Waterway to spend your holiday...a canal lock-in
TEACHING SMALL children is physically, mentally and emotionally draining, which is why I prefer a specific type of vacation. I like to refer to it as an “Inactivity Holiday”. It typically involves lying about on a Mediterranean beach doing nothing more energetic than reading a Neil Gaiman novel and drinking cold beer.
Unfortunately, because Mrs Eddison is keen for us to remain physically active in later life, this year we are doing something more adventurous: a daring journey along ancient waterways and through unfamiliar landscapes; bravely navigating historical routes using a dangerously outmoded form of transport; boldly going where normal people don’t at speeds in excess of…three miles an hour?
We are in Skipton – gateway to the Yorkshire Dales – preparing to navigate the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in a narrow boat. Because I’m not used to operating a vessel several times longer than your average pedalo on a waterway much narrower than the sea, it is a voyage that begins with a lesson in basic boat handling. Our learning objective is to make it go forwards and backwards, and to push the tiller (the big handle at the back) in the opposite direction to where we want to go.
My initial unsolicited attempts at performing a U-turn are frowned upon by the local narrow boat community. Finally, after several muttered swear words and numerous loud apologies, we are heading in the right direction, and I begin to see the attraction of life in the slow lane. What could be more relaxing than this? Chugging along at water snail’s pace through the
Only when we arrive at our first lock does the reality of canal life hit me. And it does so with the force of several tons of water being transferred from one section of canal to another. Lesson two takes place at Holme Bridge
Lock and involves a lot of straining to lift heavy paddles, toiling to open unwieldy sluices and putting your back into heaving cumbersome gates into position. “Not many more locks between here and your first overnight stop at Gargrave,’ says our teacher as he waves us bon voyage. “Enjoy your relaxing break, guys.”
After consulting our map, we discover there are 15 locks between Skipton and our final destination just beyond the 200-year-old Foulridge Tunnel that will take us under the Pennines.
That’s 30 locks in total, because this is a round trip. And that doesn’t include several swing bridges that need opening and shutting. As holidays go, it might have proved exhausting if it hadn’t been for the accident.
Only when we arrive at our first lock does the reality of canal life hit me – and it does so with the force of several tons of water
During Mrs Eddison’s first attempt at the tiller, she experienced a minor panic attack. This, in turn, resulted in a small collision with two moored boats and ended with us getting beached in the shallows. Thereafter Mrs Eddison refused to steer and
– by default – volunteered to operate all locks and swing bridges for the rest of the journey.
“Fancy the South Pennine Ring next year?” I ask on our drive back to Sheffield the following week. “One hundred and ninety seven locks and...” Mrs Eddison isn’t listening. She’s asleep, dreaming about an Inactivity Holiday in a Mediterranean resort. Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield