Illegal Green. 26th July

Gargrave to Gawflat Pipe Bridge, Skipton

34 miles left, and a quarter

Oleanna had a touch of a list on this morning, but once the boat in front of us headed to the lock above and emptied it the surge of water levelled us out. Well that was until the next boat came up the lock below which then came past at quite a speed, however that didn’t really matter as we were on the bottom anyway.

Highlander Lock

Around about 11am we pushed off hoping that any showers had passed, but keeping our waterproofs near by. A widebeam had only shortly come up the lock but it needed a good top up before I could open the gates. A chilled medication stand stood next to the lock a chap busying himself inside, but he wasn’t open much to my disappointment. It would have been hard to open and close gates and paddles with one anyway.

Ahead at the next lock there was a boat coming up, meaning gates could be left. Here there was a right gathering of eager windlass operators, one lady winding up the top paddle as the gates closed! She soon realised her mistake and dashed to the bottom gates. I didn’t have to do a thing other than chat.

Bye bye Gargrave

Below a short boat and a couple of narrowboats were waiting so it was just as well I’d decided to walk on to our next and last lock for a while. NB Kindred Spirit was just setting up to sell chilled medication too and the weather vain was hoping it had hit a six.

Holme Bridge Lock 30 has the busy A65 crossing it just below. This is the first lock most hire boats will encounter after they have picked their boat up. I remember on NB Rosie walking round and unlocking all the handcuffs with a key attached to a small buoy provided by Silsden Boats.


The bottom gate beams have writing carved into them. This is one of the four sites that were chosen in the inaugural year of Canal and River Trust to have lines of commissioned poems carved into them. Here Ian McMillan’s words were carved by Peter Coats. The other gates in this series are at Hillmorton Locks 4 and 5 on the Oxford Canal, Milnsbridge Lock 9E on the Huddersfield Narrow and Farmers Bridge Lock 8 on the BCN. More information can be found here.

Down we went the leaky top gates getting the stern of Oleanna a touch wet. Just as I’d opened the gates a voice shouted up from below asking to leave them open, no problem, I’d be happy to. Below were two boats, one a hire boat with it’s novice crew, nervous of what was to come, the chap from the other boat suggesting their front doors should be closed, very wise.

Illegal green

The valley now is wider, fields roll off in all directions. The recently cut grass glowing out from all around. When I was at college I once designed a set of costumes for a ballet and included this colour in four of my drawings. But my tutor, Sue told me off. These four dancers (part of the corps de ballet) would totally pull focus, up stage everyone else and everything on stage. She called this colour Illegal Green and I was never to use it unless it’s natural abilities were required! So far I’ve succeeded in avoiding it.

Canoes in the way

Now with the locks behind us for a while, swing bridges take over. There are many along this pound of the Leeds Liverpool. In the past they have never got the better of me, but sadly this was not going to be the case today.

Waiting for the canoes to clear

Highgate Swing Bridge just would not budge. A group on canoists were approaching from the other side, two had already ducked under the others waited for me to open the bridge. I explained they could wait ten minutes whilst Mick came to give a shove from the towpath or they could limbo underneath. They chose the latter, although one chap did give me quite a filthy look.

It took a while for Mick to tie up and come and assist. All it took was an extra push from the towpath side to get it moving, then I was okay. Under where the bridge sits when closed to boats there was loads of mud. As I shut it I could hear it sucking onto the structure and holding it firm again.

Letting other boats through

In contrast Thorlby Swing bridge was so easy, I could have moved it with just one hand. Two boats were coming towards us here so I waited to let them through.

Then Niffany Swing Bridge! This bridge sits alongside the A6069 on a bit of a bend. On the offside is a farm and caravan site so it gets used quite a bit.

Niffany B**tard Bridge

I unlocked the handcuff and started to swing it, except it stalled after about a foot. I tried pushing it back to take a run up, but it was stuck fast on what lay below it. Mick would have to come and assist again from the towpath. He didn’t need to do much before the bridge started to move again. Of course just as we’d got it moving a motorcaravan turned up wanting to turn off the road. I was not going to close the bridge and have to reopen it.

A lady jumped out and waited for the bridge to close again. She crossed over as I started to try to close the handcuff again. As she stood and watched me, just a little bit too close, I felt under even more pressure to get the lock back in place. The chain didn’t play ball, then the screw didn’t engage. I was about to give up, but tried again whilst I was watched and commented at. At last it was locked. As I walked across the bridge the lady had to double check my work which I’m afraid got my back up. ‘It’s as locked as ever it will be!’ The bridge wouldn’t move anyway without a lot of sideways movement.

A bit closer

Now the gardens of Skipton joined us, someone has added a sign post to their display.

A new development of apartments sits by the canal just recently finished by the looks. Bland photographs of the interiors, but the building has a nice modern feel outside whilst sitting well in it’s surroundings. £159,000 will get you two bedrooms and a parking space, First floor £180,000.

New apartments

As we approached Gawflat Swing Bridge, a busy pedestrian crossing, a chap stood up and pushed it open for us. It turns out that the bridge has become quite stiff and some people may have injured themselves so now C&RT are operating it, shame they weren’t doing this at the others we’d had problems with.

Gawflat Swing Bridge being swung for us

We pulled in to fill with water and I walked ahead to look for a space. We hoped the two Silsden Hire boats would maybe pull off before our tank was full. But both boats were padlocked shut and no signs of life, they’d stopped for more than just lunch. No other space available before Brewery Swing Bridge.

The towpath was very busy so in the end we decided to take the advice from the other boat that was filling up and to move back through the bridge behind us a little further out of town where there was plenty of space. So the chap at the bridge did his thing again. I stood at the front just incase we needed to push off from the bridge as the wind was pushing us about quite a bit.

Sadly for Tilly there is a road within 30 ft of us so no shore leave today. We’ll just have to cope with a sulky cat, or maybe go out and avoid her complaining.

3 locks, 4 swing bridges 1 twice, 1 motorcaravan held up, 1 annoying lady, 1 full water tank, 1 bucket on the roof, 1 illegally green world, 1 mardy cat.