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.

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