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The 1997 Mega Cruise

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10. Leeds to New Springs, Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Sunday 13th July was the changeover day. Linda arrived about mid day in the Passat Estate, with Alan and the kids. Alan had come down to London from Wigan by train the day before. The lads soon departed with Julian driving as they had to go to work tomorrow. After a quick lunch we started off at 13.40 with the object of clearing the Forge and Newlay Three Rises that evening. It was another hot Sunday and we were expecting a repeat of the 1995 swimming pool experience! We arrived at the bottom of Forge Three Rise at 16.10. 
The young B.W. lock keepers were just letting out a boat from the top. The "boss" lock keeper had an aggressive looking Pit Bull Terrier type dog. A handful of lad swimmers were sitting on the banks. The new regime here were letting a small amount of swimming go on, but certainly not when boats were going through the locks. The friendly young B.W. blokes said that the swimming had got out of hand and a kid had recently drowned. They had tried involving the police, but they seemed to invoke more trouble. It was not official policy, as it wasted water, but they always left the locks filled as then they were then easier to get out of. 
There were "No swimming" notices plastered everywhere and a sign pointing to the nearest telephone, what more could they do? There now seemed to be a fairly safe status quo between boaters and swimmers. With their help we were soon out of the top of  Newlay Three Rise. That night we stopped at 18.45 just below Swing Bridge No 215, a nice peaceful spot. There was a nice wooded section just after the bridge.  


Monday 14th July we shoved off at 8.15. Although now into the school holiday period, no trouble was experienced with yobs. It was another pleasant day. We got to the top of Dobson Two Rise at 9.15, and the top of Downley Gap Two Rise at 12.20. We managed to creep up the Bingley Three Rise without being detected by Barry Whitlock, the famous Bingley Five Rise lock keeper. Barry was other wise engaged just about to reset the staircase for a pair of boats coming down. Neil shot up to see him and Barry said we had just arrived in time. After establishing that there was no boat behind us he said that he would let us up and we would jiggle about and pass the pair coming down, coming out of the top lock chamber. There was quite a big Gongoozling audience, so this would obviously add some interest and discussion! 
Barry soon had Peter under his wing and Linda who was steering soon shot up the bottom chambers. She was terrified at one point, as Barry was showing off, pinning the boat in position using the cascading, roaring flow from gate paddles! We were soon out of the top, glad that most of Barry's shouting was directed at the two boats going down. Barry said that he remembered the boat from past years and was particularly pleased when we gave him the normal T.N.C. "welcome pack" of a Tesco bag containing four cans of lager. He advised us to take a shower in his spotless sanitary block, they were free at the moment as the coin switch had broken! We stopped there for lunch, showered and filled with water. Barry drunk one of his cans with us and told Neil to get off on his bike to do the swing bridges between here and Skipton, then we would get there in 4 hours! 
At 14.20 we started off. Neil did indeed cycle all the way, taking a B.W. key and L&L handcuff key to unlock and work the 16 swing bridges encountered. There was a minor air gun incident at Booths Swing Bridge No195. Some yobs shot once at the side of the boat, but did not realise Neil was working the bridge. They soon scarpered as when Neil spotted them, he showered them with stones. After our fly run we arrived in the centre of Skipton visitor moorings at 19.05, having taken 4 hours, 45 minutes. God knows what speed Barry must go at, to do it in 4 hours! That night we ate out at "The Black Horse Hotel" an excellent local pub, which did the famous local Black Sheep Ale.


The next day, Tuesday 15th July we started at 9.05. There was a hold up at Eshton Road Lock No 31, the third one up the Gargrave Flight. A B.W. bod eventually removed a rock which was stopping one of the bottom gates shutting. This caused a half hour hold up. We arrived at Bank Newton Bottom Lock at 13.00. As there was a queue, we had lunch while topping up with water, this taking 40 minutes. Eventually we came out in the spectacular East Marton pound at 15.15. We have always intended to moor here one night, in the remote "wiggly bit", overlooking the Dales, or at "The Cross Keys" pub at East Marton, but it was not to be. 
We pushed on in the sunny afternoon, arriving at Greenberfield Bottom Lock at 16.50. We shared the flight with "Rosie", this used to be Doug Moore's (of Barnoldswick) hire / show boat, but had recently been sold to this friendly elderly couple who we shared with. The summit was reached at 17.25 and we pushed on to Foulridge, arriving just before the wharf at 18.45. Linda had already phoned the "Hole in the Wall" pub, which was doing food. We had a good night out, the pub was fairly quiet but they opened up the small dining room up just for us.


Wednesday 16th July we set off at 7.50, the object being to just catch the Foulridge Tunnel traffic lights turning green! The tunnel traffic lights are on the hour for 10 minutes going west, and on the half hour for 10 minutes going east. We hovered at the entrance for 5 minutes, they finally changed at 8.03. 15 minutes later we shot out of the other end. Barrowford Top Lock was passed at 8.35, we went straight in. We arrived at the bottom of the flight of seven locks at 9.25, having caught up a slower single boat, which stopped at the bottom for breakfast. 
There was as usual no traffic along this section and being deep we sped along. Peter indulged in a rare spot of steering on the dead straight embankment which crosses the Calder Valley through Burnley. At the end of Burnley Embankment we noticed all the facilities from the closed Burnley Yard have now been moved to Rose Grove, just below Dugdale Bridge No 126A. With the annoyance of the intrusive M65 we battled on, reaching Blackburn Top Lock at 16.10. Neil was a bit bored, so in lock wheeling mode cracked the crew on to a quick descent of 45 minutes of the deserted flight of six locks. 
Still we pushed on, it always amazes us how fast this side of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal is. Johnston's Hill Top Lock No58 was reached at 18.55 and 10 minutes later we moored up for the night below it. There are no towpath moorings above the flight as these have all been taken over by a boat club. That night we ate in.


We started off at 8.35 on Thursday 17th July. The bottom of Johnson's Hill locks was reached at 9.20. This year B.W. were doing booked passages down the Wigan Flight of 21 locks, so as we wanted to stop at the top (New Springs), we booked for the next morning. White Bear Marina was stopped at for diesel (expensive, owing to no competition!) between 10.55 and 11.05. At 12.20 we arrived for the day at New Springs. We moored on the visitor moorings, just up the start of the old colliery branch, just passed the 90 degree junction with the Top lock of the Wigan Flight. 
That afternoon we walked back to Alan's farm where Linda availed herself of Alan's mum's washing machine and drying facilities. Later on we went out in Alan's car to visit one of his relatives working farms, while looking at some young calves we were marooned in the barn by a sudden downpour. That evening we all went back to Alan's house for one of his mum's home cooked meals. 


Leeds, looking up at Office Lock No2, from our mooring in the basin. Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Bingley Five Rise, we have just started up and will pass two boats coming down.

Bingley Five Rise, Peter has been taken under Barry's guidance.

"Beatty" passes the two boats coming down the "Barry" Five Rise. Himself is on the bridge yelling out instructions!

Barry keeping hawk eyed watch!

Pendle Hill. The White Weather Witch sees to be creating yet more rain!
(This image included for Ian Clarke!)

Looking back, we have just swung round from Burnley Embankment. Sad remains of B.W. Burnley Yard. Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Eanam Wharf, Blackburn.

The new, not yet open M65 extension bridge just above Withnell Fold.

The bottom of Johnson's Hill Locks. The abandoned stub of the Lancaster Canal is under bridge to the left. Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Botany Bay. Shopping village and fire engine / military vehicles exhibition. Leeds and Liverpool Canal, just above Chorley.

Linda, Wendy with Alan in control.

Alan's house and his Inspector Morse mobile.

The Tour continues...


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