Sad Estate. 15th October

Stanley Ferry to Castleford Cut

Stanley Ferry

No need to rush today, we are on schedule and having pushed on a touch yesterday to get somewhere suitable for Tilly, we were a touch ahead of ourselves.

New gates for somewhere

As we had breakfast a tug came past pushing a skip piled high with brand new lock gates. Stanley Ferry is one of two places in the UK where lock gates are manufactured and refurbished. In an average year around 100 gates are made here, that is a lot of oak! Between November and the end of March sections of the network will close for maintenance, an extensive stoppage list is put together every year with chance to make comments before it is finally published in August. Cruising in winter can take some planning.

Crane too

Soon followed a crane boat, most probably heading to the same site to off load the gates. We pondered where they were heading and if the skip boat was short enough with the tug to go up the Calder Hebble Locks together, we suspected not, there’ll be some bow hauling out of locks.

The sun was out, clear blue skies and plenty of them now that we are out of the hills. We pushed off pausing for me to work Ramsdens Swing Bridge, I only managed to hold up one cyclist! A chimney sweep sat having a fag break on a roof sunning himself.

Stanley Ferry Aqueduct, one of them

Then on over Stanley Ferry Aqueduct and past the workshop.

The big doors were open so we could see inside. Hoists were about to move more gates about inside. Out side piles of gates lay on the concrete, one pile had a constant stream of water running over it, the oak all dark. Presumably this is to keep gates from shrinking as during their working life they will hold back tonnes of water on a daily basis. New baulks of oak sat close by.

No squeezing into locks today, no need for handcuff keys or windlasses. The Aire and Calder requires the Key of Power. Birkwood Lock however never looks like it should be key operated as it’s gate beams of oak have relaxed through the years, it looks like they’d need a good old shove, but no the Key works wonders.

Written in blood!

On the lock landing below there were pots of flowers that were past their best, then hand scrawled signs that could have been painted in blood were a big contrast.

How blue can one world get?

Sky sky sky. 180 degrees of it. Chilly but so very sunny.

It’ll cut across those fields

A short distance above Kings Road Lock is where the proposed route of HS2 crosses on our map, I’m no longer sure if the northern sections of HS2 will happen. Thankfully today there were no huge mounds of earth to spoil the views.

Out for the weekend

We pulled into the lock landing to empty the yellow water into a container for disposal later. This meant the lock was emptied by a wide beam heading up. We were ready before the lady moved to the top gates to start filling the lock, so I offered to use my key at that end, the console traps your key until the gates are closed. She was quite happy for me to press the button for two seconds to commence the filling, so was I!

Down we dropped in the huge lock, it’s as if those short locks were a figment of our imagination now!

Pink Panther keeps an eye on where Foxholes Lock used to drop down onto the River Calder. Ahead we could see that traffic on the M62 was stationary on the eastbound carriage way, we however were cruising along quite happily in the deep wide water.

Last lock for me

A top up of water above Woodnook Lock before we pulled in to descend. This was to be my last lock for a while, the last before I head off to Panto land.

Now back on the river we passed familiar sights Woodnook Viaduct, Fairies Hill Lock, no yellow wide beam moored below it today. At Methley Bridge Boat Yard the boats were still three deep. Welding going on and a great named tug, Chugger-lugs-the-tug.

Just how sad do they look

Towards Castleford Junction, where the Aire and Calder Wakefield Branch meets the Aire and Calder from Leeds and Goole, there is a housing estate going up. I’m fairly sure we’ve been past and seen the Marvin the paranoid android houses before, but now there are even more going up.

Each and everyone of them has the sad furrowed brow, what a sad estate. Did the architect never see how sad they looked?

Left to Leeds, Right to a weir, or straight on to Castleford and Goole.

Straight on for us and through the flood lock. Now where to moor? We need to be here for three days, so longer than the 48hr moorings. We carried on towards Bulholme Lock and pulled in on the south bank just before the edge becomes high.

A red light?

Was that a ‘Red’ light at the lock? A cruiser pottered about in front of the light. Yes it looked red. Normally the lights on the Aire and Calder are on Amber, self operation. Maybe a gravel barge was on it’s way up? Once we’d moored up the reason arrived in our Inbox.

One of the lower sluices has an object jammed in the gate preventing the sluice paddle from fully closing.  This impacts lower lock operation. The upper lock is operational but only operates via the desk in the lock tower and not via the lock side customer operated pedestals which only operate the lower lock.

Actions to investigate and make repairs are in hand but the lock will not be operational via the customer operated lock side pedestals until these are undertaken and completed. To facilitate lockage’s and until repairs have been completed the lock will be operated by a lock keeper on the following dates and during the time periods indicated below.  Outside these times the lock will be closed:

Saturday 16th, Sunday 17th and Monday 18th October 2021: lock open from 10am, last lockage 3pm

The lock will be closed on Tuesday 19th October to allow access for divers to investigate and undertake repairs.

Bulholme Lock is big, but it also has, like many others around here, an extra section to make it even longer. These stem back to when Tom Puddings transported coal around the area. So even though the bottom gates of the lock cannot be made water tight, the middle gates (in normal operation the top gates) are, so they can be used as the bottom gates instead. The extra gates which are rarely used can only be operated by a lock keeper in the tower, hence reduced working hours.

Tilly was given four hours! There was a bit of coming and going at first, but then she vanished out of sight for a couple of hours. That’s more like it!


As the sunset, planes flew over and boats lit their stoves, sending up plumes of smoke. Just a shame someone had got their genny going. Even more so when it didn’t stop until around midnight!

3 locks, 1 flood lock, 6.21 miles, 1 straight on, 1 swing bridge, 1 cyclist, 1 boat helped up, M62 stationary, 14 day mooring, 0.5 half broken lock, 2 many sad houses, 1 happy cat, 1 annoying boater somewhere over the other side who needs new batteries!