Always Close Your Clough Before The Gate Is Fully Open. Or, What Else Could Go Wrong?!

Keld Well Bend to Gargrave

Getting ready

Wanting to get a touch closer to Skipton today we had breakfast whilst it rained and then hoped for it to be drier for our descent of Bank Newton Locks. With our cuppas in insulated mugs we were rolling back the covers at 10am, Geraghty Zoom time. Mick used his phone to attend the zoom and put it in the clamp on top of the hatch so everyone could see us as we went along.

Tilly and Duncan as we head off

They had to put up with us sorting ourselves out, but then after push off we could join in on the conversation. Cheese, a friend of Tilly’s (human Tilly) had fallen into the water and Amadeus were the topics of conversation that I got glimpses of.

Third bush from the right

We waved goodbye to our mooring, two more boats on different loops visible and then we wound round the hills towards Bank Newton.

First lock of the day in view and Anne and Alasdair

Just after we’d arrived at the locks and I was setting the top one the heavens opened, which meant Mick had to leave the zoom as his phone needed to go inside. Hello and bye to everyone from me.

Top Lock cottage and a clough ground paddle open, partially

Just as we’d come into the lock and were closing gates behind us a boat came into view, time to open the gates again and let them come down the locks with us. NB Amelie had been moored round the bend from us last night and they’d spotted us pushing off so had hoped to catch up.

The lady on board hadn’t worked a lock before but that was fine she soon got the hang of things. We wound the paddles up to empty the lock and down the boats went.

A mountain of weed

Just off the towpath I spotted what looked like a mountain of weed, almost 6ft high, blimey the Lockies must have been pulling this out for weeks!

Always close your clough before the gate is fully open

Now in the land of clough ground paddles I remembered that the best way to move them was by pretending to be the karate kid, well that’s if you could get them moving to start with. The wooden cloughs operate a paddle that sits over the opening below water and you lift the handle up in he air to open up the flow of water. Sometimes the water pressure is such that they won’t shift, but then as the lock fills, the pressure gets less and you can move them easier.

Chatting away at the helm

By lock 39 we came across the two Lock Keepers raking weed out from the bywashes, they only had short handled little rakes, I suggested that C&RT should buy them a proper Keb, ‘chance would be a fine thing’ was the response. The mountain of weed at the top of the locks is what they have collected since the beginning of June and every day they collect more and more.

Two hire boats were coming up the lock below so we were asked to wait to empty our chamber until they had lifted the gate paddles so our water wouldn’t flood over the top gates.

Blue sky when we’d expected rain

I chatted away to the Lockie, Nigel about favourite canals, moorings and where we’d all been for lockdown. However I ran out of time to chat to him about family, back in 2016 we somehow managed to sus that he might just be a distant cousin of mine as his surname is the same as my Mum’s maiden name and his Dad came from Thornton as did my Mum. I still need to check this out with my cousins who we may just get to see on our way into Leeds soon.

The two hire boats swapped locks with us, a lady stood chatting away with me before she realised she might be needed at the next lock, but her boat had just decided to wind before the lock so getting it back on course would take a bit of time.

The bottom lock

Nigel informed us that the bottom lock would need all the paddles lifting to fill it as it leaks so much but by the time we got down to it the other Lockie had already filled it for us and opened the gates.

The bridge over the bottom of the last lock has seen better days a huge crack in it and the handrail wrapped in hazard tape. A new box structure has been added on top giving a more solid walkway.

This is when things started to go wrong!

Below there was a wide beam moored on the lock landing. I let the chaps know, they’d be very aware of it as soon as the bottom gates opened anyway. NB Amelie planned on stopping for a cuppa before continuing where as we wanted to carry on to Gargrave. So we were to pull out first, pass the widebeam so that Mick could pick me up at the water point, the other boat loitering until we left.

Widebeam in the way

My gate didn’t open quite fully but I didn’t think anything of it until I came to close it again. Would it move! Would it b**er! With the help of the other lady we tried and tried to push, pull, tug, bump, push again but the gate was just not moving. We’d have to find one of the Lock Keepers.

I stood up and shouted to Mick that I was going to walk up the flight for a Lockie. Then I happened to glance down towards NB Amelie. Blimey, the chap was in the water! His boat was drifting backwards diagonally towards the lock, luckily out of gear as he tried to follow it, swimming with his barge pole in one hand.

Meanwhile the widebeam, realising they were in the way started to untie. The last thing we wanted right now was a turning prop with a man in the water. I shouted to Mick who was looking my way to stop them from pushing off.


The chap from the widebeam managed to stop NB Amelie from moving and the chap in the water decided to head towards the off side bank, the water being deep. Fences and mesh were in the way and I knew I’d not be able to help him out even if I could get to him. I think having his pole with him gave him an extra means of pushing himself out, he then just had to climb through hedges fences and wire! But thank goodness he was out.

The lady from the widebeam explained that she has broken ribs and that is why they’d stopped on the lock landing to give her a rest, she’d suggested to her other half to stop a little bit further on. Maybe if they had nobody would have got wet!

A calm photo of a viaduct and hills

The gate still needed closing, still no joy. Three people giving it a heave ho and eventually it moved.

The chap from Amelie was understandably wanting a shower and a cuppa before doing anything else, so we left him to it and pulled out before the widebeam had chance to over take us.

Lock 35 is a bit of a distance on, as we approached a couple of boats were just coming out towards us, marvellous one less set of gates to deal with. We swapped over, I closed one gate and Mick the other. I then wound the bottom paddles up.

Here comes the widebeam

Behind us I could hear a boat horn as the widebeam got to the next bridge, there wasn’t enough space for the narrowboat and it, so the narrowboat had to pull over. Mick asked if the gate paddles were closed properly. Mine was, but I couldn’t see the one on Mick’s gate. I walked round to find it a third up, with that wound down we could finish emptying the lock and be on our way.

The gates were open at Lock 34 ready for us, maybe they’d drifted open after the uphill boats had left. Down we went, only for me to not be able to close the bottom gate again. Mick sailed away, looking over his shoulder, but carried on.

I pushed, pulled, bounced the gate. Back and forth the little amount it would move, still no luck. Two ladies walked up and I asked if they were willing to help. With two and a half people pulling it still didn’t move. One lady looked down behind the gate, ‘Look there’s something down there’. Well all I could see was what was meant to be there. We’d have to call C&RT. Luckily by now Mick had realised I needed help so he reversed up and came to help. With the two of us pulling and pushing and bumping the gate in unison it finally moved!

One last lock for today. The gates were open on this one too, but this time it was the bottom gates. Maybe they’d blown open too, or maybe a widebeam had forgotten it was north of Watford and had just left them.

What a clean boat

A family stood by the lock. Mum and daughter a bit interested, but Dad had that five year old glint in his eye. Would you like to help? He stopped just short of saying ‘Hell Yes!’ He helped with the gate and then wound up a box paddle to help fill the lock. He and his family were going abroad for their holidays in a couple of weeks, but are now hiring a boat from Silsden instead. He was so excited and very helpful.

A boat was approaching from below, but then they seemed to turn in to face the offside. Where they were wasn’t a winding hole and was far too short for them to turn, so they had got themselves stuck. Me and Mr Over Excited closed the gates, I thanked him and walked down to see if I could help at all.

They’d missed the winding hole and did not want to go up the next nine locks to turn. Only one thing for it, reverse. They managed to get over to the side and let us past, we then promised not to watch as they came backwards. We found a mooring and slotted in. The chap once lined up was managing to reverse really quite well, we congratulated him, as it was his first time.

Before we sat down for lunch Mick headed off on the bike for a newspaper, luckily there were loads of our chosen Saturday read at the Co-op and everyone, including Mick wore a mask.

After a few hours we’ve had to push the stern out and put a tyre fender to work as the pound keeps dropping and we keep listing. Mick’s been to check the paddles at the next lock and all is as it should be. Just too many boats coming into this pound to moor for the day and not bringing a lock of water down to replenish the level. At least we can’t roll off our bed if we list any more.

9 locks, 2.41 miles, 1 damp zoom, 1 cousin, 1 mountain of weed, 1 widebeam, 1 man overboard, 2 sets of gates, 1 dropping pound, 1 cat who’d like to go back to where we were last night please, 3 billboards.

4 thoughts on “Always Close Your Clough Before The Gate Is Fully Open. Or, What Else Could Go Wrong?!

  1. joamungoanddog

    Wow what a day!! Hope the guy in the water didn’t have his phone in his pocket!

    1. pipandmick Post author

      Sadly Joa, the chaps phone is somewhere in the depths of the L&L below Bank Newton locks. It was in his pocket, but escaped when he went in head first. He is fine, saw him yesterday morning, he doesn’t intend doing the same thing again

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