Sunday, May 06, 2012

Skipton Waterways Festival 2012

Today I drove to a very sunny Skipton for the Waterways Festival. On the way I must have crossed the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at least 6 times and went under it once. Just goes to show that those canal planners could pick a good route.
Skipton was certainly busy when I arrived but there was plenty of space to park in the large car park by the canal despite there being a farmers market on half of it. There was a lot going on around the junction between the main line of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the short Springs Branch which passes below the castle walls. The farmers market had all sorts of food, honey, cakes, pork pies, brownies and any bit of a pig you would care to eat. There were some rather nice engines on display with a very proud man stood hoping someone would ask a question about them. I didn't have a question but did take a photo or two. I do like the smell of a steam engine. It's a man thing.

Skipton is one of the few places along the whole 127 miles of the canal that makes a feature of it. There are the trip boats, and hire boats, the canal shop and cafe, and the chippy has nice big windows facing out to the water. Today there were lots of shiny narrowboats about but sadly only a few examples of the classic leisure boat, the fiberglass cabin cruiser. I walked along the towpath up to the railway station. Some boats had their bunting up and there were quite a few with union jacks and pictures of the Queen on this Jubilee year. What a patriotic lot boaters are.
As well as their love of the monarchy boaters of a certain type have a fondness for two ragdolls, Rosie and Jim. Rosie and Jim are characters from a children's television show from the 1990's. In the show they traveled about on a narrowboat called the Ragdoll in the midlands. These sinister creatures would pretend to be regular rag dolls but would come alive when the boat's owners were not looking. Maybe it was growing up in the era of the Chucky films but I have always found these dolls a bit creepy. Between the Springs branch and the station I must have seen half a dozen sets of Rosie and Jim dolls, staring at me with their apparently dead eyes. One set was huge, bigger than a niece. If the knitted dolls weren't enough to give a man nightmares the three lifesize models of old men on one boat roof certainly were. If any one of them had come to life i would have soiled myself.
At the station I met up with the other half of today's towpath treks team. One of her first jobs was to spell check the boats. Only one crime against apostrophe's was found, on the NB Bee's Knee's.
We had a quick look around the farmers market and the marquee that had some very nice birds of prey in it. One tiny black and white owl was particularly cute. I have no idea what type of owl it was but it was very odd looking with its tiny head and massive eyes.
After wandering about we headed to Skipton Castle and after side stepping the introduction by the enthusiastic old man at the gate we unerringly followed the tour route on the leaflet. We saved the best till last, the little shop. I love the little shop. After the castle we walked up the Springs Branch of the canal and up and around to the town again.
the Spring Branch
Skipton has a lot of charity shops so we had a look at the books. I had a look for shops selling Golly Wogs but we only saw one racist doll in the whole town.
As well as steam engines I like the smell of chips and it was this smell that took us to the canal side chippy. The chips are nice and crunchy but not cheap.
We didn't visit any of the towns pubs but they all looked like they were making the most of the sunshine and the Bank Holiday crowds. One day I will have a weekend here. Maybe one day Albatross will get this far along the canal.
After the chips we headed back to the carpark, stopping off to buy a postcard of the Five Rise at Bingley. 35p for a branch new one, a bit cheaper than then £17 I have just paid for an old canal postcard on Ebay.
On the way back to the right side of the Pennines (Lancashire) we stopped off at the Cross Keys in East Marton. It is next to the famous double arch bridge and serves a very nice pint of Copper Dragon.
It is nice to see a town celebrating its canal, Burscough also makes an effort. it would be nice if some other towns and cities did the same.

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