Saturday 6th June; Cromwell to Kirklees Low Lock
It was a beautiful morning with the sun shining through the leaves on the river Calder close by, but the wind was rushing through the treetops warning us of interesting times ahead.
We had a pretty cruise down to Brighouse in the sunshine, but out of the shelter of the trees we were getting blown about by the increasing winds. Some of the locks had beautifully made curving steps up to the footbridges. Difficult to get a good photo in the strong early sunshine though.
We met a chap who used to work for Whitbread down in Kent, and had the opportunity to crew a Medway sailing barge which the company sponsored. On the way into the town we saw a heartfelt piece of graffiti; yes!
The town moorings were busy but there was a short space right at the end by the turn to the service block. With the wind howling along at our backs we had to pull in on the lock mooring a little way down on the other side and wait for a lull – some quick poling off at the bow (me) and skilful reversing (Dave) saw us squeezing our back half onto the rings; we could only use the stern and centre ropes, and access to the bow was along the gunwales or from the inside only. The wind was so strong we had to use both centre ropes to hold the boat securely. The services here are 90o to the cut, where the basin extends to the north and our canny mooring allowed us to take on water without moving round the corner!
We needed a fair bit of shopping, but as Brighouse was enjoying a Forties weekend we spent an enjoyable couple of hours strolling round and enjoying the entertainment before nipping into Sainsbury’s for stuff we couldn't get in the independent shops. We started at the large display of WWII vehicles close to the canal, where the medical tent was fascinating (the wounded soldier giving you a quizzical look is a mannequin);
Lots of people strolled about in various kinds of costume – some in uniform, some in civilian clothing, as well as a few older veterans with their medals and berets. This lady, in her Sunday best, was pushing a dolly in a vintage pram. My Mum had one like this for her brood and I bet many readers will have ridden in one too!
There were loads of old cars, British and American, all surrounded by admiring groups;
and lots of entertainment, with dancing too. I wonder how many Mrs Mopps really did get to dance with officers?
There was a large linear street market along the town centre streets, with lots of cake and pie stalls (which we patronised of course), and others manned by enthusiasts displaying their WWII memorabilia. This one was protected by ‘barbed wire’ tied between the supporting poles (made of string and sprayed grey, quite effective). This was genuinely needed to keep the public at arms’ length, otherwise their kit could have been damaged, or on Ebay before they realised it had gone. The lady with her back to the camera said their garage is full of their collection and they spend half the summer travelling to events like this.
You could still get to the ordinary shops and we bought these beautiful tomatoes in one of them. They were labelled as ‘Heritage ribbed tomatoes’ and cost just £1. They were the most delicious tomatoes we have ever tasted and I really wish they had been labelled with the variety name.
After finishing our shopping in Sainsbury’s we discovered what happens if you try to take a trolley too far from the store – plastic boots spring out over the wheels and prevent you from pushing it. We had to laugh, because an assistant had told us we could take it round onto the towpath closer to the boat, but there she was behind us, chuckling, with her key ready to reset the wheels.
We decided against staying overnight and left at about 2. The two Brighouse locks are on a bend in the canal and because of the wind I needed to open both top gates so Dave could get in without bashing them. As I filled the bottom lock, a single-hander moored nearby came up, appalled that we were considering going down the river in the wind, but helped us down anyway. Too late we realised that naughty Meg was not on the boat and rather than me getting on the boat in the lock before the lady closed up for us, Meg and I had to wait on the pontoon below for Dave to pick us up; we made it, but he had to make two passes for us to get aboard safely. There wasn’t much flow – it was just the wind causing problems. In the event, once we left the lock area we were well protected by the trees and had an uneventful cruise to the mooring above Kirklees Low lock. After a cuppa we went for a walk with Meg across the canal to the river and weir.
Then, after we’d barely seen any other boats for days, it got busy! The guy we met yesterday came down, new gearbox working well. At 57’ he had to use his pole to push the bow across so they could get round the bottom gates.
A widebeam came up, closely followed by a Shire Cruiser on its way back to base at Sowerby Bridge. We were soon joined by another boat needing to moor, so we shuffled up and shared rings, then as we were thinking about cooking some tea, who should arrive but the appalled single-hander, accompanied by another boat, on their way down to their moorings at Shepley Bridge. ‘Oh you’re not hirers!’ she said as I took her rope and asked her to put our fenders down as she breasted up to wait for the lock. Cheek! We closed up for them anyway. In spite of occasional showers it was still a beautiful evening.
7 locks (including the open flood lock), 3 miles, less than 3 hours.