Canal Holiday 2015


This time we made sure to get a boat of a sensible size, 57ft as opposed to 68ft we had in 2011.


The crew remained the same: dynamic and daring!







Ships Log by Sandy



Julie and Lance, Sandra and Graham

From SOWERBY BRIDGE TO BARNOLDSWICK in West Yorks with Shire Cruises

Using the Calder & Hebble, Aire & Calder, and Leeds & Liverpool Canals

Approximately 84 miles and 80 locks


Day 1 – Monday, 6th July

We started our adventure on Sandra & Graham’s 52nd Wedding Anniversary and Graham suffering with Sciatica!

We collected the narrow boat named Dorset, at 1.00 p.m. and after many instructions, on and off the boat, we were soon on our way on a very quiet stretch of canal.  There was another narrow boat with a couple and 3 children on board who set off at the same time, so we followed each other intermittently through the week, sometimes sharing the locks and the work, of course.

We soon joined the massive Aire & Calder Navigation system, whose locks could carry 4 narrow boats at a time.  Lance was in charge of the tiller, Julie and Gra assisting, Sandy helping with the locks and in charge of the galley (with Julie who had brought lots of lovely food to eat on board).  We had a mixture of sun, blue sky and soft rain, a great start, it was lovely to be on the canal.  3.5 hours later, 7 locks and 6 miles on, we arrived at our destination, Brighouse and moored outside Sainsburys.  Free wifi!

We had champagne to celebrate our Anniversary then off we went to Prego’s, an Italian restaurant, where we had a wonderful meal.  Then back home to our boat for an excellent night’s sleep in our double beds!




Just 3 ½ hours to our first stop, time to get used to the boat: 57ft still looks long!  Celebrating Sandy and Graham’s wedding anniversary



Day 2 – Tuesday, 7th July,

Exciting day!  We left Brighouse at 9.00 a.m. to cruise for 6.5 hours, 8 miles and 16 locks.  Weather started off showery, then poured!  This was the day Julie and I had our “Bear Grylls” experience!  The boat was on the Aire and Calder Navigation (i.e. we had to go on and off the river in places), the boat had cleared the lock and Gra managed to get back on when the wind and current proved too difficult for Lance to hold the boat steady so that Jules and I could jump on.  Lance was going to have to turn the boat round and come back for us.  But – Jules said “don’t worry, we’ll walk along the bank” and before I could hesitate she said “come on Mom”, so Mom followed thinking Jules would know where she was going !!  By now it was raining quite hard, on and off, we had our waterproofs on, fortunately, but our feet and trousers began to get wet as we began to struggle to make a path through the 5 foot brambles, nettles and wild (very wild) flowers  We still had our windlasses in our hands and these helped us in our progress!  In the meantime, Lance and Gra had taken the boat further up the river to look for another landing stage and disappeared from our sight under the bridge and round the corner!  We felt a bit lonely, with no one else about and the clouds very low.  But Jules kept spurring me on, and both of us thinking we could reach the bridge and return to the boat.  We came across a stream, so now we were paddling in sandy coloured water which began to fill my trainers, Jules had on open sandals.  After about 20 mins of walking, Lance and Gra returned on the boat and shouted that we would have to go back!!   Julie and I looked at each other.  “No, no”, we shouted, “we can’t possibly do that” – it had been quite a struggle.  But we had no alternative, so – back we went.  45 mins later we were so pleased to reach the original landing stage and, finally, to get back onto the boat.

My shoes were so full of water, it took 3 days to dry them out.  Julie’s trousers were wetter than mine, so she hung them on the boat.  A little while later, the rain having stopped, but the wind was quite wild,  and suddenly the trousers flew off and were never seen again!!  Fortunately, she did have others. 

We eventually moored at Stanley Ferry, Dewsbury, a lovely quiet spot, beautiful sunset and after Gin and tonics, beers, Julie cooked our evening meal, smoked salmon with lentils and vegs and of course wine.  Delicious and very welcome after our adventurous day!






No photographic evidence exists for the story that Julie and Sandy spun to Graham and I…


Day 3 – Wednesday, 8th July

Over the last two days, the canals were very quiet; we didn’t see any other boats until we caught up with the couple with the 3 children again.


Lance’s Birthday.  We set off at 9.00 a.m. bound for Allerton Bywater, 7.5 hours, 16 miles and 12 locks away.  It rained for most of the morning and the Skipper, Assistant, and lock attendants got quite wet.  Some of the locks were very hard to manoeuvre, so Gra and Jules took over most of this work and Sandy stayed on board helping Lance, with ropes, closing front doors so that water didn’t enter the cabin at the lock face, providing cups of tea or coffee, etc.  For lunch we indulged ourselves with the gorgeous Birthday Cake Julie had made for Lance, (Lance gave his permission for Gra and I to eat the cake too!!).

On we went, under the M.1 motorway (which was going to Leeds – our destination), through locks on the Leeds and Liverpool canal and tremendous navigation by the Skipper through the city locks and basin and into the Leeds & Liverpool canal.  Finally mooring at about 3.45 p.m. outside the Hilton Hotel (wifi again!) and very close to the restaurant for Lance’s birthday celebration.  After mooring, the crew relaxed with more Birthday cake, beer and gin and tonics. 

Before we went to the restaurant, Julie had booked us in as a surprise for Lance, we took him the long way round and discovered the 3 arches under the railway station which took the River Aire right underneath the city of Leeds. The sound of the water was quite deafening but then we went to the Fadenza Restaurant for a fabulous meal.  Fantastic buffet to help yourself to all evening, and skewers of different meats being brought to the table, cooked to your liking, with a green tablemat to show if you wanted more meat or, just display the other, red side, to say you were ok for now.  Then back to our beds, very replete!






Being my birthday, I was allowed to relax – just a little: I was helped with the steering, eating my birthday cake; allowing me time to settle.



Day 4 – Thursday, 9th July

We had a lie-in this morning, after last night celebrations, and left about 10.10 a.m.  aiming for Rodley, 15 miles and 19 locks.  It would be our longest day, taking about 9 hours. We decided to top up our water, but couldn’t remove the top of the water pipe, it was much too tight.  After asking for help from a fellow traveller, Engineer Gra demonstrated how to remove a large, cross-threaded, rusty nut, using only a large hammer and screwdriver!  We then filled the water tank before cruising on. 

It was a beautiful morning and the scenery was beautiful, green and serene with many wild flowers on the banks and several ducks, swans and herons to look at on our way.  Today we had locks and swing bridges to negotiate.

We met, and shared some of the locks, with 4 elderly Americans from Florida who were spending 3-4 weeks cruising the canals.  We arrived at Rodley Bridge at 4.00 p.m., ready for our Beers and G & T’s.  We were having a meal at a Turkish Restaurant called Ephesus, which turned out to be delicious – chicken in a special spicy sauce, rice, etc.

It was very busy on this part of the canal, very close to the town and many people celebrating on small boats on the canal.  I slept well, but Gra, Julie and Lance had problems during the night with noise and shouting from the passers-by and Gra still having problems with sciatica. 







The weather had improved enormously. And today we had multi-step locks and swing bridges.


Day 5 – Friday, 10th July

A beautiful morning, calm, warm and sunny.  Today we had numerous swing bridges to negotiate again, stopping the traffic in some cases, very exciting!  We were now going uphill on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, away from the rivers which would take 5 hours from Rodley to Bingley, 10 miles and 8 locks.

We stopped for water again then on to a 2-rise lock.  These were the Dowley Gap Twin Rise Locks and were in a dreadful state of disrepair.  On some of these difficult locks there were volunteers to help your get through.  At this particular (after reporting the problems) it took us nearly 1 hr 10 mins to get through and then onwards through more swing bridges to a 3-rise lock.  Ever upwards. 

Finally reached our destination at Bingley and moored close to our restaurant, but a much quieter spot than at Rodley.  Another lovely meal at the Orchid Restaurant, Turkish food, then home to our beds on the boat.






Water pouring over the top of the lock gate, something we had not seen before, should have raised alarm-bells. It took over an hour to get through this one lock!

Also more swing bridges toady, also not always in the best of condition!



Day 6 – Saturday, 11th July

Today we will cruise for 5 hours from Bingley to Skipton, 14 miles and 5 locks including the famous Bingley 5-rise.  We set off about 9.30 a.m. starting with the 3-rise locks which only took 22 minutes but followed by a 5-rise lock which took 40 mins, with a lock-keeper to help us, these lock gates were very old and stiff and there was always something new to learn. 

The Bingley 3 and 5-rise locks took us about 100 feet from the bottom canal to the top.  A fascinating experience, Lance always, in the locks having to try to keep the boat central against the flow of the water entering the lock.  After the locks came a swing bridge, water for the boat again at the café.  However, we had tea and Lance’s fruit birthday cake for refreshments on board the Dorset!

It had been cooler this morning but now the sun was out with strong breezes. 

We came to Micklethwaite Wharfe and a swing road bridge.  Julie and Lance had ridden over this bridge on one of their rides in the area.  The countryside was beautiful, we were in the Dales now with Ickley Moor in the distance with the 3rd swing bridge coming up.  Still on the Leeds and Liverpool canal.  Buttercups, ducks, swans and geese on the water.  Time for tea and chocolate biscuits – 1.00 p.m.

The Leaches Swing Bridge (no. 196) was badly out of balance in the horizontal plane and needed 1 person to rock the bridge (on Keighley side) and 2 to push.

Took photo of boat cruising through swing bridge, with Julie on the tiller and Gra and Lance moving bridge.  Further on we passed a boat that had drifted from its moorings close to Bridge no. 186, but we managed to avoid it.

Further on, Gra, Jules and Sandy, walked the towpath towards 3 swing bridges, 2 were already open (small ones) then came a road bridge which required a special key (various keys for the locks were kept on our boat).

Finally arrived at Skipton about 4.00 p.m.







The Bingley Three and Five-Rise lift’s our boat over 100ft very efficiently.




Day 7 – Sunday, 12th July

Last day on the canal.  Today we cruise for 6 .5 hours from Skipton to Barnoldswick, 12 miles and 13 locks.

Left Skipton at 8.55 a.m., cool, cloudy – jackets on!  3 swing bridges than the 1st lock of the day (lock 30 – Holme Bridge).  It was very windy and Lance on the tiller had to work very hard to control the boat.  Then we crossed the Eshton Beck which flows into the Aire River, under Bridge 172 onto 2nd bridge and lock.  We had light rain at 12.45 p.m. going through many locks today.  We started No. 36 lock for a run of 5 locks still going up, and reached the top lock at 2.20 p.m.

We continued along the Leeds & Liverpool canal until, after the arduous locks, the canal gently twisted and turned through beautiful countryside with cows, drinking the water from the canal and then, a herd of cows being collected for milking across the fields, and being herded by tractor. 

Bright sun now but very strong winds.  The skipper worked hard controlling the boat and the crew worked hard at the locks and in the galley!  Lots of teas and coffees consumed during the cruise, plus biscuits and cake!

We arrived at our mooring in Barnoldswick at 5.30 p.m.   We enjoyed our last aperitifs, watched Jocovich, on the TV on board, collect the Wimbledon Men’s Final Tennis Trophy having beaten Federer, and Jules cooked our final meal, a wonderful Chicken Curry, wine and then - it was time to pack. 






Another great canal holiday!


Day 8 – Monday, 13th July

Moved to our final mooring at Barnoldswick at 9.30 a.m.  Then all of us in the taxi to take us back to Sowery Bridge where we had parked our cars at the beginning of the holiday. 

Sadly, leaving the canals behind after a wonderful week’s holiday.



Off in our cars, northwards, to Annandale Water Services, lunch with Jules and Lance, then goodbye to Lance and Julie came with us to Dunoon, to attend Jean’s Funeral the following day, Tuesday, 14th July.




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