Friday, 15 August 2014

Just a little bit longer

Onto the Selby Canal – but where will we moor
The search for the perfect mooring usually starts in mid afternoon. Today the skies were darkening and rain was threatening as we arrived at Whitley Lock on the Aire & Calder. A line of mooring bollards signalled an obvious stop but – no – not with the roaring traffic of the M62 just ahead. Let's move on. So we did - and got soaked in the lock.
The rain soon stopped and we headed to Knottingley where we turn off onto the River Aire. More moorings and it's now 5pm...but the air is thick with chemical fumes from the mysterious works that surround the canal.
Timeworn Bank Dole Lock with abandoned lock house
Press on again, then, onto the Aire via the neglected looking Bank Dole Lock. It's a river so moorings are infrequent but there's some at the next lock two miles away. Except that they're full! No choice then but to hustle along the remaining four miles to reach the Selby Canal – meeting a water skier on the way. Not sure who was more surprised, him or us. We finally reach the canal entrance lock at 7pm and listen to The Archers while setting the lock.
There are moorings just the other side says the guidebook. But they are full too. No choice, then. Keep going. It's a canal; you can moor anywhere. Except you can't because the canal is entirely rough edged with shrubs, reeds and trees. It's lovely (we saw two kingfishers in the first mile) but that doesn't help when you're tired and hungry. That mooring we turned down at Knottingley looked like a big mistake.
But, hold on, there in the distance is a short length of stone wall. It's a mooring, just one boat long, with rings, bollards and even picnic benches. It's delightfully isolated. And it's empty! So at 8pm we finally tie up for the night. The perfect spot: it waited for us.
Water skier on the River Aire - just a little bit quicker than us
It has been a long day. We started from last night's mooring 20 miles back on the New Junction Canal, one of the last canals built in this country, built as a shortcut between the Aire & Calder and South Yorkshire waterways. It's just five and a half miles long and dead straight but you still have to deal with six lift or swingbridges and a locks! We'd been through just two on a short run from Thorne when the heavens opened and we hunkered down for the night on the bridge landing stage. Seems the weather has taken a turn for the worse since our return to the boat from a week's grandparent duties and all those weeks of sunshine are a memory.
This is the massive Pollington Lock on the Aire & Calder
Still, it's good to be back boating - though these massive Yorkshire waterways are a far, far cry from the narrow canals. The huge locks on the Aire & Calder were built for commercial traffic can handle 200ft craft, though they have intermediate gates for shorter stuff like ours.
Sadly there's virtually no commercial traffic on these waterways now - the trucks on the M62 that runs parallel with the canal carries the loads these days. The waterways have also suffered from the demise of the Yorkshire coalfields – one of the last, the vast Kellingley pit that fronts the canal is due to close at the end of next year. Evidence of the pain south Yorkshire has suffered from the loss of its staple industry is easy to see as one travels through the local towns.

Kellingley Colliery and its derelict loading wharf

1 comment:

  1. We stopped on that rural mooring a couple of years ago, there was a bee hive in the stonework, the bees were very busy going in laden with pollen, never saw any coming out, so presume there was a one way system, never found the exit though !