(Remember to click on photos to see larger versions)
Well it had to come, the day I've been dreading for months. Today was that day.
You see, I last filled up my gas/petrol tank sometime last September when it was 92.9p a litre. Since then it's spent the winter months in my garage and I've also not done much mileage since I got home so.......it's lasted until today. 9 months on one tankful has to be some sort of record but probably not one I should boast about.
Anyway with my wallet screaming almost as loudly as I was, I filled up again at 107.9p and set off to do a bit of canal boat watching as next month I'm spending a weekend on a canal boat (narrow boat to those in the know) on the Leeds to Liverpool canal which runs from Leeds to....ahhhh.......Liverpool. I guess the name says it all.
I thought I'd spend this lovely early summers day along said canal where it wends its merrie way through the sleepy market town of Skipton.
It was only since I knew I'd be going on this canal trip weekend in early June and did some investigating that I even realised Skipton HAD a canal. I mean I've only lived 26 miles from this town for the last 35 years so what can you expect !?
I made use of the Pay & Display car park just off the aptly named Canal Street and came upon this scene. Dozens of narrow boats, a picturesque little bridge, families out walking in the warm sunshine and.....the canal.
It was glorious and a treat for the eye. And the camera.
I was amazed by how busy it was on the water. As well as all the boats, there were loads of ducks and swans fighting over the bread pieces being thrown at them by over enthusiastic kids, a full slice in one case ! Toasted I think. With Peanut Butter. Sank like a stone.
I think I'd arrived at rush hour as in some places the boats were 3 abreast. Short term sightseeing ones vied for space with weekly rentals and owner occupiers.
You could take a trip for £3 which took you along the canal (go figure) past the impressive Skipton Castle and back again. I'm not sure how long it lasted but on a day like today, it was quite popular although on one occasion it went past me with only 2 people on board.
I assume this number still made it financially viable for the owners but it's hard to know how. I was pleased to see it go past twice more during my stay there with it packed out each time. I had to remind myself it was mid afternoon on a Thursday at the start of the season so they were probably happy to have any customers at all.
I went up onto the little bridge from the first photo and this was the view looking the other way.
At this point in Skipton, the canal forks with the main spur going West to Liverpool and this spur going North to - well I've no idea really. It probably goes past someones garden in Scotland and on to the North Sea.
All down the left side of the canal for about a mile, boats were tied up while their owners or renters were taking a break inside or enjoying the sights around Skipton. It was an idyllic location for sure and without a cloud to break up the clear blue sky, it was such a delight to be somewhere new to me and so close to home as well.
I'll certainly have to rethink my notion that I know just about everywhere within 50 miles of Leeds. There was so much to see here that I'll have to come back several times to get it all in.
After walking alongside this Northern spur of the canal for a while, the almost continuous line of docked boats abruptly ended and the canal returned to being a much more tranquil stretch of water.
Here the only sounds were from the ducks and swans who would occasionally come to blows and churn up the previously calm waters with their bickering.
Otherwise it was as peaceful a walk as you could ever imagine. Yes traffic would go over the bridges but even then, it was as if Mother Nature had used her cosmic mute button to suppress the strident noises normally associated with delivery vans and private cars. Nothing was allowed to spoil the atmosphere.
Then the canal went under a bridge and on the other side it took on a much more natural ambiance with no man made edgings and as a result it became narrower with the sides more overgrown.
The £3 tour boat went past me once again and this was one of the times it was pretty much full.
Ironically, although the canal itself may have reverted to a more basic state, the tow path was very well maintained with an excellent wooden fence preventing anyone from stumbling down into the waters - the canal on the right and a flowing river, compete with small waterfall, on the left.
I was approaching the back of Skipton Castle which suddenly reared up on the right side like a smaller version of its big cousin up in Edinburgh.
With the sun shining on it's otherwise bleak stone walls, it didn't seem gloomy at all - as some castles can be.
Sadly it was just too high up to get it in a photo with the canal as well so as I'd got plenty of the canal, I picked the castle for this one !
Seemed fair enough.
This was as far as I wanted to go on this spur as for one thing, time was getting on and I'd only bought a 2 hr parking ticket !
So I made the return trip and as usual, saw things I'd not noticed on the outward trip. These next two photos were taken looking North so how I missed them first time, I've no idea.
The water was particularly calm at this point, almost glasslike. The tow path was wide and well maintained. The combination was breathtaking.
Either that or I'm just not as fit as I thought I was !
This particularly wide narrow boat (eh ?) had caused some commotion coming past the more usual ones docked at the sides of the canal.
It only just made it and only just made it through some of the narrower bridges too. It looked unusual and I've no idea what it was doing there - if it was a private boat or one used for some commercial purpose.
It had a strange black covering material all along it's length and it even had tilt opening windows. The spray is coming from it's propellers as it was moving sideways to dock along the banking in front of the bridge - just beyond which was the very busy area where the canal split.
This had been my starting point and although I planned on returning to the car and leaving Skipton, I had walked up an appetite and sought out that most traditional of British eating establishments, a curry house. Oh no sorry, a fish and chip shop.
I found one nearby but as they were only cooking fish to order and I had 5 minutes before my parking ticket expired, I had sausage and chips instead. I got back to the car and decided that as I'd not seen a parking attendant at any time, I'd risk it and sit on a bench near the canal in the sunshine and enjoy my meal at leisure.
As usual on such occasions, I was soon surrounded by 'flying rats' eager to snap up any crumbs that fell from my plate. Ok my styrofoam tray then.
This one was quite pretty though and while munching on my sausage (oh stoppit missus), I snapped it instead.
I didn't want all the chips and fed them to some of the ducks and other wildlife that came to the canal edge. This started quite a cafuffel and a small duck war broke out. Before moving quickly away to dispose of the remaining chips and tray in a nearby waste bin, I took a photo just as the watery scuffle was ending.
Not the most handsome of birds I grant you, but certainly one that has had its chips. Some of mine actually.
So there you have it. If you're ever in the vicinity , I recommend a stop off at the canal area of Skipton.
Next time I should actually be ON one of the narrow boats cruising along the placid waterway that is the Leeds to Liverpool canal and so the photos should have more interesting viewpoints.
Maybe there will be time then to get to that chippie and order the fish.