Cruising UK Canals and Avoiding High Waters

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All packed up and ready to go!

During July we, (myself, Jon, our two dogs and 2 cats) set off again, on our annual cruise from our mooring in South Yorkshire, in our home on the water.  Last year, we travelled up to York and loved every minute of it.  This time, we said we’d like to explore other areas of the canal system, but with Jon’s work primarily being around the York area this summer we decided to head up to that magnificent city again, and why not?

The whole journey is fabulous from the South Yorkshire navigation to the Aire and Calder River, onto the beautiful Selby canal, braving the rapid Ouse river toward Naburn and then a sedate trip into York.

There’s always so much more to explore there too, especially as I’m a bit of a history lover so York again?  Absolutely!  Who knows, we may just head up further along another stunning stretch of water, the Ripon canal which leads to the heart of Ripon, if time allows, well that was the plan…

As we set off on a glorious, late afternoon one Friday, our first mooring wasn’t too far away.

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Somewhere on a canal bank in Mexborough

Just before Mexborough Low Lock is a nice quiet bank to hammer the pegs in and a safe place to let the cats out for a play. We set up our chairs, a glass of wine for me, a beer for Jon and relax…

Sprotbrough, was our next destination, always a nice spot especially if the weather is good.  There’s room on the bank to sit out, there are lovely walks or bike rides along the river Don or up into nearby woods then on towards Conisborough where the views from the viaduct are fabulous, you can also enjoy the local nature reserve.  There’s a good pub, The Boat Inn, which is always a bonus whilst on a good cruise, right?

While sitting in the comfort of our wheel house in Sprotbrough we watch many people enjoying the riverside, which is nice to see.  Walkers, joggers, bikers of all ages, couples enjoying ice creams or a coffee while sat on the bank, people playing on the water in inflatable boats and canoes whilst the pub beer garden is full of happy drinkers.  I love to see the water side being used by so many people.  Also another good area for the cats to be let out too, although they tended only to venture out later on in the evenings, when the place had quietened off.

Sprotbrough was our home for a couple of days because one of the main things about this cruise?  No rush!  A steady, relaxing meander up towards York, taking every day as it comes.  Jon still goes to work during the week, and I work from ‘our floating home’, wherever that may be, in-between doing my daily Yoga sessions and of course, a couple of good daily dog walks.

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View whilst taking a shower – not bad hey?

From there we were on our way towards Barnby Dun.  A quick fill up with water whilst in the lock at Long Sandall then on to where we’d be moored for a few days on one of our favourite bankings and where, again the cats could enjoy more fun in yet another location.  Just before the river Don splits with New Junction Canal.

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Minnie surveying her latest surroundings

Our cats, Minnie and Alfie have been travelling with us since they were kittens.  We take them to Cornwall every time we go down, which is quite often as we have family there so Cornwall is just another familiar home for them.  We’re always in the camper van when we go down, which makes travelling for them comfortable and as soon as we are there, they are straight out into their familiar surroundings.  With living on a boat, it’s a little different.  Whilst we are on our permanent mooring, they obviously know their surroundings very well there, but whilst we are cruising and mooring in various places along the way, this isn’t the case, but they associate the boat as their home, so as long as there aren’t any roads or a lot of people nearby with dogs, they can be let out to enjoy the countryside.  They are used to the boat moving and sense when we are mooring as they start to look out of the windows, inquisitive as to where they are.  They’ve never been cats who wander too far, or go off for more than a few hours, probably because they don’t want to miss the boat!

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Jon and Rose enjoying a little Canoedling

Before moving off again, I went to pick up a special guest who would be cruising with us for the next few days – My Mum ❤️

Mum’s been so positive and supportive of us moving onto the boat and indeed couldn’tIMG_0010 wait to be cruising with us.  It was a beautiful evening, so with Mum and bags onboard, glass of vino in hand we set off and it was lovely to see her so excited.

We headed up the New Junction canal, soon going over the first of three Aqueducts on this stretch, along with cruising under seven lift or swing bridges and Mum absolutely loved it.

I have to say, whenever I’m in a lock, going over aqueducts or under lift or swing bridges, I never take them for granted.  The history behind them, is incredibly interesting, I think about the people who were integral in creating them, from the designers, engineers and of course the men who spent many hours grafting, sweat and tears in making them, without the machines we have now.  Quite amazing.

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The sign as you turn onto the Aire & Calder River

At the top of the New Junction canal is the Aire and Calder Navigation, where you can turn right to Goole or left toward Leeds or Wakefield and further.

We turned left, cruised along this beautiful river at a steady pace until reaching Knottingly, where the steel shell of our boat was actually created and where myself and Jon did a lot of the hard work in making it what it is today, our home.  You can read about our beloved boats’ beginnings and all the hard work in making it into a homeHere.

At Knottingly we left the Aire and Calder, turning right up the wiggly winding river Aire

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Millie helping with a lock

where we would reach our mooring at West Haddlesey Flood Lock on the stunning Selby canal and where a few changes to our plans were to happen, because that’s when the heavens opened and it started raining and raining.  The river Aire now behind us rose very quickly making the lock marker rise from Green to Amber then to Red at a surprisingly fast pace, (there are water height markers on flood locks, with Green being at the normal height of the water and when its safe to go onto the river, then Amber where the height of the river goes up and you go but with caution, and Red where it’s really not advisable to cruise).   We were going to stay at this mooring for a couple of days then head up the Selby to the Flood Lock where you can book to be let out onto the river Ouse.   We’d booked passage for the following Saturday, but at that point advised, (actually told they wouldn’t let us out) not to go as the Ouse was too high, in fact there were rumblings of flood potential in York, which is quite common.  Believe me, you don’t want to be moored on a river which floods because it doesn’t take long before your boat in risen and landed on the bank where it can then be stranded and roll off sideways sinking!  Jon has in the past, during the Sheffield floods stood outside the boat all night batting it off the bank.  Not fun!  

This meant we were stranded on the Selby canal for a week while we waited for the Ouse to drop in height and for the chances of flooding to go.  We couldn’t turn back either because of the Aire being too high and fast, but the Selby is a canal, protected by the two flood locks, so we enjoyed a very calm, relaxing, very hot and humid week hopefully to be able to go through up to York the following Friday afternoon.  The rains still fell, so I took mum home, hoping to pick her up again after arriving in York.  We didn’t want her to be travelling on the Ouse with us, as it’s a tidal river, can be dangerous and if anything happened, it would be difficult to get her off the boat.

We stayed moored on the Selby whilst Jon went to work every week day as normal and I got a lot of my own work done and in-between the showers we played in the canoe and walked along this glorious canal.  I can think of worse places to be stranded!

For a couple of days in the week, we cruised up to and moored near Selby centre to find out what was happening with the river giving me a chance to wander around Selby, see its’ Abbey, which was a real treat, (I’m sorry my photo’s don’t do it justice), it was the first monastery to be founded in the north after the Norman Conquest, dating back to the 1100’s.  I also walked around the market, a little disappointed that it wasn’t a food market, although I did find a little something for my grand niece which I couldn’t resist buying.

At Selby Lock, the Environmental Health Department had put up a big iron gate in front of the Lock, which meant it was pretty serious on the river.  They were still letting some boats through, but very few and at particular times in the week, of course we couldn’t go in the week, because of Jons work, but he would be able to take Friday afternoon off if we were to go through.  It wasn’t looking promising and to be honest, we were a little concerned that the river in York was still very high with much more rain forecast.  IMG_0028It was a chance for us to fill up with water again, empty our rubbish and toilet, in the facilities provided for boaters.  We didn’t feel comfortable letting the cats out here because of the traffic and town centre, not to mention them thinking the green algae on the water was grass!  So we decided to cruise, again back towards West Haddlesley where it’s much nicer for the cats, but it was also at that point where we decided that we’d change our plans.  We agreed York and Ripon wasn’t going to happen this time so we looked at the map and after Jon got home on Thursday evening, we unhitched and headed out onto the, (at last) much lower and friendlier waters of the river Aire.  We’d try to make it to Castleford before dark.  It was a relatively easy run, although we slightly miscalculated the time it would take, meaning we entered Castleford lock around 10pm in darkness, trying desperately not to disturb other moored boaters with lights on full and a noisy engine.  It was a long run and never easy in the dark as you can easily get a little disorientated on the water, but we finally moored, glass of vino in hand, Phew!

The plan was to meander towards Leeds, which is new territory for us on the canals, then maybe, time allowing, head toward Skipton.  Hoping our new plans would go smoothly from then on, we moored in Castleford Thursday evening looking forward to heading off Saturday morning having the whole weekend to cruise – No, that wasn’t happening!

There was a weather warning on Friday all over the country, bringing heavy rain and strong winds.  We woke Saturday morning to the warning lights on both locks flashing red.  Great, we were now stranded in Castleford, not able to go either way.

This cruise certainly isn’t going to plan, so what to do when you can’t move anywhere?  Spend the whole weekend working on the boat, of course.  Our home on water still has so much yet to complete so Jon worked on fitting a new back door for the wheelhouse and I spent the weekend sanding and varnishing woodwork.

Let’s hope this UK weather is a little kinder next week and that these rivers go down so we can carry on cruising!

Hope you all had a great weekend and that your plans worked out well 😉

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Me with Crazy Rose (left) and our beautiful, (late, but always remembered) Jenna 💕

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Millie our ‘Funny’ Puggly

 

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28 thoughts on “Cruising UK Canals and Avoiding High Waters

    1. Haha! Yup going with the flow is all we can do 🙂 Sprotbrough is lovely, well where we moor is, I don’t know the town very much. Thank you for reading Anabel 🙂

    1. Thank you Cara 😊 yes 2 lucky cats, 2 lucky dogs & 2 lucky us 😊 this life is a little different, not to everyone’s liking, but we love it 😍

    1. Yes we’re lucky with our cats, they do seem very happy on the boat 😊 Thanks, got lucky with a bee that kept pretty still 😊

    1. Thanks for reading. The Uk canal system has a fascinating history. It’s mainly pleasure boat use now though with the exception of some commercial. 😊

  1. Shame about the weather Sam but it didn’t seem to stop you getting around. What a wonderful way of life you have, it looks idyllic. So relaxing and easy-going. You’ve got it right.

    1. Thanks it is a lovely, slower pace of life & we love it. Not for everyone though, it does have its ups & downs, but then doesn’t everything?! 😀

  2. These pictures are so gorgeous; I am massively envious! I would adore this way of life. Not possible, but…..

    1. Always an excuse 😉 it’s wonderful, slow pace, with nature. Not for everyone but we love it. Won’t be forever, but a few years, yes definitely 😊🌿 thanks Terry 😊

  3. Hi Sam, you always have such a great way of showing us your travels so that it makes us feel we’re with you. I do hope the weather improves for you and that you continue to enjoy yourselves. Your photos show a lovely way of life and your mum certainly looks happy to be with you. We are just making plans for a visit to UK later this year to see Melanie our daughter, all so exciting! Take care and thanks again for sharing, I’ll be back to see how you get on. Debbie

  4. Hi Sam! I just popped over from your comment on SMART Living and wanted to say “Hi!” I love the idea of floating down a canal and enjoying nature and the beauty all around you. I love the photos of your dogs and cat enjoying the trip 🙂 I am sure my dog Kloe would be over-joyed if she could join us on such a journey. Plus I think it is wonderful that you can just park along the river bank at night and wander around. That reminds me of the time we took a Dahabiya down the Nile in Egypt and did something similar. Of course we had a crew and even a cook to set up our dinners and/or build the fire at night–but still a magical experience. ~Kathy

    1. Thanks for this Kathy, yes we love this lifestyle. We tend to stay on a permanent mooring all winter so it’s brilliant to set off for a few months in summer. A fabulous way of life 😊 your trip down the Nile sounds wonderful! Thanks for stopping by 😊

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