We welcomed some beautiful people on board during our Hebden Bridge soiree. Friends I grew up with in Sutton Coldfield during the 1960s now live in nearby Todmorden, so it was such a treasure to be able to see them.
Because of my visit to Brighton, it was a bit of a squeeze to see Pawel and his delightful family, but we all made the time to make it happen and they came for tea one evening after work and school.
My dear friend Mandy had been visiting her sister Renata (they’re both siblings of Pawels) in Sardinia the first week we were in the area, but we finally got together the evening before our next guests arrived – all the way from Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud, or New Zealand to the uninitiated!).
New Zealand comes to Hebden
Said guests arrived last Thursday – we were enthralled to welcome Ali, Gary, Dylan and Jade for two nights and exciting days. Dylan is Barry’s godson, and I guess I sort of inherited that role with Jade, as she was Barry’s first wife’s goddaughter. They’ve all been family friends of Barry’s for many years.
It was a very special time, and most surreal when we’re used to seeing them in Gisborne rather than not-so-sunny Yorkshire!
We had a wander around Hebden Bridge the evening they arrived, and thought we’d try a different pub. The White Swan in the centre of town looked quaint from the outside, but didn’t match up in reality with a sour-faced barmaid on duty looking like she’d been sucking a large lemon just as we arrived.
I’m not sure why we didn’t all just walk out, I guess we were being ‘polite’ as is the British way, so we all had one drink, took a photo for posterity and didn’t allow her attitude to taint our joviality, then re-visited the friendly and atmospheric Fox and Goose instead.
Lots of locks
Friday brought their first experience of narrow boating, and they certainly got a good grounding in locking – we went through eleven locks that day. It’s so much quicker with a crew of six than two!
I’ve yet to get Barry’s photos from our days together, but they’ll come in the near future I’m sure. Mine will have to suffice for now …
A few hours into our journey and we arrived at Tuel Lane Lock. This is the deepest lock on the system, falling 19 feet and 8 inches. I thought I’d get a photo when I was operating the lock, but that wasn’t to be (even though the previously documented deepest lock in Bath can be operated by boaters, and we’ve done that one successfully, it doesn’t include the related complications of this one) …
Due to its extreme depth, operation of the lock by boat crews is not permitted. Passage is controlled by a lock keeper. The lock is situated immediately to the west of the 114-yard (104 m) Tuel Lane Tunnel, and boat crews are advised to wait beyond the tunnel until passage into the lock is clear, as the tunnel is subject to turbulence when the lock is emptying.
We moored overnight at Sowerby Bridge. A pleasant little town, but not a patch on it’s near neighbours we’d just left. It may seem that we frequented a number of alcoholic establishments with our companions – and you’d be correct! There isn’t the same opportunity in Gisborne, so why not take the most of it? And it can be a little crowded on a narrowboat with six people …
The Calder and Hebble Navigation
After the deepest lock, we knew we’d soon encounter our next challenge of the shortest locks on the system.
The first two on the Calder and Hebble Navigation have been on our minds in recent times. Had we not been able to get through them, it would’ve meant retracing our journey back to Manchester – not a prospect either of us relished!
The exact lengths of the locks is quite variable from one to another. The two upper Salterhebble Locks are the shortest on the whole canal. It is occasionally necessary for a boat to go down these locks backwards. It is possible to wind above and below these two locks.
It must be pointed out that passing through some of these locks, especially the two upper Salterhebble Locks, with a narrowboat of 60′ length is tricky and a very tight fit, with the risk of the rudder catching the cill on descent. With a boat a fraction over 60′, the bottom gates will not open/close. Anyone planning to buy a boat and intending to use these canals regularly would be recommended to go for a length not exceeding 59′.
We did very well then, considering our boat is actually 60′ and 2″!
These locks also use a rather interesting paddle mechanism, which fortunately, Barry had read about and was prepared for!
We all heaved an audibly deep sigh of relief when the boat finally cruised proudly out of the first lock – it was definitely touch and go, as we’d been intermittently holding our breath watching Barry negotiate between the rear of the lock and the front gates, once he’d succeeded in keeping away from the cill.
Armed with that knowledge Barry reversed her into the second, and what we believed to be, shortest of the locks. That made all the difference!
Sadly our guests left round the corner from the guillotine lock. What a splendid time we had, and an amazing experience for them of the British Inland Waterways. The weather even remained warm and bright which was a bonus.
And another ‘est’ to come
Our next milestone will be the Standedge Tunnel which we’re booked a passage through on Monday 28th July.
This is the highest (not in terms of actual tunnel height, but 643 feet (196 m) above sea level), longest (16,499 feet (5,029 m) long), and deepest (636 feet (194 m) underground at its deepest point) of any canal tunnel on the system. Closed in 1944, reopened after a £5 million beneficiary in May 2001. In years gone by, boaters would have had to ‘leg it’ through – how claustrophobic would that be? In 2014 we’ll have a ‘trained chaperone’ to ensure we safely negotiate the journey, and must be fit enough to climb a 2 metre vertical ladder, and walk up to 2km along uneven ground, should the need arise!
For now, we’ve visited the nondescript town of Brighouse for a couple of nights (and our first encounter with some local idiots who pulled out one of our mooring pins in the early hours!), and moored up in a quieter spot at Cooper Bridge Junction on the Calder and Hebble.
We’ll continue on this canal for a while, then turn around to return here and take a left turn onto the Huddersfield Canal next week.