Granary Wharf, Leeds

We’d found ourselves facing the same conundrum, country bumpkins at heart, but fascinated by city life. Reluctant to move on but Leeds Dock only permits 48hour visitor mooring. But we’d been told Granary Wharf was a nice place, a mile upstream, next to the railway station. So off we set.

Under the fancy Victorian bridges

alongside the trendy warehouse apartments,

and past the yellow water taxi, a hidden gem of Leeds ferrying passengers between the station and Leeds dock for a pound.

 What we hadn’t fully comprehended  was that the section between Leeds dock and the wharf is still river and therefore liable to flooding. And with Leeds Dock being inbetween the last river lock and the first canal lock, we hadn’t seen the flood warning before we set off. The River Aire flows underneath the fancy gold domed railway station and as its mighty waters are channelled through this restricted passage there is always a strong flow.

There doesn’t need to be a huge amount of rain to create a hefty flow.

and much to our horror, as we tried to traverse onto the lock landing we  lost control of the boat, resistance was futile and the best course of action was to allow ourselves to be swept back downstream until we could regain control. There have been very few times I’ve been scared on Firecrest but this was definitely a mistake.
Luckily Eric has a lot of confidence in how Firecrest handles and once I’d walked the long way round and got the lock gates opened Eric was able to use maximum throttle.  Much to the entertainment of the watching crowd he ploughed straight through the torrent and into the lock. And he was able to stop before he hit the other side. He got a big round of applause, and a silent prayer of thanks from me.

And so this was it. After a fraught 20 minutes, we were finally on the L&L. Moored up in Granary Wharf, nestled under the arches of the railway.

And over towered by the Doubletree Hotel

And it won’t come as any surprise that I went to investigate whether or not I could go to the top. It’s actually a Skylounge open to the public. And the view is worth the cocktail. Looking south sees the area of Leeds currently being gentrified and the canal starting it’s journey West.

To the east the sky line is dominated by “The Dalek” building. River Lock, the first lock on the canal can be seen below, and the River Aire flowing East. I think the white building in the distance is the Armouries next to Leeds Dock

Looking north is Leeds city centre behind the covers of the train station.

And again to the north but looking down over the station and the bars and restaurants under the arches

And finally the view we wanted to see the most, looking down onto Firecrest.

The highs and lows of Leeds

I’m talking about the buildings. Leeds seems to be full of tall buildings, both old and new, regenerated and tumbling down. And some inbetween.

The River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool canal obviously helped the city prosper back in the 18th century.  Warehouses dominated the waterfront,

and the merchants created a stunning city centre with ornate arcades and offices designed to show off their wealth.

Today’s society is also cashing in by regenerating the warehouses into very desirable housing and enhancing the centre with open spaces and trendy retail experiences.

But it was the old buildings that grabbed my attention the most. We particularly liked the Corn Exchange with its unusual oval domed glass roof, it’s now full of small independent retailers and the eateries. There’s a piano in the middle for anyone to play.

And the market hall is a worthy detour for any tourist, as some of the original pitches are still in use today and the decorative structure of the building is stunning.

Leeds market is where Mr Marks and Mr Spencer first started trading at their penny bazaar. And although this is not quite on the spot M&S maintain a historic presence in the market hall.

Leeds city library might be full of interesting books but again it was the building that I came to see.

It’s not a city that is standing still but despite the glamour we saw a lot of dark alleys that quite frankly we wouldn’t walk down in broad daylight let alone after 5pm. And it feels like, despite a lot of prosperity, the downtrodden and undesirables get pushed further and further down, out of sight and out of mind, Leeds is certainly a city that made me think and at least some are making a conscious effort to keep a welcome door ooen

Leeds, a creative city

I think Yorkshire is a very creative county, but there’s art and there’s art. Contemporary art seems to dominate Leeds at the moment, I like to think I’m quite open minded and able to see something good in most things. Sadly a lot of what I saw just made me shudder and laugh at the pretentiousness of it all.  One of Leed’s famous sons is Damian Hirst, (Although he was actually born in Bristol). His work is being showcased across the city this year, but in all honesty I’d rather it wasn’t. One of my favourite phrases is “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”

“Hymn” by Hirst

But each to his own, you might think differently.  I saw several of the sculptures around town but I don’t consider them worthy of gracing my pages. What I did like about the art in Leeds, is that it is all so accessible. The museums and galleries are free entry and interesting and even though I considered a lot of what I saw a waste of space. I was glad there were no obstacles to me coming back to look closer.  And I will admit I did like the juxtaposition of the sheep in formaldehyde standing in a room full of old oils.

Black sheep with gold horns by Hirst

Funnily enough most people ignored it, whilst I enjoyed watching the people. There was one piece I liked in the Leeds Art Gallery, a human form created by Anthony Gormley. The Brick Man was a scaled down model of the 180 feet version submitted as part of the regeneration for Leeds railway station. It was to be hollow allowing people inside, sadly it didn’t get planning permission.

The Brick man by Gormley

Next door to the LAG was the Henry Moore institute which I was really looking forward to seeing. But alas, it was full of installation exhibitions by other artists which left me cold, including a room with 3 trestle tables holding blocks of Shea butter, 2 were “representative”, 1 was “interactive.” I tentatively stuck my finger into the greasy mess and made my mark.. then I went off dutifully to wash my hands before I got a bill for millions for having touched something I didn’t realise was art.

A pile of Shea butter…?

This one, by the way, was one of the artists efforts and not to be touched…..
As I said not all of the art around Leeds was rubbish. This outdoor installation was a representation of flying birds made of of plastic milk bottles. I liked this one.

Flying milk bottle birds

But the very best and most enjoyable were the animated Dinosaurs lurking in various shopping centres for the summer season.

Watch out the dinosaurs have cone to town

Eric and I obtained our Jurassic trail card and dutifully tracked down all five of the monsters and got our stickers and stamps. We like art that is interactive and touchable and these marketing gimmick dinosaurs are no less worthy than Damian Hirsts obscenities. Yet for all my inability to comprehend a lot of what I saw, I still consider our stay in Leeds to have been enjoyable and thought provoking. Having got the ball rolling

I am happy to say I remain open minded and am willing to look at most things.

Arriving in Leeds

We like to think of ourselves as country bumpkins at heart, we love mooring in the middle of nowhere surrounded by wildlife and the incessant birdsong. But oh boy do we get a buzz when we enter a big city, and Leeds was to prove no different. Canals by their nature, being part of the industrial transit system, tend to occupy the backwaters of most locations. There’s always dereliction, but sometimes  regeneration and always graffiti. But not all graffiti is offensive. And this was our welcome into Leeds.

Colourful welcome into Leeds

Leeds has its fair share of victorian factory warehouse buildings. It’s a tall city, but we quickly saw some highly desirable waterfront properties as we approached the centre.

Looks a nice place to live

Our aim was to moor in “Leeds dock” a regenerated wharf surrounded by trendy eateries and in our case pylon moorings with electrics. But alas, despite the potential for a lot more  visitor moorings CRT and the local management team only provide space for 3 or 4 visiting boats and we weren’t one of the lucky ones. So we had 24 hours outside on the island high wall.  (At this point we are still on the River Aire with weirs and flood locks) but this gave us a brilliant view of the Royal Armouries Museum. A pity the weather had turned everything dark and grey

Looking towards the Armouries

The following day we were on the ball waiting for spaces in the dock and were able to reach our destination.

Entering Leeds dock

And get one of the prized pontoon places

With 48 hours to go exploring our first stop had to be our overshadowing neighbour the Armouries. Especially as it was now pouring with rain. I was a bit sceptical at first, thinking that this huge purpose built building might just be full of guns, not my idea of a fun day out. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It is a fascinating venue, so much so that after a few hours we got museum overload and left before we’d seen it all. The impressive glass tower housed a display of historical weaponry, and whilst you could say that once you’ve seen one sword and spear do you need to see more, the impressiveness was in the way in which they were displayed. Symmetrically and artistically, as they would have been in castles and kingdoms of old. And of course with the view through the round window of Firecrest moored below.

And the view through the round window is firecrest

The displays weren’t only of weapons of war, but went way back to early mans esential hunting tools, and modern man’s non essential, but visually more impressive  hunting tools.

It didn’t stop at what we know now, there were futuristic film weapons for zapping aliens, just in case. And the beautiful swords from the Lord of Rings trilogy. We were treated to guides in costume giving talks and actual displays of sword fights. All in all it was a very impressive and well done museum, and the best bit is that it is free admission and we got a good view through the rain streaked windows of Firecrest.