Saturday, September 04, 2010

Pushing Northwards Again

APOLOGIES! OUR BLOG IS RUNNING BEHIND OUR TRAVELS. We came up the Calder & Hebble at the end of July. We are trying to get up to date as soon as possible, but don't want you to miss out on any part of our travels! CLICK ON 'Where Zindagi Is Now' to find our latest location.

Leaving Sheffield, there were no more 'diversions' to distract us from heading for the Rochdale Canal and the Pennines, so we set off back down the Don Valley until we came to Bramwith, where we had come in from Keadby. This time, we took the left fork to take us along the New Junction Canal towards the Aire and Calder Navigation.

We were soon rewarded with a most unusual sight – 3 'Tom Puddings' being towed along! These are the last survivors of the floating coal hoppers once used to take coal from Yorkshire's collieries down to Goole. They were designed to run in 'trains' of up to 30 compartment boats, but apparently 19 was the norm on the Aire and Calder. Fully laden, of course, they would have been much lower in the water, with only inches of freeboard.

The next morning, one of their modern-day equivalents passed us, equally low in the water with sand and gravel on board on its way into Whitley Lock. We were soon through the lock and on our way to Castleford, where we took the opportunity to walk over the new footbridge made famous by Kevin McCloud on Channel 4 – very good, but difficult to capture adequately in a photo!

Now we were back on the Calder & Hebble Navigation, with its unique lock-gear operated with a piece of wood. Simple and quite effective, but not loved by everyone. This would lead us past where we came in from the Huddersfield Broad Canal in 2008 and on to join the Rochdale Canal in Sowerby Bridge. At this point, we were hearing rumours that one or more of the Pennine canals might need to close due to lack of water, but we pressed on in hope.

Another characteristic of the Calder & Hebble is that the navigation keeps changing from river to canal and back again, with the channel turning away from massive weirs to take you through locks. All very well signposted and protected, but you need to keep your eyes open!

At Brighouse, that all changed. We were now on the canal, pure and simple, and the locks started to become more frequent as the valley gradually started to close in on us – the climb up the Pennines was beginning!

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