Getting back to Plan A

Having detoured from Plan A – ie to do the Leeds and Liverpool over the summer, before CRT imposed any closures due to water shortages- meant that we had to backtrack on our route for the next 30 miles. We waved goodbye to York and headed downstream to Naburn to await our booked passage along the tidal section to Selby. We’d spotted this giant wire creation on our way into York so we were prepared to take a closer look this time. The fisherman is sitting on a disused rail bridge, and that’s a train he’s caught not a fish. But we loved his doggy companion, cocking his leg against his bike. And it’s not just any old train, it’s the flying Scotsman, which used to use this line in it’s heyday.  I’m sure there’s more detail that we failed to notice, but I do like art with a sense of humour.

The fisherman and the flying scotsman

Naburn is a haven of peace and tranquillity after the bustle of York and before the race along the Ouse. The warm and balmy evening was another opportunity to sit with my spinning wheel outside.

Spinning a yarn in Naburn shade

The imposing building by The lock landing isn’t a house, it was the banqueting hall built in 1823 for the wealthy businessmen who took advantage of river transport.

The banqueting hall in the moonlight

It’s in the process of being transformed into a cafe serving cream teas and other delicacies but at the moment to garden is home to a flock of obliging free range chickens. This one is BBQ ready.

Roast chicken, anyone?

Our given time for leaving Naburn Lock, meant we would be pushing against the tide for an hour.  Although we had been warned about the speed of the River and the amount of debris, we hadnt encountered either on our way up so it took us quite by surprise, seeing 20foot logs hurtling towards us.

Is it a lot of a crocodile

It was a challenging journey and we both had to be on full alert not wanting to suffer the same fate as the Titanic. The green duck weed had been pushed out of Selby, in an attempt to clear the canal. But the intrepid cruisers told us they were banned from entering Selby lock as the quantity of weed would block their cooling system and overheat their engines before they’d gone 100yards. They had to run the gauntlet of floating logs and giant crocodiles all the way to Goole.

Selby basin in the green

It wasn’t nice and was so thick we had to manually push it out of our way so we could moor.
It didn’t stop us enjoying another day walking around Selby though, I even got to enjoy an organ recital in the Abbey, (and just to confirm that is grass around the Abbey not duck weed. )

Selby Abbey

We didn’t linger though, as we had an offer from nb Albion to share the locks and swing bridges.  Our companions suggested we went first, I wonder why….

Not sure we’ll beat the land speed record

Selby canal is a short canal, and we were welcomed back into Knottingley on the River Aire that afternoon by the locals

Knottingley has one of the prettiest towpaths I have come across. It is known as Freda’s garden. Freda lived in one of the cottages adjacent to the canal but didn’t have any garden of her own, so she adopted the land she walked along everyday, scattering seed and planting shrubs. Although she is no longer with us, the community embraced her love of nature and colour and maintain this half mile stretch for everyone to enjoy.

Freda’s garden

Knottingley is in the heart of the Yorkshire coal mine fields so suffered appalling deprivation when the mines closed down, but we’ve seen many towns and villages that were also affected by this policy, and some have gone on to thrive and although its obviously not a wealthy area, there was a  sense of community pride here. I hope these places survive the closure of the power stations. Fennybridge dominates the Knottingley sky line.

Fennybridge power station

A few more days in York

We never intended to spend more than a few days on the Ouse, but York just grabbed my attention and we never tired of wandering around those crowded streets. Packed full to overflowing, with tourists and locals, culture and history, with independent expensive eateries and shopping opportunities, and places for tranquillity and bustle alike. Mooring by the riverside museum gardens was empty during tnhe week

but came alive at the weekends when it felt like the huge cruisers emerged from the nearby marinas to show off their finery, we felt like a minnow along side them. There is a craft and art street fayre held on summer Saturday’s, and we were lucky enough to be moored directly opposite “dexdigits” a “yarny” who is a spinner and a dyer, of course we made friends and I took my wheel out to spin along side her.

Spinning in York

York is undoubtedly a very expensive city. I find it hard to comprehend how families can afford to do it all. We decided to find our usual starting point for an interesting place-the guided walking tour. And surprisingly it was free. Unsurprisingly, York’s history covers such a long period, there was too much information to take in. With hindsight we realised just being in the centre and absorbing what was around us was fascinating. I guess the buildings were what grabbed my attention. Obviously the grandeur of the Minster was the most startling.

The South window

But there was such a diversity from the old riverside warehouses to the ancient ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, and the new offices built to complement it’s surroundings.

The old new and ancient

Not all museums charge an entrance fee, ironically, the railway museum is one we’d have been happy to pay to visit, and it didn’t disappoint us. Old locomotives are generally the most photogenic, but stepping inside the Japanese bullet train and seeing how modern carriages had evolved over our own lifetime was and interesting.

York railway museum

I took myself off to see the only NT property in York, the Treasurers house. Originally it was built to manage the churches assets in the 10th century but has undergone many transformations since. Its last private owner used it to house various art works and furnishings that appealed to his family until he bequeathed it to the NT

The treasurers house

Fascinating as the centre was, being boaters it was the River that provided us with the most entertainment. Their were a number of interesting vessels showing off besides the fancy cruisers.

Pirates ahoy

But of course my favourite was the ice cream boat.

Ice cream in style

And on our final day we got prime viewing for the annual Dragon boat races.

The York Dragon boat Races

This little selection barely scratches the surface of what we enjoyed in York. We attended concerts, ate out, made friends, had visitors, walked the wall, saw firework displays, attended a service with archbishop John Sentanu, the and generally felt like we’d been on holiday. The detour was well worth it.

Boroughbridge to Ripon

The question we kept getting asked in York was had we been to Ripon. The answer was No, the maps say the maximum boat length for the Ure and Ripon canal is 57 foot. But for some reason the boaters thought better, although non of them had actually done the trip in a 60 foot boat. So undeterred by the printed word we threw caution to the wind and set off. Actually we’d studied the map pretty carefully and knew where all our turning back points were if we couldn’t do it. It was a beautiful tranquil river cruise blue sky, kingfishers and herons at every turn. I kept looking out for places we could wild moor, amongst all this nature, but nothing looked viable.

We cruised onto Linton for an overnight stop on the floating pontoons, and then upto Boroughbridge. So far the locks were just about long enough for us to squeeze in. However my wish to moor amongst the trees came true when there was barely 20foot of mooring space left and with much balancing and rope throwing we managed to tie off the stern around an old oak tree.

Only just room for Firecrest

Boroughbridge is a pretty market town with some history going back to Roman times. I couldn’t find any dates for the town’s water pump in the centre of the square, I suspect it is Georgian.

Now on the River Ure, we debated some more about the last 7 miles into Ripon. We made easy enjoyable progress to Westwick lock, but this was to be our undoing. We nudged in cautiously, but even though Eric angled the boat diagonally I couldnt quite close the lock gates behind him. We suspect if we had removed the fenders we’d have been ok, but not knowing our ability to wind up ahead we played safe and reversed out. Going up a lock is less risky than coming down, because you are already below the cill. Therefore you know by the time the lock is filled there will be more length of waters , where as coming down, because the cill is below water level if you haven’t left enough room it could have catastrophic consequences if the boat gets caught up on the cill.

Westwick lock, as far as we could get.

Moored safely back in Boroughbridge, we caught the bus into Ripon. Its a lovely place full of character, and twisty streets,

Looking towards Ripon cathedral

and on the day we went, also full of Morris dancers.

Morris dancing Inn the square

If we come this way again, or should I say when we come this way again, we’ll probably give it another go at getting into Ripon. We like a challenge.

Overwhelmed by York

York doesn’t need much promotion, it knows how to welcome it’s visitors, first there where the Romans and then the Anglo Saxons, the Vikings, the Norman’s where various kings benefitted, or not from the cities prosperity, the Georgians weren’t all that interested in York, and then the Victorians arrived with the railway. All have helped create a beautiful vibrant multifaceted and very interesting place, that can’t be summed up in my litte blog. Nowadays school trips coach trips, Japanese and the racing fraternity all grace the streets. But despite there hardly being an inch of space to spare we cruised past the trip boats under Lendel Bridge

Lendel Bridge

and were able to moor up along side the museum gardens to enjoy the sites and sounds of this amazing place.

Museum gardens visitor mooring

I couldn’t wait to leap off Firecrest and run up the steps to be greeted by our first view of the Minster such a magnificent building that dominates York.

York Minster

We couldn’t go exploring straight away as We had to welcome our own visitors, Anne and Richard were still in yorkshire and came see us and arrived an hour after we moored up.

Friends forever

With only few hours together, we decided to start by walking the walk but it was just too hot to do the whole circumference. But we got lovely views of the Minster and some of the rather fancy restaurants

Champagne view from the wall

We wanted to end our afternoon together with an ice cream but the fancy bar on the river front had tempting cool beer.

Low cal icecream

And then we settled down for the evening to contemplate all the lovely things we were going to see in York, if we could afford them.

Lendel Bridge In the evening.

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.