Sunday, April 29, 2007

Canal Walk: Appley Bridge to Dean Locks

We managed to park the car on a grassy slope in the full car park at Appley Bridge. There had been a fishing competition on but we were soon past the men with the poles. The towpath was busy on this sunny Sunday, there were lots of walkers and too manyc yclists without bells. I managed to find and photo the two mileposts I descovered last time. We were also lucky to spot a kingfisher flying along the canal but it disappeaered before I could get a photo. Halle tried to roll in something smelly but was stopped in time. I think it might have been otter poo.

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.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Canal Walk Appley Bridge to Dean Locks

Its a lovely sunny day today. I passed long queues of traffic heading into Southport for a day at the seaside. I was going the opposite way, to the canal. Luckily there were still some spaces in the car park at Appley Bridge so I parked and set off towards Dean Locks. It was a bit odd without my usual camera and because I was cameraless I found two quarter mileposts. The towpath was busy with walkers and cyclists. There were a few boats on the move and I think I spotted a Norman 17 near the Waterfront pub in Appley Bridge.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Canal Walk: Scarisbrick

The sun is still shining so I went for a short walk on Easter Sunday. Parking at one of the former agricultural wharves I walked up to the MMBC moorings at Scarisbrick to have a look at the boats. For a change there were boats on the move, as many as seven boats including one cabin cruiser, the rest being narrowboats :(

Canal Cruise: Nantwich to Bunbury

It was Good Friday, the sun was shining and it was the perfect day for a sail on the Shropshire Union Canal. There was a lot of traffic on the road and for once the canal was a faster way of travelling. It’s a short sail from the basin a Nantwich to the staircase locks at Bunbury.
I was a good thing that I was sailing rather than trekking because the towpath was closed for maintenance. Hopefully they will continue this work along the canal as there are some very poor bits of towpath around there.
We stopped for lunch near Hurleston Junction and could hear the clatter of the lock paddles being wound up as boaters came back from their holidays on the Llangollen Canal. A little further on is another junction at Barbridge, the Middlewich Branch of the canal.
As well as he usual ducks, moorhens, geese and swans there was a cormorant on the canal. A bird I am more used to seeing in the docks in Liverpool
This is a rural landscape but there is some sign of industry. An old brick kiln can be seen by the canal, now covered in trees. It is hard to see how this could be restored in any useful way other than as a holiday home for TeleTubbies.
At Bunbury there is a two rise staircase lock which is popular with onlookers. By the side of the lock is a stable block which once housed the horses used to pull the narrowboats along the canal. There is a shop by the lock which was very handy for me to buy the latest Canal Boat and Inland Waterways magazine.
We didn’t go down the locks, instead we filled up with water and turned around and headed back for fish and chips at the new Olde Barbridge Inn.
A round trip of 12 miles and for once my feet weren’t hurting! Canal cruising does have some obvious advantages over towpath trekking. The Shropshire Union is one of my favourite canals and it is interesting to compare it to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. There is much more traffic on the Shroppie and it is much more closely connected to the rest of the canal network. It was nice to see some classic cabin cruisers amid the modern narrowboats. There were a few wrecks which is always a shame given how expensive it is becoming for new boaters to start a life afloat.
Tomorrow it is back to the Leeds Liverpool and back to the towpath for me.

Canal Walk: Gargrave to East Marton

I have been looking forward to this walk and when better to do it than a sunny Saturday at Easter. Gargrave has two free car parks, both close to Higherland Bridge #170. The canal is a popular spot for boaters, cyclists and walkers. There are hire boat centres nearby, the Pennine Way crosses through Gargrave and the Sustrans bike route 68 also comes through here. At the locks there is always something to watch. In Gargrave there is a post office, newsagent and Co-Op, a couple of pubs and tea shops.
I parked at the North Street car park within sight of bridge 170. At the bridge I turned left and headed towards East Marton. There was plenty of activity around the lock which has a lock keeper. Most of the boats seemed to be hire boats. Although it is great to see the Leeds Liverpool Canal so busy it is a shame the boats are mostly (95%) narrow boats rather than something traditional.
Close to Higherland Lock #32 I unexpectedly found a milepost showing I was 93 miles away from Liverpool and just 34¼ from Leeds. There are 10 locks over the two miles from bridge 170 to 165. There are a number of features which make these locks a bit different. Some of the locks have cloughs, like the locks on the Rufford Branch rather than ground paddles. The balance beams on at least one lock were angled rather than being horizontal. The locks also have the hooks used for pulling boats out of the locks. The hooks had no rope marks so may have had pulleys attached to them rather than having the rope around them directly.
There was no sign of any milestones on this stretch but there were plenty of mileposts, quarter, half and full.
At Priest Holme Aqueduct the canal meets the River Aire for the first time.
After bridge #164 the canal becomes serpentine following the contour around the valleys. This means you can see boats across the valley moving east to west which will turn the corner and head towards you going west to east. There is a television mast which is always present and highlights the lack of progress you are making. The canal takes a mile to travel about a quarter of that distance.
For the second time in 2 days I saw a dead sheep (doubtful that it was the same one), this one was floating downstream towards Gargrave and the crowds of day-trippers. It didn’t take long before I had reached the Double Arched Bridge #161 and milepost 89.
I stopped to see how my new walking boots (and my feet) were doing. With everything still in one piece I set off on the return trip.
For a change I was doing a circular walk, the return leg being via the Pennine Way which can be joined at Williamson Bridge #162.
The Pennine Way isn’t the most comprehensively signposted route. There are small arrows besides styles and gates but you just have to walk across a field and hope you will find the way at the other side. The scenery wasn’t as good as I had hoped; the canal is out of sight for most of the walk. The Way does save time on the return and gives a good view of Gargrave.
Back in Gargrave I bought some rather standard sized “Giant” doughnuts and took some photos of the St.Andrews church. After dropping my bag off in the car I walked a quarter of a mile up to Eshton Road bridge #171 and lock #31 where the lock keeper was preparing the lock for a pair of narrow boats.