The Bottom And Bottomless. 7th August

Granary Wharf to Woodlesford Lock, Aire and Calder Navigation

Being moored in a city centre you expect noise and because we tend to moor in different places most days we tend to ignore air conditioning droning, dawn choruses, the odd bit of railway noise. But last night there must have been workers on the tracks above our heads as several trains, one at 2:15, sounded their horn! This and it being a warm night didn’t make for a good nights sleep.

Two stones down!

With a plan for the morning, shopping, top up the water tank and then be on our way to find some trees we woke fairly early. Mick got up to put the kettle on. I could hear him open up the back doors. ‘Uh, the water’s gone!’ I got up and sure enough we were on quite a list, both side to side and front to back.

All stuck on the bottom

As we’d gone to bed last night we’d heard gurgling, but hadn’t put two and two together. Our bow rope was really rather tight, we wouldn’t be going anywhere as we were sat on the bottom, but I headed out in my pyjamas to loosen it off, reducing the strain it was under.

We were on the bottom, so were the floating pontoons

The two boats that had followed us down the locks yesterday (The Strawberry Island boats) were getting ready to push off, topping up on water. They had been to check the paddles at River Lock and had noticed a pump, that wasn’t back pumping from the river. They had found a security guard who had the ability to turn the pump on and they were now waiting for levels to resume, getting us all off the bottom.

Mick headed off to pick up some bits of shopping before we had breakfast, hoping there would be some improvement on his return. But despite some gurgling around Oleanna’s hull the level hadn’t risen sufficiently to get us off the bottom.

The Strawberry Island crew were wanting to be off. One of them had been up to Office Lock and lifted a paddle, letting quite a lot of water down. The level improved, but not enough for us to be floating again. They had been warned yesterday not to tie to the walls as the levels can drop. They had followed this advice and breasted up on one of the pontoons, one boat in bow first the other stern first.

Off they go

The boat alongside the pontoon seemed to be floating, the boats were untied and one could be reversed, the other still hard aground. They tried all sorts to get moving, a rope pulling them that way, a rope the other way, a rope to the other boat which only moved the free boat towards the one stuck hard. I’m not sure, but I suspect more water was let down and eventually both boats were floating again, off they went down the lock.

ON the bottom

We were still sat at an angle. Mick tried to push us off, but no luck. The pump was still back pumping from the river, so hopefully that would improve things. The level dropped with the use of the lock. Then it appeared that the pump was only keeping up with the amount of water draining out of the pound, so we would remain on the bottom until more water could be sent down. We called C&RT.

Still pumping

Mick got through to customer services and then ‘any other enquiries’. The chap on the other end of the phone did his best to help. Leeds Liverpool Canal, between Locks 1 and 2, River and Office Lock. ‘So that’s in Liverpool’ ‘No,Liverpool is 127.25 miles away’. In the end the chap knew where we were lacking water and said someone would call back. They did a short while later and said a team were already sending water down.

Vans but no one in blue

So all we could do was wait. A walk around the basin and up to Office Lock where two C&RT vans were parked but no signs of anyone, water certainly wasn’t being run through the lock. The pump pumped away, it’s large thick pipes decorated with spray paint so that they didn’t become a trip hazard.

I kept myself busy too. More calculations were required for ascending the big curved wall. I took my time as I wanted to get it right first time as there was a camera crew filming Toms descending. They were coming down backwards (very wise) but with the assistance of ropes, I suppose it’s because Toms don’t have claws to help cling on.

On the bridge by Office Lock

A load of washing was just about to be hung out when all of a sudden a wave of water came across the basin, Oleanna lifted from her resting place just a touch. We and the Barley crew immediately jumped into action, no thinking about it this time. We quickly rolled back the covers, washing hung up inside to dry. I was able to give Oleanna a push and Mick reversed off following Barley to turn to face the lock.

Backing out

River Lock needed topping up a touch, this was done once both boats were out from the pontoons, in case the level dropped again. The surge of water had been provided by NB Tobias coming down the lock, they were now moored up on a wall in front of the Hilton, possibly the quietest spot at the Wharf.


With the gates open Barley and Oleanna headed into the safety of the lock, the bottom paddles lifted, we had escaped! Phew!!

Oleanna now having completed the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was on the Aire and Calder Navigation. We led the way, there only being one set of steps to reach your boat we had to take it in turns, so Jenny closed up behind us.

The width and depth of the river were such a relief, no grounding here. You could tell Oleanna was enjoying blowing the cobwebs away travelling down the river at speed. Past the old warehouses, new tower blocks, bridges old and new.

Entering Leeds Lock

At Leeds Lock I hopped off and opened the gates using the key of power. This was to be our last shared lock with NB Barley and the last short lock until we reach Linton Lock on the River Ouse. Both boats were mindful of the overhanging walkway on the bottom gates and kept their distance. I closed the gates, dropped the paddles and the hopped onto Oleanna, Jenny taking charge at the other end of the lock.

A wave goodbye to NB Barley as we exited, they planned to stay another day on the river in Leeds, guaranteed to still be afloat in the morning. We headed off downstream aiming to find some trees for Tilly.

Good Labes?

Blimey it was hot out there, a breeze making it bearable. A graffiti artist was at work underneath Richmond Bridge. The first colour gold had gone on for his large tag, covering over previous small tags. I couldn’t quite make out if the two in gold before the one he was working on were also by him, being in gold they were hard to read.

I like

Left onto the widened section of the river, passing people picnicking on the flood lock island. Cormorants sat on warehouse roofs and dipped into the water, diving to make up for their lack of buoyancy when on the surface.

Knostrop Lock

At Knostrop Fall Lock, the first of the big ones, there was a boat just closing the gates to come up, a single hander who managed to get to the top control panel before I did. He was just heading to the off side to moor so we arranged for me to leave his key on top of the panel to collect later. Down we went, the key of power and my index finger doing their job.

Thwaite Mills

Now on the long pound to Fishpond Lock, passing Thwaite Mills. The visitor mooring at the museum looks like it has new lighting. Plenty of space on their long term moorings, but these may be due to boats being out for the summer.

Silvery reflective water

A high pitched chirp, followed by another. Two Kingfishers were showing us the way, darting ahead of us, keeping their distance. Too far for a photo, but close enough to amaze. One dipped into the water, but came up without a catch. They stayed with us for quite a distance, then one could be seen looping back round behind us along the towpath. This year we’ve seen so few Kingfishers, maybe they’ve all been self isolating.


A group of lads were jumping into the river by Concrete Bridge, the older lads stood on the bridge smoking, looking cool! The swimmers moved out of the way for us to pass. Another group swam with the aid of a life ring, we wondered where they’d got it from as they pulled one another out of the water with the attached rope. Surely they’d put it back when they finished with it!?

BIg locks now

Fishpond Lock was in use, Hotel Boat Lady Teal heading back up to Leeds for a couple of days off before their next guests arrive. I chatted to the lady, who said their capacity had been affected by social distancing. Most trips had sorted themselves out, people who’d been shielding not wanting to risk a holiday yet, but there were some trips where they’d had to make difficult choices in deciding which group to turn away. We talked about the low water at Granary Wharf, she was of the opinion that someone wouldn’t have closed a paddle correctly and with the trip boat not currently running from the wharf the lock wouldn’t have been checked last night.

Strawberry Island boats

As gaps in the moorings showed themselves above Woodlesford Lock we decided stopping for the day, a mile or so and one lock before we’d planned. Back at River Lock we’d found a windlass on the bottom lock gate and had wondered if it belonged to one of the Strawberry Island boats. Here they were settled for the day, we slowed down as we passed, but neither of them recognised it. Oh well we’ve another now to add to our collection.

Bye then !

We pulled in just where the Aire bends round very close to the cut. Tilly went straight out and vanished very quickly into the friendly cover. Washing was hung in the pram cover with it’s sides still open. Curtains on the starboard side got closed as even though we were under trees we wouldn’t benefit from any shade until much later in the day.

Who are you?

It got hotter and hotter. We had a visit from an old black cat. He was very friendly and wanted to come and check out our boat, we thought that unwise so shooed it away. Thankfully we didn’t hear a cat fight anywhere and Tilly didn’t seem to notice that someone else had been using her cat walk!

A stunner

Another load of washing was done making use of the free electricity being generated. Then Mick noticed an empty hanger under the pram cover. What had been on this hanger? A pair of pyjama bottoms of mine. But just where were they? The empty hanger was on the canal side, so only one thing could have happened, they’d fallen into the cut. We’d like to apologise now to the person who picks up some red tartan pyjama bottoms around their prop at some future date. I won’t be wanting them back, so if you can make use of them please do, they were clean and nearly dry when they got blown in.

4 locks, 6.04 miles, 0 swing bridges, 4 boats on the bottom, 2 escapees, 2 patient boats, 2 bacon butties, 1 ascent planned very carefully, 4 boaters on super fast speed to untie, 0 room at the armouries, 2 kingfishers, 4 evil birds, 9 swimmers, 1 hotel boat, 2 cats sharing the cat walk, 31 ish degrees, -1 pair of bottoms.

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