Sunday, 12 July 2009

New Waters

A view of Burnley from the 'mile long' (well nearly a mile long) embankement that goes through the town centre

Tuesday was really sunny so Jon was inspired to set off sailing again so went went for new territory from Burnley towards Blackburn.
On the Burnley embankment
I had spotted a likely spot in my handy Nicholsons, short of Blackburn and enough in the countryside not to hear the M65 (the M65 follows the canal for a lot of the time around here). It was also lock free but with 4 of the dreaded swing bridges again on the way.
Gannow tunnel

The day went well, we went through Gannow. This is more or less in the centre of Burnley, it is quite short and has a handle on the side for all the kids to hold on to and lean over for a look through (I did this as a kid).
Gannow-short enough to see the end
Mum told me of when she was younger (about 10 or 11) when she and her brother used to earn pennies by leading the canal horses over the tunnel up the aptly called Boathorse Lane. She also once went on the boat with the men and watched them ‘leg it’ through the tunnel. This was a tale I hadn’t heard from mum before and it was lovely to hear of the canal history from someone who experienced it first hand.

Jon managed the swing bridges OK but they were odd in that you needed a lock windlass to open them. We moored near a bridge and a turning hole (but not blocking it) in the small town of Church, and whilst Mum and I rested Jon went to look for a ‘good’ pub as advertised in Nicholsons (good food in a large family pub). He returned later to say it didn’t do food in the evening anymore so we ate up some leftovers and then went for a walk round the town and then for a drink in the said pub.
What followed was a very surreal experience. Jon bought three drinks (a pint and half and a wine). He sat looking puzzled and said that he had given the barmaid £10 and she had given him 50p in change. After thinking about it he realised something was not right. Beer prices up north are notoriously cheap and anyway they were advertising pints for £1.75. He went back to the lady and queried the price. ‘A pint and a half and a wine would be £5.15 right’
Lady- ‘right’
Jon ‘I gave you £10 and you gave me 50p change’
Lady- right
Jon- no surely not.
After repeating the above conversation the lady added, ‘but there were the other drinks’
Jon ‘what other drinks we’ve only had the three.
Lady- ‘ the other drinks, yes. The tall lady with the blonde hair, she had the other drinks’
Since there were only us three and two customers at the bar this was a bit of a shock. ?was she seeing ghosts.
After a lot of argument and some support form the other customers Jon eventually got a bit more change. We carried on supping feeling a bit mystified when suddenly at 10pm the landlady switched the lights off in the room we were in. The bar lights were still OK for the (still only 2) customers at the bar, so we took the hint and went home to the boat. It was a bit of a laugh but we learnt not to trust Nicholsons when it comes to pub recommendations. They unfortunately change too quickly nowadays.
Wewoke up next morning to a howling gale and heavt rain. Jon had come up with a plan for us to pull the boat backwards for about 50 feet, puch out the front and let the wind turn us around in the winding hole (let it live up to it’s name). We tried this and it actually worked great, the wind did it’s job and at the right time I put Tormentil in gear and off we went back home. Since it was so windy and wet I let Jon do the driving but I had forgotten the swing bridges. Luckily I managed them OK but did get fairly wet walking in between them. Poor Jon spent the whole day out the back driving. We had some very good waterproof geat but he still got wet arms (sleeves not tight enough) and feet (shoes not good enough).
Jon looking wet
But we got home OK and a nice warm shower set him fine. It was a shame about the weather since the week so far had been so warm.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Short break to Foulridge

lovely field full of buttercups

We finally managed to get a week on Tormentil and had two short trips. We were joined by Paul (PJ) who we wanted to learn the ropes before borrowing Tormentil for a holiday with some other of our friends. Although we are happy for friends to share our enjoyment of Tormentil I think it will be a bit like letting your child go off to school for the first time. I will worry all week about how she will be though I am confident that PJ and friends will be fine with her.
We decided to make for East Marton and the lovely (we thought) anchor pub that we have visited by car and bike but always wanted to go by boat. The trip took us back through the Foulridge ‘mile long’ tunnel, which was just as exciting as the first time (see blog of ). We then had to go up the Barrowford seven locks. We went through with another boat luckily. Jon and PJ did the hard work for PJ to learn how locks work and I had to drive. I must say even though it’s been a few months I was perfect and Tormentil and the other boat went into the locks perfectly together without any scraping or banging each other or the lock sides, and no getting grounded in the pounds between.
We eventually got to close to East Marton and I suggested we moor up where we could since reading Bendigedig recently Else had said there were problems with lack of moorings.
Fantastic view from the moorings.
It had been a lovely day so we were very hot, tired and thirsty so decided to walk up to the Anchor for a drink. It was a longer walk than I had thought but as Else had said there were no moorings any nearer except where the banks were very high and full of nettles and small bushes, so we stayed put. We had a couple of lovely refreshing drinks and checked that we were OK for dinner without booking (it was a Saturday). The trip back to the boat to change for dinner (we were pretty hot and scruffy) seemed shorter and then we returned to the Anchor. We had been here before when it was full of locals and had some great home made food (their pie and peas was wonderful), however unbeknown to us it had changed hands. The food luckily was fine but the service left a lot to be desired. Mum and I had Mussels as starter which was supposed to come with bread but didn’t. When the waitress (the manageress if fact) came to clear the plates I just mentioned that a bit of bread would have been nice, her reply was a bit gruff and seemed to be ‘Oh well I don’t know how you can eat these things I can’t stand them’. A bit of a surprise I must admit. The main course took ages but was again OK. As she came to clear up again we said that the food was fine and we were too full for puddings. Her reply ‘well you’d be lucky to get any now anyway and the chef is very busy’. Not the best way to sell your business I would say. They weren’t that busy but to be fair (though I don’t know why) she was short staffed and was having to run the bar as well but still no excuse.
The ambiance has also changed and things like her ?husband was there but I never saw him help with anything-just chatting to the customers and also one (male) customer had a small child(still in nappies) with him and he was sat at the bar with her and at one point had her sitting on the bar. I think he was a relative of the owners since they never said anything to him. At nine he made to go outside muttering something about the 9 o clock watershead. I may be old fashioned but I don’t think babies should be sitting on bar stools in pubs until 9 at night. I don’t think we shall return for a while.
However, our moorings were great, quite a community of boats moored on the opposite shore and a few had joined us on the towpath side. We all managed to get safely aboard (several drinks too many). Next morning PJ discovered that we were moore on top of a small aqueduct with a small river running under the canal. On investigation we found the bottom of the aqueduct and it was a small engineering delight. In the past they seemed to take pleasure in building something lovely where only a simple structure was really needed. A good photographic opportunity.
A tiny river under the canal with a beautiful curved bridge above it.
A view from the other side.

We spent the Sunday returning to Reedley with PJ doing all the driving this time to get more experience. He managed well with only a few bumps and scrapes (same as most beginners I would say) and did manage a perfectly controlled docking when we got back home- the best I’ve seen so far (sorry Jon) although PJ did say he was only following Jon’s instructions.
PJ doing the driving with Jon supervising

It was such a lovely evening that we had a great al fresco meal with lots of celebratory wine.
We had a relaxed Monday and saw PJ off and took Mum home.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Marrakech Express

I haven’t blogged for a while as I have been busy and have been away to exotic Marrakech for a week. This is nothing to do with boats but it was fun and different (although I was there for a couple of days last year too). I like Marrakech it is a busy city with not too many hassles (you just have to learn to say no to the street vendors and people who try to clean your shoes, sell you bangles etc) but Morocco overall has improved for tourists in the last few years and now seems a good safe place to go. I went for work (not bad being paid to go somewhere nice) but the downside was I had to spend most of the time at the University listening to lectures still they were mostly on a subject that I am interested in (Vertebrate Palaeontology-fossils to most). I had to give a talk too which is what had been keeping me busy for the last couple of weeks.

All very serious.

Typical Marrakech biuldings

The weather was hot and got hotter during the week up to 32C. This was good aclimatisation for my return last weekend when we had such great weather in England. I had half a day to sightsee and managed to get to the Jardin Majorelle which was a lovely quiet rest from the heat. These gardens mix architecture, colour and plants and I got some good pictures.

The nearest thing to boating- some turtles laze by the side of the water

The last night of the conference we had a special dinner laid on. We went to Chez Ali which is like a walled fortress outside Marrakech. Inside, a large compound is surrounded with about 30 rooms set out like tents in which you dine. There were about 80 of us so we filled one room (that gives an idea of how many people they can get in). The whole thing is really cheesy and a touch of tourist tat but great fun (especially after a drink or two which is available luckily).

Various small groups of singers and dancers come through the tents to entertain you whilst you are eating the mainly ‘moroccan’ food. This was soup, followed by half a roested lamb that you all picked from (very tasty though) then a chicken tagine (sort of stew) with lots of couscous and vegetables. I thought the food was tasty but not much of it and desert was a large bowl of mixted friut (very healthy though). After dinner there was entertainment in the central corral with Berber horse riders shooting guns (with blanks I presume), trick riders and the dancers, singers and a camel of course wandering round the ‘ring’ and it finished with a short firework display.

Berbers riding and shooting

All great fun and and nothing like I have seen anywhere else.

The next day we did what all geologists enjoy and went out 'into the field'. We visited the local phosphate mines and looked at some interesting cliffs and collected some nice fossils. It was very hot though and reaching over 100F so we were happy to get back into the air conditioned coach.

These really are interesting rocks honestly.
Still the phrase mad dogs and Englishmen (though in this case it is mad dogs and geologists since there were also french, german, danish americans and brazilians involved) comes to mind.
The last day we managed a bit of retail therapy. Last year I went one evening to the main souks in town. These are a must-do, at least once, but you really do get hassled every step by each stall holder to buy something. It’s all part of the system and mostly done with a smile and you can haggle but it can get a bit wearisom if you are not wanting to buy (since you can’t buy everything).
This year I went instead to the Gallerie des Artisans which is like a small shopping arcade with little shops. They sell most of the tourist things like lamps, carpets, shoes, carved animals etc and also original artwork. It is very pleasant and no-one hassles you. You can move at your own speed but there is no haggling and prices are slightly higher but so is the quality. I did succumb and bought some silly moroccan slippers (bright red leather with sequins on!).
After that it was time to come home where I was pleased to find it was nice and warm.

Next week though we are back up north for a week on the boat. I can’t wait to get there and we hope to have a nice two day trip out in Tormentil. So it will be back to boat inspired blogging.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Great Adventure day 8, Thursday 16th April, Journey's End

Set off about 9 from the double arch bridge (number 161) and had a nice drift to Greenberfield locks. We are still going upwards in the locks. The wind was even stronger today and I had a lot of trouble keeping to the middle between the locks. When the locks are close enough I have learnt to stay within the exit gate area out of the wind until Jon gets the next gate open, then a quick powerful dash into the next lock. It works great until there is someone coming out of the next lock or waiting to go in the one I’m exiting. We drifted on and passed the Anchor pub at Salterforth. I really recommend this one. We have been here several times by car and it has a great local atmosphere especially on a Sunday lunchtime and the food is good. There is a lovely log fire burning in winter too. Unfortunately it was mid morning so we didn’t stop but I am really looking forward to coming back this way soon. I made a note of the time so I can see how long it will take us from Reedley and whether we can do it on a short weekend.
We got to the Foulridge Tunnel and pulled to the side to wait for the lights, someone had just come through and said there was a lot of debris at the other end, so he was clearing his propeller. Just as we had tied up the lights turned green so we leapt on again and set off through the tunnel.
green light for the tunnel
Honestly the tiny, tiny white speck is the other end
This is a long straight tunnel 1640 yards long and you can just see the pinprick of light at the far end as you go in. Before they put in the traffic lights you had to wait for a while peering intently down the tunnel to see if there was anyone coming through since it is only wide enough for one boat. The traffic lights make it slightly less adventurous. Still it is very atmospheric and the rivulets of water run across your face like icy fingers from out of the dark. Last time (25 years ago) we turned all the lights off for a few seconds and it was really creepy. This time we all stayed up top at the back and enjoyed the experience.
Stalactites on the side wall.
The air shafts are quite wide and I recommend that you do not look up as there is quite a lot of water pouring down them, I learnt to put my hood up when passing below them. They are covered in grills and there is a footpath over the hill to them. I wonder how many people make the effort to go and look at them. We have cycled this towpath several times in the last few years but never realised that you could get to the airshafts. Next time we will go and have a look and see if we can see any boats passing below. It takes a good 30 to 40 minutes to get through the tunnel and you emerge blinking into the light.

This is the highest part of the canal around here and the next locks at Barrowford are now downwards (coming from Skipton direction of course). There are seven locks close to each other at Barrowford so it was back to the sytstem of hovering within the gate area. At one of them I had to try to hold in the pound. A strong wind was blowing me to the non towpath side and there was also a strong current flowing down the overflow by the side of the lock and taking me towards it. Mum and I panicked a bit but I decided it was best to go into the trees and hold on rather than onto the overflow. Eventually I got off the shallows and made a dash into the lock with no harm done. This canal boating is not as much fun as it should be when there are strong winds, but we were into the home run and wanted to press on.
The last run from Barrowford to Burnley is lockless and with no swing bridges so a delight usually. We were doing great and only a few bridges from home when we got a rather loud scrape and bang as we were going under a bridge. We had run over something probably a supermarket trolley no doubt. A few seconds later Jon realised he had no steerage, Luckily I had spent some time looking at the notes on running the boat that Nigel used to give to the hirers (and had left us a copy) The page headed ‘help I have no steering’ explained with nice hand drawn pictures that the rudder had jumped out of its ‘cup’ and that we could put it back by lifting the tiller and wiggling it. Meanwhile we had drifted into the shallows. We were so close to home it was really annoying. Much lifting and wiggling later and still it wasn’t fixed. Even with two of us it was too heavy to lift and manouvre properly.
A sudden flash of inspiration came to me and I rushed off to get the ‘hand spike’- that lovely short, strong piece of wood used to open the paddles on the Calder and Hebble locks. I had since been using it to fend us off almost everything from lock sides to bridges. We put it under the tiller cuff and lifted and behold the tiller dropped straight back into its rightful place. Phew!!. We punted off the shallows and set off in relief for Reedley Marina just around a couple of corners.
first view of Reedley Marina from the canal.

Under the eye of everyone Jon tried his best to manouvre in gracefully and back us into the berth. However the strong wind straight across the marina put paid to that and in the end we pushed and shoved very inelegantly and got in front first. At least we didn’t hit anyone. I decided that I prefer front-in since that means that from the lounge we are looking at the canal and countryside and not the boats at the other side of the marina.
Tormentil berthed with Jon and Irene (ali's Mum) looking pleased.

We were all exhausted and because it was grey and drizzly we decide to save the champagne until Saturday when we hope to celebrate our arrival with some family and friends.
My lovely cousin Kathy again came and drove Jon all the way back to Sowerby Bridge (only 40 minutes by road) to get the car and we had a late dinner on board.

12.5 miles and 10 locks today
According to canal planner the whole journey was 96 miles and 84 locks.

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Great Adventure day 7, Wednesday April 15th, To Skipton and beyond

Up early and off by 8.30. We still have the swing bridges and today the wind has started up. I didn’t realise how difficult it would be trying to manoeuvre 57 feet of steel in the wind, holding it midstream whilst Jon tackled the bridges was very hard, and at one point I couldn’t even get the boat away from the side as she just kept being blown back in. Poor Jon had to shut the bridge and come and help. He then worked the boat as I worked the bridge, luckily that one was OK so I could manage it. We passed Snaygill Boats on the way to Skipton, they were probably responsible for all this as we hired a boat from them all those years ago and still remember enjoying the trip (apart from the swing bridges which I remember me doing last time and they were still just as much a pain).
Skipton was quite busy with lots of boats moored up or moving around. I spotted my first blogger as I saw Mr David moored up, I thought that was great.

First mention of Burnley, should be home soon.

From Skipton the canal goes through some of the loveliest countryside possible to the top of the pennines and through Gargrave. Up here the wind was quite fierce so it took a lot of concentrating. Here we did the last swing bridge too, GREAT!!.

The pictures don't do justice to the scenery as it was quite grey and drizzly but still magnificent.

We passed through the six Gargrave locks on our own which was hard work for Jon. We tried to help a grounded hire boat but couldn’t get them off the side and as we left they had managed to get stuck across the canal, blocking it completely. They hoped that as people came through the next locks the water level would rise and help them out but the next locks were quite a long way away. We carried on and stopped just before the Bank Newton locks for lunch as we were quite tired by now and lunch on the move didn’t appeal. As we set off to do the Bank Newton set of six locks we luckily teamed up with another boat driven by Sharon and Alan. It was great fun going through the locks together side by side. I thought later we should have tied up together as this would have been easier and prevented some of the scraping as one or other of us tried to get alongside in the locks. They told us that the stuck boat had taken about an hour to clear and some BW chaps had brought other boats along to pull them off the banks and get them going again, it held everyone up for a while. We made it through the Bank Newton six locks in about 2 hours so that was good going.
We stopped at East Marton as we knew the Cross Keys pub was good. We have only ever been here by car and it was great to be able to arrive by canal, something we had dreamed of doing. We topped up with water and settled down for the evening. There is a lovely double bridge over the canal right by the pub.

Masons' marks on the bridge

East Marton private moorings with the Cross Keys on the hill behind

There is a steep path up to the road by the bridge but the best way up to the pub is back along the towpath to the previousl bridge (about 300 yards) and up a lane by a stables. Halfway up there is a great view of the moored boats (unfortunately we didn't take the camera this time.)
A few well deserved pints in the Cross Keys (they also do good food but we already had some in the oven) and then home for lamb chops and stuffing-lovely.

11.5 miles, 12 locks and 7 swing bridges.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Great Adventure day 6, Tuesday 14th April. The famous Bingley five rise.

The famous five rise. (me mum and Fran are walking up on the left to see what is going on)
Despite my worries we had a quiet night with no disturbances. We managed to get off at 9 and met up with Fran and Mike who amazingly are also berthed at Reedley Marina in Burnley (where we were heading), unfortunately I can’t remember the name of their boat, but it has a lovely picture of a wildcat on the side. It was great to be with them as we had to tackle the Bingley three and five rise staircase locks today. I was looking forward to this as the last time we were on a narrowboat we went as far as Bingley but didn’t do the locks.

parked up waiting to go through.

large boats look small coming out of the locks

both boats in the first lock

The lockkeeper looking very relaxed.

We worked well at the three and five rise, Fran and I worked one side whilst the lockkeeper did the other. We needed both of us as some of the lower paddles were extremely difficult to turn, I am sure I wouldn’t have managed them on my own. It took us about 2 hours for 10 locks which was pretty good going. Mum stayed on board through the locks (she had said she didn’t fancy being on board as it would be scary) and she thoroughly enjoyed it sat at the back chatting with Jon and Mike. On we went with endless swing bridges. Fran did most of them as she was walking but several were very hard and Jon had trouble with several that he did. We stopped at Silsden as we had arranged to meet up with some friends, Joan and Ken and Fran and Mike carried on. Joan and Ken had wanted to see the Bingley locks but we got there too early for them. We stopped for tea and cakes on board (thankyou Joan) and they came on with us for about a mile for the fun of it and then walked back to their car.

Wildlife, a gaggle of geese and a black swan.
The Leeds and Liverpool looking picturesque

We eventually stopped at 6.45 at Bradley near the swing bridge (of course). We had a super meal in the Slater’s Arms (up a bit of a hill but well worth it-sorry can’t find a web link) and Bradley is a nice village.
Home by 9.30 and an early night.
11 locks 12.5 miles and 21 swing bridges!!!

Monday, 11 May 2009

The Great Adventure day 5, Monday 13th April. New crew.

Leaving Leeds

Back to business today. We managed to be up and going by 8.30. We had triple and double locks to contend with and got to Newlay for a change of crew by 12.45. We had several phone calls to my cousin Kathy who was bringing our new crew member (my mum). Neil and Karen have to leave us to go back to work. Eventually we worked out that we should all get to Newlay at about the same time so that was fixed as the rendezvous (a pub near the bridge). Unfortunately we couldn’t moor by the bridge as the moorings were covered by loads of kids in canoes (a bit of horn blowing went on here as we were much less manouverable than them). We caried on to try to moor but the whole place was full of boats. Eventually we stopped by the towpath, but since it was very busy with walkers and all sorts of people we decided to leave Jon on board. Poor Karen and Neil had to carry their baggage back the half mile and down to the pub. My cousin (well her boyfriend it turned out) had kindly offered to take Neil and Karen back to Sowerby Bridge to pick up their car. We had a sad but swift goodbye and then mum and I walked back to the boat pulling her suitcase behind us. Back on the go we have decided to get to Saltaire tonight as it looks nice and Nicholsons recommends a good pub.

Jon at the back looking a long way away.

We missed Neil's strength at the Kirkstall two triple staircase locks but there was a lockkeeper to help.

Our first staircase lock.

We then hit the infamous Leeds and Liverpool swing bridges. These are quite a pain, I had to drop Jon off to go and open them (as I didn’t think I would have the strength- I remember them being difficult 25 years ago), and then try to hold the boat centre stream until it was open, then hold again and pick Jon up afterwards. It does help to improve your manouverability skills. Mum was very helpful holding onto ropes whilst picking Jon up or letting him off. The canal was a bit shallow at the sides and we scraped the bottom a few times. There were lots of gongoozlers (?is that right) at the swing bridges. We got to Saltaire eventually, and pulled up to the very long moorings by a newly renovated factory (now lots of expensive apartments I guess). The British Waterways sign said we could only moor for 6 hours and the proper mooring was at Shipley. A bit late, I thought as we had passed that already. I don’t know if the new locals have put pressure on here to get the mooring stopped. It seems strange to have a lovely, new very long mooring and only be allowed to stay for 6 hours.

The new apartments at Saltaire, the long mooring is the towpath on the right, we had to carry on under the bridge.

The facilities mentioned in Nicholsons (water, bins toilet etc) did not seem to be there any longer. We moved on a few hundred yard beyong the next bridge and stopped at a single mooring there. I couldn’t interpret the sign to see if we were allowed to stop but it was well after 6 and I hoped that the BW boys would have all gone home by now. It was by a very busy part of the towpath, leading off the bridge so I was a bit worried what the night would bring. Nichlosons recommended the Boathouse pub and it was very close so Jon went for a ‘reccie’. He came back with the news that it was no longer there just a heap of burnt down building. Oh well. After another reccie into town Jon came back to say he had booked us in to ‘Don’t Tell Titus’. In the end this was a great restaurant with a fab menu and good service. It’s named after Titus Salt after whom Saltaire is named. It turned out that the owners have bought the Boathouse and are looking to do it up and open up again. Maybe we will try that one next year. Mum said she had enjoyed her first day aboard.
14 miles and 18 locks today.