Friends on board – a few challenges and achievements with the ‘ests’

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.


Pawel, Sally, Lillie, Scarlett and Sandra

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!).


Mandy and I – the silver foxes I think someone suggested when I posted this on Facebook!

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!


Heather and Tony kindly gifted some fudge to our visitors


Ali and Jade get to know our neighbours

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.

The White Swan


The White Swan in Hebden Bridge – appallingly miserable barmaid there, but we didn’t let that stop our joy at being together again

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 …


Ali takes a turn at driving Areandare

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.

Leaving the cavernous Tuel Lane Lock - straight into a tunnel before the next manned lock

Leaving the cavernous Tuel Lane Lock – straight into a tunnel before the next manned lock

Sowerby Bridge

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 rather swish ‘Blind Pig’


And the historic Puzzle Hall Inn  a special place advertising the sale of home brewing from the 18th century



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!


Showing off a little at his forethought! You can see the mechanism in the foreground, where the plank of wood is inserted and bit-by-bit the paddle is raised or lowered


Looking like the cat that got the cream bless him!


Hurrah! We fit with inches to spare …


Taking off the back button and the front fender to give us those precious few inches more …


Nudging onto the walkway of the lock gates – knowing we need to be very mindful of this as the lock slowly empties …


Very slowly and cautiously opening the paddles, just the one, and being ready to drop it at a moment’s notice …


Captain Barry watching nervously as the water level drops …


Taking my eyes off for just a second …


Gary appears concerned – looks like we’ll make it though …


Keeping her away from the cill …


Watching hopefully …


Aha! So now what?


Barry has to walk along the roof of the boat to get to the front rope to throw it up, so we can pull the boat over and across to the open gate – meaning the back of the boat is closer to the deluge of water cascading down!




Watching helplessly as the water pours over the stern – Barry’s closed the back entrance doors by now though

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.


Phew! Well done Captain – maybe we’ll do the second and possibly shorter one differently?

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!


Entering lock number two backwards – shame we didn’t do it in the first one


Holding onto the bow rope ready to keep the boat in the centre


Guiding the stern to one side


Hold on!


Made it! What a fantastic crew we had!


Out he comes – the rest were tight but managed forward



The final obstacle before our guests left – working the guillotine lock


We had to re-set the electrically operated switch, but got there in the end …

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.

5 thoughts on “Friends on board – a few challenges and achievements with the ‘ests’

  1. Pingback: Through Barry’s lens – Kiwi friends on board … | Adventures Aboard AreandAre

  2. HI Sandra
    I am having fun following your adventures in areas we know but have never visited by water ! I am sure we were served by the same sour faced barmaid in Hebden last time we were there !
    We are not cruising at the moment as I broke my ankle in May slipping at the bottom of the locks in Chester, so Autumn cruises for us this year.
    If you are in Marsden make sure you go to the “Riverhead Pub and Dining Rooms” they do great food and best of all they have a microbrewery in the basement Barry will think he has died and gone to heaven ! If you go give us a bell and we will come and join you !

    Liz and Andy (nb Midland Star)

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