Sunday, April 08, 2007

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.

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