Skipton and Swing Bridges

The stretch of canal between Bingley and Skipton, all 17 miles, has no locks so it should be straightforward, but of course it has swing bridges. Now it has to be said that we are familiar with swing bridges of all sorts - manual, semi automatic, and fully automatic. However we didn't count on what was to occur.

Firstly, we have to report on the weather. The forecast wasn't that good, particularly for May, but it blew hard all day from the East and it was cold. The forecast sun in the afternoon didn't materialise. At the second swing bridge out of Bingley we met our first problem of the day. Micklethwaite bridge (199) is electrified but not fully automatic, the barriers are manual and there are a number of interlocks. Maggie stopped the traffic with the barriers, swung the bridge, Albert passed through, the bridge was swung back, the barriers lowered and all was well - well not quite. Our BW key operating the system was stuck in the lock! We obviously couldn't proceed. Lots of locals crossing the bridge offered comments such as "there are always problems with the bridge". We called the BW Emergency Number and got no answer. A repeat call finally got an operator who passed on the message to Leeds and after about 20 minutes some operatives arrived. They removed our key and sent us on our way. I enquired about problems with the bridge and got the response "it hasn't been too bad recently - we haven't be called out for about 10 days"!

The trip up the Aire valley was delightful with lots more bluebell woods. We were quite sheltered from the wind and although it wasn't sunny it was pleasant. As we moved more into the Dales the scenery became more rugged and the wind became more of problem. At Holden Swing Bridge (193), I dropped Maggie off to operate the bridge but, being keen not to stop in an exposed position I stopped near some trees. Maggie opened the bridge easily but when casting off I could not get Albert out from the bank because she was aground. I pushed her off with me difficulty but only moved into the windy section and she blew back onto the bank. This continued for some time and all the manoeuvres I tried to get out from the bank failed. Eventually with both of us bow hauling, and the engine in forward gear, we got Albert up to the bridge and then through it. It was then that we realised that Albert's propeller had got heavily fouled in the process and we had no real power. We then had to moor up and clear the prop through the weed hatch. The problem was a heavy duty bag (like a Hippo bag) completely enveloping the prop. It required a lot of cutting to get it free. Eventually we succeeded but the whole episode probably took about an hour to solve.

Rubbish around the propeller

We had hoped to exchange one of our gas bottles at Silsden but they were occupied with their hire boats. Most of their fleet was moored up, but a few boats were going out for the weekend. We just had to stop for lunch after our exertions as we were tired and hungry, and it was 2:30. As we cast off following lunch the first of the Silsden hire fleet approached the swing bridge where we were moored and then overtook us - it was one of two boats forming a stag party.  At the next swing bridge there was some confusion and the crew of a wide beam, also from Silsden, took exception to us closing the bridge behind us - the correct procedure.

Memorial to Polish Airmen, Bridge 183

Bluebell woods near Farnhill, Airedale

We travelled the rest of the journey to Skipton in close company with the two stag party boats who lightened up a cold windy afternoon. They were noisy and exuberant but were polite and helpful.

A gibbon on the stag-party boat

We moored up in Skipton on the last visitor mooring near Belmont Bridge. We had a brief evening walk around the town and quickly got back to our warm boat. It is mid-May but you wouldn't know it - more like November. It is now raining as well as being cold and windy. Good job we took on some more coal recently.

Visitor moorings, Skipton
Skipton, junction with Springs Branch

Springs Branch