We’ve Been Down South For Too Long. 12th April

Hartley Bank Bridge to Bull Bridge, Mirfield

Frosty morning

Opening the curtain on the porthole behind our bed this morning there was frost covering the towpath and field behind us, a magical view. However, when I opened the curtains on the bigger window at the foot of our bed, two Kingfishers were busy fishing. One view topping the other. This used to be a colliery!

Obstacle course for water

As we had breakfast NB Rebellion passed us by. I wonder how many more leapfrogs we’ll do before our routes take us different ways over the Pennines. We pushed off late morning, soon leapfrogging Rebellion once more, they’d pulled up at Hartley Bridge. Here we considered pulling in to top up the water tank, but it being through a narrow archway at right angles to the cut where buoys marked an obstruction put us off, it could wait till we got to Mirfield.

The figure of Three Locks were up ahead. Yesterday Mick had asked on Canal World Forum if anyone knew which locks required a Hebble Spike, within minutes he had the answer, from this he put together an overlay for our Waterway Routes map. Now we know what to take up to the locks.

Rocky terrain

A large chunk of towpath had been dug out, possibly for an electric cable. Only one sign at the top, which laid on the floor, saying that the towpath was closed. Once clambered through we worked up the two locks, the last long ones that we could remember.

Bridges cross the canal, mostly redundant now from coal mines and mills. Their numbering a law unto themselves, 24, 40, 23, 39, 27, 20!

The joining pound at Thornhill Double Locks

We soon reached where a branch heads off to Dewsbury and the main canal heads to the left up Thornhill Double Locks. This is where five years ago we managed to knock Lillian’s rudder out of it’s cup, a nice man from Hebden Bridge came with a dry suit and it was forced back to where it should be.

Breath in!

Both locks are short, Lillian was a foot longer than Oleanna, so we should be fine, especially going uphill, but it’s still a tight squeeze. Mick kept her to the centre of the locks a few feet spare at the stern.

We pulled in to refuel ourselves where there were rings. There used to be a pub here, when we first came through we’d thought of stopping for an evening meal but the surroundings and the lack of glass in the pub windows put us off somewhat. Today things are a touch different, the area still is one we’d think twice about staying in overnight , but the pub has had some work done to it and has transformed itself into a school!

If I show you my white bits will you let me out?

Not an outside to stop in they said, so why had they tied it up? They’d been moving it long enough, it was about time they stopped. But no. They had some dingding and then pushed it away. I thought it looked quite good myself, but was told there was a better one to be caught later on.

More oddly numbered bridges an 8 sneaking in between 33 and 31. At one disused railway bridge we slowed down as some divers were inspecting it. High vis clad chaps clung to the metal work as we passed underneath, hope it passed it’s inspection.

I wondered if this lock would ever empty with only one paddle working on the bottom gates

We joined the river once again only to rise above it at Greenwood Lock. Having spent too much time in the south of late these locks were hard work. The water pressure against the paddles makes it seriously hard to get any of them moving, a chink will gradually fill the chamber bring up the water and reducing the pressure, enabling you to lift paddles higher. Some of the locks fool you into thinking you’ve gained extra strength all of a sudden, only for you to realise you could carry on turning your windlass for days and it would still have no effect other than to make you look foolish.

A lady truck driver came to have a nosy. She was about to head out onto the M62 and was so so jealous of us. I think she may start saving up for a slower pace of life.

Maternity ward

Two swans sat on their nests, very close together, will there be ructions in weeks to come when the eggs hatch?

Close to the boom
Poor quality photo, top of it’s head and back of neck were dark and a big bulbous bit on it’s beak

Turning back out onto the river again, skirting the weir boom masses of Canadian Geese protested at us. How we have not missed that noise! Amongst all the bandaged chins there was one goose who looked out of place, resembling a Greylag but not quite. I think it might have been an African Goose, but sadly my phone camera isn’t too sharp whilst zooming.

Do not drop your spike at one of these

Shipley Bridge Lock was soon with us, one paddle working to empty it, then a struggle to fill. This is where we witnessed a hire boat loose their spike in one of the ground paddles. These are open below and should you let go of your spike it will disappear out of sight. Cheap or homemade spikes would float, but if you’ve forked out for a posh hard wood one, you will never see it again. I think that is why that paddle simply wouldn’t work today.

We pulled over to the charity boats thinking the water point was there, but we needed to nudge up a bit further to the service block. Mirfield was our chosen destination for today, we’ve not stopped here before as the moorings have always been full. The first stretch was bordered by a tall cat proof fence. Not suitable, if Tilly got over it by means of a nearby tree, she might never get back. We continued. Right by a road, but it had trees! Not suitable. On further to the last moorings, by a road, a bridge and Lidl, a good wall to climb! We pulled in, this would be good for us but all shore leave for Tilly was cancelled.

7 locks, 2 flood locks, 6.05 miles, 1 missing towpath, 2 soft southern hands returning to northern calloused hands, 1 juddering paddle, 1owy little finger, 0 pub, 1 school, 1 very sulky cat, 2 nests, 1 outsider, 1 vet appointment, 2 cheese twists, 1 pack of Dreamies as an advance, 1 happy Mick, 1st homemade tagliatelle, yum.