Once back on board we set off down the Rufford arm back to the main Leeds and Liverpool canal. This time we turned left heading for Wigan. Our plan was to head over the Pennines to Leeds taking in some lovely little villages as we did so.
The trip to Wigan was relatively easy aside from the large numbers of swing bridges that pop up. We enjoyed doing locks again after our long stay on the Lancaster with no locks along the main line.
We were fortunate with the weather and enjoyed this journey. On entering Wigan pier another boat crew told us that the Wigan locks were closed as a boat had gone into them and buckled one of the lock gates. We carried on in hope that they’d be open when we got there. We were very lucky, as we arrived one day and the next day they let a few boats up to test the temporary solution to the problem. Fortunately we buddied up with Jim and Sheila on NB Islonian – a trading boat, and were the first boats let up the flight of 21 locks in bright sunshine. Sheila and I soon had a system going as Jim and Rog brought the boats through. It was a bit daunting at lock 83 (the broken one) to have to turn the engines off and climb out of the boats whilst the lock filled, but we survived the flight due to hard work by us, and some very welcome help by some of the CART volunteers.
We learnt that Jim and Sheila were heading to Blackburn canal festival where they were due to be trading, so we decided to tag along and consequently found ourselves in the hub of the festival in the centre of Blackburn. We enjoyed the stalls and music and I was even commissioned to make some bunting which I achieved. We also met up with the Wlods, having a lovely time catching up on the many years since we’d last been together.
It was soon time to leave so we said our goodbyes and pressed on eastwards. Our next major town was Burnley. The huge Burnley embankment carries the navigation across part of the town. Called ‘the straight mile’ it’s 3/4 of a mile long, but at 60ft high quite dramatic. It’s all very tidy around the canal, but seems quite cut off despite its proximity to the town due to a lack of access points from the canal.
There was a consistent view in this part of the journey of Pendle Hill – of Pendle Witch fame which connected us to our time in Lancaster.
Our next adventure was Foulridge Tunnel which is at the summit of the canal. This is managed by traffic lights which meant we had to wait to pass through. The journey through was uneventful, but we enjoyed a night with friends in the village
As we continued we enjoyed such beautiful scenery in a very remote area. We then started to descend the locks heading down from the summit. Our next stop of note was in the Airedale valley, Skipton. A beautiful Yorkshire town, quaint and picturesque. We had a lovely explore of the town, walking to the castle and sampling some Yorkshire local fare.
After a good nights rest we headed to Saltaire, an estate village that owes its existence to Sir Tirus Salt a wealthy Victorian mill owner. He created the village to cater for his mill workers providing them with housing, schooling but no pub – he was an opponent of strong drink. There’s a beautiful church and a display of David Hockney’s art in the old mill. Altogether a lovely stop.
We then pushed on for Leeds, passing through Apperley Bridge and many more locks. We started early in the morning for our last push to Leeds, amidst talk of some possible anti social behaviour at the locks later in the day and rain later. We made excellent progress and arrived in a very windy Granary Wharf in Leeds by early afternoon, missing the rain and any unwanted problems. Once moored we set out to explore. Leeds was lovely with beautiful buildings and a good feel. We even managed to drop in to see The Sound of Music at the theatre whilst we were there. A fantastic performance, slightly different to the film with songs that I hadn’t heard previously. The seats were a bargain and we had a fantastic view.
We then met up with Ann and John for a river cruise to Castleford. We passed through the bottom lock of the Leeds and Liverpool onto to the Aire and Calder Navigation. This passes through three really beautiful bridges prior to arriving at the first of a set of automated locks. As you travel along you alternate between river and navigation before we arrived at the Castleford flood lock. We arrived safely having escaped most of the rain that was forecast and said goodbye to our guests.
The Leeds and Liverpool canal has been great, but hard work. Between Wigan and Leeds it was 92 miles, 86 locks, 42 moveable bridges and 2 tunnels. A very lovely way to cross the Pennines and we met some lovely people too.