Thursday, 11 August 2016

The end – and the beginning

Facing back again; ready to head west once more
The last blog entry was from Skipton and we are now in Leeds. A lot has happened in between. But the biggest news is that while we are at the end of our journey across the Leeds Liverpool Canal, we are also at the beginning. Because, daft as it may sound, we are going to head back again!So, having been moored in Leeds for a couple of days facing east, we left today after one last night here facing west. Why have we turned around? Well a brief foray onto the Aire & Calder reminded us that its giant locks can be tiresome (once you've got over the initial jaw drop at the sheer size of them) and the waterways themselves – long, wide and straight across flat countryside – are not the most thrilling. And they only lead to the River Trent and then in a few days, the crowded Midlands canals.So we've turned around to enjoy the Pennines and the delights of Gargrave and Skipton once more.
The fine view from the Five Rise locks
But what happened between Skipton and Leeds? Well, to cut a long story short here's a brief summary – it's a tale of swingbridges and staircases with a some history thrown in.
Swingbridges: there are loads of them on the way out of Skipton. I think we did 13 in the six miles to Keighley. Mostly in the rain. Most are just over farm tracks and footpaths but a few are over roads. I think our best effort there was holding up 30+ rush hour motorists on one at Keighley.
Staircases: everyone's heard of the Bingley Five Rise. We've been on it three times now and it's still as spectacular as ever. But that's just one staircase; there are seven more on the trip into Leeds. Most of the three-lock ones have lock-keepers but one doesn't and that's where we had our Disaster.
We were dropping down from the top lock of the Field staircase, with another boat when we snagged on something under water on the lock side. In the time it took Mrs B to spot the problem, alert me and me to close the paddles to stop the water flow we had tipped to about 25 degrees, to the accompaniment of smashing glassware and plates as they tumbled out of the cupboards. Without doubt our single scariest moment in boating.
We've also experienced plenty of history along the route. The canal runs through Saltaire, the spot where Victorian entrepreneur mill owner and philanthropist Sir Titus Salt built a 'model village' away from the smoke and disease of Bradford to house employees at his new mill – the largest factory IN THE WORLD at the time. It produced 18 miles - yes miles - of cloth a day! Today it's a desirable township and the redundant mill reborn as a magnificent mix of cafes, bookshops and a gallery of local lad David Hockney's works
Hockney's latest iPad generated art on show at Saltaire
Before Saltaire we also took a side trip on the Keighley & Worth Valley steam railway (location of The Railway Children and many more period dramas) to visit Haworth, famous home of the Brontës. A steeply sloping cobbled hill brings visitors past lines of the sort of outlets you'd expect to appeal to literati tourists (ethical cafes, antiquarian bookshops, artisan gifts etc) before reaching the gloomy rectory where the family lived. It's hardly remote these days but on a wet, gloomy day the period atmosphere of the village and looming moors was easy to imagine.
The long cobbled climb to Haworth
Speaking of moors, we had a last climb up into the heights before the scenery faded down into flatness and walked up to Ilkley Moor of 'baht 'at' (which translates as 'without a hat' apparently) to gaze one final – or so we thought then – time at the stunning vistas.
Then into Leeds, a city that is an enjoyable mix of old and new. The regenerated waterfront is terrific; its bustling cafes, bars and restaurants clear evidence to its affluence and affluence that comes from the flashy commercial blocks that line the waterway - Direct Line, First Direct, KPMG, Asda and so on.
Wonderful Italianate architecture - for factory chimneys
The centre of the city remains largely a tribute to the Victorian manufacturers and mill owners who created its wealth with magnificent commercial and municipal buildings boasting the most intricate stone and brick detailing. None is finer than the Italianate dust extraction towers of the Tower Works, where steel pins for the textile industry were made. The factory is gone; the magnificent towers, thankfully survive.
The River Aire flows under the station to meet the canal
The canal gives into the River Aire in the middle of the city – indeed the river flows right under the railway station to join it. The moorings, in the remains of old wharves, are wonderfully central but there aren't enough really and the water level in the area drops alarmingly during the day often leaving moorers aground. Things are better than they were on our last visit but Leeds is another city centre which embraces its waterway but pays little attention to the boaters it brings.
Tonight we are back on the edge of the city, having gone through the 'badlands', a five mile stretch where, legend has it, the scrotes appear from the undergrowth to rape and pillage innocent boaters. But only on sunny afternoons. Fortunately we saw no-one more alarming than large lady joggers in pink lycra and speeding cyclists.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like the best decision.....a few more days in Skipton and surrounds cannot be bad.

    Jealous you viewed the Hockney Exhibition....and the location must have been a bonus.