1. Sep, 2019

A RUDE AWAKENING

But a welcome one all the same, more about that later folks.

We left Leeds on a windy day, luckily for me the big river locks going out of the city are all electric and I just have to push a button, its hard work but someone has to do it. I met the captain and crew off NB Skye at Castleford lock, and they couldn’t even get off their mooring because of the high winds, but were hoping to travel to Knottingley as soon as they could escape.

The weather was still being less than kind to us and on a wet Friday we headed for the afore mentioned Knottingley, there is a Lidl next to the river Aire and I needed to do some shopping, we stopped and then decided to move a little further down to a more open area. This is when we spotted a strange sight, a young lady, maybe late teens early 20’s, walking down the gravel towpath towards us. Strange, because she had neither shoes nor coat on, and didn’t look up as we passed. Bearing in mind it had been raining all day, and it wasn’t very warm, she was dressed only in a strappy top and short leggings. I watched as she walked on and at one point she turned and looked back at us and then at the river. I really thought she was going to jump in, but she resumed walking and was soon out of sight. It bothered both the Captain and I so much that we decided that we should phone the police on 101. It took a little time to get through, but they took all the details, and about an hour later I had a return phone call from an officer who was out checking the towpath for her. I sincerely hope that she was alright.

We decided to stay in Knottingley for an extra day, and headed off to the Steam Packet a short walk down the towpath. It was ok, but we only had a couple before returning to the boat. Close to where we had moored was a bench, and as we got closer we could see a group of teenagers had congregated there. Not a problem, until one of the lads decided to jump on the top of the boat, we weren’t happy, and they got a right telling off by the Captain when we got close enough. They were apologetic, but people need to understand that Avalon Two is not just a boat, it is our much loved home.

After Knottingley, via the river once more it was onto the Selby canal. We stopped at a little place called Burn and had a walk to the Wheatsheaf, a nice village pub with Old Peculiar in bottles for the Captain, so he was a happy bunny. Opposite the pub was an interesting memorial to 578 Squadron, they were based in the village during WW2, and in October 2012 the village saw a second memorial unveiled in memory of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 431 (Iroquois) Squadron, founded at Burn in November 1942. The then commanding officer and warrant officer came over from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where the modern day 431 Squadron (“The Snowbirds”, the Canadian equivalent of the Red Arrows) is based, specifically for the ceremony. Burns other claim to fame (and its only a tiny village) is that Jean Alexander, better known as Hilda Ogden, was the honorary mayor of the village, and was a regular in the pub when she was visiting her niece who lived in the village.

Monday and we pushed on to Selby, and I mean literally pushed, as the weed on the top of the water was very thick and made it hard going. We met up with NB Mabel and her Captain, (never got his name) and the crew a lovely old dog called Herbie. We walked into Selby and found a great micropub called the Black Dog, they had 3 stouts on for the Captain, so of course he had to try all of them. On the walls were lyrics from songs, and we found ourselves singing along to work out which song they came from, but luckily we didn’t make it rain.

Next day, and down the big river lock on to the tidal Ouse in the company of Mabel, it was great being on the tidal river again, but the Captain being a little over enthusiastic coming out of the lock managed to tip the boat at quite an angle, and things slid off the work surfaces and draws opened, but nothing broke and we were soon upright again.

At Naburn we came off the tidal section and rejoined the more gentle river to continue our cruise into York.

We found moorings at the Museum Gardens in the centre of York, there were quite a few boats, both narrowboats and cruisers, already moored but we managed to squeeze in. The 3 NB’s in front of us were all from Strawberry Island in Doncaster, and we got to know their crews better later on. After catching our breath we took a walk into York, which is a beautiful city.

We knew that our friends Chris and Andy off NB Ceiriog were somewhere on the river, and that they were making for York, so I wasn’t surprised when I got a message to say they were in the Minister Inn, so we went to join them and have a catch up. They had wanted to do the Ribble link with us, but like us, other things had got in the way, so we are hoping to do it next year together.

I won’t describe everything we saw in York, but we did it twice, as both my kids came for the day, but not on the same day. It was lovely to see them and we will be together again soon in Langley Mill.

Now to our rude awakening. The river Ouse in York has a large catchment area for water, and although we hadn’t had much rain in York, other parts further north of us had. The river level can rise very fast, and can be very dangerous for boats moored there.

4.30am on Friday morning, and there was a knocking on the window, now we don’t normally answer such things, as you never know who it is, but the knocking didn’t stop, so I got up and gingerly open the side hatch, a pleasant looking young man stood there in bare feet, his feet were bare because the water was lapping round his ankles. He had very kindly come to warn us of the rising river. There was no going back to bed, but the Captain decided to wait until sunrise before leaving, but the 3 boats in front left quickly after being awoken.

It was beautiful travelling so early in the morning, there is a wonderful atmosphere, and the sun sparkles on the water like hundreds of diamonds. The mist hangs over the river and shrouds the banks in a shimmering haze. It’s so quiet with no one else about, it’s like tiptoeing through a fairy land when all the sprites and woodland folk are asleep. We glided out of slumbering York and past moored boats with no sign of life at that time in the morning.

It was a lovely day, but when we got to Naburn, we found that the moorings there were also under water and we ended up brested up against Ceiriog, and the 3 boats from Strawberry Island, Twilight Dreamcatcher and Trent Weaver. We were joined later by Pete, Chris and Edward on Sowena from Newbury. The bad news was we couldn’t travel on the tidal section that day as the river was running high and fast. So after a rest and cooling down we headed to the Blacksmiths Arms with Chris and Andy.

The perfect end to a long day.