Ship's Log

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Current Location : Ripon Racecourse Marina
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Day
Date
Activity
Engine
Hours
Miles
Total
Miles
Locks
Total
Locks
0
9/5/15

Banners prepared
The judicious use of trichloroethelyne on last year's banners to removed "to Bishop's Stortford or Bust!" and the application of shiny new vinyl lettering, allowed their reuse, saving me about £40!
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0 14/5/15 Found that my application to cross the Ribble Link was too late to get the dates I wanted, although a good four weeks notice given. Banners will just have to wait until next year.. Plan now to go to Lincoln before 1st June, leave Kestrel at Lemonroyd Marina, and on return head for the Rochdale Canal, the Peak Forest Canal and return via the Huddersfield Narrow canal.
1351.6
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17/5/15

Arrived at Ripon for first night on board before setting off for York in the morning. Flushed and filled the water tank.

End of day location: Ripon

1351.6
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2
18/5/15

Emerged at 7.30am to find an overcast, windy and drizzly day. Checked the engine oil and water and put on the cruising mooring lines. Set off at 8.30am without a great deal of enthusiasm. Noted that the canal past the Ripon Motor Boat Club is now free of moored boats and that their new extension appears to be fully utilised. Oxclose Lock was full, but seemed to take an age to empty. The field next to it seemed to have a lot of lying water which made me panic at first thinking the river level was very high, but which I thought unlikely. Check the river gauge and it was well down on the green, so the lying water must be an effect of the new gravel works further upstream. At Westwick Lock 'Toby' was just coming up so I was saved a bit of effort. At Boroughbridge I took on 70litres of diesel, not quite full, but enough to be going on with. Milby Lock was quiet - no swimmers this time - and still full from Toby's transit. On arrival at Linton Lock I found it also full and a half-hearted push on the beam started the gate opening - very much to my surprise - my winder was redundant. Opening the sluices on the downstream gates was as hard as ever, but I was joined by the friendly crew of a cruiser coming up, who opened the second sluice for me. The down stream gates were also surprisingly easy to move - not at all the Linton Lock I had come to know and dread. The weather by now was sunnier, but with a strong chilly wind still blowing - even with my dingy suit on and green coat and woolly hat I was still not particularly warm. Arrived in York at 4.30pm to find plenty of space, although with the water level being low I found it difficult to get right up against the towpath. Eventually the wind dropped and it turned into a chilly but bright evening. Found that the solar panel didn't appear to be charging the battery so spent ages re-doing the connections, which was really difficult as the connectors are far too small for the cable size. Eventually got it working, but missing the best of the sun - typical.

End of day location: York

1361.2
27
27
4
4
3 19/5/15

A lazy start to the day, then noticed that the solar panel didn't appear to be working. Unfortunately I had forgotten to bring my multimeter with me so there was little testing I could do. Walked over to Micklegate looking for somewhere to buy a new one, but the only hardware shop I found didn't sell them. Walked back to Lendal Bridge via the wall, which is a section I haven't been on before. After lunch I set of for Acomb on a number 5 bus, to go to George's house to childminder Tilly and Nina after school. Had a meal with them, then George brought me back to Kestrel, bringing the girls with him. They had fun climbing up and down the river bank. Later Kit came and picked me up and I childminder Milly while he went to fetch Melissa from work. Later Kit brought me back to Kestrel. Slept well that night.


End of day location: York

4 20/5/15

Went to Barnitts and bought a new multimeter. I also needed a replacement fuse, but they didn't have any of the right size, but recommended another small electrical shop close by. It wasn't yet open so walked over to Micklegate to see George's and Claire's pictures which were being exhibited at the bike cafe there. Claire was supposed to have also got one displayed at the gallery on the other side of the bar, but the exhibition had been changed. After that I walked back to the electrical shop and got the fuse I needed. Back at Kestrel I realised that I must have left the bag with the meter in, in the shop, so had to walk back there again. At least I was getting to know the centre of York a bit better - I tend to fumble my way around the city centre, rather than progress with any degree of certainty - and also getting plenty of exercise. Testing with the meter proved beyond doubt that the panel was defunct.

Installed the new domestic batteries that I had bought from Ripon Marina - at least they appeared to work fine.

Arranged with Kit to go to the quiz night at the Gillygate pub. As 'Kestrel Kwizzers' our performance was not of the best...


Kestrel from The south end of Lendal Bridge


End of day location: York

5. 21/5/15

Lazy start to the morning - couldn't quite raise the energy to start on Kestrel's overdue spring clean, consoling myself with the fact that the towpath in York is very dusty and one can end up very frustrated with trying to keep things clean.

Contacted the suppliers of the solar panel who wanted me to photograph a meter reading from the panel controller showing a zero output - not such an easy thing to do: holding the two probes in one hand, pressing the back light button on the meter, which only stays on for a few seconds, then holding the iphone still enough to get a reasonably sharp image. Still I managed it and duly emailed it off to them.


Solar panel that only starts working in the evening...

After a quick bit of re-provisioning I headed off down stream at 12.20pm, pausing briefly at Naburn Marina to purchase a new battery terminal clamp for the third battery, arriving at Naburn Lock at 2.15pm. Fitted the new clamp on the negative lead but found that the existing clamp for the positive terminal was cracked and not safely usable, so had to go back up to the the marina for a new one. Finally got the third battery connected.

Later went for a stroll round the environs of the lock and on my return to Kestrel, at about 7pm, glanced at the solar panel controller which was showing two light, indicating that it was now working. I duly performed the juggling act with meter, probes and iphone to get a photo of this phenominum to send off to the suppliers.


Kestrel at Naburn Lock


F
ishermen at the weir at Naburn Lock

End of day location: Naburn Lock

1364.8
6
33
0
4
6. 22/5/15

Excellent hot shower to get me going! Spent some time sorting out the boat ready for passage down the Ouse - putting away all the things that I should already have put away, and making sure that I had easy access to the anchor, and eventully locating the short tiller. Also fitted the two new fenders that Phillip presented me with last summer - my large orange one had died a death when I moored up at Naburn Marina, yesterday.

Checked with the lock keeper and found that I was the only one going down - another narrow boat had booked, but hadn't turned up. Moved into the lock at 11.35am and penned out onto the river at 11.55am. One boat coming up was already waiting and I met another four boats very soon afterwards. After that I didn't see a soul all the way down - even the bridge keeper at Cawood was nowhere to be seen. The tide changed shortly after passing the narrow section at Acaster Selby and it wasn't long before I was doing a cracking 7 or 8 mph.

On arrival at Selby, the lock gates were closed and no sign of the lock keeper, so after turning and getting Kestrel steady in mid-stream I rang him, but the phone was engaged, so I gave him a few blasts on the hooter and he duly appeared, emptied the lock and let me in. Once on the canal I headed for the water point to replenish the tank, which was a bit lower than it should have been after one of George's two had accidently left a tap running when they visited me in York. Persuaded the helm of a boat moored up at Selby to operate the swing bridge for me, before heading down to the Selby Boat Centre to get some engine oil - however, Simon was off on his holidays, so no luck there, but took the oportunity to nip to the local Aldi for some more bread and milk.

Went on to my favourite mooring place just south of the East Coast Railway bridge, where I moored up for the night. Having shown no sign of life all day, the solar panel once more burst into life for a short while...

End of day location: Selby Canal

1369.2
17
50
2
6
7. 23/5/15

Was woken at 4.45am by a cacophony of sound - the dawn chorus - and took a quick peak outside. Decided that it was far too early to think about moving so returned to the warmth of my sleeping bag and listened to the continuing sound. It occurred to me that I could record it and include it in the log, but dismissed the notion as it would mean getting out of bed again. Drifted back into a fitful sleep, and woke much later, though not realising how late it was I lay abed awhile eventually looking at the clock and finding it was nearly 10.00am. A quick wash, tablets taken, and I was on my way. At the flood lock I met up with Meg, who were on their way to Thorne, so went through this and the following four locks together. At Dole Bank junction we turned south onto the Air and Calder Main Line. At Whitely Lock we were joined by Dovetail and another narrow boat, who's name escapes me. These locks are large automatic locks which take four boats easily. At Pollington Lock there was a bit of a carry on - a cruiser coming the other way snatched the lock and emptied it, although it was already filled ready for us and out approach would have been clearly visible.

At Southfield Junction we turned south onto the New Junction Canal, where the others carried on, but I moored up just before the Went Aqueduct, which takes the canal over the River Went. It was a beautiful sunny evening, although a little windy, but trees and bushes provided a good windbreak, in this very flat countryside.

Decided to install the new radio aerial, which I had broken off the year before last. It should have been a quick job, just replacing the top end, but although of a similar design, the new aerial had the fixing screw on the wrong half. I therefore had to replace the base fitting as well, which was a challenging, fiddling and time consuming job, but I eventually succeeded.

Phoned Keadby Lock keeper earlier in the day to book passage up to Torksey on Monday; a 9.45am start, apparently. Must remember to check that I am OK to come back down on Thursday.


New Junction Canal passing over the River Went via the Went Aqueduct

End of day location: Went Aqueduct

1375.3
18
68
5
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8. 24/5/15

A wet start to the day but by the time I was underway at 10am it had stopped, not that it got very bright and it remained quite breezy all day. I had forgotten how many swing / lift bridges there are the New Junction and Stainforth & Keadby Canals (15). Fortunately a couple of cruisers were going my way as far as the turn off to Keadby, so they were good enough to operate them all between them. After making the sharp turn eastwards onto the Stainforth & Keadby canal I was on my own. At the Bramwith Swing Bridge I thought I was in luck, as the bridge was just being opened ahead of me. However, a soon as the narrow boat coming through had cleared it, the bridge was closed in front of me, much to my surprise. My luck still held, though, as an advanced party from a barge about to be towed this way arrived and offered to open it for me, exchanging brief comments about 'surprisingly unhelpful behaviour'.

Thorne Lock and swing bridge was the next challenge, the two are close together and interlocked, the lock being an automatic one. The lock also has a weir function, so that when not in operation both upstream and downstream paddles are partially open, which looks a bit strange at first. I successfully negotiated both bridge and lock, although slightly puzzled by four cruisers which turned up and moored up just bellow the lock but showed no interest in going through, or in assisting with it.

At the Thorne Bridge pedestrian swing bridge, I duly followed instructions, closing the gates at either side and then pressing the 'Open Bridge' button, but nothing happened. It was only when the young lass who had been watching me go through the earlier lock nimbly skipped over the nearside pedestrian gate and rattled the far side one, did things begin to happen. By then I had been re-joined by Joshusa and Dovetail, two of the narrowboats from yesterday, and we completed the journey to Keadby together, with the two of them alternately operating the remaining bridges, while I sailed sedately through.

It was interesting to note that engineering works on the rail line, highly visible from the canal, would have prevented anyone joining me along that part of the route. The evening turned bright and sunny, but still breezy, so remaining chilly. At least I have a mooring very close to the Boaters' Facilities.


Aqueduct over the River Don.

End of day location: Keadby Moorings

1382.1
20
88
3
14
9. 25/5/15

Decided against spending a long chilly day at the helm going up the Trent, only to come down again in a couple of days, so notified the lock keeper accordingly. At 11am headed back westwards, with a change of plan to visit Doncaster instead. Managed the various swing / lift bridges along the way on my own without too much trouble, although a canoeist, with two young children on board, at one of them, having come through the bridge, waited for me to close it before starting off, and then proceeded to meander right in front of me - words failed me… The one lock & swing bridge at Thorne was manned by volunteer lock keepers, which made life a bit easier.

Stopped for a short time at Thorne for some lunch and to stock up on bread and cooking oil. Spotted Meg (from Selby) holed up in the dry dock there, with the water being pumped out. Found a quiet spot to moor up about a mile east of South Bramwith, although finding a place were the water was actually deep enough took a bit of time.

The evening turned out sunny and almost warm. De-mounted the solar panel and found that it worked alright whilst flat, but as soon as it was curved slightly (it is supposed to be a semi-flexible panel) it stopped again. The connections didn't seem to be particularly robust, but not actually causing the problem.

Re-planned the route for the next few days and found that I can get to Sprotbrough, south of Doncaster, with plenty of time to get back to Lemonroyd as per the original plan.


Proud parents of four cygnets, the second pair found along this canal.

End of day location: East of South Bramwith

1387.2
14
102
1
15
10. 26/5/15

Woke up at 5am and found it was a beautifully sunny morning, but decided it was too early to make a move, so went back to bed. Re-emerged at 8am to find that it was still beautiful and sunny, and far too nice a day to go off to Doncaster, so resolved to spend the day enjoying the sunshine and getting on with Kestrel's overdue Spring Clean. The day was thus spent alternating between intense bouts of scrubbing, and sitting in the sunshine with a cup of tea and a good book. Kestrel certainly looks better for the effort, although there are quite a lot of rust spots that need addressing sometime during the summer, and the paintwork doesn't have the shine that it had when first re-painted.

Booked passage through the Standegse Tunnel for 1st July, but then had a call from Phillip to say that he couldn't make it to me that week, so need to re-think the plan.

End of day location: East of South Bramwith

1387.2
0
102
0
15
11. 27/5/15

Not a brilliant day, but set off anyway at 10am, heading for Doncaster and Sprotbrough. Managed the Bramwith swing bridge and lock (manual), without any problems, stopping briefly at the former to dispose of my rubbish, and then joined the River Dun Navigation, which runs parallel to the River Don (a bit confusing), heading south to Doncaster. At Barnaby Dun Lift Bridge I asked a guy working on his boat nearby for help opening it as there seemed to be quite a lot of traffic going over it. He didn't seem to be too pleased to be asked, but got his keys anyway, and then I felt really bad as he had some difficulty walking. He eventually found a reasonable break in the traffic and duly opened it for me, and did give a friendly enough wave as I sailed through. Immediately after Long Sandall Lock (automatic) I stopped to take on fresh water, particularly as I had in mind to do my washing in the evening, when I would have plenty of hot water.

Next stop was the visitors' moorings (having just read Lynn Truss's book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, I'm now totally fixated on getting the apostrophe right, unlike the CRT) at Doncaster. There is a single birth there amongst some permanent moorings, with a big notice saying they are popular moorings, so be prepared to breast-up. After a short while, low and behold, another narrow boat pulled up alongside, wanting to breast-up, which they duly did, having warned them that I had only stopped to do a bit of shopping. Shopping in Doncaster was not a great experience, but I eventually got what I needed, and on my return to Kestrel found that yet another boat, this time a rather large barge, was also wanting to moor up. I duly extricated Kestrel from her inside berth without hitting the inconveniently placed, rather battered, overhanging chute (a piece of industrial archaeology, I presume) and headed off towards Sprotbrough.


St George's Minster, Doncaster


The next two locks, both automatic and very long, had the downstream moorings on the opposite side from the pedestal, which meant a long hike round the lock to get back to the boat - still, all good exercise. Not long after the Doncaster Lock the Navigation joins the River Don and then passes under the A1(M), before arriving in Sprotbrough, were there are several visitor moorings, in a peaceful spot. It started to spit with rain as I moored up, and rained for a while, before turning dry, but blustery. Then, joy of joy, time to do my washing.


Sprotbrough Lock


Sprotbrough Weir with fish and eel pass

End of day location: Sprotbrough

1392.1
11
113
4
19
12. 28/5/15

8.30am! Earliest start yet, but the weather was cold and blustery, so not really in a mood to celebrate the wonders of the (relatively) early morning. The day's plan was to re-trace steps back up to the northern end of the Went Aqueduct, where the New Junction Canal meets the Aire and Calder Navigation. Had no sooner reached the first lock than I was joined by the barge Reiger - isn't that the place where the yound lady who went for a ride on a tiger came from? - We stayed together all the way to my destination, with them doing most of the hard work, although I did prep. the first two locks. We were joined briefly by a small, slowly moving, flotilla of two narrow boats and a cruiser, but got ahead of them and parted company at the at the Kirkhouse Green Lift Bridge, where the traffic was too heavy to justify waiting for the them. At the Went Aqueduct we parted company as they continued on their way to Goole and I moored up for the night, although it was only 12.45pm. The weather turned sunnier, but the cold wind persisted until well into the evening.

I was reminded, on approaching Doncaster of the thoughts I had had on the way down, when passing a well kept frontage of a large but discrete building, that wouldn't it be good if some public spirited bodies put in decent visitor moorings, rather then the more usual 'Private Moorings - Keep Off' signs that usually greets one. The building I was pasing seemed like an ideal candidate. It wasn't until later, when looking at the map that I found that the building in question was actually Doncaster Prison, so not perhaps the most suitable of places.

On the way I also passed the Church of St Oswald at Kirk Sandall, built in the Norman Period. It is now redundant, but is maintained by the Friends of St Oswald, who are actually having their AGM this very day. Had I realised that I was going to have so much time in hand I would have stopped off to have a look at it, as apparently, according to the skipper of Reiger, it is stunning inside.


St Oswald's Church, Kirk Sandall

End of day location: Went Aqueduct

1396.2
15.5
128.5
4
23
13. 29/5/15

Amazingly I was underway by 8am on yet another cold, wet and windy morning. The 'flotilla' from yesterday was moored up just before Pollington Lock, but showed no sign of moving. It was only once I had started filling the lock that they decided to make a move. The next lock, Whitely Lock, was manned. I thought I was well ahead of the 'flotilla', but the cruiser hove into view, and then the two narrow boats, so I had to wait quite a long time for them to catch up. At Dole Bank Junction we parted company and headed off for Ferrybridge. The flood locks were closed so it took forever to get through - it must we one of the longest locks in the country - and the rain didn't help. At both Bulholme Lock and Castleford Junction I was in luck as boats were just coming out of the, whcih saved a bit of painful flexing of my bac, and the weather was defintely improving. The final stretch up to Lemonroyd was improved by the presence of a few Heron and Cormarants and a pleasing number of swans in small groups.

Lemonroyd Lock was as daunting as ever. Half way up the ladder I realised that Kestrel was moving forward more than I thought and that, combined with the depth of the lock meant that I was rapidly running out of mooring line. It was therefore a dash to the top, up very slippery ladder rungs, so not a lot of fun, but I made it safely with enough line left to tie off onto the step rails. Once through I moored up outside the marina as I wasn't sure which berth I was supposed to use. It was also very windy. Evenually spoke to Marie, who pointed out the correct berth, but it was still too windy to contemplate trying to reverse in, so stayed put for the time being.


Lemonroyd Marina

Update: 7.15pm - The wind had dropped slightly, so attempted to move Kestrel into the allotted berth in the marina, and managed it at first attempt without hitting anything, so felt quite pleased with myself.

End of day location: Lemonroyd Marina

1403.1
20.5
149
6
29
-
8/6/15

Return to Kestrel by train

End of day location: Lemonroyd Marina

1403.1
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149
-
29
14.
9/6/15

Water topped up, re-cycling disposed of, thank you and goodbye to Maria given, and penned through Lemonroyd Lock, all by 8.47am. On the way back to Castleford Junction I was going to count all the swans, assuming that there were as many as there had been on my way up, but it turned out there were only a couple of pairs near the coal wharf, and one pair with three very small cygnets, just before the junction. Went up to the boatyard just up from the flood lock, which fortunately was open, to get diesel but they were apparently out of stock - again; I guess it was more that there were two boats moored up at the diesel point which would have had to be moved and that they didn't want to stop what they were doing.

Headed back through the flood lock but this time went straight ahead to go up the Wakefield Branch of the Aire and Calder Navigation towards Stanley Ferry. The next three locks are automatic so easy enough to do, although Woodnook Lock is as deep as Lemonroyd, so a long climb up a very slippery ladder again. It also took me until the last one to realise that mooring up in the lock as far forward in the lock, the old part rather than the extension, gave Kestrel a much easier ride when the sluices were opened.

At Stanley Ferry I stopped for fuel at the boatyard right by the aqueduct (first used in 1839 - the aqueduct - not the boatyard), which took a bit of time as Jools just needed to finish a bit of painting before she could serve me. Still, it was worth the wait to know that I would not run out for a while.


Picture of Kestrel at the Diesel Point at Stanley Ferry (specially for Eddie!)


The CRT depot at Stanley Ferry where the bottom end of new lock gates are kept wet ready for installation - is this to stop the bottom end floating up during installation or is it so that the bottom end won't swell up when installed and jamb in the bottom mounting?
or both?

Fall Ings Lock, not one of my favourite locks, did nothing to endear me to it. I had to help the crew of a boat just going through to open one of the gates as they couldn't manage on their own, which left me on the wrong side of the lock, so I had to walk round the lock to get back to Kestrel. Then as I was about to leave the lock, the gate on the far side, that I had carefully left closed but not closed the paddle on, swung open on its own, so having closed the nearside gate I had to walk round the lock to close the paddle, by which time the gate on the first side had opened itself, so I had to walk round the lock for a third time to get back to the boat. Needless to say I gave up all attempts to get the gates closed.

Slipping through Wakefield without a backward glance, and I guess, passing the point at which this waterway becomes the Calder and Hebble Navigation, I arrived at Thornes Lock, which is the first of the locks that use a 'hand spike' for opening the gate sluices. Fortunately these locks also have a ground paddle that uses a normal winder, so, rather than scrabbling round to find my hand spike somewhere on Kestrel I accepted the longer fill time.

Just before going under the M1 bridge I was aware of stones falling in the water near Kestrel, and a couple actually hitting her. I had noticed that there were road works on the bridge and thought at first they must have been coming from there, but then I spotted a group of youths in the long grass on the bank who were obviously responsible. Fortunately the distance was such that there was no discernable damage and I was soon out of range. I was gratefully to be locking-off that stretch of the river onto the Horbury Cut, which put a lot of distance, and water, between us.

Between Broad Cut Low Lock and Broad Cut Top Lock there are some very pleasant permanent moorings and plentiful visitor moorings, which, compared with the moorings at Dewsbury Junction, felt much less exposed to unwanted attention. As it was a lovely sunny evening and as it was nearly 4.45pm and I was rather tired and hungry, I succumbed to the temptation to stop, deciding it was time to call it a day, although I was four miles and four locks behind schedule. It would mean an early start to get to Mirfield in time to meet my crew on time on the morrow.

End of day location: Broad Cut Top Lock

1410.0
14.5
163.5
8
37
15.
10/6/15

Alarm off at 7am and underway by 7.30am - would have been quicker but it was Wednesday so I had to do my 'five-a-day' tablet sort first. Two hours later I was at Dewsbury, last night's planned stopping place, and on schedule to pick up Dave Dodds. Figure of Three Locks, another of my bête noire double locks, based on non-functioning paddles and absence of water in the pound between the two locks last time, was not actually too bad this time. Dewsbury double locks are not helpful - there is no mooring up place, so a makeshift hitch to the railings was called for before crossing the bridge over the Dewsbury Arm to ready the lock, then back again. In the small pound between the locks it's not much easier, but one manages.


The secret entrance to Horbury Basin, the site of a disuses lock, accessed via this very narrow and low stone archway.

Then full steam ahead for Mirfield, arriving about ten minutes before Dave Dodd's train was due in - time to do a quick bit of sorting to make Kestrel look a bit as if he was expected. He duly arrived and after a leisurely sit in the sun, followed by a trip to Lidl to re-stock we got underway.

By the time we arrived at Kirklees Top Lock, having turned north onto the Kirklees Cut at Cooper's Bridge, I was ready to call it a day, but Dave was obviously keen to go on, so I took a nap while he took the helm up to the Brighouse Locks. Safely through we found that the area around the locks - the Brighouse Basin is a tranquil spot with plenty of long term and visitor moorings, plus a sanitary station and a large Sainsburys - what more could we need for our overnight stop? We duly found a quiet corner and tied up to enjoy a glorious warm and sunny evening.

End of day location: Brighouse Basin

1417.3
11.5
175.0
14
51
16.
11/6/15

Although moored only feet away from The Boathouse, where we had had our evening meal, we had a very quiet night. A leisurely start, with good use made of the local facilities, a trip to a large Sainburys just across road, and a top-up of the water tank saw us underway by 9.10am on a beautiful sunny morning. It was to stay sunny all day and even at 5.30pm it was still hot sitting in the sun.

This stretch of the Calder and Hebble Navigation is very picturesque, although one is aware of busy roads not far away. The frequency of locks also increases peaking with the group of three locks at Salterhebble, where we stopped for a splendidly prepared (by Dave - I needed a nap at that point) tuna and egg salad. The bottom of these three locks has a guillotine gate as its lower gate - but it doesn't descend at anything like the rate of the Madame Guillotine variety, thanks goodness.



Kestrel under the road bridge with the guillotine lock up just enough to clear the water, then almost fully raised ready to go through - and ofcourse, it drips a lot. Fortunately this one is powered, unlike the one at Slaithwaite on the Huddersfield Narrow.

Full satisfied we resumed along a section with fewer locks until arriving at Sowerby Bridge, where, having not studied the map sufficiently carefully, and missing the discretely placed finger post indicating the turn off, we ended up in the Warf, where Sire Boats has its base. Fortunately they leave an ample area to turn round in, so we were able to exit with some dignity and take the turn off to the start of the Rochdale Canal, which starts with two locks, followed closely by the Tuel Tunnel and Tuel Lock (3 & 4). This lock, at 20' is the deepest lock in the country, and as the numbering suggest, replaces two earlier locks. Great care has to be taken to follow instruction as it can be dangerous to be in the tunnel when emptying the Tuel Lock.

Following instructions posted on Lock 1 we contacted the lock-keeper who asked us to go through that lock and wait there for another two boats coming down - in the event it proved to be only one. We then waited for him to let us up Lock 2 and at the entrance to the tunnel we met the descending boat. The tunnel itself is built on quite a sharp bend, but is square and well lit, so easy enough to negotiate. It was then into the Tuel Lock itself, where we attached our stern line to a vertical running wire as instructed. The lock, having been well designed meant we had a very comfortable ride up, in what must also be one of the cleanest locks in the country. We moored up a short way further on - not one of the prettiest spots, but quiet enough and handy for the town, which Dave went off to explore while I had another nap… Walking into the town it was interesting to note the route of the tunnel, which goes right under a busy junction, on a slope - but there again, everything in Sowerby Bridge would appear to be on a slope.

End of day location: Sowerby Bridge

1423.1
17.5
192.5
13
64
17.
12/6/15

Another day of wending our way up the Calder Valley, with the occasional glimpse through gaps in the trees of the hills in the far distance. Each time it looked as if we couldn't be far from the top, but the map was telling a different story, with some thirty odd locks to go through before reaching the summit. At Hebden Bridge, where every other boat seemed to have a Buddha on it, we moored up next to the park, to have a look around and to have some lunch. Hebden Bridge, from what we saw of it seemed to be a very self-conscious touristy sort of place, but very pleasant nonetheless.



Crew Dave Dodds, happy and cheerful at the first lock (of 14) of the day...


An advice notice at this lock said that due to subsidence there was only room for one boat at a time - in fact both sides were curved in the same direction, so two banana shaped boats might have been able to get in together. Although the summit might look not that far away from this point there are still 31 locks to the top!

Suitably refreshed we resumed the onward climb, with lock after lock being full or nearly full, which had to be emptied first, and several of which had to be emptied afterwards, according to notices pinned to the gates. We appeared to be the only boat actually on the move all day, other the three that went down Tuel Lock early in the morning.



At one point we were suddenly joined by a large school party of goslings...

We finally called it a day at Todmorden, mooring just before the 'Todmorden or Library Lock' (another lock with a guillotine tail gate) with handy CRT facilities close by - but unfortunately no shower. Like some of our previous stops, it wasn't the most picturesque spot, but was convenient for local facilities. It had been beautifully and sunny all day, but by this time it was clouding over, and as I was tying up the bow mooring it started to rain, but by the time I got to the stern line it had stopped again.

Dave did a reccy of the area and found a very pleasant vegetarian restaurant called 'Kava', which served 'flammkuchen', which he thought I would probably enjoy, so washed and smartened up a bit we duly partook of this Alsatian dish, about which he was perfectly right.

The forecast for Saturday has now been down graded to light rain - having previously been for heavy rain all day, so we may brave going on to Walsden, which is the next convenient place for Dave to get a train home from.

End of day location: Todmorden

1430.8
9
201.5
14
76
18.
13/6/15

We woke to find a bit of the rain forecast - originally heavy all day - but by the time we started off it had all but stopped. Leaving Togmorden we went past the famous Togmorden Great Wall, a large sweeping curved wall, made with an estimated 4 million bricks, that supports the railway embankment high above the canal.

(photo to follow from Dave...)

After six locks coming in fairly rapid succession we stopped for break, since we were under no time pressure to get to Walsden. Most of the locks, as per the day before, had been against us, and those that weren't had to be emptied, so no time saving there. Suitably refreshed we resumed the climb, with fewer and fewer trees, more and more of the open hills were becoming visible. Three more locks brought us to the outside eating area of the 'Famous Grandma Pollard Chippy', which provided easy access to the station. Dave then prepared one of his excellent tuna and egg salads, as his final task for the trip before catching the 2.59pm train for Leeds. - he was allowed to eat some of the salad before he went.

After a short nap I resumed the upward climb, now solo, intending to do two more locks. However, the third lock was empty so I was tempted to go through and found a possible mooring place, although not particularly close in to the bank. I decided to reccy further on foot and found that the next lock was also empty and there looked as if there were more accessible places in that pound. The gates of this lock, 'Lightbank Lock', has a bridge very close to the tail gate, so rather than normal length balance beams there are very short beams with a rack and pinion arrangement, operated with a standard winder. Unfortunately, only one of them was working and was very hard and slow to operate. Having finally got through, in the end I ended up much closer to the next lock than I had intended but felt too tired to attempt move Kestrel back to a less conspicuous point.

Today we did not see a single boat moving in either direction...

End of day location: Sands Lock

1435.9
2.25
204.0
13
89
19.
14/6/15

At 7.30am resumed my solo quest for the summit. At 10am at Warland Upper Lock (35) my question to Dave, from the day before, as to where the border was, was answered; a stone pillar, situated in the fifty foot gap between the upper lock gate and the swing bridge proclaimed the exact spot.

The next lock, Longlees Lock, took me to the highest point, and the longest pound in a long while. As a passing cyclist said: "It's all down hill from here", which I thought was a bit of a harsh judgement of Lancashire.



600 feet above sea level - the highest broad canal in the country. The 36th lock on the Rochdale Canal.

Once through the first descending lock, a tempting mooring place just past two other moored up boats, lured me to an early stop. The weather was cold, wet (or at least very damp) and windy - welcome to Lancashire - so I felt fully justified, after all I am not working to a particular schedule for this stretch.

Spent the afternoon working on my proposal for a Three Course Theatre autumn production in association with MLT.

End of day location: West Summit Lock

1438.3
1.5
205.5
6
95
20.
15/6/15

Woken at 6.10am by the adjacent two boats moving off, but turned over and managed to get back to sleep for an hour. Underway by 8.15am - the locks came thick and fast, and I was soon into the new routine of going down, after the thirty six locks of ascent on the Rochdale Canal.

At Punchbowl Lock (40) I found I was outside the home of Proscenium, the theatre scenery and props. hire company. Had a short chat to one of their staff, who was then kind enough to shut the tail gate for me. At the next lock I met two boats on their way up, who arrived just too late to stop me filling the lock, but were kind to finish it off for me. After yesterday of seeing no one else on the move, the canal was definitely all a-buzz.

By Littleborough Bottom Lock I was ready to stop, and a suitable spot duly hove into view - not the most picturesque spot (I think I've used that phrase once or twice before), but handy for a reasonably sized Co-Op, just next to the station. This pound is three and a half miles long, so there shouldn't be any problems with falling water levels.


Rail, road and canal cheek by jowel at Littleborough.

The Transport / Wildlife / Engineering plaques

Quotation from the Navigation notes for today' stretch: Canal & River Trust has a number of volunteer lock keepers working on the Rochdale Canal, this includes the flight between West Summit and Littleborough. This flight can be hard work and over the years a number of boaters have requested assistance.

According to various notices this stretch is an SSSI, although the only bird mentioned is the Mallard Duck, the most common in the country. Water-plantain also grows here, apparently.


End of day location: Littleborough

1443.0
1.5
207
11
106
21.
16/6/15

Quite a draining day: At the first lock, Moss Upper Lock, at the start of the very depressing stretch which is Rochdale, the bridge just below the tail gate was too low for me to get under. I therefore had to enrol the help of a bystander to help me take the wheel-house roof off, but fortunately the windows could stay in place. I was also very conscious that there were a group of people sitting around drinking at the next lock, so I was not too sure of my reception there. As it turned out they were very friendly and helpful. The canal past Rochdale was very depressing because of all the debris of every description, almost, but not quite as bad as the Grand Union Canal through Alperton in north west London.

The Edinburgh Way Tunnel looked as if it might be a problem, but there were several inches to spare. The M62 Culvert* was even more likely to be a problem as it has a published air draught of 7'1" and Kestrel has an air draught of 7' 4". As it turned out, with some careful measurement, utilising my barge pole, and after discussions with a passing very pleasant Irish couple, passage was possible with only removing my FMH flag.
Stopping just before the next lock, at Castleton, to have my lunch I had just finished when I was joined by three other boats, the last of which I had moored up behind at Littleborough. Two of them ploughed on through and I waited for the third. I thought this was to be the start of a beautiful partnership for the looming Laneside flight of five locks, but they all decided to moor up for an extended liquid lunch, so I continued on in splendid isolation.

I was eventually caught by an advanced guard at Lock 63, having also been met by someone from a boat moored in the pound below, warning of low water levels. After much discussion we descended and had a bit of a fraught time trying to get moored up, which, with the health addition for water from pounds above, we succeeded in doing, with me breasting up to Moonlight - a boat that had, at one time been at Ripon Marina.

Along the way I looked in vain for Water-Plantain, and I thought I had seen floating forget-me-nots, but having just looked them up on the internet, I think they were just ordinary ones. I did however see a number of grey wagtails (more colourful than their name suggests - RSPB) and at one lock, thousands of tadpoles - something I have never seen in a canal before.

Having survived many close encounters with low bridges and over-hanging baskets, the FMH flag staff finally succumbed to the sturdier branches of and overhanging oak tree, and will need to be replaced.



Two members of the Spring Watch team dress up in a pant horse costume to film 'The Secrete Life of the Horse.'

* The M62 was built before work started on restoring the Rochdale Canal and therefore it took no account of the canal's route, so when restoration eventually started a diversion of the canal was put in to utilise a culvert under the M62 that happened to be close by.

End of day location: River Irk Aqueduct

1452.7
8
215
15
121
22.
17/6/15

Woken at 5am by the two boats The Oak and Scotty IV, that had already been moored up on our arrival making an early departure. Woken again at 6am by my alarm, and activity on Moonlight. Underway by 6.15am, with the other two going ahead, leaving me in splendid isolation, refilling locks in their wake.

After the first lock came a lift bridge. I had been warned by Scotty IV that there might be a height issue with this bridge. I couldn't find any information about the bridge, so decided that the only thing was to try it, and the sooner I got in with it the better, as traffic was gradually increasing. I then asked a pedestrian crossing the bridge how it lifted, and he assured me that it hinged from one end, and there would be no problem with height. I duly activated the controls (on the non-towpath side, of course) and low and behold the bridge lifted vertically upwards on pistons, but high enough for Kestrel to get under comfortably. Traffic build up had not been too bad and I merrily carried on my way, before realising that I had left my keys in the control pedestal lock, fortunately before I had gone too far, and with a handy grating that I could hitch up to. (Checking the guide book again, it does say clearly it is a vertical lift bridge).

A few miles, with few locks then gave way to some of the worst of the Rochdale Canal, with high plastic bottle count, and signs mid-stream warning of underwater obstructions to the right, but not mentioning those to the left - a passing pedestrian had been kind enough to advise me to keep dead-centre to avoid going aground. At Lock 70 a CRT worker rolled up and showed some surprise when he found that I was on my own. He offered to help with the last six locks, but that was the last I saw of him.

At lock 71 I met a boat coming up, and for a brief period I enjoyed locks which were full, although diminishingly so the further past I got. Lock 77 is shown in the book as only being a rise of 9'7", but it definitely looked more like 15' (comparable to Lemonroyd Lock). It has obviously been built up at some time, and is one that has to be left empty, and seemed to take an eternity to fill.

An then came the contrast, the area of Miles Platting with landscaped open park area, adjoining the canal, the only building in close proximity being, appropriately The Navigation pub. The only draw back was the height of the bridges. My saving grace was that in the time it took me to check the heights of a bridge, the level had time to drop in the downstream pound that I had just dumped a lock-full of water into, to give me sufficient clearance - just.

Another contrast came as the canal dived between historically industrial buildings, then, as passing under a new pedestrian bridge, the opening into the New Islington Marina, magically appeared invitingly. Although two locks short of my intended stopping place, this seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, so I carefully manoeuvred Kestrel in, to find The Oak and Scotty IV there on the visitor moorings. The marina is apparently run by Manchester City Council and has some excellent facilities, although the moorings are devoid of the usual signs indicating how long a stay is allowable. No doubly all will become clear on the morrow.


Views of the marina - tried to do a full paranama, but it didn't quite work.

End of day location: New Islington Marina

1462.9
7
222
18
139
23.
18/6/15

A day of rest after the last two days of solo operation of many locks on the Rochdale, that is, if you don't count doing a load of hand washing, plus a load in the marina washing facilities, and trying to make Kestrel look less like a bachelor pad, pending the arrival of guests. Also did a it of exploring of the first stage of tomorrow's journey. Wu Lan arrived, complete with a delicious home-cooked Chinese meal, to an almost respectable boat, at 6.30pm. She was able to transfer a lot of the photos she had taken of her visit to us, and our wedding anniversary party.

End of day location: New Islington Marina

1462.9
0
222
0
139
24.
19/6/15

Suitable rested I made an early start, at 7.30am to complete the last two locks of the Rochdale Canal, and then turn left at the junction to head up the Ashton Canal (narrow). By 9am I was through the first two locks and at the other end of the New Islington Marina, but two feet higher up, apparently; the scheme to link the canals at the point having failed to work out as planned. Not much further on a had to take down the wheel house because of a low bridge, and since this was a less well used stretch of towpath I ended up taking the roof off by myself as there were no passing strangers to waylay and ask for assistance. The following rail bridge was even lower, and a notice on the next lock warned of the risk to boats if the lock was emptied while they were under the bridge.

There then followed the long slog up the remaining sixteen locks and one swing bridge. Mostly it was uneventful, and having passed a couple of boats on the way down, there were a commendable number of locks that I could go straight in to. There was one lock, however, that caused some problems as it had very leaky tail gates and only one paddle working upstream, so getting the chamber to level out was taking a very long time. Fortunately two passing CRT Asset Inspectors were passing and were able to use their 'superior technique' to force the gates open. They did attempt a repair from the back of my boat - something to do with the paddle being out of its slot - but this was unsuccessful.

Picked up my pre-arranged mooring at the Droylsden Marina - complete with power - and awaited the arrival of Alison by train and tram.

End of day location: Droylsden Marina

1470.2
4
226
20
159
25.
20/6/15

As the weather was not at all good we decided to stay put in the marina for the day, and as a quid pro quo for not having to do any locks, I persuaded Alison to read "The Day They Kidnapped The Pope". This is the play that I am seriously contemplating for my next (Three Course Theatre) production. I was greatly encouraged that she really enjoyed it. A couple of visits to the library, which adjoined the marina, a short walk, taking in the Moravian Community site and four visits to the Tesco just across the road, filled our day.


Alison at the top lock of the Ashton Canal, with the entrance to the Droysden Marina over her right shoulder.


The Moravian Church at the Moravian Community at Fairfield.(photo courtesy of the Moravian Church website.)

End of day location: Droylsden Marina

1470.2
0
226
0
159
26.
21/6/15
After topping up the water, we eventually moved off to go to Portland basin, where the Aston Canal, the Peak Forest Canal and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal all meet. At the Portland Basin Marina we took on 85 litres of diesel and had a pump out. Enquiries revealed that the easiest way for Alison to get home would be for her to walk into Ashton to get the tram back into Manchester, then train home. We therefore moored up a short way along the Huddersfield Narrow, had a bite to eat at the café at the Portland Basin Museum, before heading for the tram.
End of day location: Portland Basin

1471.5
2.5
228.5
0
159
27.
22/6/15

The weather was cold wet and windy. The thought of making any progress along the Peak Forest Canal in such conditions was not appealing, so I decided to hole up for another night here. The day was spent in reading, sleeping, listening to the radio and checking and re-checking the weather forecast. At least it promises to be a bit warmer and drier for the rest of the week…
End of day location: Portland Basin

1471.5
0
228.5
0
159
28.
23/6/15

Cast off at 9.25am and did some precision reversing back to the junction, turned, and headed off along the Peak Forest Canal. A Day Boat from the Portland Basin Marina turned out after me, and I allowed them the privilege of doing the lift bridge. It was then a clear run through to the Marple Aqueduct, passing through the Woodley (167yds) and Hyde Bank (308yds) Tunnels. The weather, having started overcast and not very warm, was slowly improving, with patches of sunlight reaching me through the trees.



The rail via duct, as seen from the Marple Aqueduct

Sorely tempted to stop at inviting mooring just before the Marple Aqueduct, which, more significantly, is just before the Marple flight (16 locks), but having not done anything strenuous for several days, I resisted and ploughed on, arriving at the bottom lock at 1.30pm precisely. Almost exactly four hours later I closed the gate of the top lock and somewhat wearily turned left at Marple Junction onto the Upper Peak Forest Canal (as opposed to turning right onto the Macclesfield Canal) and found a spot where I could moor up. The flight had not been too bad as I had some assistance from the crew of a following boat, but since I was also following another boat myself, I also had to empty a fair few locks. For the last four or five locks I had the assistance of a phantom CRT worker - I only caught odd occasional glimpse of him as he prepped the locks for me. The pounds of this flight are very short, which is just as well, as there was nothing at all to moor up to between locks, so it made sense to open the gates of the next lock before leaving the current one.


A side 'pond' for the shortest of the pounds.

In the locks I had been in the habit of attaching a line to the top of the ladder, so that I had some control of Kestrel as the lock filled. Twice I forgot to untie the line before heading out of the lock, but realised just in time. The third time I was too late, and now I have a much shorter mooring line on the starboard side. In fact Kestrel rode the inrush of water very easily, so the line was really superfluous.

End of day location: Marple Junction

1479.5
8.5
237.0
16
175
29.
24/6/15
After the exertion of yesterday I decided to stay put. When looking for shops to stock up at, I walked along the tow path of the Macclesfield Canal and realised that this was the place where I was given my first donation (£20) for FMH last year. Sure enough I found the boat moored on the opposite bank and found my way round to the access point. Fortunately, the gentleman concerned was just returning to his boat and invited me on board for a cuppa. He and his wife outlined their philosophy for giving to fund raisers based on their tragic loss of their eldest son to a rare form of cancer.
They then directed me to the nearest Asda, where I was able to re-stock.
End of day location: Marple Junction
1479.5
0
237.0
0
175
30.
25/6/15

Started to leave my mooring just before 9am, but remembered that my prop needed clearing - I had been aware that it had become fouled on my way up the Marple flight, but since the pounds were so short it really hadn't made a lot of difference. Having removed the remains of what looked like a rucksack, I was able to head off along the Upper Peak Forest canal - lock free. There were, however, three lift bridges (one of which was in the process of being re-built) and one swing bridge. As it was, I only had to operate the first one as other boats did the others.

At the junction I turned left (East) onto the Buxworth Arm and ended up at the Bugsworth Basin, where there is ample mooring, water and WC. The only drawback is that the A6 runs extremely close by, although shielded by a good hedge, it does make it a bit noisy.



Bugsworth Basin at the end of the Buxworth Arm of the Upper Peak Forest Canal. Kestrel can just be seen at the end of the bridge on the right.

The Peak Forest Canal is well wooded, with occasional glimpses of the hills and not nearly as open and exposed as I had expected. At New Mills the air is filled with, to me, a sickly sweet smell emanating from the Matlows factory, where they make 'Swizzles', apparently

The weather improved during the day and by mid-afternoon I had to reach for my hat and the Factor 18, which was a refreshing change. Took advantage of the heat to do my washing and managed to get it reasonably dry by sundown.
End of day location: Bugsworth Basin

1482.3
6.5
243.5
0
175
31.
26/6/15

Decided to stay put - as long as one could ignore the traffic noise from the A6 - it is a tranquil spot, with plenty of ducks and geese for company, and to eat up the bread Alison had left behind.

Walked to Whaley Bridge, along the towpath, a distance of 1mile 1½ furlongs. Saw the covered dock where transfer of goods from the Cromford and High Peak Railway and the Peak Forest Canal could be done under cover. Unfortunately the building was locked up, so there wasn't much to see, except the canal disappearing under the main doors. Spotted a large Tesco store at the canal junction, which was useful to know.

Managed to down load an e-copy of An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and is now contender for an autumn production - certainly a lot easier to stage than The Day They Kidnapped the Pope.

Re-checked number of locks and miles from Lemonroyd and come up with a slight discrepancy on the totals.

End of day location: Bugsworth Basin

1482.3
0

233.5
0

177
32.
27/6/15

A leisurely start to the day, with a quick trip to Tescos, then at about 12o'clock moving up to the water point to top up - but having to wait for another boat which had inadvertently sneaked onto the point ahead of me, but which was extremely apologetic when he realised what had happened.

While I was waiting, a couple of local Mayors turned up for something to do with a local custom or other - I did ask a lady at the information point, but I couldn't understand a word of what she was saying, so I was none the wiser. After a bit they (the Mayors, that is) were whisked away on a tour boat that I had seen moored up at Whaley Bridge yesterday.



Foundations going in for a new lift bridge and a laid-back heron, quite happy to stay put as Kestrel passed.

Suitably topped up, I retraced by wake back to Maple Junction to moor up at the same place as before - I did try a couple of inviting places a bit earlier, but just ended up aground. On the way down I passed the couple we were moored close to at Roylsden Marina, who said there had been a problem with lack of water on the Marple Flight - will need to do some investigation to find out what the issue is. At the moment I am not planning to go down until Monday morning.

End of day location: Marple Junction

1485.6
6.5
240.0
0
177
33.
28/6/15

Yet another day of rest, although I did make the effort to walk along to the top of the flight to see if boats were moving down OK. In the end I walked all the way down and back up again and found there were no problems at all, which bode well for the morning.


One of the more complex arrangements for boaters - the tunnel on the left woud have been for the horse to be lead through. The opening on the right gives access to a very narrow path just by the lock gate, down the steps, as seen in the right-hand picture.


Submitted my proposal for a joint MLT TCT production to Ray Burton.
End of day location: Marple Junction

1485.6
0
240.0
0
177
34.
29/6/15

Woke again a bit before 4am, but no sound of rain this time, so turned over and went back to sleep, to wake again at about 8.15am, with the sound of a distant, but approaching, buzzing. This proved to be the grass cutters - one rotary mower and the other a strimmer, who were advancing rapidly towards my mooring. Managed to get away before they cut through any of my mooring lines - to be honest, I'm sure they would have given them a wide berth, and I've done far more damage to my mooring lines than any one else. The grass cutters were, however, to haunt me for the next four hours as they also made their way down the Marple Flight.

I was following a hired boat down, which meant a bit of a slow start, but other than a bit of messing about near the middle with a low water level in one pound, it was a reasonably straightforward descent, meeting only one boat coming up. It took me a while to realise that if I only opened a single downstream paddle to empty each lock then, by the time I had walked back to the previous lock to close the gates, and then on to the next lock to prep it, by the time I returned the current lock it would be only just empty and Kestrel would still be at the front of the lock; any longer and she tended to drift to the back of the lock which made getting aboard more difficult and she also tended to get splashed by heavy leakage from the head gate.


The Marple Aqueduct, as seen from below.

Moored up at the north end of the Marple Aqueduct - fortunately a pair of hotel boats that had been moored there were just moving off - but while putting protective plastic milk bottles onto the stakes I managed to knock my glasses off and they ended up in the canal. I tried reaching them by hand - it was just about shallow enough to reach the bottom - but to no avail. I then tried using the fishing net - the one I keep on board for when small grandchildren throw valuable items, like containers of clothes pegs overboard, and on the fifth attempt I was successful, much to my relief.
End of day location: Marple Aqueduct

1485.6
1.5
241.5
16
193
35.
30/6/15
Day of rest - except for walking back up the flight to go to the shops - a couple of pounds had emptied overnight, so there was a lot of to-and-froing by crews trying to get enough water into different pounds so they could get their boats up and down the system. A couple of CRT guys turned up and got things going, which can be a bit tricky when everyone else is trying to do their own thing too.
End of day location: Marple Aqueduct

1485.6
0
241.5
0
193
36.
1/7/15

Up at 6.30am and underway by 7am to head back to Droylsden, arriving just before 11am, the only obstacle being the lift bridge, which went easily enough . Back at the marina I moored up in the same place as before, finished packing my rucksack and headed for the tram stop where I didn't have too long to wait for a tram. Looked out to see if it actually was possible to see the New Islington Marina from the tram, but it wasn't, although the nearby section of the Ashton Canal can be seen clearly. Made the connection for the Trans-Pennine Express with plenty of time to spare, much to my relief. These trains have excellent air-conditioning so the wall of hot air that hit me at Yarm, when I got off, came as a bit of a surprise.
End of day location: Droylsden Marina

1494.1
9.5
251.0
0
193
37.
2/7/15
Day of David Campbell's funeral. Took the opportunity to go and see the MLT production of Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van in the evening.
1494.1
0
251.0
0
193
38.
3/7/15

Returned to Kestrel by bus, Trans-Pennine Express and Tram, with neither of the connection being less than three minutes. From the train I could see three boats moored up at the Diggle end of the tunnel and everything appeared to be fine, so hopefully all is well for my passage over the next few days. Having heard that Phillip is now no longer able to join me, as his injured hand is causing him problems, I have a few busy days ahead.

A re-stock at the Tesco across the road, the mooring fees paid to Jane and the water topped and I was ready for the off. An hour later I was back at the Portland Basin, where I was able to moor up at the same place as before, for a quite evening before a planned early start - which I always prefer to do, especially at weekends when the weather is warm.
End of day location: Portland Basin

1495.1
2.5
253.5
0
193
39.
4/7/15

Not quite the day I planned as I ended up breaking my personal record for the number of locks done in one day - twenty three - all completely solo. It started early after a disturbed night of thunderstorms, heavy downpours, high winds causing bits of tree to fall on the roof , and some weird dreams. At least I had managed to get the cover on before it started raining - just. By the time I started off, at 6.20am, the weather was undecided as to its desire to rain, but as the day progressed it improved considerably and by the time I was through Roaches Lock (my original intended stopping place) it was definitely time to put my hat on - the problem was that the hat was at the front end of Kestrel, on the table, and by the time I had retrieved it, while still on the move, albeit slowly, I was aground. A nearby fisherman kindly offered assistance, but with judicious use of the pole, I was able to get myself clear.

I had been tempted to stop at Roaches lock, but as it wasn't yet midday, it did seem a bit early, and it would leave me seventeen locks for Sunday. The water levels in the pounds were also reasonable, and with little traffic about, other than two of the boats coming down that had been through the tunnel yesterday, it seemed sensible to 'make hay while the sun shines', as it were.

At Upper Mill I was disappointed by the actions of the Pennine Moonraker cruise boat, which reversed off its mooring directly in front of me, forcing me to a stop, then went ahead of me into the next lock. One of the crew, once they were exiting the lock, did offer assistance, but I was in no mood to accept. By the time I had cleared the lock, and was just on my way up to the next lock to prep it and get some water into the pound, which was by then, quite low, they had turned round and were on their way back. We passed each other without the traditional acknowledgements.

The next lock is Lime Kiln Lock, which is the one under the Trans-Pennine rail viaduct, which you can see far below you from the train. It has unusual sluices which are inclined and bl**dy hard to move. With a good audience I managed to make a real mess of it - one of the tail gates had swung open again, so as I normally do under such circumstances, I started to crack open one of the sluices - easier said than done, before returning to shut the gate. Unusually, Kestrel shot to the back of the lock and was against the one closed gate, which prevented me from shutting the other. One of the ladies watching asked me, concerned, what I would do now - to which I simply replied: "Scream". I then had to go back and drop the sluice - again, easier said than done, by which time Kestrel was away from the gates, and someone kindly shut it for me. I was then able proceed as normal. Round the next bend is the Wool Road Transhipment Warehouse, complete with visitor moorings and "all facilities, including toilet", according to the Nicholson Guide - but no shower, and this is where I moored for the night.



This is quite a complex bit of transport meeting point. The photo is taken from the aqueduct, where the River Tame passes under the canal, before passing under the adjoing arch of the viaduct, which carryies the trans-pennine railway line. The A670 runs under the arch beyond that.

Only nine locks to do tomorrow - just need to be away before Pennine Moonraker drops the level in this pound even more.

I was sad to learn, on the way up, that although Stalybridge 'embraces the canal' (Nicholson Guide), as it runs right through the well kempt middle of the town, it doesn't appear to embrace canal users. One of the boats coming down told me that they had moored up for the night at the plentiful visitor moorings, but the police had come and advised them to move elsewhere, as they couldn't guarantee their safety - what an indictment of their capabilities. The couple did so, and were then not able to go to the concert in the town that they had planned.

Kestrel moored at the Wool Road Transhipment Warehouse.

The Oldham Tinkers: "The Last Train to Dobcross"

End of day location: Wool Road Transhipment Warehouse, Dobcross.

1504.4
11
264.5
23
216
40.
5/7/15

The first lock of the day (lock 24W) is wedged between two cottages, so, if deference to their Sunday morning lie-in, I delayed my departure until 8.30am. The first two locks went swimmingly, but the pound above lock 26W was extremely low, and the pound in about lock 27W was extemelier lower! There was no way I was going to make progress through them. I locked up Kestrel in Lock 26W chamber and walked up to the top to the tunnel, in the hope of finding a CRT worker, but without an luck, so on the way back I tried the CRT number, but being a Sunday I got the recorded message giving me an emergency number - do the absence of water in two pounds constitute an emergency? - not having anything to write it down on or with, I decided to delay trying it until I got back to Kestrel. I little way further down I came across a 'Water Bailiff' who was in the process of trying to rectify the situation - apparently one of the pounds emptying overnight is a fairly common problem here. Back at Kestrel I awaited the effect of his efforts, when a CRT worker appeared on the scene. He too was trying to sort the problem; as I said in my text to Alison, I was not quite sure they were both working to the same Hymn Sheet…


There are worse places to have to wait for pounds to fill - five of the locks on the way up to Diggle..

A couple of hours later, the upper of the two pounds filled - much to the chagrin of the Heron, who was benefiting from easy pickings - and half an hour later I was able to start filling lock 26, and get under way.

The rest of the way up was uneventful - helped for the first couple of locks by the CRT guy - with the only delay being when I stopped for a delicious ice cream at the café located at side of the penultimate lock (31W). It was a beautiful sunny day and there were a lot of people making use of the well maintained park area between the top two locks. Finally moored up at 1pm - five and a half hours to do 2 miles and nine locks - according to Canal Planner it should have taken only 2hours, 22 minutes..


Some of the paving slabs set in the grass at Diggle.

At 3.15pm the weather changed very rapidly, with threatening dark clouds overhead, high winds and thunder rolling round the hills, followed by some heavy rain showers. This time I managed to get the cover on in good time. It cleared up later in the evening, but although sunny, it was very cold for early July.

End of day location: Standedge Tunnel (West End) - Diggle
.

1506.7
2
266.5
9
225
41.
6/7/15

Having failed to take any pictures of the empty pounds yesterday, at 7am on a bright and sunny morning, I walked down to Lock 27W to capture the scene before low levels in the pounds were rectified. As it happened, the levels, though not high, were at least what I had gone through on yesterday - still, I had some good exercise on a beautiful morning. One thing I did note was, although the park had been well used yesterday, there was not a scrap of litter anywhere - quite unusual these days.

At about 10.30am I moved Kestrel up to the tunnel portal, and an hour later, with 'pilot' Terry on board, and suitably kitted up with hard hat, high viz vest, life jacket, gas monitor and fire extinguisher, plus other bits and pieces, we started the transit through. At the first two adits (cross-links to the disused adjacent rail tunnel) we were greeted by the 'shadow', who was monitoring our progress through. At the third adit, Terry had to jump off briefly to report that we were still going strong. However, when we finally arrived at the fourth adit, we learned that the tour boat was about to enter the tunnel and that we would have to wait until it had started to back out. While waiting we could see the tour boat's headlights approaching, and then we were given to go-ahead to complete the journey. Conditions in the tunnel had been cold, dark and wet - conditions at the Yorkshire end were not a lot different.


Kestrel at the fourth adit, waiting for the tour boat to start back out of the tunnel. In the picture is Terry, the 'pilot' who, among other things, advises on where the tricky bits are, and calms the nerves of those who find the tunnel a bit claustrophobic. He also tells me they do, occasionally get break-downs, which take a bit of sorting out. The white box on the left is part of the gas monitoring system, which checks that there isn't a build-up noxious fumes. On the right is the communications unit, which gives contact with the control room, where everything is monitored - for some reason mobile phones done work too well down there!

All the kit was quickly off-loaded while I purchased a beautifully presented tuna mayonnaise sandwich, complete with side salad, from the café. This I unceremoniously transferred to one of my own plates so that I could get on down to the moorings near the station as soon as possible. The weather didn't improve and it was a damp walk into Marsden to do a bit of shopping at the Co-op.

I am told that CRT will be training some new lock-keepers on Wednesday. Apparently they will be walking up from Huddersfield, starting at 8.30am, so with my planned Tuesday overnight stop at Slaithwaite I should get help with a good number of the 21 locks down to Aspley Basin. I still find it curious that I manage to generate surprise that I am doing the canal single handed, as I thought there were a significant number of lone canal users around for it not to be unusual.


Bugs in the machine (comes from running Windows on a Mac) and someone at CRT with a sense of humour.

End of day location: Standedge Tunnel (East End) - Marsden.

1509.3
4
270.5
0
225
42.
7/7/15

A rather wet and miserable morning to be setting off, but with 22 locks to do, to get down to Salithwaite I just had to get on with it. In preparation I opened the sluice to fill the fist lock (42E) while I stripped the cover off Kestrel, when Little White Waves, the third boat to go through the tunnel yesterday, hove into sight, heading for the lock. I let them know that I was filling it and they said that they would pull in, but I said they might as well go ahead as they would be quicker than me. I assisted them through, to speed up their progress, but they fell foul of the flange on the pipe under the bridge below the lock, catching, and smashing their tunnel light on it. I went on to the second lock and started filling that one to help reduce the water level in the pound, which help them to get through without further damage.

After that it was full steam ahead until I reached lock 33E. The second of the two boats to go through the tunnel yesterday, Yellow something or other, was there, causing a bit of a hold up, and in the process Little White Waves managed to go aground and couldn't get off. Two CRT workers doing a litter pick, who had given me a hand with the previous two locks, also tried to help, but without much luck. In the end I was able to pull them off, in reverse, without going aground myself. I nearly, however, got snagged on a fish hook dangling on a bit of line from an overhanging branch, which I was able to remove as a source of danger to other passing boats.

At lock 28E Little White Waves decided to stop off for a bit, so I went ahead and didn't see them again until they moored up at Slaithwaite. The rest of the trip into Slaithwaite was uneventful, except for the ever changing weather, mostly rain with the odd brief sunny intervals, and with a hail storm as I reached the town. I arrived at Shuttle Lock (Lock 24E) which has a manually operated guillotine tail gate, by 2pm. I found it was as hard as ever to operate, even though it had new bearings fitted last year. Finally, with the last two locks done I was able to moor up at the visitor moorings, have an excellent hot shower at the spacious facilities here, and climb into warm dry clothes at last. The evening was completed with a helping of fish and chips from the local chippy, served by young a lass from Ripon.

Rain, bouncing on the water at Slaithwaite...

End of day location: Slaithwaite Visitor Moorings.

1516.5

3
273.5
22
247
43.
8/7/15

No messing: dinghy suit on from the start - a good decision as I don't think it stopped raining all day - until just after I moored up at 3.30pm, when the sun shone - briefly.

No problems with locks until I got to lock 17… This lock is situated immediately next to a road bridge, where do to the blind corner on one side, the council, in the infinite wisdom, has put in a chicane arrangement, with priority in one direction, and the slimmest of pavements on the lock side of the bridge. The result is that when getting from one side of the lock to the other one takes one's life in one's hands with the traffic. I was dropping the water with both paddles wide open, having meticulously put the anti-vandal lock back on the upstream paddles when, after a short while, I notice that Kestrel was beginning to tilt to starboard rather alarmingly. I dropped the paddle on that side as fast as possible, the shot across to the other side, narrowly missing being run over by a passing van, and as quickly as possible started to re-fill the lock - slowed by having to remove the ant-vandal lock. The water rose, agonisingly slowly, but Kestrel righted herself, with out any further mishap. From what I could see the bottom had become wedged on a protruding stone, which had been enough, with the rapid fall in water level, to cause her to tilt and jam in the narrow lock. The main damage was below decks: The reading light, plus a dinner plate and my favourite mug had slid off the work surface, rapidly followed by the micro-wave over, which bent the light, smashing the bulb, broke the plate and chipped the mug. Fortunately my pill organiser had also slid off, but it remained intact, so I wasn't left with the job of sorting thirty one tablets out from the broken glass. My resolutions after that were one, to watch Kestrel like a hawk when going down (there must be a joke in there somewhere) and second, not to open the second paddle unless there was very easy access to both paddles, in other words, a dedicated bridge immediately next to the gates. It took a few further locks before my composure was restored.

At about lock 12 I came across Primrose League (Not "Yellow something or other", mention yesterday) moored up, chatting to a CRT guy. They had been asked to wait there until problems at the bottom three or four locks had been sorted out. I was told that it would be OK to go on by then, and as their crew was off doing some shopping I went ahead. At Lock 7 I met a single handed lady coming up (a rare species) on Saphire, who complained that it had taken seven hours to do seven locks because of low levels. I was able to reassure her that from there on up there shouldn't be anu further problems as there was plenty of water coming down.

At the next lock I met a second boat coming up, who wished me luck as they too had been having all sorts of problems, and at lock 5 I met a third boat, who besides telling me all about their problems, also told me that a fourth boat had been stopped at the bottom from proceeding. We did have a little bit of a problem getting passed each other, but with the judicious use of some extra water let through the lock, we were both able to get afloat again.



Lock 3E, Adjacent to Kirklees College, the original site of lock 3 is a bit further down stream.

Above Lock 1, where the canal runs behind one of the university buildings. There is no pedestrain access to Lock 2, which is set in its own isolated area.

Huddersfield University - The boat stopped from going up, and Little White Waves, the third of us coming down today, are moored up somehwere in the shadows.


The University, making good use of its waterside frontage.Little Wite Waves now clearly visible.

As luck would have it I was able to complete the bottom four locks without any issues, although getting through the old site of lock 3 was very slow, and I found it better to not use the engine and physically push Kestrel through. It was with some relief that I emerged through the tunnel onto the Huddersfield Broad Canal at Aspley Basin and moored Kestrel up a short way further on. All I had to do then was to get out of some very wet clothes and sort out the broken glass and other debris on the cabin floor, before having a rather late lunch and a fitful siesta (though, come to think of it, isn't that something you do in hot climates, instead of working?) Technically, I should have been able to get the 'wheel house' back...


Aspley Basin - the bridge links two halves of the Premier Inn, and also gives access to the excellent boater's facilities here.

The Premier Inn, immediately adjacent to the basin, served up a very respectable meal, complete with a free coffee, as their system had, for some reason, forgotten to print out my order. It was only when the waitress heard me quietly snoring, that she thought she ought to investigate.

I wonder what did happen to the help with locks from the CRT guys that I had been promised?
End of day location: Aspley Moorings

1524.7
4.5
278.0
20
267
44.
9/7/15

Today I completed the ring, turning on to the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Cooper Bridge, where I had last been, with Dave Dodds on 10th June, when we had headed for Brighouse and the Rochdale Canal.


Cooper Bridge Flood Lock - approaching from the right it is not very obvious. Kestrel is just visible on the left, beyond another boat.

After a delicious hot shower at the boaters' facilities at Aspley Basin, I started the day with a vain attempt to reverse back to the water point, but after about twenty yards I gave up on the attempt as it was going to take for ever. So going forward I managed the Turnbridge Loco Liftbridge with any problems, and without causing too much of a tailback of cars - I even got some cheery waves from two or three drivers, which was good. The early stretch of the canal I had not been looking forward to as it was hideously strewn with floating debris, mostly plastic bottles, last year. Much to my surprise and delight, it was very different, with only a few scattered bottles about, and mostly of apparent recent vintage, so all credit to someone for an excellent clear-up operation. Then came the nine locks - which seemed very strange after the many narrow locks that I had become used to. A passing boat owning couple gave me a hand at one lock, and a boat coming the opposite way also helped a bit, but I was apparently following another boat, so most of the locks were set against me. Quite a few of the gates on this canal also have a habit of opening or closing on their own, which can be a bit exasperating. At least, with the exception of Locks 1 & 2 the paddle gear is all the same, and works well, with a neat gearbox and off-set double rack, which gives a good, even winding. At Lock 1 my River Licence was checked by a passing Compliance Officer - my licence was found to be in good order, so I was not hauled off in handcuffs.

Once out onto the River Calder I thought I probably should just check the book to make sure I didn't miss the turn onto the cut, when I suddenly realised that I was just passing the flood lock, so had to execute a nifty U-turn, which is when I realised that there was more flow in the river than was immediately obvious. Still, I managed to get in without hitting anything, and decided that the visitor moorings here would be as good a place to stay as anywhere. Cooper Bridge itself carries the A62 so it's a little bit noisy, but I'm sure will be better later.

The weather has been beautiful all day, so I've kept the cabin down to give everything the best chance to dry out.

End of day location: Cooper Bridge Floodlock Visitor Moorings

1529.0
3.5
281.5
10
277
45.
10/7/15

A sunny start to the day, which only got hotter. A tranquil enough cruising day, but with no one about to share locks with, I had to do all but one of the locks on my own - a CRT worker at one of the locks was kind enough to help me there, and a bystander at the Dewsbury Junction duo, also helped with the gates there. I stopped briefly at Mirfield to re-stock at Lidle and to top up the water, but the latter I was unable to do as there is no water point there, much to my surprise - lots of sculptures about canal boats, and signs welcoming boaters, but nothing useful like a water point. However, I was able to fill up at Shepley Bridge, so no excuse for not doing my washing tonight.

Unfortunately I appear to have lost the spare handcuff key. When getting ready for the off, this morning, I put it in my shorts pocket, only to find out later that it had a hole in it - I can only assume that it dropped out when I was untying Kestrel at the overnight moorings, but am surprised that I didn't feel anything. The irony is, of course, that none of the locks I've been through today require it.


Kestrel receives a 12 paddle salute.

End of day location: Below Broad Cut Top Lock

1534.9
9
290.5
10
287
46.
11/7/15

Slipped quietly from my moorings at 7am, to be joined a few minutes later by Onion Bargee, with whom I shared all the locks till Castleford Junction, where they turned left to head up through Leeds for new moorings at Rodley. It was strange to be sharing locks again, which I haven't done for quite some time, but certainly makes progress a lot easier.

I had intended to stay the night at Castleford Junction, but since it was only 11.50am when I got there, it seemed much to early to stop. However, progress came to a decided lock a short while later when I reached Bulholme Lock, which contained one broad beam and one cruiser going nowhere, except slowly up and down. Someone claimed that it was because a boat going through earlier had not closed the sluices properly, but since this is an automatic lock, one only has the option of opening or closing them, there is no half measure. Whatever the reason, CRT guys eventually arrived after two hours - apparently it would have been quicker if their supervisor had had his phone switched on - and got us underway, by which time there were five of us wanting to go down, with another six wanting to come up. While waiting I was able to have a leisurely lunch and had time, and willing assistance to put the 'wheel-house' back up - something I was grateful for when it started raining later.


Gateforth Landing (Looking a bit more kempt than it is at the moment. (Photo courtesy of Tommo)

Arriving somewhat later than planned at Selby Canal (flood gates open) I was able to moor up at my favourite mooring spot, half-way between Paper House Bridge and the main line rail bridge for a peaceful night's recuperation, after just over ten and a half hours on the go.

End of day location: Gateforth Landing

1543.5
26
310.5
13
300
47.
12/7/15

Having decided to go to the 10am service at Selby Abbey I set my alarm for 6.30am and was underway by 7am, heading for Selby Basin. The canal was looking as peaceful as ever in the early morning sunlight, with little signs of weed, unlike last year, and I was treated to fly pass by a very noisy kingfisher.

There were an unusually large number of boats moored up before the swing bridge at Selby but, having moored up there myself, I found there was plenty of room in the Basin, so moved Kestrel up to the more secure moorings there, which are also handier for the facilities. After a delicious hot shower and breakfast I was in plenty of time to walk to the Abbey for the service, which was taken by the Assistant Priest, the Reverend Julie Watson. It was, apparently, the last service at which the choir would be at before taking their well earned summer holiday break.

At about 4.15pm I sought out the lock-keeper who advised, contrary to what I had been told previously, that the tide was too early tomorrow morning to go at 6am, which is when he started, so I had a choice, either to go almost immediately or tomorrow evening. Having had croissants and coffee after the service, a late lunch and an afternoon kip, I decided I was in good fettle to do the journey straight away. I quickly readied Kestrel, which included getting rid of the re-cycling at last, and duly went through on the second penning with another narrow boat, onto a fast flowing River Ouse, at 4.45pm. There was a surprising amount of debris in the river for this time of year, which we didn't get passed until just after Cawood. We arrived at Naburn almost exactly two hours after leaving Selby to find the first two boats waiting for us still in the lock. I would normally have gone a bit quicker, but apparently the other boat was having a bit of a problem with its gearbox, so was restricted on how fast it could go.


Approaching Naburn Lock on the right, with the weir to the left, in the twilight.

Fortunately there was sufficient space for us all to moor up at Naburn without having to breast up.

End of day location: Naburn Lock Visitor Moorings.

1547.6
17.5
328
2
302
48.
13/7/15

I was going to spend a second night at Naburn, but decided to head on up to York, so, after topping up the water, I set forth at 3pm, arriving in York and finding a suitable mooring point just down from Scarborough Bridge at 5pm.


Nothing moo to say abut it, really...

There had been a big sign warning of river bank repairs between Lendal and Scarborough bridges, but this turned out to be a small amount of work down near the water point and at the end of Marygate, so it didn't affect the moorings significantly. The water level in the river, however, is low, so it is difficult to moor up without getting a lot of bumping whenever there is any passing river traffic. Had a quiet night, with the most noise coming from the geese.

End of day location:
York - Scarborough Bridge.

1549.7 6 345.5 0 302
49.
14/7/15

Went to Barnitts in the morning to buy replacement fittings for the wheelhouse, as I no longer seemed to have a full complement of screws for the existing ones, which in any case had used a mixture of different threaded bolts. I replaced all the fittings, which helped to make it a bit more rigid and secure. It would also make it a lot easier to get it down and re-instate it the next time I need to do so. I took the precaution of greasing all the screws well, to make sure they didn't seize up, which had been the problem the first time I had had to take it down on my Chirk Quest voyage.


Lendal Bridge at sunset.

In the early evening Kit and Millie joined me briefly for a bite to eat, which Kit provided, and then Kit returned later in the evening, bringing a bottle of lager with him.

End of day location:
York - Scarborough Bridge.

1550.7
0
345.5
0
302
50.
15/7/15

Took the bus to Kit's house, I then drove the micra, while Kit drove their car, to Ripon. On the way we had to stop for Kit to get petrol, and it was then that I noticed that his front off-side tyre was very flat, so Kit had the chance to learn how to change a wheel! After that, with a slight diversion at Boroughbridge for road works, we were able to deposit the micra at the marina, in readiness for my arrival on Kestrel on Thursday. We then returned to York in time for me to get a bus to Acomb for me to pick up Tilly and Nina from school. After a pleasant picnic on the lawn George and the girls took me back to Kestrel for an early night, ready for the long day ahead tomorrow to complete my journey.

End of day location: York - Scarborough Bridge.

1550.7
0
345.5
0
302
51.
16/7/15

As planned, underway by 8am, noting that the two boats that had been moored up behind me had already long gone without disturbing me. With little fresh water coming down the river I was able to maintain a good 4miles an hour without pushing it. At Linton Lock I was assisted through by the crew of one of three cruisers who were, apparently, about to set off, but since there had been no activity from them at the lock I had been unaware of their intentions, so I didn't feel bad about it.

Milby and Westwick Locks I had to do on my own, which were hard work, due to the low water levels, but manageable. At Oxclose Lock I had to wait for a small cruiser, which I think were on only their first outing, so benefited from a bit of help. They had invited me to share the lock, but I declined on the grounds that I didn't want to be responsible for Kestrel crushing them if the water was too turbulent.


An indication of how little fresh water is going down the river: the boom protecting the weir at Boroughbridge has swung away from the weir, pushed by the moderate wind.

Arrived at the marina to finally moor up at 5.20pm. Spent an hour or so packing and tidying up, ready for departure home.

The trip up the river had been notable for no less than seven sightings of kingfishers on the way up - the sixth of which was a kingfisher that took-off, then flew upstream ahead of me, landing twice, before finally disappearing round the bend just before Milby Lock.


The kingfisher in flight - a very direct and rapid flight - so very difficult to capture on film - photo courtesy of Zahoor Salmi

End of day location: Ripon Racecourse Marina

1559.4
26.5
372.0
4
306
Day
Date
Activity
Engine
Hours
Miles
Total
Miles
Locks
Total
Locks
Note: To avoid rounding up errors the Total Miles is recalculated from Ripon Marina each day (using Canal Plan), rather than adding the day's mileage to the previous day's Total Miles.