Thursday 15 June 2023

Calder and Hebble Navigation. Cooper Bridge to Wakefield.

The last time we were on this navigation, when we got to Halifax we ceremoniously chopped up and burnt our Handspike – the 3’ long wooden lever that you need to operate the capstans on some of the paddle gear – and swore we’d never come back.

Time, quite clearly, has mellowed us and faded the memory of just how much hard work these wretched locks are. If the handspike paddles aren’t bad enough, the windlass ones are either really stiff, or don’t do anything, or both. Our last handspike was crudely fashioned from a sycamore branch with a chainsaw; very roughy toughy, man-of-the-woods style of thing, and consequently very heavy and impractical. Its replacement for this trip was a Wickes pickaxe handle; made from ash and very light and tactile.


With that, and our extra-long, high-torque windlass


we thought we were better prepared. The Calder & Hebble, however, had other ideas and a real bad ass reputation to uphold. Ann-Marie often found herself defeated, and had to cajole Dave away from his usual position of loafing about on the back of the boat to come up apply some brute force.

Despite all this, the C&H was astonishingly beautiful.



We caught it at its best; there hadn’t been any rain for ages, so the navigation boards were well into the green and all the flood gates were open.



Between the cuts the river sections were dreamy and reminded us just how much we love them.

We moored up for the night at Mirfield, right next to Lidl (Ooh! Fresh Croissants for breakfast!)...


...and found a really good coffee shop in the town,


... and then moored again just after the Dewsbury arm junction.

Mirfield to Dewsbury


Leaving the last lock of the day.

Moored up just after the Dewsbury Arm.

The following morning was Saturday, so we cycled into Dewsbury for a 3 ½ lap parkrun round the beautiful Crow’s Nest Park.


Ann-Marie got a new sub 35 PB, but pulled a calf muscle in the process, which didn’t help with pushing lock gates that afternoon. After marshalling the junior parkrun on Sunday we moved on to the Navigation Inn on Broadcut.


Our Nicholson’s (mis) guide reckons there’s a tap there, and at one time there probably was. If we ever come this way again we’ll buy a new guide; our copy of “North West and the Pennines” was fished out of the Rochdale ten years ago by a very helpful CRT volunteer after a gust of wind blew it off the back deck, and it’s never been the same since. After moving off the 48s, we stayed at Broadcut for a week, firstly so we could go over to Burscough for Steve’s funeral, which was lovely, as was the gathering in the sunshine at Sue’s afterwards, and secondly so we could  go to Keighley to spend a couple of days with Kate and David. It seemed like ages since we’d seen them and we had a smashing time catching up. Kate has recently joined Dave in the Diabetic club and is on a trial low carb diet; she’s sticking to it really well and is looking great. The boys had a potter in their little Vito camper and Dave managed to sort out David’s battery charging issue. He’s got a lithium leisure battery and the settings on the B2B charger needed tweaking to stop the BMS cutting out.

 On day two, we spent a fabulous afternoon drinking Pimms in the sunshine while Kate & Emma prepared a BBQ Then, in time honoured tradition, David cooked a few burgers on a gas grill and took all the credit.

Back on board Legend the next day we moved on to Wakefield and moored behind Nb Donela Too.


Heading down river into Wakefield. The entrance to the cut is on the right.

You really don't want to be making this turn when there's any significant flow on the river.

Tucked in safely in Wakefield.

We’d last seen Keith and Kate as they started their ascent of the Huddersfield locks heading the other way towards the tunnel, but they’d been turned around because of low water and were going to have another go at the end of the month. We doubt they’ll be successful then either; with hindsight we were very lucky to get across the Pennines this year. If we’d left it any later we’d be stuck on the other side now.
Wakefield marks the end of the Calder and Hebble.


From here through Castleford and on to the Yorkshire Ouse at Goole the Navigation becomes the Aire and Calder. There was still commercial traffic on the A&C until fairly recently so the locks are MUCH bigger and electrically operated; no more handspike and heavy pushing. All Ann-Marie has to worry about is getting a blister on her button pushing finger.   

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