Monday 17 January 2022

Rodley to Bingley Top Lock. Leeds and Liverpool Canal.


Winter Sunrise at Rodley.
To describe our first day at Rodley as full would be something of an understatement. We were up early and out to take part in our first ever Parkrun at Bramley, which we’d chosen as it was about one and a half miles away, and we could do a brisk warm-up walk to get there. What we hadn’t accounted for was that our warm-up was all up hill, and we had to do in a rush after we’d stopped to help a single hander get Nb Patch through the swing bridge. We were definitely warmed up when we got there, but we were in time for the start briefing, albeit slightly breathless. We’d recently “graduated” C25K, and were really excited about Parkrun.

We weren’t disappointed at Bramley; it was absolutely brilliant! The park itself was on a hill and, due to the muddy conditions, the course that day was three laps on the tarmac paths. That meant three times up the hill, but it also meant a downhill finish, which was great fun. The organisers were fantastic, the volunteers were amazing and so supportive, and everyone was really nice.

It was like we’d joined a big happy family.  After all the euphoria and emotional overload we went for a celebratory breakfast in the Whitecoat café which we’d spotted on the way up the hill.

There were some other runners in there as well; they were impressed that we’d chosen Bramley as our first Parkrun. They described it as a baptism by fire and recommended some other slightly less hilly ones around Yorkshire. 

Back on board we transformed Legend into Santa’s grotto...

...a task which involves clearing up all our clutter and putting it in the hole left by removing the Christmas decorations from under the bed. Every year when we do this there is a brief interlude when the boat is uncluttered, during which we both sigh and look round dreamily, before filling it up again. That’s unfair. We love all our stuff and we love our cosy little home with all its ornaments and memories, but we are well aware that we reached Peak Tat a while ago, and we really ought to do something about it.

After lunch Dave started a service on our Honda generator. It’s usually a ten minute job changing the oil and cleaning the air filter, but this time it needed a new pull cord as the original one was becoming frayed.  That meant taking the casing off and getting into the guts of it. The easy way to swap a cord on the spring loaded recoil pulley is to pull  the cord all the way out, then stick a screwdriver through a slot in the pulley so that you can then remove the old cord, measure it up for a new one and simply replace it. That’s all very well unless you’re doing it in the confines of a damp well-deck along with a basket of logs, a box of kindling, a large bag full of parsnips, sprouts and King Edward potatoes, and some muddy wellingtons. Naturally, as soon as Dave had got the old cord off, the screwdriver fell out and the recoil pulley sprung back, so he spent a very frustrating half hour winding it round with his thumbs and almost getting it tensioned, only to have it slip and recoil back. He finally got it wound up and the screwdriver back in just as darkness fell, so he abandoned the whole thing until the next day and went inside to nurse his throbbing thumbs, leaving the dismantled genny strewn across the well-deck table. 

That evening we snuggled down in our Christmassy little boat and watched the Srictly semi-final, reminiscing about the time we were in the Elestree studios to see it.

We stayed at Rodley for five nights altogether and most of the time was filled with Christmas preparations. If the regulations allowed it, Mum and Dad would be joining us on the boat from Christmas eve-eve till the day after boxing day, so there was lots to do. And of course all the present shopping and wrapping and reminding Santa where he’d hidden things.

On Ann-Marie’s birthday, after presents and pancakes, we did a car move to Saltaire, where – hopefully - Mum and Dad would be coming to, and found that the one and only mooring in the town was free. On some maps it is marked as a trip boat mooring, but there hasn’t been a trip boat for years, so it’s a free spot. Because of all the closures on the L&L there wasn’t much boat traffic, but we still didn’t want to risk it being grabbed by someone else, so we dashed back for the boat and set off for a spot of birthday boating as soon as we could. Dave had made a firewood stash which we picked up along the way...

...then climbed the Dobson’s staircase locks...

...and stopped at the Apperley bridge sanitary station. The tap was really slow and it was getting dark by the time our tank was full, so we pulled back and moored up for the night, breasted up on the CRT workboat that was on the lock landing.

We were off at dawn with Field staircase and five swing bridges ahead of us.

We had everything crossed as we approached Saltaire, chugging up the cut between the huge Salt’s Mill buildings and wharves like so many working boats had done in the past.

Passing Shipley Wharf

Ironically, there is an overnight mooring ban on the wharf all the way through Salt’s Mill; the boats that brought the stone to build it, the coal to run it, the wool and cotton to supply it, and took the finished products off towards their worldwide destinations are not wanted there today. The beautifully converted apartments and offices have given the mill a sustainable future, but it would look a lot better with some pretty boats tied up outside. Except, of course, they wouldn’t all be pretty, but that’s a subject for another day.

To our great relief and delight the old trip boat mooring was still free when we got there, so we tied up nose to nose with the ice cream boat.

 Sadly, but probably for the best, the ice cream boat was shut and locked up till Easter.

While Ann-Marie began the Christmas Bake-athon, Dave gave Legend a wash to get rid of the grunge that winter boating so quickly covers it in. It’s very satisfying to sluice off off all the leaves, twigs, bits of bark, and muddy trails from the wet centre ropes and make it look presentable again.

That evening we had a wander round the Model Village. Dismayed at the atrocious conditions elsewhere, Titus Salt built Saltaire to give his mill workers modern, sanitary and comfortable accommodation. You can read all about it here. Every Christmas the current residents do a Living Advent...

Each night a few more houses light up a silhouette display in their front windows and a guide can be found on-line.

The next morning was Saturday, so we were out for another Parkrun, this time just a couple of minutes’ walk away in Robert’s Park.

Pre-run briefing under the watchful eye of Titus Salt.

With no hills involved we got better times, but with the boat moored within sight of the start line we couldn’t justify a café breakfast this time.

When you can see your boat from the café, paying for breakfast is so much harder.

Changed, showered and breakfasted, we jumped in the car and sped off to Kate and David’s for a Christmassy weekend. After spending so long so far away from our mates, it felt a bit odd to get there in ten minutes, but as Gargrave lock is out of action till – according to CRT - “Probably Easter”, we’d better get used to it. K&D were, as usual, the perfect hosts; there was fun and laughter aplenty, with gorgeous food piled on the table at every available opportunity.

On Sunday we all went through to Emma and Mat’s side of the house for cocktails and nibbles along with Emma’s friend Angie and her husband Gary.

Inevitably, we all got a bit sloshed so, equally inevitably, there was a bit of dad dancing, some singing along to cheesy 80’s pop, and even a spot of “Latin in Line”; a strange mish-mash of line dancing and the cha-cha-cha. It was a brilliant evening, finished off with an unnecessary chilli before we retired back to the Jenkin’s side and bed.

In the morning we said our goodbyes then headed back to the boat, stopping off at a coal yard for some much needed smokeless briquettes on the way. Being in the middle of Saltaire, we have to watch what comes out of our chimney. Burning wood is a definite no-no.  Although dry wood can be smoke free when it’s going good and hot, with a comparatively short chimney and a small fire we don’t often have perfect conditions. Even using smokeless we have to be careful to not put too much on at once. We got 4 bags from the coal yard, and as the price was good we’ll probably be back for more in the New Year.

That afternoon we walked 200 yards up the hill to Saltaire station and caught the train into Bradford for Dave’s birthday treat.

Dave is clearly enjoying his birthday.

We did most of a very interesting self-guided Heritage trail round the city...

...before diving into a pub for dinner and a warm up, then later on we wandered over to St George’s Hall for a Rick Wakeman concert.

We weren’t sure how we’d feel about sitting inside shoulder to shoulder with other people, so we’d decided that we’d judge it when we got there and we could always not go in. However, everyone was behaving and wearing masks so we felt ok. inside we were greeted by the Front of House staff who told us that due to so many people dropping out, they were closing the upper circle and our seats had been upgraded to right in the middle of the second row.

Wow!  Just after we got seated, a couple turned up with tickets for our seats, so we went back and got some different ones, this time in the fourth row, which actually gave us an even better view of the stage, and this time with about six empty seats either side of us.

Even more Wow!

Mr Wakeman was brilliant. Dave was introduced to Yes and other prog rock bands when he first joined the RAF in 1974. He remembers their concerts and watching Rick with flowing white hair and a silver cloak surrounded by a dozen or so keyboards and synthesisers, whirling around like some demented sorcerer.

These days the performance is infinitely more subtle; the cloak has gone, the multiple keyboards and synths have been replaced with one keyboard and a grand piano, and the whirling around has disappeared altogether. Instead there are little stand-up routines between each number with funny stories about the eccentric folk in his village. However the music is just as spellbinding as it was 45 years ago. We were entranced for the whole performance, with everything from Holtz Planet Suite to The Beatles, via Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It was a truly magical evening and a perfect birthday present. In the interval Dave got up to go and get a couple of ice-creams and discovered he hadn’t got his wallet. Ann-Marie phoned the pub who confirmed that it had been handed in, so Dave raced back to retrieve it, getting back just in time for the second half, but sadly not in time for ice-cream. On the train home, when the ticket collector came along, we realised just how fortunate it had been that we’d got the munchies mid performance.

One of the local residents came for a visit aboard Legend at Saltaire. He casually wandered in and sauntered down the full length of the boat, giving it all the once over, before returning to the lounge and taking a seat on one of the cushions by the fire.

Ann-Marie gave him a bit of a cuddle and read the big sign on his collar. It said “Please do not feed me. I have a home.” After a few minutes he seemed to realise that no cat treats were going to be forthcoming and - just as casually as he’d come in – went back out. 

We also finaly got this done.

It’s been something we’ve wanted to do for years. At the moment it’s got Christmas pictures in it, but in January we want to swap them for a spread of happy family photos. We’ll keep the Christmas ones in the back of the frames so they’ll stay safe for the rest of the year.

The day Mum and Dad arrived we had a busy morning baking and sorting bedding out, before nipping over to Apperley Bridge services to empty the cassette and use the shower. Knowing how much tea and coffee our family can get through, and with the next services about a week away at the top of Bingley locks, we were trying to be extra frugal with water.  And every now and then it’s just so nice to be able to linger under a hot shower just for the love of it. With Calor heading for £40 a bottle, every unnecessary minute spent under our own shower sets off the mental alarm bells.

Mum and Dad arrived bang on time and we got them safely on board. They were suitably impressed with Legend’s surroundings; well, it was hard not to be, the mill, the park, the sightseers, the kids feeding the ducks and swans, and a Christmassy Legend perfectly set in the middle of it all.

In the morning, after Mum’s birthday presents, we went up to the mill for a look around. An hour later we managed to extract ourselves from the fabulous book shop and, avoiding the crowds in the restaurant, went for a drink in the secret, and virtually empty little café on the second floor.

We’d booked a table in The Fisherman’s at Dowley Gap for Mum’s birthday lunch. Seven years ago when we’d been there it had been really good. Unfortunately it wasn’t so good now; the dinner wasn’t up to much, but they more than made up for it with a perfect ginger pudding, so it was all ok in the end. We played games in the afternoon then Ann-Marie produced a fabulous birthday tea and a Black Forest birthday cake.

That evening we had a minor set-back; Chloe phoned to tell us that despite not having any symptoms, our little grand-daughter Matilda had tested positive for Covid, so they would all be in isolation for the next ten days and our trip out to Ireland on New Year’s eve would have to be postponed. We told Chloe that we’d try to rebook it for the end of January.

On Christmas morning we felt like we were six years old. By seven o’clock we’d found our stockings,  eaten some chocolate coins, and were waiting for Mum and Dad to wake up. Santa brought us both new running togs, and we’d planned to go out for a run, but as it was raining and the forecast was brighter later, we put it off until after we’d had breakfast. When the rain eased off we put our new kit on and went out, but with hindsight, running straight after chocolate coins and hot buttered jammy croissant was probably not the best idea.

Ann-Marie got busy in the kitchen with Christmas dinner.  We had a turkey crown (the one that had been in Mum and Dad’s freezer ever since last Christmas got cancelled by the Downing Street party-goers) along with a boned and stuffed drumstick. It was, of course, delicious.  She even made a low sugar Christmas pudding and cooked it on top of the Squirrel.

In the afternoon we had a go with Uno Flip, which was in Dave’s stocking, and pronounced it our new bestest game.

That was followed by some hilarious fun with this year’s Little Tree Presents - Mini Marshmallow Toasting Kits – matchboxes containing a birthday cake candle and holder, some cocktail sticks, a couple of matches, and a little bag of mini marshmallows.

How fabulous is that! Later on there was a wonderfully chaotic family video chat with extra excited grandchildren. A truely wonderful day made even better because we were all feeling that there was light at the end of the cliché.

We got up to a snowy winter wonderland on Boxing Day, but it quickly turned to rain, so that when we went out it was really slushy underfoot. For Mum and Dad’s Christmas present, we’d got tickets for the “Mince Pie Special” on the Keighley and Worth Valley steam railway. We parked at Ingrow station carefully walked up onto the platform.

After a few minutes we caught sight of a cloud of smoke and steam in the distance, then with much chuffing and hissing the train appeared from under the bridge and we climbed aboard. It was already quite full, but we had Rover tickets, so we hopped off at beautiful Haworth with the intention of looking round the village before finding a tea shop to spend a bit of time in while we soaked up the Brönte atmosphere.

However, what we failed to allow for in our calculations was that the train station was at the bottom of the steep slushy hill and the touristy bit of the village was at the top. Without walking poles we’d have struggled to get up there and there was certainly no way Mum and Dad would, so we ended up making the most of it with a coffee in a pub at the bottom while we waited for the train to come back. It wasn’t quite what we’d planned, but we had our picnic and free mince pies in the carriage and were happy enough.

We stayed on the train to Keighley where the station had been transformed for the Santa Special...

...and got a coffee from the station buffet while the engine swapped ends, then had another free mince pie on the way back to Ingrow. Back home we had a very welcome bowl of hot soup, followed by a game of Mexican Train and then watched Mary Poppins Returns with Christmas Trifle till we all fell asleep. 

Mum and Dad left the next morning and we set off for Dowley Gap. As she was untying the front rope Ann-Marie slipped and fell off the boat onto the flagstones with one foot in the water between the boat and the bank. She was very shaken, but bravely carried on, working the boat through Hurst lock and swing bridge, and then up Dowley Gap staircase, (where we swapped in the middle with Nb Ferndale) before mooring up outside the Fisheman’s Inn. 

We had our booking up the Bingley rises a couple of days later and David had volunteered to give us a hand. The forecast had been for rain all day, so we set off kitted out with waterproof trousers and brollies at the ready, but it turned out to be not that bad. Our attendant lock keeper was very chatty so we had a slow and gentle climb up the famous staircase.

The drizzle gave up as we went up the five, and the sun actually made an appearance for a second or two. It was very windy at the top, making it impossible to get off the services, so we tied up and had lunch while we waited for it to calm down a bit. Eventually we managed to get over to the towpath side and tied up overlooking the beautiful Aire Valley with Bingley top lock just behind us. Ann-Marie gratefully sat down after a full day of pushing gates, winding paddles and pulling ropes with bruised and battered leg while the boys walked back down for the car.

The top of Bingley Five Rise is a fabulous place to be moored for a few days, but we can’t stay for long; there’s a swing bridge half a mile ahead that will be closed on the 4th of January for repairs. (Or maybe replacement. It does look like it’s about to drop to bits.)  Once we’re through that we’ll be trapped on the 15 mile pound between Bingley and Gargrave till Easter, or whenever the broken lock at Gargrave has been rebuilt. That doesn’t sound very far, but it includes Skipton and Silsden where we can get water, and some lovely mooring spots that we’ll probably come back to a couple of times. And there’s no locks to worry about so hopefully Ann-Marie’s knee will be able to recover soon.

Happy New Year one and all. We hope January ’22 doesn’t drag on as long as last year  



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