Narrowboat Adventure #9: Spikes, guillotines and territorial swans

Narrowboat Adventure #9:

Saturday 12th to Monday 14th March 2022

The “Dash for Diggle” to make the booking for Standedge Tunnel had a knock on effect for the rest of the schedule. Robert had hoped that the planned works at Hebdon Bridge would be finished by the time we got there. Regular checks on the website continued to show the completion date as Friday 18th March.

With time to spare, Day 25 was therefore declared a day of rest in Brighouse. As this was a Saturday with two Six Nations matches on Robert didn’t feel this was too much of a sacrifice. Robert and Henry fortified themselves for the day ahead, this time with a Wetherspoons cooked breakfast at a very reasonable price.

Matilda, Sue and Henry took a stroll round the town in the morning. The Ship Inn, was built in 1926 using timbers from the HMS Donegal built in 1868. When we told a friend that we were staying in Brighouse she exclaimed that it was “brass band country and lovely up there”. Matilda was therefore not surprised to see the street art celebrating the mill band. As we are currently on the route known as the Cheshire Ring she also bought several samples of Cheshire cheese at Czerwik, where the staff were very friendly and helpful.

The dry cleaners was housed in an interesting historic building and had a sewing machine and large iron hanging outside, presumably to advertise the services available. We had wanted to go to Jeremy’s as this is a canal side establishment but at the time we were feeling thirsty it had yet to open so instead we dropped into The Secret Tearooms for a welcome cup of coffee. 

One of The Duke’s many idiosyncrasies is the inability of the batteries to cope with modern living. Robert had been into Brighouse to try and watch the Six Nations matches in a pub earlier but unfortunately they all seemed to be either without televisions or showing football instead. Having not motored and therefore not rechared the batteries during the day, back on board we found the TV could not draw enough power and the coverage kept freezing. Robert was forced to use his computer to watch the games on a smaller screen.

Robert and Henry once again fortified themselves for the day ahead with a Wetherspoons cooked breakfast and we bought some more groceries before setting off at 10:30. It felt good to be moving again and the new crew recruits moved seamlessly back into their roles . . .

. . . on lock duty.

At Cromwell Lock we passed a boat coming out who kindly left the gates open for us to glide serenely in. They informed us that Hebden Bridge was still navigable and we could continue although this is not currently showing on the closures on the website. It subsequently proved not to be true.

Also at Cromwell Lock Henry had to use the spike to open the old style paddle mechanism. A passing walker who lived in Elland told Sue and Henry about the heronry just after Cromwell Lock but we failed to spot this from the canal.

From his elevated viewpoint, Henry took pictures showing the power of the water entering the locks as well as the audience which we seemed to attract.

Meanwhile, Matilda spent most of her time once again as chief dog handler and hot beverage maker.

Unfortunately not many places were open in Elland on a Sunday, but the Britannia Building [not pictured], formerly the Hudddersfield and Halifax Bank built in 1893, has a striking statue of Boudicca on the top and the Halifax coat of arms on the left and the Huddersfield coat of arms to the right.

We moored opposite a converted property which still had the entrance where boats would have unloaded their cargoes. This was next to the Barge and Barrel and as we moored up, several customers came out and watched as Robert was bothered by a territorial swan. Later Matilda met a photographer who had also been assaulted by the swan who told her that “he had form” as he had been known to attack people last year in defence of his mate. We saw their nest on the other side of the bridge.

Day 26 in brief: from Brighouse to Elland in 5 minutes 26
Barge & Barrel, Elland – hostelry for day 26

13/03/2022 – Miles: 2.72 – Locks: 6 – 2h15m

The route for day 26 – Brighouse to Elland

As we left the following morning the same swan followed Sue and Henry as they made their way quickly past him on the towpath. It then transferred its attention to The Duke and made three bold sorties to defend its mate and protect its territory. We would all appreciate such incredible devotion and bravery in a mate, especially in the face of the superior power and size of the enemy threat.

Further on we came across some repair works in the canal with just a narrow place to pass. Unfortunately, there had been a break in and some of the tools and equipment had been interfered with. Having passed by, we found blue rope trailing behind The Duke which had been floating in the water and was now wrapped firmly round the propellor. Time for Robert to open up the weed hatch again.

There were some interesting wooden sculptures on tree stumps as we approached Long Lees Lock but the installation would have been quite precarious as these were close to the bank and on quite steep inclines.

Salterhebble Bottom Lock is a slow-moving, electrically-operated guillotine lock.

Henry had to climb to cross from one side to the other to close the traditional gates on our exit.

Sometimes, the locks seem to take a while to fill and there is time to enjoy the sunshine.

Day 27 in brief – Elland to Sowerby Bridge in 6 minutes 56
The Moorings, Sowerby Bridge – hostelry for day 27

10/03/2022 – Miles: 1.53 – Locks: 5 – 3h30m

The route for day 27 – Elland to Sowerby Bridge

Route Map:

Days: 27 – Miles: 206.25 – Locks: 242

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