Out The Other Side. 4th August

Hirst Lock to Owl Swing Bridge 216

Paul the weatherman hadn’t mentioned rain this morning! We decided to sit and wait it out for a while hoping it would dry up. Three boats came past us before we were ready to push off, the last two were paired up. One of the ladies said that there was a boat following them, so we should have a partner for the locks today.

Waiting our turn

We waited for them to descend and then filled the lock back up for us. With the gates open I could now swing the bridge just above the lock, the other boat had just arrived dropping off crew as they came.


The swing bridge was easy to move, it was just when I pushed it shut that I had a problem, the locking latch didn’t want to lift back in to lock it. I tried pushing the gate again, but was needing to lift the latch at the same time, impossible for one person to do. Luckily I’d delayed a couple of walkers who I enlisted to push the bridge whilst I held the latch up, job done, thank you.

Hirst Lock

The smell from the bakery was wonderful this morning, the wind in just the right direction. We dropped down the lock and headed on our way, our locking companions said they’d be stopping in Shipley so we’d be on our own again.

Saltaire Mills

On past the textile mills of Saltaire, now galleries, offices and residencies. The history of the Italianate alpaca mill can be found Here. Sadly mooring in the shadow of the mills is restricted to 6 hours during the day, no overnighting here, not that that was our aim for the day, we still had quite a distance to travel.

A few small cottages back onto the canal, their stonework still blackened from the smog created by industry long gone. These take me back to visiting my Grandparents house in Thornton, Bradford, an old school house with an outside loo.

Poolting on through Shipley we passed an old arm, crying out for redevelopment of the mill, it would create extra moorings too in a town where visitors only have a few places to pull in. Our locking companions managed to pull in opposite some permanent moorings were a Valley Cruises day boat was tied up, the company having stopped trading in Coventry last year.

Easy to swing

Dock Lane Swing Bridge is now operated with the help of the key of power. Back in 2014 you had to drop barriers and then stand on the bridge to turn it with a windlass, very heavy work which I passed on to Mick. But today with only a couple of buttons to press the job is an easy one.

Minimal List crew

On through Oddies Swing Bridge to Buck Hill Swing Bridge which had just been opened. A boat on the other side was having difficulty manoeuvring to get through the bridge hole, but the lady managed it and the chap kindly held the bridge open for us. After we’d passed the penny dropped, NB Perseverance is the Minimal List vloggers boat. I follow them on Instagram so knew they’d been on the Chesterfield Canal earlier this year.

At Field 3 Locks we caught up with the two boats ahead of us. They were just descending the first chamber of the staircase. There was time for chats as the boats worked their way down from one chamber to the next. We waited for the boats to be in the bottom chamber before we lifted the paddles at the top of the staircase. A check of the level in the middle chamber to make sure it was in the green before we started to fill it from the top chamber.

The top chamber of Field 3

The middle chamber has two overflow spills, the bottom has one. One of them is close to the top, skimming off excess water when the level reaches it, but the other two have openings a few feet from the top. This puzzled me for a while until I had a closer look at where they join the bywash.

These may start off low in the lock chambers but the spillway (for want of a better word) angle upwards towards the by wash. So as the chamber fills the water gradually rises up the spillway and once it reaches the top the excess water flows over into the by wash until both chambers are level and the gates can be opened.

Looking back at the 3 rise

With a good half hour before we’d reach the next staircase we decided to have lunch on the go, first though was Strangford Swing Bridge. This gives access to a large Yorkshire Water processing plant that stretches for quite a distance. I then ducked below to make a cuppa each and lunch. I’d just resurfaced (the quick boiling electric kettle helped) as we approached the next swing bridge which was open, hooray, my crispbreads wouldn’t go soggy. Except the bridge closed, oh well!

Yorkshire Water on the other side

Dobson 2 Locks was busy. One of the boats from in front of us was waiting on the lock landing and explained that when they arrived there had been a boat waiting for a partner to go down, they’d been waiting an hour. So with the knowledge that we were following the pair infront of us split up.

C&RT chap blocking off a broken ground paddle

Two boats were rising, a C&RT chap was helping. One of the boats had been having difficulty, their well deck had been filling with water from the leaking gates. This had risen to such a height that it was starting to flow into the cabin!! The C&RT chap stopped them thankfully. He instructed them to remove the bags of coal and stuff that were blocking the drain holes in their well deck and to CLOSE the front doors.

Our turn going down

As they rose the two chaps at the back chatted away to each other. Both myself and the C&RT chap spotted that one of the boats was right against the bottom gates and was about to catch his tiller under the paddle gear. Both of us shouted for him to move forward and quickly. The same thing happened in the next chamber to the same chap! Not a care in the world, one chap stood on his cabin roof to take photos as they left the lock, the other chap too busy chatting to notice he was steering straight towards Oleanna’s bow. Thank goodness the C&RT chap had been there otherwise there might have been a sunken boat or two!

Thank you

Down we went with the assistance of the friendly chap in blue, he’d only come to the workshop above the lock to cut a couple of pieces of wood! Our two boats descended the staircase without incident and passed through Millman Swing Bridge holding up around 18 cars and vans, a record for this trip.

Mick had rung ahead to see if Apperley Bridge Marina might be open for diesel, but unless the caretaker happened to be about they were closed today. No rush to top up, we can last a while longer, so we carried on towards Rodley where we planned to moor for the night.

Neighbours for the night

Moored up and tyre fenders deployed to keep us afloat, Tilly headed off through the fence with large signs asking people not to throw their dog pooh bags over it, we wondered if they’d mind cat pooh!

During the day we’d had a phone call from the Lock Keeper at Selby, dates for a passage up to Naburn were discussed and we are booked in. Here’s hoping the weather stays fine and the river behaves.

This afternoon we had passed out the other side of the Bradford covid zone where extra lockdown measures are in place. Mick popped across to the new posh housing estate on the other side of the River Aire to the convenience store for a bottle of wine. After an early meal we walked down into Rodley to meet up with our friends Graham and Tracey.

Tracey works in marketing and has been working through lockdown, Graham designs and builds theatre sets, is a lighting designer and production manager whom I used to work with a lot. At times Graham and I spent more time together than we did with our other halves. If the pandemic hadn’t come along we’d have been working together on a couple of projects this year.

A lovely evening in the garden

Graham has kept himself busy during Lockdown and has built them a wonderful garden room on two levels with plants already climbing the posts and rope light back lighting a step. A lovely place to spend a couple of hours in very good company, drinking maybe a little bit too much wine, all socially spaced.

6 locks, including 2 staircases, 7.46 miles, 8 swing bridges, 18 held up, 2 swung for us, 1 hour shore leave , 1 cat not impressed, 1 bottle, 1 damp grey day, 1 lovely evening, 2 good friends, 1 garden room to covet.


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