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The 1997 Mega Cruise

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8. York to Ripon,  River Ouse, Ure Navigation Inc. River Swale and Ripon Canal.

Next morning (Wednesday 9th of July ) we left at 8.20, it soon became a lovely day, starting a bit misty and rising to a proper Summer temperature of 30 C. Julian did another of his mega breakfasts. The river above York was extremely quiet and tranquil, only a few moored up boats were seen, until we arrived at Nun Monkton Pool. This wide basin is where the River Nidd meets the Ouse. It is a nice place to moor and is the furthest deep draughted boats can reach because of the infamous "Mud Huttes" in the next reach, up to Linton. We hurried on in our normal fashion, the river now totally changes as it becomes incised. The flow increased, we kept a look out for any mud banks with our trusty barge pole, but the depth was always about 5 ft. 
High up the steep banks was a lot of recent debris, we would not have got up here a few days ago! Soon Linton Lock came into view, it is at this point you have to skirt the outside of a bend as there is a large sand bar. Linton Weir has a drop of about 12 ft, the old generator house could be seen between the lock and the weir. Up until 1962 this generated 750 kW of electricity. British Waterways are in the final throws of taking over this last stretch of the Ouse. It is hoped a third party company (Scottish Hydro?) can re-open the generating station and the income be used to fund the stabilisation of the lock structure and maintain the structures. 

At 10.40, "Beatty" was moored to the rickety pontoon below the lock and we set of in search of a license. We soon found out after enquiring at the lock cottage that the lease holder of the cottage and caravan park issues the license. He was a likeable but sarcastic chap who soon wrote out our 12 monthly pass and asked if we wanted our own key which would incur a refundable deposit. We said we were only going straight up to Ripon and back and declined. The chap said he was NOT a lock keeper as some people thought, but it was our responsibility to operate the lock. 
The lock cottage was a gem of a place, small, but containing a shop, pub, restaurant, snack bar and the caravan site office. Out the back were toilets showers and a wash room for the caravan site which he said we were free to use. T.N.C. On Tour hope that the charm of this place will not be destroyed when B.W. eventually assume control. The guy was a little upset when we said we would not be stopping for a drink or food, but cheered up when we said we would on the way back. He unlocked the top gate and we were soon up and in the lock cut above. The lock was left open for an arriving hire boat and we were soon on our way, (at 11.10).

The Ouse above Linton is again different, much more open and wide. About a mile below Aldwark Toll Bridge is the point where the River Ouse becomes the Ure. After the flurry of moored cruisers in Linton Lock cut , the river was very quiet with no moving boats met until Milby and hardly any moored. At 12.50 the "No Entry" sign for the River Swale was spotted, Neil was steering , so you can guess what happened! From the vegetation on the banks we concluded that the level in this reach was still up, an ideal time to visit the Swale. We trickled up keeping our "depth sounder" working, there was about 5 ft all the way up to Myton Bridge, getting down to about 3 ft where we turned. 
Neil was keeping a sharp eye on the width as we wanted to be able to turn as the flow was increasing. We got about 1 miles up, turning just after the "wiggly bit". The bow was steered into the outside of the last bend and the stern wedged on the other bank. "Beatty" came round with a bit of rattling underneath and we were off, quite fast as we knew the depth and had to get steerage, going with the flow. We turned at 13.20 and got back to Swale Nab at 13.38.

When we approached Milby Lock we were surprised to see three Narrowboats in front. Two were just going in, and we eventually got in with the other one. Some B.W. men were just going, as there had been some trouble with the lock, we lost about half an hour. The boat we were sharing with we recognised as being moored near us in York this morning, they must have overtaken us when we had our trip up the River Swale. The other guy asked if we had heard the commotion in the night. Apparently some yobs had cut loose the Narrowboat in front of this guy. He had woken up when they started to cut his ropes and he just managed to rescue the other boat before it floated off down stream, the occupants still blissfully sleeping. We said that we normally chain up our boat, but as we could not do it where we were moored, we stuck the anchor out, the guy agreed this was a good idea and would be doing himself in future. 
We wanted water, but so did the other three Narrowboats, as they were all moored on the water point at Boroughbridge. We decided to push on. Just before the A1 Bridge a smart new steel cruiser that had been moored on the Ripon Motor Boat moorings whizzed past us, the two guys on the bridge apologised, saying that the boat was brand new and had been launched only 10 minutes ago and that they were "playing" with it to see if it was OK. At Westwick Lock there was quite a gathering of R.M.B.C. boats, as the Commodore was checking out a members brand new boat! Neil was steering and had done a bow drop of the cranking crew. There was not anywhere to easily moor a Narrowboat, so Neil backed off. While waiting mid stream Neil often gets bored and does silly things like going round in circles or practising reversing. This time he decided to investigate the weir stream, and got about half way up before coming to a clattery stop, not chancing winding he edged the boat all the way backwards. We were not held up much and were soon off the Ure and onto the Ripon Canal.

We stopped beside the R.M.B.C. clubhouse as there seemed some activity. Before Ian Clark had left, he asked us to get another copy of the very excellent R.M.B.C. "Cruising Guide To The North East Waterways". Ian, who is Secretary of The Thames Vintage Boat Club wanted a copy to show his members the kind of guide they should be producing. We found the Secretary and asked if we could have some water and another copy of their excellent guide. He said yes, but would have to unlock the clubhouse, Neil went with him. As you may be aware Neil is not a very "Cluby" sort of boater and has not been to many boatclubs. He was amazed when he went in their clubhouse for Ian's guide, it was absolutely immaculate and "shipshape". After the 20 minute stop, at 17.45, we set off again for Ripon. We passed through Bell Furrow's and Rhode's Field Lock, which must be some of the slowest filling locks we have ever encountered and on to the site of the recently removed blockage, Navigation Bridge. 

When Neil visited the canal on the way back from a Dales holiday a few years ago this dropped bridge carried a minor road off the B6265 to the South of the town. This bridge has now been raised and is just a footpath. The new Ripon by-pass takes the course of the dismantled Leeds - Thirsk Railway and crosses the canal where the old railway bridge used to be. This new road can serve parts of the town cut of by the removal of the dropped bridge by a junction on the by-pass below the canal. From the canal the new bridge is a low tunnel type affair, in pristine condition with all its towpath lights still working and not covered in cobwebs! The next bit of canal to the restored basin was navigated very carefully as has been prone to leak and is covered in a pondliner type material. The moorings in the basin have not yet been completed and some of the wharf side is yet to be restored, yet the terminal warehouse has been. We carefully winded missing some dodgy piles at the edge after having "kissed " the bow against the warehouse wall, the furthest North you can get at the moment on the connected waterways of England (unless you subscribe to Chris Coburn's idea of a connected waterway!) 

We moored in the visitor mooring lay-by created on the tow path side right next to the noisy main road. We thought this could have been designed a bit better, it is very open, perhaps a wall or thick planting could shield these otherwise excellent moorings. Surprisingly we took the last available mooring. There were two R.M.B.C. cruisers and a York based hire cruiser. A guy from the jolly crewed R.M.B.C. cruisers was enjoying an al-fresco shower on the tow path, we had in this hot and sticky evening, almost forgotten all the awful weather we had up to now. 
We asked the R.M.B.C. people when the basin would be finished and if there would be any facilities there, water would be nice. He replied it should be soon, but had we seen the hidden water point in the old tuning basin by the raised bridge? We said we had not and knowing this, we would all have showers. When we were all refreshed Julian cooked another excellent meal, then we toured most of the decent looking pubs in Ripon, ending up in the nearby "Water Rat" overlooking the weir on the River Skell, that feeds the canal. We were sitting outside having got "stocked up" at last orders, we left about midnight after they had turned off all the lights and locked up, at least we had something to celebrate!


Clifton Bridge. River Ouse.

The new A1237 Bridge.

The Captain's breaky table.

Skelton Rail Bridges. River Ouse.

Nun Monkton Pool, the River Nidd comes in from the left. This a popular mooring spot for big cruisers as this is the end of the deep section.

The River Nidd comming in from the left. River Ouse.

The infamous "Clay Huttes" section by Benningbrough Park. We did not hit any!

Approaching Newton on Ouse.

Newton on Ouse.

Sand bar below Linton Lock, channel to right out of image.

Arriving at Linton's rickety pontoon. Note crack in lock wing wall to left.

John Fleming nearly destroys pontoon by jumping down!

Waiting to negotiate a padlock key at Linton Lock. Weir to left, you can just make out the old hydro electric power station building in the bushes.

The amazing Linton Lock cottage, which is also a pub and shop for the caravan site. Let's hope when B.W. take it over it does not loose it's charm

Linton Lock cottage and bottom lock gates. The paddles are raised by turning the wheels.

"Beatty" waits on the pontoon. Linton Lock, River Ouse.

Note the foamy trails in the weir pool. In the distance you can just make out the sand bar.

Leaving Linton Lock.

Perfect weather! Above Linton Lock the River Ouse soon becomes the River Ure

Everyone enjoying the sun (and beer!). River Ure.

The "Blues Brothers" in their "normal" daft position. Aldwark Toll Bridge is above. River Ure.

Swale Nab, River Swale to right.

Myton Bridge, River Swale.

River Swale, John F helps us with the turn.

Milby Lock, River Ure Navigation. Due to our River Swale exploits the narrowboaters at York have overtaken us.

Leaving Milby Lock. We lock up with another 45ft narrowboat, that navigates by bow thruster!

Milby water point, heavily patronised, we go on. Boroughbridge, River Ure Navigation.

Leaving Milby Lock Cut, weir to right. Boroughbridge, River Ure Navigation.

We have just passed under the new A1 Bridges. Boroughbridge, River Ure Navigation.

R.M.B.C. commodore trailing brand new tin boat. Actually he does now slow right down for the paddle boats!

Westwick Lock. River Ure Navigation.

Leaving Westwick Lock. River Ure Navigation.

Newby Hall. River Ure Navigation.

Ripon Canal starts to left.

Oxclose Lock, Ripon Canal.

Leaving Oxclose Lock, Ripon Canal.

Chef Julian prepares mega dinner, packet of meat for each crew member!

Renton's Bridge, Ripon Canal.

Bell Furrows Lock. Ripon Canal.

Going up in Bell Furrows Lock. Ripon Canal. Even by "Beatty" standards these locks felt short.

Going up in Bell Furrows Lock. Ripon Canal.

Rhodesfield Lock. Ripon Canal. The other boats were permanently moored.

Rhodesfield Lock. Ripon Canal.

Ripon, old temporary basin to left, raised bridge now just footbridge.

New bridge for Ripon by-pass, where old railway used to cross.

Ripon Basin and restored warehouse.

Our moorings beside the noisy road. Ripon, Ripon Canal.

"The Water Rat" pub, by the weir in Ripon, where we ended up.

Ripon Minster.

The tour continues...


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