Saturday, June 21, 2008

Narrow Minded - Day 2

Dear reader, you'll remember we left our intrepid narrow boaters sleeping blissfully on't water next to a lock gate just past Gargrave in the Yorkshire Dales. You don't ? Well read the previous post then !!

There, everyone is up to speed now. Not us, of course, as we were doing zero mph with the knowledge that we could only get to a hair removing 4mph if someone opened the lock gates behind us and give us a watery shove along. Not likely to happen. Mostly as the lock gate in question was in front of us and we had to get through it - but after breakfast of course.

Daffy had rescued a few slices of bread from the swans and so, after our cereal, we feasted on slightly soggy toast that had a strange after taste of canal water which we overcame with lashings of marmalade, all washed down with hot warming tea. Nummy. We were ready for those locks.

6 of them in fact.

But first, lets remind ourselves where we spent the night.

It may not have been The Hilton and I DID miss having a trouser press in my room (in fact I kinda missed having a room !) but we couldn't complain about the views we woke to or how fast it took us to get from our respective beds to become a part of those views.

This shot was actually taken from the narrow walk way at the top of the lock gates so you can see how close we had been to it overnight.

The mooring ropes had been detached and we're just about to set off - which is partly why I was up on the lock gate, with Stephen somewhere nearby. He to open the gates and me to let him do it. Actually by now I had decided I just couldn't stand doing little or nothing every time we came to a set of locks and so, giving scant regard to medical advice, I mucked in and ate 2, yes 2, jaffa cakes.

No seriously I did help a bit and pushed one side while Stephen pushed on the other and this did speed things along - a little.

While waiting for the lock to fill up and so allow us to open the gates. I took this photo of the area. Daffy really liked the lockkeepers house and I liked the 'large sky' that they always say you get in Montana.

Never really understood what that meant but I tried to recreate it in this photo and if nothing else, it shows we had a lovely morning in a lovely location and even though it was 9:30am (a time unknown to me when at home in Leeds), I felt at one with nature and a strange calmness had settled in my stomach.

I suspect it was the soggy canal flavoured toast.

I'll just clump the next 4 photos together as they show various images as we passed through this set of locks.

I hope they show how the narrow boats move up and down the canal system by either lowering or raising themselves up depending on the lie of the land.

If only it was all flat, then we wouldn't need locks at all !
Someone should really have thought of that when designing England.

Sloppy work I feel.

In an effort to save water (don't want it all running downhill and flooding Leeds you know - who said why not ??), boaters were very friendly and would always check ahead to see if a boat was coming the other way as, if a lock was full of water, it was much more sensible to let whichever boat was at that level to slip in and be raised or lowered accordingly.

This might have meant us waiting a bit longer to get into the lock ourselves but it was sensible in a water conservation sense and we were in no rush after all.

Here we are next to another narrow boat as, whenever possible, you always tried to go into a lock in pairs to save time, and water again.

We're on the right. We had no flowers.

You can see 2 yellow poles on top of our boat to be used to push the boat away from the bank and the yellow board between the poles was if one of us wanted to have a surf when we were going at full steam. I passed on that idea as I'd only brought one pair of pants.

In this next phot the water has drained out some more and the boats are lower in the lock.

Once the water is at the same level as it is on the other side of the gates in front, those gates can be opened and off we'd go.

It's all just a way to go up and down hills when you're on the water - which by another awful piece of shortsightedness, was not designed to flow upwards.

This isn't us but a shot of another narrow boat leaving a lock which we could then enter as the water IN the lock was now at the same level as we were.

The gates we see here would then be closed behind us and the ones at the far end would be opened, allowing water from a higher level to flood in and raise us up.

Simple but clever as well.

Having 6 locks so close together first thing in the morning was a bit of a pain but it certainly worked off our breakfast and was fun in a sort of masochistic way.

Fresh air, good company, exercise, stunning scenery. Worked for me.

After these locks, we were on a nice long stretch of open water and Daffy and I took the opportunity to climb onto the roof of the narrow boat and enjoy a slightly different view of the passing countryside. It was a warm day, the sun was blazing from a mostly clear blue sky and all was well with our world.

Then the trees on both sides suddenly closed in and the canal banks narrowed and we were in a different world completely.

I felt like we were in the Florida Everglades or going up the Amazon or even on a ride at Cyprus Gardens as it was just so different from anything we'd experienced before.

Sitting on top of the boat, the feeling was wonderful. Tootling along so slowly helped us to appreciate and enjoy this strange new world all the more.

Then we went around a bend and came upon a picturesque bridge which added to the effect.

We'd gone under several bridges already but having them out in the open was very different from this one which was in our own little stretch of Yorkshire Rain Forest !

I searched for human movement high up on the steep banks and was prepared for a shower of poison tipped arrows to start bouncing off boat roof.

I think I've watched way too many adventure movies.

By now it was just after noon and we were ready to find a pub, stop and have lunch.

As if to answer our 'prayers', we passed under another little bridge and found ourselves in a watery version of a truck stop.

Just to the left in this photo you can see a much wider barge style canal boat and as you might imagine, they need locks all to themselves.

There were probably a dozen or so standard narrow boats moored along this stretch of the canal as it was a good place to rest up for a while and it did have an excellent pub nearby.

We weren't the only ones who needed feeding and the local swans would come right up and be fed by hand - if you wanted to risk losing a few fingers.

If you enlarge this photo, you'll see the rows of tiny sharp 'teeth' that line the beak and they will give you a nasty scratch, made worse because as the swan is pulling away with the bread, you are pulling your hand the other way.

I did get a photo of a lump of bread just about to disappear into it's mouth but I prefer this one as I've never before managed to get one to extend its neck in a 'begging' fashion like this. Thanks to Daffy for risking her fingers to let me take this shot.

After a lovely lunch, we set off again and the next milestone was to be the famous 'double arch' bridge at East Marton that features in many canal publications.

This curious structure carries the busy A59 over the canal and after the original bridge was built, the road was raised to eliminate a severe dip and so 'another bridge' had to be built on top of the first one.

Must've been one hell of a dip.

Quite why this top bridge needed to have an arch at all has to be down to using less bricks and so it was simply a cost cutting exercise.

In any case it makes for one odd bridge and I took this photo from a very specific spot as it was where the professional photographer had to have stood to take the one that appears in official canal publications. Gives me a cheap thrill to do things like that.

I know, very sad. My dream is to stand where Neil Armstrong stood to take his famous shot of Buzz Aldrin back in July '69.

I'm working on that but I may have left it a bit late.

After I'd taken that photo, I turned around and this was the view behind me.

I know it's a bit dark and I could lighten it but then I think I'd lose the 'window' effect I wanted to capture.

I waited until the narrow boat had cleared the shadow and was rounding the bend and I just liked the way the overhanging trees framed the scene.

Au naturelle, as the Germans would say. I'd say eau naturelle but I'm just a witty bastard.

After we'd negotiated the last of the 3 Greenberfield Locks - which was officially lock No.44 (and our 15th), we decided we'd gone as far as we could go , time wise, and we had to turn around and start the trip back.

It was a difficult decision to make as you can't be precise about how long it will take you to go any distance on a canal given that the locks might be going 'for' or 'against' you.

But if nothing else, we'd picked a lovely spot to end at and we moored up for an hour to rest and get ready to face those 3 locks right away on the return leg.

We walked around and stretched our legs and finally got some excellent ice cream to enjoy beside the narrow boat. Not counting our overnight stop, we'd been on the water for a total of 12 and a half hours and had travelled a staggering 13.47 miles. Wow !! You don't need a speed camera on a canal, just a sketch artist.

We were just on the outskirts of the village of Barnoldswick and at this point the canal widened enough for us to turn the boat around quite easily - although I'd have had no idea how to do it. Stephen was The Master and guided the front of the boat right up to the concrete bank and while I held it in position, he used minute pulses of the engine to swing the rear around like the Space Shuttle docking with the ISS. Somewhat like.

Once the back end started to face the other way, I pushed the front away from the bank and the turn around process was completed.

It was 5pm on Day 2 and we were on the long return back to base.

After we'd cleared the 3 Greenberfield Locks again and were on the open water, I took this photo to show what it was like when there were no locks, bridges, trees or tunnels to hinder our views of the Dales countryside.

I suppose it would've been nice not to have had the 2 phone poles but what the heck.

When I saw this image on the little display screen on the back of the camera, I got the idea again to use the camera lowering technique I'd used a long time ago in Roundhay Park in Leeds.

I'd not tried it with this camera and being a digital SLR with a heavy lens meant it always drooped down when held by the strap and so I had to create a sort of strap cradle to go below the lens before lowering the camera as close to the water as I dared. Thankfully on a canal the water normally flat - although you'd not think so from the above photo. Even a gentle wind would produce ripples and I didn't want to risk getting water on the lens.

After a few attempts I realised it would just be a hit and miss situation and if I got one decent shot, I'd be lucky. Then we rounded a curve and I saw a swan coming our way. I set the timer and lowered the camera to almost water level and prayed that as it glided towards the boat, it would pass on my side.

It did and this is the one off shot I got.

It's not as sharp as I'd have liked but the gap between us was decreasing by the second and with the camera set to timer mode, there was nothing I could do to alter the focus once I'd lowered it to water level.

Apart from it looking like one of the Windows XP backgrounds, I like it.

Soon after this the weather took a turn for the worse, the rain came and we had to stop. As it was about 7pm, and the rain showed no signs of stopping, we made it our overnight mooring and so endeth Day 2.

Just as it did for us, Day 3 will follow shortly.............


Jennyta said...

I see you didn't have to do any 'legging' then, Ian?

Daphne said...

No, no, the only "legging" he did was pulling mine. But he does it most enjoyably! And these photos are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Your photos are fantastic! And I've just been sat chuckling to myself at the Windows XP remark...

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