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!
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.
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.
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!
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.