Monday, 8 September 2014

Into the unknown

Rural charms of the Calder & Hebble
Today, to adapt a famous statement by Donald Rumsfeld about Iraq and 'WMDs', we have been dealing in known unknowns but tonight we are into an unknown unknown.
I will translate into English! We have spent the day working our way along the Calder & Hebble. We've been here before, five years ago but in the opposite direction when we came from Huddersfield. So we should know it but we don't! It all seems so incomprehensibly unfamiliar: it's a known unknown – I think. Maybe it's because we were heading east not west; maybe because we were with another boat. Who knows.
But it made today feel more special; it all felt new and I don't think we will forget it again. The C&H might have its roots in commerce and industry but now it is a delightfully countrified route, threading between canal and river stretches via a steady string of locks and flood locks. Though civilisation by way of towns and industry lurks close at times it only touches the canal occasionally – and one of those times is by our favourite supermarket, Lidl!
A double dose of the heavyweight locks at Dewsbury
The locks are as rustic as the canal; operating mechanisms vary haphazardly from handspike to windlass and most of the locks leak like the proverbial sieves – Battyeford so badly that I had to keep all the top paddles open to keep the lock topped up so we could open a top gate. For good measure, the upstream lock landing had also collapsed into the water!
Finally, after Cooper Bridge Lock – where a ferocious doberman on a worryingly thin chain outside the nearby lock cottage kept up a scary level of barking throughout – we went on through the next flood lock and beyond the point at which we had previously joined the C&H from the Huddersfield canals.
A typical C&H lock – with that vegetation it will soon become a SSSI
Evidence of its commercial past being slowly reclaimed by nature
Now we were into the land of unknown unknowns where the helpful Nicholsons Guide had marked a couple of mooring sites just after the first lock. Except they weren't there. So we are spending the night perched on the end of the lock landing. And tomorrow, into the unknown again.
But the past is remembered in canalside sculptures at Mirfield

Not just a ropey lock but a collapsed landing stage at Battyeford

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