Canal Boat - - Contents - TEXT & PIC­TURES BY MARTIN LUDGATE

Join us on a trip north­wards along the York­shire Ouse, the River Ure and the Ripon Canal

A ti­dal river, a non-ti­dal river with two dif­fer­ent names and a canal: it’s a var­ied chain of wa­ter­ways that lead north­wards through York­shire, (al­most) as far north as pos­si­ble on the con­nected wa­ter­ways net­work of Eng­land and Wales

Ar­ti­cles about the chain of wa­ter­ways lead­ing north­wards from the York­shire net­work to Ripon al­ways used to be sure to men­tion the snip­pet of in­for­ma­tion that this was the north­ern­most point on the con­nected net­work of wa­ter­ways of Eng­land and Wales.

Not any more: since the Rib­ble Link opened up a con­nec­tion to the Lan­caster Canal in 2001, Te­wit­field in Lan­cashire has stolen that hon­our from York­shire. But de­spite los­ing out to the Red Rose ri­val (by about a mile and a half), Ripon is still an out­post of the sys­tem that it’s well worth mak­ing the ef­fort to visit. And just like get­ting to Te­wit­field, it be­gins with an in­ter­est­ing ti­dal pas­sage.

There are three ways of reach­ing the York­shire Ouse: from the ti­dal Trent at Trent Falls; from the Aire & Calder Nav­i­ga­tion’s main line at Goole; and from the Aire & Calder’s Selby Canal branch at Selby. Most vis­it­ing in­land craft will use the last of these (but see Boaters’ Notes); so that is where we will be­gin.

The need to take ac­count of tides and lock open­ing hours may mean wait­ing in Selby for some time – but with a good shop­ping cen­tre, plenty of places to eat and drink, and the Abbey to visit, there’s plenty to fill the time. It used to also be a ship­build­ing cen­tre, with the fi­nal ves­sel launched as re­cently as the 1990s.

It’s a good idea to take the Selby lock-keeper’s ad­vice on the best time to

de­part, but typ­i­cally, the tide will be com­ing in quite quickly, so you will need to be alert as you turn left into the river and line up for the two swing­bridges. First there is a rather fine old rail­way bridge (don’t worry, you won’t need it opened for a nar­row­boat) com­plete with sig­nal-box on top. This is fol­lowed after a cou­ple of hun­dred yards by the road bridge, a 1970s con­crete struc­ture built in the style of the 18th Cen­tury tim­ber bridge which it re­placed, and also high enough for in­land craft to pass un­der. You no longer need to watch out for cargo ships and other com­mer­cial ves­sels these days, so after a sharp right turn on the edge of the town, you can set­tle down to en­joy the jour­ney, with the force of the tide re­duc­ing as you con­tinue up-river.

Bridges on the Ouse are few and far be­tween – it’s eight miles un­til the next road cross­ing at Ca­wood, a swing­bridge dat­ing back to the 1870s. Other than

‘York city cen­tre makes the most of its river­side from Skelder­gate Bridge to Len­dal Bridge where it passes within the city walls’

Ca­wood, vil­lages such as Barlby, Ric­call and Kelfield have been built some way from the river to avoid floods, mak­ing for a rather quiet and iso­lated wa­ter­way. (Not that we’d ad­vise you to at­tempt to tie up on the tide­way to visit these places any­way.) And speak­ing of floods, to get some idea of what the Ouse is ca­pa­ble of, look at the height of Ca­wood Bridge at nor­mal lev­els, and bear in mind that at times of flood, the water has been known to flow over the top of the bridge.

An­other seven miles of wind­ing river be­tween high banks leads past Acaster Selby to Naburn Locks and the end of the tide­way. When we say ‘locks’, we ac­tu­ally mean ‘lock’ these days: only the larger of the two locks is now in use, hav­ing been mech­a­nised in re­cent years.

The non-ti­dal river has a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter from the tide­way, me­an­der­ing through pleas­ant coun­try­side and with

moorings and wa­ter­side pubs at Acaster Mal­bis and Naburn vil­lages. A two-span metal bridge (the first since Ca­wood) used to carry the East Coast Main Line rail­way; since the line was di­verted in 1983, it has be­come a cy­cle­way.

The York By-pass bridge her­alds the be­gin­ning of the ap­proach to the city, but a mar­gin of water mead­ows on each side means there isn’t re­ally a feel­ing of be­ing in a built-up area. A lift-bridge on the right shows where the River Foss joins: once nav­i­ga­ble for 11 miles via eight locks to Sher­iff Hut­ton, since the mid-19th Cen­tury, nav­i­ga­tion has been lim­ited to the first mile and a quar­ter (in­clud­ing Cas­tle Mill Lock) in York.

York city cen­tre makes the most of its river­side, es­pe­cially from Skelder­gate Bridge to Len­dal Bridge where it passes within the city walls. King’s Staith and Queen’s Staith face each other across the water, both with river­side bars and restau­rants, and nu­mer­ous trip boats ply the water in sum­mer. There are vis­i­tor moorings just north of the city cen­tre, where you can tie up with most of York’s at­trac­tions an easy walk away.

As on the south side, York’s north­ern out­skirts keep their dis­tance from the river, which soon re­turns to at­trac­tive coun­try­side with wa­ter­side mead­ows. Raw­cliffe Mead­ows and Clifton Ings stretch along the east bank for al­most two miles, pro­vid­ing a re­serve for many plant, bird, mam­mal and in­sect species – as well as the orig­i­nal water meadow func­tions of graz­ing cat­tle in sum­mer and hold­ing flood­wa­ter in win­ter.

Leav­ing York be­hind, the river heads north-west­wards, pass­ing Ben­ing­brough (where the Ge­or­gian Ben­ing­brough Hall is open to the pub­lic) and Nun Monk­ton (where the Nuns’ Chapel sur­vives from the pri­ory which gave the vil­lage its name). The tall spire of New­ton-on- Ouse church is a land­mark as the river turns west­wards to reach Lin­ton Lock, in an at­trac­tive set­ting with its ad­ja­cent weir.

Lin­ton is some­thing of a river­side cen­tre with boat­yard, chan­dlery, camp­site and moorings based around the lock. It’s also been some­thing of a his­tor­i­cal quirk at times: un­til the 1980s when the then Bri­tish Wa­ter­ways took it over (as part of a fund­ing pack­age to put it back in good or­der), the lock was still owned by the in­de­pen­dent Lin­ton Lock Com­mis­sion­ers, whose in­come from boats was for­merly sup­ple­mented by a small hy­dro-elec­tric sta­tion at the weir. Of rather more prac­ti­cal im­por­tance to­day is the fact that at around 60ft long, Lin­ton Lock marks the limit of nav­i­ga­tion for full-length narrowboats.

An­other quirk of the river is that two

miles beyond Lin­ton, where its course turns north­wards again, and a small stream called the Ouse Gill Beck en­ters, it changes its name. From here on­wards, we are on the River Ure Nav­i­ga­tion.

One thing that hasn’t changed for our en­tire jour­ney is the long dis­tance be­tween bridges: a toll bridge and a foot­bridge near Ald­wark are fol­lowed by many miles of at­trac­tively wind­ing but quiet river to Bor­ough­bridge. Mid­way along this length the River Swale en­ters from the north: the Swale (along with its trib­u­tary the Bedale Beck) was to have been made nav­i­ga­ble un­der the same Act of Par­lia­ment which au­tho­rised the build­ing of Lin­ton Lock, but lack of money meant it was never com­pleted. Ap­proach­ing Bor­ough­bridge, the nav­i­ga­tion chan­nel leaves the river,

pass­ing through Milby Lock and a half-mile ar­ti­fi­cial cut to reach Bor­ough­bridge’s bridges. Note the plu­ral: after so long with hardly a bridge, this is one of the few places on the wa­ter­ways where a nav­i­ga­tion passes through a traf­fic round­about, so there are two just yards apart! There’s also a handy vis­i­tor mooring site, where Bor­ough­bridge’s town cen­tre with shops and pubs are a short walk across the river bridge.

Leav­ing the town, look out on the left for a glimpse of the Devil’s Ar­rows, three tall Ne­olithic stand­ing stones. Then en­joy an­other three miles of quiet coun­try­side lead­ing to West­wick Lock. There’s a change to the scenery here, with wooded reaches form­ing part of the es­tate of Newby Hall (see in­set). Beyond Newby a fine, straight, wide length of river might give the im­pres­sion that there are many miles of nav­i­ga­ble water to come – but, in fact, we’re near­ing the limit of nav­i­ga­tion.

As the Ure bends north­wards, we

take a nar­row chan­nel on the left: this is the en­trance to the Ripon Canal, the last of this chain of wa­ter­ways. Climb­ing through Ox­close Lock, the canal con­tin­ues north-west­wards past Ripon Race­course and Ripon Mo­tor Boat Club’s ma­rina. For many years this was the head of nav­i­ga­tion (and, in­deed, the north­ern­most point on the nav­i­ga­ble net­work), as the re­main­der of the canal had fallen derelict and it was only the Boat Club’s ex­is­tence which kept this sec­tion open. But a restora­tion cam­paign

led to the re­open­ing of the fi­nal mile and two locks in 1996.

Pass­ing Ripon Race­course Ma­rina, the canal en­ters the edge of the city (yes, Ripon is a city, al­beit a small one), and the fi­nal half-mile is the clos­est to an ur­ban wa­ter­way that we have seen in our jour­ney. It’s no less pleas­ant for that, and it ends at a small basin sur­rounded by a mix­ture of orig­i­nal build­ings and mod­ern ones built in a sym­pa­thetic style, with the city cen­tre just a short walk away.

It may no longer hold any ge­o­graph­i­cal records, but it’s a real out­post of the wa­ter­ways net­work, and a splen­did end to a north­ward jour­ney.

Ca­wood Bridge, the only cross­ing be­tween Selby and the out­skirts of York

Wait­ing to en­ter the tide­way at Selby Lock

Leav­ing the ti­dal river be­hind at Naburn Locks

Lin­ton Lock and weir, the limit for longer craft

En­trance to the River Foss on the ap­proach to York

Pass­ing through York city cen­tre, with Len­dal Bridge in the back­ground

Quiet moorings at Bor­ough­bridge

A wide reach of the Ure near the head of nacvi­ga­tion

En­joy­ing the water near Newby Hall

The Ripon Canal above Ox­close Lock

Jour­ney’s end: the Ripon ter­mi­nus

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