Having A Gander. 23rd May

Skipton to the Curley Wurleys above Bank Newton

After a lovely long weekend of friends, food, theatre, oh and a birthday we needed to be on our way again, the alarm was set.

Brewery Swing Bridge, Skipton

The lovely man from the slow boat was walking his dog and insisted that he should help us through Brewery Swing Bridge where the key of power does the barriers but you have to push the bridge manually. Between us we managed to find a gap in the traffic and school children and ended up holding nobody up.

A line of Silsden maroon boats sat just past a vacant water point, we pulled in and topped up the tank. Then a wave to Robert and Margie (who weren’t looking at the time) and we were soon saying our farewells to Skipton, Gawflat Swing Bridge no longer requiring a C&RT person to operate it.

About three miles on the flat gave us more swing bridges, the last on this side of the summit. Swans sat enjoying the freshly cut grass. Were they making nests? Would a farmer carry on regardless or leave that corner of the field should eggs be laid? Geese preferred the longer grass around the fields, peeking up having a gander at us as we cruised past.

Approaching one swing bridge a hire boat was coming the other way, they’d got to the bottom of the locks and decided to leave them for their second narrowboat holiday, swing bridges would be enough for their first. At Highgate Swing Bridge two boats were getting ready to set off, they’d each found themselves a locking partner.

I walked up to help. One boat was a hire boat and it was their first broad lock, myself and the other lady explained how the locks worked and wound the ground paddles round and round and round. A shame I’d helped so much as we’d be on our own coming up and my arms were already exclaiming about this being the first of several locks today.

Such a photogenic signpost

Once we were up we pootled onwards to Eshton Road Lock, the two boats ahead now rising and what looked like another Silsden boat was pulled up on the lock landing, we might have found ourselves a locking partner.

Cloughs open

This is the first lock with cloughs as ground paddles, I asked the lady we’d be sharing with if she’d used them before. The answer came back that they had done this stretch several times before, we had experienced serial hirers with us. Helen and Joe turned out to be good locking partners.

The two boats ahead pulled in above Highlander Lock for the day leaving the way ahead clear for us. As we walked between locks some Ash trees were having a serious chop back, Mick was a little bit too far away from the bank to stop and collect a few rounds sadly.

The boys chatting

We now met a few boats coming down the locks everyone enjoying the wonderful sunshine. Mick and Joe chatted away at the stern and Helen and I chatted, when we could hear each other, at the locks.

What a wonderful day

So much green, yellow, white and blue. What a beautiful day to be boating and on such a beautiful canal.

Looking up Bank Newton

A lunch break was required by all, so both boats paused before starting our ascent of Bank Newton. Most of the lock flights on the Leeds Liverpool have restricted hours, nothing too restrictive, 10am to 5pm, last boat in at 4pm. This is to help conserve water so that hopefully the canal won’t have to close as it did last year.

Action shot of Helen

At the bottom of Bank Newton a Lockie was cutting the grass, he mentioned that there were two boats on their way down. As soon as Helen and Jo were in sight I started to set the first of the six locks. The newer of the cloughs seem to be the hardest to move, maybe tighter fitting below the water. Us both ladies in their 50’s we’d give the cloughs a go, but should they not want to move we’d leave them for a while before trying again, in some cases a while longer. No point in aggravating my back third week back on the boat!

The friendly volunteer

We made steady progress up the flight, passing a Silsden wide beam in one pound and a narrowboat in another, both gates requiring opening as they cruise with their fenders down! By the time we reached the halfway mark we picked up a friendly volunteer who headed on upwards to set the next locks for us.

So much green and blue

Now on our favourite pound, we followed the contour around the hill, fingers crossed there’d be space for us on the curley wurleys. Bingo one boat there, we pulled in to their stern, Helen and Joe pulled up in front. This is our favourite mooring on the network. A wide towpath, sheep in the fields below, a dry stone wall and fantastic views.

We’d been planning a barbecue but sadly there was just too much of a breeze to have made for a perfect evening. Instead we decided to have a drink sat out to soak up the view and give Tilly an extra hour of shore leave before we all came inside to eat. I so love it here. Next time we’ll try to stay for longer.

Tilly admiring the view

12 locks, 11 shared, 7.6 miles, 5 bridges, 0 held up! 1 pooh sucky lorry, 1 wave to Margie, 1 slightly pink boater, 31st sock for dementia.