Sunday, April 29, 2007

Canal Walk: Gargrave to Skipton

We parked the car at the free carpark on North Street in Gargrave; the canal is just around the corner at Higherland bridge #170. At the bridge we turned right and headed towards Skipton. Not far from Higherland bridge is Eshton Road Bridge #171 and Eshton Road Lock #31 which was being used by a hire boat. Past Holme Bridge and the lock and aqueduct named after it the canal passes open fields. What should be a quiet country walk is spoilt by the A65 which follows the canal. It might have been the wind but the noise of the road never went away making this stretch noisier than the M65. There isn’t much for the industrial amateur archaeologist to look at on this bit of canal, just fields with sheep and cows. There was one good thing to spot and that was the mileposts, there were almost a full set. Along with the metal mileposts there was one milestone. It was near the stump of a tree and had been turned around over the last couple of hundred years but other than that it was in good condition and had a benchmark on top.
Other than the mileposts there wasn’t much of interest until we got to Skipton. Skipton has some impressive industrial architecture and is also the most vibrant town along the canal. Other towns and cities ignore the canal but Skipton has embraced it. Around the junction with the Springs Branch there is a lively canal scene. You can hire a boat, visit boating and outdoor shops or have something to eat and drink at the bars and cafes. A complete contrast to Blackburn or Burnley.
We walked up the Springs Branch. It is a short branch, just a quarter of a mile long, which was once a limestone quarry with the stone being loaded to the barges below. Boats up to 35foot can go up the branch and there is trip boat for those who want a short cruise. Walking along the raised boardwalk you get a view which is unique on the Leeds Liverpool (as far as I know). There are plenty of mills and factories on the canal but this is the only castle. Skipton Castle was built to defend England from the rampaging and murderous Scots. It was besieged by Cromwell’s Parliamentarians during the Civil War and is now open to the public. It’s well worth a visit and has a nice gift shop, the most important part of any historical site.
After the Castle we looked around the shops then walked back to Gawflat Swing bridge #176 which is very close to Skipton station. It was £1.60 for a single to Gargrave and took 6 minutes.

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