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Customer blog

30 June

Voyage to Sheffield

Posted by Andrew Bradley

The call of the cut is very strong and although my wife and I are both 78 this year we were drawn to an area of the country we had not cruised before as we set off from Sowerby Bridge on 31st May 2021 headed for Sheffield. There was an even stronger reason for choosing our first time in Nicholson’s Volume 6 as we were to visit children and grandchildren in Sheffield we had not seen since Summer 2020.

With 29 cruising weeks since 2010, hand over by the Shire Team was very straightforward and we were away and reached our planned destination at Ganny Lock outside Brighouse having battled, for only the second time in our cruises, with the unique Spike operated Calder & Hebble paddle gear. A lovely invitation at our first mooring was to spend some time with the owners of the other boat moored close by. It felt like being part of the Cut community even though we were only hirers, albeit frequent ones.

Leaving Brighouse next morning after availing ourselves of the canalside branch of Sainsburys we paired up with a private boat headed for Huddersfield as far as Cooper Bridge Junction where we entered new waters – we had done the Rochdale Ring some years earlier. Such meetings make a cruise, as we shared stories with those on our companion boat owned and skippered by a Dredger Captain.

Now the hard work began as, sadly, the Calder & Hebble Navigation locks appear not to have seen oil or grease for a very long time and were incredibly stiff to operate and with a number of paddles out of commission, slower than we had anticipated. However with much exertion we maintained our schedule, which, because of major breach in 2020 on the Aire and Calder Navigation, required our arrival at Pollington Lock no later than 1000 hrs on Thursday for passage through to Sykehouse Lock on the New Junction Canal the only route to Sheffield. Initially 5 miles dead straight! But what bliss – electrically operated locks!

Before setting off we subscribed to the CRT email notification service which gives information relating to stoppages for various reasons and we were relieved that a brief one at Whitley Lock was resolved as passing through we were where we needed to be for our arrival at Pollington. It was also a new experience to have electrically operated locks, some manned by CRT Staff and Volunteers, on a canal. It was also an experience to pass through Pollington Lock with 10 other boats of varying sizes as the locks were built for commercial traffic which sadly we did not see as the breach mentioned earlier has closed the waterway inland from Goole from whence the commercial traffic originated.

An uneventful journey on towards Sheffield did offer one anxious moment as arriving late in the evening at Sprotbrough Lock we found it closed with an email check informing us that it was closed until engineers arrived to deal with an electrical fault. Happily this was sorted early on Friday morning.

Reading up the route to Sheffield makes the final few miles sound problematic as it is a requirement that after Rotherham boats have to be worked up the Tinsley Flight of 12 locks with CRT staff to assist. This is due to water control measures as Sheffield’s Victoria Basin is the terminal of the canal. However it is a pleasure to place on record the help and assistance of Dave Walker, the Tinsley Lock Keeper of 32 years standing who went out of his way to make our passage a pleasure and delight.

Leaving Sheffield again on Sunday morning after a wonderful time with family we began our return journey, slightly anxious about the physical labour of the Calder & Hebble locks but relieved that going up would be less traumatic than coming down. Traumatic might be a bit unfair but going down from canal to river section it was guess work where the Lock Landing might be to pick up crew after working the lock. It was a matter of creeping out of the lock tail and working out if the landing was upstream or downstream and on a couple of occasions it was upstream towards the weir rather than in the direction in which we wanted to go.

However before getting stuck in to these we had to meet a time slot at Sykehouse Lock for the return journey and then found ourselves losing nearly 24 hours at Kings Road Lock due to a shattered casting holding a lock gate collar. A problem beautifully and elegantly solved, at least to get us through by CRT lengthsmen and lock keepers with years of experience. The stoppage though gave opportunity for good conversations with fellow travellers.

Released from this stoppage good progress was made and it was a relief to be through the hardest of the C&H locks as we reached Brighouse Basin planning how we should use what were now effectively two spare days. We had considered options earlier and our one regret is that we did not use these to navigate the Selby Canal. Now there was just one option, namely to head up the Rochdale as far as Hebden Bridge on reaching the Shire Base once again.

The passage from Brighouse was uneventful except for the rear fender of the boat being attacked four times by a swan in the space of a couple of hundred yards as we passed through Elland. This ‘attack’ which involved taking off with a great flapping of wings and beating of feet before landing immediately behind Lincoln and pecking at the fender. All to defend a nest we had not even seen at that point. This section also involved an interesting lock operation as the official Lock Landing was off limits due to towpath collapse and the temporary landing could not be reached due to underwater obstructions. So it was ignore the ‘do not use on’ the official side and bypass the barriers closing the towpath.

The closing excitements of a great fortnight were two passages through Tuel Lane Lock and exchanging the flat landscape of the Aire and Calder for the hills around Hebden Bridge.

A great fortnight. Thank you Shire and all your customer care for helping to make it happen.