GODS OWN COUNTY, DEPENDS ON WHO YOU ASK
We have now left Lancashire and cruised into Yorkshire. And as the title suggests, for the Captain who is a Lancashire lad born and bred it’s definitely not Yorkshire. As I am a Derbyshire lass through and through I know they are both wrong.
So first we had to tackle the Wigan flight of 21 locks, which raises the canal an amazing 200ft over a distance of 2 miles.
The last time we did this flight it was a nightmare, and took us over 8hrs. I am pleased to say due to numerous problems on the flight there is a CRT employee always around to help boaters, and usually some volunteers from the Wigan Flight Crew. The flight is open from 8am til 9am for boats ascending the flight, which was us. We had agreed to buddy up with NB Out of the Blue. So nice and early we headed for the bottom of the locks.
Thinking we would be the first there, we were surprised to see another NB already going up the first lock, and this changed our plans. We knew that a 4th NB was behind us, and also a widebeam called Boo Boo. The decision was made that Out of the Blue would catch up with the boat in front, and we would wait for NB Hannah and her Cornish crew. This made doing the locks much easier, and with the help of the guy from CRT we made it up in a respectable 4½ hours.
After a very hot day we stop off at Cowling Brow, and after a walk up a very steep hill we found the Prince of Wales, and what a find. Excellent beers, and at a reasonable price.
We had arranged to meet our friends Neil, Kath and Rosemary at the top of the Johnson’s Hill locks. There are 7 locks in this flight, and as we started up the first lock I spotted another boat ahead of us, and also one coming up behind. The one ahead showed no sign of waiting for us, so I was sent to find out if the boat behind wanted to join us in the second lock. The 2 girls on board were very happy to do so and whilst the Captain waited in the second lock I went up and set the 3rd lock. Then I couldn’t make out if there was a boat coming down the locks as a bottom paddle was open on the 4th lock so I walked up to see (getting my exercise so I could enjoy my pint later). It turned out to be the boat in front and its crew had forgotten to put the paddle down, before trying to fill the lock. The lady Captain was not happy with her crew so I beat a hasty retreat.
7 locks done and room on the pontoon for us, so off to the pub, called unsurprisingly Top Lock. The pub was very nice but the beer expensive, however we did spot a rather interesting offer on the menu. From 3 til 9 pay the clock price for any pizza, so come in at 3 and pay £3 for a pizza normally costing £10, to good to miss and the Captain promised to treat me next day. However, luckily we mention to the barman that we would be back, and he told us that during the school holidays (which had just started) the offer didn’t start til 5pm, not a problem.
Next day and our friends joined us, it was extremely hot but we still had a great time, just as they were leaving we were treated to nature as its best, as a lightening show lit up the sky, but we had no rain which would have been a relief.
And so to the pub. We order the Hells pizza which came with chips, and like the offer said we paid £5.11 the time we ordered it, but when it came no chips. The waitress explained that the offer didn’t include the chips, but we pointed out that nowhere on the menu did it say this. She was very apologetic, and this is where I must commend them for the customer service, she returned a few minutes later and said the chef was cooking us some chips, and very nice they were too.
After all the hot days the weather took a definite turn for the worse, and we got caught in some very heavy showers. We stopped off at Riley Green as the Captains sister Sheila, and her husband William were driving over from their new home near Blackpool to see us. We spent some time chatting on the boat before heading off to the Hoghton Arms for lunch. The Captain was going to be good and have a coke, until he spotted they had his favourite, Hobgoblin, so he did a quick u-turn and had a pint. The food and service were excellent, and the company even better.
The bad weather continued, but we decided to bite the bullet and head for Blackburn, and got wet through for our troubles at Blackburn’s 6 locks,
We travelled through Blackburn not intending to stop and moored up out in the countryside for the night.
Then to Burnley our last visit had not been a happy one, and we both had agreed we would not like to moor there. I am pleased to say that there have been some great improvements here, the towpath is clean and tidy and the canal is also quite free of rubbish, but we still did not stop and pushed on to Barrowford locks.
At the first 4 of the 7 locks, a hire boat ahead of us was leaving paddles up,at the first lock I didn’t realise this, and couldn’t understand why the lock would not empty. We met a volunteer lockie at lock 5, who had helped them up the last 3 locks so we knew everything was good.
And this is where I spotted my first ever water vole. I was emptying the last lock and looking down, there he was swimming resolutely along the side of the wall before climbing out and disappearing into a crevice. What a sight.
Next the mile long Foulridge tunnel which is one way working so a traffic light system is used to tell boaters when to go through. The hire boat followed us through the tunnel, which on this occasion took just over 15minutes, and on to the middle of nowhere. The hire boat passed us again, and we were shocked to see the lady shuffling down the gunnels with bottles of beer in one hand and a plate of cobs in the other. Not safe at all, we do wonder at times.
We stopped off at the Anchor pub at Salterforth, which is right by the canal, and in the old cellar there is a collection of stalagmites & stalactites which the staff very kindly showed us.
The last part of our journey for this blog took us to Gargrave, and we paired up with Pete, a single hander, and owner of Irwell Brewery and distillery, on NB Duck’n’Dive to do the 7 Bank Newton locks. We used an old technique of tying the boats together so only one person was required to steer both boats. This was new experience for the Captain, and he did very well and added yet another string to his bow. On the locks we met Jenn and Jim on NB Dire Straits who moor at Langley Mill on the Erewash, and know our friend Janice and John on Oak.
We spent the night in Gargrave before heading off to a favourite town of ours Skipton, but that’s for next time folks.