I’ve just returned from a two-week cruise along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. In my 30+ years of narrowboating, this was the first time I’d been along this magnificent waterway. We hired our boat, Sara’s Drum, from Silsden Boats. Our first port of call was the lovely town of Skipton which has many fine pubs – the Cock & Bottle being our first stop of Saturday evening.
The next day we set off for our intended lunchtime stop at Gargrave. It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday with no wind meaning that I got loads of pictures of reflections from the glass-like surface of the canal.
This weather set the tone for most of the fortnight which, for October, was excellent apart from two or three blasts of wet and windy weather. Our next stop was at Barnoldswick which is at the summit level of the canal. We then passed through Barrowford Locks which start the descent from the summit level. Our journey continued through the urban areas of Blackburn and Burnley interspersed with lovely, rugged countryside scenery until we finally reached the Top Lock at Wigan where we turned around to head back to Silsden.
For most of the return trip the weather was again good and one of our stops was at Burnley which was a surprisingly nice place to visit. This is the Inn on the Wharf which had very convenient moorings…that’s our boat you can see in the picture.As we journeyed back uphill we re-encountered the magnificent scenery to be seen along this waterway…and also the lovely country pubs. Here is a fine example, The Cross Keys at East Marton.
Then it was back to Gargrave, a lovely village on the edge of the North York Moors and onwards to Skipton again, a town that benefits from multiple visits to get to know all of the nooks and crannies. A few hours later and we found ourselves back at the Silsden Boats boatyard for the evening.
We now had just four days left on our holiday, so it was a case of head east for two days into new territory and then turn around for the return to Silsden. The highlight of this section of the canal and, indeed one of the highlights of the whole canal system, is the Bingley Five Rise staircase of locks. This flight was opened in 1774 and take the canal up a distance of 60 feet. This is the view from the top.
We visited Bingley twice and, whilst we found a couple good pubs, the town seems quite run down probably not helped by the massive Bradford & Bingley building which is closed and boarded up.
As we continued eastwards we next stopped at Shipley where we first encountered the historic narrow boat Elland. The next day we had several flights of locks to negotiate and we let Elland pass by as we were filling with water at Dobson Locks.
This photo is looking down on Elland and the boat towing her in the bottom chamber of Dobson Locks. There was quite a lot of water going into the back of Elland and the skipper of the towing craft was having quite a job keeping it out of the stream of water from the top chamber. Fortunately she was successful. We followed them down the locks and eventually moored up for the night at Rodley, a lovely village on the outskirts of Leeds.
Elland was also moored there and, in the evening, we met up with Sue her owner and skipper in The Owl pub where we were having our dinner. Sue explained to us that she was on her return journey after having taken Elland all the way from Leeds to Liverpool using only horse power (the horse called Bilbo Baggins) and human power to ‘leg’ through the tunnels. This was the first time a horse drawn boat had travelled the full length of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in over 60 years. Some pictures of this trip can be seen here on The Horseboating Society website. Sue also told us that Elland is at least 150 years old and is one of the oldest boats still operating on the canal system. We then retired to the Rodley Barge and our only pub quiz of the holiday where we managed to win a couple of pints for our efforts.
Next morning we went our separate ways – Sue waiting to see if she could get a tow to take her back to Leeds and we set off back to Silsden. The journey back was relatively uneventful, but this time it was my turn to steer through the Bingley Five Rise and here’s the picture I took entering the staircase with another of the Silsen Boats fleet.
The journey up the locks took considerably longer than going down, primarily because the lock keeper was much more careful to avoid excessive turbulence when filling each chamber.
And so, several hours later we moored up back at Silsden Boats, our journey’s end and were greeted by a magnificent sunset.