Friday, June 20, 2008

Narrow Minded - Day 1

Before I begin, please remember that all my photos can be enlarged simply by clicking on them and I think, in my own modest way, that some of these do deserve to be enlarged. Not because of any skill of mine but because I think the wonderful scenery of the Yorkshire Dales deserves it. I've reduced them in size (and sadly in quality) so that visitors with slow internet speeds will not have to wait too long..............

So, after the day out in London last Thursday (see previous post), the next 3 days couldn't have been more different. Daffy, her hubby Stephen and myself drove the few miles to Skipton and to Snaygill Boats to start a glorious weekend on't canal. The Leeds - Liverpool canal to be precise.

We arrived early, about noon, and were able to load up the boat with provisions - enough to feed a small army for a fortnight. Daffy doesn't do things by halves, more like doubles or even triples. We could've lived on that boat till Christmas. When ready to set off, we decided there was no point in starting off hungry and as there was a pub just a few hundred yards away, we headed there for lunch. Yes we'd started as we meant to carry on.

I was a canal virgin but Daffy and Stephen were old hands, so to speak, having owned their own narrow boat at one time in their lives. And a jolly good thing that they were as, initially, I was about as much use as chocolate fireguard. But by 1:30pm we'd cast off (sorry for these technical terms !) and were on our way. Not very fast, but we were on our way.

I might as well get the speed bit out of the way now. On our extensive canal system, boats can only go at a maximum of 4mph, or the nautical equivalent, as going faster would seriously damage the mostly grass banks of the canals. Although wider in places, canals can be as narrow as 25 feet across and only 2 standard 6'10" wide boats can fit side by side in a lock.

But before we had to worry about locks, we came to the first obstruction - a swing bridge and like a well drilled military unit, we swung into action too.

Stephen jumped off to open the bridge, Daffy steered the boat and I - well I had a mug of tea and a jaffa cake to cope with so I just strolled off the boat and took photos !

I think it all worked very well and with the bridge back in place, Stephen and I were picked up and we were off again.

Nothing to this boating lark !

Over the course of the next hour or so, Stephen had to open a few more swing bridges of varying complexity and in one case this involved road barriers coming down, flashing lights, warning signals and traffic being stopped. All very exciting and I'd worked my way through a couple of mugs of tea and several jaffa cakes by the time we'd negotiated the last one. I was worn out !!

It was fairly overcast but the scenery was still stunning, as you can hopefully tell from these photos.

I'd never seen the Yorkshire Dales from this vantage point before and it was wonderful to be able to see them without having to worry about road traffic.

It was just so damn relaxing. The waters were flat calm and we were coasting along at a speed where tow path walkers were passing us.

We passed through Skipton and it was strange seeing the town from the canal this time as I'd been at the very same spot only last month - but on dry land.

We would come upon other narrow boats moored along the canal banks either for a few hours or for many weeks or months. For some people, these boats were their only home and they were decorated accordingly.

In this case, the boat owners had even made their part of the canal bank into their little private garden area with gnomes and bird tables sharing space with the more usual chairs and tables.

It was all very magical and so hard to believe that exactly 24 hrs earlier I'd been standing taking photos in Piccadilly Circus.

Another world.

Speaking of which, our new world was full of wildlife of all sorts. Well water based wildlife anyway. From our starting point back at Snaygill Boats, we had come across numerous swans with their cute and fluffy little cygnets and dozens of ducks and other water critters. Daffy was constantly throwing out pieces of bread and I was beginning to panic that she was rapidly throwing away tomorrows breakfast toast.

This handsome fella, or fellette, was on the canal bank looking for something more substantial than a bit of bread.

I almost thought I was back in Buttonwood Bay and it was exciting to see this European grey heron up close and personal.

Shortly after this, we passed through a series of locks at Gargrave and by the time we were back on a long stretch of clear water, we were ready to tie up for the night.

This isn't much of a problem on a canal as you just find a spot that looks good, steer towards the bank, stop the engine and tie up. Sorted.

We came upon Bank Newton Locks and decided we'd leave them until the morning when Stephen would be rested and I'd have a fresh mug of tea. Priorities !

Shortly after we'd moored "Saffron", Daffy had rustled up some bacon butties and when we'd finished with our after dinner chit chat, we all retired for the night.

The boat came with a tv/dvd combo and I'd brought a few dvds with me, but we were just too tired to watch anything.

We'd been on the water for just short of 6 hours and had travelled - wait for it - 7.96 miles. You don't use a narrow boat if you want to go fast from A to B.

All that fresh air and watching Stephen opening and closing the lock gates had worn me out. I'd not been to bed that early for many months but knowing we'd be up early to set off again, it was an easy decision to make.

And set off early we did...........but that's for another post. Bet you can't wait ! Me either.

1 comment:

Jennyta said...

I'm full of admiration for you, Ian. Packing away so many mugs of tea and jaffa cakes. I'm in awe, man! It was once an ambition of mine to walk the length of the Leeds/Liverpool canal but, sadly, events intervened and I never did.

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