Sunday, June 29, 2008

Into the Yorkshire Dales

After coming up the enormous 'steps' of the 3-Rise and 5-Rise locks at Bingley (about 90 feet, 8 locks in less than half a mile), we were amazed that our canal map book showed no more locks until Gargrave, 16 miles later and well after Skipton. Weren't we heading up into wild North Yorkshire, full of hills and dales?

As we chugged on and looked at the countryside and the map, we saw a little of how ingenious the canal builders had been. The Bingley locks had lifted us up the side of the Aire valley, so now we were on a really high contour. As the canal wound along that same contour line, the valley floor gradually rose to meet it, the hills rose above it, and we found ourselves in Airedale. Immediately below the Gargrave locks, the River Aire is level with the canal!

The scenery is certainly no disappointment! We have come through some lovely villages, almost all built in the warm local stone that reminds us of the Cotswolds – and the hills continue to climb above us.
And the wildlife? Again, we have seen oystercatchers and blackheaded gulls, far away from the coast, but the sound that seems to typify the countryside round here is the haunting, bubbling cry of the curlew, sometimes seen, sometimes apparently impossible to locate. We have seen swifts, house martins and sand martins, along with many swallows, which have already raised their first broods of young.

We arrived in Skipton on 13th June and spent a couple of days there, with a few things to sort out. At long last, Dave had just heard from his tools supplier in Switzerland, and so needed to find a delivery address as soon as possible. We also needed to find somewhere for Colin and Jan to park their car when they came to join us a week later, plus make arrangements to have the bottom of the boat 're-blacked' with bitumen, as we have been increasingly aware that the original coat is showing signs of wear. Pennine Cruisers came to our help on all three points, and we were able to fill up with diesel at a slightly less ridiculous price than some we have seen recently! We also took the opportunity to visit Skipton Baptist Church, recommended to us by Geoff and Andrea.

Before our visitors were due to come, we had time for a brief trip up the canal above Gargrave and, on the way, encountered yet another type of lock gear. With this type, the handle is lifted (as shown!) and the 'paddle' below the waterline pivots to open the sluice. Simple and ingenious!

We found a lovely mooring in 'the wilds' above Bank Newton and stayed there for nearly a day, visited occasionally by a family of swans. Some interesting plants there, too, including this stonecrop. Then back to Gargrave and Skipton to pick up Colin and Jan.

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