Sunday, 14 August 2016

Midsummer or midwinter?

Damart thermals - just right for August
It might be the middle of August but if this place had a factory outlet to the towpath we'd have been queueing up for some thermals. Yesterday morning was horribly damp, windy and so, so cold.
We were at the bottom of the Bingley Locks, having made a short hop from our overnight halt outside (and inside) The Fisherman's at Dowley Gap. It was a pretty decent pub; rated number two by Tripadvisor out of 52 in Bingley, for what that's worth. We enjoyed ample and tasty steak and ale pies, then managed to squeeze down a shared sticky toffee pudding before retiring, bloated boaters.
But next day ended in sunshine over the Dales
The previous day had been easy in miles but hard in effort; we despatched two double staircase locks and our nemesis, the three locker at Field where we experienced our near disaster a few days earlier. Doing them on our own was a lot harder work than the previous day when we'd had the aid of lock-keepers on some and a fellow lock traveller, a boat mover delivering his craft to Preston. Mind you, he was even more happy to have us helping him than we were to have a partner through the locks.
In a short stop at Saltaire we wandered some of the close-packed back streets and chatted to a local resident who'd been born in his house and lived there ever since.
His mother was a former housemaid 'in service' but when war broke out in 1939 she moved to work in the cotton mills at Saltaire – like so many women the coming of war and the departure of men to fight created opportunities that changed their lives. It certainly did in this case: four years after joining the Salt workforce the former housemaid bought her own house in Saltaire for £350 - something she couldn't have dreamed of as a domestic servant.
At Bingley we saw the end of the canal's staircases  No end to the swing bridges, though – at times they've been coming at one every few hundred yards. But it was easier going this time we found ourselves in a four boat convoy so - in a very slow motion version of Olympic team pursuit cycling - each of us took a turn opening a bridge then dropped to the back of the line.
You need to be slim for these Dales gates
Last night, a few miles short of Skipton we celebrated being back in the wonderful Dales with a stiff walk up to the highest ground to watch the setting sun illuminate the Aire valley below in tones of light and shade. And it wasn't even cold.
This makes narrowboating on the L&L seem easy
This morning we watched as two pairs of canoeists were getting their inflatable boats ready for the next stage of a charity paddle, though that sounds much too light-hearted a vowel for a trip from Liverpool to Goole; the 97 miles of the L&L Canal followed by 30 more on the Aire&Calder, all in ten days. They can portage round the 90 odd locks of the L&L but dealing with those giant ones on the Aire will prove a real challenge. Still, it's all in a very good cause.

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