Thursday, 28 June 2012

What a whopper

Ever since we started on the tidal Trent I've been keen to see one of the big commercial barges that operate on the waterways we've been using.
Now I have. And I pretty pleased we were tightly moored up at the time! They are big. In this case 182 feet long and getting on for 20 feet wide. It was a gravel barge on the return leg of its regular trip between Besthorpe on the Trent where it picks up 500 tons of sand and gravel  and the Lafarge wharf at Whitwood further down the Aire & Calder from us here at Pollington. It was one of three operated by the Branford family who've been commercial carrying on the area's waterways for many years and are now one of very few still in business.
We met the barge at the end of a day that started with thunderstorms but cleared after lunch and finished in a glorious sunny evening.When the rain stopped we left our mooring at Barnby Dun (not the nicest we've had because of the noisy traffic and an even noisier constantly barking alsation in a nearby house) and soon reached a Y-junction, the left fork of which is the New Junction Canal.
This was built in 1905 as a sort of waterway by-pass so that  commercial traffic could go between the Aire & Calder and the South Yorks Navigations without having to deal with the tidal Humber estuary. As a modern, functional canal it's arrow straight for its five mile length though boredom is broken by a series of swing and lift bridges along the way as well as a complicated lock that has a swing bridge in the middle of it! Not to mention a frail looking aqueduct over the River Don which had just a spindly handrail between us and the drop on one side.
At the top of the canal you swing left onto another wide commercial waterway, the Aire & Calder which runs east-west from Goole on the Humber to Castleford and up to Leeds as well as linking on to the various trans-Pennine waterways. It's another straight, wide waterway with huge locks that can take 200ft long vessels.
The original plan was to take it and the Calder&Hebble to join the Rochdale Canal for the Pennine trip. But the recent major flooding has badly affected the Rochdale so we've opted to take the long way round and go via the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. The alternative would have been the much shorter Huddersfield Narrow but we've done that and once is enough: the prospect of another three hours underground in the never -ending Standedge Tunnel breathing in the exhaust fumes from our smoky Petter was not something to contemplate. So it's Leeds-Skipton-Blackburn-Wigan-Manchester for us.


Mike, Mags, Poppy and Abbey said...

I think you have made a good choice for two reasons. The Leeds Liverpool is a good route. Picturesque and without notable problem spots. The Rochdale after Littleborough and into Manchester is the worst waterway we have travelled. I had to force people off the boat roof in places. Other dropouts who wanted a bottle of beer to help you to pass through a lock.

For us the Rochdale is bandit country never again.

Mick n Mags

Anonymous said...

I am getting concerned....I know you are part way through a rebuild of a biggger boat,Harry BUT are you now aspiring to 182ft monster?

On a serious note, it is nice to see the waterways being used as working canals. Just think of the number of Lefarge lorries that barge has taken off the road.

Lets hope the weather improves, I think we have seen enough rain to clear the drought problems. Keep the shorts off!