Bridge Bingo. 14th October

Wheatley Bridge to Stanley Ferry Water Point, Aire and Calder, Wakefield Section

Today we needed to be moored up in time for me to join a zoom Production Meeting for panto, Tilly’s hope was that we’d be somewhere she could go out for the rest of the afternoon. We already knew that wouldn’t be possible. The travel time on our maps didn’t really give us a suitably cat friendly mooring for 2, 2:30pm, we’d see how we did.

4000 hours as the engine was started up

So no time to sit around in bed, we’d got more short locks to descend and some miles to cover. This must be the first time on passing through Mirfield that there have been no visiting boats moored up, we could have carried on just that bit further yesterday, but Tilly wouldn’t have had any bracken or friendly cover to seek out friends in as the link fencing is right on the towpath here.

The boat that is being worked on is still covered in a tarpaulin by the water point and it looked like the charity boats were gearing up for a day of visitors. Just by the lock, no I’ll rephrase that, on the lock landing was a cruiser! Big signs say that it is the lock landing but the owner must be blind. Any single hander would have had to reverse past the permanent moorings to be able to tie up to use Shepley Bridge Lock. I however went through Oleanna to the bow (I don’t walk the gunnels due to my bad grip) and hopped off the front, luckily the lock was just about full.

Ground paddles that devour spikes

No need to get the Calder Hebble spike out and risk dropping it into the hole below the ground paddle gear. The hard wood that the spikes are made from does not float! I’ve seen one disappear here before and on the same day met a second crew who’d lost theirs at a lower lock.

Down the bottom

The paddle gear seems to be getting stiffer with every lock we work, at least it means you can’t whip up a paddle in the short locks too quickly. Once down the lock Mick turned left and pulled into the lock landing we were now on the River Calder, deep, wide, so different from the bottom end of the Huddersfield Narrow. With water under Oleanna she smiled a broader smile than she’s smiled before, nothing to do with a slight reposition of her twin horns after the tunnel. She also sounds more confident too!

Just a small proportion of the masses

Swans and geese blocked our way into Greenwood Cut, but luckily they all moved out of the way leaving just one cygnet to our port side. It didn’t complain too much at it’s enforced separation.

Greenwood Lock gave us plenty of room to breath in, the stern doors needed closing to avoid the torrent of water coming from under the top gates. Then Thornhill Flood Lock took us back onto a cut, a long cut. This is where we started to play Bridge Bingo.

Bridge Bingo

Some bridges just have names, others numbers as well. However the numbers seem to be mixed up as if two waterways have been melded into one. 31, 8, 33, 34, 35, 22, 39, a few with names and then 26!

Back in the world of moving boats

A moving boat came towards us, NB Little One, an Aintree Beetle, below the high up Railway Bridge 35. Great the Double Locks should be with us.

Thornhill Double Locks

This is where Lillian had an incident the pound between the two locks which knocked her tiller out of it’s cut, meaning we had no steering. Since then we do our best to be very careful at these two locks. The top one was full, but the bottom empty, I went down to lift a paddle as Mick brought Oleanna in to the top.

With no means of crossing the bottom gates of these locks I started to walk back up to the top lock on the off side, but Mick had stepped off Oleanna on that side as the gate had opened. This meant running back down and around to get to the towpath side to close that gate, oh well my steps for the day had a boost!


These two locks are the last of the shortest locks, so we took care and nudged our way past the closed bottom gate. The intermediate pound was still at a good level, I’d opened the off side gate on the lower lock for Mick to be able to go straight in. However the two locks are on a bend and Oleanna really wanted to go through the other gate. Mick did his best to manoeuvre her round, but she clipped the port side bow on the walkway, smudging off some paint I’d touched up from a previous moment!

Dewsbury off to the right

One day we will go down the Dewsbury Arm just to have a look, ‘Next Time’.

Approaching Millbank Lock I could see movements, another boat just leaving below. I filled the lock only using the gate paddles, getting the spike into use wasn’t necessary. As I went to lift the first bottom paddle another boat was pulling up below. The first paddle was just about impossible to lift so I moved over to the other side where I hoped that one would be easier. Have to say I’d rather be stood over the bow of the boat in a short lock to keep an eye on it catching on stonework.

A none Magenta Elektra

A lady came up to help, I asked her to wait until we knew we were past the cill as we were over long. She understood and waited until Mick was happy with our position. We nudged past the closed gate and were set free onto the river again.

Mick lending a hand with the paddles

Next the Figure of Three Locks. Two locks very close together, the lower one was seriously damaged by flood water, the bywash being more or less totally washed away. I posted about it earlier this year as it was being rebuilt.

Today the locks are reopen, reconnecting the Rochdale and Huddersfield Canals to the eastern side of the network. Both Locks look pretty much as they would have before the flood damage. A new area of stonework on the towpath connects the two where the flood water pushed through from the river. Now sunflowers fill where the gap had been. Here’s a link to what it looked like after the flood and during the work to put it back together.

A deep narrow bywash

The lower of the two locks has a new bywash. The sides of it very high and built of sturdy stone, this had all but been washed away. The off side bank looks to have been replanted and today a farmer was out in his tractor. A very fine job done.

I wonder if the one new solitary stone below the lock will have something carved on it, it’s shouting out for it.

On past Horbury where we visited St Peter’s and St Leonard’s Church a couple of years ago. This is a John Carr Church and is where the architect is buried.

More moving boats and then moored boats below Broad Cut Top Lock, the locks were getting quite roomy now. Time was ticking on. We knew we wouldn’t make it to Stanley Ferry in time for my meeting so decided to pull in after the next river stretch through Thornes Flood Lock. Just as well we’d given ourselves a bit of leeway as Broad Cut Low lock took forever to fill and then with only one paddle working at the bottom end it took forever to empty!

Thornes Flood Lock

We pulled up into the lock cut with half an hour before my meeting and had a late lunch listening to Tilly demanding to be let out. Too close to the railway for comfort she could protest all she liked, but we’d be moving on for her after my meeting anyway.

It might look good to you Tilly, but not to me!

A couple of new faces at the meeting today. Late last week a site was found for me to do a weeks painting near Chippy and set pieces will arrive for me next Monday. I have a clean bare space to take over for a week, I just need a chair, a table and a ladder and I’ll be painting away for hours. Every department was checked on, lists drawn up and the first day of rehearsals discussed, along with the obvious Covid protocol. I’m hoping my panto face masks are waiting for me when I get to Chippy as I think I’ll be wearing them a lot.

The last shortie

With the meeting over we’d pushed off within five minutes to reach a Tilly friendly mooring. Thornes Lock was our last short lock of the Calder and Hebble.

Bow hauling into the lock

This required a hand spike to empty it as the other paddles were out of order. We squeezed in and dropped down. A chap walked up saying they couldn’t get through the lock without a Hebble Spike. I thought he was about to ask me to lock them through. But now the lock was empty they’d be able to fill it just using a windlass as I had. They took their time to move off the lock landing, the reason soon becoming obvious as they’d lost steering and were wanting to tie up above the lock to fix things.

On we pootled back on the river now, passing Double Two where I used to paint sets for the John Godber Theatre Company before I started living on a boat. Straight ahead the dangling sculptural man above the moorings near the Hepworth Museum still dangles. We turned right through Wakefield Flood Lock.

How tall ?!

No visitors to Wakefield on the moorings today, but we did spot a very very tall telephone pole.

Sooo much room!

At Fall Ing Lock we could now breath out, we were leaving the Calder and Hebble, all the short locks behind us now and big Yorkshire locks ahead. It takes quite a bit of filling, longer when it’s a touch breezy and Mick had decided to hover and wait.

Two paddles together

Eventually the lock was full and we could descend onto the Aire and Calder, each hydraulic paddle taking over thirty turns to lift. My arms were tired before I started!

Nearly there Tilly!

Not long now Tilly! We sped down the river and through Broadreach Flood Lock and on towards Stanley Ferry. We’d made it with an hour before cat curfew!

11 locks, 4 flood locks all open, 11.94 miles, 0 short locks left, 0 manual locks left, 1 windlass back in the locker, 4000 engine hours, 1 hour, 11 panto zoomers, 1 painter starting on Monday, 5 chum zoomers, 24th October Tankards Bridge on the Selby Canal open to all craft after 13 months.