In The Footsteps Of Barry. 19th May

Hirst Lock to Keighley Golf Club

Pitter patter on the roof this morning, rain! No choice but to get moving though as we wanted to ascend Bingley this morning. Passages up and down the five and three rise happen twice a day with the assistance of Lock Keepers so arriving before 10am would be a good thing.

The first arched bridge

First we had Hirst Lock. These locks are a lot kinder when shared, but nobody else was on the move. The woods round these parts must have been spectacular a couple of weeks ago, a haze of bluebells, sadly now past their best. Maybe next time we’ll cruise the L&L in early May to catch them.

Dowley Gap Two Rise

A cat sat watching us as we arrived at Dowley Gap Two Rise. The top chamber required topping up and the bottom emptying. There was a lot of walking round to be done.

Now the weather was drying up and we pootled along to the bottom of Bingley. We wondered what this stretch looked like before the A650 and railway were hemmed in by the 1980’s looking stone walls and before the railway existed. Just after we’d pulled up joining three other boats a steam train came past, shooting it’s smoke high above the walls (from Carnforth, heading to York).

One boat was descending as I popped up to say Good Morning to the Lock Keeper. He was pleased we’d be making a second pair, pairs are easier in the locks. A chap from the hire boat we’d be sharing with asked if we’d be going up straight after the two lead boats, because theoretically they could have three pairs in the Three Rise at once. Well no you couldn’t as the following boat would have to steal the water from the boat ahead. So you need to leave a chamber in between uphill boats.

Leaking gates

It took Oleanna 22 minutes to rise up the Three Rise. The Lock Keeper setting ahead and a jolly volunteer keeping an eye on paddle winding. At Bingley you need to take note of what the Lock Keepers say, conserving water is one thing, but keeping your boat safe is another. It took a while for the chap from the hire boat to understand that you shouldn’t just open paddles, a close eye on bows and sterns were required before another two turns could be made.

The Five

The pound between the Three and Five seemed low, but there was just enough water to get us in line below the Five. The bottom lock was emptied for the lead boats then the Lock Keepers headed up the flight to get the upper chambers ready, each one filled ready to be emptied into the next one.

Sitting at the bottom of the five

Tilly sat in the window to admire the view, well the sideways view was of rather good looking trees!

I headed up to reset the bottom chamber, getting to walk up the side Barry (the renowned Lock Keeper) used to inhabit. The bywash at the bottom having moments of gushing water as chambers filled and over spilled above us. The lead boat was assisted up the staircase by the Lock Keeper whilst the lady volunteer assisted us. A pause at one point as the gates into the second chamber ahead hadn’t quite closed for us to empty the one in between. Water cascaded over the top of gates, the Lock Keeper ran round, the bywash below gushed again. We paused a while to let them get ahead of us.

Thankfully we’d recalled a Lockie a few years ago suggesting to have our cratch cover closed due to leaky gates, helping to deflect the water away from the welldeck. We know of one boat this year that has turned around due to so much water spraying over their tug deck, this was before they got to the Three and Five Rises.

Water gushing from their roof

Oleanna and the hire boat would enter each chamber far enough for the bottom gates to be closed and then nestle back towards the bottom gates. Despite this the roof of the hire boat was a third wet and water rushed down along the sides of the grab rail, nowhere for the water to drain other than right down to the stern, causing two waterfalls one each side of the stern bulkhead.

At Bingley there are four seasonal Lock Keepers (2 of which share a job). The Lockie chatted about the seasonal staff in Leeds and the difficulties they were having recruiting this year. From last year one chap has retired, another hasn’t returned due to ill health, the third one, well lets just say there are still people out there who don’t respect Lock Keepers as they should.

Out the top

As we reached the top chamber it was time to put waterproofs back on as the sky turned black, thankfully we didn’t get too wet before the swing bridge was swung for us to leave the top of the Five, fifty minutes after entering the bottom.

On the same contour as Skipton

We’d thought about filling with water, but the tap by the café was being used and the hire boat wanted to top up, we’d last til Skipton. Now to find a mooring, suitable for Tilly and in time for Mick to have another important phone call.

New improved bridge

Micklethwait Swing Bridge has had an upgrade since we last came through and had to call for assistance. A raised platform with a small pedestal with Open and Close buttons. Other bridges didn’t have such good sight lines so a quick walk from checking the road to the pedestal was needed before more traffic came.

The good views start

Cygnets, new houses, the views across to Keighley. A splash of serious colour from two rhododendron bushes in a garden made us hope that we’d timed our arrival along this stretch to perfection. Sadly we’re at least two weeks too early for the masses of rhododendrons to be in full flower. Maybe next time we come this way we’ll have to do it in early June!

More swing bridges, one operated by a hire boat, another by C&RT as they were in the middle of replacing the post it gets secured to.

The Piano Boat more a raft really

We passed the Piano Boat, a raft comprising of all sorts that the owner bow hauls along the L&L. A peek in through one of the bay windows revealed a drum kit.

So much lush green

We’d thought of mooring near Riddlesdon, but that was too close to roads for Tilly. Onwards to where we thought we’d moored before, but sadly we were too deep to pull in close enough to the bank. Onwards pulling in to try time after time, Mick’s arranged phone call getting closer and closer all the time.


Booths Swing Bridge has always been hard to secure in position. Today it had been left a few feet from where it should be, no chance of securing it. I tried to give it a push. Nothing! Was this the bridge our locking partners out from Leeds had mentioned that you needed to jump on the opposite corner to help get it moving. I jumped and tried again. Nothing! I enlisted Mick to come and do the jumping and sure enough this helped greatly to get it going, phew!

A short distance onwards we tried pulling in again. The depth not our friend, but this would do for the time being, for lunch and Mick’s phone call. Mick hopped off to bang spikes in.

Where were the bow spikes? I normally leave them sticking out from a spare pooh bucket. They weren’t there. Ohh! We both realised what must have happened. This morning I’d untied the bow and thrown the rope to Mick as the bow was quite a way from the bank. I’d then headed off to set the lock and Mick had been more occupied with the position of the bow rope so I wouldn’t have to stoop to get it, he’d forgotten to pick up the spikes and the good hammer. So if you are now the new owner of two spikes and a yellow hammer may they serve you well. Luckily we have spares, but will need to get replacement ones for when this happens again. Maybe a visit to a chandlers for Mick’s birthday is needed!

Tilly headed off to check on the golfers below as we had lunch and then Mick’s phone rang bang on time. Tomorrow is Mick’s birthday, he will now be of an age where he will receive his private pension. A small one he’d been getting for a few years had suddenly had a boost, he checked this with the person on the phone, the new amount was correct, what a lovely birthday bonus.

During the afternoon I watched Encanto, a Disney film set in Columbia. The settings pretty much spot on with my reference photos I’d collected. The music was very catchy, even Mick was tapping his toes.


Then a spot of secret baking. A new recipe for a chocolate fudge cake from a book I got at Christmas. I omitted to add the 70ml of milk, and when I realised my mistake it was already starting to rise, so I let it be. Within ten minutes I could smell that it was cooking well and needed to be covered in foil as the top had caught! Was it the amount of sugar in it? Was it that our oven has decided to be a touch too hot? I’m sure it’ll be edible though, fingers crossed!

11 locks, 3 staircases, 11 bridges, 1 left open, 25 held up, 1 wet start, 2 shallow, 2 boaters jumping on bridges, 2 late for bluebells, 2 early for rhododendrons, -2 spikes, -1 mallet, 1 very dark chocolate cake!