Category Archives: Calder Hebble

2021 An Adventurous Year

Time for the annual round up. Put the kettle on or pour yourself a glass of something stonger, put your feet up, this is a long post.

Looking out into a cold world!

As midnight turned from 2020 to 2021 we saw the old year out and new one in at the house in Scarborough, a quiet affair with just the three of us.

January and February brought ups and downs with them. Oleanna rose and fell with the water level at Viking Marina due to the breach at New Bridge whilst the country locked down. Despite the restrictions on travelling we made use of having a hire car for a few days at the beginning of the year to keep an eye on Oleanna.

Jobs around the house continued, our bedroom was redecorated and reclaimed from troublesome tenants. Tilly and I ventured out into the nearby park for the occasional walk, dependant on the number of woofers and the weather of course.

We walked, we ate, we drank, did our best to stay well and I started on the design for Chipping Norton’s panto in my reclaimed work room.

The spare living room was used as a workshop doing some work for Animated Objects, scrimming giant sci-fi guns and then painting model buildings all for The Odyssey. Beetroot burgers were made and pancakes consumed.

Then March came along and some easing of restrictions. Colour came back in nature with the daffodils popping up and my panto model started to get coloured in. A design for some origami paper arrived ready to be folded up to be part of 1000 ships display that would happen a couple of months later along the Yorkshire coast.

With new freedoms we had a couple of trips to Goole to check on Oleanna. First one was to swing her round and finally put fire extinguishers on walls all ready for her Boat Safety Inspection which she passed with flying colours and a comment that we seemed to like CO and smoke detectors, well I’d rather have too many than not enough!

The cofferdam at the breach site was completed and an access ramp created. My posts about the breach put us in touch with several people in Goole and at the beginning of April The Goole Escape Facebook group was formed. Due to the breach and lack of water in Goole Docks no leisure boats were allowed to use Ocean Lock out onto the Tidal Ouse. A joint calm voice was needed to try to find a way out for those boats wanting to leave, including us.

Of course March was also when Mick and I got our first vaccinations. Who’d have thought having a jab would put a smile on peoples faces! Not that you could really see them behind all the masks. A bathroom got a make over and we discovered parts of Scarborough we’d never been to before.

April was a very busy month. With lodgers on the horizon house jobs needed finishing. The roof needed attention along with a wall in my work room, both jobs were for the professionals. Pictures went up on walls, finally. The bathroom needed finishing with Frank fitting us a new bath surround.

Mid month out attention moved back to Oleanna. Way back when, we’d booked her in at Goole Boathouse to be blacked. We had a night on board before moving her from one marina to the other to come out of the water. She was jet washed down and the chaps began applying layers of 2 pack to her hull. We visited most days with jobs to do ourselves. Mick busied himself inside whilst I ground back rusty bits on the gunnels, repainted them and the tunnel bands. Inside the oak floor had a good clean and then was treated to two coats of oil. The weather had been perfect for it and she went back in the water a week after she’d come out, enough time for the 2 pack to cure. She looked smart again, well the cabin sides still needed a good wash!

Whilst in Goole we met up with David, Karl, Wendy and Martin, four members of The Goole Escape group. David had managed to negotiate with ABP passage for leisure boats through Ocean Lock at Goole Docks, this was limited to specific times of the tide. So escape was now possible but everything would have to come together to make a sensible plan. We wouldn’t be ready for a few weeks and hoped that there wouldn’t be a mass exodus before we could join people.

As I carried on trying to finish my panto model Mick made good use of his time doing a VHF radio course, we’d need to be able to use the radio to meet the criteria for going through Goole Docks and out onto the Tidal Ouse. Tilly visited the vet and got a years worth of flea and wormer treatments, we were all set to move back on board.

The first of May was that day. We’d hoped that Tilly would remember the boat after seven months on shore, within about two seconds of being back it was obvious she knew where she was. News that Goole caisson gates were now open and cruising up towards the breach site was possible we headed off to give Oleanna a good run and so that Tilly could venture back onto dry land. It was very good to be back on the move again. On our second such trip Tilly remembered how to swim!

Whilst in Goole Mick took his Short Range VHF Radio exam and passed. I carried on painting my panto model. We both had our second vaccinations. Heather Bleasdale came to visit joining us for an outdoor lunch. We got to know the Goole Escape Committee and discussed plans. We watched work going on at the breach site. Mick had a birthday and Joan’s Home Kitchen provided us with a celebratory meal a couple of days before we hoped to escape.

On 21st May an escape committee meeting was had early on, the weather looked hopeful for the tide in the afternoon, we were booked in at Ocean Lock. Our escape was to be via Selby, the Lock keeper was called there and our plan confirmed. At lunchtime we moved up to fill the diesel tank and await the other escapees, Sea Maiden and Lullabelle. Given the go ahead by the docks to proceed we were soon passing through to Ocean Lock where there was plenty of space for the three of us. At around 14:30 the large lock gates opened to reveal our way out of Goole onto the Tidal Ouse.

All three boats arrived safe and sound

We headed upstream following Sea Maiden being pushed along with the tide. Would we make it to Selby before the tide turned. Each boat arrived individually and was locked up into Selby Basin. We’d made it, now all we had to do was escape Selby as the swing bridge out of the basin there was broken.

We waited. Tides, times, weather and the amount of fresh coming down stream all had to fit together. Bridget and Storm came to visit. We twiddled our thumbs. The Environment Agency came and closed the flood barrier. We twiddled our thumbs. Daily escape committee meetings were held. By the 27th everything was looking to fit together apart from one thing, Keadby Lock would not be manned at a suitable time for us to get off the river. Sea Maiden and Lullabelle decided to stay put in Selby. Heather Bleasdale was joining us for the trip but Oleanna would be out on the river on her own heading to Trent Falls.

What a day that was! David’s advice was spot on. Leaving Selby just before 10am Oleanna zoomed downstream with the out going tide. We followed our charts keeping to the channel. At the Apex light Mick swung Oleanna round to head upstream onto the Trent our progress slowing instantly.

We then crawled our way to find where we should wait for the tide to turn. Two hours of very little, drifting on our anchor. We’d picked the day well, it was wonderful out there.

When Oleanna started to move round a touch more we managed to pull the anchor up and found our way back into the main channel to head upstream with the incoming tide. One plan had been to moor up in Gainsborough, but we decided to carry on and arrived at Torksey just as the last light was fading at just gone 22:00, 64 miles in a day, I doubt we’ll ever beat that.

Over the next few days we made our way up the Trent, dug out our windlasses to work locks in Nottingham. Once we rose up Derwent Mouth Lock onto the Trent and Mersey we had completed our escape. The going would now be much slower along shallow canals and plenty more moored boats to slow down past.

Now we should make our booked mooring at Rembrandt Gardens, every day would be a boating day unless the weather was either too hot or far too wet to cruise. Along the Trent and Mersey, pausing to stock up in Alrewas. At Fradley we turned onto the Coventry Canal to head southwards. We gave a tow to NB Burghley Girl to the bottom of Atherstone.

At Hawkesbury Junction we did the 180 degree turn onto the North Oxford Canal, through Rugby and up Hillmorton. NB Kamili with Andy and Irene passed as we arrived in Braunston where we paused for another butchers, then up the flight and through the tunnel.

Straight on along the Grand Union. On route we stopped for a drink with Lizzie at Bugbrooke. Paused for a hot day under some trees near Milton Keynes. Had a diversion along the Wendover Arm for a night. Picked up extra crew, my old college friend Jen, for a day through Hemel Hempstead. Came across our first sightings of HS2 cutting it’s way across the landscape.

At Bulls Bridge we turned left onto the Paddington Arm. On our trip into London we came across our friends Pete and Clare on NB Billy, it turned out we’d be neighbours at Rembrandt Gardens for a few days. We arrived on time and the next day headed across London by bus to Hackney to see the London Leckenbys for the first time since Christmas 2019.

Plenty more family to catch up with. Kath came for lunch, we had a trip to Eastbourne to see Marion and John, a lovely lunch with Christine and Paul. So good to see everyone again and not just on a computer screen every Saturday.

Happy Birthday Big Brother

Andrew’s 60th Birthday was celebrated, nothing fancy just good to be able to be together for it, we’d achieved our second goal of the year.

We heard there was a space at St Pancras Cruising Club for a long boat like Oleanna, so we took advantage of a more secure mooring close to Kings Cross whilst we had a visit back to Scarborough. Checking on the house, lodgers changing over and seeing the latest Ayckbourn play with Bridget and Storm, it all made for a good weekend away. I then headed off to Huddersfield for a couple of days work with Dark Horse, fitting costumes for a photo shoot.

There was to be a Tideway cruise from St Pancras Cruising Club and with one space left we jumped at the opportunity. Ten boats made their way to Limehouse, we breasted up with NB Misty Blue, Graham turned out to be another Goole Escapee. Three lock-fulls of boats headed out onto the Tideway on the morning of 10th July, special permission had been sought to go under Hammersmith Bridge which was closed to all forms of traffic at the time.

Tilly thought we were mad taking her onto such rough water, I was a little perplexed too! Very glad that I was the official photographer, clinging on as we did more than bob up and down! Tower Bridge, The National Theatre, Christine, Adam, The Houses of Parliament, Battersea Power Station. So many sights, what an experience!

The further west we got the calmer the water got. We were glad when Hammersmith Bridge was passed as there had always been a chance that it might close to boat traffic at anytime due to safety reasons. We turned off at Brentford along with several other boats and continued up to Hanwell where we had a very sociable evening at The Fox with everyone. Thank you Simon for mentioning the cruise to us.

Sadly our washing machine hadn’t liked the lumpy water so for the next month we cruised meeting up with engineers on route hoping it could be mended. Back through London, pausing at St Pancras again. Then down to the Herford Union to cut across to the Lee and Stort. We had another mooring booked on the Lee awaiting our arrival, alongside NB Billy.

Then up the Lee and onto the River Stort. We’d only ventured so far up the Stort during our first winter on Lillian, this time we headed all the way to Bishop Stortford. Our return journey was held up slightly due to the river going into flood overnight so we had to wait for it to lower to get under the bridge at Roydon.

Back through London we made use of the new Eco-moorings near Islington Tunnel, a handy stop off with electricity. Here we met up with Nick an old friend from York and Adam called in for a catch up after working the breakfast shift at Radio 2.

Goodbye Christine!

At the end of July we pushed on and left London behind us, returning to Bulls Bridge.

We headed up to Uxbridge for cheap diesel and finally got our washing machine mended. We turned around and headed back to the Hanwell flight, stowed the garden back in the shower and headed out onto the Thames again where we turned right towards Oxford.

With a weeks license we couldn’t dawdle, although a broken lock gate at Boveney Lock did hold us up overnight so our license would be extended. A space was spotted below Cliveden so we treated ourselves to a night moored in the grounds of the big house. We paused for a socially distanced chat with Sue on No Problem XL, good to see her looking so well. Henley Regatta was almost ready as we passed through and our favourite mooring above Days Lock did not disappoint. All too soon we turned up Sheepwash Channel and ascended Isis Lock back onto the Oxford Canal.

Whilst in Oxford I managed an actual face to face meeting with Dash the Director for Chippy Panto. He seemed happy! Then we made our way up to Thrupp where we’d booked ourselves in at the cruising club for a few days whilst the London Leckenbys came to visit and we had a trip back to Scarborough and we got to see the show at Esk Valley for the first time since we’ve been living afloat.

I had a day trip to Chippy where I did a final model meeting over zoom from a dressing room, but also had chance to measure things up. Then we were off up the Oxford Canal, mooring in our favourite spots, it was a touch busier than it normally is in the winter.

A pause to visit Village Meats in Braunston and we spotted our old share boat NB Winding Down so we stopped to say hello. On up the flight sharing with a boat full of actors, then left up to Crick for the first time in ages.

A prearranged boaters meeting at Houdini’s Field worked brilliantly, NB Panda and NB Kamili convened and we all enjoyed each others company over a fantastic barbeque outside so everyone could feel safe and Tilly could roam about. Oleanna was treated to a very good wash and brush up before we were on our way again. We now needed to get her north before I started on Panto.

News came through that the breach on the Aire and Calder had been mended and nine months after the canal had sprung a leek it was mended and open again. Boats could now move through the area, mooring however is still restricted.

Following the Grand Union we headed down the Stockton Flight to Leamington Spa. Tilly and I had a few hot days on our own moored at Radford Smelly then we were on our way again. An obligatory burger at The Cape of Good Hope the night before we teamed up with NB Mad Hatter to ascend the Hatton flight. One day my old college friend Emma will not have an excuse to helping us up the flight, this time we met for a cuppa and a catch up the following day.

On up Knowle to Catherine de Barnes, then Camp Hill Locks, the Ashted flight and Tunnel (!) followed by Farmers Bridge into Birmingham. The city centre is still full of building and tram works but with the sun out it looked stunning. We also caught up with Paul Balmer from Waterway Routes before carrying on with our journey.

A night at Hawne Basin filled the diesel tank up. A night at Dudley Port Basin got the cupboards filled. A pause at Urban Moorings meant we could donate our deposits and the next day we descended from the Birmingham plateau down the Wolverhampton 21.

Along the Staffordshire and Worcester we managed to have a mid stream catch up with Barbara from NB Bessie Surtees. At Great Haywood I managed a catch up with Kay from NB Pea Green as she set up to trade for the day and Mick filled Oleanna’s water tank.

Heading north on the Trent and Mersey we pulled in for lunch and a surprise hello to Barry and Sandra from NB AreandAre whom we’d got to know last year in the first lockdown. In the afternoon we were joined by Bill and Lisa for a trip through Harecastle Tunnel. Now we swung off the Trent and Mersey and onto the Macclesfield with it’s wonderful bridges.

It would have been nice to take our time but we had a rendez vous to make. The end mooring at Marple was free and from here we headed into Manchester by train to join the London Leckenbys for a meal of big red fish. The following day my old school friend Morag joined us for a night on board with some serious catching up to be done.

Our next deadline loomed, Standedge Tunnel. We dropped down the Marple flight, crossed the aqueduct and turned right at Dukinfield Junction onto the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. We knew we were in for some hard work to climb our way over the Pennines, last time we’d enlisted crew to help as I was one handed. This time we’d be going solo. Apart from the very first lock it wasn’t too troublesome. The work is rewarded with stunning views.

Standedge Tunnel did not disappoint. Because of social distancing Mick got ride ride up front in the cratch leaving the helm to a C&RT volunteer. Bumps and scrapes made Oleanna wince along with us, but we all got through in one piece with no damage. Tilly wasn’t too happy about the trip, but at least I can now boast to the local cats in Scarboreugh that I’ve been through the longest deepest highest tunnel on the canal network whilst they just lazed around on their shed roofs!

On our way down the other side Oleanna had a belt that went taking out quite a few wires in the engine bay. RCR were sent for, the engineer suggested we’d need to remove a pulley on the alternator to be able to remove trapped wires, this could not happen where we were. We could move but the batteries would not charge. The only way to top up our electric was with the solar panels. Emergency power conservation went into operation, blogs were hand written, the freezer turned off and we gradually ate our way through our defrosting supplies. Every day Mick managed to pull more wire from the alternator and soon there was no need for an engineer again, just a new belt needed fitting.

We made our way down to Huddersfield and arrived the day before I had a production meeting at Dark Horse. After walking to my meeting I handed over the model and we stocked up on supplies before heading off east along the Huddersfield Broad Canal.

The Board locks are just that, but they are short. On Lillian we’d nearly got stuck here, but Oleanna was built a foot shorter so we knew we were fine, we still had to take great care in descending the locks diagonally. This continued on to the Calder and Hebble, taking our time and using our Hebble spike. The rebuilding work done at the Figure of Three locks, after flooding washed huge parts of the structure away, are only noticeable due to the new stonework.

Bigger locks were welcome, using the key of power once past Wakefield. The sun shone wonderfully for my last full days boating this year as we made our way to Castleford. Here we hired a car to get me down to Chipping Norton to start work on Panto whilst Mick and Tilly stayed on board with the plan to move Oleanna to a winter mooring in Thorne.

Whilst I painted the set working all the hours I could, Mick and Tilly gradually made their way eastwards. They passed through the breach site and headed to Goole to top up on diesel. On their way back towards the New Junction Canal the engine started to over heat, a problem that had happened a couple of years ago on the Thames.

The following day he winded and slowly made his way to Rawcliffe Bridge for easier access for RCR. Little could be done there and then, so Mick and Alastair (engineer) arranged to meet at Viking Marina in Goole. Oleanna managed the two and a half miles in three stages. After her cooling system had been flushed through the problem hadn’t gone away. The water pump was removed and was obviously the problem. A week later with a new pump Mick moved back out onto the cut and joined Lullabelle (a fellow Goole Escapee).

Taking a long weekend off panto, I headed up to join Mick and Tilly to help move them back to Scarborough. Wendy and Martin kept an eye on Oleanna for us whilst we settled Tilly back into the house, I knew where I was! Pah!!

Several days later with the weather on his side, Mick returned as early as he could, pushed off and single handed Oleanna back along the Aire and Calder to Sykehouse Junction where he turned onto the New Junction Canal. With swing and lift bridges to work he was glad of the assistance of a volunteer at Sykehouse Lock. Then the sharp turn at Bramwith onto the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigations. A few more bridges and two more locks before he arrived at Blue Water Marina, Oleanna’s winter mooring.

Tucked up for a rest

On our way back from Chippy a week or so later we called in to check on her. A boat in winter isn’t too friendly without the stove lit. We’ll have visits every now and then to check on her and do the odd job. The weeks are already flying by before we move back on board.

For a year that we’d decided would purely be about seeing our family and friends we ended up having quite an adventurous time. Trent Falls, the Tideway through London and Standedge Tunnel made it quite a year.

So our vital statistics for the year 2021 according to canal plan are

Total distance was 932 miles, ½ furlong and 627 locks . There were 42 moveable bridges of which 16 are usually left open; 169 small aqueducts or underbridges and 30 tunnels – a total of 19 miles 3 ¼ furlongs underground and 3 major aqueducts.

This was made up of 277 miles, 1 ¾ furlongs of narrow canals; 270 miles, 4 furlongs of broad canals; 89 miles, 4 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 59 miles, 7 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 121 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 105 miles, 2 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 8 miles of seaways; 263 narrow locks; 302 broad locks; 61 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

Sadly with Oleanna’s log book where it should be, onboard, I’m not able to offer up the engine hours, litres of diesel, gas bottle or bags of coal. Maybe I’ll update this once we are back on board.

The Thames, 2021

This year we’ve done more miles than last, not bad considering we were on land for so much of it. We’ve done far more tidal miles than ever before and for the first time we’ve been on a Seaway! If someone can tell me what the difference is between Tidal waters and Seaways please do. Maybe it was around Trent Falls, or was it downstream of Tower Bridge?

As last year I hope the pandemic doesn’t throw a spanner in the works for us or anyone else. We need the theatrical world to still function with an income for me designing shows and lodgers paying to stay in our house.

I want to say ‘Keep well friends’, but I feel I need to add, ‘Get well soon friends’, as so many have tested positive recently. Thank you for following us and hope to see you soon x

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.

Breathing In. 13th October

Aspley Basin to Wheatley Bridge 20, Calder and Hebble Navigation

Not the quietest of moorings

Up early for us, breakfasted whilst the final load of washing was making the most of the electric hookup, then we pushed over to the service block. Someone already had a hose linked up to the tap, but that didn’t matter we could wait. Our main reason for being there was to make it easier to pick up our Click and Collect from Sainsburys. Mick headed off with the bike to collect it across the car park and was back very quickly.

That way please!

The tap was now free so we topped up with water, disposed of any rubbish as the shopping was stowed away. Time to push off and say Goodbye to Huddersfield the largest Town in the country. I’ll be back in February, but sadly not by boat.

Chains and wheels

The Turnbridge Loco Lift Bridge was opened in 1865 replacing a swing bridge. A combination of chains, wheels and counter weights lifts the bridge deck vertically. Originally it was operated with a windlass, but since 2002 it has been electrically powered. I got my Key of Power out and waited for a gap in the traffic before turning it to release the barriers. Once they had been moved I pressed the button to lift the bridge. What look like big counter weights actually house all the chain required for the bridge to rise and fall. Today I managed to stop 8 vehicles.

The pootle out of Huddersfield isn’t the most picturesque, light and not so light industry sit alongside the canal. Gas Street Bridge always has a strong aroma around it. Then we passed my second choice hotel in Huddersfield the Travelodge. From here you get good views of the railway viaduct before the recycling plant, I prefer the view of boats from the Premier Inn at Aspley.

Red Doles Lock 9

Then the first lock of the Huddersfield Broad Canal. Opened in 1776 it linked the Calder Hebble to the centre of Huddersfield and later to the Narrow in 1811 creating a trans-pennine route. The long narrowboats that could climb over the Pennines could not use the shorter locks of the Broad canal. Goods were transhipped at Aspley Basin but the canal was overshadowed by the Rochdale Canal, which had broad locks that could hold two narrowboats.

Mind that cill

Today the Broad canal is listed as being 57ft 6″ long by 14ft 2″ wide, but C&RT also say that narrowboats of 60ft can navigate it by going diagonally. Six years ago we managed the trip in Lillian (NB Lillyanne). Going downhill in an over long boat you have to take great care to position your boat in the right spot. Last time lock 8 proved to be a touch tight for Lillian and we had difficulty positioning her so as to be able to get her bow past the closed bottom gate and out. This is why we had Oleanna built a foot shorter and with the aid of a bow thruster to help her clear the bottom gate without use of a rope or pole. So today we knew we’d be alright, yet we still had to take care.

For each lock we did the same. Oleanna was brought in, her bow brought as far forward as the small walkway allows and she tucks into a corner. Then the stern is taken over to the other side, this works on Oleanna. With Lillian ( a foot longer) we had to have her stern more towards the centre of the lock this giving a few more inches as the cill is curved.

On a diagonal

I then stand above the bow and gradually lift the paddle whilst Mick keeps an eye on the stern and the cill. With Lillian we took this very slowly as any chance of the stern sitting on the cill could mean she would sink. As the boat lowers you can move her forward under the walkway a touch. Then once Oleanna’s stern had safely passed the cill I walk round to the other side and lift the paddle there.

Nudging her way past the bottom gate

Once the water is level with below I then open this gate. Now Mick moves Oleanna’s bow past the still closed gate and can escape. Just to do it all over again at the next lock.

No visible brake on the gear

The paddle gear is different to most as there is no visible brake on them. You wind the paddle up and just stop where you want to. Then when you want to lower it you just need to give it a little bit of extra umph to get it moving and the brake comes off.

The gate paddles can be fierce and send a jet of water down the lock. But then several of the locks had quite a few leaky top gates, so much so Mick had to shelter behind the back doors to keep himself dry.

Getting ready to jet wash

Two chaps from C&RT were getting ready to jet wash around some of the locks, they said they were slippy and with winter maintenance happening soon they were giving the stone work a good clean.

Poorly lock

The next lock is currently closed to widebeams as the off side gate has been damaged. The face of it now covered with a sheet of timber and the gate is tied with a cable to prevent anyone from opening it.

Colne Bridge Lock dropped us down into the final pound of the Broad Canal. This is the pound that has been loosing water over the last few weeks. We’ve seen photographs of it just about empty, but thankfully today there was water, it was still low but enough for us to head to Lock 1.

The last of the Huddersfield locks, Cooper Bridge Lock 1

Here we would leave the Huddersfield Canals behind. Lock 1 and Bridge 1.Time to join the river, checking the level board first.

We came from the right through 180 degrees

After a hand brake turn onto the Calder Hebble we pulled in for lunch, then got ready for another short lock, a second Cooper Bridge Lock, this one number 16 not 1.

Give me a lever ….

Time to use our Hebble Spike to help fill the lock. The spike is made from hard wood and is used to gradually wind up the paddles. There are windlass operated paddles too, but more water was needed to help level the lock to open it.

Now we had stretches of river followed by lock cuts. The next lock being Battye Ford Lock, here we knew we’d be able to breath and have a four course meal and still fit.

Through Ledgard Flood Lock it was time to find somewhere suitable to stop, hopefully where Tilly could go out. The first mooring by Lidl has a road running alongside. We carried on to just after an old railway bridge and pulled in, we almost go into the side.

Here there was bracken and some friendly cover before three layers of fencing designed to keep animals out. Well Tilly was soon seen on the other side, it was hardly taxing!

A few angles needed checking for the panto set builders then it was time to put the Wednesday roast in the oven, a medium chicken which turned out to a large in disguise. We’ll be eating a lot of chicken for the next few days.

11 locks, 3 flood locks, 6.32 miles, 1 click and collect, 1 lift bridge, 8 held up, 10 skimpy locks, 1 hand brake turn, 1 giant lock, 3 fences, 1.75kg chicken, 2 fat contended boaters.

A Word From C&RT, Breach 46. 30th April

I’ve just come across the following on the C&RT site. Some interesting images of the breach now the cofferdam is drained. Mark Penn’s aerial drone photos have given us a good idea of what has been happening, but it’s interesting to see footage from a lower level. With staff in the footage they give the cofferdam scale, showing the sheer size and depth of the Aire and Calder.

Sean McGinley is certainly being kept busy this year.

Two To The North, One To The South. Breach 42 12th April

The first boats to cross between Sykehouse and Pollington Lock happened today. The passage is assisted and pre-bookable with C&RT.

Two Lock Keepers and a volunteer were on hand to see boats through. Apparently ten boats had booked passage, but only two headed northwards from Sykehouse and one southwards from Pollington.

The pound is being kept low, some say to help protect the cofferdam at the breach site. Others that there is another leak between the reservoir and Pollington Lock. But what ever the reason it looks like the low water level over the last three months has affected the banks of the canal in several places. With less water pressure in the pound the piling in places has fallen towards the water. At Christmas I posted photos of areas where this had happened on the Aire and Calder, there are now patches on the New Junction Canal.

Boxing Day 2020 Aire and Calder

Levels at Southfield Reservoir are obviously low too. The sailing club is looking elsewhere for it’s members to sail for the foreseeable future. Luckily the normal depth of the Aire and Calder is around three meters in the main channel so the passage between locks didn’t necessitate any boats scraping the bottom today.

One of the boaters moored at Rawcliffe Bridge visited the breach site today and had a chat with the engineer in charge. According to his post to the Goole Escape group it is looking like the breach will not be repaired until the late summer. C&RT are in talks with ABP regarding Leisure boats using Ocean Lock. Also they are looking at removing the stop planks at the caisson in the next couple of weeks, this will enable boats currently stranded at Rawcliffe Bridge to move to Goole should they want to.

Hopefully the stop planks will remain out which will mean that we’d be able to give Oleanna a bit of a blast up the cut to check everything is running smoothly before heading out onto the Tidal Ouse and Trent. It would also give boaters who don’t plan on escaping Goole the chance to at least get out from the marina for a short pootle.

Elsewhere on the network non liveaboards can now stay overnight on their boats. Some areas of the network will get very busy as they did last year when Lockdown 1 ended. But in other areas there are problems, another culvert is causing problems on the Llangollen. At the Figure of Three Locks on the Calder and Hebble, which has just reopened, a large plastic pedestrian barrier was drawn through the lower ground sluice paddle box this morning, damaging the paddle so the lock can no longer hold water. Hopefully this will be sorted soon.

Breach 37. 30th March

It’s not often you feel relieved to see a canal with a lack of water in it, but the fact that the cofferdam has drained itself whilst not refilling itself is great. I think it was about a month ago that it was this empty.

25/2/21 upside down for comparison

There are a few things to note from todays photos, other than it’s a lovely day to go boating!

The western end of the cofferdam seems to have improved water levels, so no overtopping.


The aggregate ramp into the cofferdam has been added to. The pile driving crane is no longer on the floating pontoon. In the photo above you can see what looks like a light with a red box standing on some new aggregate which I think will be used to illuminate the area and down into the drain.