Despite an early start on Monday 6th July to get through the Bingley Locks – two sets of staircase locks with 3 in the first and 5 in the second – we were delayed by factors beyond our control – a shortage of Canal and River Trust staff to operate the locks and too many boats in the queue each way!!! So it took us a good three hours for both Figment and Celtic Maid to make it to the top. But we had nowhere else we needed to be so patience was the order of the day. Julia chatted up the lock staff to ensure us all a smooth rise despite the challenges!
The next section until we moored Monday afternoon had seven swing bridges so Bob and Julia took turns to open and close them. Not sure what is more arduous – the locks or swing bridges! Anyway we have to get used to them as there are many on this canal.
We were determined to get to Skipton on Tuesday so we pressed on through pretty Silsden, 13 swing bridges (after one of which Celtic Maid ended up across the canal stuck forward and aft after being caught by a strong wind gust!), high winds and driving rain to arrive, soaked, cold and a little tired, at great moorings close to the main streets of Skipton. After drying off and eating some lunch Julia and Bron set off to get our bearings and quite by accident ran into Julia’s cousin, Peter, at Skipton Castle where he is a tour guide. After a warming coffee he drove us to his apartment in Eshton Hall – very nice!!- to meet his wife Josette. Given that Julia hid on arrival and all Josette could see was a stranger (Bron) we were treated very hospitably and had a good catch up before Peter returned us to Skipton and our men.
Malcolm and Bob had been busy too and were surprised to hear of our adventure. They had taken a walk and met author Steve Haywood on NB Justice moored close by. Steve has authored several books about life on the canals and has a regular column in the journal Canal Boat. Malcolm took his copies of Steve’s books to be autographed and bought the latest one before settling in to hear of our adventures and plans for Wednesday.
Peter and Josette had kindly offered to show us a little of their neighbourhood including Peter taking us around the Skipton Castle. So after Bob and Bron looked around the market we met up with the others to take the tour and with all of Peter’s knowledge had a fascinating insight into the history and life of the inhabitants of the castle and nearby church. After this we were off to the little village of Grassington with all of its old stone cottages and variety of small shops. We can see why the inhabitants are proud of this part of the country. We had dinner at a lovely pub nearby before being returned to our boats in Skipton. Peter and Josette were fantastic hosts and tour guides – great sense of humour, very giving and incredibly good company.
On Thursday we were off to Gargrave where Bron and Bob had arranged to meet their old friends and travelling companions, Jim and Chris from NB Sylph, who were travelling the reverse direction on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Whilst not a long journey there were still a number of swing bridges to conquer before the 3 locks to where Sylph was moored. It was such a joy to meet up with these friends, their dog Gina and friend Gilbert who was camping alongside them. We spent the afternoon catching up on the last 3 months – lots has happened to both of us – while Chris trimmed her many beautiful flowering plants that adorn Sylph’s roof!!! Dinner at nearby Old Swan pub finished off the day perfectly while Julia and Malcolm caught up with Peter and Josette again in the alternative pub offering in Gargrave – The Mason’s Arms!!
After a quick catch up on potential mooring sites for the rest of this canal, while Bob helped Malcolm and Julia up their remaining 2 locks, we bid a hasty but very fond farewell and hope to see them in Spring somewhere on our journeys. After another 9 locks, and some very winding canal which at times appears to be going up hill, we found some brilliant moorings and took advantage of the beautiful sunny day to catch up with washing followed by sunbathing and happy hour. Always a feature of sunny days is the 5 o’clock sit in the sun sipping a long, cold drink. Very sociable!!!!
Cruising through these sections of the canals is very peaceful and picturesque. We are high up on the hills and get to see all of the fertile farmland, busy villages and quite unique stone wall fences. It is hard to get tired of with new vistas around every bend. We have tried to capture some of this area’s beauty in the photos in the gallery.
Saturday’s journey was no different and we found very good moorings near Barnoldswick (pronounced Barlick by locals apparently!) which gave us an opportunity to get some provisions at the market stalls and shops in the village. Quite a walk but worth it to see the buildings, get some exercise and put a bit into the local economy.
We are always checking out the weather in an effort to stay one step ahead of being drenched, meeting our targeted deadlines and making the most of any predicted sunshine. So we made the very hard decision to forgo a cooked breakfast this morning and instead make tracks through the Foulridge tunnel (only 1640 yards and quite wide but still one way) to moor just before the flight of 7 locks near Colne. If it rains tomorrow we will stay put and tackle these on Tuesday. We are still in good time to get Bob to his eye appointment on the 20th and our date with the Ribble Link into the Lancaster Canal on the 30th.
For those of you who have been wondering about the origins of the name Figment here is a link to the Disney website’s description – Figment. He lives aboard the boat with Julia and Malcolm and can often be seen helping out in the planning of the itinerary, recording of the daily log and watching the tennis with Malcolm on the couch!!!!