I awoke bright and early, raring to go and hot-footed it out to Kings Cross to catch the 8:10 train to Leeds. Unbeknownst to me Tom Wood and Hugh were also on this train and so, enlightened to this fact a while later, I went to join them, mildly concussing those I passed with my bag. The tour had an inauspicious start when an announcement was made that the line to Leeds was blocked due to a person under a train and the train would be terminating early. This led to a lot of detours and resulted in our arrival at Silsden about 40 minutes later than planned. Jacqui and Chris had arrived by car just before us, having returned from the vital beer run to the Copper Dragon brewery, and together we went to join Roger and Lucy in the nearby greasy spoon for breakfast. We were soon joined there by Luke and Tom Sibley who had come by the later train.
Having been assigned our boats, we then swapped. Lucy had put her bags on the wrong boat and was unwilling to move them. Sailing aboard Ian’s Drum was Mariko, Jacqui, Chris, both Toms and Hugh while Isla’s Drum was manned by a scanty crew consisting of Roger, Lucy and Luke.
Our first task once both crews had taken their positions was to turn both the boats around. Isla’s Drum (plus Tom Wood) motored off rapidly to the advised turning point, about 6 minutes away, and Ian’s Drum followed soon after. Under the expert guidance of Captain Spalding we steered a steady course up the canal, and turned around, eventually by having Chris and Tom Sibley jump off and haul the boat around. Wondering where the other boat was, we phoned them and found that having been through several swing bridges they still hadn’t reached the turning point…
After the highly successful(ish) manoeuvring, it was Chris’s turn at the helm. It was then that we first encountered one of the major hazards of the canal. Twice. Having finally got ourselves free and away from sandbanks, with Hugh once more at the helm, Chris made the noble decision to save us all from the evils of gambling by pre-empting the inevitable sweepstake and took a leap of faith towards the boat, and missed. We had been on the water for but 20 minutes, a tough record for any future UL canal boat trips to beat. Not only that but he managed to lose his phone, and had to buy a new one for the second time on a UL trip this year!
A peaceful (relatively) journey on our plotted course followed and we travelled onwards (with only a brief pause while Chris “put his hand in the old girls hole” [prop shaft] and retrieved a pair of lacy black knickers), with a good tailwind to Crossflatts where we would drop anchor for the night. Unfortunately, as we neared our destination we were taken by the other boat that passed us at a great rate of knots steered by Luke. They were on the way to collect another of their shipmates, Alex, at Crossflatts who, due to the lateness of our arrival had been forced to sit hour after torturous hour in a pub with nothing to do but drink beer.
Day 2 – Sunday 19th September
The day began bright and early with a train journey from Crossflatts to Keighley. In a flash of genius Chris, Jacqui and Mariko decided to reach the station via an obvious “shortcut”… I mean, we could see the station from the canal. A clamber through a hole in a fence, a wade through long wet grass, a walk along the dual carriageway and a scramble over the wall later we had to concede that the more conventional route was indeed quicker. A nice ring at Keighley was had despite the extreme length of the ropes that prompted JW to ring kneeling down! Here also was the first demonstration that all was not as well as it could have been in the Stedman stakes… A brief dither occurred during which some hungry members of the party indulged in a second breakfast from Greggs, resulting in Luke’s consumption of a chicken mayo, and sausage roll sandwich. A steam train ride to Oxenhope followed, with a copius amount of jaffa cakes consumed. Ringing at Oxenhope was enjoyed with Stedman Triples fired out in top style. A steam train ride again to the next destination, Haworth where I’d Rather Be In The Tavern Treble Bob Minor was successfully rung. Following this the evening ended with drinking and a curry in Bingley where Luke surprised everyone by having 10
popadoms for dinner rather than the expected 10 currys.
Day 3 – Monday 20th September
Monday started early with a cruise to Bingley. Here was the home of the largest flight of locks we would encounter, the Bingley 5-rise and the Bingley 3-rise. During this time lunch was eaten on the boat leaving us ready for an afternoons ringing. Firstly at Idle, home of the Idle Working Mens’ Institute and of course an important photo stop! The next tower was Ilkley, the town with the eponymous moor and the opportunity to traverse Ilkley Moor bah t’at was taken up by a few who got off the train early to go for a quick walk. A rather unsuccessful ring at Ilkley followed during which I think almost nothing came round until the local returned when thankfully we managed to acquit ourselves creditabley. Drinking and pies in the Bar t’at followed before a train back to the boats where the evening ended in Bananagrams, Uno and gin.
Day 4 – Tuesday 21st September
Breakfast issues were experienced on Tuesday morning when in addition to the usual greasy bacon smoke, we also had the acrid black fumes of burnt plastic due to the bacon packet itself becoming involved. Jacqui’s steering skills resulted in a collision with a very large boat full of people trying to enjoy their breakfast and caused Chris to lose the majority of his pint in a bush. A shag uphill later we had a ring at Calverley followed by a series of locks which caused Nick to appreciate the pressure of water behind lock gates as it poured in on top of him! Isla’s drum was also involved in a nasty incident involving a daring overtake resulting in their immobilisation on a sandbank while we steamed ahead. An innocent passer-by narrowly escaped with her life as a barrier for a swing bridge was almost dropped on her and a ring on the light 6 at Saltaire ended the day before returning to the delights of Fanny’s Ale and Cider House.
Day 5 – Wednesday 22nd September
A quiet cruise to Bingley allowed us to ring at the only tower on the tour with a full set of Yorkshire tail-ends. These were difficult to handle for those with small hands! After this we ascended the 5-rise and 3-rise locks again and cruised to Kildwick where we rang at St Andrew, a nice 8. A cruise to Skipton and a delicious dinner cooked to Jacqui’s mum’s “Easy Dinner party Chicken” recipe was enjoyed (the casserole dish and an improvisation including the fruit bowl – to cope with the extra – had to be employed!) followed by an apple and blackberry crumble (constructed from apples collected from the canalside earlier that day) and the inevitable gin and games. On Wednesday night, the other boat also eventually gained another crew member in the post of Ship’s Dog.
Day 6 – Thursday 23rd September
Ringing occurred at Gargrave and Settle, during which I believe one of the touches of Stedman actually came round. A plan was formulated on our boat for a proper breakfast on what would be the penultimate morning of the tour. A trip to the supermarket and the butcher yielded many delights including sausages, bacon, square sausage, black pudding, white pudding, hash browns, tomatoes and eggs. Spaghetti bolognaise cooked by Poodle was enjoyed followed by games in the boat including Bananagrams, which Lucy proved far too adept at and also “Gee’s Game” as proposed by Peter which involved lots of bits of paper and clues such as “the trad”.
Day 7 – Friday 24th September
The day of the Big Breakfast dawned and operations began at 8am on the dot. Chris took charge as head chef, ably assisted by the Poodle and somewhat hindered by Mariko. By 9:15 a great (fruit) bowl of pig meat in all its forms was prepared and the participants took their seats. With great reverence a large helping was distributed to each member of the crew who took up their forks and ate… By about a quarter of the way through it became clear to most that sights had been set rather too high. Jones of course had no trouble demolishing his portion and was on seconds before most had even so much as glanced at a sausage and kudos to Sibley, he finished too. For everyone else defeat was admitted and we set off to ring at Skipton leaving an aromatic trail of burnt saturated fat behind.
Upon return to the boat a scene greeted our eyes, similar to that found by those who had discovered the Mary Celeste as half finished breakfasts littered the table. Thankfully all that early exercise had quite returned the appetite and breakfasts were finished. With the help too of the other boat (well done Dixie!!) the still half full bowl of meaty goodness was also demolished.
The day continued with a cruise to Snaygill and a tour of the high tech Copper Dragon Brewery with a mildly sexist MD (can you guess how many kettles in your kitchen would be needed to produce that much steam ladies?). Lunch in the brewery bistro was enjoyed with a free pint and we reboarded the boats ready for the final leg of the journey back to Silsden. Arriving first our boat managed to end up on the wrong side of the canal and provided the other boat with a rousing chorus of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as they passed. An evening ring at Silsden completed the last full day of the tour.
Day 8 – Saturday 25th September
Rising bright and early we rushed around swabbing the deck and emptying the bilge and generally making sure that everything was ship-shape and Bristol fashion ready for the return of the boats. Back on dry land we headed for breakfast at the same greasy spoon as we had enjoyed almost a week ago. To our dismay this proved to be the one and only lockout of the tour as it transpired that the cafe had both been closed down and sold in the interim. A good breakfast in another establishment later, everyone set off on their various journeys home and there was the end of an immensely enjoyable tour. Thanks go to Roger and Lucy for excellent organisation and keeping track of us all for a whole week!
DISCLAIMER: Any statements treated as fact in this account may not necessarily, in reality, be so. The nature of this report is to provide a flavour of the events occurring and in fact may be treated as a work of fiction supported by some in-depth research and reflecting real events.
By Mariko Whyte