Thursday, 19 September 2013

Calder & Hebble Navigation, Rochdale Canal. Brighouse to Todmorden

Moored up in Brighouse basin with all their lovely planted tubs made us realise that the flowers on Legend’s roof were past their best and getting very straggly.  Ann-Marie set too with the scissors and just like that another summer was over. And it has been a bit like that. All of a sudden we’ve got the fire going and we’re wearing buffs and boots instead of sun-hats and sandals. Not that we’re complaining, we’ve had a magnificent summer; we’ve walked for miles in the sunshine and had lots of long warm evenings sitting out in the well deck. Like everyone else we’re hoping for another few nice weeks in October, but for now we’re very grateful, thank you.

We left Brighouse with our local guide Jono on board and boated up to Elland. As we cruised along the cut he pointed out all the old mills and buildings that he used to remember working when he was a kid. We stopped at Brookfoot lock in the entrance to a now disused connection with the river, and Jono’s wife Nicole, who works nearby, came to join us for lunch. It was all very lovely. At Elland we moored up in the basin behind the Barge & Barrel after a very pleasant day. We were especially pleased when Jono complimented us on our relaxed approach to it all. We in turn were honoured to have such a fine guest aboard. When she’d finished work, Nicole came along in the car and took him home. Jono and Nicole have nicknamed us “Water Zegeuners” which is Dutch. We have got our own back by making jam from the rhubarb they gave us, putting it in the jars they gave us and selling it.

That evening our social life continued as we were invited to Dan & Hilly’s for dinner. They live in a beautifully converted stable near Halifax and we had a marvellous evening round their dining table.

The following day, to complete our social hat-trick, Anne came up from Chesterfield for a day on the boat. We didn’t go far, just four locks before lunch into Salterhebble Bottom Basin,
then an afternoon of rainy day games before walking back to the car. We don’t often get to see Anne properly, we’re either just nipping in to collect our mail on our way to somewhere else, or she’s got a house-full and we hardly have chance to say two words to each other. Having just the three of us in the boat for the day was lovely.

There are three locks and two basins at Salterhebble but the middle lock leaks so badly there is never enough water in the top basin. When we were there it was a good 4’ down in the mornings before the lock keeper turned up.
They keep the top gates locked unless someone has booked to go through. Having to moor in the bottom basin, although very pretty, is a bit annoying as the sanitary station is in the top one; if you want to empty your Thetford you have to carry it across the gates, (Dodgy!) or trundle it over the cobbles to the bridge over the top. (Not ideal either.)

Above the top lock there is a lovely lock keepers cottage and a T junction. Left takes you towards Sowerby Bridge, while to the right is Halifax. Well that’s what the sign says, but it hasn’t gone to Halifax for many a year. After about 300 yards, the branch that used to go up 14 locks into Halifax terminates rather abruptly in the grounds of a Premier Inn; or rather it would do if there were any water in it. At the moment a temporary coffer dam has been erected, after which languishes an old tyre and rusty bike strewn ditch.
What happened was this; there is a dry dock off to one side of the branch. To empty the dry dock there is a sluice gate leading to a culvert which goes under the canal and into the river. At some point the culvert collapsed and all the canal water disappeared through the hole into the river. It must have been quite a disaster when it happened as the 2½ mile pound to the next lock – lock 1 on the Rochdale Canal - includes Sowerby Bridge Basin which is home to Shire Cruisers hire fleet as well as several dozen private boats. A footpath follows the line of the Halifax Branch, if you look closely there are still some bridges and lock chambers to be found.
We followed it into Halifax and had a walk around another grand northern town. It’s got some truly amazing buildings, and its history tells the fascinating story of a spa town, frequented by the aristocracy, which saw increased industry deplete its spa waters and was then completely overrun by the industrial revolution.  Like Leeds, the covered market is an architectural wonder which the local population never give a second glance to, and which has a stall that does fantastic home-made lasagne to go.

At 10 the next morning we arranged with the lock keeper to go up through the top basin out onto the last stretch of the Calder & Hebble. Two other boats were coming down so we did it all in one go, losing as little water as possible. Getting three boats through the very low pound was tricky, but it all went ok and we were out above the last handspike lock in no time. We’re not sure whether to keep our stick for prosperity, or sell it, or burn it. Just for the record; there are several locks on the Calder & Hebble that you don’t need a handspike for, indeed most of them can be got through with just an ordinary windlass and a goodly helping of grunt. However, there are one or two (including the last one) which only have handspike capstans, and having an extra length windlass makes the job an awful lot easier on the rest.

By 11 we were in Sowerby Bridge and had luckily managed to acquire the only 72 hour mooring available, which was good because we wanted to leave Legend for a couple of days while went off to Keighley to see David & Kate. Jono & Nicole came over to the boat for lunch - we knew we hadn’t seen the last of them - then very kindly ran us back to our car.

We were planning to go to Saltaire festival with David and Kate on the Sunday, but the weather forecast was dismal and correct so we stayed in and did indoor things instead. It was good to spend some time with them, especially as it won’t be long before we’re too far away for a quick visit.

Leaving Sowerby Bridge was interesting to say the least. As it was a bit windy we decided that rather than try to turn in a crowded basin we ought to reverse out and turn into the Rochdale. It went ok to start with but just when we got to the junction the wind caught the bow and pushed us over to the other side. That wasn’t very helpful but we’d have been in a bigger mess if we’d turned in the basin and come out the other way round; the wind would have just pushed us past the junction. After we got ourselves sorted out we were straight into the first three locks, the third one being the infamous Tuel Lane. After the Rochdale canal became derelict locks 3 and 4 were filled in and a big road junction was built over the top, effectively severing the canal from the Calder & Hebble Navigation and, in the 1990s, becoming one of the major problems for the restoration program. The solution they came up with was to tunnel under the junction and build a double height lock on the other side.
At 19’8” Tuel Lane Lock is the deepest canal lock in the country. It certainly feels deep when you’re in it.

It is very impressive - a triumph of engineering – and people come especially to see it.
The lock keeper is justifiably proud of it and told us quite a bit about its construction and history. Sadly, as he pointed out, it’s let down by the very leaky lock 2 just below it, which can quite happily lose a pound full of water overnight and makes his job a great deal harder. It takes the shine of it somewhat, but there are plans to change the gates this winter. Anyway, it is another tick on our list of things to do on the waterways. We spent the rest of the morning dodging the rain on the way up to Hebden Bridge. Just before we got there, between locks 7 and 8, we came across another very low pound, in which we managed - through a lack of sensible communication, coupled with there not being a tunnel on the map when there clearly was one directly ahead of us - to ground our boat. With both the boat hook and the big 13’ pole deployed we eventually succeeded in re-floating it, but not without a lot of effort and a fair amount of profanity. After such a hectic boating day it was nice to get to Hebdon Bridge. The coping stones on the visitor moorings were all being replaced so we moored on the bend just before them and scuttled inside for a very welcome hot chocolate and a film in front of the fire.

The next day was taken up by car moving and recceing for another weekend boat leaving. We reckon Walsden looks ok. It’s the other side of Todmorden and the locks start coming thick and fast up there with quite short pounds, but there’s plenty of water around at the moment, so we should be fine. We’re going away for a weekend camping at Batemans Brewery in Wainfleet where Frankie and Harry had their wedding reception. Paul and Steve are having a joint 60th birthday do there, which is guaranteed to be a good party, and the weather forecast is promising too.

Before we go up there we’re on a lovely mooring for the next couple of days while a band of rain goes past. We’re at Old Royd Lock, just before Todmorden, with a view up a beautiful valley. We had a stroll into Tod last night - enough to whet our appetite; it looked very interesting – and we’ll be back this afternoon.

So far we’re very impressed with the Rochdale, and we’d like to share some of its loveliness.






Friday, 13 September 2013

Calder and Hebble Navigation. Dewsbury to Brighouse.

On Thursday we left Legend on the very pleasant visitor moorings at Dewsbury and went to the seaside. We started off in Scarborough, where we had a picnic on the beach and built a sand castle,
then moved on to Filey. Dave was last in Filey when he was 7; all he can remember is paddling in the rock pools wearing plastic sandals, so it was good to see what a lovely little place it is. A proper unspoilt Northern seaside fishing town, where they still launch and recover the fishing cobbles on the beach with a tractor. Ann-Marie created a bit of sand-art.
In the evening we joined the Aire Cooled Alley Cats 2cv club for a Fish & Chip supper at what used to be Harry Ramsden’s and is now the Wetherby Whaler at Guisborough. Waiter service, chandeliers, lashings of tea and bread & butter in a chippy; all a bit new to us but lovely all the same, and it was good to see all our northern 2cv friends again. One or two more club nights and we’ll be out of range. We took some of Ann-Marie’s home-made Bakewell Tart for pudding, with our new batch of cherry jam, which we distributed to everyone who was left in the car park at the end. It seemed to go down quite well.
On Friday it rained all day. We made rhubarb jam & chutney
then lit the fire for the first time since April and slobbed out in front of a film.
Those two days went perfectly according to plan, however serendipity sometimes throws a sicky and we have to fend for ourselves, which is when it all goes completely pear shaped.
Saturday started off so well and, to be fair, continued to be pretty fabulous for quite a while. We took a day off boating to go to Lincoln; Arthur was moored up in Brayford Pool and had invited us to join him so that we could all attend the Lincoln B.I.G. Day of Dance, featuring our old side, Bourne Borderers, along with 25 other sides dancing at various places around the city. Well, we couldn’t really turn it down.
After a quick cup of tea aboard the lovely Nb Shambles we set off, past the famous Glory Hole into the city,
following the sound of a big bass drum. We found Bourne Borderers in mid flow oozing their usual exuberance, a whirl of sticks, feathers and tatters with two drums and half a dozen squeeze-boxes echoing through the high street, surrounded by a large crowd.
As soon as they’d finished we were treated to the warmest welcome ever with hugs and smudges all round. Ann-Marie spent the rest of the day happily sporting a big black smear of face-paint on both cheeks. We had lunch with Arthur, Andrew and Karen in Bunty’s; a terrific little tea room half way up Steep Hill that does sausage sarnies and pots of tea. In the afternoon there was another dance spot under the castle walls,
followed by the finale outside the castle. We finally said goodbye and set off back up the A1, getting back to the boat at about half past six, just in time for tea.
Well that’s what we should have done. What we did do was make a rash decision to take the car to Brighouse, where we were boating to next, and walk back along the tow path to Dewsbury. Now, usually before we go striding off on a 7 mile hike we do a bit of preparation. Things like wearing appropriate footwear, assessing how much daylight there is left and perhaps most importantly, taking a map, or at least looking at one.
 The trouble with walking back along the tow path on a river navigation is that on the river bits there generally isn’t one. If any sort of path exists it’s overgrown with nettles & brambles, slopes towards the water and is slippery.
After several false starts we should have taken the hint and gone back to the car, but we’re made of sterner (read; Stupid) stuff. Finally we found a path which lead in the general direction we wanted to go and strode, bare legged and sandaled, into the fading light. Unbeknown to us, there are four river sections between Brighouse and Dewsbury, each of which would have been tricky for people wearing sturdy boots & trousers and carrying a map in broad daylight. None of which we were. Each time we emerged, scratched and stinging from uncharted jungle onto the nice, well surfaced path alongside the next bit of artificial cut, we cheered with joy thinking we’d made it, only to find, one lock later, that it fizzled out into another nettle filled briar patch. It was after Ann-Marie slipped and nearly fell in the river that we thought that as it was now officially dark and we’d only got about half way, it might be prudent to re-assess our situation. We left the cut and found the main road, complete with all the modern luxuries like tarmac, street lights and Tesco express. We finally got back to the boat at about 10:30, where we put our cold dirty feet in a bowl of hot water, rubbed sting-eeze on our legs and wondered what on earth we had been thinking.
The next day we took the boat up to Brighouse and what a different trip it was; relaxed cruising up a gentle river interspaced with the interest of the unique Calder and Hebble locks. We passed the turn off for the Huddersfield Canal
this is looking back towards it.
We’ve just come through the lock on the left and the Huddersfield Broad is just round the corner on the right. We’ve now got ascending these locks sussed. We put the nose of the boat in the V of the top gates and a long centre rope around a bollard ahead of the boat. Whoever’s holding the boat then brings this rope up to the gate so they can keep it tight while watching the water coming in, and be heard by the paddle winder. If there’s a ground paddle we open that till it comes up a bit, then we gradually open both gate paddles. That method avoids the tiller getting hooked under the walkway on the bottom gates and because the nose is in the V the front can’t swing. The only thing you need to watch out for is the front fender getting under a beam on the top gate, but as you’re at that end anyway it’s not a problem. We realised our hand-spike needed a bit of fettling; Dave had gone for strength over manoeuvrability, which had resulted in a cumbersome log-with-a-handle affair. When we got to Brighouse the workmate and saw came out and we now have a much more svelte version.
Brighouse has a gorgeous little basin which sits between two locks and is very well looked after. There isn’t a lot of visitor mooring but what there is is worth grabbing for 72 hours.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Aire & Calder Navigation, Calder & Hebble Navigation. Woodlesford to Dewsbury

If, Dear Reader, you have been paying attention, you might have asked yourself the following question. “Why, if Dave and Ann-Marie are heading for the Rochdale Canal, did they return to Woodlesford?”
“Surely,” you may have continued, “In that direction lies the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, you know, the one I’ve been reading about all year.”

The answer is that we were planning to go away from the boat for a week and wanted to leave it somewhere safe. Last time we were at Woodlesford it felt very secure and it has the added advantage that our friends John and Gill live nearby. It was only a few miles out of our way through two very easy push-button locks, so we thought it made sense.

The reason for leaving Legend was that we were going to the 2CVGB National Meeting near Daventry. We also had to go away for a more sombre reason. Sadly, one of our neighbours from where we used to live passed away and we wanted to be at her funeral. Lynne and her husband Nev were the first people we got to be friends with when we moved in, she was a lovely lady and will be missed by many. We drove down the night before and stayed with Jon and Jenny who we used to live next door to. It was very strange waking up to a view that used to be our back garden but now isn’t.

The National Meeting was a very well organised, laid-back and relaxed affair with perfect camping weather. We caught up with people we hadn’t seen for ages and thoroughly enjoyed it. We obviously weren’t having enough excitement though, as on Saturday we jumped in our car and drove to somewhere unpronounceable in Wales to help Dave's cousin Rob and Tracy celebrate their wedding.
We’re still not sure exactly where we were, but it was in Snowdonia, the scenery was fabulous, and when we got there we had been following signs for Holyhead for half an hour. All the other guests were camping,we pointed out that we were camping too, only not there.
It was a really good do, well it couldn’t not be. Big happy family bash in a field with a barn to party in, and the best band in the World singing their hearts out in the evening; what’s not to like? Check out Sound of the Sirens Here.
We reluctantly left the party at about half ten, got back to a hushed campsite 3 hours later, crept into our tent and hugged each other till our sleeping bags warmed up.

As Ann-Marie and Karen were together and only 10 minutes from where they lived when they were 5 and 7 respectfully it seemed an ideal opportunity to do this.
You'll note that they are both wearing their hair in the timeless styles from the period..

After the meeting finished we had a couple of days at Chloe and Shandy’s house helping with the auxiliary wiring and some furniture building in Dennis the VW camper. Oh, and getting to know Paddy their Golden Retriever / Poodle cross puppy. So he’s a Retroodle?  A Groodle? A Golden Roodle? A Pootriever? Well whatever he is, he’s unbelievably cute.
Back on the boat we got the maps out and made some plans. We realised we’d better get a move on if we want to actually get anywhere by Christmas so we’re now moving every other day or so till we’re back over the Pennines again.
Our first move was from Woodlesford to Stanley Ferry with John and Gill on Board. That was when Gill told us that while we’d been away the ‘Woodlesford in Bloom’ team who look after the flowers at the lock had been keeping an eye on our boat. Apparently they’re more respected than the mafia.

On the walk back from Stanley Ferry to collect the car we came across the biggest and tastiest blackberries we’ve ever seen. There was only one option.
After Stanley Ferry we had one night in Wakefield before going to Broad Cut bottom lock. We met up with Chris and Jan on Squeeze Box at Fall Ings lock just before Wakefield, where the Aire and Calder Navigation becomes the Calder and Hebble Navigation.  It was really good to see them again; we’d left Selby without exchanging contact details so it was good to be able to put that right.

At Broad Cut we had a walk along the river bank and found a heavily laden cherry tree. The poor old jam pan had only just cooled down when it was put back into action. We’ve now run out of jars. Of course cherry jam doesn’t include the stones so we had a couple of hours getting cherry juice up to our elbows. We had 2 boxes like this.
We’re now at Dewsbury, just before the double locks. Tomorrow the weather is still good, probably the last day of summer, so we’re going to Scarborough. After that we’re off towards Sowerby Bridge and the Rochdale Canal.

We usually make a point of not complaining about the state of things in this blog, but it has to be said that some of the Calder and Hebble locks are a trifle challenging. It’s not the length we find difficult, it was our choice to bring a 58’ boat up a waterway with 57’ locks.
It’s just how much brute force you need to get through. For some of them you need a thing called a hand-spike. It’s a 3x2 piece of hardwood planed down at one end to make a handle and it fits in slots in big ratchets that open paddles. Hardwood costs money so we used a bit of sycamore from Jim’s garden. Here it is in use.
And here’s Ann-Marie proving that even with a 3 foot lever it’s not easy to open some of these paddles.
The hand-spike gate paddles are gradually being replaced with windlass operated hydraulic winding gear, which is good, but that still leaves the windlass operated ground paddles which take Herculean effort, and threaten a hernia every time you go near them. We’ve noticed that some of the other boaters up here use an extra-long windlass for added leverage. We’d always thought they were for wimps but now we know better and we’re magnet-fishing at all the locks in the hope of finding one.

Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Stourbridge Canal. BCN. Grand Union Canal. Kinver to Kixley Wharf

There are 25 locks from Hyde Corner to Merry Hill, but we had a fabulous day working up through them all. The Stourton and ...