Saturday, 13 August 2016

More about Family

Having overstayed in Granary Wharf in Leeds, our fresh water tank was getting low. It was time to move on.

We had had a brilliant time in Leeds and I think it is safe to say, we would love to return sometime. However, new adventures await so on Monday 25th July, along with Jan and Colin on nb Polako, we untied the mooring ropes, descended through River Lock and continued onto the River Aire, where the Aire & Calder Navigation meets the Leeds & Liverpool canal. Heading East, the river passes under several bridges and is overlooked by tall buildings right on the edge of the navigation as we leave Leeds behind.

The locks along this stretch of the river, although manually operated are electronic so for a while at least, I can put my windlass away and take out the watermate key. In addition, it was with relief that we say ciao to the shorter locks. In contrast, we felt rather overwhelmed in the large commercial locks.

We were heading for the mining village of Allerton Bywater which is just a mile from Castleford junction. We thought it would be easier to find mooring, and indeed we were right to do so as we subsequently discovered, all mooring at Castleford was taken. However that still gave us seven locks over nine miles to navigate.

The Nicholson Waterways Guide warned that it would not be easy to moor Allerton Bywater and I can honestly say that it wasn't! Fortunately the river flow was benign giving us enough time to attach mooring ropes to the rings embedded in the embankment wall. Due to the low water levels, I had to climb on the roof of Winedown and leap off with the centre line in order to hold the boat while Ian picked up a mooring ring.
Once securely moored, we set off to find the riverside pub only to discover that they don't serve food on a Monday. After a sociable drink with Jan and Colin, Ian and I returned to the boat to cook a meal, while Colin and Jan went in search of a pub that was serving food.

Later in the evening, the setting sun bathed the surface of the tranquil river in a light blush. This, and the warbling of the river fowl was quite a juxtaposition to the bustle of the inner-city mooring we had recently left behind in Leeds centre.

Setting off at a reasonable hour on Tuesday 26th July, we continued to follow the River Aire downstream, turned at Castlefield junction, through the flood lock and on to Bulholme Lock. We would have no trouble with short locks on this stretch as the navigation from Castlefield to Goole was built to accommodate commercial traffic of up to 200ft in length.
The stretch of river between Castleford and Ferrybridge, known as the Five Mile Pond is surprisingly pretty as it meanders along and owes it's pleasant character to the recent landscaping of the now-abandoned mining works and successful tree planting.

It was an easy run and Winedown loved the deeper water, responding with smooth passage and soporific beat of the veteran engine all the way to Pollington. At times, Colin on nb Polako struggled to keep pace although we were running at a little more than tick-over.

Before long however, the industrial nature of the river returned as the massive cooling towers of Ferrybridge Power Station dominate the landscape.

After 15 miles and only three locks to work, we stopped for the day at the very pleasant mooring spot at Pollington Lock. We were now only eight miles from our destination at Goole Dock which we completed easily the following morning. Goole Dock is not the prettiest of locations, but it would be 'home' to us for a week, while we visited family.

Leaving Colin and Jan to keep an eye on Winedown, we packed an overnight bag and set off (courtesy of cousin Tony, who kindly collected us in his car) to spend the night with my uncle and aunt, Ivor and Shiela.

After a comfortable night sleep - on land, we had just finished breakfast when Tony called in for a cuppa. A short while later, we all piled into his car; Tony had a full day planed for us.
First stop was the Lilly lakes at Burnby Hall Gardens, situated in the charming market town of Pocklington on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds. Often referred to as 'a haven of beauty and tranquillity', Burnby Hall Gardens are a particular favourite of Ivor and Shiela.

After enjoying ice-creams and coffee, we wandered through the lush gardens and fed the over-fed fat koi carp fish in the lakes while enjoying the wide variety of lilies that had been planted. At lunch time, Tony whisked us off to Shiela's favourite garden centre that has a particularly good restaurant for a light lunch. After which, we returned to 'Highfields' (Ivor & Shiela's home) for afternoon tea. Later, after much hugging and kissing, we bid a now exhausted Ivor and Shiela goodbye, and Tony took us to meet his son Gavin and Grandson George.

The following day was Gavin's birthday and he wanted to keep that fact quiet from his local pub. Needless to say, Tony had arranged that we all meet at the same pub so we had to whisper our birthday greetings (in loud voices) to ensure that Gavin's secret was kept!

Before long, Tony's significant 'other half', Jo, joined us and the prosecco freely flowed followed by copious amounts of red wine - for Jo and I that was, the fellas all drank beer.

As the evening wore on and the food had been cleared away, Gavin suggested that we all adjourn to his home. Once again, Ian and I piled into Tony's car and were whisked away to 'I don't know where' - Gavin's home.

It was quite late by the time we were all ready to leave and return to the boat. What Ian and I hadn't realised was that the gates to the docks would be locked, and we couldn't get back to Winedown. Fortunately Jo runs the Normanby Guest House in Scunthorpe and she hastily made a room available for us so we had another comfortable night on land.

Tony had the following day (Friday 29th) off work and while we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast at the guest house, he suggested that we take a drive to Lincoln to see the 'Poppy Wave' and who would we be to refuse such a wonderful invitation. Ian and I readily agreed.

Guessing that Jan and Colin would have worried that we hadn't returned, we gave then a quick phone call to put their minds at rest, before piling into the back of Tony's car once again.

The original ceramic poppy display was called 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' and displayed at the Tower of London in 2014. Each of the 888 246 poppies represents the fatality of a member of the British and Colonial Forces in World War 1.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
Once the entire display had been dismantled, the 'Wave' from the Tower's south entrance and the 'Weeping Window' sections went on tour of UK, The tour will be conducted between 2014 and 2018 to commemorate the centenary of the 14-18 war. It was the 'Wave' section that was on display at Lincoln Castle.

The sweeping arch of red poppies over the wall of Lincoln castle was originally a dramatic key element to the entire display at the Tower of London and although it is just a small part of the original, it was nonetheless poignant and has attracted many visitors. I heard that the 'Wave' was to represent the soldiers 'going over the top' out of the trenches to attack enemy positions, but I haven't yet found any confirmation of that. However, with a little imagination, you can certainly see how that can be.

There is a rich history behind Lincoln castle dating back to 1068 and it is presently the home of one of the only four surviving copies of the Magna Carta dating back to 1215. We would need more time to explore this historical icon so we will definitely be back! Perhaps next year.

In the car once again, Tony took us to have tea with his parents, Ivor and Shiela. Tony had promised Ivor a trip to our boat, so we went to collect him to fulfil that promise. They were certainly surprised to hear that we hadn't been 'home' yet!

We hadn't realised that Goole Docks and the Yorkshire Waterways Museum in particular would be hosting the FolkSail Festival that weekend of 30th and 31st July. The highlight was the heritage boats that would be on display and in particular two fully rigged sailing barges; the Humber Keel 'Comrade' and the Humber Sloop 'Amy Howson' owned by the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society.

A number of privately owned boats had also joined in the festivities. (I'm not sure when a boat becomes a ship - there are differing theories on this however some were certainly much larger than others)

On Sunday 31st July, a number of the privately owned vessels  joined a helmsman competition in the Docks. Each skipper, with the help of only one crew member had to display his skills in a number of manoeuvres. Ian and I took up a position where we could clearly see and appreciate what was going on. Ian really enjoyed 'Playing with the Big Boys' and redoubled his efforts with regard to hunting for our next boat.

Before leaving Goole Docks, we decided to take a waterside Dock Tour that was offered by the Yorkshire Waterways Museum. I must say that it was very informative and we were taken past enormous commercial ships that were loading or off-loading.

In and amongst the commercial ships was this Tom Pudding Hoist.
Tom Pudding was the name given to tub like boats used on the Aire & Calder Navigation. Up to 40 Tom Puddings were strung together in a train and they were used to carry coal from the colliery at Stanley Ferry to Goole Dock where each Tom Pudding was lifted in the hoist and tipped into waiting cargo ships. This method was successfully used for over 100 years until 1986 when road transport took over.
The Yorkshire Waterways Museum hope to have this hoist operational again for demonstration purposes by next year!

Tuesday 2nd August was our last evening at Goole Dock and we couldn't have been treated to a more beautiful sunset.

On Wednesday 3rd August we continued on our way. There was a strong wind blowing as we manoeuvred onto the diesel point but we managed to tie up without incident. Once the fuel tank was full we headed into the wind along the very long and very straight Knottingley & Goole Canal - part of the Aire and Calder Navigation. For the next five miles the wind howled along the navigation whipping the surface into waves that sprayed us in the face. Surprisingly, after we turned onto the equally long and straight New Junction Canal, we were sheltered from the wind by the canal banks and enjoyed a more pleasant ride.

Just before reaching the intersection of the New Junction canal and the Stainforth & Keadby, the canal is carried over the River Don on an aqueduct that has strange guillotine gates at either end. Fortunately, both gates were raised. I can't say that I was too sad about that as I really wouldn't have known what to do had they been closed.

We moored near the New Inn pub in Stainforth and enjoyed a great 'Surf 'n Turf dinner. Cousin Tony was bringing Ivor and Shiela to spend the following day with us and we needed to be in a position that had easy car access for Ivor and Shiela, but I must admit that I would hesitate to moor there again on a Friday evening. The New Inn pub has a karaoke evening that continues into the early hours of the morning. Ok if you like that sort of thing!

With Ivor and Shiela on board, we set off from Stainforth heading towards Crowle Wharf, some nine miles down the canal. It was a perfect summer's day. There was a light breeze which complimented the warm sunshine and blue sky. Ivor thoroughly enjoyed his day but when Ian invited him to brush-up his skills on the helm, he was delighted. He smoothly steered Winedown along the canal as if he had never been away from the helm. Shiela, in the meantime was equally delighted just to sit and watch the passing scenery.

Later that evening, after Tony had arrived to collect his parents, we finished the perfect day with a light meal and drinks at the prestigious 7 Lakes Country Park.

It had been a wonderfully precious time with family. I haven't spent so much time with my cousin in many long years, and I can't say just how much I enjoyed the company of my Aunt and Uncle. To nostalgically quote David Jason...

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Come on Summer...

With the weather feeling a little more like Autumn than summer, on Tuesday morning 12th July we set Brewery Swing Bridge, pulled up the mooring pins and bid farewell to Skipton, stopping at the services just to fill the water tank, empty the rubbish bin and dispose of the contents of the Elsan. From Skipton, the Leeds & Liverpool canal turned South East to follow the Airedale valley all the way to Leeds. The 17 mile lock-free pound was not without its interest as the many swing bridges make up for absence of the locks.
The Airedale is a flat, wide valley defined by tall steep hills while the open countryside afforded spectacular views.

Twelve swing bridges over eight miles was enough for the day (particularly as I had walked most of the way), so we found a lovely spot and moored for the night.

The brooding sky was testimony to the wisdom of this action. No sooner had we secured the boat then the heavens opened and the brief but definite deluge was successfully avoided.

The mooring spot was near Riddlesden, midway between Silsden and Keighley. We had just settled down for a quiet evening - Ian had even tuned in the TV so that we could catch up on a bit of news and weather forecast - when we discovered that nb 'Chance' was moored just around the corner from us. As it would be rude not to greet fellow boaters, Ian and I set off to greet Doug and James.
While walking along the towpath we overtook two dog-walkers who had a bottle of wine tucked under their arm. In this remote location, we surmised (correctly, as it happened) they could only be heading in the same direction that we were. And so it was that from quiet beginnings, we all enjoyed a convivial evening.

That is how it happens along the canals in England!

It was almost mid-day before we left our mooring spot near Riddlesden and after swinging a further eight bridges over a five mile stretch, we arrived at the Bingley Five-Rise just in time for the last passage of the day which was fortunate.
The impressive Bingley Five-Rise staircase locks which mark the end of the level pound from Gargrave is followed shortly by the Three-Rise staircase, bringing the canal steeply down to Bingley.
Although these sets of locks can be tricky, the lockkeepers keep a close eye on proceedings to ensure safe passage.

However our luck ran out shortly after we descended the Three-Rise as all the best mooring positions near the Fishermen's Inn had been taken and we were left with a shallow stretch of canal whereby we were forced to leave the stern of Winedown hanging out a considerable distance from the bank.

The following morning, we set off towards Dowley Gap locks, and on to Hirst lock. It was here that our friend Les had experienced a hair-raising incident so we worked the lock cautiously. Needless to say, we did not leave the lock unscathed! Winedown is 60ft in length and the Hirst Lock is 57ft so we had to put our boat across the lock to gain the extra length. That was not the problem though - we have done this many times before on other canals. However, at Hirst lock the lock gate leaked badly so as the lock emptied, the canal water above was being squeezed between the badly fitting gates, forming a waterfall at the stern of the boat. In order to open the lock gates, Ian had to back up tightly against the cill and in so doing, exposed the stern to the deluge of water. In the blink of an eye, the back cabin was swamped and the engine was sitting in water - for the second time this year. We had to moor up at the bottom of the lock to pump the bilge and mop up the mess created by the engine's spinning fly-wheel.

It was while we were doing this that Jan and Colin on nb Palako joined us. Fortunately for them, their boat is 57ft so they didn't suffer the same fate, however, they moored alongside to offer assistance and while Ian was head down in the engine-room, the ladies did what Englishmen (and women) do best... we made a cuppa. Once the bilge was clear again, we continued on our way with nb Polako following in our wake.

A mile from Hirst Lock, we came to the Victorian village of Saltaire, a 'World Heritage' site near Bradford in West Yorkshire. The village's name is derived from its Founder Sir Titus Salt and the River Aire. Sir Titus Salt built an enormous textile mill(called Salt Mill) on the River Aire that was opened in September 1853 but he didn't stop there. He is also responsible for the building of the village for his workers and their families; houses, bathhouses, an institute, hospital, alms-houses, and churches. However, for reasons of his own, he banned 'beer shops' in the village.

Needless to say there is now a 'public house'; a bar restaurant mischievously called 'Don't Tell Titus' that is at the heart of Saltaire.

Mooring in Saltaire is limited and overnight mooring is prohibited in the centre of the village - this is because part of the old mill alongside the canal have been converted to luxury, private apartments - so after exploring this extraordinary village, we moved on to look for a suitable location to call our own for the night. Just two miles along the canal (close to bridge 211A) we found a stunning location. With summer attempting to put in an appearance, we enjoyed Jan and Colin's company as we shared sundowner drinks and nibbles.

By the weekend (and without further incident), and still in the company of nb Polako, we arrived at Granary Wharf in the centre of Leeds, the end of the Leeds & Liverpool canal. It had taken us a little over three weeks to complete the 127 miles and 91 locks of this the longest single canal in England built by a single company!
(NOTE to Boaters, Granary Wharf no longer have water and electric facilities for moored boats, so be sure you arrive with a full water tank and empty Elsan cassettes)

At Granary Wharf we again met Chris & Les on nb 'Eleventh Heaven' and Andy & Rich on nb 'Carpe Diem'. Had it only been a little over a week since they had all left us in Skipton? We seemed to have done so much and seen so much in that short space of time. However, if two is company, then eight is certainly a party!
(from left to right.. Cherryl, Rich, Jan, Ian, Chris, Colin and Les - Andy was taking the photo)

But don't think that party time and alcohol was all that we enjoyed!

On Sunday 17th July, we took a bus to Temple Newsam Estates, a Tudor-Jacobean house with ground landscaped by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. The nickname 'Capability' was attributed to him because he would often tell his clients that their property had 'capability for improvement'.

The estate has a fascinating if not scandalous history and many royal connections including that of Margaret, Countess of Lennox, niece to King Henry VIII; her son, Henry, Lord Darnley born in the house and later married to Mary, Queen of Scots; and some two centuries later, the house was owned by Isabella, Marchioness of Hertford who was mistress of the Prince of Wales (later to become King George IV). However the house and grounds (which include large woodlands) are now owned by Leeds City Council and open to the public with facilities including golf, horse-riding, football, cycling, etc.

The house has recently undergone substantial restoration with many of the beautiful, original features on display such as the numerous magnificent oil paintings dating back some five centuries; original, hand painted wallpaper over 200 years old; the private chapel that was later converted into the 'Lady's drawing room' (pictured here)...

... and this magnificent silver wine cooler, that must certainly be Ian's favourite piece.

After spending hours in the house, we still had time to enjoy refreshments before we sauntered around the farm. But at the end of the day, there was still so much that we hadn't seen. Oh well, another time perhaps?

By mid-week, the two boats namely 'Carpe Diem' and 'Eleventh Heaven' set off for York. But we still had so much more to do and see, so once again we parted company, leaving 'Winedown' and 'Polako' on the mooring at Granary Wharf.

After we had helped the two boats through River lock and watched as they rounded the corner of the river, we took the water taxi to the Royal Armouries museum at Leeds Dock.

The water taxi service runs between the popular Granary Wharf and the 'not-so' popular area of Leeds Dock. In an attempt to encourage people to visit the restored and modernised old dock, the taxi runs every 10 minutes and better still it is a free public service.

The Royal Armouries museum, as its name may suggest is home of the national collection of arms and armour.
There was something for everyone here. Children can play dress-up in medieval costume and watch hand to hand combat in the Tudor Ttiltyard, while adults can try their hand at the crossbow firing range.
Spectacular displays of Tudor armour was displayed on one floor while weaponry of a more modern kind was displayed on another. There was simply too much to take in at one visit.

The warrior treasure was also on display. Part of the Staffordshire Hoard, this dazzling display of gold and silver ornaments studded with magnificent blood-red garnets, revealing breath-taking workmanship and sophisticated design, indicate how an Anglo-Saxon sword was much more than just a weapon.

Discovered in a field near Litchfield in Staffordshire in 2009, the hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver ever found. Ian and I were fortunate enough to have first seen part of the collection on display in Stoke-On-Trent, when we passed through last year, so it was of particular interest to us.

Leeds had so much to offer and I can honestly say that we barely scratched the surface, however, besides the sights, museums, shopping arcades, pubs and restaurants, there was also precious family time.

We met Ian's cousin Chris and his wife Pat for dinner ...

... and spent a day with his cousin Gill. Introducing her to the water taxies that run along the River Aire as well as the Royal Armouries museum, before heading off for a Sunday Roast dinner (or 'Tea' as they say in Yorkshire)!

Ian and I took the train to the beautiful, historical town of Knaresborough situated in North Yorkshire on the River Nidd. Knaresborough has a fascinating and varied history with roots going back as far as the Doomsday Book where it was first mentioned in 1086. Today, Knaresborough is synonymous with its much ruined castle.

The castle fortress was originally build by a Norman Baron circa 1100 on the cliff above the River Nidd and documentary evidence indicates that considerable work was also undertaken by Henry I, after the Norman conquest.

In 1170, Hugh de Moreville and his followers took refuge at the fortress after assassinating Thomas Becket.

For the next five hundred years this strategic fortress passed through many royal hands (each adding their own stamp to the buildings) until it was besieged and taken by Parliamentary troops in 1644 during the Civil War. It was then largely destroyed in 1648 after an order of Parliament was issued to destroy all Royalist Castles.

It was thirsty work exploring the ruined castle and the town clinging to the steep hillside around the River Nidd, so once again we boarded a train, this time heading in the direction of Harrogate - the home of Betty's Café Tea Rooms.

The Betty's story started in the fashionable Spar town of Harrogate in 1919 and has played a part ever since, becoming legendary over the years. The combination of mouth-watering Swiss confectionary and Yorkshire hospitality has proved irresistible and Betty's today remains as popular as ever. That being said, it would certainly be rude not to sample the delights of afternoon tea at Betty's. Besides, I had starved myself all day just so that I could do it justice. And just in case you are wondering, all that food was for both of us... not just for me!

However, after all that tea , sandwiches, scones and cake, we had to walk off the excess so we spent time in the spa museum (No, we did not partake of the 'waters' since the odour was enough to upset even the strongest stomach) before venturing out to appreciate the architecture of the many old buildings that make up the town.

Before very long, we found ourselves outside the former Winter Gardens building, part of the Royal Baths complex. This magnificent old building has now been converted into a JD Weatherspoons bar and restaurant. We couldn't resist going in to see how they had modernised the fantastic old building and while we were there we enjoyed a glass of wine (Ian had a beer) while we relaxed and absorbed the ambiance. It would have been rude not to!

While still moored in Leeds, we had another stately home to visit. This time it was Harewood House, still the home of the Dowager Countess of Harewood. The estates have a nationally recognised conservation programme with particular emphasis on the restoration of historical buildings.
When Edwin Lascelles (1st Baron Harewood) started building Harewood House in 1759, he employed only the finest craftsmen of the time and this was more than evident as we wandered from room to room each steeped in history. We gazed at exquisite Chippendale furniture, marvelled at impressive Renaissance masterpieces, gawped at exquisite family portraits painted by famous artists of the time, and enjoyed the delights of the interior design.

The grounds were laid out in 1753 by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, recognised in his time as one of the most important landscape architect in Georgian England. Although we sauntered around the grounds for the best part of the day, we only managed to explore a small part of them. (I took so many pictures of the breath-taking views that it was difficult to know which ones to post.)

Sadly, for Ian, Leeds will no longer be the same without the Tetley Brewery. At one point in his working life, he worked within spitting distance of the brewery and fondly recalls watching the dray horses pulling the cask laden wagons.
This English regional brewery was founded by Joshua Tetley in 1822 in Hunslet, now a suburb of Leeds. The beer was originally brewed at the Leeds Brewery and become one of the leading industries in West Yorkshire. Tetley's Bitter lived up to its name and far from the soft and creamy taste expected of 'Southern English' beer drinkers, it was refreshingly bitter.
Over the years and with numerous mergers, the brewery became the worlds largest producer of 'Cask Ale' during the 1980s and in 1998, Tetley's was taken over by the Carlsburg Group.
Nevertheless, in 2011 Carlesburg UK closed the Leeds brewery and moved production to Banks's in Wolverhampton, demolishing the brewery building in 2012. It has been said that Yorkshiremen were so incensed by this move that they stopped drinking Tetley's and it's lofty position among revered Bitters in England has slipped into almost oblivion. Well believe it or not as you may, it certainly makes a good story!
Statistics however show that Tetley's is the 11th highest selling beer in the United Kingdom. To add to Ian's chagrin, the site of the old brewery is now a centre for contemporary art.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Summer Start in 2016

Having spent the winter in Reedley Marina we were itching to get going again. Wind, rain, sleet and snow had slowed our maintenance schedule so it wasn't until mid-May before we finally said goodbye to all our new found friends and headed for the 'open' canal.

It was wonderful to be free again with little to concern ourselves with except the general direction in which we were going. We hadn't put together a full travel plan for this year so we found ourselves quite flexible. We were heading for the IWA festival at Eldonian Village (near Liverpool) to celebrate the bi-centenary of the Leeds & Liverpool canal, but that wasn't until the second week of June.

The first day out of the marina we encountered Canada geese with their goslings, mute swans with their cygnets, and in the surrounding fields, sheep with their lambs.I just love this time of the year!

The first night away from the marina saw us in a rural location with Pendle Hill in the background. An heavy brooding sky provided the perfect backdrop to a fantastically bright rainbow. Does this bode well for a good summer or not, we shall see.

We had the Wigan flight of 21 locks to look forward to and remembering how difficult the flight is, I posted on the 'Wigan Flight Crew' Facebook page and asked if there was any other boat going in our direction who would like to share the locks - and workload. Jo and Ron Toon responded and we enjoyed their company on the way down. Although it rained for most of the time, it took us 4 hours which wasn't bad timing, however it was not all plain sailing. As I was preparing the locks in front of us and returning to each lock to open the gates for the two boats, Jo was closing the gates behind the boats, emptying the lock to lower the boats, and closing the gates behind the departing boats. All was well for the first few locks albeit that the lock gates leaked badly giving rise to spectacular waterfalls as the boats were lowered. On one such occasion, Ian couldn't avoid an waterfall cascade that swamped our back cabin and engine room. The engine was sitting in water but was bravely beating on, however the air cooling fan, it's bottom just below the waterline, sprayed the filthy canal water all over the engine room and even into the bathroom next door. The mess it created was to take hours to clean up and the carpets ultimately had to be replaced!

At the bottom of the Wigan flight, we turned away from the direction of Liverpool. We had time to spare so we ventured onto the Bridgewater canal where we were to meet our friends Les and Chris on their boat 'Eleventh Heaven'.

The weather improved dramatically and we saw the back of the rain for more than two weeks while the rest of the country seem to receive numermerous storms and heavy rain.

Turning towards Liverpool once again, this time in tandem with NB 'Eleventh Heaven' we still had time to spare so it was unanamously decided to explore the Rufford Arm of the Leeds & Liverpool canal. It was along this stretch of the canal that I first encountered the 'Tufted Duck' This pretty little white duck has a fluffy white tuft on its head giving it the appearance of a white mop-cap like bonnet. In addition, there has obviously been some inter-breeding going on as some of the mallard ducks were sporting the strange tuft too.

Returning to the main Leeds & Liverpool canal, we continued on our way towards the Eldonian Village and ultimately into Liverpool's Salthouse Dock where we moored for a week. It was about this time of blissfully warm sunshime and great company that Ian and I introduced Les and Chris to Kahlua Dom Pedros (a concoction of ice cream, cream and Kahlua liqueur). Needless to say, we had to curb our enjoyment because we didn't have room for loads of ice-cream in the freezer and anyway, and at 600+ calories per glass I am not sure that our waistline would have recovered had we persisted!

While in Salthouse Dock, our friends Andy and Rich on narrowboat 'Carpe Diem' caught up with us and four became six as we enjoyed the taverns and restaurants in the dock vicinity.

It was here that our luck changed with regard to the weather. A few days into our Liverpool visit, the rain caught up with us and as yet (apart from a few hours of sunshine here and there) it hasn't really let up. However this didn't deter us from enjoying the sights and sounds of Liverpool once again.

Leaving Liverpool once more with Eleventh Heaven, we followed the contours of the Leeds & Liverpool canal into Wigan and again, up the Wigan Flight of locks - this time, without incident. At this juncture I must emphasise BOATERS BEWARE - a small group of vandals are operating in the Wigan area and in the early evening these youngsters reconnoitre the boats moored along the canal with the intention of returning in the early hours of the morning to steal what is not tied firmly down. Although we escaped the vandalism, a boat moored near to us was the object of the attack on the night of 22nd June.

Ian had been told by many boaters that Fredrick's Ice-cream Parlour was not to be missed, so once we had left the Wigan flight of 21 locks behind, the next scheduled stop was Fredrick's! It took us a few days to get there but the wait was well worth it. Navigating through heavy rain and even thunder and lightening, Ian was determined not to miss this delight, so we moored up and trundled (much bedraggled) into the ice-cream parlour, trailing pools of rainwater behind us! Any Ice-cream lover on the Leeds & Liverpool canal who misses Fredrick's (near bridge 73)will be very sorry indeed.

By the time we reached the summit pound of the canal we were getting a little tired of all of the rain. We moored at the top of Barrowford Locks and spent a day doing odd jobs while the rain drummed on the roof of the boat all day. It was on this dredful day that Andy and Rich on NB 'Carpe Diem' caught us up once again. They, however braved the rain and navigated the Foulridge tunnel before mooring for the night. With a break in the rain, they found the Social Club in Foulridge and were rewarded for their diligence with cheap beer and good but inexpensive wine.

The following day, Leslie and I went off to explore the Pendle Heritage Centre while Ian and Chris individually carried our a few more maintenance jobs on the respective boats.

I had been to the heritage centre before but Les hadn't. Even so it was great to delve into the history of the Pendle Triangle and in particular follow the notorious story of the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612. Since the 17th century, the trials and subsequent hanging of the Pendle Witches have fascinated people and consistently caught the public imagination for the 400 years even though there were far larger witch-hunts in Scotland and the southern counties of England.

The site of the heritage centre is a group of attractive Grade II listed buildings and walled garden. This ancient farmhouse known as Park Hill has been carefully restored and provides an insight of how this historic house has developed since the 1400s. The Bannister family settled in Park Hill in 1400s and it is this family who are the ancestors to Roger Bannister the English former middle distance athlete who ran the first sub-four-minute mile.

With a slight improvement in the weather, we left the Barrowford Locks behind us, navigated the Foulridge tunnel (1640 yards long and taking a good 15 minuted to get through). This brought us close to the Yorkshire/Lancashire boarder and in no time at all we were into North Yorkshire and traveling north. This part of the country is where Ian spent most of his life and I am constantly reminded that Yorkshire is 'Gods own country'. Certainly I can see why with the glorious views over moors and downs.

We met nb Carpe Diem at East Marton and so two boats became three as we traveled on together towards Gargrave, a large village situated on the very edge of the North Yorkshire Dales. Popular with boaters, walkers and cyclists alike, (due to its situation on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park as well as alongside the Leeds & Liverpool canal) we had to sample the Fish and Chips that we had heard about. It was a night not to be forgotten. Their Fish and Chips have earned the fine reputation but the hospitality far outweighed even that acolade.

we are constantly looking for a small break in the relentlessly wet weather but unfortunately, with wave after wave of bad weather heading across the seas in the direction of our fair Island, we won't be packing away the wet weather gear anytime soon. However, we all pulled up the mooring pins early on Sunday morning (3rd July) and continued on to Skipton where the sheep festival was in full swing. Les and I walked the four (plus) miles to Skipton operating the three locks and five swing bridges for the three boats along the way, enjoying some sunshine for a change.

we were lucky to find three mooring places close together in busy Skipton and after securing the boat we all set off to explore the town. Over the following few days, the guys sampled the wares from pie shop after pie shop and pub after pub, but we I have to say that we also explored the cultural and historic aspects of Skipton.

Skipton Castle, dominating the top of the high street with its massive twin towers, is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in Britian. It's gatehouse is over 900 years old.

After wandering around the castle, we had to slake our thirst at a local pub and it could be none other than 'The Castle Inn' advertising Theakstons Old Paculier Ale, however,to the utter horror of some in our party, the ale had been withdrawn and there wasn't a drop to be found in the whole of the country.

The historic Settle-Carlisle Railway, built in 1870's crosses the world-famous Ribblehead Viaduct and since this is now part of a main rail link that runs through Skipton, we decided to take a trip. The scenary was spectacular and the trip was certainly worthwhile.

Inside the pub (...yes, there had to be one near the Ribblehead Viaduct) above the sign for the 'Gentleman's cloakroom' was a lable indicating 'A Loo with a view' I sent Ian into the loo armed with a camera so that we too (Les and I) could see what the sign was all about. The loo did indeed have a view, and what a spectacular view it was.

All too soon, it was time to bid our traveling companions a hearty farewell. Andy and Rich on nb 'Carpe Diem' as well as Les and Chris on nb 'Eleventh Heaven' have a different agenda and timeframe to the one we have so we had a lovely dinner together on our last evening.

Friday morning (8th July) after they had taken on fresh water, we helped the two boats through the swing bridge before setting off to explore Bolton Abbey on the beautiful estate of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

At the heart of the Bolton Abbey estate are the ruins of an Augustinian Priory in its beautiful riverside setting. The prosperous priory fell prey to the greed of Henry VIII in 1539 when the dissolution of the monasteries stripped the Priory of its assets, however Prior Moone managed to negotiate with Cromwell and the Prior Nave was secured as a place of worship for the local community, and is still used to this day.

Ian and I spent a peaceful afternoon wandering the footpaths alongside an attractive stretch of the River Wharfe and crossed the stepping stones, an ancient right of way for the lay workers of the 12th century Priory. We ended with a lovely tea overlooking the river.

On Saturday, the weather wasn't looking good as we set off to visit the spectacular Malham Cove. Ian had hired a car so we were able to drive over the Yorkshire Dales. we couldnt allow the rain to defeat us and as it set in, we modified our plans and drove on towards the village of Hawes and the home of Wendsleydale Cheese - the favorite of the cartoon characters 'Wallace and Gromit'. Here we managed to take a tour of the Creamary that ended in a cheese making demonstration, followed by cheese tasting (who needs supper?). My sister's partner is a supplier of Wensleydale Creamary so we thought that we should at least see what happens to all that milk he so lovingly collects from his 'Ladies'.

By early afternoon, there was a welcome break in the incessant rain and since we were not far from the hamlet of Hardraw, at the foot of the Buttertubs Pass, we drove onto Hardraw Force, England's largest single-drop waterfall, set within the grounds of the historic Green Dragon Inn. After visiting the falls and walking around them, Ian was only allowed a half pint of Ale at the Inn as he was now in charge of a motor car, which made a change from walking or boating!

By Sunday there was even a little blue sky and since we still had the car at our disposal, we set off for Malham cove once again. This time we were able to appreciate the full specticle. This gently curving, 70 metre high amphitheatre shaped cliff, and its surrounding limestone formations have been drawing visitors form far and wide. The large curved feature was formed by a waterfall carrying meltwater from glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age more than 12,000 years ago, while the top of the cove is a large area of deeply erroded limestone pavement. For those Harry Potter fans, scenes from the 'Deathly Hallows were filmed around this amazing Malham Cove.

To end the weekend, Ian and I made the most of the sunshine and walked along the Pennine Way - not all of it, but enough to appreciate the magnificent Yorkshire Dales. I can certainly see why a Yorkshireman calls this 'Gods Own Country'.

After returning the car to Enterprise car hire on the Monday, we had our mundane tasks to complete such as food shopping and laundry before we bade Skipton a fond farewell and headed in the direction of Leeds.