Monday 24 October 2011

The Leeds-Liverpool Canal Apprenticeship Scheme

If you head North through Leeds, as we are this half term, you serve an apprenticeship on the locks.

You begin with Leeds Lock Number 1, a key operated electric lock in modern urban surroundings. It's easy to operate, and once past the Royal Armouries Leeds Waterfront is lined with imaginative recreational architecture.

The next locks are standard fare for Northern waterways: leaky; complicated; inconsistent with each other; and never left in the proper condition. BW staff are helpful, local waterway professionals take on the role of 'critical friend' but are definitely worth listening to.

But whatever else you do, don't believe the advertising hype surrounding Granary Wharf. The reception from staff is unwelcoming and surly, the noise from the railway and nightlife unpleasant, and the facilities overpriced.

Then the lock apprentice faces their first test: Oddy Locks, a leaky two-rise with low water in the pound above. The trick is to transit both challenges, but without draining the waterway for the poor sods behind you. Pass this test and you are rewarded with the long Aire Valley Pound.

Then, the apprentice faces a pair of three rises. These are more of a challenge, requiring a more advanced understanding of lock operation. By transiting two in quick succession, the apprentice learns and demonstrates competence. If you can pass this test, you are ready for the Bingley Five Rise.

We're having a break first...

An evening with good friends with a walk in Calverley Wood. This is why we bought a boat.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Half Term Holiday

We're pretending that the winter isn't going to happen, and the weather seems to be conspiring with us. We set off yesterday in glorious sunshine for an afternoon cruise to Leeds.

It was cold, though. 21st Century families don't wear thermal underwear, but we all had our Berghaus base layers on and drank hot tea while we wore sunglasses.

In Leeds, Michaela met us (she finished work a day later than the rest of us) and as we tied up at the visitor moorings at Clarence Dock we were delighted to be greeted by some of the long-term berth holders with such cheerful delight that we felt like old friends returning home.

Now we no longer have to fight traffic and hunt for parking spaces, we are beginning to appreciate Leeds. I spent far more money than I should have in the 190 year old indoor market, bringing huge bags of cakes home to the boat.

But first we stopped at Granary Wharf because we had read that The Book Barge was there. Take the time to read the 'About' page on that website and you will see why it is about so much more than just books, what it is that Mic & I believe is so important, and why we fell completely for this ridiculous idea.

We're staying here for another day; our disabled son needs collecting from respite before we depart on our 'proper' autumn holiday. But over the next week we're going to Saltaire and beyond.