living in the slums.

backsteets of Saltaire
One of the back streets

The town was meticulously planned, generally speaking the higher up the ladder you climbed, the more space you got. There were libraries, schools parkland and playing fields, even a hospital and alms houses for those unable to continue working. Strangely though, the bath houses were never accepted, so they were converted into more living accomodation.

Victoria Street

Sir Titus demanded the very best and in true victorian style the buildings were ornately decorated. He managed to obtain the 4 lions that were originally intended to stand at the base of Nelsons column in London (The Trafalgar Square commission had been given to another sculptor after Milnes had made the Saltaire lions, hence the reason they were looking for a home.)

The Saltaire Lions

But perhaps one of the most impressive buildings is the congregational church, which is still an active place of worship. And very beautiful inside.

Saltaire church
The congregational church

Nowadays Saltaire has expanded and is home to more tourists than residents. As the British cloth industry was taken over by cheaper forgein imports, the grand mill fell into decline and disrepair. In the 1980s Johnathon Silver bought the mill and created a thriving environment for artists, visitors and small businesses. The most famous collaboration was with the artist David Hockney, another local man, who’s works are showcased in the many galleries. Hockney’s work is contemporary and not to everyone’s taste, certain aspects of his work are quite simplistic at first glance. But I enjoyed the grandeur of seeing whole series of large pieces displayed together.

Hockney exhibition

It wasn’t all expensive gallery, there was some fascinsting historical information and artifacts on display, in fact with several eateries, something for everyone.

Some of the old machinery

Mum was able to come down by train to share some of my explorations. We discovered 2 craft shops just off the main street, Barley Crafts and the Craft house, insentive enough to return, especially as the ladies at Barley craft insisted I stopped and had a cup of tea with them.  I was able to talk to people who had worked in mill before it closed production and had real living memories of how it was their grandparents day.

The Craft house pigs and Barley Crafts

Then we pretended to be promonading Victorian ladies and went to meet Sir Titus in Roberts Park.

sir Titus Salt
Sir Titus Salt in roberts Park

And his alpacas, Sir Titus was instrumental in popularizing worsted cloth made with Alpaca.

Saltaire alpacas

And finished the day with a traditional “Yorkshire Rascal”, now where did Eric go…

Enjoying a Yorkshire Rascal

The town is now a recognised World Heritage site, recognising the concept and the architecture. We spent several days just wandering around and left knowing there was still more that we hadnt seen.

Looking eastwards between the mills

We might get to see more of Saltaire next year because a film crew was making a feature for Netflix charting the rise of the Football association.

Not sure which century we’re in

Sunnybank to Apperley Bridge

More lovely place names, although I suspect there was a bit of reverse phsycology going on. I doubt that life working in a spinning mill was a  particularly sunny experience. We moored at Rodley for a few days.


And I made my first discovery of the old Yorkshire cloth industry. There are old mills all along the banks of the canals and rivers. Sadly the spinning and weaving industrial revolution in this country has been overtaken by the cheaper manufacturing processes in other countries but the legacy of the old buildings remain. Some have been demolished, others gentrified into desirable accommodation and some  have survived to take advantage of the vast space inside.
Sunnybank Mill is one such place, about 20 minutes walk from Rodley into Farsley, it’s full of creative people and artisan eateries. But the area that grabbed my attention was the scrap store.

Sunnybank Scrap store

 It is a social enterprise scheme where local businesses donate their waste, to prevent it going into landfill. The team then sell it at very low prices. It’s like a glorified jumble sale and this huge cavern stretches for as far as the eye could see. And I was left to wander and wonder at such potential. But living on a narrowboat requires strict self control, no superfluous clutter… much to Eric’s relief I didn’t bring it all back to firecrest.
As a reward for good behaviour I was treated to a cream tea at the Tiny Tea room on the canal bank.

A Tiny Tearoom cream tea

It really is tiny. No inside seating, and just a sink and work surface in the tiny stone building.

The tiny tearoom

But the weather was good so we made the most of it, and enjoyed a bit of gongoozling ourselves as we watched to narrowboats cruise past. It really is very pretty around here, hard to believe were only 10 miles or so from Leeds.

Our cruising was to take us through Apperley Bridge, which is the home of Bear Boating. And this is where Eric and I did our helmsmans course before we moved onto Firecrest. 

Bear Boating base at Apperly Bridge

They taught us how to do locks and swing bridges, which is probably a good job because there are a lot of both on this canal.

If only all were automated like this one, life would be so much easier.