April and May arrived and found us still waiting for Gargrave lock to be finished so we could continue our journey across the Pennines. We booked a week in the dry dock at Northwich on the River Weaver in October, which gave us a structure to the summer, and we hope to be on the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals in the winter. The Master Plan - as you are no doubt aware, Dear Reader - is to travel along every inch of navigable waterways in England. As we get closer to that goal, the bits we haven’t ticked off are further apart and more remote, so being on 'New Water' is a rare and exciting thing these days. If the plan doesn’t change, (and a brief glance backwards through this blog will tell you that that is the least likely scenario) this year we’ll follow the Bridgwater canal to its navigation limit at Runcorn, and go to the locks at the end of the River Weaver. (Also in Runcorn, but at the other side of the town.) The only two canals that we’ve not taken Legend on any part of yet are the Huddersfield and the Montgomery, both of which we plan (see above) to have under our belts by this time next year.
So, back to 2022.
The Citroen C3 that we had our eye on turned out to be very nice indeed. Dave got a few quid knocked off for a new tyre, Ann-Marie sorted out tax (free!) and insurance on line, we did a bank transfer and then drove it home.
Modern life is so much easier than when you had to leave a deposit and come back a week later.
After checking out the residual value of the Kia, we phoned a scrap dealer who came and took it away from Kate and David's and gave us £300.
Ann-Marie’s knee was still slowly getting better; lots of rest and gentle exercise were still the order of the day, so we went for flat cycle rides along the towpath and gentle strolls, one of which took us from Riddlesden to Low Wood and round the nature reserve. There was a dense carpet of bluebells up through the silver birches, all getting ready to burst into bloom and we made a note to come back in a couple of weeks when they’re all in flower. We got a bit lost on the way back and ended up scrambling down the steep bank, which didn’t do Ann-Marie’s knee any favours.
David & Kate had a pile of big branches in their garden which they had no use for now that Emma didn’t have an open fire, so The Boyz arranged an afternoon with a chainsaw and got them all logged and back to Legend. It was mostly Hard Maple and what looked like Laurel, all good for burning and nicely seasoned. Hopefully it’ll be enough for the rest of this year because we’ve pretty much had everything our little stretch of canal has to offer in the way of scavengable firewood.
Because we didn’t get any service history with the C3, we thought it prudent to do an oil and filter change before we put any serious mileage on it. Between the snow and hail showers Dave managed to change the oil in the little car park at Riddlesden, but because the engine is shoehorned in so snugly, getting the strap wrench on the filter casing was impossible. He ended up driving over to David’s and borrowing a 27mm socket to get it unscrewed. Back home the next morning, Dave noticed an ominous black patch under the car. It turned out that the O ring on the new filter had got trapped when it was put back in and was leaking. Luckily David was able to fish the old one out of the bin, so Dave used that and it was all good.
Around about that time we heard that Mum, Dad and River had all tested positive for COVID, so it was all a bit worrying.Thankfully, with full vaccine doses inside them, they were testing negative again within a few days, but unfortunately Dad’s kidney function and iron levels suffered, and he looked very pale and poorly on video chats. We were assured that his doctor was on the case though, so we tried not to worry.
Shortly after the Five Rise locks reopened, we took Legend back to Bingley for water. We turned round just before the tap, then reversed back to moor up about 50 yards from the locks, more or less exactly where we were before.
Although it’s at the top of Bingley locks, it’s actually in Crossflats and we really like it there. There are lovely open views across the Aire Valley with lots of solar, safe parking nearby, bins and an Elsan at the locks, pleasant walks into Bingley or along the river bank, and – ooh look – there’s a café just over the bridge! The geography there is interesting too, with the river, canal, railway and main A650 all squished into the valley. Bingley, with its old mills and industrial heritage is tightly packed in there as well; it’s all very satisfying.
Our little sofa was looking a bit tired and grubby; not surprising as it is now eleven years old and was only designed for occasional use in the first place. We’ve re-vamped it a couple of times, replacing springs and legs and re-enforcing the frame. We’d really like to replace it, but we can’t find anything that does the job so perfectly, so we decided to make a new loose cover for it. Where better to look for cloth than the Aire valley in Yorkshire? We found a little upholstery fabric shop in Shipley who were very friendly and helpful, but didn’t have the exact red velvet that we were after. They pulled out no end of rolls to show us, but none of them were quite right. They did, however, have the right sort of velvet, but in different colours, one of which was a rather nice olive-ish green. So we had a bit of a think. We could traipse around and go somewhere else, we could go on line, or we could have a different colour sofa. We took a sample of the green away with us and pondered for a few days.
Over the Easter weekend we went down to Bristol to see Anne and Andy. Since our last visit it had been all change for Anne; she and Andy had moved in together in Andy’s apartment and Alex was now living in Bristol as well. Andy’s spare room was occupied by a lodger so, as Alex was abroad for a couple of months, we stayed in his new flat, right in the middle of the city. Alex had the whole flat voice controlled, but thankfully Ben and Megan were there when we arrived so they could explain it all. We spent the weekend talking to Siri; “Hey Siri, peel me a grape”. (Perhaps not quite that good, but all very exciting.) On the Friday afternoon we all had a lovely picnic in the park...
...followed by a very pleasant evening stroll down to the Olive Bar and the Cottage on the harbour.
On the Saturday morning Anne was running a repair café in the church hall and we’d volunteered to help out. Dave had brought a selection of useful tools and was given a table with his name on it, and Ann-Marie took on the Meet and Greet role. Dave got allocated a big garden parasol with a snapped cord (fixed), a 1960’s bright orange plastic mirror with a wonky hinge (fixed), a very old clock that was ticking way too fast (not fixed, but possibly could be by a clockmaker) and an illuminated globe with a snapped-off mini USB connector (not fixed but could be next session). It was all really good fun and very satisfying to take part in.
In the afternoon, because we’d missed parkrun, Dave and Anne went for a jog from the flat, round the harbour and back...
...then later on Anne and Andy took us out for dinner at a pop-up Thai restaurant at the Redcatch Community Garden.
It was a lovely evening, we walked over there from Alex’s flat and very nearly hired electric scooters to get back; we signed up on the app and everything, but in the end Anne gave us a lift home instead. So that’s twice we’ve been in a city with scooter trials and signed up, but then failed to get a go on one. Liverpool have them as well, so there’s still hope.
On Easter Sunday, after a traditional breakfast of chocolate bunnies and yellow-label croissant, we left the flat and drove over to Long Fox Manor to hang out with Anne & Andy and see her new gaff. Wow, what a place! Long Fox Manor was originally called Brislington House, and was a Georgian lunatic asylum. It was divided up into private flats and apartments in 2001. The chapel and huge ballroom are free to use by the residents, as are the extensive gardens and a swimming pool. A&A have a small vegetable plot in the gardens...
...and a wonderful balcony where we had lunch looking out over the Avon valley.
It’s a truly amazing place to live.
Back at the boat we finally decided that we really liked the green fabric so measured the sofa again and drew a few plans before going back to Shipley and coming home with 4 metres of green velvet.
After using the services and filling the water tank, we left Bingley for the second, and hopefully final time, and headed westward again. On the way back to Skipton we stopped again at Riddlesden, Silsden and Kildwick, all of which were becoming very familiar. At Riddlesden Ann-Marie was hanging the washing out in a stiff breeze and a lady walking along the towpath said “That’ll be dry in no time in this wind!” Ann-Marie said “It will if it stays on the line!” When she’d finished we drove off to get a new gas bottle and some shopping and on our return noticed that despite being held on by 4 pegs and folded over the line, one of our bed-sheets was missing. There was no sign of it anywhere, so unless someone had stolen it (who steals sheets?) it must have gone in the water. The next day was St Georges day so we’d put the bunting up and invited Kate and David over for afternoon tea. Ann-Marie had really pushed the boat out and our little table was groaning under all the goodies. There were sandwiches, sausage rolls, scones, a full English on-a-stick, along with a Victoria sandwich, rhubarb and ginger cake, flapjack, tea loaf and a sherry trifle. A truly amazing spread accompanied, of course, by a glass or two of delicious fruit punch.
In the afternoon we thought a walk along the cut might be prudent. The girlies went over to Low Wood for a stroll through the now blooming bluebells...
...while The Boyz and Dylan manfully strode over Lodge hill and down to Holden Bridge, before coming back along the canal. At the Scout bridge they noticed a tangled mess of leaves, sticks and cloth on the side of the towpath, which some poor soul had no doubt had to drag out of their weed hatch after getting it tangled round their prop. On closer inspection they realised that the fabric was a fitted sheet. Oh dear.
In other fabric news, Dave set too with the scissors and sewing machine and produced a fitted cover for the sofa.
We’re very pleased with the result, but it will take a while to get used to it being green. It gets a bit rucked up after being sat on for a while, so we may need to figure out some way of anchoring it to the base of the back.
The weather had been colder than we’d hoped, so by the time we got to Kildwick we were getting to the end of the wood we’d got from David and Kate. Luckily we’d found some oak at Silsden; it was still a bit green but Dave had split it into small logs to help it dry out quicker in the log box. We try to only collect dry seasoned wood, but sometimes needs must, and we’ve positioned the log box over the front mushroom vents so the warm air speeds up any seasoning. Sheltering the mushrooms also has the bonus of stopping the worst of the draughts coming down the vents when the wind is really gusty. (Much better than stuffing socks up the vents!) We had hoped that we wouldn’t have to start on the oak until the Autumn, but it was still chilly until the end of May, so we’ll be on the lookout for yet more firewood as we go over the Pennines.
With a nice wide towpath at Kildwick, we got the lockers out of the well deck and finally put a second coat of gloss on the floor.
Hopefully, at some time in the summer, we’ll get the lockers themselves repainted along with the gunnels. There’s always something to do.
Legend’s floral display was looking a bit Spartan at the beginning of May; the little alpine trugs were barely awake, the daffs and tulips were just about over and the pansies and nasturtiums that Ann-Marie had sown with last years collected seeds weren’t doing a great deal yet. So it was a pleasant surprise to be walking past the garage in Crosshills and find a load of trays of big pansies going for free. We’d not really decided what we were going to have in the troughs this year, but a bit of purple and yellow is never a bad thing. They’ll soon brighten the front up and who doesn’t like a pansy?
Our water pump has been gradually getting more and more tired of late. The pressure switch is sometimes reluctant to turn off, and the flow rate is less than it used to be, so we ordered a replacement. It was only when we fitted it that we realised just how slow the old one had got; the difference is astounding, especially the shower. The old pump couldn’t keep up with the water heater, but we can now have it on full heat and get enough water through it to not scald ourselves. We’ll keep the old pump as a spare; Dave’s going to service it and stow it away and he’s got an idea about using it to water the plants when we’re away from the boat. (Which may or may not pan out, we’ll keep you posted.)
The monthly checks revealed a small gas leak; one bubble every 80 seconds in the bubble tester.
When it’s that small it makes it very difficult to track down because the leak detection fluid has almost all run off wherever you spray it before it has time to produce tell-tale bubbles.
After a morning squirming about in the gas locker, Dave finally tracked it down to one of the three little taps under the sink which individually isolate the water heater, hob and oven.
Screwfix keep them in stock, so it wasn’t long before we had the leaking one replaced and everything safe and back together again. When the BSS examiner tests the gas system, he has to hold the bubble tester button down for two minutes. After three and a half minutes Dave’s finger was numb and there was still no sign of a bubble so we’re happy. We still have two more old isolating taps under the sink, so swapping them for new ones is on the list of things to do.
We’d been really worried about Dad. He’d been in hospital since his kidney function tests and had been given three blood transfusions while the doctors had tried to find the best way forward. He was finally discharged with increased insulin and steroid doses, but thankfully no dialysis at the moment which was a great relief.
Eshton road lock was coming on splendidly. CRT published a revised date of the 25th of May which in our opinion - after all the setbacks, from finding unexpected voids, having the piling platform and all the supporting ballast washed away in the storms and being held up by concerns from archaeologists (apparently) - was pretty impressive. That meant that when we left Kildwick it was simply a matter of finding somewhere to moor for a fortnight in Skipton before we could carry on. David came along with us for that trip and helped with the bridges. While we were stopped at the services, Dave went for a reccé along the visitor moorings. Like Legend, quite a few other boats had been shuffling to and fro since Christmas and, like Legend, they were all now in Skipton waiting for the lock to reopen, so the town moorings were somewhat rammed. We’d expected to have to go all the way out beyond the town to find somewhere, but fortunately there was one spot available just before the last water point which, (despite being dangerously close to Morrisons pie counter) was exactly where we wanted to be.
Thank you karma.